Full disclosure: by day I make a living as a research scientist for a pharmaceutical company. I believe in the power of modern medicine to drastically improve the quality of life for individuals who are chronically ill. I also believe in being pro-active when it comes to my health and the health of my children.
I recognize the potential for side effects when opting to administer a medication to myself or my son or daughter and I have to carefully weigh that risk with those that could occur if I should choose to forego treatment. Sometimes I waffle in my decision making.
Should I give my son Tylenol to fight his low-grade fever or let it run its course?
Then there are times when the decision is clear and reached without question. For me, choosing to immunize my children did not require a second’s pause. Of course, they would receive vaccinations. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is reckless and I think emerging statistics support that opinion.
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people diagnosed with measles in the U.S. in the year 2011 was the highest in 15 years with the predominance of cases occurring in individuals who were not vaccinated against the disease.
Despite the fact that measles has been considered eliminated in the U.S. since 2000, people traveling outside of the country, where a lower percentage of the population are vaccinated, continue to contract the highly contagious disease and bring it back home where outbreaks then occur, particularly among individuals who have not been immunized.
The number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children is growing and it’s no surprise that with it so is the number of reported cases of diseases that are entirely preventable. France is a perfect example of the rapid spread of disease that can occur when the number of people receiving the vaccination against an illness declines.
Between 2005 and 2007, France reported 30 to 40 cases of measles, a number that grew to 1,500 in 2009 and last year rose to more than 15,000. I don’t know about you, but when the number of people who have contracted an illness leaps from around 40 to 15,000 in six years, that gives me pause.
Whether to vaccinate a child is a decision each parent must make, but I take issue with the fact that an unvaccinated child, fresh off a return flight from a family vacation in France, can take a seat in a pediatrician’s office next to a newborn who hasn’t yet had the chance to be protected from the measles.