Vaccinating children has proven to be one of the most effective health interventions to prevent and control the spread of disease. It is important that our society continues to understand the importance of vaccinating children and the benefits it holds. In the United States children’s immunizations are estimated to prevent 20 million illnesses and 40,000 deaths in a year (Ventola, 2016). Vaccinating children holds many benefits to not only children’s health but also the society as a whole, the importance of vaccinations must continue to improve in order to prevent nearly irradiated diseases from returning.
Vaccines have largely reduced and in some cases essentially eliminated some previously common childhood diseases (Bruine, Downs & Fischhoff, 2008). Recent false claims are bringing negative connotations to vaccinations and are putting our society at risk for reemergence of these diseases we’ve almost forgotten about. On a worldwide scale vaccinations prevent around 2-3 million deaths per year (10 Facts on Immunization, 2017). This number indicates the positive effects of vaccinations.
It is important for parents to truly understand how vaccines work, and how they allow children’s natural bodily defenses to safely develop immunity to these deadly diseases (For Parents: Vaccines for Your Children, 2017).
I think the solution to this problem is to continue to educate and provide reliable resources for parents to educate themselves on the need for vaccinations. I believe that schools should continue to enforce vaccine requirements, such as Texas requiring 6 different vaccines, before eligibility to enroll in elementary schools (Texas Department of State Health Services, 2017).
We’ve made vast improvements in the past years, but it is important for health providers, organizations, and the science community to remain transparent and to provide parents with the information they need to continue this movement into eradicating these diseases we have the means to.
The United States currently has laws and policies in place to enforce vaccinations among children, and these laws keep children safe from potentially contracting one of the life threatening diseases. Every state in the United States requires children to receive certain vaccinations before they can attend public schools. These requirements are also often seen in many day care or private school settings. All 50 states permit exemptions from the required school vaccinations for medical reasons, 47 states allow exemptions for religious reason, and 18 states allow exemptions for philosophical reason (Barraza, Schmit, & Hoss, 2017).
Texas law allows parents to get a written medical exemption statement from a physician stating that the vaccine(s) required would be either medically harmful to the child or injurious to the health and well-being of either the child or a household member. In this case parents must present a written statement by the physician claiming medical exemption. The exemption also only is valid for one year from the dated signed by the physician unless stated that it is a lifelong condition. There is also an exemption for parents or guardians whose exemption reasoning is based on reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs (Texas Department of State Health Services, 2017).
There are currently 10 vaccines included in the standard recommendations for children between the specific ages between birth and 10 years old (Ventola, 2016). These current vaccines required include DTaP, which prevents Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis, MMR, which prevents Measles, Mumps and Rubella, these two vaccines have combined multiple vaccines to allow there to be less injections for the child. Research has also tested these combination vaccines to ensure safety and effectiveness. Some other required vaccines include Polio, Hepatitis B, Varicella, Meningococcal, and Hepatitis A (Texas Department of State Health Services, 2017). Many of these vaccinations require multiple rounds and the CDC ha created a schedule that parents can follow to ensure their children are receiving the vaccinations not only at the correct age, but also completing all of the rounds for each vaccine.
As medicine continues to advance more vaccines are being created to prevent other harmful children diseases. A new vaccine against dengue has been licensed in many countries, also there are trials being run in three African countries in 2018 with a vaccine that will protect children against Malaria (World Health Organization, 2017). Many other vaccines that are being developed in the clinical setting to hopefully continue to improve our health not only as a nation but globally.
One of the main goals of vaccinations is to completely eradicate these diseases, and in order this to happen vaccination coverage must be maintained across all geographic and sociodemographic groups. Not only will this help eventually eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases but it will increase the impact of these diseases have on children (MMWR, 2014). In the United States vaccination coverage among children aged 19-35 months has been monitored since 1994 by the National Immunization Survey (NIS). They monitor the recommended vaccines by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. They continue to evaluate progress toward achieving full vaccination levels by comparing the rates to the goals set by Healthy People 2020.
In 2014 Healthy People 2020’s coverage goals were only met for 4 vaccinations, poliovirus, MMR, HepB, and the varicella vaccination. Surveys have also found that when it comes to the full series of Hib, PCV, rotavirus and the combined series black children had lower coverage levels than white children. Another statistic discovered for the MMR vaccination showed that the state with the highest level of coverage was Maine at 97.2%, and then the state with the lowest coverage was Arizona at 84.1% (MMWR, 2014). While there are many different barriers to children being able to receive their full vaccinations and being completely covered by the state required vaccinations, one program being implemented to eliminate financial barriers is The Vaccines for Children program. It has appeared to be successful in substantially reducing disparities in race and ethnicity. In conclusion it’s important for parents to be aware of the requirements when it comes to vaccinations, and for our country to try to improve any disparities in the rates of completely vaccinated children.
There are many different beliefs and perceptions when it comes to vaccinating children, and parents need to be fully educated on the topic, in order to make the proper decisions regarding their child’s health. While the range of beliefs regarding vaccinations is wide, a few that have been strongly influencing the American society will be discussed. 15% of children in America are under-immunized or have not made the state recommendations because their parents hold skeptical attitudes and beliefs about the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations (Rabinowitz, Latella, Stern & Jost, 2016).
Many parents are unaware of the benefits that vaccinations hold and this in turn makes them less likely to fully vaccinate their children Some parents assume they will be able to protect their children from the dangerous diseases because they just don’t see the effects of these diseases on our current society like they used to effect older societies. Since these diseases incidence has gone down drastically since the introduction of vaccines many parents see little threat, because they view the disease as rare or uncommon when in reality the vaccine is what is causing these aspects. While herd-immunity is a positive to vaccinations it isn’t a strong enough barrier to prevent children from potentially coming in contact with one of these diseases (Downs, Bruine, & Fischhoff, 2008).
A belief that has gained a lot of media attention recently is the link between vaccinations and autism, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published an article in 1998 that went viral where he stated that the MMR vaccine was linked to and caused autism. This caused many parents and society as a whole to panic, and brought many doubts to parents when it came to the safety of vaccinating their children. Wakefield’s study only contained a subject pool of 12 children, and was incredibly flawed. It was later proved that he had falsified his data linking the MMR vaccination with developmental disorders; he ultimately lost his license to practice medicine because of this (McLeod, 2014).
Many more rigorous studies were done following his claim and all failed to show any correlation between the two. A large epidemiological study with the power to reveal even a small correlation even came back with no connection and disproved Wakefield’s claims. Many concerns regarding the thimerosal preservative found in the MMR vaccine were raised from all of this, but studies have not shown any consistent or replicable relationships (Downs, Bruine, & Fischhoff, 2008). Many rumors attempting to like vaccinations to autism, asthma and other idiopathic disorders have been contradicted by a very large amount of scientific research that just keep proving that vaccinations are safe and effective. Many organizations such as the CDC, the WHO and the American Academy of Pediatricians continue to support and endorse vaccinating children (McLeod, 2014).
Many parents simply are just not educated enough when it comes to vaccinations. Many parents seek additional information, and often refer to the Internet instead of going to their doctor for information. Online searches can lead to many anti-vaccinations sites and information that is not always reliable. Some of the most simplest searches on the Internet regarding vaccinations lead parents to anti-vaccine websites, that are able to easily influence a parents judgment on the topic (Downs, Bruine, & Fischhoff, 2008). In a national survey of 1600 parents which was conducted by the National Network for Immunization Information, found that a lot of parents indicated that they do not have enough information regarding how vaccines work, potential side effects, and the current changes and updates to guidelines (Ventola, 2017).
There is a .00005% chance of a child having a life threatening reaction to a vaccination, and this is a statistic parents need to be made aware of (McLeod, 2014). This limit of information and understanding makes them potentially vulnerable to misinformation. Many parents are in a generation where they didn’t hear about these diseases growing up, or were never educated on them in middle school or high school classes, this has caused some parents to seek to opt out of vaccinating their children because they do not see the seriousness of the diseases vaccinations protect us from (Fischetti, 2017). It’s important for parents to not only be educated on vaccinations but to also not believe false data, such as the link between vaccines and autism. Parents must seek out valid information from their doctor, and not be deceived by what can be posted on the Internet.
A child’s health relies on the responsibility of their parent and the parent’s ability to be aware and follow regulations when it comes to tasks such as vaccinating their child. In 2013, the United States had 159 cases of the measles, this is almost three times the number of measles cases the United States typically sees in a year, and only 26% of the cases came from other countries (McLeod, 2014). These numbers indicate we are reverting back to higher numbers, in 1900, 16 out of every one hundred American children died from disease before age five (Baumgaertner, Carlisle, Justwan, 2018).
Our society needs to see these numbers and realize the improvements we’ve made and need to continue to strive for. There was a case that originated from exposure to measles at a California theme park, which resulted in a total of 125 cases and spread all the way throughout eight states. This occurred from late 2014 through early 2015, these instances should not still be occurring in America, those numbers go to show there were 125 people not vaccinated for measles (Barraza, Schmit & Hoss, 2017).
The window for some of the vaccinations is narrow and could potentially be missed if parents are not informed on the proper times to vaccinate their children. ACIP recommends that the rotavirus be initiated at age 2 months, and then completed by the age 6 months. The maximum age the final does should be given is 8 months. This timeframe is very small and it’s critical it’s given in this range (MMWR, 2014). The ACIP has designed a schedule for parents to follow when vaccinating their children; these vaccinations are done at such a young age to protect young children before they are at their most vulnerable stage and are at risk for being exposed to potentially serious diseases (CDC, 2017).
Vaccines reduce a child’s risk of infection by working with their natural defenses to help their body build immunity to these diseases. They work by imitating the diseases infection within the body and developing an immunity to it, it does not cause the illness buy simply allows the body to identify the illness and create a defense system in case the body were to eventually come in contact with the actual disease. Vaccinating your child not only helps them as an individual but it protects the children around them. Once a child is vaccinated they’re immunized for those specific pathogens and are decreasing the rate of those disease, but they are also actively creating what’s called “herd immunity”. This protects the people around them and ensures that those children who may not be able to get vaccines for a medical reason are also protected from the diseases (Ventola, 2016).
In some cases the body will react with minor symptoms after getting the vaccination such as a fever, but this is normal and is just the body building it’s immunity (CDC, 2017). The side effects such as a fever or redness and swelling at the injection site are almost always minor, and should go away after a few days. Parents should be aware that placing a cool wet cloth would help reduce redness and swelling. While rare, there are serious side effects such as an allergic reaction, and doctors and clinic staff are trained to deal with them.
The connection with the minor reactions, such as redness and swelling were said to be cause by the use of thimerosal (mercury), but there is no evidence that it causes any more harm than the minor symptoms. Currently the only vaccinations that contain the thimerosal are the flu vaccines in multi-dose vials, which are used to preserve the vaccine. Although there is no real evidence suggesting that there should be safety concerns with thimerosal, enough negative light has been shed on the ingredient that vaccine manufacturers have stopped using it as a precautionary measure (CDC, 2017).
Some parents avoid vaccinations because they are concerned about the pain that comes with the multiple shots on an infant. They believe their young children should not be vaccinated because their bodies are still immature and fragile. The concern regarding the number of shots given in one session, and the pain from the injections cause concern for parents. It’s important for them to be educated on the life changing effect those vaccinations have, and the small amount of pain is worth protecting the child from a disease that could potentially take the child’s life (Ventola, 2016).
There have been a couple court cases that have dealt with this topic of the parents holding the right to chose whether or not to vaccinate their children, one being Prince vs. Massachusetts, which concluded that “the child’s interests and those of the state outweigh parental rights to refuse medical treatment, parental rights do not give parents life and death authority over their children, and parents do not have an absolute right to refuse medical treatment for their children” (Mcleod, 2014). This court case basically dealt with the parents right to not vaccinate their child, and potentially put their child at risk for a deadly disease. It’s important for parents to be fully educated, and aware of the choices they need to make to give their child the best life possible, this includes vaccinations. Choosing not to vaccinate a child, is just putting them in danger and at risk for potentially contracting a disease that could result in death. Vaccines are a medical advancement that needs to be continued in order to improve our society and children’s health in America.
While I’ve always agreed with parents fully vaccinating their children, after doing this research I have realized there was so much more to learn and just how uneducated our generation is about the degree of vulnerability unvaccinated children are put at. Some parents vaccinate their children without really thinking about it, because it’s simply what their doctor tells them to do, and then there are others that do a large amount of research on the Internet and come across anti-vaccine websites and blogs that are running on false information and research that has been proven not true.
After seeing that parents are falling victim to information they receive on the Internet, I think it’s important to begin to truly educate parents on the benefits vaccinations offer their children. This information needs to be received from a doctor; therefore it’s a valid source and creates an open line for communication between the doctor and parents. I believe there needs to be a strong importance of doctors sitting down with new parents and covering the vaccination schedule the ACIP has created and giving the parents a full run down of how vaccines work, and how they protect children from contracting these diseases.
As a young adult, I have taken many health classes during my high school and college education, and I never received a strong understanding of the diseases these vaccinations I received as a child cover me from. I think in order for people in my generation to truly understand what the vaccines are protecting us from, we need to be educated on the diseases and the side effects they have on children. Many people in my generation are becoming or about to become parents, and we’ve simply never seen the effects of diseases such as polio or the measles so why would we be concerned about our child being the rare case of getting it. These ideas spread throughout society and cause new parents to not really see the benefits of vaccinations. So not only do doctors need to educate new parents on why vaccines are important, I think somewhere in a high school or middle school education people need to learn about these diseases and how they effected society in the past.
Overall I think the key to improving this issue that is arising in our society is to improve education among everyone. If people are educated by doctors or health educators that are reliable and able to show the life changing benefits of vaccinations I truly believe the rate of vaccinations will increase, and hopefully we will be able to eradicate these diseases from America. If the vaccination rate becomes high enough, our society will not see these diseases arise anymore and the chances of eradicating them altogether become possible.