More and more parents in the United States are choosing not to vaccinate their children for religious, philosophical, health and other reasons. Anti-vaxxers, as they're called, run the gamut across the political and geographical spectrum. Overall, more than 10 percent of parents are either delaying when their children are vaccinated or not getting the shots at all.
The decision of whether or not to vaccinate your child might ultimately be a personal one, but make it a well-informed one. Ask questions. Do your research. Talk to your pediatrician. Your decision affects not only your child, but the people around them (at school, at church, on the playground, at the grocery store, and so on). Understanding the risks of not vaccinating your child is an important part of the decision-making process.
Here, some repercussions of not vaccinating your child:
- First and foremost, without vaccinations, your child can get sick with the diseases vaccinations protect against. "Some parents have adopted the idea that with infants and vaccines, there are 'too many too soon,'" says Frank Destefano, M.D., director of the Immunization Safety Office at the CDC. "But without them, children could contract diseases that are otherwise completely preventable." If a child gets one of these diseases, such as measles, rubella, and pertussis (or whooping cough), they face the risk of hospitalization, brain damage, paralysis, and even death.
- Since non-vaccinated children are at risk for developing diseases, that means that these almost-eradicated diseases can have a massive comeback. A recent outbreak of pertussis was traced back to families who chose not to vaccinate their children. According to a 2009 study published by Jason Glanz, M.D., in the journal Pediatrics, children who are not immunized against pertussis are 23 times more likely to catch the disease, giving them a higher chance of spreading it to others.
- The theory of "herd immunity" only works if up to 94 percent of the population is immunized against a specific disease, and even then, "herd immunity does not seem to completely protect unvaccinated children," writes Glanz, an Epidemiologist at the Institute of Health Research. This means, that even if the vast majority of the population is immunized, a non-vaccinated child still faces great risk of contracting an otherwise avoidable disease.
- Non-vaccinated children also pose a threat to individuals with weak immune systems, specifically those who cannot yet be vaccinated or ones who cannot naturally fight off antibodies. "The idea of the 'common good' persists and children who are not vaccinated are harmful to other children and babies that are too young to be vaccinated, as well as pregnant women, and the elderly," says Glanz. Those without vaccines are dangerous to people with serious diseases, such as leukemia and certain cancers, who cannot receive immunizations.
- During an outbreak, children and families of un-immunized children may be quarantined for protection, and might be excluded from certain areas and events. Be prepared to tell your kid they can't go to the school picnic.
- Some doctors and pediatricians refuse to treat non-vaccinated kids.
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- Non-vaccinated children can also legally be banned from certain day care facilities, as well as after-school programs, depending on their immunization records.
- If you live in a big city, your child is at an even greater risk for contracting a disease if they're not protected. Cities tend to be travel hubs for airports and tourists -- thousands of people pass through these ports per day, making the chances of encountering a sickness higher.
- Similarly, if a child is not vaccinated, he or she faces stringent travel restrictions if they ever plan on visiting other parts of the world. If they're not protected against certain diseases, they might not be allowed to travel.
- According to the CDC, every time you ride in an ambulance, or take your child to the emergency room or the pediatrician, you must inform the doctors of your child's lack of vaccinations. This way, doctors are aware of their immunization history and can properly approach their situation and tailor their medications.
Did you vaccinate your child(ren)? Did you take these effects into consideration?
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