States Easing Up, Pediatricians Buckling Down on Childhood Immunizations

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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2016-11-21T13:10:41+00:00 February 21st, 2012|Nursing|10 Comments
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. […] States Easing Up, Pediatricians Buckling Down on Childhood Immunizations ( […]

  2. Matthew Gatheringwater February 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    This is an issue with currency for me, as 8 cases of pertussis have just been confirmed in the small town in which I live. This is bad enough, but I’m really frustrated that some local “holistic” nurses and a naturopath are using the outbreak to spread their wacky anti-vax views. I’m for educating, rather than “firing” families who don’t vaccinate, but I think healthcare workers should be held to a higher standard.

  3. jm February 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Jennifer: What is the source for your information? That’s not the usual historical understanding among experts. For example, on the page below put together by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, we find the following quote:

    “Improved hygiene and nutrition, among other factors, can certainly lower the incidence of some diseases. Data documenting the number of cases of a disease before and after the introduction of a vaccine, however, demonstrate that vaccines are overwhelmingly responsible for the largest drops in disease rates. Measles cases, for example, numbered anywhere from 300,000 to 800,000 a year in the United States between 1950 and 1963, when a newly licensed measles vaccine went into widespread use. By 1965, U.S. measles cases were beginning a dramatic drop. In 1968 about 22,000 cases were reported (a drop of 97.25% from the height of 800,000 cases in just three years); by 1998, the number of cases averaged about 100 per year or less. A similar post-vaccination drop occurred with most diseases for which vaccines are available.”

  4. Jennifer Miller Sullivan February 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    and it is extremely irresponsible of this author to say that “vaccine related injuries are not proven.” That is such an ignorant statement by someone who OBVIOUSLY has not done their research, and simply heard Nancy Snyderman on GMA talk about how safe vaccines are. I have sooooo much research on the devastating side effects of vaccines. It is so frustrating sometimes to argue with parents and health care professionals about vaccines when the evidence and facts are right in front of their face…..yet they are too proud and ignorant to do their own research!!! This practice has been simply passed down from generation to generation with people being too scared to question it……and now that we are supposed to give out kids over 38 shots before they turn 5……and the autism rate has jumped over 2000% in the past 20 years, now people are finally asking WHY????? People also want to say “well mercury isn’t in vaccines anymore, so it can’t cause autism” Well guess what….ALUMINUM still is!!!! Aluminum is also a heavy metal and it HAS been proven that heavy metals DO cause brain damage. So tell me….if you inject 38 shots with aluminum in your child….what do you think it going to happen????

  5. Jennifer Miller Sullivan February 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    to answer your question…..vaccines aren’t working because they have never been PROVEN to work! it is a flawed concept that nobody has questioned for decades! it has never been proven in any lab that when you inject a human with a dead virus, that human will then build antibodies and later on in life will fight off that very disease. These vaccines were introduced to America during a time when A LOT of things were changing that dealt with our personal hygiene and cleanliness.
    Try to grasp this fact: In 1900 there were 13.3 deaths per 100,000 people in America due to measles. In 1957 that number had dropped to 0.03 deaths per 100,000 people (a 97% decline!!!!) And guess what…..1957 was 8 YEARS BEFORE THE MEASLES VACCINE!!!! Explain that one to me!!! I’ll explain it very simply….there was something else that was getting rid of measles, which had nothing to do with vaccines! The problem was that when measles and all these other vaccines were on the decline, the vaccines were invented shortly after! This made the medical community “believe” it was the vaccines that were doing it! Once again….it is a FLAWED system and nobody has looked at the REAL data and statistics about these diseases. I have two children who are not vaccinated, nor ever given antibiotics and NEVER WILL! They have NEVER been sick (and that isnt an exaggeration) and it is so sad that all their friends at school get sick ALL THE TIME, and they are the ones who are vaccinated!!!

  6. JParadisiRN February 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Clarification: It was well documented that none of the children mentioned in my comment had received vaccination for measles or pertussis.

  7. jm February 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    From the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: A page listing some common misconceptions about vaccines, including the idea mentioned by a previous commenter that most of the people contracting a particular disease have already been vaccinated against it:

  8. Sesasha February 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    The very real problem though is that most of the people contracting these diseases have been vaccinated against them. The vaccines don’t seem to be doing the job they were designed to do. Outbreaks of measles and pertussis are happening in populations with over a 90% vaccination rate, but small pox was eradicated with about a 10% vaccination rate world wide. Why aren’t the vaccines working?

  9. Sam February 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Let’s not also forget that modern medicine has many wonderful interventions now, as compared to just a couple decades ago when these diseases were not able to be tested as efficiently, if at all. If , instead of firing patients, physicians would care to educate parents on how to look and seek care for signs and symptoms of vaccine preventable diseases in their unvaccinated children, everyone would come out winning. Heck, with the number of kids contracting these illnesses that HAVE had the vaccine, every parent should be aware of the signs and symptoms. Vaccines in themselves have also given that false sense of security you mentioned.

  10. JParadisiRN February 21, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I will never forget the shift, years ago, I was charge nurse in a busy PICU, and the ED nurse who called asking for beds. She needed six. They were coding a child with “an unidentified red rash and high fever.” Several other children were also showing signs of the mystery illness, and one had already died at another hospital. The mystery illness was measles. For privacy, I won’t go into the details, but I came away from the experience heartbroken a preventable disease caused so much pain and suffering, including life altering encephalitis.

    Pertussis is making a come back in PICUs as more parents opt out of immunizations for their children. Like all health care choices, risk versus benefit must be considered in the discussion of childhood immunizations. In my opinion, the benefit outweighs the risks (if any are substantiated) by far.

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