A local doctor shares insights as to why it's foolish not to vaccinate your children.
Measles in Tennessee?
In 1998, a British doctor published an article in a distinguished medical journal based upon a study that included only 12 children. The doctor’s claim? Vaccines cause autism. Only it’s not true. They don’t.
In May 2014, five cases of measles were reported in Tennessee: in Madison, Gibson, Hardeman, Hamilton and Shelby counties — yet those cases hardly made a blip on our local radar. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, it was the first time measles had been reported here in three years. Deemed eradicated from the United States in 2000, occasional outbreaks can and do occur when people traveling overseas return and spread it among the unvaccinated. Anne Schuchat, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters recently that with regard to the Disneyland outbreak of late, “we assume someone got infected overseas, visited the parks and spread the disease to others.”
Perhaps because of the Disney’s cachet the outbreak took on national proportions, rekindling the vaccination debate among experts and parents. Some “Anti-Vaxxers” still hold fast to the idea that vaccines cause disorders — like autism.
“It is widely accepted by the medical community that there is NO higher incidence of autism spectrum disorders among children who have been vaccinated than among children who have not,” says Elizabeth Burgos, M.D., a board certified family physician with Vanderbilt Medical Group who has been in practice in for more than 25 years.
“We have been blessed in this country with access to vaccines that other countries only dream of,” Burgos says. “Children across the world are dying from measles and we must not let it resurge here in the United States when it is preventable,” she adds.
While Tennessee hasn’t reported any cases thus far, “It is reasonable to believe that it is just a matter of time before Tennessee will also report a case due to the highly infectious nature of this virus,” Burgos adds. “Measles spreads quickly among unvaccinated people and can spread quickly from state to state.”
Withholding Vaccines Very Risky
Measles, the acute upper respiratory virus that’s extremely contagious, infects an estimated 20 million people worldwide each year of whom 146,000 will die. Until the measles vaccine was licensed in the United States in 1963, Burgos says, an average of 549,000 measles cases and nearly 500 measles deaths were reported here. Even after several large studies were conducted overthrowing the 1998 notion that vaccines were related to autism, parents continued to be wary of them, even though nothing substantiated the idea.
Parents need to understand the grave risks of withholding vaccinations from their children, Burgos says.
“They are not only opening up their children to potentially fatal or disabling diseases, but they are also putting other children at risk who cannot receive live vaccines for medical reasons,” she says. Children, for example, who have leukemia or organ transplants and who can’t receive live vaccinations depend on the communities in which they live to be free from these diseases.
The Local Report
Burgos urges parents to vaccinate their children. While the incidences of unvaccinated children is low in Middle Tennessee (kindergartners average between 2.5 and 3.5 percent in Williamson County — higher than neighboring counties, with Davidson reporting only 0.76 percent), Burgos remains firm.
“Let us keep in mind that if we as a community do not remain vaccinated against measles, it will be the most vulnerable among us who will suffer. This includes our babies younger than 12 months of age.”