Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Access to Too Much Information

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Increase in Cases of Measles Tied to Fears Over Vaccine, reported a significant increase in the number of measles cases in the United States, the highest level in more than a decade. The increase appears to be associated with an increase in the number of patients refusing to having their children vaccinated.

For children attending state-supported public school, a clearly defined set of vaccinations must be completed and documentation provided before the child can be enrolled in school. However, for children who are home schooled, their parents can refuse vaccinations and there is no enforcement. Parents of children in public school can also seek an exemption to vaccination for religious reasons.

There have been 131 reported cases of measles so far this year; 122 of those children had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown. Although not perfect, the measles vaccine is considered to be highly effective at preventing measles.

Why are parents refusing to have their children vaccinated? Primarily due to fears of that autism is caused by measles shots, other childhood vaccinations, or a mercury-based preservative that used to be in most vaccines. There is no scientific evidence that autism is caused by any of these and in fact, the preservative has not been used in any vaccinations since 2001. However, news stories, law suits, and less official sources of information available on the internet have made parents aware that some fear a link between vaccination and autism. Some parents are making their decisions out of fear and possibly putting their children at risk. Of the 131 reported cases of measles this year, no children died, however, 15 of them did have to be hospitalized.

To counteract the potentially misleading information available online, pediatricians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are endeavoring to make more evidence-based information available to parents.

1 comment:

Andie said...

This actually makes me quite angry; the unfounded fear of vaccines. So far there is no scientifically validated link between vaccines and autism, and yet word of mouth and celebrities like Jenny McCarthy endorsing this view are putting many children at risk of diseases that are easily preventable.

In some communities they are starting to reach a critical point where enough children are not vaccinated that an epidemic could conceivably occur. I hope it doesn't have to before we figure this out.