By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

Two newspaper reports last week showed the dichotomy that exists in attitudes about mandating vaccines for children.

On February 15, the Wall Street Journal reported that more pediatricians are turning away families who refuse to have their children receive immunizations.

Day 4 measles rash/ CDC, via Wikimedia Commons

The next day, USA Today reported that several states are considering changing laws that currently allow parents to opt out of mandatory vaccines only for religious reasons, and extending the opt-out to include “philosophical reasons.” These reasons invariably come back to parental fears that vaccines put their children at high risk for autism. (See the our November 2011 report on what fueled this controversy.)

Highly publicized resurgences of measles and pertussis seem to have done little to change some parents’ mindsets about the need for immunizations. Has the success of the vaccines campaigns lulled some into a false sense of security—that the “risks” of vaccines, though unproven, are more dangerous than the diseases or their complications?

I shared in an editorial a story of a childhood friend who was left paralyzed in his lower extremities from contracting polio in childhood. And a cousin has a child, now almost 40 years old, who was left blind and speechless from encephalitis following measles contracted when she was five years old.

Cases like these are rarely seen anymore, but will they become more commonplace with more parents refusing to let their children receive vaccines? These are very real risks that many don’t think about. We need to continue to educate parents on the science that supports vaccine administration.

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