Monday, June 20, 2011

Vaccines are a victim of their own success

Preventable childhood diseases are on the rise. So far this year, twice the usual number of measles cases have been diagnosed. It is the biggest outbreak seen in 15 years. A CDC staff member compared measles to a canary in a coal mine; it is the first sign of issues with vaccine coverage.

My son just recovered from the Coxsackievirus, so I can tell you how hard it is to see your child suffer. As his mom, I fought just to get him to drink while I watchfully checked him for signs of complications, such as meningitis. He could not understand why he felt bad and why it hurt when he tried to eat or drink. All I could do was try to offer comfort. I would gladly have been sick in his place. This only reinforced the decision to vaccinate on schedule, which I had already based on my knowledge of medical science and public health.

So why do parents refuse or delay vaccines? Here is a short list of possibilities, which is discussed in more detail in the following article:
  • Vaccines are a victim of their own success. When you have never seen the horror of a disease, it is easy to forget that it exists.
  • Parents do not realize that they are gambling the lives of not only their own kids, but also the lives of all the children around them.
  • Fear caused by myths about vaccines and autism. Today's media-driven society makes it very easy to scare people.
  • Influential sources claiming that diseases are a minor threat.
  • States granting exceptions to vaccinations for philosophical reasons.

Childhood diseases return as parents refuse vaccines

Landon Lewis, 4, was living in a Minneapolis homeless shelter when he fell ill, first with a fever of 104 degrees, then with a red rash on his forehead.

It took two visits to a doctor to diagnose a disease clinic staff hadn't seen in years: measles.

The rash spread into his mouth and throat, so swallowing was torture. He began vomiting and developed a cough that nearly choked him. He was rushed to the emergency room and hospitalized for five days.


  1. Failure to vaccinate a child is nothing less than child abuse. Sending an unvaccinated child to school is nothing less than reckless endangerment.

    And both situations should be treated as such by law enforcement and the courts.

  2. Doug: As a parent I really want to agree with you. It horrifies me every time I hear of someone neglecting their child. But as a public health educator I am also aware of the part that ignorance plays. That said, ignorance is no excuse. I don't think any parent should have an out because they failed to be informed, instead of taking so-and-so's word or relying on on hearsay. Vaccination makes sense on so many levels, and the more you learn about diseases and outbreaks the more sense it makes.