New laws that are being proposed in some states allowing vaccine exemptions for children to attend school and daycare if parents have a philosophical objection to immunization requirements, but only after they have gotten some education about the dangers of not vaccinating their kids, has brought this subject back into the spotlight.
In some states, children still need a doctor's excuse (medical exemption) or need to have a religious exemption if they don't want to vaccinate their kids.
There are now 18 states in the US that allow philosophical exemptions to immunizations, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin.
Why is this important?
Although some illnesses, like polio and diphtheria, have been eliminated in the United States, they are still important causes of disease and death in many parts of the world. And as the rapid spread of SARS showed, infections can quickly spread across the world, so getting your kids vaccinated is still important.
There were only 2,883 documented cases of polio in the world in recent years, but there were nearly 122,000 measles-related deaths among persons in developing countries and it is estimated that if vaccinations were stopped, each year, 2.7 million measles deaths worldwide could be expected.
Other infections, like mumps and Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (Hib) meningitis, would also likely climb to pre-vaccine era numbers and deaths.
In places that immunization coverage was reduced in recent years, increases in vaccine preventable infections are common, including surging rates of pertussis in eight countries where immunization coverage was reduced and increases in diphtheria in the former Soviet Union when they had a breakdown of their public health services in the 1990s.
Why should you care if some parents don't vaccinate their kids?
Mainly because they put all kids at risk, including children too young to receive their vaccinations and those with immune system problems who can't be vaccinated. Also, vaccines are not 100% effective, so even if your kids are vaccinated, they may still be at risk if more kids around them don't get their vaccines.
If you are considering not getting your kids vaccinated, remember that although minor side effects, such as slight fever, rash, or soreness at the site of injection, may occur, serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare.
Vaccines are considered the greatest public health achievement of the 20th century. That we are now, in the 21st century, stepping backwards and taking the risk that these vaccine preventable diseases may return is tragic.
Don't give in to misinformation. Vaccinate your kids and protect both them and all of our children. As you do 'research' to consider whether you should vaccinate your child, remember that there are no true scientific reports that support not vaccinating a child. Review these 10 Tips on Evaluating Immunization Information and don't rely on antivaccination Web sites that often 'rely heavily on emotional appeal to convey their message' of the dangers of vaccines, talk about conspiracies, and use A Pattern of Deception to promote their cause.