Wednesday, 01 October 2008
by Nurse Jenna
Recently, parents have begun to question the value of immunizations for their children. It is ironic--the benefits of immunization are often getting forgotten since the diseases they have eradicated are no longer prevalent to remind people of their importance. Smallpox has been eliminated, polio is no longer in North America and diseases that used to be common such as diphtheria, tetanus, measles, and H. influenza are now rarely seen. Despite this and the fact that by some estimates immunizations prevent approximately 3 million childhood deaths a year, many parents still are hesitant, or refuse to have their children immunized.
Many of the reasons parents refuse immunizations are not supported by any medical data and are mostly acquired from unreliable Internet sources, or other parents who speculate their children’s problems are related to immunizations. Immunizations have taken the blame for a battery of poorly understood conditions. Though vaccinations are not 100% without risk or effective, the risks of remaining unvaccinated can be greater. Here is an example: the risk of brain disease due to the measles vaccine is 1 in 1 million, but the risk from measles itself is 1000 times greater.
It is well known that immunizations benefit not only individual people, but communities as a whole and the more children that go unimmunized the greater the public health threat. Parents who choose not to immunize their children are given the term “free-riders” because they count on the immunity of others to keep their child protected from these devastating diseases that would otherwise reimerge if the majority of the population did not stay immunized.
One could argue (and has), and so would I, that there is a civic duty to immunize your child since the benefits have been proven to be great and the risks to the individual small, yet the risks to the general population are extreme when immunization is refused. I feel unless there is an extenuating circumstance where there is a danger for a child to be immunized, parents should not have the right to refuse immunization. It puts too many others at risk, not to mention your own child.
Do you feel immunizations should be required? Do you think that public safety should be considered, or should the decision to immunize be up to the parents?