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Another Preventable, Deadly Outbreak in California

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Blogger Kate Tuttle: It happens every year now, it seems: A deadly childhood disease that had been all but eradicated after the introduction of a vaccine is newly revived in our era of vaccine refusal.

The latest example comes from California, where public health officials warn that over 900 confirmed (and an additional 600 suspected) cases of pertussis -- a.k.a. whooping cough -- have put the state on track for its worst outbreak in 40 years. Five children have died so far (all infants under three months), and it's all but certain that more will die as the outbreak progresses. (The disease can be deadly at any age, but is most dangerous for the very young or otherwise fragile.)

But wait, you say: The standard vaccination schedule doesn't call for kids to get the shot that includes the pertussis vaccine until the two-month visit. How can vaccine refusal be linked to the deaths of kids too young to even be offered the vaccination? And why should anyone who got their kids vaccinated worry about those who chose not to?

It's simple, really. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, and there are always those who cannot be vaccinated because of their age or medical status. Lucky for us, though, as long as the population is mostly vaccinated (experts define "mostly" as around 93 percent or higher), then it's very rare for a disease to break out and cause illness or death. But when the vaccination rate for a community falls below that percentage -- and in some California school districts, it has fallen far below -- previously vanquished childhood diseases can break out, bringing severe illness and even death to a generation that has no memory of how deadly these diseases once were. (Before the pertussis vaccine was developed in the late 1930s, a quarter of a million children got whooping cough every year -- and the disease caused an estimated 10,000 infant deaths annually.)

Today's parents, many of whom are skeptical of modern medicine's pro-vaccination outlook, are increasingly prone to skip or delay vaccinations -- nowhere more so than in California, where some school districts report that up to 70 percent of parents have received a "personal belief exemption" that allows them to enroll their kids in public schools without vaccinating them. Not surprisingly, it's in California that many of the recent outbreaks have begun.

No matter how much you may worry about the safety of vaccines -- a worry debunked by every single legitimate scientific study that has been conducted on the subject -- you can take some actions to protect your children (and other children in your community) from pertussis. Perhaps the most useful tool, alongside vaccinating children, is vaccinating adults against the disease -- especially those who will come into contact with newborns and young infants. The March of Dimes reports that up to 80 percent of babies with whooping cough caught it from a family member, so all new parents and other caregivers of newborns should talk to their doctors about getting vaccinated against this most preventable killer of young children.


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27 comments so far | Post a comment now
XXXX June 24, 2010, 3:49 PM

Vaccinate you idiots!!!

ag June 24, 2010, 4:10 PM

There are many different completely valid reason people are not able or chose not to vaccinate their children. To suggest people who do not vaccinate are “idiots” or just following the newest bandwagon coming thru town is very ignorant. Many parents have done tons of research and for whatever reason decided to not vaccinate. The truth is we haven’t had enough time to create legitimate scientific studies. What about the rotarix recalls earlier this year? Judging each others parenting choices creates more issues and fails to solve anything.

Healthy Momma June 24, 2010, 5:52 PM

XXXX how many shots do babies/children get by the time they start kindergarten? 60 !!!! Now that’s stupid!! People who don’t eat their fruits and veggies are idiots!! Not pumping their babies blood with MERCURY. My kids aren’t and they don’t even get sick like other kids do. Get healthy or shut up!!

Krista June 24, 2010, 7:46 PM

If parents choose not to get their children vaccinated then they choose to homeschool their children and not to put them in activities and sports with the general population. I don’t need to go to a school function with my 2 month old baby and your child spreading death around. It should be law they have them to enter school! Most of us parents had all the vaccines when we were young and we turned out ok!

Kristina <---HEY June 24, 2010, 8:01 PM

What about making it a law against American’s to have drugs during pregnancy, labor and during parenthood?? You want kids? Then be the role model, start now! Or else don’t complain when your kids are followers and do things because their friends do.

Lindy June 25, 2010, 6:24 AM

My daughter is now 21 and had all the required vaccinations when she was a baby/toddler/child. She also received the chicken pox, HPV, meningitis vaccinations, plus yearly flu shots (regular & swine). She’s had no side effects and is just fine. I just don’t understand all the paranoia about getting your kids vaccinated. Just because you “know somebody” whose child had problems doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to your child.

Anonymous June 25, 2010, 6:51 AM

I think the drug companies need to look at WHY parents are not getting their children vaccinated. Stop trying to skimp on money and put the worst kinds of preservatives etc. in the vaccines. There are also way more food allergies than before (my son for one) and certain ingredients in the vaccines would not be good for one with those problems. So, instead of bashing other parents for doing something you do not agree with, realize that everyone has their reasoning for their actions- we are not doing it to put others at risk and we hope and pray we are making the best ones. We all hope that we, as parents, are making the best decisions.

Anonymous June 25, 2010, 6:53 AM

Lindy, what if it does happen to your child? You lucked out and that is great, but some are predisposed to being affected by the ingredients in these shots. Please respect others decisions on what is best for their children.

Lindy June 25, 2010, 7:19 AM

It didn’t happen and it was NEVER in my head that it would. Back in the 90s parents weren’t so paranoid about it. You can’t go through your life worrying about everything. There’s definiately a new style of parenting today and I’m glad I’m not part of it.

XXXX June 25, 2010, 7:28 AM

Did anybody see the ER episode about the parents who didn’t get their son vaccinated and it caused a small pox outbreak at the hospital?

Unknown Mom June 25, 2010, 8:59 AM

Ok u guys make me laugh you get so passionate about all these issues. LOL! Look I don’t know where you live but my kids were required to get vaccinations to be in school. The only one that was not required was the HPV vaccination. I chose not to give this vaccination to my daughter because I just don’t feel like there has been enough studies done on it. I also don’t know of anyone who has HPV and this is a new vacine that I am just not for sure about. As far as other vaccinations like the polio etc. I think those have been around long enough for us to know they work. My oldest child didn’t have to get the chicken pox vaccine because she got chicken pox before she was a year old, and I didn’t want my youngest to have the chicken pox vaccine because I have a feeling that in the long run it may not last forever and getting them as an adult is a million times harder. He had to get it anyway because it was a state requirement for him to be in school.

CS June 25, 2010, 9:03 AM

It’s understandable why some parents would choose to spread out vaccines but to skip them altogether is incredibly dangerous. You’re risking your child’s life and the lives of every child your child comes in to contact with. The hysteria surrounding vaccines has gone too far. How many more children need to die because other, older children were not vaccinated?

Anonymous June 27, 2010, 8:53 AM

@Unknown Mom— Since up to 75% of the population may have HPV, and you may not be able to tell by looking at them (even their genitals) you probably know someone with HPV..
As far as getting vaccinated goes, everyone should in my opinion… There has recently been another study that says there is no link between autism and vaccines.
For those who will get vaccinated, for adults there is a “Tdap” booster shot. It is for adults that previously recieved the “dTap” vaccine.. Most new mothers at the hospital I work in receive this vaccine unless they already have or choose not to. Most chose to get the vaccine, because for young infants that is the only way to protect them.

Melanie June 28, 2010, 7:07 PM

Read “Healing The New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies” by Kenneth Bock, M.D. & Cameron Stauth.

Toxins in the environment, including toxins from vaccines, can skew our immune systems. There are reasons instances of auto-immune diseases and autism/ADHD have risen along with the increase in required vaccines.

We had too much trust in the safety of antibiotics for a long time. Now we’re more careful with their use. We aren’t having an honest discussion about the safety of so many vaccines yet. No studies examine long term effects of multiple shots.

Jillian July 1, 2010, 2:27 PM

The same people that don’t vaccinate their kids are going to be the same ones who want to sue when their kids die of a disease that could have been prevented.

MD. DAD  July 8, 2010, 8:30 PM

I WONDER OUT OF THE 5 DEATHS HOW MANY WERE VACCINATED? CANT SEEM TO FIND THAT ONLINE. THIS IS NOT ALL ITS CRACKED UP TO BE. I WORK IN THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY AND DIDN’T HAVE MY CHILD LOADED UP! I FEAR THE DRUGS MORE THAN THE ODDS 39 MILLION PEOPLE AND 910 CASES THAT ARE POPPING UP. I WOULD CHALLENGE ALL OF YOU TO READ THE PI (PRODUCT INFORMATION) FOR EACH OF THE DRUGS IN SOME CASES THE STUDIES ALLOWED FOR DEATH TO OCCUR IN THE PATIENTS HAZARD RATIO. MOST AREN’T EVEN APPROVED FOR INFANTS. DON’T BE A SHEEPLE…. DO US A REAL FAVOR AND WASH YOUR HANDS MORE!

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