With the increasing number of outbreaks, such as the measles outbreak originating from Disneyland in 2014, parents and doctors have been arguing over whether vaccinations are actually necessary for their children. Vaccines exist to immunize the body against foreign pathogens and known disease, however, there’s been growing concern about the necessity and risks of vaccinations.

Recent U.S outbreaks

The CDC had warned of meningitis outbreaks quickly spreading across college campuses due to the close proximity of students in dorms. In 2016, three different college campuses had seen instances of meningitis – one which caused the death of a university employee. One of the instances at Santa Clara University prompted a widespread vaccination of the student body. Colleges such as UC Berkeley Campus have sent out a meningitis health alert to students, parents, and faculty. As a result, meningitis vaccinations are now a requirement for incoming students.

The Minnesota Department of Health recently reported that they now have 69 confirmed cases of measles, doubling the number of measles cased diagnosed in Minnesota since 1997. Experts say that the outbreak is likely to continue to spread and that 65 of the 69 cases were confirmed to be unvaccinated. The outbreak began in the Somali community, which saw decreasing vaccination rates over the past decade. State officials now believe that the measles outbreak has become a significant health problem in the state. Without the vaccine for measles arriving in 1963, the U.S. would see 4 million cases every year.

Why do some people choose not to vaccinate?

In 2013, nearly 9 out of 10 pediatricians say they were asked by a parent to alter their child’s immunization schedule. 73% of these parents believed that these vaccines were unnecessary. In fact, 1 in 4 U.S. parents believes that some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, but many of those will still get their children vaccinated.

Some parents believe that their child’s immune system is immature, so it’s safer to delay vaccines. However, by delaying the vaccine MMR by even three months can increase the risk of febrile seizures. Some other parents are concerned that vaccines may contain toxins or simply don’t work. Ingredients such as thimerosal, the main ingredient parents are concerned about, have now been removed from all infant vaccines just as a precaution. The ingredients in vaccines have proven to be safe and effective, with minimal risk. Vaccines do have unanticipated side effects, but these tend to be rare, such as the antibiotics in vaccines causing a rare anaphlyatic reaction (1 or 2 per 1 million doses.)

As for the concern of autism, statements and evidence provided by the government indicates that there isn’t any conclusive science that proves that vaccines are the cause of ASD. A CDC study looked at the number of antigens from vaccines during the first two years of life – results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines received was the same between children with autism and those who did not have autism.

What happens if you don’t vaccinate?

Some cases have seen the lack of vaccination increase the amount of disease. Within the past four months, Italy has reported over 1,600 cases of measles. Of those 1,600 cases, 88% are known to be unvaccinated. WHO data shows Italy at a 84% vaccination rate for measles, much lower than the CDC’s recommended 95%. As a response to the outbreak, the Italian government introduced a law making 12 vaccinations mandatory for preschool and school-age children. Measles related complications include encephalitis, (brain-swelling) often resulting in death.

Another example is the Pertussis epidemic experienced by Japan in 1974. Japan thought they eradicated whooping cough (pertussis). However, after an elongated period without any reported case outbreaks, it was believed the vaccinations weren’t needed. But then in 1979, Japan suffered a pertussis epidemic. Reviewing the statistics, they discovered by 1976, only 10% of infants were vaccinated against Pertussis.

Vaccination recommendations

Because vaccines have been so successful and have eradicated diseases such as measles and smallpox, people tend to forget that these diseases are no longer rampant because of vaccination rates.

For a current list of what vaccinations are mandated by your state, click here. You will be able to find the list of state-provided exemptions as well. Please also be advised by your personal physician regarding what is best for you and your family members. Certain factors may be of relevance pertaining to your place of residence or planned travel.

*There are immunization standards recommendations by the CDC.  Vaccine schedules are broken down by age. Other components not necessarily recommended are those for Military Personnel and Foreign Travelers. For detailed information on what is required, please visit: immunization.org.