An alarming survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) finds an increasing number of physicians are encountering parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. The most common reason cited — a belief that the diseases vaccines prevent have been wiped out. Cook County Health physicians say that is a dangerous misconception.
“The diseases vaccines prevent including measles, chicken pox, mumps, flu, meningitis and others are still present and can still cause serious illness and in some cases death. It is important to be protected,” said Dr. Simon Piller, a pediatrician and internal medicine physician at CCH’ Robbins Health Center.
Dr. Piller notes that last year’s national outbreak of measles and other regional outbreaks of whooping cough show how critical vaccines remain for children’s health. Dr. Piller reminds parents that in addition to protecting their own children, ensuring a high community vaccination rate is crucial for vulnerable individuals.
“People that have an illness such as leukemia that may prevent them from getting an immunization are at high risk and must rely on what is called herd immunity. The higher the percentage of immunized people in their area, the lower the chance of someone who is not immunized getting the disease,” said Dr. Piller.
The survey of doctors who are members of the AAP found 87% have been challenged in the last year by parents who refused to have their children immunized, up from 75% in 2006.
Although on the decline, the survey found the safety of vaccines continues to be a concern of over 60% of parents who refuse vaccines.
Dr. Juliet Bradley, lead physician at CCH’ Dr. Jorge Prieto Family Health Center, assures parents that all vaccines undergo long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and the federal government to make sure they are safe.
“Vaccines can prevent potentially fatal diseases, they have a high degree of safety, and their safety is constantly evaluated and reevaluated systematically, independently from the pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines,” said Dr. Bradley. “Vaccines can also help prevent cancer: the HPV vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer, and the hepatitis B vaccine can help prevent liver cancer.”
According to the AAP, routine childhood immunization will prevent about 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease saving $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in societal costs.
If your child needs to see a physician, please call 312-864-KIDS (5437) to make an appointment at a CCH clinic near you.
Kim Waterman, Communications Manager