Vaccinations for Children: A Mandatory Question

VaccinationsWith Jenny McCarthy and Kristen Cavallari in the news again about the question of immunization over fear that vaccinations are responsible for the modern surge in autism rates in children, the situation becomes a mandatory question because more children will be diagnosed this year with autism than with AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined.

In the United States, statistics list autism as the most prevalent developmental disorder, growing to rates that are known to affect one in 88 children, one in 54 of whom are boys.  Since every child is different, the symptoms concerning social and behavioral patterns must be carefully watched to determine if these children are on the autistic scale ranging from mild to severe, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Thirty thousand cases are reported annually to the government concerning negative reactions to vaccinations, with 13 percent classified as associated with permanent disability, illness, hospitalization, or even death. But it should also be noted that a 2003 report by the Pediatric Academic Society found that childhood vaccinations have prevented 10.5 million cases of infectious illness and 33,000 deaths per year.  Under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, from 1988 to 2009, 1,322 families with children who suffered brain damage from vaccines were awarded financial settlements.

Some of the controversy surrounds chemicals like thimerosal, which was previously used as a preservative in many recommended childhood vaccines until it was removed in 2001 from most immunizations, except for one type for influenza.  Though several studies have failed to find a direct causal relationship, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, from 2001 to 2009, over 5,500 cases were filed, alleging a link between vaccinations and autism.  Even if there is no federal law regarding vaccinations, all 50 states require them for children entering public school, but all 50 states also issue medical exemptions, all but two permit religious exemptions and 20 allow exemptions for philosophical reasons. So, in most cases, the mandatory question of parental discretion is left in the hands of the American citizens.  As of 2009, the average vaccination rate was 95.41 percent.

Proponents for immunizations regard the evolution of health treatments as a salvation against illnesses such as mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus and polio, which were responsible for killing thousands of infants annually before the invention of vaccines.  The CDC, the American Academy of Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children get vaccinated against 15 different illnesses.

Opponents say that a child’s natural immunities can deal with most bacteria and viruses, however. But the threat of seizures, paralysis and death are far from worth the risk, concluding that vaccinations may be responsible for not only autism, but also ADHD and multiple sclerosis, though they lack hard evidence for these claims.  The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, Generation Rescue and the National Vaccine Information Center believe that parents should have the freedom to make informed decisions on their own, but unfortunately, whether mandatory or not, this is a question that must be understood collectively because our immunities coalesce in many ways, as clearly as the spread of infectious disease. Having some children at heightened risk for illness threatens the health of all children.

Opinion by Elijah Stephens


New York State Department of Health
Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation

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