With so much focus given to childhood vaccinations as a possible cause of autism and other health issues, MMR shots have been put under the microscope by countless parents all over the country who see the vaccine as too high a risk to take when it comes to the well-being of their child. According to data by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), however, vaccines including MMR and MMRV have no proven link to autism and should therefore be given priority when it comes to keeping everyone safe.
As a preventative measure guarding against measles, mumps, rubella, and even the chicken pox, it has long been a practice of pediatricians to stress the need for MMR and MMRV vaccines in babies and young children. But is there really a need, or has all the hype been overkill? Can we simply hope for the best and believe that our children will stay healthy, even without the vaccine?
“Unvaccinated children can be exposed to measles when others choose not to vaccinate their own children... and in some cases, children who have a medical condition are unable to vaccinate, which puts them at direct risk, as well.”
- Dr. Barbara A. Aquino
You could, but it’s a gamble. A very, very dangerous one whose risks aren’t worth taking, especially when you look at the facts. Google it, and you’ll find that measles is a highly contagious—and even deadly—disease that stems from a virus and is released into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Up to two hours later, the virus is still airborne, which means that if you’re breathing that air, you’re being put at risk. It’s so contagious, in fact, that findings from the CDC show that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people around them will also become infected if they are not protected.
Protected—as in, vaccinated. In the 50-plus years that it’s been used, the MMR vaccine has had overwhelming evidence proving its safety and efficacy. Statistics from the CDC show that two doses are about 97 percent effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93 percent effective. With so much speaking for it, why would any parent not want to give their child the greatest odds of staying free from the disease?
“Unvaccinated children can be exposed to measles when others choose not to vaccinate their own children,” says Dr. Barbara A. Aquino, M.D., FAAP, who owns Aquino Pediatrics in Clarksville. A strong advocate for childhood vaccinations, Dr. Aquino urges parents to consider the risks that not vaccinating can pose to others. “Many ‘preventable’ diseases that were previously considered rare are reoccurring in our country because of the anti-vaccine movement; and in some cases, children who have a medical condition are unable to vaccinate, which puts them at direct risk, as well.”
As a parent, you know that being forewarned is forearmed. And if you’re struggling over whether to make an appointment to get your child vaccinated, you need to know complications you could be facing if you don’t. Much like many other conditions, measles starts with fever. The fever progresses to a cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Next, a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out, starting at the head and spreading to the rest of the body. Children under the age of five and adults over the age of 20 are more likely to suffer from complications, the most common of which are ear infections that can sometimes lead to hearing loss and diarrhea. More serious complications include pneumonia—an infection of the lungs—and encephalitis—swelling of the brain that can lead to convulsions and even cause deafness or intellectual disabilities. Both could lead to hospitalization and death.
They’re hard facts to consider, but extremely important ones, and your pediatrician will be the first to tell you that your first line of defense is vaccination, beginning at the age of 12 to 15 months.
So just who faces the greatest risk?
Children under the age of five
Adults 20 years old and above
Individuals with compromised immune systems
As you decide whether or not to vaccinate your own child, take a hard look at the facts and discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. The more you know, the better you’ll feel about your decision.
Meet The Expert: Barbara A. Aquino, M.D., FAAP
Barbara A. Aquino, M.D., FAAP is the owner of Aquino Pediatrics. She is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics since 1996 and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Tennova Healthcare Clarksville and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and has special interests in adolescent medicine. She promotes good health to her patients and keeping children current on their vaccines. She feels that any opportunity may be a good chance to immunize her patients.