Vaccines are one of the most important and life-saving medical marvels. For decades, people in this country and almost worldwide haven’t had to worry about outbreaks of polio, measles, chickenpox and other contagious illnesses, thanks to widespread vaccinations.
When kids are vaccinated, there is less concern that they will contract diseases when they go with their friends to the local swimming pool or the playground. Can you imagine being too scared to allow your kids to partake in these summertime rituals? That is how parents felt in the 1940s and 1950s, when polio was rampant. The reason we stopped seeing these diseases is because of the overwhelming success of vaccines themselves, and not because these diseases don’t exist anymore.
The Immunization Partnership, a non-profit group dedicated to eradicating vaccine-preventable diseases through education and advocacy, reports that 45,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students in Texas have a non-medical exemption for school vaccine requirements, a 19-fold increase from 2003. This is especially troubling for children with medical exemptions because they are too ill to be vaccinated and are being exposed to these serious childhood diseases.
Pockets of parents in Texas and other states have become complacent because they don’t regard these diseases as threats to their kids, while others don’t believe these diseases exist any longer. And then there are those hesitant about vaccinating their children relying on misinformation derived from unfounded reports of risks or from myths. “All credible research shows vaccines are safe and effective,’ said Rekha Lakshmanan, Director of Advocacy and Policy at the Immunization Partnership. “Yet some parents are basing life-saving decisions on what they encounter from unreliable sources instead of seeking science-based information.”
A growing trend among some folks is the belief that viruses, like measles, are a normal childhood disease that no one should fear. However, Jan Pelosi, Immunization Program Manager with the Williamson County and Cities Health District, said, “Complications from measles include pneumonia, hearing deficits and encephalitis (brain swelling) that can result in death.”
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control reported a large, multi-state measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in California. Medical experts believe the outbreak likely started from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles, then visited the amusement park while infectious. According to the CDC, a total of 147 people contracted measles from this one person, and at least 84 had to be hospitalized.