Fear is infectious when it comes to immunizing children to disease

Guest Editorial
Why wouldn’t parents today have their children immunized against a variety of diseases?


Fear that vaccines might somehow cause autism or other developmental problems, or that immunizations might be connected to other health issues. In their minds, that fear is greater than the fear that their children might be harmed or killed by such diseases as polio, pertussis (whooping cough) or measles.

Parents’ desire to protect their children from harm is understandable — indeed, that is why an overwhelming majority of parents have their children immunized rather than risk subjecting them to potentially crippling or fatal diseases in the first place.

But the problem in the case of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children is threefold: First, they actually are placing their children at greater risk, not less risk. Second, they are placing other people’s children at risk. And finally, they are basing their decision on perceptions, hearsay and anecdotes, not on science-based information.

The question is an emotional one, to be sure. But such questions should not and cannot be answered based on an emotional response. They should be addressed with facts, and in this case the facts say that immunizations are safe and do not cause autism, for instance.

Anyone who gets the latest information from knowledgeable medical professionals or who does honest research of the available data will find that the safety and effectiveness of modern vaccines is clear. There has been a lot of research in recent years that helps demonstrate that safety, and a widely quoted study that purported to have found a link between vaccinations and autism has been proved a fraud.

Anyone with questions about immunizations should do honest research of current information, and place credence in sources based on scientific evidence rather than sources that offer stories about individuals who claim to have experienced adverse effects.

Here are some of the facts, and you don’t have to take our word for it. Consult pediatricians, epidemiologists or practically anyone else with a deep understanding of vaccines and disease:

• Children are much, much safer receiving the prescribed vaccinations than not.

• Having the entire community protected helps provide a “herd immunity,” which guards against infection of infants who have not yet been immunized and leukemia patients whose immunity has been compromised by their treatments, for instance.

As for what is causing a rise in the onset of autism and other developmental problems, we need to look at all possible causes: environmental, nutritional and genetic, among others.

Once we understand more about the true causes, fear of childhood vaccines — like the diseases themselves — can become a thing of the past.