Vaccines: Back in the Spotlight

A blog such as ours that focuses on children’s health can’t neglect discussing vaccinations. This is especially true given the fact that diseases that were once effectively eliminated are re-emerging as major threats to children’s health. The New York Times has reported on an outbreak of measles - a disease that has the potential for deadly and debilitating complications - in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. Oregon has one of the most flexible policies that allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for various reasons.

All states allow parents to opt out for medical reasons, and most also permit religious reasons. However, the states that allow exemptions for “personal” or “philosophical” reasons leave room for debunked conspiracy theories to threaten the health of children in schools or public places. The NYT reports that multiple studies published in multiple leading medical journals have proven that there is no link between vaccines and conditions like autism, even among children who might be at higher risk of having the disorder (e.g. children with a sibling with autism.)

The question of vaccination is probably unique in that its benefits may not be immediately obvious. After all, an infant receiving multiple vaccinations according to the widely-approved schedule will not seem to be at obvious risk for those diseases. However, as children grow and encounter new environments, it is essential that they are well-equipped to thrive in them.  

Vaccine science has come so far since the first inoculation of a patient against a form of smallpox. In the present day, to make outbreaks of preventable disease “the new normal” (as one doctor put it) would be a huge step backward for medicine and for society’s commitment to children’s well-being.