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Personal Choice, Social Responsibility continued...

Fisher says that approach is risky. “If you want to use individual choice -- so you say, 'OK, I’m not going to let my child risk a reaction to the vaccine because everybody else is getting immunized, so my child’s going to be protected by the herd' -- that, to me, is almost an abuse of the idea of the public health system.”

She says the CDC’s vaccine schedule has been used for decades, but “we don’t know what happens with these alternative schedules or whether or not we will have the same public health impacts.”

Furthermore, unvaccinated kids can endanger other children who simply can’t be vaccinated, such as those who are too young or too sick or have a compromised immune system. Public health officials have cited unvaccinated children and adults as one of the reasons behind California’s recent whooping cough epidemic. Ten babies have died in that epidemic, all of them too young to have been fully immunized against the disease.

“If there’s a reason your child can’t be immunized, then you’re really counting on everybody else being immunized so that they don’t expose your child,” Fisher says.