B got her MMR shot a few days ago. I’m really hoping she doesn’t have a reaction to the vaccine. L had a likely vaccine reaction that was rather scary. Of course, L ran a fever after all her vaccines. I used to schedule them on Fridays because I knew I’d be pulling an all-nighter afterwards. B, on the other hand, has had little or no reaction to her vaccines thus far. Only about 5 to 10% of kids have a reaction to MMR featuring a fever of 103 and sometimes a rash, as L experienced. So, unless there’s a genetic component, it seems unlikely that B will be in that minority.
I have to say that I disagree with the recent California vaccine law. Parents are no longer allowed to opt out of vaccines for any non-medical reason if they wish to send their child to day-care or school. Since most families cannot afford a full-time stay-at-home parent, this is tantamount of requiring children be vaccinated, full stop. While I think vaccination is an important public health issue, I also support personal freedom, and I think laws should strike a balance between the two.
Here are some facts to contemplate . . .
1.) The MMR vaccination rate has been constant or increasing in the US at 92 to 93% for the last twenty years.
2.) The rate of vaccination required to eradicate the measles eventually is thought to be somewhere in the high 80s.
3.) There has been one measles death in the last decade. There were something like 20 pertussis deaths in the last major outbreak. In contrast, consider other preventable deaths. 30,000 deaths annually due to gun violence. 2300 deaths annually due to SIDS. (And yes, SIDS, while not 100% preventable, can be very much reduced by proper attention to sleep safety. I would venture a guess than less than 10% of parents follow all sleep safety guidelines.)
4.) Measles outbreaks and pertussis outbreaks are not solely or even primarily driven by unvaccinated children. Germany, for example, had a much more severe measles outbreak than we did, and they vaccinate 98% of their kids. Undervaccinated adults (those who were not vaccinated, or received only one dose of the measles vaccine as used to be recommended) are a major driver as well. Undervaccinated kids and adults (as opposed to unvaccinated) also tend to drive the pertussis outbreaks. In other words, instead of forcing people who do not wish to vaccinate to do so, we could educate and encourage those who do vaccinate to stay up-to-date on their vaccines, and take measures to get teens and adults to vaccinate themselves against pertussis.
Personally, I think what we are doing now is working. In order to send your child to school in Washington state, for example, you must provide proof of vaccination, or state that you are opting out. In the event of an outbreak of a disease that your child is not vaccinated against, you will not be allowed to send your child to school.
If the vaccination rate were to drop, I think it would make sense to impose stricter laws such as the CA law. But it has not dropped. Does that surprise you? It is almost never reported. You will also almost never see a chart of number of cases of measles or pertussis against vaccination rate, because since the vaccination rate has been more or less constant for a long time, there is no correlation (at least since vaccination has been introduced).