The New Challenges of Immunization
As measles cases skyrocketed in 2008 because more parents
opted not to immunize, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
unleashed a major push to promote complete and timely vaccination
of kids of all ages. But when the economy took a steep dive as
new and costly vaccines have continued to be added to the
recommended list, doctors, health plans and parents are now
struggling to overcome barriers to immunization.
Though the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2008 that
global measles deaths declined nearly 75%, the United States saw
the highest rate of the potentially fatal disease in more than a
decade (since 1996). And the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) said it was likely tied to the refusal of some
parents to immunize their kids (particularly with the measles,
mumps, rubella [or MMR] vaccine) because of unfounded fears of a
link to the development of autism - often perpetuated by misleading
media reports, TV shows, and websites. Study after study has found
no link between autism and any single immunization, combination
vaccination (like MMR), single vaccinations given at the same time,
or the mercury-containing vaccine preservative thimerosal.
And for parents who think their personal choice not to vaccinate
couldn't really affect anyone else (particularly babies, the
elderly, and kids with compromised immune systems), it can.
Consider this: In 2008 federal health officials were able to trace
a wave of measles cases among unimmunized US children back to just
one 12-year-old boy from Japan who traveled to the United States
for the Little League World Series, unaware that he had the highly
contagious disease. Yet the current economic downturn is making it
harder for such an important public health initiative to stay on
course. A late 2008 study found that many doctors are feeling the
financial strain of purchasing, storing, and administering vaccines
to the point that some are even opting to stop offering them
altogether in their offices.
What to Watch:
Immunizations remain a crucial tool for keeping kids - and
grown-ups - healthy and free from some historically devastating
diseases, like measles, whooping cough, and the flu. That's why
in 2008 federal health officials started urging flu vaccinations
for all kids 6 months of age and older. And the AAP will likely
continue its massive mission encouraging moms and dads to make sure
kids are immunized on schedule from infancy through
But continuation of the economic downturn in 2009 may have a
negative effect on immunization efforts. For example, some vaccines
(like Gardisil, which protects against human papillomavirus, or
HPV) don't come cheap, which means more and more doctors may
find it no longer financially feasible to offer some vaccines in
their practices. Plus, as more parents lose their jobs (and their
health coverage) it could be even tougher to come up with
out-of-pocket expenses to have their children immunized.
But, as countless studies show, when fewer people immunize their
kids, diseases (like measles) that were practically gone start to
gain traction again. That why it's only safe to stop
vaccinations for a particular disease once that disease has been
totally wiped out worldwide, as in the case of smallpox. So, before
deciding to skip or delay any vaccine (for whatever reason)
it's wise for parents to give their doctor and health insurance
provider a call before every routine check-up - to find out which
vaccines are routinely recommended and which will actually be
available and covered.
A Kid's Guide to Shots
Who Needs a Flu Shot?
The Flu Vaccine
Vaccine Against Genital Warts and Cervical Cancer
News - CDC: Flu Vaccine Now Recommended for School-Age Kids and
News - CDC: Measles Outbreaks May Be Tied to Parents' Choice
Not to Vaccinate
News - CDC Warns of Measles Outbreaks in the U.S.
Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations
Is the Flu Vaccine a Good Idea for Your Family?
News - Meningitis Vaccine Can Save Kids' Lives
Your Child's Immunizations
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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