I was reading in the NJ Star Ledger about the below average rates of vaccination in NJ children (http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/news/article.aspx?feed=AP&date=20100822&id=11932980). Like many of our patients, my children have received vaccinations and although on the surface this regular medical service that is part of our preventative healthcare and supported by the CDC. Even in a state thought to be as affluent, and educated as in NJ, many middle and upper class parents are forgoing vaccinations because in many cases, based on some of the concerns in the media regarding the link between autism and mercury that is used in the vaccines may be harming their children. I must admit, I still wonder weather my sons aspergers syndrome was linked to vaccines. I will likely never know but I cannot go back in time, avoid vaccinations and then see how he turned out. I just does not work that way.
Recently, there have been reports that whooping cough may be returning to our population, even though that population has largely been vaccinated. Could it be that vaccinations are over hyped, religiously pursued by the NJ legislature because of the medical lobby as well as pursued by drug companies trying to cash in on the next flu scare (remember swine flu, H1N1) (http://www.chetday.com/fluscaregame.htm). Our memories are as short as the media but someone made a ton of money scaring the public into getting vaccinated against the maybe disease. In the case of H1N1, our government spent a ton of money, the public did not receive this scare with open arms and they were left with tons of expiring vaccines that were not worth the bottles they were printed on. What is a scare weary public to do?
The thing that really scares me is that one day, when we have a real scare, few people will listen and the chicken little effect will occur (few people will believe it when the sky really is falling). I think that day is nearing and NJ vaccination rates are a symptom of that malaise.
We really need to rethink many of our health policies, since they often amount to scare tactics with little or no health benefit and in many cases, side effects (cholesterol lowering drugs anyone). Somehow, people in other countries have a healthier outlook without having all the stuff done to them. With regard to vaccines, this blog post is not designed to help someone decide weather or not to vaccinate their children. People should read and make their own opinions, rather than have it written into law that they must do this. It is true that some people have vaccine reactions (although a small sampling of the populace) and have neurological impairment or other problems as a result. Somehow, our society has made these risks acceptable even though much of our immunity to many diseases is natural (natural immunity still occurs believe it or not without vaccines) and natural immunity occurs by reacting to the infection.
What would happen if we decided tomorrow that vaccines are no longer mandatory? Would the masses avoid them in droves? My opinion is that it depends on what you believe. The only true way of finding out if vaccination is unnecessary is for the populace to avoid it. It would take many years to see if we need it or if the diseases we have tried to prevent come back or if our improvements in sanitation and living standards are really the reason we no longer see many of the diseases we vaccinate for.
What do you think? As always, I value your opinion.