The Big Vaccine Debate
Kendall Stolz takes pride in her family's natural lifestyle. They eat organic food, use cloth diapers, and breastfeed their daughter, Stella.
Stolz says she's also choosing a more natural route when it comes to Stella's childhood vaccinations. At 17-months, the toddler has only received three vaccines. Most children her age have had about 15.
"It didn't sit right with me to give all these combo vaccinations at one time to such a small baby," explained Stolz. Instead, she has opted for an "extended schedule," choosing which vaccines she an her doctor feel are most crucial.
A Scripps Howard News Service poll finds more than half of Americans think parents should be able to exempt their children from vaccinations for philosophical reasons. In Ohio, parents like Kendall have that option.
"With philosophical exemptions, parents do have a say in their child getting immunizations," said John Joseph, Public Health Administrator for the Ohio Department of Health.
According to the Health Department, 986 students in first through 12th grades started school last year exempt from the shots for either philosophical or religious reasons.
Still, Joseph says parents are educated about the importance of vaccines. "Absolutely!," he said. "When parents call, we do talk to them and try to explain to them the advantages of being vaccinated."
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Infections Disease Specialist Dr. Robert Frenck worries parents no longer fear the ramifications of not being vaccinated like they once did.
"At that time, there were large outbreaks of polio and people never thought about side-effects of the vaccine," explained Dr. Frenck. "They said 'If we can do something to try to prevent this disease, let's do it.'"
Pediatrician Christopher Cunha says it wasn't that long ago that he saw diseases take children's lives. "We've seen the devastation caused by patients who have not gotten vaccines," said Cunha.
And the chance of spreading the disease is not just limited to those who opt out of the shots. Dr. Cunha said it puts other kids at greater risk for contracting a disease.
"Having an un-immunized person around that other individual ... is like having a gate opened and it just spreads like wildfire."
Cunha said his Northern Kentucky practice, "Pediatric Associates" stands behind in the benefits of vaccines.
"We consider a certain number of vaccines to be a core requirement to be here." He added, "If it reaches a point that we just agree to disagree, we actually ask them to find another provider to care for the their child. That's how strongly we feel."
You can't miss all the attention this issue is getting. High profile parents like Jenny McCarthy have taken center stage, claiming vaccines are linked to autism.
It's modern day fears that continue to make Kendall Stolz leery of vaccines.
"I may not fear polio in regards to Stella. But I fear diseases like leukemia and other childhood cancers, diabetes," she said. "I think the link to autism and other auto-immune diseases is a serious link and i think the medical industry needs to start listening to parents."
But until now, Dr. Frenck says there's no medical evidence to support the autism link. "Autism has been looked at in many, many studies and never showed any relationship to the vaccine," said Dr. Frenck.
As for Kendall, she says she's willing to go against the grain.
"I don't know if I plan on giving her anymore vaccinations at this time," she said. "I object to the schedule that is right now. That's really all I have to say. It's my right."