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During the past few decades, there has been an ongoing debate among parents and health professionals in the United States over the safety and effectiveness of childhood vaccines. This has been a major topic in health news for such a long time that it can be difficult for people to separate what has been proven as true and what is false so they can make an informed decision.
How vaccines became a staple of health news
In 2008, Time magazine published an article explaining how vaccines went from being heralded as a medical miracle, to being the source of controversy in the healthcare community. According to the news source, ever since Edward Jenner, a country doctor in England, inoculated his son and a handful of other children against smallpox in 1796, vaccines have been growing in popularity
For decades, most parents happily had their children vaccinated, and many state laws mandated that kids entering kindergarten had to have their inoculations. Then things started to change. Parents began to have questions about vaccines that led to a sea of controversy.
"When the immune system of a baby or young child is just coming online, is it such a good idea to challenge it with antigens to so many bugs? Have the safety, efficacy and side effects of this flood of inoculations really been worked through?" according to the news source.
Then, of course, the question of whether vaccines may cause autism came up, causing a great deal of panic among parents.Though this claim was found to be false, the effect of this myth persists.
The problem with lower vaccination rates
In 2008, Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Time that the organization was noticing more outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough among intentionally unimmunized children.
"I hope they are not the beginning of a worse trend," said Schuchat, quoted by the news source.
Four years later, and the debate still rages on. The Washington Post recently reported on a study in the journal Pediatrics which estimated that 10 percent of American parents are wary of vaccines. Furthermore, the CDC recently stated that 2011 was the worst year for measles in the U.S. in 15 years, and many of the 222 cases were among children whose parents had declined to have them vaccinated.
What's the truth?
According to the CDC, before vaccines are approved for use the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that they are tested. This process can 10 years or longer, and after a product is approved the FDA and the CDC continue to monitor it for any adverse effects.
"If researchers find a vaccine may be causing a side effect, the CDC and FDA will initiate appropriate action that may include the changing of vaccine labels or packaging, distributing safety alerts, inspecting manufacturers' facilities and records, withdrawing recommendations for the use of the vaccine, or revoking the vaccine's license," the CDC states.
Therefore, if parents do their research there is little reason for them to fear that their children will develop a condition due to inoculations.
Doctors can help spread the message
An article published in the journal Human Immunology called The Clinician's Guide to the Anti-Vaccinationists' Galaxy offers some tips on how doctors can address their patients' concerns about vaccines.
The guide recommends stressing the fact that vaccines are safer today than they have ever been before. Also, there is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autoimmune conditions, and a baby's natural immune system may not be enough to protect against common disease that vaccines help prevent.
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