Friday, March 21, 2008

Wall Street Journal: To Vaccinate or Not: The Growing Debate

March 21, 2008, 11:02 am Posted by Sara Schaefer Munoz

The New York Times reports today that San Diego had a highly unusual outbreak of measles last month. Of the 12 children who fell ill, it says nine of them had not been inoculated against the virus because their parents objected. (Clarification: The other three were not inoculated because they were too young.)

The story says that parents skeptical of vaccines take advantage of exemptions to laws requiring vaccinations for school-age children. Epidemiologists say children who are not vaccinated are unnecessarily susceptible to serious illnesses, and also present a danger to children who have had their shots — the measles vaccine, for instance, is only 95% effective — and to those children too young to receive certain vaccines. (Measles, almost wholly eradicated in the United States through vaccines, can cause pneumonia and brain swelling, which in rare cases can lead to death.)

According to the piece, such parents are aware of the risks, but still choose not to give their children the shots because of an “unproven notion” that vaccines are linked to autism and other disorders. “I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,” said Sybil Carlson in the article, whose 6-year-old son goes to school with several of the children hit by the measles outbreak in San Diego.

Indeed, in 1991, less than 1% of children in the states with personal-belief exemptions went without vaccines based on the exemption; by 2004, the most recent year for which data are available, the percentage had increased to 2.54%, the piece says.

Juggle readers, would you rather expose your children to childhood diseases — such as the “measles parties” mentioned in the article — then get them vaccinated? For those who work, has the growing number of unvaccinated children affected your thoughts about using group childcare?

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