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The pros and cons of vaccinating children

Measles vaccination
Measles vaccination
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

To vaccinate or not that is the question. All 50 states require vaccinations of children attending public schools. All 50 states also offer some form of exemption for vaccinations. Medical exemptions are offered in all states, 20 states offer philosophical exemptions and West Virginia and Mississippi allow religious exemptions. As of 2009, data indicates that the national average for vaccinations for children attending public schools of education was at 95.4%.

Proponents of vaccinating children argue that overall the benefits diminish the risks of vaccination. Deaths from German measles (rubella), diphtheria and whooping cough are avoided via vaccinations. Proponents add that the development and application of vaccinations is one of the most valued public health practices of the 20th century. Vaccinations have saved thousands of infants since their inception but proponents recognize that there are risks to those being vaccinated.

Opponents suggest that such risks can be avoided entirely as the immune system can manage most infections on its own. Opponents add that most of the targeted childhood diseases are not life threatening and that exposing children to potential side-effects is totally avoidable by not vaccinating. Side-effects such as allergies, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, Guillain-Barre Syndrome and sudden infant death syndrome have all been implicated and can all be avoided.

According to 2003 data from the Pediatric Academic Society vaccinations in the United States prevent about 33,000 deaths annually and prevent over 10-million infections each year. In contrast, the federal government reported that since 1990, 30,000 cases of side-effects have been reported with 13% categorized as serious. Serious was defined as causing permanent disability, life-threatening illness or death. Since 2001, 5,500 cases have been reported to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program specifically suggesting a causal relationship between vaccinations and the onset of an autism spectrum disorder.

There you have it. The pros and cons for vaccinating children. As a parent, if you have concerns vaccinating your child, look into an exemption if it is appropriate, legal and applicable. If not, then having your child vaccinated may be your only recourse if you want your child to register for public school.