Home > Babies and Toddlers > Health and Safety > Immunizations and Vaccines > A Closer Look at the Vaccine Debate
|

A Closer Look at the Vaccine Debate

A measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland in California in late 2014 has added fuel to the vaccine debate in the United States. In the first two months of 2015, more than 150 cases in 17 different states were reported to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). Most of the cases involve people who did not receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and can be traced back to the Disneyland outbreak, but additional outbreaks — including one in a daycare center outside of Chicago — have popped up unrelated.

The measles outbreak comes on the heels of a serious whooping cough outbreak from 2012-2014. Medical experts blame the spread of these highly contagious illnesses on a growing anti-vaccination trend among today's parents. California and Arizona both saw a nearly 70 percent increase in vaccination exemptions from 2009 to 2013. For the country as a whole, philosophical or religious exemptions increased 37 percent in the same period. See this map to see childhood vaccination rates by state.

The anti-vaccination trend appears to be occurring in pockets — certain towns or school communities — which can create "hot spots" for diseases to easily spread to unvaccinated people, including infants who have not yet received all of their vaccines. USA Today created a tool that you can use to search for immunization rates by elementary school (in 27 states with available data). An analysis of immunization data in 13 states shows that nearly 1 in 7 schools have vaccination rates below 90 percent — which could put "herd immunity" at risk in those areas. Some schools have immunization rates below 50 percent.

So what's the story behind the growing anti-vaccination movement? And is the trend likely to continue?

Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Medical experts and the CDC have hailed immunizations as one of the greatest public health achievements in history. But few of today's parents were alive to see the effects of deadly and crippling diseases like polio, diphtheria, measles, and mumps, which their parents or grandparents probably witnessed or experienced firsthand. The History of Vaccines, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, provides a timeline of diseases and vaccines, which shows how immunizations have been boosting global health for centuries.

Some of today's parents who choose not to vaccinate their children think the diseases that shots help prevent are no longer a serious threat to their family or this country. Globally, measles killed more children than car accidents, drowning, or AIDS did in 2013. And measles are still dangerous in the U.S., where nearly one-third of children who contract it under age 5 end up in the hospital, according to the CDC. Serious cases can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, deafness, and death.

The U.S. has seen vaccination rates rise and fall, depending on the prevalence of the disease, in the past. Following high rates of measles vaccination and a major decline in measles cases in the 1970s, vaccination rates dropped in the '80s. This led to a serious measles epidemic from 1989-1991 that sickened more than 55,000 Americans and killed 123. Then the U.S. got back on track and eliminated "homegrown" (non-imported) cases of the measles by the year 2000, only to see vaccination rates begin to fall and measles cases emerge again in the following decade.



|


highlights

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

8 Products to Help Your Family Go Plastic-Free
How can you minimize your family's exposure to harmful chemicals and lessen your impact on the environment? Try swapping out some of your everyday plastic products with these non-plastic alternatives.

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks