Study: Unvaccinated children put other kids at risk
Posted by David Brooks | Friday, August 24, 2012
New Hampshire has a good vaccination rate among its public school children, and does not allow parents to opt out of vaccines for vague personal belief reasons - only medical and religious exemptions are allowed. States that do allow personal exemptions ("I read something on the Internet that worried me and I'm counting on everybody else's vaccinations protecting my kid through herd immunity") are seeing a spike in preventable diseases.
Science News reports on a study in the American Journal of Public Health that warns of disease risks being caused by this trend. The headline says it all: "Intentionally unvaccinated students putting other children at risk." Read the article here.
Note that the nationwide spike in pertussis - whooping cough - is not necessarily related to this issue, although vaccination avoidance doesn't help. The problem with pertussis seems to be that the disease has evolved to the point that it can overcome fading immunity benefits of early childhood vaccines before we get our boosters. We need to alter the recommended schedule for pertussis boosters. I wrote about this in May.
As a bit of irony, the struggle continues in Pakistan to vaccinate against polio. (It's one of three countries where polio still exists; I traveled there in February with local Rotary folks, partly to see the efforts.) The problem there is that a few radical Muslim leader oppose vaccination as being anti-Islam or some vague Western plot. In other words, they demand personal exemptions to vaccines - and there, as here, it's the children who suffer.