Future generations might not be so lucky.
More and more parents are refusing to immunize their children or are picking and choosing the vaccines they receive. They fear vaccine additives could cause autism and other harmful side effects. They’re also suspicious of the large number of vaccines children now receive.
As the child of a father suffering from post-polio syndrome, I can’t imagine not getting my children vaccinated. In some areas of the world, polio still exists. So does whopping cough. And measles.
We Americans might not see those devastating diseases anymore. But we are not immune.
The growing no-vax trend is fueled in part by California pediatrician Robert W. Sears. Dr. Sears suggests an alternative vaccination schedule that delays shots or spaces them further apart. For the immunization-wary, he suggests getting only certain vaccines.
Most pediatricians disagree with Sears, saying that refusing vaccines endangers all children, even those who have been immunized. Especially at risk are children with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy. Some doctors have even refused to allow unvaccinated patients in their offices.
Dr. Amy J. Bonneau, a pediatrician with Harrisburg-based Darowish & Associates, said the increase in parents not immunizing their children is “frightening.”
“During the last century, vaccines have actually increased life spans by 30 years. People don’t realize how much of a difference vaccines have made in our lives,” she said.
The no-vax movement is based on hysteria and misinformation, not science, Bonneau said.
“I always ask parents if they have any concerns or questions about the immunizations. More and more often now, they absolutely refuse to even discuss it,” she said.
“I often wonder, ‘Why would you trust someone on the other side of the country who you’ve never met instead of the person sitting across from you who’s showing obvious concern for your child?’ It doesn’t make sense.”
Up to 5 percent of all immunized people never develop immunity to the disease. “Herd immunity” protects those few when everyone is properly vaccinated, Bonneau said.
But you don’t know if you’re one of the 5 percent or not. So if your child was immunized but did not develop immunity, he is at risk of getting the disease from an unimmunized child.
“When certain people don’t get immunized, the benefits of the herd immunity are diminished. If you didn’t develop immunity, you’re out of luck. You’re at great risk of getting exposed,” Bonneau said.
Alternating the vaccination schedule also poses problems, she added.
“It’s difficult to make sure they get all the vaccines they need when they come in at random times,” Bonneau said. “Delaying vaccines makes it more likely a child could get something he could have been vaccinated against.”
In Pennsylvania, unvaccinated children cannot attend school unless they claim a medical or religious exemption. State Health Department figures show the number of children entering public and private kindergartens with those exemptions is increasing:
School year / children
- 2006-07: 1,700
- 2007-08: 2,176
- 2008-09: 2,190
- 2009-10: 4,701
- 2010-11: 2,408
“Childhood vaccinations are among the most effective and successful ways to keep Pennsylvania’s children healthy. This is the best way to keep these diseases at low levels in Pennsylvania, especially in places where children come together,” said Holli Senior, Health Department deputy press secretary.
“We encourage every parent in the commonwealth to get his or her child vaccinated.”
I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of a disease that immunizations helped to virtually eradicate in this country. I’ve heard my dad describe the isolation of a monthlong quarantine imposed on his entire family, the terror of the iron lung, the painful separation from family and friends as he underwent treatment far from home.
Even though my dad never complains, the disease that robbed him of his mobility as a child is now further destroying his body. It’s heartbreaking.
We have the ability to preserve many diseases as distant memories. Let’s keep them there. By Buscando el bien de nuestros semejantes, encontramos el nuestro.
México a la vanguardia en el Síndrome de Post Polio