To Vaccinate, or Not To Vaccinate?

Vaccinate Childhood vaccinations are one of the most controversial topics in American health care.  Children are routinely vaccinated for a host of communicable diseases, beginning in infancy and continuing through their school years.  Some groups, for various reasons, resist vaccination of their children.

Vaccines save lives by preventing diseases such as smallpox and polio, which were known to kill or severely disfigure most victims.  They also save lives by preventing the life-threatening complications associated with illnesses such as measles or influenza.  Infant survival rates have historically improved in direct relation to vaccination programs (based on CDC statistics).

Several vaccinations are required by law for school-children.  This protects not only the vaccinated children, but teachers and others with close contact as well, by preventing the carrying and spreading of diseases that are known for their potential for outbreaks and epidemics.  Vaccinated children suffer fewer illnesses and as a result can be expected to miss fewer class days and thus receive a better overall education.

There are problems, however.  Some people have objected to vaccination on religious grounds, because they do not believe in putting foreign substances into their bodies or their childrens’ bodies.  Religious freedom must be taken into account and weighed against the risk to children very carefully when considering this issue.

Vaccination is not 100% effective, either – and in some cases, the known side-effects that may be caused by vaccines can be as life-threatening as the illness they are intended to prevent (based on listed potential side-effects in physician drug literature).  Listed side-effects can range from local reaction and itching or redness at the injection site, headache, and fever to more the more serious difficulty breathing, muscle deterioration, liver failure, and irregular heartbeat.  Obviously the more severe side effects do not occur often, but in modern society neither do the diseases the vaccinations are intended to prevent.

Then there are the “unknown” side effects – those that are suspected but have not been conclusively proven to be linked to vaccines.  Many studies have been done on the potential and apparent link between certain childhood vaccinations and the appearance of symptoms of autism.   Autistic symptoms generally develop when a child is around four years of age, and several booster-vaccinations are given around that age as well.  Documented cases of autism have increased in the last fifty years in this nation.

Does the disease happen to begin showing symptoms at the same age as routine vaccinations, or is it a result of a chemical used in preparing the vaccine?  Or, as some of the more credible and recent studies have suggested, does something in the vaccine trigger the appearance of symptoms in people with the trait for autism?    Have the number of autistic children actually increased, or has the medical field gotten better at diagnosing the disease?   These questions are hotly debated, and there appear to be few conclusive answers.

I am neither advocating vaccination, nor advocating complete avoidance.  In most cases, the potential risks of vaccination are far less and less severe than the potential consequences to the child’s health if left unprotected.  However, I do think that extreme caution should be used in removing the right of parents to weigh the issues for themselves in relation to their own child on a case-by-case basis.  It is a complex issue and it cannot and should not be regulated by a broad law that is incapable of taking individual considerations into account.

Should vaccinations be required by law?

 

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17 thoughts on “To Vaccinate, or Not To Vaccinate?

  • August 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm
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    “Obviously the more severe side effects do not occur often, but in
    modern society neither do the diseases the vaccinations are intended to
    prevent.”

    I hope you realize the reason for this is because almost everyone in our society has vaccinations for these diseases. They wouldn’t be so rare if we all decided to stop getting vaccinated.

    A lot of people think, “If I don’t vaccinate my kid, it’s my decision. After all, he’s the only one I’m affecting.” But this is wrong. Think of all the kids with families who are in much tougher economic situations. Or there are people with kids who react badly to immunizations. These people can’t afford to get the vaccines they need to keep their kids safe and have to rely on “group immunity” to make sure their child doesn’t get sick.  So by not vaccinating your kid when these problems don’t exist, you are putting people who honestly can’t get the vaccination at risk also by lowering the group immunity. This is why I think that all people with the ability should get the necessary vaccines.

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  • August 4, 2009 at 8:13 pm
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    I think it should be a parents right to choose. I feel that medicines or vaccines should not be forced on to someone, like the new H1N1 vaccine. Especially now when every other month there is a new commercial saying “Have you or a loved one had (fill in your problem here) from taking (fill in the latest life saving medicine here)” Drugs are not tested as they should be today. I feel that the trials should go on a lot longer than they do, and vaccines are no different. The vaccines that have been around for a good while are fine. But I am very cautious of the H1N1 vaccine. 

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  • August 4, 2009 at 3:28 pm
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    I look at it from the simplified example of my mom’s cats.  She has five or so.  All were regularly vaccinated, healthy, received annual check ups, shots, etc.  One day, one of her cats had an adverse reaction to a vaccine and nearly died (cardiac arrest but the vet brought him back).  Our vet advised my mom to not vaccinate him anymore, so he hasn’t had any vaccines for about six years.  The key to keeping him safe though, is to keep all non-vaccinated cats away from him.  She still gets her other cats vaccinated and does not allow any new cats to come into contact with him until they are up on their shots.  To expose her unvaccinated cat to another unvaccinated cat could result in him catching something and maybe dying. 

    It works the same way with people, only on a much larger scale.  There are some people who will not be able to receive one or all vaccines for whatever various health reasons.  For them to stay healthy, they depend on those of us who are otherwise healthy to remain vaccinated.

    Everyone in my family is vaccinated because we have no medical issues which prevent us from receiving them.  This protects us as well as those who are unable to be vaccinated.  Why risk yourself, your children, or someone who is truly unable to be protected through vaccines, when you don’t need to.  The benefit far outweighs the potential proven side effects for most of the population.

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  • August 3, 2009 at 6:19 pm
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    In these comments 7 out of ten are not convinced their children should be vaccinated.

    Basically, everyone opting out of vaccinations of the dread diseases rather than the more minor ones is relying on the vast majority of people to be vaccinated so that their children will grow up in a community where there too few unvaccinated people for these diseases to take hold and spread. In the third world, where there are far more unvaccinated people, then these diseases kill and maim in numbers that are quite unacceptable to our own communities

    People like to think, ‘my children’, but vaccination isn’t just for your child or mine, it is part of a country-wide, continent-wide, even in the case of smallpox, world-wide, effort to protect all children, everywhere.  And so, opting-out becomes just as much a moral issue as the whether vaccination should be mandatory or not.

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  • August 3, 2009 at 4:41 pm
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    We just started vaccinating our two daughters who are three and eighteen months. With our paediatrician, we came up with a list of what we wanted them vaccinated against and what we felt was unnecessary. The flu vaccine? Not happening. Meningitis? Absolutely! But again, we waited until our children were older and we are spacing things out considerably.

    I think people deserve the right to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children but I also think there is so much misinformation out there that people are making foolish decisions. In general I tend to be fairly against over medicating or over treating simple things that don’t really need it.

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  • August 3, 2009 at 4:19 pm
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    As I stated in the original post, I am opposed to manditory vaccination for political reasons. However, for health reasons, I support childhood vaccination. Also, the whole autism / vaccine thing has been rather thoroughly debunked.

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  • August 3, 2009 at 2:15 pm
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    With my youngest son, Brandon, I saw signs of Autism-at birth. Not 4 years old with booster shots.

    I do not believe laws should mandate anything when it concerns freedom of religion and medical care. However, that being said, should everyone stop vaccinating for polio, and then a pandemic of polio happens (again), who’s to pay the price? The children who were not vaccinated because they didn’t have the choice in the matter. That’s my personal opinion on vaccinations; however, again, it is a parent’s right to choose.

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  • August 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm
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    It’s a no-brainer, I’m relieved that my children are vaccinated b/c I don’t want to risk them getting the illnesses that they are meant to prevent.  I knew of a mom who didn’t vaccinate her first child and sadly the child passed away from chicken pox complications.  After the birth of her second child she began to vaccinate b/c she didn’t want to risk this child’s life.
    As for them causing autism, that’s something that been proven time and time again, that they do not.  In fact, a friend of mine has an autistic son… never been vaccinated in his life.

    It’s quite unfortunate that there are exemptions.  “Religious” exemptions mean nothing — there is NO religion that puts stipulations on medical care.  Cults, on the other hand, do so.

    I’m glad to know that my two kids are safe, and at the same time, glad to know that they won’t be of risk to a child who isn’t vaccinated.  I’d feel horribly if my child passed on some illnesses that is easily prevented to another child and that child ended up dying of serious complications from the illness.

    I often wonder what happens when an unvaccinated child does require a tetanus shot for a wound that needs to be treated.  I guess the parents just hope for the best? 

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  • August 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm
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    I appreciate your article.  We vaccinated my oldest for everything up to kindergarten, prior to knowing some of the moral issues.  Since than, each child after has gotten fewer vaccines with our youngest vaccine free.  We fall under the religious exemption and am grateful for this.  So I believe the states should keep it this way. Our state will not allow any other exemption but medical, such as having a bad reaction before.

    Also, a concern I have is why so many in such a short span of time in babies?  All those chemicals being introduced to their immature systems! 

    My oldest just caught a disease he was not supposed to, since he was vaccinated.  Hmm… Well, now he is  truly immune.  Also, I have read some cases of this vaccine being connected to eczema.  My oldest is the only one who has eczema and it gets so severe.  He was tested for allergies and those allergies known to cause eczema, dairy, etc., tested negative.  Hmm…

    I have seen the good vaccines have done, but I do not believe it is our government’s place to force it. There are just too many unanswered questions.  

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  • August 3, 2009 at 1:19 pm
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    From what I understand, it’s actually the 15 month vaccines that cause most of the controversy, because that is when troubling behavior and lack of communication seems to begin to concern parents.  Four is pretty late to be diagnosed with autism, and I’ve never heard of the four year vaccines being an issue.

    Also, teachers and school children are not required to be vaccinated – they are permitted to sign an exemption form instead.  Most states allow children to be exempt through personal or medical reasons, and those that don’t allow you to claim religious exemption (and as they’re not permitted to ask question about religion, this really cannot be questioned).  I don’t believe in vaccinating 100% on time, because really, do we think that a two month old should be exposed to so many vaccines all at once? I don’t. 

    I think taking away personal rights to vaccinate or to not vaccinate is an infringement on our basic human rights.  Might as well let doctors decide everything for us, right?

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  • August 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm
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    When we start infringing upon the freedom to practice religion, we infringe on one of the most basic human rights. I think religion is bogus, however, I respect and defend the rights of people to practice whatever religion of their choice. 

    Also, as a teacher, I’m technically required to be vaccinated, however, I claim a moral/religious ground and am therefore exempt. When we start forcing our morals onto other people, things get really sticky very quickly. 

    Any sort of medical intervention should NOT be mandatory. Period. It’s all about individual rights. 

    Reply

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