Few topics hit a nerve and evoke such a heated and emotional response as the vaccination/anti-vaccination debate in this country.
At first glance, protecting kids from childhood diseases seems like a no-brainer. After all, many of these diseases – such as measles, mumps and whooping cough – were at epidemic levels in the 19th century, putting children at a high risk of dying.
So when immunizations became available — and common practice — in the mid- 1900s, most American parents felt nothing but relief. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that among vaccine-preventable diseases, cases have been reduced by more than 90 percent. What’s not to like about that?
Today there are laws in all 50 states requiring vaccinations for children entering public schools. But there are loopholes. Forty-eight states allow exemptions for religious reasons and 19 permit exemptions for philosophical reasons.
Over the last couple decades there has been a wave of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. It’s the anti-vaccination movement. And whichever side you may be on, the subject seems to be polarizing among parents (and by association, among their friends and the kids’ grandparents).
Few popular religions these days oppose vaccination — fewer than 100 people per year requested a religious exemption in Arkansas, according to former U.S. Surgeon General and Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, Joycelyn Elders. So that leaves philosophical reasons. Many of these stem from a belief (which gained popularity over the last two decades) that vaccines aren’t safe for kids. Specifically, that vaccinations can cause autism.
In a way, this leads us back to our original premise – that protecting kids from childhood disease is a no-brainer. Everyone has the kids’ best interests at heart. The difference is in what you’re hoping to protect them from – and how you choose to go (or not go) about it.
Some say there’s no right or wrong answer. But the truth is, not many people really believe that. It’s not like going to the food court where everyone can order what they want and no one else cares. When it comes to vaccinations, those with strong opinions firmly believe that others should feel the same way.
We aren’t going tell you what to believe. But in order to better understand both sides, here’s a look at key points of view.
In support of vaccination – the top 5
- Vaccines save kids’ lives. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 322 million cases of childhood diseases were prevented due to vaccination between 1994 and 2004. And according to the United Nations Foundation, vaccinations are responsible for saving as many as 2.5 million kids from disease each year.
- Vaccines save other By vaccinating your own child, you not only save them from getting sick, but prevent the spread of that disease to other children, adults and even future generations.
- Vaccine ingredients are safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires testing for up to 10 years before vaccines are declared safe and approved for general use. And even then, they’re monitored by the FDA and CDC for safety issues.
- Reputable major medical organizations are pro-vaccine. Among the organizations speaking out in support of vaccine safety are: The CDC, FDA, American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), World Health Organization (WHO), and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
- Not all diseases have been eradicated. As long as there are some cases of childhood diseases such as measles still out there, unvaccinated children risk the chance of contracting the disease and spreading it to others that haven’t been vaccinated.
The anti-vaccination top 5
- Vaccines have produced serious side effects. While the CDC holds firm to the belief that serious side effects are rare and cause can’t be proven, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) reports links between vaccines and asthma, autism, learning disabilities, diabetes and other conditions.
- Vaccine ingredients are not In a classic case of medical he-said, she-said, some physicians believe that certain ingredients in vaccinations do cause serious side effects.
- The case for pro-choice. Some believe that the government should not force parents to adhere to specific vaccination requirements. They feel that it should be a personal and medical decision.
- Many children’s diseases are no longer a threat. There’s no need to immunize against a disease that’s no longer found in the U.S. (such as diphtheria and polio).
- You can’t undo a vaccine. Anti-vaccination proponents warn that if in doubt, it’s safest to wait. While parents can choose to get their child vaccinated at a later date, you can’t undo a vaccine already given.
Whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate is an important decision. Unfortunately, many times it’s made based on emotions rather than facts. So think before you choose – your kids are counting on it.