The topic of laws mandating vaccinations is a much debated issue. A large number of parents argue they should not be forced to vaccinate their children in order for them to attend public school and daycare. One reason for the controversy of their use is the increased number of children with autism, which some reports have indicated is a possible side effect of vaccines. Information regarding potential negative side effects of vaccines is abundant although not always accurate; however, the decreased incidence in vaccine preventable diseases illustrates their continued necessity.
In the United States many of the diseases vaccinated for are nearly absent in communities now. Some diseases may even be eradicated completely by the use of immunizations, as with the case of smallpox in 1977. (Kee, Hayes, McCuistion, 2012, p. 502) A low incidence in many of the vaccine-prevented diseases can lead some to a false sense of security against the risk of contracting such diseases. It is important for the general population to continue receiving vaccinations. An article in The New England Journal of Medicine points out “High vaccine coverage, particularly at the community level, is extremely important for children who cannot be vaccinated, including children who have medical contraindications to vaccination and those who are too young to be vaccinated. These groups are often more susceptible to the complications of infectious diseases than the general population of children and depend on the protection provided by the vaccination of children in their environs.”
Many parents think there is no longer a risk of their child contracting the disease or even becoming exposed to them at all. The refusal of a few to vaccine may not have much of an impact on society, however, the refusal of many to not vaccinate in a community can have disastrous consequences. If the immunization level of a population drops too low, there can be an outbreak of the disease, and the vaccinated population may not be high enough to cover all of the individuals who refused vaccination. This is clearly evidenced by a measles outbreak documented in 2008. The New England Journal of Medicine discussed this measles outbreak in a 2009 article, “Between January 1, 2008, and April 25, 2008, there were five measles outbreaks and a total of 64 cases reported.
All but one of the persons with measles were either unvaccinated or did not have evidence of immunization. Of the 21 cases among children and adolescents in the vaccine-eligible age group (16 months to 19 years) with a known reason for nonvaccination, 14, or 67%, had obtained a nonmedical exemption and all of the 10 school-age children had obtained a nonmedical exemption. Thirteen cases occurred in children too young to be vaccinated, and in more than a third of the cases (18 of 44) occurring in a known transmission setting the disease was acquired in a health care facility.” (Omer, Salmon, Orenstein, deHArt & Halsey)
Children are not the only population in need of vaccination. Many adults either never got their immunizations as a child, never received their boosters, or they received them so long ago that they are no longer effective as contracting the disease. The National Network for Immunization Information reports “in the United States, up to 60,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications. These diseases include influenza, pneumococcal disease, and tetanus among others.” This statistic alone shows a need for more immunizations, not less. The reports indicating negative side effects of the vaccines, especially the possible link to autism is just another reason many feel immunizations are an unnecessary risk.
Ram Koppaka, MD, PhD (2011) Ten Great Public Health Achievements — United States, 2001–2010 Retrieved from Mobidity and Mortality Weekly Report website: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6019a5.htm May 20, 2011 / 60(19);619-623
(2008). Adult Immunizations. Retrieved from National Network for Immunization Information (NNii). website: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/peds.2010-1722Tv1
Kee, J., Hayes, E., & McCuistion, L. (2012) Pharmacology: A Nursing Process Approach 7th Edition. St. Louis, MI: Elsevier Saunders, 503-510.