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More Parents Choosing Not to Vaccinate Their Kids

Retro illnesses making a comeback?

More parents are sending their kids to school without vaccinating them.

As Jezebel reports, doctors are worried that the growing resistance to vaccinations could lead to a comeback from a variety of illnesses that were virtually non-existent after years of vaccinations.

A study conducted by the Associated Press found that in eight states more than 1 in 20 public school kindergarteners aren’t getting all their shots. Not only that, but half of America is seeing more parents request exemptions. Parents can opt out for medical or religious reasons. Some states even let parents opt out for philosophical concerns, which, let’s face it, means anyone can opt out. As Jezebel reports, in some areas as many as 20 to 50 percent of children aren’t getting the required shots.

To quote the study:  “Alaska had the highest number of parents choosing not to vaccinate. The 2010-11 exemption rate there is at nearly 9 percent. Colorado’s rate was 7 percent, Minnesota 6.5 percent, Vermont and Washington 6 percent, and Oregon, Michigan and Illinois were close behind.”

Another recent study Jezebel sites shows that among Washington State (which, as Babble has previously reported has the highest exemption rate) doctors found that about 75 percent of pediatricians are regularly hearing requests from parents to use an alternative vaccination schedule.

About 60 percent said they’d work with parents on changing the timetable for vaccination, though they’re less likely to budge when it comes to shots for particularly dangerous diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. While doctors are sympathetic to parents concerns, they aren’t willing to budge if parents insist on ignoring science and making decisions that put everyone’s kids in danger.

Word.

It has never occurred to me not to vaccinate.  I mean, isn’t curing polio a good thing?  I remember the post on Being Pregnant that clued me into the raging conflict.  In No, We Don’t Vaccinate Kate Tietje says she and her husband choose not to vaccinate their children for a few reasons, the main one being the way vaccines enter the body and work. Tietje says they compromise children’s immune systems, “There’s some evidence to suggest that the immune system never learns to work properly and this places the child at risk to more serious illnesses like cancer. There’s a lot more to this, but this is my primary concern.”

My thought:  There’s also “some evidence” to suggest vaccines kick ass and pretty much eradicated some really scary illnesses.  One commenter, of the nearly 200 comments following Tietje’s post, summed up my feelings exactly:

I respect that you have done your research on this, and obviously you are a caring parent, trying to do what’s best for your family. This is a super charged issue, and people tend to forget that we are all parents who love our children, and we are trying to figure out what is best for them in a confusing world.

That being said, here is my opinion: People who don’t vaccinate their children are only able to do so because other people do. If vaccines are causing a reaction in a small number of people (small enough that much of it is still debatable), it is nothing compared to the number of children who would die from a lot of these horrible illnesses if no one was vaccinated. And no, I’m not talking about chicken pox. If we all stopped vaccinating our kids, these diseases would come back in force, and people would die. A statistically measurable amount of people.

For example, whooping cough, which was considered eradicated, is making a comeback in wealthy communities (and killing babies!) where people are choosing not to vaccinate their children. Measles is also making a comeback for the very same reason. And, as Jezebel reports, “though experts think it’s unlikely to happen in the U.S., people are now coming down with polio and diphtheria in parts of the world where the diseases had been eliminated.”

Bottom line for me: Vaccines prevent terrible illnesses from spreading among populations, and have been incredibly successful at getting rid of these illnesses in large parts of the world. I don’t think it’s a personal decision either. You choosing not to vaccinate your kid can affect others immeasurably. I don’t understand what makes a parent who has done a couple months of research (likely by Googling) think they know more than more than 100 years of research by respected members of the medical community? Like one commenter to Tietje’s post says, “This is about the culture of parenthood today that deems that good parents control every aspect of our children’s lives to the point of micromanaging routine pediatric care. That level of control us an illusion. It’s as if we seriously believe that by choosing the right sippy cup, the right vegetables that we can extend protection over our kids far into the future.”

Also, I blame Jenny McCarthy and her desperate need for a cause célèbre.

So… Which side of the divide do you fall on and why?

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