In the United States, especially in the Pacific Northwest where I am from, there is growing resistance from some parents towards vaccinating their children. Not just wether or not to get a flu shot, but resistance to any vaccines at all. It was actually here in China that I first met expats who are adamantly opposed to vaccines, though for a variety of different concerns.
Over the past several weeks, National Public Radio (NPR) has aired a number of stories related to the question of vaccinations, but two have been particularly illuminating on the subject. The first story, Report: Vaccines are Safe, Hazards Few and Far Between, is about a review of the evidence from the Institute of Medicine that examined previous research findings looking for adverse effects from common childhood vaccines. NPR summed up the report by stating, “Vaccines do come with risks for trouble, but problems are generally rare, according to a new review of the evidence from the Institute of Medicine.” The complete report from the Institute of Medicine can be viewed here.
The second NPR story is simply titled How Does the CDC Determine Vaccine Schedules? In this interview with Dr. Carol Baker, chair of the Center for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, the resistance of parents to provide their children with vaccines is discussed and Dr. Baker provides some perspective as to why she thinks that resistance is growing. One observation she makes is that the current generation of parents, such as myself, did not grow up during epidemics, like the polio epidemic in the 1950s. Since we have not experienced the magnitude of such problems, we do not perceive the need for the vaccinations. In short, the vaccination program worked so well, now some people don’t think we need them.
These stories reminded me of my time living in Cambodia and the many youth and young adults who I encountered that were stricken by polio in their childhood. It was an experience that definitely shaped my attitude as a parent towards vaccinations.