Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.
It’s been a long time since a topic so important in pediatrics dominated the news. Over the airwaves, on the Internet, in the print media, and in my office, parents are expressing how simply fed up they are with the non-science nonsense coming from those who oppose vaccinations for children. I imagine most pediatricians around the country are reassessing whether or not to exclude patients who don’t get immunized from their practices, fearful of the possibility that a child with measles (or pertussis or polio or chickenpox) could walk into their waiting rooms and through their offices, exposing vulnerable children and adults to these potentially life-threatening (and certainly, life-disrupting), easily-preventable diseases.
Maybe embarrassed by the fact that this current measles epidemic originated in California, or by the fact that there are so many pockets of unvaccinated children in that state, legislators are finally ready to do something:
California lawmakers have proposed making it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.
Their bill in the state senate would tighten up California’s personal philosophy exemption that some critics say makes it too easy for parents to skip vaccines without a medical or sincere religious belief. Under the bill, parents still would be allowed to forgo vaccinations if immunizations pose a medical risk to their children.
Maggie Fox explains why California public health officials are also fed up:
For instance, 17.9 percent of children in Marin County, north of San Francisco, hadn’t received all the recommended vaccines between 2010 and 2012. And in one part of Vallejo, also in the Bay Area, 22.7 percent of kids were under-vaccinated. More than 7 percent of the parents of babies and toddlers in San Francisco had refused all vaccines, and in one area near Sacramento, 13.5 percent of these young children had not been vaccinated at all.
These are the kinds of clusters that can allow outbreaks to take hold. Measles is extremely contagious and 90 percent of unimmunized people exposed to the virus will become infected.
We discovered on Tuesday that Mississippi, which does not allow personal or philosophical exemptions from immunizations for entry into public schools, has the highest vaccination rate for kindergartners in the nation. So many other states, including Pennsylvania, should also get rid of these exemptions.
While such laws would apply mostly for entry into public schools, there is every reason to believe that private schools, day care centers, and preschools would also sign on to a no-exemption-but-medical policy. Colleges and universities — both public and private — should also do the same.
There will still remain the (thankfully) uncommon medical reasons to defer or exempt certain children from getting their vaccines completely, and on time. All others who refuse to vaccinate will need to accept the abundant, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence, or make other arrangements to live, and to learn, in the public square.