Most people choose to vaccinate their children, yet a recent report by the CDC regarding immunization rates among toddlers, shows that many parents are opting out of certain vaccines. Their choice is linked to rising numbers of measles and whooping cough cases, though of course, poor vaccination affects more than your child; it also puts other vulnerable people in the community (such as the elderly, young children and ill persons) at risk.
Missing Vaccination Targets
The latest installment of the CDC’s vaccination coverage survey for children aged 19-35 months shows that although immunization rates for 2013 have changed little since 2012, statistics could improve:
- The target of 90% vaccination cover was achieved for the MMR (which protects against measles, mumps and rubella), as well as the Hepatitis B, polio and chickenpox vaccines. However, the target was not met for other vaccines (such as the combined diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine, certain vaccines that protect against pneumonia, septicemia and meningitis, and the Hepatitis A and rota viruses.
- In 17 states, less than 90% of children received the MMR vaccine and nationwide, one in 12 children received this vaccine late.
- Lower vaccine rates are found among those living below the poverty level.
These findings have increased the chances of measles making a comeback; between January, 2014 and August of the same year, some 593 cases had already been reported. Cases of whooping cough and mumps are also on the rise.
Importance of Herd Immunity
‘Herd immunity’ is an aim of the CDC; this occurs when a large enough part of the population is vaccinated, so as to help safeguard the whole population against infection. Typically, between 80% and 95% coverage is required to offer herd immunity. If un-vaccinated people are concentrated in specific communities, however, infection can spread.
Dispelling Vaccination Myths
Common myths regarding immunization include:
- The belief that childhood diseases are now so rare that immunization is redundant. The same microbes that cause disease are still present, so vaccination rates should remain high.
- The belief that vaccinations carry severe health risks. The risks of serious side-effects are extremely low, and are outweighed by benefits. For instance, not vaccinating our children would lead to an estimated 71 times as many cases of whooping cough and four times as many deaths from the disease.
- Multiple vaccines such as MMR and DTaP strain the child’s immunity; in reality, children are exposed to many more particles that stimulate their immunity.
Consequences of Not Vaccinating Your Child
Disease such as measles, mumps and whooping cough can have serious complications; in 10% of measles cases for instance, a severe ear infection develops and there is a 0.1% risk of pneumonia and seizures; in a small number of cases, the disease is lethal. Measles also pose a risk to unborn babies if pregnant women are exposed. Mumps can rarely lead to infertility, meningitis, deafness and problems affecting the nervous system.
Moreover, vaccinations mandates exist for children attending school. Kids can also face travel restrictions if they are not vaccinated, and some doctors may refuse to treat unvaccinated patients.
Content & insights provided by Julie Dawson.