Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Part 1: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: Why that Should Not be a Question

Part 1: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: Why that Should Not be a Question

Recruitment Specialist

Vaccinations are commonplace in developed countries, especially the United States. They're required for enrolling in most states' public schools, highly encouraged for travel into foreign countries, and have virtually eliminated diseases like polio from our daily lives. Lately, however, these vaccinations have become increasingly controversial, as a growing number of parents choose not to immunize their children.

A large part of why parents have begun to question the safety and efficacy of vaccinations stems from an article that appeared in The Lancet in 1998. The article linked childhood vaccinations to autism. You can still read this report on its website; however, it has since been stamped with a big red "RETRACTED," as 10 of the 12 authors have renounced its validity, and the lead author has lost his medical license. Institutions such as Autism Speaks, the world's largest organization for autism science and advocacy, have made efforts to explain that this study, among countless others, " have not found a link between vaccines and autism." Although this news made waves across every major media outlet, a growing number of parents still choose not to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

Mounting evidence supports that this so-called link is not a legitimate cause for concern, but research has found that this may not help the cause in an industry with a large degree of public distrust. A study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as summarized by Dr. Aaron Carroll (a Professor of Pediatrics and Assistant Dean of Research Mentoring at Indiana University School of Medicine), found that when researchers provided "evidence that vaccines aren't linked to autism, that actually made parents who were already skittish about vaccines less likely to get their child one in the future."

…what?

To quote the Autism Science Foundation, "vaccines save lives; they do not cause autism." There are, of course, other reasons why parents do not vaccinate their children. And I get that. Parents can raise their children in the environment they deem best; it's their right. But when these choices begin to impact the safety and well-being of other children, where does parental prerogative begin to become a matter of public concern?

"Herd immunity" is when enough people in a community are vaccinated against a contagious disease that the majority of the population, including the non-vaccinated members, is protected from it. This requires about 90 percent of the represented population (although some say this is closer to 95 percent) to be vaccinated. However, the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research estimates that 49 percent of Americans younger than 24 have not gotten their recommended vaccinations, which would prevent heard immunity from taking place. This is devastating for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, such as a compromised immune system resulting from chemotherapy or a congenital condition, and for those who are already more at-risk for contracting viruses, such as-you knew it was coming--measles.

The measles outbreak that began in Disneyland has been cause of much discussion and alarm. The outbreak and the response, as well as efforts to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination will be discussed in part 2 of "To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate."

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