By Julianne Brock, FNP-C
As a family nurse practitioner, I get many questions from parents about whether to vaccinate their infant or child.
While I understand their concerns, my overwhelming answer is yes. It’s also important to understand the recent law changes effective next February regarding religious exemptions (noted at the end of this article).
Many myths and non-evidence-based statements have circulated around childhood vaccinations in the last two decades. The most common is that childhood vaccinations can cause autism.
The scientific community doesn’t fully understand how and why autism develops in certain children. What we DO know is that numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies have shownno link between vaccinations and autism. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study in 2013 supporting the fact that childhood vaccinations do not cause autism.
As a parent, I understand the need to protect your children from harm and/or permanent disabilities; however, vaccinations are not the source of this.
Another follow-up question I’m often asked: “What about the additives that are in vaccinations? Don’t those cause health problems?” This is a great question, and it refers to the fact that prior to 2002, several vaccinations contained the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal.
This preservative is no longer used in childhood vaccinations, except for some multi-dose vials of influenza—also, science has shown no correlation between thimerosal and autism.
I hope this education provides some guidance for parents as they make one of the most important decisions for their children. The current childhood vaccination schedule protects against over a dozen potentially life threatening diseases, which are preventable with immunizations.
Immunizing individual children also helps protect the community from the spread of highly contagious diseases such as measles. Vaccinating your children is an important conversation to have with your child’s medical provider and every parent should feel comfortable to share concerns or questions about immunizations.
New law closes loopholes
Parents should also prepare for a new law if they choose to opt out of immunizations because of non-medical reasons. It takes effect on Feb. 17, 2016.
Religious exemptions submitted prior to March 1, 2014 are no longer valid. Parents choosing a non-medical exemption will be required to submit a document showing either a signature from a health care practitioner verifying discussion of the risks and benefits of immunization or a certificate of completion of an interactive online educational video about the risks and benefits of immunization. Parents are also required to turn in documentation of immunizations by this date.
Your child’s school will have all the information you need; or you can review the law, Senate Bill 895, online.
My recommended resources for parents regarding childhood vaccinations:
Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/
American Academy of Pediatrics: www.aap.org
Healthy Children: www.healthychildren.org