It’s a worrisome trend that gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic – a lack of trust in vaccines. Today, fewer children are getting needed vaccines that will protect their health today and in the future.
“Vaccines for illnesses such as diphtheria, rotavirus, polio, tetanus, whooping cough, also called pertussis, and others are given in the first year of life. If these diseases seem uncommon, it’s because vaccines are doing their job,” the Mayo Clinic says.
But despite the evidence of their benefit, the Minnesota Department of Health reports nearly one in three 6-year-olds are not up to date on their childhood vaccinations.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics in July found that 27% of toddlers between ages 19 months and 35 months started but didn’t complete the recommended vaccine series. As a result, they are now vulnerable to contracting a preventable disease.
It is troubling that distrust of America’s medical advances, advances that would have seemed like miracles 50 years ago, is deepening.
We know one reason – medical malpractice on the part of the nation’s politicians who have sown doubt about the effectiveness of vaccines. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they also rebelled against common sense preventive measures such as wearing masks and closing public spaces.
Anti-vaccination thinking spread beyond the COVID-19 vaccine to include essential childhood vaccines for some.
One vaccine that has seen a decline being taken is the MMR vaccine. It prevents measles, mumps, and rubella. Rubella, also known as German measles, can be passed from a pregnant woman to her developing baby. A child in elementary school who contracts the disease can pass it on to his mother at home – and then to his or her unborn brother or sister.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC,) the decline in MMR vaccinations exposes close to 250,000 kindergarten children in the U.S. to the potential of getting one of the three diseases.
Minnesota’s child immunization law requires a parent or guardian of a child enrolling in child care, early education programs, or school to show proof of the required immunizations or qualify for an exemption.
There are two kinds of exemptions: one for medically confirmed reasons why a child can’t get a certain vaccine, the other is for beliefs that reject vaccinations.
There is a good reason for starting vaccinations for babies, though this may be the time when parents are the most protective and worried about their child’s health.
“Most babies are born with developing immune systems. Vaccination makes sure a baby has as much protection from disease and disease complications as is safely possible,” the Mayo Clinic says. “Vaccines for children are timed carefully. Vaccines are given when protection inherited from the mother fades and the child’s immune system is ready, but before kids come in contact with the germs that cause real infections.”
When something so precious as the health of our children is on the line, and at the same time unnecessary fear of vaccines is spread, it is a challenge to convince parents to get their kids immunized. But physicians at the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and across the country give five good reasons for getting your child vaccinated.
First, getting your child immunized could save his or her life, or prevent disabilities a severe case of a preventable disease could cause. We are fortunate to live in a time when the fear of a child dying or being crippled by polio, or dying or going blind due to contracting measles, has all but disappeared in America.
We are raising the chances of those possible outcomes as the number of people refusing to get vaccinated increases.
Vaccinations are safe and effective, the nation’s best medical authorities say. Severe allergic reactions are extremely rare and are treatable. The adverse consequences of your child getting a preventable disease are far higher than those from a vaccine.
Families travel to other communities with their children to shop, see friends and family, and for sporting events. They take vacations traveling to other states or countries. At each place, they are exposed to a host of people who may be infected with viruses that aren’t circulating back home. When they return, they may bring those viruses with them, introducing them to their friends, family, fellow workers, and students.
Getting your children vaccinated ensures they won’t spread a disease to loved ones with weakened immune systems that leave them vulnerable to the worst effects of a disease.
Getting your child vaccinated could save you money and help them not lose important days in school. A child who contracts measles may have to stay home for up to three weeks, meaning time out of school and requiring a parent to miss work.
Another good reason to vaccinate your child is consideration for future generations. We’ve seen diseases that were once thought eradicated returning. In 2000, the United States declared it was measles-free. But in 2019, over 1,300 cases in 31 states were confirmed. International travel and lower vaccination rates in the U.S. led to its resurgence.
If we want to prevent the spread of disease that can harm our children now, and our grandchildren in the future, we need to ensure they are vaccinated.
Some who refuse to vaccinate their children do it out of fear that vaccines cause autism. This fear is unfounded. New research has shown that signs of autism exist in a child before getting the first vaccination. Other substantial medical research has proven no link between vaccines and autism.
Some think it is better to let a child get a disease to develop a natural immunity that will be stronger and better. Their thinking is wrong.
“In general, it is better to prevent sickness by getting vaccinated rather than getting an infection,” the Mayo Clinic says. “Getting infected with a germ may provide some people with a longer lasting immune response but at higher risk.”