Vaccine Non-Compliance by Parents is a Public Health Threat

by Dr Sam Girgis on June 18, 2012

A vaccine is a medical preparation that is used to augment or improve the body’s natural immunity and boost the response to an infectious disease.  Prior to the development of our current armamentarium of vaccines, infectious diseases were a scourge and plague of humanity and killed countless people throughout the course of history.  It is traditionally accepted that Dr. Edward Jenner was the first to advance the use of vaccines to prevent disease with the use of a cowpox vaccine to prevent the more deadly smallpox infection.  Since the 18th century when Jenner started his practice of vaccination, there have been vaccines developed against diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, polio, and several other infectious diseases.  The use of vaccines has without doubt saved the lives of millions of people, and continues to do so today.  Despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines save lives, there are many people who would like to cast doubt upon the benefits of vaccination.  This is of no surprise, and has been occurring since 1796 when Jenner first inoculated an 8 year old boy with the cowpox virus.  In recent times, the anti-vaccine movement has gained more momentum.  This has been quite alarming because this can pose a health threat to the unvaccinated child or adult and to the public safety in general.  We have previously discussed the increased rate of measles cases due to the fraudulent vaccine autism link.  Researchers from the Oregon Health Authority lead by Steve Robison, have shown that the number of parents who delay or limit the number of vaccines their children receive has significantly increased in this geographic region.  The results of the research were published in the journal Pediatrics.  The study reviewed the medical records for 97,711 Portland Oregon children and found that there was a threefold increase in the number of parents who delay or limit the number of vaccines their children received.  In addition, the researchers found that these parents were not following the alternative vaccination schedule as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The authors wrote, “The percentage of children consistently receiving 2 or fewer vaccine injections per visit between birth and age 9 months increased threefold within a 2-year period, suggesting an increase in acceptance of non–Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices vaccine schedules in this geographic area”.  This is quite an alarming trend and hopefully does not reflect the entire United States as a whole.  Delaying, limiting, or eliminating the vaccines that have been shown to save lives is irresponsible and places unvaccinated children in harm’s way.  In addition, it has contributed to the emergence of previously controlled diseases such as measles and pertussis.  Thus, not only are the unvaccinated children harmed but the health of the public in general is compromised.  Numerous false and unsubstantiated claims have been advanced by the anti-vaccine movement with the help of celebrities, including the notion that vaccines cause autism.  Several websites and blogs have attempted to counter these inaccurate theories (i.e. jennymccarthybodycount.com, respectful insolence, science based medicine).  Ultimately, education about the benefits and safety of vaccines is our best weapon against the anti-vaccine movement.  In addition, we must make it known that the increasing rate of parents who limit vaccinations for their children is a public health threat.

See the discussion from The Doctors below for an example of how the anti-vaccine movement spread their inaccurate theories:

Reference:

Robison SG, et al “Frequency of alternative immunization schedule use in a metropolitan areaPediatrics 2012; 130: 32 – 38 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-3154

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