Measles, a highly contagious and extremely rare virus, was declared eliminated in 2000. This year, the U.S. has experienced the greatest number of reported measles cases since 1994, with 839 individual confirmed cases in 23 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Indiana is one of those states, with its first case of measles confirmed in April. Indiana University in Bloomington also experienced a mumps outbreak earlier this year.
With this sudden reappearance of serious infectious diseases, it is even more critical to make sure your children are properly vaccinated. Vaccines are crucial in keeping your baby healthy and to help your child fight off diseases that can be passed from person to person. In fact, according to the CDC, the best way to protect children from 14 serious childhood diseases is to have them vaccinated by the age of two. These diseases include cases of mumps and measles, as well as rubella, the flu, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and more.
Despite the importance of vaccines, there is still a concern among parents about vaccines’ safety. The U.S. currently has the safest vaccine supply in its history, with safety serving as the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) main priority. The FDA inspects vaccine creation sites and uses a national registry to document and track vaccine related complications.
In order to understand these safety concerns, it’s important to first cover how a vaccine works. Vaccines have antigens in them, which is a dead or nonfunctioning part of a certain virus. When these germs enter your body, they attack and multiply, otherwise known as an infection. Once your immune system fights off the infection, the body produces antibodies that will help recognize and fight the disease in the future. It’s important to note that this “imitation” infection produced by a vaccine does not cause illness.
There is also concern that vaccines are linked to autism. However, several studies have proven this to be false. The original theory came from a 1998 study conducted by Andrew Wakefield, a discredited former British doctor. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Wakefield’s hypothesis was that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine caused intestinal inflammation, entrance into the bloodstream of proteins harmful to the brain, and consequent development of autism. It was later discovered that this study was based on scientific misconduct, and it was removed from scientific record.
A 2013 CDC study further proved that vaccines do not cause autism. The study looked at the number of antigens from vaccines during a child’s first two years of life. The results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines was the same between children with autism and those who did not have autism. Additionally, ingredients found in vaccines do not cause autism. Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, is one ingredient in particular that has been heavily studied. Thimerosal is only used in multi-dose vials of a vaccine, and it’s used as a preservative to keep the vaccine safe from any bacteria that might grow.
It’s important to have your child vaccinated to protect your baby, but also to protect every other child they interact with. This concept is often referred to as herd immunity, an indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune, according to Vaccines Today. This immunity is a result of vaccinations. Even a 1-year-old can be susceptible to these serious diseases, and it’s imperative that young children build up their immunities as soon as possible.
Dr. Cameual Wright is the medical director for CareSource, a nonprofit health plan. CareSource provides coverage for vaccines for children and adults and can connect members with providers who offer vaccinations. For more information about our services offered in Indiana, visit www.caresource.com.