Childhood Vaccinations: A Prickly Issue
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For the majority of Connecticut parents, the risk of a child contracting a life-threatening—yet completely preventable—disease is simply not worth taking.
Indeed, the state’s vaccination-compliance rate for children entering kindergarten is more than 97 percent. That’s even higher than the median rate of 94 percent nationally, as reported last month (in an Aug. 1 report) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Still, the number of children who were exempted by their parents from the law has risen slightly but steadily over the last few years—from .8 percent in 2006, to 1.7 percent in 2013.
Their numbers may be few, but parents who oppose vaccinations are passionate in their convictions. And although the anti-vaccine movement of the late ’90s (see box on page 39) has lost considerable momentum, there is still concern in some circles that vaccinations may do more harm than good.
It’s a polarizing issue.
Because no vaccine is foolproof (according to the CDC, most routine vaccines produce immunity about 90 to 100 percent of the time), some parents in the pro-vaccine camp fear that their children may be infected by kids who haven’t been vaccinated.
“The whole thing makes me crazy. I am not into vaccinations at all,” says Kim, a mother of three who lives in a small town in the Connecticut Valley. “Because it is such an ugly topic,” and she fears her children may be ostracized, she asked not to be identified. “I don’t push my views on anyone, and I don’t like anyone pushing their views on me,” she adds.
When her first child was born nine years ago, Kim followed the letter of the law and brought him in for all of his early-childhood vaccinations. But by the time he was ready for kindergarten, she’d started questioning both the efficacy and safety of the required shots.
“I started doing my own research, I learned what was in the vaccines and read studies linking them to all sorts of illnesses—I just didn’t buy what the doctor was telling me,” she says. When she questioned the efficacy of the MMR vaccine during a measles outbreak that affected vaccinated children in New York, her doctor told her “nothing is guaranteed.” In the end, it was the sheer number of shots that put Kim over the edge. “When I refused to let them give my younger daughter six shots in one day, I got kicked out of the pediatrician’s office,” she says. She found a more “holistic” physician, and by filing a religious exemption with the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), she joined the ranks of parents whose kids don’t get vaccinated but are permitted to attend public schools anyway.