Reports of measles cases in the US have also been on the rise. Symptoms of measles, which is highly contagious, include fever, cough and a rash that spreads down from the scalp and through the body. For every 1,000 children who contract measles, one or two will die, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Parents who choose not to have a child vaccinated are taking risks with not only their child’s heath, but the health of their communities. Choosing not to vaccinate a child, or to “spread out” vaccinations, leads to a lower vaccination rate in a population. This in turn leads to lowered “herd immunity”: When a significant proportion of a population has been vaccinated against a disease, those who not been vaccinated (such as infants) have a measure of protection. But when overall vaccination rates are lower, herd immunity is compromised and more are at risk of contracting a disease like measles.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that, according to Glen Nowak, a senior adviser with a specialty in immunizations and respiratory diseases for the CDC, three-quarters of parents in the US have at least one “question or concern” about vaccinations. No matter how many scientific studies are published that dispute a link, the speculation over vaccines somehow “contributing” to autism and other health issues seems to be in little danger of withering away. This is unfortunate, as vaccines can and do save lives, can and do protect children and adults against terrible infectious diseases that were the terror of previous generations.
As Dr. Stephens notes about the vaccine-autism theory, “People still believe it. Once the belief is out there, it takes on a life of its own. It becomes immortal.”
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