Discussing childhood immunizations can sometimes become a rather heated topic.
Parents are faced with making important decisions about their children’s healthcare from the minute they first find out they are having a baby. We consult the internet, books, family members, and friends if we’re not quite sure about certain topics and treatments that the “medical experts” recommend or discourage.
And yes, I deliberately put “medical experts” in quotes because in this digital age, in can be challenging to discern who’s actually an expert, and if their research results are evidence-based, flawed, biased, or simply a matter of opinion. Unfortunately for all of us, there’s quite a bit of bad science out there.
In some cases, we make health decisions for our children that are merely a personal preference, and which only affect our own family. For instance, if you choose to give your children a daily vitamin or mineral supplement, it neither harms nor helps anyone else they come in contact with. Some might argue you are keeping them healthier, and others will argue you are wasting your money.
But what about the choice to immunize or not?
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures,
“All 50 states have legislation requiring specified vaccines for students. Although exemptions vary from state to state, all school immunization laws grant exemptions to children for medical reasons. Almost all states grant religious exemptions for people who have religious beliefs against immunizations. Currently, 18 states allow philosophical exemptions for those who object to immunizations because of personal, moral or other beliefs.” (Dec. 2017)
Arizona is one of these 18 states, and our vaccination rate here in Maricopa County has fallen to a critical level.
The Arizona Department of Health Services maintains a goal of having at least 95% of school-aged kids vaccinated, and the most recent data from August 2018 shows that the state has fallen below 94 percent. This means our “herd immunity” is affected, and both kids and adults who are immune-compromised for any reason, are at much higher risk if a single case of measles or any other vaccine-preventable disease is present in the community.
Another consideration is that in the event of an outbreak of any vaccine-preventable disease, children in Arizona who are not vaccinated for any reason, must stay away from school for 21 days.
Therefore, the decision to vaccinate or not, does affect the community you live in – particularly the health of some of the most fragile in it. Even children who are home-schooled are still in contact with people who could infect them when they are out in public places and when traveling.
The choice is yours if and when you decide to vaccinate your child, so be certain that you have done sufficient research with evidence from multiple and reputable sources, and that you discuss the pros and cons with a board-certified pediatric medical professional.
For more information on child immunizations in Maricopa County, please visit their website.