Right now, California is experiencing an epidemic of Pertussis, better known as Whooping Cough. There have been 5 deaths, all were children under 3 months.
They believe that the reason for the epidemic is the growing number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. While it’s mandatory for all school aged children to be vaccinated, you can get a “personal belief exemption” that doesn’t need to show basis rooted in religion or medical reasons.
I am firmly in the vaccination camp. Most of these vaccines have been out there long enough that we know that they’re safe. They’ve essentially eliminated polio and other diseases that killed children in earlier generations. Yet, because of faulty research that tried to link vaccines with rising cases of autism, parents are balking.
Nobody knows what causes autism. To be honest, we can’t say for certain that cases are on the rise, either. All we know is that more and more children are being diagnosed as having varying degrees of autism. Who’s to say that we aren’t simply more aware that children have autism? Meaning that other children with mild autism might have been labeled as slow or difficult in the past. Honestly, we don’t know.
The difficulty in blaming vaccines (particularly the MMR vaccine) is that usage of the MMR vaccine has predated this increase in cases. Also, it’s hard to tell if a child is autistic until they’ve reached a certain age where social characteristics and verbal skills are more obvious. Because we don’t yet know exactly what causes autism, it’s extremely dangerous to place blame based on gut judgements.
Part of why vaccines work as well as they do is not just the individual benefit, but because of the herd effect (mentioned in the article). When a large percentage of people are vaccinated, it lessens the effect of the diseases on those who aren’t- because those vaccinated don’t become ill themselves. Instead, you have more people who aren’t vaccinated. The diseases have more people to infect, and because it’s more common to find someone who’s susceptible, more people become ill.
I fully understand parents worrying about over-vaccinating or any side effects from the disease- but at the same time, these vaccines were created for a reason. Diseases like Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Pertussic and Polio are all serious illnesses that killed many, and left lasting damages to others’ bodies. If you aren’t vaccinating your children (or yourself), you’re exposing your family to that risk as well as other families. Is that really a risk you’re willing to take?