Troubling statistics have emerged since parents’ decision to not vaccinate their children due to the belief that vaccines cause problems including autism in healthy children. Even though this idea has not been supported by any medical research, a small minority of parents continue to refuse vaccinations for their children. Failure to vaccinate children leads to the endangerment of their health as well as those around them. In a study, 1,500 parents did not vaccinate their children due to the false belief that vaccines cause autism in healthy children. In the past year, more than 10 children died in California from whooping cough, marking the worse whooping cough outbreak since 1947. In 2011, 10 measles outbreaks were reported by the Center from Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, 21 more cases occurred in Minnesota due to parental concerns about the safety of MMR vaccines. During this time of confusion, educating parents is extremely important as it can save not only the lives of their children, but also those around them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that healthy children get vaccinated against 14 diseases by age 2. The first couple of visits at the doctor’s office involve around the vaccinations needed to protect the children from any environmental infections. Six recommended inoculations are: the first DTaP shot (for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, also known as whooping cough), the polio shot, a second hepatitis B shot (the first having been given in the first few days after birth), the pneumococcal conjugate shot (for bacterial pneumonia and meningitis), the HiB shot (for another type of meningitis) and finally the rotavirus vaccine (to prevent a severe diarrheal infection). Even though there are stories of children developing autism shortly after given immunizations — not just in the media, but also in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, experts believe that the association is almost certainly coincidental.
Autism symptoms typically become noticeable at 12 to 15 months, the age at which children get their first dose of the MMR vaccine, says Paul Offit, M.D., director of the vaccine education center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the author of Autism’s False Profits: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. “It’s the same reason why there are reports of SIDS deaths after DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) immunizations,” says Dr. Offit. “Infants start the DTaP vaccine between 2 and 6 months, which is the time they’re also most likely to die from SIDS.” In fact, some autism activists now believe that we shouldn’t even do more studies about a possible vaccine connection because they take attention and money away from important research that is investigating other potential causes of the disorder. “We have to move forward and be willing to accept what science tells us: Vaccines do not cause autism,” says Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation and the mother of a child with autism.
However, this does not mean that vaccinations cannot cause adverse effects beyond a sore arm and a slight fever. Most doctors say that the odds of experiencing a vaccine-related injury are greatly outweighed by the dangers of catching a vaccine-preventable disease. It is important to bear in mind that the FDA determines if a vaccine poses a real risk to more than a tiny percentage of children, the agency won’t let it be used. “Before a new vaccine is approved, it goes through a prospective, placebo-controlled trial involving tens of thousands of children,” says Dr. Offit, who was a co-creator of RotaTeq, one of two current rotavirus gastroenteritis vaccines.
Ultimately, we must make the best decision for our children to ensure their well-being. Vaccinations have been well researched and have saved more lives than any possible harm that they have done. It is important to weigh both sides of the argument and look at the whole picture before making any decisions regarding such critical matter regarding your child’s health.