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The Vaccination Debate: Should Immunizations be Required?

Katlyn Joy | 7, March 2015


I remember being just a bit nervous about my kids' first shots. Especially worrisome was my then 4-year old, who I was told while in foster care had a strong reaction to the whooping cough immunization, with a fever spiking to 104 degrees and inconsolable crying jags.

Today, with much of our news content being delivered to us not from newspapers, and very often not from TV, but from internet sources, there can be some loud, strident and authoritative sounding advice coming from rather slanted and sometimes even erroneous sources. So what is a parent to think? What is a mother to do?

Here are some thoughts to ponder when weighing the issue. First from the Mayo Clinic, we have this information: "Childhood vaccines protect children from a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases, including diphtheria, measles, meningitis, polio, tetanus and whooping cough. If these diseases seem uncommon — or even unheard of — it's usually because these vaccines are doing their job."

The natural immunity argument doesn't hold much sway for the medical experts at the Mayo Clinic. While natural immunity gives a more complete immunity to a disease, there are pretty risky trade offs. With natural immunity, chicken pox can become pneumonia; polio can lead to paralysis; mumps could lead to deafness; and Hib infection can cause brain damage.

What about autism? Here's the Mayo Clinic on that controversial topic: "Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven't found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted."

However, it should be noted that most cases of autism may seem to be linked to immunizations merely because typically the disorder will be diagnosed around the same time period as when children get their shots. Call it coincidence.

Why Parents Should Fear the Disease More than the Immunization

When the polio vaccine was first available, it was pretty much untried and yet parents lined up in desperation to give it to their children. The risks of the immunization were still unknown. What was known to all parents at that time was just how devastating and prevalent polio was. The fear of the unknown regarding the shot was much less than the fear of the disease. And that seems to be the biggest problem now regarding vaccines. Since the diseases we get immunizations for have been nearly wiped from our consciousness, only the fear of the possible side effects of the shot seem to remain.

However, as the rates of vaccination has decreased over the last several years, the rate of disease has crept up. In fact, in certain clusters of folks, such as those who don't vaccinate based on religion, there have been outbreaks of diseases such as pertussis on a regular basis.

Some children don't get vaccinated, and of course, their risks of catching these serious illnesses are higher. Unfortunately, that doesn't only affect those who choose to take the risks and not vaccinate their children. They put everyone's children at risk, because while a vaccine offers a great deal of protection, it is not foolproof. Should a child be exposed to another child with the disease, the vaccinated child may still have a possibility of contracting the disease.

There are some children who cannot receive vaccinations, such as newborns, children with HIV or immune system problems, or those who have received organ donations. Some immunizations are made with egg, so those with allergies cannot get those shots.

What Should be Done?

First, we need education to be better dispensed to parents. They need to understand how vaccines work and why we all need them. They need to be introduced to the dangers of these horrific diseases that generations back were terrified of children getting.

Should parents be forced to vaccinate? That's a tough call, but not an isolated one. After all, we are told where to cross the street for our safety, can receive tickets and fines for not keeping our kids buckled up properly in the car, and so on. Some parents have misgivings about such things, thinking seat belts can be dangerous in crashes, or car seats have many flaws resulting in frequent recalls. However, by and large, it is an obvious protection that overwhelms the possible downside.

Unfortunately, if the trend to not vaccinate continues, society may soon come to realize why immunizations were so important and what these diseases can do.

Related Articles

Importance of Immunizations for Babies

The Diseases That Baby Immunizations Prevent

Q&A: Baby's Weight Gain in the First Year

Too Many Vaccines for Babies?

FDA Issues New Advisory on Sunscreen for Infants


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