I grew up at the tail end of an era when killers of children lurked around every corner. We knew who they were, but we couldn’t stop them. We lived in dread, and when we left the house and went out into the world there was nothing we could do but pray. These killers had names like Polio, Whooping Cough, Measles, Mumps. They took the lives of thousands of children each year in one epidemic after another.
When I was a kid, everyone knew a family who was the victim of one of these monsters. A parent whose child died of whooping cough. A neighbor whose children had the measles. And, worst of all, someone whose child was paralyzed, and in an “iron lung” battling for his or her young life due to having been infected with polio. The word “polio” struck fear into the hearts of parents and children alike. On every school yard you could see children who limped on withered legs from a battle with polio – and these were the lucky ones – they survived. In 1952, the year I was born, there were 60,000 cases of polio, and 3,000 deaths.
Whooping cough (Pertussis) is another killer of children. It is an upper-respiratory disease that attacks babies, and it can be deadly. It strikes without warning and can last several weeks. Its calling card is a horrifying wheezing-type cough that chokes its little victims, sometimes to death.
But during my childhood, a seeming miracle happened. Doctors found that through the use of a vaccine, children could be given immunity from certain illnesses. Thereafter, school children all over the country were vaccinated en masse, and by doing so, these deadly diseases were unable to spread. By creating what is known as a “herd immunity,” polio, whooping cough, measles, and mumps were eradicated. They practically disappeared from the face of the earth.
But now they’re back.
Why? Because of the mistaken impression – unsupported by the evidence but spreading like wildfire throughout the internet – that these vaccines actually causechildren to contract the diseases, and that they create other problems, such as autism.
In a January 4, 2012 editorial, the Arizona Republic newspaper points out that increasing numbers of parents are obtaining “personal belief exemptions” to Arizona’s vaccine requirement for children. In fact, the use of this exemption has more than doubled during the past decade. As a result, “vaccine-preventable disease” is also on the rise.
The editorial warns that according to a recent study by the University of Arizona College of Public Health, there are now schools in Arizona with rates of unvaccinated children that exceed what public-health professionals say is necessary to provide “herd immunity.” That same study found that parents who send their children to charter schools are more than twice as likely as traditional public-school parents to opt out of vaccines – and schools with lower vaccination rates have a higher proportion of White, middle-to upper-middle income students. The newspaper concludes, and doctors agree, that these parents are making a dangerous choice.
Whooping cough once killed 9,000 children a year in the U.S. Polio, measles and mumps were also prevalent killers of children. Those diseases were brought under control through the use of mass vaccinations. But now, whooping cough is up 67 percent from 2010, and the number is steadily rising.
We have been vaccinating our children, in this country, for decades. Vaccinations are proven to be safe and effective. But they can only remain effective if enough children are vaccinated to create a “herd immunity,” thereby preventing the diseases from spreading. By allowing themselves to be frightened away from vaccinations by unsupported “evidence” on internet sites that lack credibility, today’s parents are opening the door and allowing these killers of children – polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps, and other dangerous diseases – to regain a foothold and threaten the next generation.
As the Arizona Republic so aptly points out: Why would parents reject something that could save their children’s lives?
Gary J. Frank is an Arizona attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience in dealing with parenting issues in Family Court. If you are in need of a consultation regarding divorce, child custody, or any other area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to contact us by telephone (602-383-3610) or by email at [email protected], or through our website at garyfranklaw.com. We look forward to hearing from you.