Thursday, September 19, 2013

Who are the Anti-Vaccine People?

A recent article in the Chicago-Sun Times with the title, “Why do rich people hate vaccines?” brought the anti-vaccination movement back to the forefront of media discussion. The author noted that anti-vaccination was picking up steam in many of the country’s wealthier, educated enclaves where parents are interested in living “natural” lifestyles.

For instance, a public elementary school in Malibu reported that only 58 percent of their students are immunized, which is well below the recommended 90 percent. Even worse, at some of Los Angeles’ private schools, only 20 percent of kids are vaccinated.

“Yes, that’s right,” Nina Shapiro, a professor at UCLA medical school and mother of two states. “Parents are willingly paying up to $25,000 a year to schools at which fewer than 1 in 5 kindergartners has been immunized against the pathogens causing such life-threatening illnesses as measles, polio, meningitis and pertussis (whooping cough).”

The situation is not unique to California. In Boulder, Colorado close to 30 percent of children are exempted from at least one vaccine. Ashland, Oregon has some schools where two-thirds of students have exemptions. Michigan, Vermont, Idaho and Oregon all now have more than 5 percent of people choosing not to get vaccines. Illinois is close with 4.8 percent. The national median is 1.8 percent.

Paul Offit is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and notes that a high education level can enhance anti-vax beliefs. “They’re people who believe that they can know anything and know as much as their doctor – if not more – by simply studying it, reading about it,” he said.

This is a well-known problem in Australia. “These are parents who have good information available and yet they are not vaccinating their children,” states Steve Hambleton, president of the Austalian Medical Association. “People have forgotten about the devastating effects of diseases like mumps and measles. That’s probably one reason they are willing to take chances.”

Vaccine Watch encourages people to look for more sources of information about vaccines than information available on the Internet. Doctors and pediatricians have years of education and first-hand knowledge of the dangers of disease and safety and benefits of vaccines. Parents should consult their pediatrician when making vaccine choices for their children.

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