Source: Boston Globe
By: Brown, Karen D.
A growing number of parents are refusing to have their children vaccinated, or follow an “alternative” immunization schedule, even though medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have vouched for vaccines’ safety. Vaccination can cause side effects in rare cases, but medical researchers say that there is a greater risk by not vaccinating. A 2010 pertussis outbreak in California that caused 10 deaths has been traced to voluntary under-vaccination. Also, Massachusetts public officials noted two cases of measles in Boston hospitals earlier this year, when there were no cases reported in the state last year. The risk of disease not only affects intentionally under-immunized children but also infants too young for some vaccines and people with compromised immune systems. The concept of “herd immunity,” in which enough people are vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease, can protect most vulnerable individuals, but many people may “hide in the herd,” said Amherst pediatrician and national vaccine advocate Dr. John Snyder. There are also concentrated pockets of under-vaccination, such as Franklin County, Mass., which has a vaccine refusal rate of 6 percent. In many states, parents can claim a religious exemption to public-school vaccine requirements, or get a medical exemption. Some medical experts have called for stricter state policies on vaccination. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is releasing a detailed immunization registry to find particular towns and neighborhoods with high rates of vaccine refusal, where healthcare providers can receive extra support and educational materials from public-health officials.