The Debate about Child Vaccination: A Quick Guide
Why do some parents object to vaccination for their children when medical authorities recommend it? Here’s a quick guide to the controversy about children and immunization.
Facts about Child Immunization
The federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 28 doses of 10 vaccines within a child’s first 6 years and all 50 states require certain vaccinations for children attending public schools.
However, all states allow a medical exemption from vaccination, some allow a religious exemption and in 20 states, parents may seek an exemption because they are opposed to vaccination on philosophical or personal grounds.
In California, for instance, 3.1% of kindergartners were exempted for philosophical reasons in the 2013-14 school year, according to the CDC, in Colorado 4.6% and in Pennsylvania, 1.7%.
Arguments for Child Vaccination
Vaccines can save children’s lives
Most childhood vaccines have an effectiveness rate between 90 and 99 percent in preventing deadly diseases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Vaccine-preventable diseases have not been eradicated worldwide
According to the CDC, many deadly diseases are “only a plane ride away.” For instance, although the paralytic form of polio has largely disappeared in the U.S., it still exists in other countries like Pakistan, which saw 93 cases in 2013.
Major medical organizations back the safety of vaccines
Notable institutions included in this list include the CDC, National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
The schedule for vaccination gives maximum protection to children
The CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule is timed to give children protection early in life when vaccination works best with the immune system and before children risk exposure to disease, the agency says.
Arguments Against Child Vaccination
Immunization has documented risks
The CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), saw 30,000 cases of adverse reactions reported annually since 1990, with 10 to 15 percent of those classified as serious (meaning associated with permanent disability, hospitalization, and so forth). Some anti-vaccine advocates make a connection between vaccines and autism or asthma, though medical research rejects that idea.
Going vaccine-free actually isn’t that risky
Because vaccination is extensive in the US, the disease risk is so low that a parent can safely raise an unvaccinated child, says Dr. Robert W. Sears, a pediatrician and author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. (Dr. Sears is not himself opposed to vaccination but advises parents who are.)
Natural immunity is more effective than vaccination
The Mayo Clinic says that a natural infection often provides better immunity than vaccinations but warns that there’s a risk of complications; chicken pox, for instance, can bring on pneumonia.
The recommended vaccination schedule is too aggressive
Some parents are concerned about “overloading” babies and young children with vaccines, says Dr. Sears. In case there is such a risk, Sears recommends an alternative schedule that spreads out vaccinations. He claims it gives adequate protection without a risk of overload.
Nothing in this article is intended to be medical advice. Consult your doctor before making any health decisions for yourself or your child.