Skip to content

    Children's Vaccines Health Center

    Font Size

    Child Vaccines: Some Parents Ill at Ease

    Does the private right of parents to not vaccinate their kids trump the greater public good?

    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:

    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."

    Today on WebMD

    Baby getting vaccinated
    Is there a link? Get the facts.
    syringes and graph illustration
    Get a customized vaccine schedule.
    baby getting a vaccine
    Know the benefits and the risk
    nurse holding syringe in front of girl
    Should your child have it?

    What To Know About The HPV Vaccine
    24 Kid Illnesses Parents Should Know
    Nausea and Vomiting Remedies Slideshow
    Managing Immunization Schedules For Kids

    Doctor administering vaccine to toddler
    gloved hand holding syringe
    infant receiving injection

    WebMD Special Sections