Vaccines are controversial in the special needs community. There is a strong feeling among families who have a child with autism that vaccines may be responsible for the condition. While the vast majority of the research has proven that this is not the case, it's natural that parents may be concerned and even delay vaccinations.
Recently, health officials have warned that unvaccinated American tourists attending the Olympic summer games can bring measles to the United States. Since large numbers of American travelers will visit London, Poland, and the Ukraine, the risk for measles infection increases because the virus is much more common in Europe. There have been 26,000 people infected with measles, as well as eight deaths.
So, this is a good time to reevalute your child's vaccine situation. Most children, even those with special needs, will not be harmed by vaccines. However, there are some things to consider before having your child with special needs vaccinated.
Allergies are the first consideration. If your child is allergic to anything in the vaccine, then you will have to discuss your options with your child's doctor. Sometimes, a different vaccine schedule is suggested, and sometimes the allergic child will not be able to receive that particular vaccine. The substances in vaccines that are common allergens are bakers yeast (contained in Hepatitis B vaccine), eggs (in the flu vaccine), gelatin (in the MMR and chickenpox vaccine), latex (in most vaccines in a rubber syringe), and some antibiotics (in chickenpox, MMR, and polio vaccines).
The medical conditions that may pose risks in vaccinating are: asthma (spray flu vaccine), blood disorders (all vaccines), heart conditions (spray flu vaccine), HIV/AIDS (chickenpox, MMR, spray flu vaccine, rotavirus), cerebral palsy (diptheria tetanus and pertussis), Guillain-Barre syndrome (diptheria tetanus and pertussis), developmental delays (diptheria tetanus and pertussis), and seizure disorders (diptheria tetanus and pertussis).
If there are special circumstances, such as blood transfusions, chemotherapy, immunosuppressive therapy, radiation treatment, or stem-cell transplant, consult with your doctor before any vaccinations. Medications, too, can interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccine. If your child is taking antibiotics, therapeutic aspirin treatment, or steroids, this is another issue to discuss with your child's doctor.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been involved in a global effort, dubbed the Measles Initiative, to fight measles. For more information, the Center for Disease Control is a good place to get information. Locally, in Miami, contact the Miami-Dade Health Department.