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Affluent Parents Skipping Vaccines

By Sierra Black |

Affluent parents are forgoing vaccines more often.

Affluent parents are forgoing vaccines more often.

Middle-class and upper-class parents typically have better access to health care than low-income mommies and daddies. Yet more affluent parents are skipping vaccines for their little ones.

A new report shows a sharp drop in the vaccination rate among privately insured kids, while those on Medicaid continue to get their shots at a gradually improving rate.

What’s causing the drop? It’s not lack of access or education, the usual barricades to good medical care.

Instead, doctors worry that parents are being taken in by anti-vaccine activists like Jenny McCarthy. They fear more and more people are deliberately going vaccines because of needless safety fears.

Doctors involved in the report said the star-power of the anti-vaccine movement may be taking a real toll. Per Yahoo:

“I would argue that parents are doing what they think is the best for their children; they’re just misinformed,” said Dr. Robert W. Frenck, Jr, professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The view that vaccinations cause autism — which is not supported by scientific research — is also being publicly touted by a host of attractive celebrities. Part of that misinformation may come from “very articulate, very good-looking movie stars or personalities that are giving information about how bad vaccines are,” Frenck said. “Frumpy, middle-aged doctors” are extolling the value of immunization and may not be heard above the fray.

They’re getting through to Medicaid recipients, through outreach programs at schools and community centers as well as free vaccination at doctor’s offices.

It’s middle class parents who’ve drunk the vaccines-cause-autism Kool-Aid who are putting their kids at risk for contagious illnesses like whooping cough. A recent whooping cough outbreak in California killed 10 babies and made over 2500 people seriously ill.

Have you vaccinated your kids?

Photo: US Army

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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40 thoughts on “Affluent Parents Skipping Vaccines

  1. laura says:

    So frustrating. There is this arrogance that because these parents are educated enough to finish an anti-vax book or two, that they’ve researched it thoroughly. Because they can regurgitate a catch phrase or two, that they have rock solid logic. The only thing harder than arguing with bad science and logic is arguing with that plus arrogance that you’re smarter than you are.

  2. Gretchen Powers says:

    Yes. I have vaccinated. And I resent those who do not.

  3. Amy says:

    What is frustrating is that this report admits “We didn’t really explore the reasons [for the trend]” and now this “leading hypothesis” {fear of autism} is a blog post about “affluent” parents drinking the kool-aid! The HealthDay article refers to these parents as being in a “relatively high socio-economic bracket” AND as “middle class.” Which is it? Maybe these are the folks who have lost their jobs… lost their health insurance… and are struggling. Maybe it’s not the kool-aid.

  4. Manjari says:

    It’s the kool-aid. People are so stupid.

  5. JennaBoettger says:

    Yes, I have vaccinated my daughter but because she is so young yet she hasn’t had the full round of most of the vaccines. It scares me that she is exposed to people who are refusing keep everyone safe because of their own arrogance.

  6. Catem says:

    Actually, it’s not totally black and white – there is a grey area and I think that the “believe in vaccines but don’t want to overload my baby’s system” people get thrown in with the anti-vax folks. There are many levels to this problem and no concrete answers. I don’t actually see the affluent folks buying what Jenny McCarthy’s perspective… they’re likely more educated and less inclined to follow any celebrity’s opinion.
    Lastly, I don’t think it’s arrogance, I think it’s fear preventing parents from vaxing. Arrogance and the sense of superiority are often fear’s masks.

  7. Gretchen Powers says:

    I think it’s just stupidity, actually…

  8. goddess says:

    We have vaccinated. And our eldest suffered severe brain damage after hsi DTP vaccines as an infant. He died as a result of complications to that brain damage at age 6.
    Vaccines DO carry risks. So don]t forget the sacrificial lambs out there- and I feel for you if you beat the odds like we did.
    Our next 3 kids have been vaccinatedm but we will NOT be receiving the Gardisil vaccine until may more years of study have been undertaken and fully disclosed.
    Being a person who saw first-hand the damage vaccines CAN do, I could NEVER support making them mandatory (most sates have religious and some philosophical exemptions, all have medical). And I could never condemn a parent who was unwilling to assume those risks on behalf of their child.

  9. goddess says:

    Or reality for some Gretchen.

  10. kat says:

    My husband’s niece recently had a seizure following her vaccines. The same thing happened to his sister when she was 3 and she has suffered seizures for the last 30 years. I have a niece with brain damage from vaccines and last year a friend’s son spent 3 weeks in ICU following a flu shot and he is now paralyzed on the left side of his body. People aren’t vaccinating because celebrities tell them not to-they don’t do it out of fear. Vaccines are not harmless.

  11. Manjari says:

    I think everyone does get lumped in together, and that isn’t fair. I know there are some parents who have specific reasons for being cautious, and some who just feel more comfortable spacing the shots out. But there are some who DO buy into what Jenny McArthy and random internet sites say. And then they spread paranoia about how “big pharma” is trying to kill all of our kids. Vaccines have overwhelmingly been a good thing, and the only reason it even seems safe to skip them is because the threat of so many illnesses has been removed (because of vaccines). Now it seems like we are all going to have to deal with a lot of dangerous childhood illnesses, and we are all losing the protection of herd immunity. I think that’s why people get so upset at actual anti-vaxers – their decisions negatively affect us all.

  12. Gretchen Powers says:

    so sorry for your loss goddess…thus ends my comments…one can’t really say more when someone invokes a death story…it’s too sad

  13. Sierra Black says:

    @Amy: the drop in vaccine rates was explicitly among kids with private health insurance, so not people who’ve lost their jobs and insurance.

    @goddess: I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for reminding all of us that vaccines are never perfectly safe. A good friend of mine has a brother who was severely brain damaged after his DTP vaccine as well. It’s heartbreaking.

  14. bob says:

    If you have your pre-vaccination infant with you and you see a Peg Pertussis stroller coming the other way, cross the street!

  15. Danielle says:

    We have selectively vaccinated our children. I am with @Catem from above. Many parents who do not want to overload their newborns system with these chemicals, and want to spread them out over time get lumped in with the parents who do not vaccinate at all. I also feel that there are some illness we vaccinate against which are completely overkill. I would rather my children get chicken pox then the vaccine, we skip flu vaccines completely, etc.

    It is up to parents to make educated choices with their medical provider about the health of their children, and this is something we have done.

  16. Amy says:

    @Sierra: It is entirely possible to have private health insurance that is not provided through an employer. My family does, for example.

    The point of my original comment, though, was that the original article states that they did not explore the reasons for the trend. So the article is purely conjecture! And blog posts like this, which state middle class parents have “drunk the Kool-Aid” only add fuel to the fire, rather than thoughtful commentary to in important public health issue.

  17. Jen Zahm says:

    It isn’t kool-aid – I wouldn’t let my children touch the stuff. And I certainly don’t drink it! I used to selectively and delay vaccinations. One of my children endured a horrible vaccine injury and 5 years later, is mostly recovered, but is still visually impaired because of the injury. It isn’t kool-aid. It is experience. It is not always cut and dried. My children have not had a vaccine in 5 years now and they are healthy and happy children. This isn’t any more scientific than the “expert” quoted in the blog post… but it is my experience. That “small risk” isn’t so small when it is your child.
    The vaccine choice folks are not “anti-vax”… we just want to see some double blind safety studies. Big Pharma isn’t willing to provide these. They are selling a product. I want it to be as safe as possible before I buy. I’d like to think I’m not on the side drinking the kool-aid and I used to feel that way – militantly so- but I have explored these issues and I think that we’re all trying to do the best we can and we go about it in different ways. Cookie-cutter parenting doesn’t work.

  18. Sara says:

    This article makes the issue vaccinate vs. anti-vaccinate. This misses those that choose to vaccinate, but may do so on a different schedule or choose to opt out of one or two vaccines. As a childcare provider I recognize the value we must put on vaccinating children and preventing the spread of illness. However, I believe that this decision is best left to parents and physicians and must be a decision made with each individual’s best interest. Families with history of extreme reactions may need to receive vaccinations at a slower rate or may choose to opt out of a specific type of shot. Parents choosing alternatives are not all doing so because of celebrities; many simply need the partnership of a physician and the support, rather than attack, of parents in their community working through the same decisions.

  19. LA says:

    I agree with Danielle, the lumping of parents who do vaccinate but not on the governments scheldule are called crazy and stupid. I CHOOSE to vaccinate when or if it is needed. I feel that some parents are actually more educated and have the means to space out the vaccines. It costs more to use the indivudual shots and not the combo ones or more gas $ to make the extra trips for the “spreading out” of the shots. My kids do get some vaccines when needed, we just don’t follow the mainstream scheldule. I know this will make some of you angry but here it goes…..A newborn who is not in daycare,not from a Hep+ mother and is breastfed does not need the newborn hepB shot. Unless in fact the baby will be in a crack house and may be stuck by a needle of an effected hebB person.Our family NEVER gets flu vaccines,chicken pox and my girls will not get gardisil until more testing is done!

  20. Adina says:

    I too lost a healthy, robust infant given a clean bill of health mere hours after her first and only vaccination. If and when I have other children, I will be far more critical in my decision to vaccinate than I was in my daughter’s case.

  21. JM says:

    @goddess – you are quite familiar with your comment. how old are your children? I’m sure you are aware of the follow up DTP studies and that DTP is no longer a part of the U.S. vaccination schedule.
    @Jen – did you submit your adverse event to VAERS? Your children are benefitting from herd immunity which is slowly being degraded by your choices.
    @LA – the vast majority of individuals who contract Hep B are not living in crack houses or stuck by needles, and prior to the decision to give a dose of Hep B at birth, somewhere in the range 0f 15,000 new cases were diagnosed in children under 10 (I’m guessing you will claim that those were all children of prostitutes or something) and roughly half of those children’s mothers did not have Hep B.
    To all of you who write on an internet comment board that you lost your children following a vaccination, I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you submitted your tragedy to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System and were cooperative with follow up studies because if you are in favor of “safer” vaccines then each and every one of you can make a big difference by being a part of that ongoing surveillance.

  22. Nica says:

    “What’s causing the drop? It’s not lack of access or education, the usual barricades to good medical care.” Not vaccinating is a very special form of upper-and-middle class privilege in America. And as is usually the case with privilege, many people who engage in it have a huge blind spot about it being privileged behavior.

  23. goddess says:

    JM- They use the attenuated version of the vaccine now, with a better safety record- but not altogether risk-free either.

  24. moi aussi says:

    there are no records of how many kids have been damaged by vaccinations. Isn’t that frightening? And I’m not even talking about autism. But there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that vaccinations are not as safe as they say they are.

  25. MsFortune says:

    There is no medically supported or scientific reason to delay vaccinations. None at all. All you do is weaken the herd, and keep your own child susceptible for longer.

  26. goddess says:

    AS if what the medical professional and pharmaceutical companies disclose is fully accurate? @@

  27. JEssica says:

    As goddess mentions the vaccines have risk, but that is exactly why everyone should get the vaccines. If I am putting my child at risk to obtain herd immunity then I expect you will do the same. If you do not and herd immunity is compromised then it would not be prudent on my part to put my child at risk. I have every right to be upset with those parents that would risk my child but will not risk their own but benefit from my risk.

  28. clara says:

    “AS if what the medical professional and pharmaceutical companies disclose is fully accurate?” this bears repeating.

    This very one-sided piece shows a lot of ignorance about whooping cough. It is not killing babies b/c of affluent parents who don’t vax. Its actually a pretty worthless vaccine. It says right on the insert that it won’t prevent transmission. We had an outbreak in my community that was completely caused by a fully vaxed kid & passed to plenty of vaxed kids.

  29. Kikiriki says:

    Honestly. Vaccine companies are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The pertussis vaccine is not a 100% prevention. So what? It makes the statistical chance that your child will get pertussis much lower. Before it was invented many more children died from pertussis. Babies who are not fully vaccinated (or are not vaccinated) are at the most risk for death from pertussis. The vaccine typically lasts between 5-10 years or a bit more, giving kids protection when they are most vulnerable to the disease. One of the problems is that it does wear off, which means you need a booster. So, you get a freaking booster! What on earth is the big deal? Not everything works 100%. But I’ll tell you, I’d rather have my kids have the vaccine and not die from pertussis than do whatever else people who don’t vax do and trust in God, or homeopathic “medicine,” or herbs, or chance, or whatever. I am truly sorry for the people who lose a child due to vaccination, and I would be devastated if it happened to me. But I would feel so, so guilty on top of the devastation if I did not vaccinate my child and then they either died of a preventable disease or passed it on to a baby or other vulnerable child who then died.

  30. s says:

    I like the comment about the “herd”, because that is exactly how doctors treat us….like a dumb herd of cattle who will just do what they are told no matter what the outcome. I had one doctor tell me that I was unfit to be a parent just because I chose not to immunize and to research it out a little more. After his “red in the face” lecture to me and my wife, I politely thanked him for his concern and left his office and found another family doctor. This is a personal choice and don’t feel bad if you choose to be selective with YOUR family and YOUR life.

  31. Kikiriki says:

    Yes, it is a personal choice if you choose not to vaccinate. However, if you don’t vaccinate your children, PLEASE be honest and open about this with the people you are regularly in contact with. It is completely unfair for someone to make this decision and then be in the closet about it because they are afraid of discrimination from the other parents in their child’s class, for instance. My friend whose child has a compromised immune system should not be expected to unwittingly expose her children to yours. If you make this choice, you should be prepared to be honest about it and deal with any social consequences. If someone prefers not to do playdates with you because of this, that is also their choice and they should be allowed to make it!

  32. s says:

    Even immunized people get sick and carry diseases! Just because you choose not to immunize does not mean that you are the only one in the world who has the potential to carry a disease. I believe that it is also unfair to discriminate against those who choose not to immunize and “label” our children. Next thing you know, the doctors will want our children to wear some sort of tag that labels them as “Not Immunized….Unclean!” Again, this is personal, and in no way suddenly makes my child dangerous to be around. I have no problem telling people what my choices about immunization are, but why should I suddenly have to have “social consequences” because of it. My beef is not so much with other parents and their reactions….but with the medical world and their attitude towards a personal choice rather than blindly taking their word for it. I respect them and all the advancements in medicine that have been made, all I ask is for the same respect from them.

  33. JEssica says:

    Personally, I would prefer children that are not vaccinated to not attend school with my children unless they have a medical excuse. And there should be social consquences for not vaccinating your children but that is the parents decision whether or not they are going to share that information with other parents. And if I knew a child was not vaccinated, I would not want my child around that child. And if that child was in the same class as mine, I would try to get my child out of the that class.

  34. JM says:

    goddess, they use the ACELLULAR version now… Live vaccines are attenuated. DTaP is not a live vaccine. The “a” refers to acellular as opposed to the former version which was a whole cell pertussis – but still not live. And I think that most medical professionals do disclose the most accurate information that they know as opposed to many naturopaths and homeopaths who do not disclose (or at least appear not to disclose) the fact that numerous studies have disproved their practice and that what they do is placebo at best and harmful at worst.

    and to moi aussi – there is an entire database available for anyone who wants to report an adverse effect from a vaccine – whether or not they are telling the truth – you can even do it anonymously so there are records of the very few instances where a child has had a serious adverse effect which was claimed to be from a vaccine.

    finally, nothing is risk free. the science shows that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks, and I too have every right to be upset with people who choose to benefit from my child being vaccinated but will not vaccinate their own. whether or not you do, however, I will still vaccinate my child because just as I have been vaccinated and have immunity to many diseases without actually getting them (thank heaven!), I want to give my child the best possible chance in this world (and maybe even make her smarter as research recently suggests), AND I want to try to protect her from unvaccinated children and adults who may be carriers of disease or future index cases of outbreaks.

  35. Kikiriki says:

    JM – Amen to all of that. Especially if I ever get pregnant again, I will definitely be asking the parents of my school-aged kid if they have vaccinated their children. And if they haven’t, no playdates. No birthday party invites. And if they don’t like it, tough. People have been disinvited to playdates/parties for less.

  36. Laure68 says:

    Thanks to Kikiriki and JM for the science-based information.

    I do lump in people who selectively vax with those who do not vax at all. When you make a decision like that, it is almost always because of something you heard that is not scientifically backed. There are some kids who have real medical reasons not to get vaccinations, and that is obviously different. However, when most parents choose to delay vaccines or only get the ones they decide are necessary, they are fooling themselves if they think there is a real reason to do so.

    Someone mentioned the chicken pox vaccine as being unnecessary. Please remember that everyone who gets chicken pox will be at risk later for shingles. Up to this point, the data are showing that the vaccine should prevent shingles. (They need many decades of data before they can make this claim.)

  37. Laure68 says:

    @Jen Zahm – “The vaccine choice folks are not “anti-vax”… we just want to see some double blind safety studies. Big Pharma isn’t willing to provide these.”

    Actually, it would be impossible to conduct such a study because it would be completely unethical and no review board would ever approve it. People think that a study can be conducted no matter what, just because someone wants it. In fact, you have to have some scientific basis to conduct a clinical trial. With all the science-based evidence on the great value of vaccines, it would be criminal to have a double-blind study, where half of the children wouldn’t be vaccinated. This is something the anti-vax groups love to talk about, because they can complain about drug companies not “wanting” to perform this kind of study, when in reality it could never be conducted.

    And yes, there are risks to vaccines. There are risks to anything. I once read an analysis showing that, by far, the biggest risk in getting a vaccine is the drive to the doctor’s office. The vaccines themselves of course have risks, but the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

  38. Marj says:

    I think the overload the babys system people deserve to be lumped in with the anti-vaxers. They are both denying a child a life-saving medical treatment when they are most likely to have permanent, or fatal, reactions to the disease the vaccines prevent. The reason the affluent reject them? They think they’re bloody well smarter than everyone.

  39. Kikiriki says:

    Laure68 – Absolutely and completely true! I can’t imagine how such a study would ever be done. Who would participate in it? I can’t even IMAGINE the backlash if “Big Pharma” were to try to institute such a study.

  40. Bridget says:

    Okay. My husband and I don’t vaccinate. And we are homeschooling out children. We have two daughters. (2 and 3 years old) I am a stay-at-home mom and I don’t put my girls in daycare at all. I don’t go on “playdates” either. I intend to have many more children and NOT vaccinate. I cannot wait for the pharmaceutical company’s bubble to be burst. It’s all about money and power. They are making big bucks off of these vaccines, and so are the doctors. Why do you think they keep coming out with all these new vaccines? Because it’s making them money, that’s why. I feel sorry for all these wee ones who are being used for profit. People are so blind.

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