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Medical officer says measles vaccination pros outweigh cons


Parents have far more reasons to vaccinate their children than to leave them unprotected.
“Children still do die from the measles,” said Dr. David Schwartz, the Chief Medical Officer for Saint Francis Hospital. “The death rate is small, but why would you put your child through that?”
He described the illness, which makes children suffer from high fever, a rash that may itch, body aches and malaise. Some must be hospitalized, and some will die. The illness is so contagious that someone can catch it just by walking through an area where an infected person was recently.
A flare-up of measles, once-eradicated in the U.S., has sickened 121 people in the first five weeks of 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 85 percent are part of a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California, and most of the people infected did not have the measles vaccine or know if they had been vaccinated.
From Jan. 1 to Feb. 6, the CDC reports that 121 people from 17 states and Washington, D.C., were reported to have measles. That includes 88 cases in California; seven cases in Arizona; four cases in Washington; three cases in Illinois; two cases in Nebraska, Nevada, New York, South Dakota and Utah; and one case in Colorado, D.C., Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas.
The anti-vaccination movement is not founded in science, Schwartz said. Vaccinations are extremely safe. He listed common myths about about vaccinations:
Autism: Schwartz said the study that linked immunizations with autism has been debunked for more than a decade.
Damage from preservatives: Parents successfully petitioned for the preservative thimerosal to be taken out of vaccines around 2000, based on fears that it caused autism. Despite the fears that sparked the preservative’s removal, there has been no impact on the incidence of autism since the preservative was taken out, Schwartz said.
Side effects: Depending on the vaccination, two major side effects are site irritation if the child is allergic to eggs or the very rare Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. However, children are more at risk if they do not have vaccinations.
Infection: Only a few vaccines use live vaccinations, and it’s very rare to have a risk of becoming infected with the disease the vaccine is trying to prevent, he said.
Spaced out vaccinations: There’s no scientific evidence that giving a child vaccinations on the recommended schedule causes “immune overload” as some parents fear, Schwartz said.
Better sanitation/hygeine: There is no reason to believe that industrialized countries are invulnerable to infectious diseases just because hygiene and sanitation have improved over the years, he said, advising that people should look at where these diseases are now appearing. Schwartz cited an example from his practice in Arizona, which was at the center of a 2000 measles outbreak. It came from a single unvaccinated European tourist who traveled through Mexico.
Intrusive government: Some parents feel like mandatory vaccinations are equal to governmental interference in rearing their children. But a major argument in favor of vaccinations is to protect the small number of people who cannot be vaccinated because of weakened immune systems (such as cancer patients), their age (such as infants), allergies or other factors.
When the vast majority of a population is vaccinated, these vaccine-ineligible people are protected by this “herd phenomenon,” Schwartz said.
He compared it to laws that prevent people from speeding in a school zone and asked, “Do you not have a responsibility back to your community to help with that herd phenomenon and help that it [disease] doesn’t go through that community? We are part of a community, which means we have social obligation to our neighbors.”
Adults also benefit from a vaccinated populace if they consider the time they lose at work and in their personal lives if they or their children come down with serious preventable diseases like measles.
“It is a shame,” Schwartz said. “It’s a shame to have something that could be prevented by just having simple vaccinations, based on people’s misconceptions.”
His advice to parents is to sit down, read the professional literature and talk to their physicians rather than scouring the anti-vaccine articles online or reading The National Enquirer.

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