Do Measles Outbreaks Make You Rethink Your Vaccination Position?

Julie Ryan Evans

vaccinesHere and there in the news there are headlines proclaiming a random measles outbreak in the United States. Currently, Kansas City and Minnesota are dealing with the disease. Because the numbers affected are small and because there aren't dozens of deaths being reported, they don't garner much more than a passing glance if you're not in the area.

In most cases, the outbreaks are linked to people who have refused vaccinations, and those in the pro-vaccination camp tout them as examples of why everyone must get them. They make some good points.

Measles can be prevented, and when it's not, it can lead to serious health complications like deafness, pneumonia, encephalitis, and miscarriage. As well, the cost to the health care system when there is an outbreak is enormous. A recent report from the Arizona Department of Health showed the impact of one previous outbreak involving 14 people that was caused by one unvaccinated person visiting an emergency room:

The Arizona Department of Health had to track down and interview 8,321 people; seven Tucson hospitals had to furlough staff members for a combined 15,120 work-hours; and two hospitals where patients were admitted spent $799,136 to contain the disease.

So how can people still go about refusing something that can not only protect their children but others as well? Should they be allowed to endanger the rest of us like this? The message these reports sends is no, but it's not that easy.

There's still too much debate and too many unknowns when it comes to vaccinations to say that everyone should vaccinate their children with too much conviction. I do vaccinate my children -- mostly out of a fear of not doing so, but doing so also terrifies me. I've read the evidence, talked to the doctors, and know the arguments on both sides. Still I'm torn with every needle that pierces my children's sweet skin. Reports of outbreaks make me feel a little bit better about my decision, but I still understand the fear.

So while I don't want my child to fall ill because someone else was too scared to make the choice to do so, I can't say I blame them.

Do reports of measles outbreaks make you rethink your decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate your children?

Image via UNICEF Sverige/Flickr

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