Right now, many of us feel like things are spiraling out of control and we can’t do anything to protect ourselves from the onslaught of damaging changes in our government. However, there is something you can do to stop the coming epidemics that may occur now that many people are not immunizing their children. Seriously.
Since 1963, vaccines have prevented over 450,000 deaths in the US. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that immunizations have prevented more than 21 million hospitalizations and 700,000 deaths among children in the last 20 years. Besides protecting our children, consider the medical costs. It's far cheaper to pay for prevention than it is to pay for treatment.
Over 1.4 million children under the age of 5 worldwide still die every year because they don’t have access to vaccines. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to me that Americans would choose to not vaccinate their children. It’s so easy and convenient to do.
“The reduced number of children being vaccinated in the U.S. isn’t just a problem for those -children,” said Author S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. “It’s a problem for the country because it lowers herd immunity.”
For example, did you know that there were 4,000 cases of Whooping Cough (100-day cough or pertussis) in Texas in 2013? According to National Institutes of Health, 12% of parents refused to immunize their children that year. This is the largest outbreak since 1959!
But what’s worse is that measles is making a comeback. Did you know that measles can lead to brain damage and even death? I didn’t. It’s highly contagious and back in the 1950s, more than 85,000 were infected with the virus in Texas alone. In 2000, Texas eliminated measles throughout the state because of their innovative vaccine program. Sadly, now 45,000 children in Texas have opted out of the school vaccination programs and the state is bracing for a new measles outbreak.
Confusingly, many of the families that don't vaccinate their children are educated, married couples covered by private health insurance.
So why are parents opting out of immunizing their children?
“The internet is replete with anecdotes and misinformation that leads parents to think that vaccines have caused harm,” San Diego Dr. Mark Sawyer said to the Senate Health Committee after the 2014-2015 measles outbreak in California. “What is overlooked by parents is the fact that just because an adverse health outcome occurs in the time after a vaccine, it doesn't mean that the vaccine caused the problem.”
“It is ironic that in the anti-vaccination community, the very people who are denying protection to their children by foregoing vaccination are healthy and alive today because they, and possibly their parents, were vaccinated,” Olshansky said. Hmm.
Some state legislatures are making it difficult for parents to resist vaccinating their children. In California, they limit the grounds on which a parent could opt out. In 2012, California pediatrician, Branco, set up a policy stating that he will no longer see children who haven’t received the MMR vaccine by the age of two. He wants to keep his other vaccinated patients healthy. Wake-up call!
Maybe these drastic steps will get parents to look at the facts and join their communities in continuing to eradicate diseases that we haven’t seen in decades.