Good intentions are not enough to prevent disease. Recent outbreaks of measles at Disneyland and in other states have called attention to the low vaccination rates fueling this phenomenon. In my earlier post, The Vaccine Hysteria, I discussed this problem and identified the root cause as parental misinformation.
Now a study has been released from the University of Colorado Medical School that reveals the widespread pressure placed on pediatricians by well-intentioned, but misinformed parents. More than 90 percent of doctors surveyed said they had received requests for vaccination delays from parents. Three quarters of doctors said they agreed to a delay at least some of the time, even though they knew it was harmful.
Allison Kempe, professor of pediatrics at The University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, was the lead author. Kempe expressed the frustration of pediatricians. “They feel torn. They feel both the desire to have an alliance with the family but also they feel strongly about the medical and scientific reasons for immunizing.”
Kempe said many parents agree to vaccinations but insist on their own time schedule. The study found parents seek to delay vaccines because:
- they fear complications including autism
- think their child is unlikely to develop a vaccine-preventable disease
- are concerned too many shots will weaken their child’s immune system
- or believe a disease isn’t dangerous
All of these beliefs are unfounded.
Decades of research have established the safety of vaccines and debunked the only study attempting to link autism with vaccinations. The recommended immunization schedule helps prevent an estimated 42,000 deaths and 20 million cases of disease, according to the study.
Kempe and her co-authors surveyed 534 pediatricians and family physicians between June and November 2012. They found that 93 percent of the doctors said they received requests to spread out vaccines each month. Twenty-one percent of the physicians said more than 10 percent of parents in their practice asked for delays.
When vaccination rates are high, those in the community who cannot be vaccinated, because of a demonstrable medical condition, are protected. This is called “herd immunity.” To establish herd immunity, vaccination rates must be very high – up to 95% or better. In the U.S. at large, the numbers are pretty good, with close to 95% of incoming kindergartners in compliance with vaccine guidelines, according to a 2013 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey
Not coincidentally, Colorado leads the nation in unvaccinated children. Only 85.7% have received the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) and only 82.9% have received the DPT vaccine (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus). Colorado is home to many well-educated, but liberal, thinkers who are prone to believing “they know better” than their doctors what’s best for their children.
Unfortunately, this kind of misinformation is deadly. These sincere but misguided parents need to re-educate themselves to avoid costly mistakes that could permanently affect the health of their children and their community.