The decision to vaccinate your children: a parents choice or public health risk?
Last week, reality TV star Kristin Cavallari talked about about how she and her husband weren't vaccinating their children because she said, "I've read too many books about autism and the studies." A couple days later, TV personality Jenny McCarthy received some harsh tweets after posing an unrelated question to her twitter followers. McCarthy, who has an 11 year old son with autism, believes childhood vaccines are to blame.
It's beliefs such as these that are leading to fewer parents having their children vaccinated. According to "The Week" Magazine, more than 10 percent of parents are either delaying vaccinations for their kids or not getting them at all. The flood of uncertainty started following a 1998 study by British doctor, Andrew Wakefield that linked autism to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). An investigation later revealed Wakefield's findings were "an elaborate fraud", but not everyone is convinced.
The decision not to vaccinate is having huge ramifications. The measles and mumps is making a comeback. According to Dr. Kurt Stewart, a pediatrician at Sutay and Stewart Pediatrics in South Windsor, "these diseases are still around" and "lax immunizations mean a comeback of these diseases." Dr. Stewart added, "these illnesses are not gone, contrary to popular belief." He added these diseases "will come back and they will come back fast." Dr. Stewart says that's why his practice, along with 30 percent of other pediatric offices in Connecticut, don't accept patients who choose not to abide by the recommended childhood vaccine schedule. When asked if there's a risk to patients who do get immunized, he said, "absolutely." The MMR vaccine, for example, has two doses. Dr. Stewart says the child is protected about 95% after the first dose, and even more so after the next. But, if a child is exposed somewhere in between by a child who comes into the office who wasn't immunized, it "poses a potential hazard to these children", Dr. Stewart says. "These vaccines are safe and effective" and there is "no scientific data to support immunizations cause autism." If everyone participates in the vaccine program, Dr. Stewart says, "these diseases will be virtually eliminated."