By Julie Harker
When it comes to the decision of whether or not to vaccinate a child, opinion tends to be divided. A recent support by the CDC suggests that a significant number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate toddlers, a choice which is linked to a resurgence of childhood illnesses such as measles and whooping cough. It isn’t only the children who are at risk, however; so, too, are vulnerable members of the population such as the elderly, infants and toddlers, and those who are ill.
Missing Vaccination Targets
Key findings from the CDC’s 2013 report on immunization are as follows:
- The target of 90% vaccination cover was achieved for the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) virus, as well as the polio, chickenpox and Hepatitis B vaccines. However, this target was not met for many other vaccines, including those against pneumonia, meningitis, Hepatitis A, septicemia and the rota virus.
- In 17 states, less than 90% of children receive the MMR virus.
- Lower vaccination rates occur in those living below the poverty rate.
The US is currently facing a measles comeback; from January, 2014 to August, 2014, some 593 cases of measles were reported; whooping cough and mumps are also on the rise. Although poverty is a factor in viral infections, the CDC warns that pockets of non-vaccination can occur in any area.
Importance of Herd Immunity
The CDC aims to achieve ‘herd immunity’: the situation in which enough members of the population are immunized, thereby protecting the population at large from acquiring illnesses. Immunization does not just protect those who are unvaccinated by choice; it also helps those who are more naturally prone to infection, including babies, pregnant women, the elderly and the sickly. Although herd immunity has been achieved for the MMR and DTaP vaccines, unvaccinated people are often concentrated in specific communities, thereby increasing the chance of disease spreading.
Common Vaccination Myths
There are many misconceptions surrounding the subject of immunizations. These include:
- The belief that childhood diseases are now extremely rare. The same disease-causing microbes exist, so we need to immunize our children against them.
- The belief that vaccinations pose health risks. These are extremely rare and the benefits far outweigh the risks. For instance, a failure to vaccinate children would increase the number of whooping cough cases 71-fold.
Consequences of Not Vaccinating Your Child
Although children can make a full recover from disease such as measles and mumps, this is not always the case. In almost 10% of all measles cases, a severe ear infection develops and there is a 0.1% of pneumonia and seizures. Measles poses a risk to unborn babies. If pregnant women are exposed to the infection, possible outcomes include miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery. Mumps, meanwhile, can rarely cause male infertility, meningitis, deafness, etc.
The consequences extend beyond health; vaccination mandates exist in all states, and many day care facilities and school clubs will expect your child to be vaccinated. Your child may also have to face travel restrictions, or a doctor might refuse to treat them, if the absence of immunization.
Author: Julie Harker