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You might have heard about the recent measles outbreak in Texas that has so far affected at least 21 people and thought, “Measles? How is that possible?” Short answer: It’s not, so long as you’re among the majority of people who are vaccinated against the highly contagious virus. But for growing number of children whose parents chose not to vaccinate them, it’s a very real possibility.
That seems to be the case in the Texas outbreak. All of the cases are linked to one church, whose leadership once reportedly preached against vaccines because of a fear that it can lead to autism. (The church has since reversed its position and is now encouraging vaccinations.) According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no absolutely no proof that vaccinations trigger autism or any other disease for that matter. In fact, the reverse is true -- vaccines prevent various life-threatening illnesses.
“Physicians and scientists created immunizations decades ago because they saw how devastating diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and polio can be,” says Carrie Byington, M.D., vice chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City. “For instance, measles can not only cause seizures, pain, trouble breathing and high fever, but it also carries a greater risk for death as well as long-term problems such as encephalitis and lung disease.
We’re fortunate to live in a time that we can protect our children against these diseases,” she adds, “but it’s critical that parents do so by taking advantage of the vaccinations available.”
Vaccinating your children from these highly contagious illnesses also maintains a safe environment for all people in the community, including children who are too young to be vaccinated or people with weakened immune systems, such as those going through chemotherapy.
And we’re not just talking about measles. For instance, every year in the United States there are between 3,000 and 49,000 seasonal flu-related deaths, and there's been a rise in outbreaks of pertussis (also known as whopping cough) in nearly every state.
Bottom line: If you’re considering not vaccinating your children, think again. Research has shown over and over again that the proven benefits of vaccines trumps any hypothetical risk.