More Parents Skipping Vaccines, Raising Disease Fears

Mumps and whooping cough ‘roaring’ through some communities.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Oct 7, 2011
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

At least one in 10 parents is now ignoring the recommended vaccination schedule for their kids, according to a new survey from the University of Michigan, prompting researchers to warn that measles, whooping cough, and other diseases that have remained largely in check, thanks to vaccination, could spread.

Writing in the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Amanda Dempsey said that the most commonly refused and delayed vaccines included the jabs that protect against H1N1, seasonal influenza, hepatitis B, measles-mumps-rubella and hepatitis A.

Dempsey told Reuters that the overwhelming success of the shots could be contributing to parents' decision to delay or skip them, because most parents don't have any first- or second-hand knowledge of the devastating effects of these preventable diseases:

"It's really quite worrisome to me," she said. Vaccine refusal and delay, she added, "is not likely to go away anytime soon, and is likely to get significantly worse over time. We may just be seeing the tip of the iceberg right now."

Some parents refuse vaccines altogether because of a belief in the widely debunked theory that they cause other diseases, like autism.

Others delay the vaccines out of some mistaken belief that they're safer when kids are older, something for which Dempsey told Reuters there was "no evidence."

Already, health officials in Washington have reported a "spike" in the number of whooping cough cases in that state, and California is now requiring all kids entering 7th through 12th grades to get the jab after 9,000 cases of the disease were reported last year.

The news comes during the same week that officials at the University of California at Berkeley reported that a mumps outbreak was "roaring" through the Bay Area campus, with seven confirmed and 13 suspected cases.

That's more than twice the number of cases—six—that the city of Berkeley has seen in total since 1990. 

Mumps, which is characterized by fever, headache and swollen glands, is prevented by the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine that the CDC recommends should be administered to kids at 12-15 months and 4-6 years. 

Berkeley officials are urging everyone on campus to get a MMR shot, which the campus health center is offering free of charge. 

You can find the CDC's recommended vaccination schedule at their website

Officials stress that adhering to the immunization schedule is crucial because a parent's choices impact not only their own child, but also their friends' and neighbors' kids:

Because no vaccine protects 100 percent of kids who get it, epidemiologists rely on "herd immunity" to make sure enough kids are well enough protected to keep a disease from spreading. But that immunity gets thrown off when there are more youngsters who haven't had their recommended vaccines.

"Infectious diseases are somewhat unique in a way in that others' behavior directly influences you or your child's risk of disease," Omer said.

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