A growing number of parents are choosing not to get their children vaccinated on the schedule recommended by public health officials. And health officials fear that will revive ills that were once nearly eradicated.
An article in USA Today summarizes the issue this way: "Recent measles outbreaks in New York, California and Texas are examples of what could happen on a larger scale if vaccination rates dropped, says Anne Schuchat, the CDC's director of immunizations and respiratory diseases. Officials declared measles, which causes itchy rashes and fevers, eradicated in the United States in 2000. Yet this year, the disease is on track to infect three times as many people as in 2009. That's because in most cases people who have not been vaccinated are getting infected by others traveling into the United States. Then, Schuchat says, the infected spread it in their communities."
"The anti-vaccination movement has picked up steam in the past decade with support from celebrities such as actress Jenny McCarthy, actor Aidan Quinn and reality TV star Kristin Cavallari, who last month said not vaccinating was 'the best decision' for her children," writes USA Today's Yamiche Alcindor. "Many continue to believe the debunked idea that vaccines cause autism, while others don't trust the federal government or the pharmaceutical companies responsible for these vaccines."
Measles, pertussis and meningitis are among the diseases that have potential to kill but can be prevented with vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to NPR, 48 states allow parents to sign a vaccine exemption form. In California, exemption requires a doctor's signature.
Although physician groups generally support vaccines, "It can be a touchy subject, and even some physicians are unsure of how to approach parents who don't want to vaccinate their children," the NPR story says. "Still, health professionals and pro-vaccine parents are trying new ways to share their message," including surveys and a public education campaign.
But NPR noted a Dartmouth study's findings: "Political scientists surveyed nearly 1,800 parents about the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). What they found was that the more skeptical parents are about vaccines, the less likely they are to listen to public service ads or to their pediatricians."
ABC News featured Dr. Richard Besser and The New Yorker's Michael Specter explaining in a video why opting out on vaccines is a bad idea, tracing a measles outbreak in California to make their point.
But the move toward not having vaccinations done is going more "mainstream," as an AFP article on Yahoo News points out.
It says that two-thirds of working-age adults eschew flu vaccine and about that many parents "decline the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for young adolescents," based on CDC numbers.
"The people we are concerned about are the people who are hesitant. The general demographic is well-educated and upper middle class," Barry Bloom, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, told reporter Kerry Sheridan. "I think they are on the rise everywhere."
Bloom believes that vaccines have been so good at eradicating certain diseases that people don't really understand what's at risk.
"If they have never seen a kid blinded from measles, or mentally retarded from pertussis, it is very hard in this wonderful, happy, affluent world of kindergartens and first and second grades to see that there is a problem that vaccines are preventing," he said.
Business Insider has put together an infographic of data from the CDC and the Journal of the American Medical Association showing the impact of vaccines on diseases, featuring a variety of ills including hepatitis A and B, mumps, measles, diphtheria, pneumonia, flu and others.
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