Vaccination Avoidance Worries Health Officials

An increasing number of parents who refuse vaccinations for their children has health care providers concerned that diseases that have disappeared in the U.S. – polio, diphtheria, whooping cough – will return.

One of those health care providers is local pediatrician Dr. Charles Ison, who has practiced in Lexington since 1993.

“The diseases we immunize against are all still out there,” Dr. Ison said.

“Once immunization rates drop to a certain level, those diseases can start showing up again.”

More than half of the states in the U.S. have seen at least a slight rise in vaccine exemptions for school-aged children with the highest numbers in the West and upper Midwest.

In Kentucky, the rate was less than 2% in 2010, but eight states currently see more than one in 20 public school kindergartners who refuse their required vaccines for attendance.

Parents who opt out say they worry about the number of injections their children must endure – up to two dozen shots by 6 years of age.

But the bigger concern is the fear that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination causes autism.

This idea gained traction more than a decade ago after a study in England claimed a connection.

But that study has been exposed for its shoddy research and the charge that researchers had a financial incentive to establish the link.

The British medical journal, “The Lancet,” which originally published the study, formally retracted the paper in 2010.

The medical community maintains that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Most parents still heed that message, and vaccination rates are still high.

Some vaccines, including polio, measles and hepatitis B, are at 90% or better, but because health officials are unsure of the threshold that could lead to outbreaks, it’s concerning that some states’ rates of exemption are more than 5%.

Areas in northeast Washington have seen exemptions above 20% and as high as 50%.

According to a study by the Associated Press, 10 states had an increase of approximately 1.5% over a five-year span.

“Some parents look at websites that claim all sorts of horrible things are caused by immunizations,” Dr. Ison said. “There are also websites that seek to convince us that the earth is really flat. They are also completely wrong.”