Refusing Vaccinations Puts Other Kids At Risk, Experts Say

Filed under: Babies, Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Medical Conditions, In The News, Extreme Childhood


Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children may be putting other kids at risk by weakening what experts call "herd immunity."

The trend of delaying or refusing vaccinations lets infectious childhood diseases that were previously considered all but eradicated fall through the cracks, reports USA Today, and that can put some kids in serious danger.

Take the case of Julieanna Metcalf, a Minnesota toddler who contracted meningitis, a swelling of the lining of the brain caused by a severe case of Hib, or Haemophilus influenzae type b. Julieanna was one of five children hospitalized for the disease in that state in January 2008.

Three of the children -- including one who died -- were unvaccinated, according to the newspaper. In Julieanna's case, she had a rare immune deficiency that prevented her body from responding to vaccines. The toddler became so ill that she suffered from seizures at the hospital and a priest performed a second baptism.

Julieanna's mother, Brendalee Flint, wants other parents to know that your child's health may depend on other kids getting their vaccinations.

"I just want everybody to know what can happen if you don't vaccinate your baby," Flint tells USA Today. "It's not just your kid. When you get your child vaccinated, it helps to protect the other kids who don't have the ability to protect themselves."

Experts agree, saying that parents who forgo vaccinations due to mistaken concerns about autism or fear of overwhelming their child's immune systems are putting all children at risk. A study released Jan. 4 in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine shows that kids who don't get vaccinated are nine times as likely as others to get chicken pox, and are 23 times as likely to contract whooping cough.

Flint and others parents are sharing their stories with lawmakers and on social-media sites through the groups Every Child by Two and Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs). Two years later, Julieanna is still dealing with the aftermath of her disease. Flint tells USA Today that the girl still needs weekly injections to boost her immune system and had to relearn how to walk. Julieanna also attends special-education sessions, as well as physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. In May, Flint shared her story with Congress.

"I don't know if she will grow out of this," Flint tells USA Today. "I wish I could see what the future will be."

Related: Court Rules West Virginia Mom Must Vaccinate Her Child

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.