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Nonvaccinated Children in Public Schools

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This is a question that every parent must consider when they allow their school-aged child to attend public or even private school. How do you feel about allowing your child to attend school with children who have not been vaccinated? Would it bother you? I’m sure there are several different answers to these questions. This paper will focus on the reasons why unvaccinated children should not be allowed to attend public schools as well as the benefits of vaccination. Every parent wants to raise a healthy child. Every parent wants to make sure their child is protected from infectious diseases and wants to do everything in their power to prevent any illness in the future. Every day there are thousands of babies born in this world and as parents we know that their immune systems are not ready to take on the illnesses that this world has. So why not protect your child? The American Academy of Pediatrics state that childhood vaccines are 90 – 99% effective in preventing disease. The risks of not being vaccinated far outweigh the small risks associated with vaccination. This is an issue that some parents face each time we prepare our children to attend public schools. We all know the common cold is air born and school aged children are prone to picking up that strand from another child.

There are also other diseases that children can pick up from their classmates like chickenpox, measles and pertussis (whooping cough). If we vaccinate our children when they are scheduled to be, they are less likely to be sick in the future. For many years there have been reasons for a child not being vaccinated. Some individuals have claimed that it is due to religious views, the cost of vaccinations, or that vaccinations do more harm than good. Some of these individuals would also like to know why it is so important to immunize their children. The main reasons are prevention and protection. When fewer children in a community are immune, it is easier for a disease to spread from person to person and cause an outbreak. No one likes being sick and you have to be considerate of others. Before vaccinations many diseases like measles and polio caused death, but because there are vaccines today you don’t hear many cases of children dying from these diseases. Diseases are becoming rare due to vaccinations and this is great news. All states allow a religious exemption to vaccinations except California, Mississippi and West Virginia. The religious exemption is intended for people who hold a sincere religious belief opposing vaccination to the extent that if the state forced vaccination, it would be an infringement on their constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs.

There is also medical exemption to vaccination, which is allowed in all 50 states. However, proof of medical exemption must take the form of a signed statement by a medical doctor or doctor of Osteopathy that the administering of one or more vaccines would be detrimental to the health of that individual. Even if a religious exemption to vaccines is not an issue, some report that the cost of getting immunized is not affordable. This is no excuse because there are several resources available for free immunizations. Within the United States, it’s as easy as calling 211 and asking. If you have access to the internet it is as simple as typing “free vaccinations” in the search bar. There should be no reason to not vaccinate. It doesn’t just benefit the individual, but others that come in contact with them and I’m sure that a lot of teachers and caregivers would appreciate this. There is also another issue with parents just not having their child vaccinated.

Some parents truly believe that vaccinations may cause brain inflammation which can lead to death or permanent brain damage and disorders such as autism, ADD/ADHD and other developmental problems. It was reported by the Pediatric Academic Society in 2003 that childhood vaccinations in the US prevent about 10.5 million cases of infectious illness and 33,000 deaths per year. The US Court of Federal Claims Office of Special Masters, between 1988 and 2009, has awarded compensation to 1,322 families whose children suffered brain damage from vaccines. Even though these cases were brought to the public, we have to keep in mind that every child is different.

We all react differently to medications and vaccinations. On August 25th, 2011 the Institute of Medicine issued an 800-page report, “Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality”. This report provided the outcome of many studies done regarding the link between vaccinations and possible side effects. According to the conclusion, the evidence was negative to an effect of possible brain damage. There is no better solution to keeping our children safe except for vaccinating them. As mentioned previously, it does not only help our children but others around them. Vaccinations can save lives especially within the beginning years of life. I think that every state should have mandatory laws for vaccinating children. This is considered a benefit and not a hindrance.

Phyllis Freeman, “The Biology of Vaccines and Community Decisions to Vaccinate,” Public Health Reports, Jan.-Feb. 1997 Childrens’ Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center, “A Look at Each Vaccine: MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccine),” www.chop.edu, Mar. 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics, “Why Does My Child Need to be Immunized?” www.healthychildren.org (accessed Dec. 17, 2009) Stephen Engelberg, “Vaccine: Assessing Risks and Benefits,” New York Times, Dec. 19, 1984 Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, “About the VAERS Program,” vaers.hhs.gov (accessed Jan. 6, 2010) Every Child By Two, “Economic Value of Vaccines,” www.ecbt.org (accessed Jan. 11, 2010) Gary L. Freed, et al., “Parental Vaccine Safety Concerns in 2009,” Pediatrics, Mar. 1, 2009 Health Resources and Services Administration, “National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act Vaccine Injury Table, www.hrsa.gov (accessed Jan. 6, 2010) Zhou F. Updated economic evaluation of the routine childhood immunization schedule in the United States. Presented at the 45th National Immunization Conference. Washington, DC; March 28–31, 2011

For every problem, there is a solution. When it comes to the health of children, the only solution is to make sure they are immunized. There are several ways to make this happens, so there should be no excuse for not doing so. Several agencies like, The Department of Health and Human Services, schools and VFC (Vaccines for Children) offer immunizations at low cost or no charge. There is so much importance in vaccinating children and because of the lack of education some parents may not take it seriously. Vaccines save lives! Vaccination saves the lives of more than 3 million people worldwide each year and prevents millions of others from suffering from diseases and permanent disabilities (World Health Organization and Immunization Action Coalition, 2013). If children aren’t vaccinated, they can spread disease to other children who are too young to be vaccinated or whose medical condition prevents them from being vaccinated. If many parents decided to not vaccinate their children, diseases would return to our community in full effect. This could result in long-term complications and even death for other children. Because almost all parents vaccinate their children in the United States, we all derive protection from “community immunity.”

The bottom line is children are best protected if they are vaccinated. Immunizations can save your family time and money. A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or child care facilities. Some vaccine-preventable disease can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability care. In contrast, getting vaccinated against these diseases is a good investment and usually covered by insurance. The Vaccines for Children program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children of low income families. Vaccination is very safe and effective. Vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals.

Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection but this is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and trauma of the disease these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as allergic reaction are very rare. The disease prevention benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children. Immunization also protects future generations. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide. Children don’t have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease no longer exists. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), the risk that pregnant women will pass this virus on to their fetus or newborn has been dramatically

decreased, and birth defects associated with that virus no longer are seen in the United States. If we continue vaccinating now, and vaccinating completely, parents in the future may be able to trust that some diseases of today will no longer be around to harm their children in the future. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 2011) there have been substantial declines in cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and healthcare costs associated with vaccine preventable diseases. A recent economic analysis indicated that vaccination of each U.S. birth cohort with the current childhood immunization schedule prevents approximately 42,000 deaths and 20 million cases of disease, with net savings of nearly $14 billion in direct costs and $69 billion in total societal costs.

This is great news because it means that we are eliminating diseases that would otherwise cause serious life threatening consequences and even death. Another advantage to this information is that it also helps with the economy especially since healthcare cost is considered one of the top social and economic problems facing Americans today. Parents want to do everything possible to make sure their children are healthy and protected from preventable diseases. This is an important factor in every child’s development as well as the individuals they come in contact with. No one wants to encounter a situation that could have otherwise have been prevented and vaccination is the best way to do that.

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