Thursday, January 14 2010 5:26 PM EST2010-01-14 22:26:31 GMT
Although the swine flu vaccine is widely available, the state health department says the highest number of confirmed cases are among young adults. However, it appears that those between 18 and 24 are the least likely to be vaccinated.More >>
Monday, December 14 2009 6:48 PM EST2009-12-14 23:48:57 GMT
Doctors offices and emergency rooms are reporting fewer swine flu cases. But health officials say now is not the time to underestimate the illness.More >>
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -
It has become one of the most controversial decisions a parent can make in the life of a young child. In order to enter kindergarten or a licensed day care, children must receive a battery of vaccinations.
But more and more parents are deciding to opt out.
There is no legal authority compelling a parent to vaccinate their children, but there are so many important aspects of a child's life that require immunizations to participate.
In Dr. Susan Pillsbury David's Richmond pediatric practice, she fields a question or concern about vaccines maybe once or twice a week.
"There is a lot of misinformation out there about complications and side effects of vaccines that are pretty scary," she said.
Dr. Pillsbury David always respects her patient's wishes, but makes it clear she disagrees with any decision to opt out of a vaccine.
"There are very,very adamant people on both sized of the issue," she said.
The debate over vaccines has risen to a heavy pitch as the list of required shots grows and the rumors and examples of vaccines gone wrong is more easily spread through the internet. It is a battle doctors like Pillsbury David fight every day.
"Truthfully if you put in immunizations and side effects the first few pages are from anti-immunization groups," she said.
Some of that material is posted by Alan Philips, a North Carolina attorney who has dedicated his professional life to helping people find legal ways out of vaccinating their kids.
"It is a very complicated issue," Philips said. "If you look beneath the surface you're going to find a lot of things that are going to bring up questions."
Philips is a father, and has extensively research vaccine use in the U.S. What he discovered had him worried that most shots were unnecessary.
"The official government statistics reveal that 90 to 95% of infectious disease decline, preceded vaccines," he said.
But Pillsbury David doesn't need to look much further than her own experience to see the value of vaccines. When her practice started 30 years ago there was no vaccine for bacterial meningitis.
"We were seeing cases of meningitis all the time," she recalled. "And it's gone, it's absolutely gone."
But that doesn't stop the questions from parents worried that their kid is the one who will have a reaction that leads to a debilitating problem. Doctor Pillsbury David believes that risk from coming down with an illness like the measles or whopping cough, far outweighs the minimal risk a vaccine may present.
Philips argues that each parent should be able to make that decision for themselves, and without the government's interference. An interference he believes is growing.
"It is a very aggressive pro-vaccine agenda that we are seeing play out in the state legislatures (across the country)," Phillips said.
Ultimately, the decision does still rest with the individual parent. Of the dozens of vaccines recommended or required, parents have the right to pick and choose what they want and what they don't.
But when those questions crop up, Dr. Pillsbury David reminds patients of the 80 deaths that occurred annually before the chicken pox vaccine was discovered. Many of the deaths were people in high risk groups, but not everyone.
"There were 20 perfectly normal healthy children with no risk factors that died every year," she said. "That is 20 too many."
So much of this concern is based in a perceived link between vaccines and autism. We asked Doctor Pillsbury David directly if she believes parents should be worried about that link.