Exploring two sides of vaccinations

A child getting a vaccination

Greg Powell | Washtenaw Voice

By: Madi Tortora
Staff Writer

 

Flu season arrived quickly and has definitely overstayed its welcome.

Most people are familiar with the trek to the doctor’s office, the feel of the needle prick, a nice bandage, and the “Wow, that wasn’t so bad” feeling walking out the door. Vaccinations have become a prominent issue with parents, many believing that the potentially negative side effects of vaccinating their child will outweigh the positives.

“There is no such thing as a medication that we give that has no side effects,” said Sherry MacGregor, a pediatric nursing professor at Washtenaw Community College. “I’ve seen children who have had brain damage from vaccinations, so I understand parents concern about doing it.”

Although the national immunization rate has remained stable over the past decade, 76 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months were up-to-date on all of their shots in 2008. That’s still short of the government’s goal of 80 percent, Parents.com said.

Many parents actually opt out of getting their children vaccinated for both religious and philosophical reasons, along with fear that their child may have mental health issues like autism, or may actually get more ill. Parents are scared of the preservatives in vaccinations, along with the possibility of side effects. They believe that the illnesses are either too rare or not even that bad, and their child can end up building a better immunity to illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that between Jan. 1 and May 23 of 2014, there were 288 cases of measles reported in the United States. Then, in 2015, there was a large measles outbreak at Disneyland, putting a lot of eyes on the anti-vaccination movement. A lot of parents who didn’t believe in vaccinations were blamed, and many retaliated.

“It’s the worst shot,” Missy Foster, an anti-vaccination parent, told the New York Times of the measles vaccine. “Do you want to wake up one morning and the light is gone from her eyes with autism or something?” Foster had not vaccinated her 18-month-old child for fear that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine caused autism. Her claim that vaccinations cause autism is not unheard of. A 2011 poll showed that 18 percent of Americans believe that vaccines can cause autism.

“There was a scientist that faked information about vaccinations linked with autism, and they found out later that vaccinations actually didn’t cause autism,” MacGregor said. “Right now, we don’t know what causes autism, but it’s not immunizations.”

Since the outbreak in Disneyland, California last year, there have been 121 cases of the measles reported, according to TIME. Doctors are blaming the outbreak on a large number of parents who believe vaccines can cause autism or other health complications, and therefore choose not to vaccinate their children.

When it comes down to it, parents truly are just scared of harming their children. Making the decision that is best for a child is a scary one, especially when there are two sides showing completely different information.

“I truly believe that parents are scared to immunize their children because they honestly have no idea what immunization is,” said Katie Wesley, a nursing student at WCC. “On the other end of the spectrum, the parents who say ‘Yes’ to every immunization option that is presented to them based solely on knowing that it is the ‘right’ action to take makes them just as uneducated.”

 

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