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Opting out of vaccines is bad for public health

Staff Report • Jan 10, 2013 at 11:58 AM

There is a growing number of parents in this country who are refusing to have their children vaccinated against a number of communicable diseases. These parents are among a growing number of vaccine skeptics who are taking advantage of exemptions to laws requiring vaccinations for school-age children.

States currently allow medical exemptions to vaccinations, and many have traditionally granted exemptions to parents based on religious beliefs. Many of today’s opponents to immunizations, however, are parents who subscribe to an unproved personal belief that vaccines may be linked to autism and related disorders.

Twenty states, including California, Ohio and Texas, now allow some kind of personal exemption to vaccinations. This trend toward granting exemptions to inoculations worries public health officials. They point to an outbreak of measles in California a few years ago as the consequences of what can happen when children are not properly immunized.

Less than 1 percent of children in the states with personal-belief exemptions went without vaccines in 1991. That percentage increased to 2.54 percent by 2004. More than 90 percent of children old enough to receive vaccines worldwide now get them.

Public health officials argue that vaccines have saved many lives. Epidemiologists and other medical experts warn personal belief exemptions are potentially dangerous and represent bad public policy with no basis in science. We agree. Children who are not vaccinated are vulnerable to serious illnesses, as well as presenting a danger to children who have had their shots.

We hope parents will ignore the anti-immunization crackpots on the Internet and follow the advice of knowledgeable and responsible health care officials.

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