Measles Outbreak Stirs Immunization Debate
By CareerSmart Learning Contributor, Jan 27, 2015, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot
Every year, millions of families plan trips to Disneyland with excited anticipation and dreams of visiting the “Happiest Place on Earth.” But this year, some of these dreams turned to dismay when it was discovered that children had contracted measles after visiting the theme park. In recent months, there have been 59 confirmed cases of measles in California, with 42 of these reported cases originating from Disneyland (CDC, 1/22/2015). This has reignited the national debate about vaccinations.
Despite numerous scientific studies supporting the safety of the measles vaccine, there is still a sizable segment of the population that chooses not to vaccinate. Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommend that children have two doses of the vaccine in order to achieve full immunity as well as to enter school, some states allow exemptions. Medical, religious, and philosophical exemptions vary from state to state. Currently, there are 17 states, including California, that allow vaccination exemptions based on philosophical or personal beliefs. To decline vaccinations, one must object to all vaccines, not just one specific vaccine, as well as obtain a signature from a physician or state-designated healthcare provider (National Vaccine Information Center, 2015). Without mandatory vaccination requirements, an increasing number of children attending public schools within these states are not vaccinated.
The United States had 644 confirmed cases of measles in 2014, the highest number since 2000 (CDC, 2015). This increase has doctors and other medical professionals confused, saddened, and angered over the potential effects this could have on children who are not being immunized, as well as the broader community itself.
Most healthcare professionals agree that there is no conclusive evidence linking the measles vaccination to autism and that the measles virus can have devastating effects on individuals who are not immunized. Thus, after considering the costs and benefits, most healthcare professionals support vaccinating as a matter of promoting individual and public health and safety. On the other hand, many opponents of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine assert that it is linked to autism and contend that a healthy lifestyle can have an equivalent impact on the body’s ability to fight off viruses and pathogens. Opponents also argue that vaccines contain trace amounts of chemicals and minerals dangerous to the body and that long-term effects are unknown.
Regardless of what side of the debate one may be on, it is important to know the facts. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to mankind. The measles virus can linger in the air or on surfaces long after an infected person is gone, and it is estimated that about 90 percent of non-immunized individuals will contract the virus if exposed. The most communicable period is four days before the rash appears and four days after the rash break. Making an informed decision is important. The National Vaccine Information Center recommends asking eight simple questions before making a decision about vaccinating. Please click on the following link to learn more: http://www.nvic.org/Ask-Eight-Questions.aspx.
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National Vaccine Information Center/ Vaccine Laws. Retrieved on 1/22/15 from http://www.nvic.org/vaccine-laws.aspx
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Measles Cases and Outbreaks. Retrieved on 1/22/15 from http://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html
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