One of the documents required for kindergarten registration is the child’s immunization records, but some parents are opting out or outright refusing the have their children immunized, claiming suspicions regarding the government and pharmaceutical companies, or citing individual rights or religious grounds.
Statistics from the World Health Organization show that vaccinations are a cost-effective way of avoiding disease and that it prevents up to three million deaths annually.
With kindergarten registration in the Hillsboro City School District scheduled for April 4, Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said the problem isn’t with the vaccines themselves, but that the vaccines have been so effective over the years many people today have never witnessed the ravages of the diseases they prevent.
“The science behind vaccines and their effectiveness is proven,” Warner said. “I think what we’re seeing right now is vaccines have been so effective in reducing the amount of disease in our community that we’ve got a generation of parents who are more worried about the potential side effects than the disease that the vaccine is designed to prevent.”
Warner said that there are serious diseases like measles, mumps, polio and pertussis (whooping cough) that can be prevented, but without vaccination can cause lifelong health issues.
“It’s a complicated thing to look at,” he said. “And then you have physicians who embrace an alternative medicine perspective saying all sorts of things to the media, but from a public health standpoint, based on the science we know about vaccines and disease, getting your child immunized is the best way to keep them safe.”
There is a major measles outbreak in the Seattle area, Warner said, and doctors have tied many of those cases to parents who chose to not get their children immunized, and Warner said that if more parents take what is being called an “anti-vax” stance, diseases that were once considered eradicated or preventable will return.
Barb Eaglin is a registered nurse with the responsibility of tracking infectious diseases for the health department. She remembered what happened when a case of measles surfaced on two separate occasions in a Highland County school district.
“Both times, there was a child who had been vaccinated against it, but did get the measles,” she said. “But there was another child who it was discovered wasn’t vaccinated and was sent home for 25 days as a precaution during the incubation period, and the parents had to arrange for child care, take off work and make sure the school work was kept up simply because they chose not to get their child vaccinated.”
One of the main reasons given for parents not vaccinating their children is the claim that vaccines cause autism or other developmental disorders, a claim debunked by Heidi Murkoff, the author of “What to Expect Guide to Immunizations.”
In her booklet, which is available for free at the Highland County Health Department, she says that not one reputable study has shown any relationship between vaccines and autism, which received much attention following a published article in a medical journal supporting such a claim in 1998.
Further study by the worldwide medical community found the report to be an elaborate fraud and the article was immediately pulled from the journal, known as “The Lancet” she wrote.
Murkoff concluded that subsequent studies looking for a link between vaccines and autism have shown no link at all, leading many in the medical community to give no credibility to the theory that vaccines cause autism.
“I really do feel that parents have the right to choose,” Warner said. “But it’s one of those decisions that you make for your child that doesn’t just affect your kid, it affects everybody that’s around him or her, and that’s what makes it complicated.”
Warner and his nursing staff said they were available to answer any questions regarding childhood vaccinations, and that the day of the shot clinic had been changed from Monday to Wednesday.
The new schedule is from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month, with all other Wednesdays being from 1 to 4 p.m.
He said children must have current, up-to-date immunization records, a note of consent if the parent or guardian can’t be present for the vaccination, and a Medicaid card must be presented if applicable.
If the Wednesday schedule change is inconvenient, Warner said to call the health department at 937-393-1941 to schedule an appointment for a different day.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.