As fall approaches and our kids are starting back to school around the country, there will be a plethora of things to check off the list to prepare for the upcoming year. New school supplies? Check. New backpack? Check. Sweet new wardrobe? Check. Summer reading assignment completed? Check.
Immunizations up to date?
In 2013, Colorado ranked 45th in the nation for vaccination rates for children between the ages of 19 months and 3 years. This is particularly disheartening, since infants and young children are four times more likely than older individuals to be hospitalized for a serious vaccine-preventable disease (source).
These statistics are also surprisingly low since Colorado state law requires all children who attend grades K-12, as well as daycare and preschool, to follow a pre-determined vaccine schedule. However, Colorado state law also still recognizes the right for parents and legal guardians to abstain from vaccinating their children for medical, religious, or personal reasons and it is way too simple to obtain and sign the form for exemption rights–just a quick search online and a swipe of a pen and the vaccination requirements can be bypassed.
Even though the data continues to show an overwhelming support for the safety of vaccines in Colorado (source), parents are still really polarized in the pro v. against debate.
And frankly, I just don’t get it. At all.
When it comes to vaccines, you have LOADS of scientific data to support their safety and the importance of their use in a global society. There are also the countless medical professionals who continue to try and educate and inform patients around the state. Dr. James Todd, director of epidemiology at Children’s Hospital Colorado, explains in an interview with 5280 that when vaccination rates fall, “…it increases the likelihood that it (disease) will spread from the little community who has chosen to be unvaccinated to the child who couldn’t get a vaccine for medical reasons or has an underlying condition and may be more vulnerable to getting that disease.” He goes on to say when unvaccinated kids are exposed, “…it’s only a matter of time when one will come down with a terrible disease. Then parents will really regret that they didn’t vaccinate their child. All it has to do is catch fire in a group of unvaccinated kids.” (source)
I feel very passionately about the importance of vaccinating our population. For me, all the data lead to a simple conclusion: we need to take care of the herd. There are thousands of kids in the U.S. who, for legitimate medical reasons, are unable to be vaccinated. Also, there are millions around the world who lack the societal and public health infrastructures that we so luckily have at our fingertips, here in the U.S. When parents choose not to vaccinate a perfectly healthy child, they not only run the risk of their child acquiring a potentially life-threatening disease, but more importantly they expose vulnerable populations to a completely preventable threat.
And this is not only an issue for kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 226,000 people are hospitalized due to influenza each year in the U.S., and between 3,000 and 49,000 people die of influenza and its complications. The majority of these deaths are adults (source). In other words, your child may contract and recover from the flu or other vaccine-preventable diseases with no complications, while his or her grandparent may not.
Simply put, to choose not to vaccinate is insensitive, irresponsible, and disrespectful of our global society, and to all those who have legitimate reasons for being unable to be vaccinated.
It is our responsibility as citizens of a global community, who have so much more wealth and opportunity at our disposal than the majority, to lead the pack in keeping our population healthy so that we can focus on keeping others healthy, too. It is appalling to me that we would feel entitled to choose not to participate in medical advancements that have saved millions of lives and will continue to save millions more. In my opinion, this is not a choice. This is an obligation as a member of a community.
Thank you for covering such an important topic. I find it very discouraging to hear about more and more parents refusing to have their children vaccinated despite overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccinations are safe. I believe some of this is due to the fact that no one in the current generation of parents has ever buried a child due to polio or measles or other preventable disease.
The worst part is that I don’t know how at risk my own kids are when an outbreak happens. Although all parents are informed if someone in my child’s classroom has a peanut allergy, we are not told whether any of the children are unvaccinated. Yes, there is such a thing as herd immunity, as you point out in your well-written article, and I want my kids to be part of the protected herd.
This is such an important topic, and I’m so glad you chose to write about it. You are absolutely right that it is our responsibility to utilize modern medicine and vaccinate our children. Thank you for being another pro-vaccine voice in this community!
While I’ve had plenty of breakdown moments over my child, I can vividly remember the day we took him in for his first vaccinations. He screamed until he was hoarse when they gave him the shot in his heel, and I fell to pieces. I knew I was doing the right thing, but it broke my heart.
Then, when he was a toddler, we received our autism diagnosis. We barely recovered from that shock before we started seeing all the “evidence” that vaccinations were causing autism. I now believe that vaccinations are a good choice, but for a while, I wasn’t sure. I can’t even describe the devastation I felt when I thought I may have allowed my child to be altered into this state of autism. We did hold off on his vaccinations (at that point, we were homeschooling), but after more reading and several conversations, and after we decided to put him in public school, we got caught up on all his shots.
On a personal note, I would have to say that one of the most convincing arguments against vaccinations that I had a hard time letting go of was the observation that Amish communities (no vaccinations) do not have cases of autism. I was so happy when I met a lady who grew up in an Amish community (and whose family was still strongly rooted there) and had left to become a nurse. We talked about vaccinations, and I asked her what she thought based on her experience in that community and as a medical professional. She said that she supported vaccinations and that she thought the argument of Amish communities not having cases of autism is misguided. She pointed out that in the Amish community, behavior problems are addressed differently. They have a society that allows for more flexibility to deal with someone that doesn’t behave “normally.” Therefore, an autistic person is less likely to be diagnosed as such. This resonated with our own homeschooling experience where there was more room to work around individuals, and some behavioral issues could be dealt with without having to do evaluations and diagnosis.
I support alternative medicine, I support holistic health, and I support researching answers before accepting every diagnosis and prescription, but I also support our system of vaccinations and our freedom from so many terrible diseases.
Thank you for listing sources and talking about the research. We mommies sure can get going with all our theories, but it’s great to have actual research data.