In recent years more and more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. In the years from 2003 to 2009 statistics have shown there has been a 4 fold increase in the decision not to administer vaccines. This is an increase from 2.5% to 10%. The reasons given as to why parents decide on not receiving vaccines range from direct medical contraindications including a direct allergy to an immunization component such as gelatin that is used in chickenpox and nasal spray influenza vaccine to philosophical and religious reasons. If your child has an identified allergy to the vaccine or a component of the vaccine then that vaccine should be avoided unless a decision is made under the direction of a pediatric allergist. The other common reasons for not receiving vaccines are based primarily on fear and personal preferences and not on scientific evidence.
All vaccines are associated with potential risks but the risk of not receiving childhood vaccines is much higher than the risk of receiving vaccines. The rates of serious childhood illness have been dramatically reduced as have the serious potential life-threatening complications that often accompanied these illnesses. Dramatic decreases in common life-damaging illness such as H flu meningitis also support the use of vaccines. There have been tens of thousands of studies that have reviewed the risk benefit ratios concerning vaccine administration risk and efficacy. These studies strongly support the reasons to choose vaccine administration when you are asked whether you want your child to be vaccinated.
Although all states but West Virginia and Mississippi allow religious exemptions it is important to note that freedom of religion is not an adequate explanation if a life-saving transfusion or surgery is required for your child. In those situations the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution supports that everyone, including children, is equally protected under the law and this protection is independent of a parent’s belief system, whether it be a personal or religious belief.
Receiving vaccines is a very difficult decision for some parents and an easy decision for others. If you are a parent who is hesitant to pursue vaccination and are anxious or fearful of potential side-effects you must remember you are not alone. Many parents have similar concerns. As your pediatrician our job is to communicate with you and explain all the pros and cons of vaccines. As a parent you are never alone. We want to listen to you and encourage you to explore what is best for your child. We promise to be honest and non-judgmental. We will make our explanations simple and direct and throughout the entire decision making process be empathetic to the difficult decisions you as a parent need to make. We want you to know there is no need to rush this decision. By providing you the information and knowledge in an unhurried fashion and by recognizing your emotions we want to be present with you during these difficult decisions. Through a therapeutic alliance with you and your child we seek communication and the avoidance of misunderstandings that will allow you to make a decision you will trust for many years to come.