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A Closer Look at the Vaccine Debate

Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children don't fit neatly into a certain demographic. But the anti-vaccine trend appears to be growing among people who distrust the government, as well as some parents in communities immersed in "all-natural," organic, and homeopathic living.

Some parents are opting not to vaccinate their children at all, while others are using a different vaccine schedule than the standard version because of their lingering questions about vaccine safety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducts at least of 10 years of testing before vaccines are licensed, and continues to conduct studies to further ensure vaccine safety.

The AAP says that top disease experts review the childhood immunization schedule every year, and the schedule is considered the ideal for healthy children (kids with certain allergies or health conditions may need to use a revised schedule, so talk with your pediatrician). "There is no research to show that a child would be equally protected against diseases with a different schedule," the AAP says. "Also, there is no scientific reason why spreading out the shots would be safer. But we do know that any length of time without immunizations is a time without protection."

Some parents wonder if vaccinations might overwhelm their child's immune system, but the AAP says that children's bodies fight more germs every day just by playing, eating, and breathing (2,000 to 6,000 germs, or antigens, on an average day) than they do as a result of vaccines (150 antigens for the whole immunization schedule).

Anti-vaccine Doctors and Websites
Some "natural parenting" magazines and websites have featured homeopathic practitioners who question the need for vaccines and the seriousness of illnesses. In 2011, Mothering magazine published an article by a homeopathic pediatrician who downplayed the seriousness of whooping cough. In 2012, the U.S. had the worst year for whooping cough since 1955 — with about 42,000 cases and 18 deaths (including 15 infants younger than 1).

A small yet vocal minority of doctors have called measles "benign" and consider vaccinations "unnatural." The CDC lists vaccine ingredients, and experts say the ingredients serve a purpose and are used in safe amounts. For example, aluminum is used to boost the body's immune response to vaccines, and most vaccines contain less aluminum than an aspirin or antacid tablet and some kinds of infant formula.

One outspoken anti-vaccine physician, Dr. Jack Wolfson, a cardiologist who practices holistic medicine, has said children have "the right" to contract contagious illnesses like measles, and told the Arizona Republic, "I'm not going to put my child at risk to save another child." The Arizona Medical Board is currently investigating Wolfson.



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