If you grew up in the 50′s or 60′s, receiving a vaccination was the norm and the thought of not receiving “a shot” was unheard of. Today, many young parents are questioning the validity of vaccinating their children, whether they are looking at safety concerns or simply their necessity.
A vaccine is a biological preparation that contains an agent that is similar to a disease causing microorganism that is introduced into the body so the immune system can create anti-bodies in order to prevent a future infection of that organism.
The idea of vaccination was first crudely demonstrated in the 1770′s in England. Later Louis Pasteur refined the technique in developing the first vaccine for rabies. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that widespread success against measles, mumps, rubella, and diphtheria by vaccination helped convince most to it’s effectiveness. Additionally, the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950′s and the eradication of smallpox by vaccination in the 60′s and 70′s helped to secure the efficacy of vaccination in the minds of most baby-boomers.
Today, we have vaccinations for those microorganisms as well as seasonal influenza and the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention has a recommended schedule of vaccinations for all ages of people. Specifically, the CDC recommends vaccination against 16 preventable disease for children.
With the onset of October and the autumn season, not to mention the recent start of school, thoughts on whether to vaccinate or not abound. This year, the CDC is touting the benefits of this year’s influenza vaccine as being less painful and more aligned with the current strains of influenza that have been circulating.
But many people are still skeptical. A study conducted in 2010 and published this month in the on-line edition of Pediatrics indicates that 20% of parents who follow the CDC approved vaccination schedule have doubts about it and 13% follow a differently schedule entirely, with more than half of those parents refusing specific vaccines all together.
Although there has been opposition to vaccinations for some time, the increase in the number of young parents who are rejecting vaccinations for their children is related to the success of wide spread vaccinations of the last century. Experts agree that the lack of incidence of polio, whooping cough, mumps and measles in the United States has created a false sense of security and reduced the perceived need for vaccination. For those of us who remember the middle of the last century, it was not uncommon to know someone who had contracted polio, making the need for vaccination very personal.
So to me it is ironic that the very success of the vaccination campaigns of the past has created the perception of the lack of need for any type of vaccination. While, I agree that the decision to get an annual flu shot is a personal one, the decision not to vaccinate against diseases like polio, measles, mumps or rubella can impact more than just one individual, it can allow for the opportunity for these diseases to gain a foothold back into the population which is what researchers are just now beginning to see.