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Is Vaccine Refusal Worth The Risk?

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 26, 2009


Over the past 10 years, a highly contagious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease once thought eradicated from the U.S. has re-emerged, threatening the very youngest and weakest of our population. Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the lungs and spreads from person to person through moisture droplets in the air, probably from coughs or sneezes. A person with pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts four to six weeks or longer.

Health officials cite an increase in the incidence of pertussis, particularly among infants and teenagers. In 1976 there were just over 1,000 reported cases of pertussis in the United States; by 2004, it climbed to nearly 26,000 cases. Between 2000 and 2005 there were 140 deaths resulting from pertussis in the United States.

At the same time, both studies and anecdotal reports from doctors nationwide report an increase in the number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children against childhood diseases.

Much of this refusal has to do with perceived vaccine safety issues, such as purported associations between vaccines and autism, attention deficit disorder, seizures and epilepsy. None of these concerns have been upheld in research. In fact, all scientific studies show vaccines to be highly effective and safe, with only rare, moderate adverse side effects.

Results of this current study show the biggest risk among children who are not vaccinated is the disease itself as well as spreading it to more vulnerable populations who are unable for age or medical reasons to get vaccinated.

In this study, published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers from Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Institute for Health Research used electronic health records to look for immunization refusal and possible pertussis infections.

Specifically, researchers examined the medical records of children between the ages of two months and 18 years who were members of Kaiser Permanente Colorado between 1996 and 2007. First investigators confirmed which children had pertussis infections. Next, they verified whether parents had refused some or all vaccines for their children.

The findings: Children of parents who refused the DTaP vaccine were 23 times more likely to get whooping cough compared to fully immunized children. “A 23 fold increase is huge!” says Jason Glanz, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanent’s Institute for Health Research who headed the study.

Glanz says the findings should help “dispel one of the commonly held beliefs among vaccine-refusing parents: that their children are not at risk for vaccine preventable diseases.”



One Response

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  1. jlewicky said, on May 26, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    Thank you for posting this. Did you know that Jenny McCarthy has twitter-blocked a Colorado-based immunization organization? See the story here –

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