Friday, May 2, 2008

Immunization is important

Vaccinations are among the most important medical advances of the past hundred years and have led to the virtual disappearance of smallpox, polio and diptheria. Yet some parents continue to refuse vaccinations for their children for personal beliefs, most commonly a belief that vaccinations can lead to autism.

This infuriates me. This belief is not based on one shred of scientific evidence. The Times had a fantastic report recently about this alarming trend. Specifically, read this quote (emphasis is mine):

In addition, rumors continue to spread that some vaccines, or a mercury antifungal vaccine preservative called thimerosal that was added to vaccines, cause autism. Numerous studies have shown no link between autism and either vaccines or the preservative. An active anti-vaccine lobby, however, keeps the issue alive. The lobby is a broad tent. A few members question even whether bacteria and viruses cause disease; most seek more research into safety and greater rights to refuse vaccination.
We're not talking about mainstream opinion here, but rather radical, uninformed people whose decisions create a public health risk. Yes, shots hurt. Yes, there are mild side effects. If you want to spread out your kid's vaccines a little to minimize these side effects, by all means do so. But to skip them entirely is both ignorant and selfish.

As with any decisions, there are real consequences. The recent measles outbreak has primarily infected people who were not vaccinated. This includes children under one year of age, who are too young to have the vaccination, and those whose parents have chosen not to have their kids vaccinated. My 11-month-old is at risk because of other people's careless behavior.

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