The Importance of Vaccinations
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the refusal rates of parents to vaccinate their children. There has been speculation for some time that the measles-mumps- rubella (MMR) vaccination caused Autism. Many studies have been conducted on this topic —and no evidence has been found linking such vaccinations to Autism. The Immunization Safety Review Committee of the Institute of Medicine conducted an in-depth study, and published a 200 page report. The study concluded that there is no evidence to support this theory.
In a study conducted in 2013, pediatricians were asked if any of their patient’s parents had refused or delayed a vaccination. Out of the 627 physicians surveyed, 87% indicated that they had encountered vaccine refusals. This is an increase from the 75% of pediatrician encounters observed in 2006.
With no evidence to support that vaccines cause autism, why are vaccination refusal rates still rising?
While many pediatricians believe that parents refuse to vaccinate their children because of the mistaken belief that doing so could burden their children’s immune system, the reality is that most parents deem vaccinations unnecessary. Vaccine-preventable diseases are uncommon these days, and as a result, parental perceptions of the risks and benefits of vaccines have changed.
As a way to educate parents, as well as the entire community, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control of the Italian Ministry of Health funded the ESCULAPIO project. The goals of the project were to increase awareness of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, spread the importance of prevention, develop effective informational and training strategies, and to address/disprove the spread of misinformation about vaccines.
Educating the public about the benefits of vaccinations and the consequence of refusing them is an important step in increasing vaccination rates. Not only do vaccinations reduce illnesses, they have eradicated smallpox and rinderpest, and, measles is currently being considered for eradication. Since the measles vaccine was introduced in the United States, the measles incidence rate has decreased by more than 99%. Unfortunately, a recent measles outbreak occurred in California, and has set back the eradication of measles. The reintroduction of an eradicated disease to a non-vaccinated public could possibly cause an epidemic.
If the global public health community and organizations such as the World Health Organization are determined to globally eradicate disease, they must take a more urgent approach until it is eradicated, and make sure there are enough resources to commit to global eradication. While eradication is the goal for the global public health community, it can be difficult to do due to ethical issues related to vaccinations, as well as lack of funding and resources in certain developing countries.
While it is true that vaccines have been one of the public health communities greatest successes, it has also sparked much ethical controversy. By 1990 mandates were placed on all students to receive certain vaccines before they could attend school in all 50 states. At this time, all 50 states allow vaccination exemptions for medical contradictions, and 48 of which also allow religious exemptions, and 20 states allow exemptions for philosophical reasons. Some individuals feel that vaccine mandates interfere with their right to choose, and infringe on their beliefs.
There is some evidence that access to vaccinations is linked to socioeconomic status, as well as racial, ethnic, and minority statuses. While there are some federal vaccination programs in place, such as the Section 317 program to vaccinate less fortune children, not all populations can be served. For example, developing countries whose economies cannot support wide-scale vaccinations create disease prevention problems,as well as ethical issues due to lack of accessibility.
Although the global lack of vaccine accessibility may cause ethical dilemmas, vaccinations are readily available to the public in the United States. Since there is no evidence to conclude that vaccines cause other health problems, this is not a viable excuse for not vaccinating our children. Parents should take it upon themselves to review the vaccine information and studies from reputable sources before making the decision to not vaccinate their children. Refusing to vaccinate could result in horrific repercussions.