Meet the Unvaccinated Generation

Infectious disease experts say that measles is the first of the childhood diseases to make a comeback when vaccination rates dip.

Has anyone ever asked your opinion on vaccinating their children? Have you waffled over if you should vaccinate your children?

Childhood diseases are making a comeback. Infectious disease experts say that measles is the first of the childhood diseases to make a comeback when vaccination rates dip. And the measles are here. According to health officials in the US, the first seven months of 2008 saw 131 cases of measles; there were only 42 cases in all of 2007. The last time the number was close to this—138 for the entire year–was in 1997. Among 131 of 2008 so far, nearly half of cases involve children whose parents did not allow their children to be vaccinated.

It used to be that the few parents who didn’t vaccinate their kids were still going to be ok, since their children were protected by the herd immunity—they were safe because of all the vaccinated kids around them. But now, with fewer parents allowing the vaccinations, the herd is growing smaller.

This is an important issue because the girls in the generation of children who are not being vaccinated will grow up to be young women and many will bear children. So, along with the resurgence of childhood diseases, does this mean we’ll also see, in a few years, the resurgence of babies born who were exposed to rubella in utero—with the associated mental retardation, deafness, or worse?

As healthcare workers, we’re supposed to promote healthy lifestyles and preventative health. We teach people how to eat properly, how to quit smoking, and how to take their medications. But what do we do about vaccinations?

I know there are some nurses that haven’t had their children vaccinated because they believe that either vaccines cause autism or that we are over-vaccinating our children. If they don’t believe in vaccinations, what is their duty in terms of health care? If a parent asks their advice?

There are often times when a nurse must look at his or her beliefs and where they stand in relation to what they are being asked to do as a professional. Is it professional to recommend that a parent not vaccinate their children? But on the flip side, those in the anti-vaccine camp ask if it’s professional to promote a practice that they feel is unethical and immoral.

I’m on the pro-vaccination side. I do not agree with those who say that autism is on the rise because of vaccination. I believe that autism happens and it’s more easily recognized now and it coincides with the timing of the vaccines. I recommend vaccinations and my children have had vaccinations. I hope that when they have children, they too will be vaccinated. We are in a generation of parents who didn’t experience epidemics, of disease that spread like wildfire. We didn’t live through polio or know of children who were permanently disabled or had died because of the so-called benign childhood diseases. As a result, we feel invincible. We feel that we know better than the generations that fought before use to research, find, and establish this vaccination programs.

I just hope that our children and their children don’t suffer because of the decisions we are making now.