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Refusal to Vaccinate Kids Caused Most Recent Disease Outbreaks, According to Study

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Yes, we’ve all heard it before–the whole debate on whether or not to vaccinate your kids. While we don’t take sides (sorry, parents), a new study was recently published confirming a groundbreaking find: Anti-vaxxers are responsible for the resurgence in the diseases.

The study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, discovered that more than half of the measles cases reported during the most recent outbreaks were in individuals who had not received the vaccine. The scientists studies 1,416 cases of measles since 2000, and found that 57% of the cases involved people with no vaccination history in general. In about 70% of those cases, the individuals weren’t vaccinated as a result of “nonmedical exemptions.”

The statistics varied when it came to pertussis, or whooping cough. In the states with the biggest recent outbreaks, 24-45% of the individuals who contracted the disease were unvaccinated, or only partially vaccinated. As a result, the researchers concluded that “the risks of vaccine refusal remain imperfectly defined.” They further stated:

“The phenomenon of vaccine refusal was associated with an increased risk for measles among people who refuse vaccines and among fully vaccinated individuals. Although pertussis resurgence has been attributed to waning immunity and other factors, vaccine refusal was still associated with an increased risk for pertussis in some populations.”

Then, in an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Matthew Davis, deputy director of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, wrote:

“What this latest comprehensive review illustrates is that individuals who refuse vaccines not only put themselves at risk for disease, it turns out that they also put others at risk too—even people who have been vaccinated before, but whose protection from those vaccinations may not be as strong as it used to be.”

Also, it’s important to note, as that even if your own kid is vaccinated, there still could be a reason to worry. Why? According to the CDC, 3% of people who receive the measles vaccine and 2% of those who receive the pertussis vaccine may still get sick, because immunity diminishes over time. Which means as you get older, you do become more at risk.

Only 15 years ago, measles was eradicated in the U.S., except for cases brought in from outside the country. In the last two years, the U.S. has seen 856 confirmed cases. While it’s obviously impossible to ascertain what the exact risks are at this point, this information is important to consider when you make choices about whether or not to vaccinate your child.


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