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Does the vaccination debate mask some real problems?

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A book by Michigan State University (MSU) scholar Mark A. Largent argues that the debate over whether vaccines cause autism is masking real problems with the modern inoculation schedule. The bitter debate over whether vaccines cause autism is masking real problems with the modern inoculation schedule and encouraging a growing number of parents to refuse recommended vaccines for their children, argues a Michigan State University scholar. What if your children have had seizures from vaccinations?

In his new book Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America, Mark Largent writes that extremists for and against vaccinations have clouded the issues for parents seeking to make the best possible decisions for their children's health, according to the August 22, 2012 news release, "Vaccine and autism debate masks real problem."

On one hand, there is no scientific evidence that vaccinations cause autism, Largent says in the news release, Vaccine and autism debate masks real problem, adding that vaccines are "one of the most effective tools in the public health arsenal."

On the other hand, Largent said some shots raise serious concerns among many parents, such as the vaccines against chickenpox and hepatitis B, which is typically given within the first days of life. Further, he said pediatricians and health officials have created an all-or-nothing approach to vaccinations that gives the false impression that all inoculations are equally important.

"It's a signal to parents that the vaccine schedule is an all-or-nothing affair – that you either accept that the mandated vaccines are all equally valuable and comply with the entire schedule or reject it in its entirety," says Largent, according to the news release. Largent is an associate professor in Michigan State University's James Madison College. "As a result, parents who find some vaccines unnecessary are encouraged to question the entire vaccine schedule."

Fueled by celebrity activists, public anxieties over vaccines have emerged during the past 20 years, Largent noted

On one side of the debate is actress Jenny McCarthy, who believes her son's vaccinations triggered a series of seizures that led to his eventual diagnosis on the autism spectrum. On the other side are vaccine proponents such as actress Amanda Peet, who publicly supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended vaccination schedule and declared that parents who do not vaccinate their children are "parasites."

Meantime, legislators in many states have loosened requirements on childhood vaccinations for attendance at schools and daycares. Today, more than half of Americans live in states that allow for philosophical exemptions to mandatory vaccinations – often requiring little more than a parent's signature on an exemption form.

Some states, such as California, require more than a parent's signature on an exemption form, such as a physician's signature

Public health officials worry that children who do not get all recommended and mandated vaccines pose a risk to those who get the full complement of shots. Although vaccines are not guaranteed to be effective, officials say the best way to guard against the spread of communicable diseases is to get all recommended and mandated vaccines.

Ultimately, Largent believes parents must accept responsibility to decide the best course of action for their children when it comes to vaccines. In his case, he decided against a doctor's recommendation to give his then 4-year-old daughter Annabelle a seasonal flu shot and supplemental vaccine for swine flu because she had already contracted the flu that year.

"Parents should examine the vaccination schedule, think about their child's situation and consider their options," Largent says in the news release. "That way, when they decide in favor of or against a vaccine, they are actually making a conscious choice rather than simply drifting into a decision that has been made by someone else."

In the Sacramento and Davis area, a new clinic is opening in January 2014 to help parents who don't want their children vaccinated have their form signed by a physician so their kids can go to school

It's at the University of California, Davis. In the Sacramento region, the number of children entering kindergarten with a personal exemption waiver last school year was one in 20 – double the statewide rate, according to research from the Sacramento Bee. In fact, you can check out the December 18, 2013 Sacramento Bee article by Diana Lambert, "Clinic opens for parents who oppose vaccinating children."

If you're a no-vaccinations-oriented family, you can meet with a medical practitioner in the hospital’s pediatric outpatient clinic to get the counseling and signature required to enable them to enroll their kids in school without immunizing them. That's because local schools require a form or letter signed by a physician stating why a parent doesn't want to get his or her kids vaccinated before entering public school.

The new state law, passed in August 2012, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013. It requires parents filing a personal belief exemption to also submit a document signed by a doctor or other approved medical practitioner acknowledging they have been told about the benefits and drawbacks of vaccines, notes the Sacramento Bee article. Personal belief exemptions are largely filed by parents who don't want their children vaccinated.

Some kids have severe adverse reactions to vaccines

And some families won't vaccinated for religious regions. Whatever your reason that you don't want your child vaccinated before starting school, you can now go to the clinic that can help you by signing immunization waivers.

Doctors started the clinic because numerous parents testified against the immunization law. Many parents may believe their health care teams won't sign the personal exemption form. So at least at the new UC Davis clinic, you can have your parental rights supported.

The clinic is a community service that will help parents whose own physician won't sign the exemption from vaccinations form

And also there are numerous parents who don't even have a physician, such as a primary care doctor. Most doctors are pro-immunization. You won't be able to expect vaccinations at the clinic. If you want the vaccinations for your children, you need to find a primary care physician or a public health vaccination program you can afford. But if you don't want your children vaccinated, the clinic will help.

There will be discussions about the risks and benefits. So you can get some counseling to make up your mind. The reality lies with how your child's body reacts to vaccinations. Nobody will be forced to vaccinate their kids.

It's a public service effort. If you find that your pediatrician won't sign the exemption form or deny care, at least there will be a clinic to go to for the alternative. You can find help there.

Kids with personal exemptions can enter kindergarten

In the Sacramento region, the number of children entering kindergarten with a personal exemption waiver last school year was one in 20 – double the statewide rate, according to the Sacramento Bee newspaper's research. That new law requiring vaccinations before kids can go to school may increase the number of vaccinations.

Parents aren't allowed to sign the exemption form themselves, for example, based on their religious views on vaccinations. Instead, the law says parents must visit a physician to have the exemption form signed by the doctor, not by the family. Now, at least parents will have the chance to either get their forms signed or get their child immunized by their own doctor.

The clinic will be open a half day a week at first, depending on demand. During the season when kids enroll in school such as kindergarten, the demand most likely will increase.

The staff will include a physician and a pediatric nurse practitioner, as well as clerical help. The cost of a visit is still being worked out with the hospital’s administration, but so far a recommended flat fee may be about $25.

Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, proposed the law

If you research the vaccination law, Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, proposed the law, and he's also in support of the clinic. Another alternative is to visit similar services offered in your community. The UC Davis clinic will at least offer another opportunity for parental rights. After all, if a child has a severe reaction to vaccinations, that child still wants an education.

The new clinic will help because parents have individual reasons why they don't want to vaccinate, and the law says the form must be signed by a physician. It may help solve a problem many parents have, particularly in cases where children are allergic to the vaccinations, have reactions the parents don't want to occur, or have religious or other beliefs about vaccines. Some parents have even researched which vaccines have studies behind them that detail adverse results in a number of children.

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