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Children's Vaccines Health Center

Child Vaccines: Some Parents Ill at Ease

Does the private right of parents to not vaccinate their kids trump the greater public good?
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Measles Is Not Child's Play continued...

But according to the CDC:

  • Up to 1 in 20 children with measles will get pneumonia
  • About 1 in 1,000 children with measles will get encephalitis -- an acute inflammation of the brain that can cause permanent nerve and/or brain damage
  • 1 or 2 in 1,000 children who get measles will die from the disease.

"While measles is almost gone from the United States, it still kills about half a million people a year around the world," a CDC fact sheet for parents points out. "Measles can also make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage or give birth prematurely."

Before measles vaccines were developed, most children contracted the disease by the time they were 15, the CDC notes, resulting in:

  • About 450 annual deaths
  • 48,000 hospitalizations each year
  • 7,000 cases of seizures, and
  • 1,000 cases of permanent brain damage or deafness each year.

Yet some parents who object to childhood immunizations will host or bring their children to so-called "measles parties," where the kids can get exposed to an infected child, get the disease, and develop immunity naturally. One such mother told the New York Times "I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good."

"It would be a terrible mistake for a parent to deliberately expose their child to measles, or chickenpox, for that matter," Halsey tells WebMD. "To deliberately give a child measles in this day and age is not only inappropriate, but it actually might be considered to be criminal, because it's preventable."

But that mother is no different from any other parent who wants what she thinks is best for her children, says Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a consumer-oriented vaccine safety watchdog group she co-founded. Fisher and NVIC co-founder Kathi William blame serious reactions to the diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT) vaccination for their children's learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder.

"I disagree that individual health and public health are two different things," Fisher says in an interview with WebMD. "Individuals make up the community, and if you have a number of individuals who are suffering adverse effects to a medical intervention, a public health intervention, by extension that eventually becomes a matter of public health."

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