To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate

February 9, 2011

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To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

That is the question many parents spend hours, perhaps even days, contemplating. We talk to our pediatrician. We google. As the mother of an 8-month old, I've googled everything from baby schedules to sleeping patterns to teething. Like all parents, my research is intended to make the best choice for my child. However, not all information is good information and bad information can lead to dangerous choices. With vaccines, this is too often the case. More and more parents are deciding to space out, delay or entirely refuse vaccines. Oftentimes these decisions are based on the belief that vaccines cause harm. But what is the harm in not vaccinating?

Consider this. Since June 2009, more than 8,300 cases of pertussis or "whooping cough" have been reported in California. Ten infants have died. Nine of which were less than 2 months old. In 2009, more than 3,000 cases of pertussis were reported in Texas alone. In 2008, 138 cases of measles were reported in the U.S. and 20 children were hospitalized.

However, statistics are oftentimes too abstract. How can bad information about vaccines lead to a dangerous choice for your child or other children?

Julieanna Metcalf

Let me introduce you to Julieanna Metcalf. Julieanna was 15 months old when she nearly died from Hib meningitis. She had to undergo emergency brain surgery, was hospitalized for a month, and had to re-learn to how to walk, talk and eat. Despite having received all of her immunizations on time, Julieanna was vulnerable to Hib because of an undiagnosed immune disorder.

Unfortunately, many parents in Julieanna's community had chosen not to immunize their children. This choice resulted in 5 children contracting Hib — including 1 who died. Four of the children were unimmunized.

By now you're probably wondering where you can get good information. First and foremost, talk to your pediatrician. After all, they are the experts. Second, visit a reputable web site with reliable information. Below are a few I recommend.

Hopefully, we can draw from Julieanna's experience and gratefully acknowledge that the choice to immunize is not only what's best for our children but for our community.

Julieanna's story is an excerpt from Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story.

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