Childhood Disease or Immunization?

As the mother of a child who just turned 18 months old, I feel mixed-feelings about shots. I know that childhood immunization is extremely important and I plan to have my daughter Daisy fully immunized; however, I can see both sides of the controversy that surrounds topic.

Vaccinations exist to protect individuals, and especially society, from disease. Proponents of immunization for children hold the opinion that vaccines are absolutely necessary in order to protect society from outbreaks of potentially deadly illnesses that have been virtually eradicated. They want to eliminate disease from society. Those who question vaccinations want to protect their children from potential unintentional harm. No conclusive studies have emerged that directly link vaccinations to autism spectrum disorders, other neurodevelopmental disorders, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and asthma, but there is significant anecdotal evidence that offer a potential relationship between these problems and vaccinations. With all that is written in magazines, on television, in web sites on childhood immunization, it is enough to confuse anyone.

Vaccines are big business for the pharmaceutical industry. Billions of dollars are earned through sales of vaccinations, which are required for children in most states. In most states, in order to enroll in daycare, grammar school, high school, and college the child must be immunized. Most of these states require children to receive thirty-four doses of ten different vaccines. Laws enforcing widespread immunization have no doubt protected millions of children and adults from serious diseases such as diptheria, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B; however, the immunizations come with plenty of risk. Vaccines have the second highest rate (19% of all reported adverse reactions) of prescribed medicines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10,000-12,000 reports of adverse reactions are filed annually, with 20% classified as serious (causing disability, hospitalization, life threatening illness, or death).

You can opt to not have your child immunized and not be penalized by law. As of March 2004, all states allow exemption from immunization for medical reasons, 48 states allow for religious reasons, and 20 allow for philosophical reasons. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that do not allow exemption for religious reasons. The states that allow exemption for philosophical reasons are: North Dakota, California, Colorado, Arizona, Arkansas Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

In 2004 the number of children immunized has hit a record high of 81%, according to the National Immunization Survey. The CDC recommends that children should receive the so-called 4:3:1:3:3 series, which includes four doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP); three or more doses of polio vaccine; one or more doses of measles-containing vaccine; and three or more doses of Hib vaccine, which can prevent meningitis and pneumonia. These vaccines should be administered before age two. Critics of this schedule say that children are immunized for too much too fast.

Some figures regarding childhood diseases and why your child should be immunized (Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
� 13,000-20,000 cases of paralytic polio were reported in the United States alone before the vaccination became widely available. In 1999, there were fewer than 3000 cases of polio worldwide.
� Prior to the introduction of measles vaccination, virtually everyone contracted this disease leading to about 450 measles-associated deaths each year between 1953 and 1963.
� Before the DPT vaccination became available, there were between 150,000 and 260,000 cases of Pertussis, or whooping cough, each year in the United States.
� Rubella (German measles) can cause deafness, blindness, and mental retardation.
� Varicella, or chicken pox, although usually mild, can be extremely severe; before the chicken pox vaccine, roughly 100 people died each year from this disease and over 100,000 were hospitalized.
� Tetanus (lockjaw) is another very serious disease, which results in stiffness and spasms of the muscles. This can affect the larynx and throat, causing breathing difficulties. About 20 percent of reported cases result in death.

The recommended immunization schedule can be found at the CDC web site ( The National Network for Immunization Information has a list of state requirements for immunizations, as well as a wealth of other information regarding immunization at Healthfinder (, a health information database maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services is another excellent place to find information on a variety of health-related issues, including immunization.

As with virtually anything in life, there are possible risks to immunization, and you may have to deal with mild side effects in your child. However, these risks are quite low compared to the risks you take if you don’t vaccinate your child. Whatever you plan to do for your children, educate yourself, read articles, visit websites, and talk to parents and doctors before you make your decision.

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