Ninety percent of parents vaccinate their kids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But listen to the media and you might think otherwise. Ill-informed anti-vaxxers, including Jenny McCarthy (who has even been given her newspaper own column), and Louise Kuo Habakas (who New Jersey governor Chris Christie has met with)…are handed center stage and allowed to speak for us.
New Jersey is suffering the consequences of this kind of vaccine refusal. Overall vaccination rates here are among the lowest in the nation. Meanwhile, we’re in the middle of huge outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) and measles. On the last day of the school year, I was informed that my daughter’s elementary school had a confirmed case of pertussis, which has a 1-in-250 fatality rate in young babies.
It is understandable that moms and dads are apprehensive about vaccines. A single Web search on the topic leads to dozens of seemingly impressive websites that seek to advance the argument that vaccines are dangerous and ineffective. But none of this criticism has real merit.
Vaccines are an amazing accomplishment and a tremendous boon to humanity. Today, almost no parent will go through the hell of watching a child go deaf from measles, enter an iron lung from polio, or struggle to breathe as a result of diphtheria. It wasn’t improved sanitation that has vastly reduced haemophilus influenzae type b (HIB) deaths or decreased the number of children who need liver transplants as a result of hepatitis B. The vaccines introduced in the 1980s did that, yet the media and people in power unfortunately like to pretend otherwise.
But efforts have been made to combat the work of the anti-vaccine lobby. In 2009, New Jersey pediatricians formed the New Jersey Immunization Network. The NJIN is a wonderful organization that seeks to help increase vaccine rates and awareness in this state. Parents across the state need to join with the NJIN, step forward, and boldly and proudly state the truth about vaccines.
The truth? Without vaccines, thousands of kids in this state alone would die each year. We, the ordinary pro-vaccine parents of New Jersey, need to say so without being censored or forced to share a podium with those who attempt to scare our fellow parents away from vitally important public health measures. The very safety of our community depends on it.