Living Well – Questions about Vaccinations?
You’re not alone
By Julia Pickens
MD, Ministry Medical Group Rhinelander Pediatrics
The first vaccination was created in 1796 by Edward Jenner against small pox, which was a deadly disease now considered eradicated because of widespread vaccinations over the past century.
Vaccinations are currently recommended for children against many diseases which cause significant morbidity or mortality if contracted. Many of these diseases are most prevalent during the infantile period which is why vaccinations are centered during this time. Many illnesses preventable by vaccination continue to exist because of poor vaccination rates in certain areas or certain illnesses which present in soil/environment (Tetanus). In 2014, there were 1,079 cases of Pertussis. Pertussis, more commonly known as “whooping cough,” does not cause serious illness in older children or adults, but in infants can cause them to stop breathing. Because of the increase in Pertussis, pregnant woman and caregivers of young children are encouraged to receive a repeat vaccination.
Some parents have reservations regarding vaccinations. Some of these concerns include autism, mercury, the amount of vaccinations and herd immunity.
1. Link to Autism with MMR vaccination: A study in the Lancet medical Journal was published in 1998 showing a possible link to autism. This study was found to be fraudulent and was later withdrawn in 2010. Further retrospective studies from tens of thousands of children who have received vaccinations have shown that the rate of autism is not different in children with vaccinations.
2. Mercury/Thimerasol: Parents are concerned about mercury that was used in previous vaccinations. Mercury was removed from vaccines about a decade ago. Thimerasol, a preservative, is still available as part of the influenza vaccine, but a Thimerasol-free vaccine is available.
3. Too many vaccinations can cause harm: Parents are often concerned that we can harm a child’s immune system from too many vaccines. This has not been shown to be true. Children are exposed to far more antigens (immune system stimulating molecules) from common illnesses such as colds/strep throat than vaccinations.
4. Delaying Vaccinations until my child is older is okay: Many of the diseases we vaccinate against cause the most problems to infants and young children, which is why vaccinations start early. Waiting until they are older puts them at serious risk for catching these illnesses.
Widespread vaccination rates are still poor in many areas of the county. For some illnesses such as Measles, 90-95% of the population must be present to protect those who are unvaccinated (herd immunity). Small amounts of the population cannot be vaccinated due to certain medical conditions, which can include chemotherapy or immune deficiencies, to name a few.
To bring this close to home, in Vilas County, only 70% of those who are 24 months have received all of their vaccinations. In Oneida County, this is 73%, according to the Wisconsin Immunization Registry for 2014. Vaccination rates are even less for adolescents requiring the meningitis, Tetanus diphtheria and Pertussis, and the HPV vaccine. This means that herd immunity has been lost for many diseases. The largest outbreaks of Pertussis and Measles have occurred in the past few years because of low vaccination rates. There are risks with any vaccination. Most commonly these include fever and redness at the injection site.
For More Information
Parents are encouraged to seek more information regarding vaccination risks and benefits from their medical provider or through these well researched websites; American Academy of Pediatrics:http://www2.aap.org/immunization/
Center for Disease Control:http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/
A Shot of Prevention:http://shotofprevention.com/
PKID: Parents of Kids with Infectious Disease, http://www.pkids.org/
Vaccine Education Center: Through Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, http://vec.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/home.html.
For more information on local vaccination recommendations, please contact your Ministry Medical Group clinician, or visit ministryhealth.org.