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CDC worries about vaccination gaps

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Babies and young children get a lot more vaccines today than they did ten years ago. To most parents, it's a chance to protect their children from more diseases. But there are pockets of places where lots of people are opting out of vaccines. Julie Grant reports that it has the Centers for Disease Control concerned.

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Reported by

Julie Grant
Reporter and Producer

Transcript:

Julie Grant
June 22, 2009

Babies and young children get a lot more vaccines today than they did ten years ago. To most parents, it’s a chance to protect their children from more diseases. But there are pockets of places where lots of people are opting out of vaccines. Julie Grant reports that it has the Centers for Disease Control concerned:

Heather Waltz has a five month old daughter. Most Americans her age have already started a series of vaccinations – to prevent everything from Hepatitis B, to Diphtheria, to Polio.

But Waltz’s little girl isn’t going to get those shots. Her mom worries they could cause things like autism, juvenile diabetes and cancer.

“I think the jury’s still out, as far as what the research says. But there was enough anecdotal stuff to make me aware and decide right now vaccinating wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

Waltz is among a small, but growing number of parents who are becoming skeptical of vaccines.

Lance Rodewald is director of immunization services at the Centers for Disease Control.

He says more than 90% of American children are vaccinated. But there are parts of the country where up to 20% of families are saying ‘no’ to vaccines.

“And that’s getting to a rate of lack of protection of children that really can be a fertile ground of diseases like measles. And we actually saw that last year.”

In one case last year, Rodewald says a child who wasn’t vaccinated caught the measles in Switzerland and brought it back to Arizona.

“The parents didn’t realize the child had measles – brought him to the pediatricians office where there were babies that were too young to be vaccinated that got measles. And then that particular outbreak went through four generations of spread, from child to child to child to child before it was able to be contained.”

Measles can cause more than just a nasty rash. In rare cases, it can lead to death. Measles still cause 200,000 deaths around the world. But it’s been almost eradicated in the U.S. because of vaccines.

Rodewald says many parents are concerned about vaccines today because of a ten-year old scientific article that linked the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella to autism. Rodewald says the science in that article proved to be wrong.

“The authors withdrew their names from the article. But this particular study set off a whole series of concerns about vaccines and autism that, to this day, is still talked about.”

Rodewald says many studies have been done and found no association, no cause and effect between vaccines and autism.

It’s tough for parents to wade through all the information that’s out there these days. And there are so many vaccines to try to understand. Back in the mid-1990s, children were given 6 vaccines. Today, they’re supposed to get more than twice that many.

Mother Heather Waltz tries to keep up with it all and says she still plans to avoid vaccines.

Waltz: “And for every bit of research and every article I find sort of helping me support my point, there’s a million other bits of research and articles saying that I’m a bad parent, or that I’m somehow damaging the health of the entire United States by not vaccinating my child. Just this idea that she could be a measles monster and just running around and infecting her classmates with measles and that would be a terrible thing.”

Grant: “What do you think when you see that?”

Waltz: “It doesn’t make logical sense to me. Because to me, if you have 30 kids in a classroom, and my one isn’t vaccinated, wouldn’t my child be the one at risk? If anything, I would be putting my child at risk, not the public’s children.”

But even if Waltz’s daughter doesn’t get vaccinated, she’ll probably be safe from these diseases. With so many other kids getting inoculations, most of the U.S. is not fertile ground for them to regain traction.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

© 2009 Environment Report

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