Parents not vaccinating their children

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In what some see as a troubling sign, there is a growing number of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Now, some health care officials are concerned that this may lead to a resurgence of contagious disease.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question and the topic of today’s immunization workshop addressing the way in which nurses and other medical professionals can constructively counteract anti-vaccine sentiment.

In the past, vaccination rates were in excess of 95 percent in Sarasota County. Now, there is an alarming drop in what’s known as Herd Immunity in Sarasota and throughout the United States.

“When one chooses not to vaccinate their children they're leaving them at great risk for getting the diseases. Some of them if not deadly can be very detrimental," says Donna Keith of the Sarasota County Health Department.

She says the growing anti-vaccine sentiment started with a 1998 study in the UK that reported a link between autism ADN vaccines, in particular the MMR vaccine and that this information has been refuted. “It’s very important for us to recognize that the vaccine preventable diseases haven't gone away."

But some parents are not convinced. Kimberly Sylvester has three children ages 3, 6 and ten. Although her older two have been vaccinated, she has chosen not to follow suggested guidelines regarding immunization, here's why. "My oldest was vaccinated because he was already vaccinated when we adopted him, our second child was only partially vaccinated and our third child was a biological child and I chose against vaccination because there were not enough statistics to support vaccination."

But what is the effect on the community as a whole when people opt out of immunization? "What that does is leaves all of us more vulnerable to the diseases and there are some children who are sick, people who have leukemia or some other diseases where they're not able to have some of the vaccines or who may respond less aggressively to the vaccines if they do receive them those children are at extreme risk."

But Sylvester is not convinced. "I did not feel that vaccination is the tell-tale end all to prevent childhood disease. Also I feel that in preventing one thing, we are causing another problem."

John Irwins’ 2-year-old has been immunized, but he says his wife calls the shots. "My wife is an RN and she has done all the research and she feels it’s better to do it.

Jenine Rolfe has opted not to give her son Jason all of the vaccinations. She says her concerns and decisions are because the risks outweigh the benefits. "We do know some families that have children with autism they did get a vaccination and they do feel that the vaccinations may be part of the whole development of the disease."

But, is there a clear cut yes or no to the direct link to autism? "Yes, it is extremely clear that vaccines have nothing to do with it," says Keith.

Both the medical professionals and parents feel strongly about immunization, and while the message from the CDC is that the benefits outweigh the risk, for some parents it’s not a risk that they will take.