Parents: Be aware that unvaccinated children are a serious threat to your children’s health, sometimes even when your children are optimally vaccinated. And travel increases that risk. Plan family vacations so as not to return home with a souvenir you did not bargain for, a child with a serious, totally unnecessary illness. Presently, 68 unvaccinated American children (and the number is growing) have caught measles at Disneyland. These children then traveled home and spread measles to other unvaccinated children around the country. Similar outbreaks happen from time to time.
1. Illness and travel are intertwined. Many of the great epidemics of history were spread by travelers. For example, European explorers brought illnesses with them to the Americas and Africa, decimating local populations that had never been exposed to these diseases before.
2. Nowadays you need not be adventurous to be exposed to troubling diseases. No need to leave the country – that healthy looking person sitting near you on a local flight or standing near you at a theme park may be infected with a vaccine-preventable disease. With most such diseases people start spreading the disease days before they have symptoms.
3. Parents who refuse vaccinations are gullible and naive. They are taken in by non-scientific nonsense told to them by “friends” or that they read online. Controversies over vaccines are irrational. The link between measles vaccine and autism, for example, was concocted by a British physician paid large sums of money by lawyers searching for evidence to get money from pharmaceutical companies making the vaccine. The medical journal that published the report retracted the article yet gullible people still believe it.
4. Vaccination is one of the greatest achievements in the history of medicine. It saves millions of lives yearly, mostly those of children, and saves countless children from crippling and disfiguring diseases – and does so with no known serious downside.
5. Parents refusing vaccinations on religious grounds fail to see the ethical consequences of their actions. They are placing their own children and other children, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, at risk of serious, occasionally life-threatening diseases. Several small tightly-knit religious groups in the US who refused vaccines in the past have changed their opinions after children were afflicted by polio. The disease was introduced by visitors from similar groups overseas.
6. Crediting non-vaccine factors for the sharp decreases in vaccine-preventable diseases is erroneous. True, better sanitation, less crowding, and healthier diets are likely contributing factors but vaccines are by far the main reason for the decreases. Statistics bear this out.
7. The fact that most vaccine-preventable diseases are rare in this country is no reason to discontinue vaccinations. Just the opposite. Depending on the disease, the organisms continue to exist in soil, sewage, blood, and, sometimes, in perfectly healthy individuals. Only vaccines keep the diseases from resurfacing.
8. Non-vaccinated children are getting a “free ride” so to speak, from the children who are vaccinated. The more children vaccinated, the less chance that a non-vaccinated child will come in contact with someone who is infected. (You can’t have a forest fire where only a few, widely separated trees stand.)
9. Non-vaccinated children delay the day that some vaccination programs can be terminated. The only known method to permanently eliminate most childhood infectious diseases is to eradicate the causative organisms. And the only known way to do this is to vaccinate virtually every person in the world. Eliminating measles, mumps, rubella, and polio, for example, is theoretically possible – it happened with smallpox.
10. Asking to “spread out” accepted vaccination schedules is counterproductive. Experience with tens of billions of doses of vaccines given to billions of children has delineated the earliest age that vaccines are effective and the optimum number of doses necessary to yield maximum long-term protection. Achieving immunity is delayed by waiting until children are older to vaccinate, increasing the time interval between doses, or giving one vaccine at a time. A single dose of many multi-dose vaccines gives little or no protection. There is no known adverse effect from giving multiple vaccines at the same time.
11. Even recommended vaccination schedules do not completely protect children from unvaccinated children. Take measles, for example. Infants are born with immunity but this immunity wanes by 6 months or so. Measles vaccines are not given until 12 months; present vaccines do not give reliable, long-lasting protection until that age. This creates a “window” where some infants are susceptible. Vaccinating all children against measles at 12 months eliminates this loophole. A somewhat similar situation exists with pertussis (whooping cough) and a few other vaccines.
12. Non-vaccinated children become non-vaccinated adults. Many vaccine-preventable diseases – measles, mumps and rubella, for example – are far more serious for adults than for children. Before the age of vaccinations, children were infected at early ages, mainly because these diseases are so contagious. Now that most children are vaccinated, chances increase that non-vaccinated children reach adulthood without being infected and with risk of more significant problems if they do become infected.