Besides breastfeeding, there’s likely no parenting topic more polarizing than vaccinations. Experts warn, however, that those who choose not to vaccinate are setting a disturbing trend in motion. According to an story on CBS News, new research suggests these parents may be directly contributing to disease outbreaks for illnesses that were up until now considered long gone, such as pertussis, or whooping cough.
Researchers linked parents who opted not to vaccinate their children for pertussis to outbreaks of that disease in 2010 in California. This was actually the year my second son was born in the San Diego area, and I was urged to get the vaccination before leaving the hospital, as an infant in a nearby town had died from it the month before.
What researchers want parents to understand is that their choice not to vaccinate may be putting those who can’t vaccinate (such as babies under six months old) at risk of getting the dangerous infection.
"We live in a free society, but infectious diseases are different from other phenomenon. Someone else's behavior can affect my child or loved one, or me," study author Dr. Saad Omer, an associate professor of global health, epidemiology, and pediatrics at Emory University's Vaccine Center in Atlanta, said to HealthDay.
In this particular study, researchers analyzed all the non-medical exemptions for kids entering kindergarten in California between the years 2005 and 2010. Medical exemptions might be something like allergies or another medical condition that affects the child’s immune system, while non-medical exemptions refer to personal or religious beliefs.
The researchers matched the exception list to the number of pertussis cases diagnosed throughout the 2010 outbreak. The state experienced the highest number of whooping cough cases that year in more than 60 years. The December, 2012, issue of Journal of Pediatrics found that there were more than 9,000 cases, including 809 hospitalizations, and 10 deaths.
Following these shockingly high numbers, California tightened its rules for non-medical vaccine exemptions in 2012.
The researchers also found 39 “clusters” of high rates of non-medical exemptions, along with two whooping cough disease clusters. The researchers point out that, because whooping cough is so contagious, an non-vaccinated cluster can mean trouble for those not able to vaccinate.
A September 9 study in JAMA Pediatrics found that kids who were under 36 months old who were not current on their pertussis vaccines were at higher risk of getting whooping cough compared to those who had gotten the recommended number of DTaP shots.