The Current Effect of Non-vaccination
Vaccination entails the administration of attenuated “antigens, toxoids or any chemical from a disease-causing microbe” to a healthy individual with an aim of inducing an immune response to any subsequent infection by the same infectious agent (Davies, Chapman & Leask, 2002). Vaccination is an important intervention for controlling diseases that caused widespread illness, disability, and death. Such diseases include mumps, measles, and whooping cough. However, due to increased global travelling and the recent laxity on the side of parents to immunize their children, the recent successful efforts at eradicating immunizable diseases are being erased by the resurgence of these diseases.
There are many consequences that a parent exposes a child to by declining or even delaying immunization. The failure to immunize a child renders his or her immune system weak and vulnerable. According to Diekema (2005), an unvaccinated child experiences health differences from vaccinated ones throughout its life and in case of sickness may require “very unique medication that may not be available or unknown to care givers” (p.141). The situation becomes worse for women who were not vaccinated while young. In the event that they conceive, they become vulnerable to diseases such as rubella that may complicate their pregnancy. In addition, they may give birth to babies with disorders such as congenital rubella syndrome that is often associated with heart defects, retarded development, and deafness (Diekema, 2005).
Furthermore, the failure to vaccinate a child puts others at risk in case the child becomes ill. Special categories of people are usually not immunized, especially those with immune deficiency defects. Such people solely rely on vaccination of the public for their risk of contracting diseases to be lowered. Thus, refusal to immunize healthy children puts such immunocompromised groups at a high risk of infection. The ultimate and undesirable consequence of not receiving immunization is the threat of death.
Non-vaccination of children not only bears negatively on their health, but also affects them socially. For instance, in case of an outbreak of a disease “the unvaccinated children may be isolated, excluded or put under quarantine” (Maldonado, 2002, p. 2). Thus, the child may be unable to go about daily business freely, a scenario that would affect even the parent.
Why they do not Vaccinate
Despite the dangers of non-vaccination, many parents do opt out of vaccination programs due to several reasons. One reason is the safety concerns. Lack of proper information about vaccines contributes to the problem. For example, Haelle (2016) notes that “misconception that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine might cause autism” prevents most parents from seeking vaccination (para. 4). Parents decide to skip vaccinating their children lamenting the number of vaccines that their children have to receive over a short period. Others assume the role of a physician and spread the vaccine regimen over a long period claiming their children’s immunity to be too immature to receive all the vaccines at once.
Concern over the content of vaccines arises with claims that vaccines contain toxins with adverse effects in the body. Examples of these substances include mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde with potential effects as neurotoxicity, redness at the injection site and allergies (Calandrillo, 2014). Another argument held by some parents is that the side effects of some vaccines are more hazardous than the diseases being controlled. Some parents use the occasional failure of some vaccines, e.g. the flu vaccine to doubt the effectiveness of the entire vaccination campaign. Some take the existence of the law courts to address claims by individuals who have suffered health problems because of vaccination as a good indicator of danger posed by vaccines. Their point of argument being that there would have been no need for such an institution had the vaccines been completely safe as the vaccination advocates claim (Wilson & Marcuse, 2001).
The view held by others is that vaccines are just a way for physicians and drug manufacturers to make a lot of money. However, this view is a false one because apart from the pharmaceutical companies making profit, immunization programs have been carried out globally at no or limited financial obligation on the side of the patient. The subject of violation of one’s right, religious, or personal beliefs also ensues. Every government or state has its own unique vaccination laws with a common global goal of protecting the whole society from immunizable diseases. Thus, to uphold a high level of protection in the community the laws sometimes prevail over individual rights, beliefs, and culture (Calandrillo, 2014).
How We Might Stop This
Though there is resistance by some parents to vaccinate their children, there is similarly a common ground for parents, physicians, and vaccine manufacturers on which an agreement can be struck, i.e. all parties want the children to grow up healthy. According to Leask et al. (2012), an important factor that influences immunization decisions is the “parents’ interaction with health care givers” (p. 2). They allege further that it is not only enough to provide information or persuade parents but there is a need to have an effective interaction that can successfully address the root of the reasons behind vaccine refusal (Leask et al., 2012). Davies, Chapman, and Leask (2002) hold similar views and suggest, “To handle parents’ vaccine fears, communication process that establishes a good longtime relationship between the doctors and parents should be efficient” (p. 24).
Calandrillo, S.P. (2014). Vanishing Vaccinations: Why are so many Americans opting out of Vaccinating their Children? PLOS One, 37(2), 353-440.
Davies, P., Chapman, S. & Leask, J. (2002). Antivaccination Activism on the World Wide Web. Archives of Disability Children, 87(1), 22-25.
Diekema, D.S. (2005). Responding to Parental Refusals of Immunization of Children. AAP Gateway, 115(5), 140-149.
Haelle, T. (2016). 8 Reasons Parents don’t Vaccinate and Why They Should. Web.
Leask, J., Paul, K., Cath, J., Francine, C., Hellen, B. & Greg, R. (2012).
Communicating with Parents about Vaccination: a Framework for Health Professionals. BMC Pediatrics, 12(154), 1-16.
Maldonado, Y.A. (2002). Current controversies in Vaccination: Vaccine Safety. Journal of American Medical Association, 288(1), 3155-3158.
Wilson, C.B. & Marcuse, E.K. (2001). Vaccine Safety-Vaccine Benefits: Science and the Public’s Perception. National Review Immunology, 1(7), 160-165.