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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...

"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.

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