Immunization still a must for kids
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|Wed, 04-30-2008 - 2:34pm|
Pediatricians: Immunization still a must for kids
April 30, 2008
By CHRISTINE S. MOYER
It took a lot of thought and prayers as LeAnn Capener of Aurora contemplated whether to vaccinate each of her four children.
Capener read articles and books detailing the possible link between autism and immunizations.
And she discussed the issue with her pediatrician.
"In the end," Capener said, "I felt the risk of disease and infection was greater than the risk of immunization."
Area health departments are using this week -- National Infant Immunization week -- to remind parents of the importance of vaccinating their babies to protect them against diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of children in other countries every year.
However, local pediatricians say that a growing number of parents are raising concerns about immunizations and questioning their necessity as more children than ever before are being diagnosed with autism, a developmental disability that causes substantial impairments in communication and social interaction.
In fact, pediatrician Dr. Lorene Eckberg said that in her 20 years of experience, she has never seen parents so worried about vaccines.
She's not alone.
Dr. Nadia Abu-Nijmeh, a pediatrician with Associated Pediatrics of Fox Valley, regularly assures new parents that there is no link between autism and immunizations.
According to Eckberg, who recently attended a seminar on the disease, 90 percent of autism diagnoses are due to genetics.
"Growing up in the area (I did), I've seen those diseases (American doctors vaccinate against) and how horrible it is to have a disease," said Abu-Nijmeh, who received her undergraduate degree in Jordan.
"Not getting (the vaccines) would be a crime."
Danger of mobile society
Area pediatricians and health departments say these fears have not yet affected the number of children they see getting vaccinated.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is concerned that if infant immunization rates begin to fall, diseases could return that are now eradicated in the United States, according to spokesman Curtis Allen.
"They're circulating in other parts of the world and are only a plane ride away," Allen said.
And as society becomes more mobile, Abu-Nijmeh noted that it's not uncommon for Americans to bring diseases back from other countries.
Among the most recent examples of this is an outbreak of measles, which Allen said was likely carried from Switzerland and then popped up in Arizona, California, New York and Wisconsin.
Measles, he continued, kill hundreds of thousands of children worldwide each year.
"It's extremely contagious," Allen said. "And it can get into a community of unvaccinated children and spread. It has happened several times."
The point that Allen said the CDC wants to make is that a decision not to vaccinate is not a risk-free decision.
"These diseases can return," he stressed.
Cassie Luckinbill of Aurora, vaccinated all three of her children at the advice of her pediatrician.
But Luckinbill admitted to being more leery with her youngest child, now 4, than she was with her first-born.
She knows parents who take a more homeopathic approach and have chosen not to vaccinate their children at all.
When Eckberg meets these types of parents, she urges them to reconsider their decisions.
After discussing the issue, sometimes parents agree to immunize their babies but using an alternate immunization schedule, which is published in The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, by California pediatrician Dr. Robert Sears.
Eckberg stresses that she does not encourage this. She supports the vaccine schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But Eckberg admits that using an alternative schedule is better than foregoing vaccines altogether.
"Everything you hear every day, it's scary," said Annie Hilby who fully vaccinated her now 21-month-old son.
"You talk to other moms, it's hard," she said.
In the end, after the research and the discussions with her pediatrician, Hilby swallowed her fear and took her baby to the doctor for a series of shots.
"We really think we're doing what's best for him," she said.
Recommended immunizations for children
• Diphtheria, a serious infection of the throat that can block the airway and cause severe breathing difficulty.
• Tetanus, a disease that causes painful tightening of muscles, usually all over the body.
• Pertussis (whooping cough), a respiratory illness that progresses to severe coughing and causes serious complications in children under 1 year old.
• Hepatitis B, a virus that affects the liver and can cause liver disease or cancer of the liver.
• Hib, a type of bacteria that can cause meningitis in children. Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord.
• Measles, the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses.
• Mumps, a virus that can cause inflammation of the brain.
• Rubella, a virus that cause fever and rash. It can cause birth defects if acquired by a pregnant woman.
• Polio, a viral infection that can result in permanent paralysis.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention