To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

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Updated on May 14, 2014

There's a debate raging across the nation that has nothing to do with elections, though it does have something to do with government. It's a debate that has been raging for years and, though it may seem to boil down to a single question, it has more than just two sides. It's the vaccination debate.

If you think the only question being argued is "to vaccinate or not to vaccinate," you're mistaken. In fact, there are a number of questions being raised; those about a parent's right to choose what's right for her child, those about informed consent and those about the ethics of government-mandated vaccination programs. Then there is the most important question of all:  Does your child face more harm from the side effects of vaccines than he would from the disease against which he is being vaccinated?

Surprisingly enough the vaccination debate isn't as new as it may seem. It's been going on for centuries. Even Benjamin Franklin agonized over whether or not to vaccinate his children, writing in his autobiography, "I lost one of my sons... by the smallpox... I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of the parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen."

Like the parents Franklin speaks of, today's parents are worried about the effects of "inoculations."  With anecdotal evidence connecting the mercury in vaccines to an increase in autism and children now being required to have almost 25 shots before first grade, it's a valid concern. Though mercury, the ingredient linked to neurological concerns, is no longer used in high levels in vaccines, other ingredients, like aluminium, may cause problems when too many shots containing it are given at the same time.

Jane Orient, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), feels that parents and physicians are both in tough situations. The AAPS, while not anti-vaccine, is against mandatory childhood vaccination. "Our children face the possibility of death or serious long-term adverse effects from mandated vaccines that aren’t necessary or that have very limited benefits," said Orient in a release announcing the group's resolution calling for an end to vaccine mandates. She also is concerned about how enforcing vaccine mandates can affect physician-patient relationships. If a physician is forced by state mandates to insist upon vaccination, he's not in a position to listen to parental concerns about whether or not vaccination is the right choice for a child.

For some parents leaving their children "un-vaxed" is a choice due to personal or religious beliefs which, with proper documentation, is respected enough in most states (the exceptions being West Virginia and Mississippi) to allow children to attend school without being immunized and without legal  repercussions.  For some children, like those with compromised immune systems, being "vaxed" isn't always the right choice or, at least using the normal schedule of immunizations isn't.

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