Imagine that your family saved up money to finally take the kids to Walt Disneyland, often touted as the “happiest place on Earth”. After a fun filled week of making memories, your infant comes down with the measles. Unfortunately, this was the reality for some who made a recent trip to Disneyland over the winter.
Because of the number of people affected by this recent outbreak, the vaccine debate has been ignited to a fever not seen since Jennie McCarthy declared that the MMR vaccine caused autism.
In late December, at least 40 people from a dozen or more states contracted measles after visiting Disneyland. With measles being extremely contagious, the risk of a widespread breakout of measles in the United States was almost imminent. As a result of this outbreak, and the risk to countless lives, many states are considering changing vaccine laws that allow people to skip vaccines for a number of reasons.
In the vaccine debate, you hear much discussion about “herd immunity”. This term refers to the type of immunity that develops in a population when a significant percentage has been vaccinated, or developed immunity, toward a specific illness or pathogen. This protection is extended to those who haven’t yet developed immunity (think of those with severe illnesses or young children not old enough to have been vaccinated).
When people skip vaccines for themselves or their children, they are capitalizing on “herd immunity” and assuming their children won’t get sick. Furthermore, they risk spreading illnesses to those who are also the most vulnerable.
Reasons for Not Vaccinating
Those who choose not to vaccinate will give a laundry list of reasons for making this choice. It ranges from religious beliefs to the desire to avoid chemicals in vaccines. Still others have a general distrust of government or pharmaceutical companies and tout that as their reason for not vaccinating.
Finally, there are some that think it’s better to get sick and develop a natural immunity than to get vaccinated. Since they survived chicken pox as a child, they see no reason to vaccinate their own children from it.
Legislative changes are happening around the county as a result of the measles outbreak traced back to Disneyland. Some states are changing laws that allowed parents to “opt out” of required vaccines. Pediatricians are making decisions to not treating families in their practice who choose not to follow a vaccine schedule. Some recent or pending legislative issues include:
- South Dakota: Has a Senate bill pending which would allow schools and day cares to access the state immunization registry without parental consent.
- Washington: Introduced legislation which removes the option for parents to decline required vaccines based on “philosophical” reasons
- California: Has legislation pending that requires children to be immunized before entering school unless they have a medical condition restricting vaccination. This would remove religious and philosophical exemptions.
This list only includes some western states in the USA and is expected to grow. Not vaccinating children diminishes the effectiveness of herd immunity and allows vaccines that have all been eradicated in this country, to be reintroduced and spread through the population’s most innocent members. Hopefully we don’t have to see young children dying from preventable illnesses before these legislative changes are put in place.
Mark Sadaka is a vaccine injury lawyer who represents numerous clients from around the country. Sadaka’s firm has the resources and expertise necessary to successfully handle these medically complex cases. Go to Vaccine Injury Help Center if you have vaccine injury related concerns.