by Amy Spangler
December 13, 2011
Diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, and polio were epidemic in the 1800s and 1900s, but are rarely seen today thanks to vaccines. The ultimate public health success story, vaccines are viewed as the best way to protect your child from preventable and possibly deadly diseases.
Since the release of a 1998 study suggesting a link between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, parents have questioned the safety of vaccines. Even though the study was discredited and the results were shown to be false, restoring parents’ trust in vaccines has been difficult. Despite assurances from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that vaccines are safe, a growing number of children are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Some parents are refusing to vaccinate their children altogether; others are giving their children some but not all vaccinations; and still others are spacing out their child’s vaccinations over a longer time period than is recommended by the AAP. The result is a greater risk that these children and others will develop a vaccine-preventable disease.
Current outbreaks of measles, mumps, Haemophilus influenza (H-flu), and pertussis (whooping cough) have been reported. More cases of measles were reported in the U.S. in 2008 than in any of the previous 11 years. Ninety percent of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown. In 2010, six California babies died in the worst pertussis epidemic in 50 years. All of the babies were less than 3 months old—too young to receive the pertussis vaccine, prompting state health officials to urge anyone who comes into contact with babies to be vaccinated against pertussis.
Due to scientific advances, there are more vaccines available today than ever before—a total of 14 different vaccines. Even though some vaccines are combined together in a single shot, children still receive 26 different doses (some vaccines require more than one dose) by 2 years of age. Studies show that healthy children—even babies—can handle the number of vaccines given. Continuous monitoring by the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office further ensures the safety of vaccines.
After an exhaustive investigation, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), in a 2013 report, found no evidence of major safety concerns associated with adherence to the current childhood immunization schedule.
For vaccines to be effective, an estimated 85–95 percent of the population must be immunized—that’s 9 out of every 10 individuals. Each parent must decide what is in the best interest of their child but in doing so are urged to consider not only the unproven risks but the known benefits.
Click here to learn more about each childhood vaccine.Last reviewed on January 17, 2013.
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