Vaccines against childhood diseases have given us a generation of people who don’t know what it’s like to get these diseases, nor have we lost friends or family members to the complications that killed many children in years past.
But what the vaccines have also done is given many people a false sense of security. Many think that “it’s just a childhood illness,” and “how bad can it be?” The sad thing is, it’s precisely because the complications of these illnesses can be so severe that the vaccines became so important.
While I was growing up, there were children who wouldn’t receive their vaccines for a variety of reasons. However, they were protected from getting the diseases because of the so-called herd immunity. That means that since all the children around them had been vaccinated, the unvaccinated kids didn’t get sick because they weren’t exposed to the viruses. This – again – led to a false sense of security among some people. “See? My children weren’t vaccinated and they didn’t get sick.”
The problem is – that herd immunity is fading as fewer children get vaccinated, as unvaccinated adults travel and catch the viruses that are suddenly much more serious because of how they act in adults, and more people are getting sick.
A study published in the most recent issue of the journal Pediatrics , says that children who are not vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough) are 23 times more likely to get the illness compared with fully immunized children.
According to a press release describing the study:
“This study helps dispel one of the commonly held beliefs among vaccine-refusing parents: that their children are not at risk for vaccine preventable diseases,” said study lead author Jason Glanz, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Research. “It also shows that the decision to refuse immunizations could have important ramifications for the health of the entire community. Based on our analysis, we found that one in 10 additional whooping cough infections could have been prevented by immunization.”
In 1976 there were just over 1,000 reported cases of pertussis in the United States; by 2004, it climbed to nearly 26,000 cases. Between 2000 and 2005 there were 140 deaths resulting from pertussis in the United States.
This is a serious issue. Although serious complications can occur to anyone, those at highest risk are young children. The complications include:
- vomiting after a coughing spell
- weight loss
- difficulty breating
- brain damage
- in rare cases, death
The decision is yours. If you have any concerns about the vaccine for whooping cough or any other illness, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor and do your research before making the decision. No-one likes to “poke” a child with a needle, but sometimes it’s necessary to prevent much more serious medical interventions later on.
Images: Stock.xchng, iStock