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The Vaccine Debate (page 3)

The Vaccine Debate

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Updated on Sep 28, 2009

Now, says Yankus, people have the luxury to worry because they have not been exposed to the risks. “Now there is a strong, forceful, poorly informed, non-scientific community of people who feel that they don’t have to immunize. As a consequence, their behavior puts everyone at risk.”

Does that mean that a parent doesn’t have a right to choose? Legally, they do. But that doesn’t mean the government hasn’t instituted hoops that parents need to jump through. Sending your child to private school is one option. Another is to apply for a religious, medical, or philosophical exemption to the rules governing public school enrollment. But, says Miller, that doesn’t stop doctors from trying to vaccinate at all costs. “Kids are not legally required to get vaccinated. But doctors may try to intimidate them and frighten them with scare tactics,” he says. Yankus says that his pediatric practice does not take patients who refuse vaccination. “I do not have any reason in this day and age to take care of diseases that are preventable,” he says, but notes that parents are welcome to make their own choice in the matter.

The consensus of the medical community is that vaccines are a safe and integral part of public and individual health, but for parents who still find themselves undecided on the issue, here are some steps to take before making your final decision:

  • Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. Bring specific examples of why you are worried about the vaccine, and listen to what he or she has to say.
  • Know your rights. It is not illegal to refuse vaccination. However, public schools require that children be vaccinated as a prerequisite for enrollment. Exemptions for medical and religious reasons are usually available, and exemptions for philosophical ones less so.
  • Be informed, and know the research. Stories from other parents can be persuasive, but pay attention to scientific studies that show reproducible results rather than anecdotal evidence.
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