As the parent of two young children – one who is three-and-a-half and another who just turned six months – I am hypersensitive to anything that might impact their health.
For example, my oldest daughter didn’t eat meat until she was two. We spent more money and time to ensure we bought organic food, milk and juices for her. We are following the same approach with our youngest who has recently started on solid (I’m not really sure why they call it solid since it seems pretty gooey to me) food. So whenever either girl has needed vaccines we asked questions and thoroughly discussed possible health issues with our pediatrician.
Still, an analysis of a survey of parents’ views about vaccines in the medical journal Pediatrics is stunning and cause for concern to parents. Both my children are in daycare and potentially exposed to other kids whose parents refuse vaccines. In fact, it is likely at least a few of the kids in each of my daughters’ classrooms are not fully vaccinated, putting all the children in the room at increased risk of illness.
The Pediatrics study, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, reported that more than half – 54 percent – of the 1,552 parents surveyed said they were concerned that vaccines can lead their children to experience serious health problems – so-called adverse events.
Nearly one in eight — 11.5 percent — of the respondents said they refused at least one vaccine for their children. Overall, 49 percent of the parents disagreed with the statement that “new vaccines are recommended only if they are as safe as older vaccines.”
And almost one in four respondents said they thought “some vaccines cause autism in healthy children.”
That was a particularly disturbing finding to the researchers who wrote: “Although peer-reviewed original scientific research and multiple expert committees that have reviewed all available data on this issue have failed to show any association between vaccines and autism … the concern continues to affect parents.”
On the positive side of the ledger, the survey showed that 90 percent of parents thought getting vaccines was a good way to protect their children from diseases. And 88 percent of those surveyed said the usually followed their pediatricians’ recommendations on vaccinations.
The researchers concluded that public health officials should redesign vaccine information programs to address the safety concerns of parents. “Continued high child immunization rates will be at risk if current safety concerns are not addressed effectively.”
Despite my wariness about putting anything potentially dangerous in my children’s’ bodies, I didn’t hesitate last week when Etta was at the pediatrician’s for her six-month checkup. She got five vaccinations including one for the 2009 H1N1 strain of influenza.