Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

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?

The Hannah Poling Case continued...

But lost or buried in many of the news stories about the case was the fact that Hannah Poling also suffers from a mitochondrial dysfunction disorder, an extremely rare defect in the mitochondria or "power supplies" found in the nuclei of human cells. The disorder puts her at increased risk for side effects not just from immunization, but also from common infectious diseases, says Halsey of Johns Hopkins.

"That's not a case of overwhelming the immune system, it's oxidative stress associated with many infections, and children with these disorders can just get a mild cold at a certain time in their lives, and they will develop this neurologic deterioration, so just any stress will cause it in these children," Halsey explains.

Denehy, who practices pediatrics at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, tells parents who worry about immune overload from vaccines that the simple bacterium that causes strep throat has hundreds of immune-system provoking antigens on its surface, whereas even when children receive multiple vaccinations, they receive only about 20 antibody-stimulating antigens.

"You're immune system is going to be taxed much harder from things you're being exposed to in the community than by vaccines, and your immune system has the potential to deal with many, many more challenges than any vaccination schedule presents to it," she says.

Cherry-Picking Vaccines

The practice of inoculation -- the attempt to induce natural immunity by exposing healthy people to small samples of a disease -- goes back centuries. But it was Edward Jenner, a country doctor in rural England, who developed the first modern vaccination in 1796, after observing that dairy farmers who were exposed to the relatively mild disease cowpox never seemed to contract smallpox, a related but far more deadly disease. The word "vaccination" is derived from vaccinia, the Latin name for the cowpox virus.

Today, smallpox, once one of mankind's most devastating diseases, has been wiped from the face of the earth and is known to exist only for investigational purposes in small quantities in tightly guarded laboratories.

Even the staunchest opponents of mandatory immunization acknowledge that the smallpox vaccination, and select others, such as the polio vaccine, have had incalculable benefits for mankind and that the theoretical risk of vaccinations against theses diseases are outweighed by the benefits.

But the NVIC and other groups question whether children get too many vaccines in too short a time and challenge the rationale for mandatory immunizations against less serious conditions such as chickenpox.

"Chickenpox is not smallpox, and hepatitis B is not polio," the NVIC's Fisher said in a November 2007 interview on CNN.

Fisher and like-minded parents, as well as some health care professionals trained in both conventional Western medicine and alternative therapies, feel that the potential risks of vaccines and the incidence of vaccine-related adverse events have been underreported, and that children are subjected to too many vaccines with too little proof of their and safety and effectiveness.

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
Article
24 Kid Illnesses Parents Should Know
Slideshow
 
Nausea and Vomiting Remedies Slideshow
Article
Managing Immunization Schedules For Kids
Video
 

Doctor administering vaccine to toddler
Video
gloved hand holding syringe
Article
 
infant receiving injection
Tool
pills
Quiz
 

WebMD Special Sections