There has been a resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases in the past several years, including a measles outbreak in California, mumps in the Midwest and pertussis (whooping cough) nationwide. Parents choosing not to immunize their children not only put their own kids at risk, but those exposed to their contagious child as well.
Despite the evidence-based research supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization schedule, some parents are refusing vaccines at the recommended times for their children, requesting an alternative vaccine schedule instead. They are concerned about the number of vaccines their children should receive, and some parents question the necessity of immunizations altogether. A study published in Pediatrics (2011) showed that one in ten parents use an alternative immunization schedule for various reasons.
This alternative schedule will under-immunize kids. An under-immunized child does not develop enough antibodies to prevent the illness that vaccines are intended to prevent. Under-immunized children will more than likely become ill with the preventable diseases and spread them to the general population, causing undue pain and suffering with possible long-term health problems.
Some pediatric practices and pediatric hospitals across the country are refusing to take care of under-immunized children. They do not want healthy children to be exposed to under-immunized kids who may harbor contagious diseases in their clinics and increase the risk of healthy children contracting the illness.
There is little medical evidence that this would occur in a practice or clinic setting, but it does occur in a more populated setting such as an amusement park or stadium. The measles outbreak in California at an amusement park proved that children who have not been immunized could spread a preventable disease to a variety of people, including other children. It is a wake-up call for everyone that vaccines do protect the population.
Parents who have concerns about vaccines and the immunization schedule should be allowed to voice their opinions. It is the responsibility of healthcare providers to listen to and educate them about vaccines and the need to maintain the recommended schedule. Providers should not prevent parents from obtaining preventative healthcare at their practices/offices.
It is imperative that all parents be educated on the appropriate immunization schedule. Parents who have a good relationship with their provider will more than likely have their children immunized.
Vaccines save lives. Providers are advocates for their patients and are strongly committed to disease prevention and health maintenance. Parents also need to be advocates for strong, healthy, vaccinated children.
Jo Ann B. Serota, DNP, CPNP, FAANP, is a certified PNP and co-owner of Ambler Pediatrics, Blue Bell, PA. She is Past President of NAPNAP and President of the NAPNAP Foundation.