DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. - Vaccines are an integral part of a child's health and that is why many rely so heavily on the advice of their doctors concerning which shots to get.
"You know what if the doctors have that strong of a belief, I have to believe in that too," said Carolina Vicchio, a Dobbs Ferry grandmother who always has her grandchildren vaccinated. "You can't second guess everything."
One constant in medicine is that disease prevention is one of the keys and goals to overall public health strategies. It is, in other words, always easier to prevent disease than it is to treat it. Vaccines, responsible for the control of such infectious scourges as polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), prevent such diseases in people who receive them, as well as those who come into contact with unvaccinated people.
Vaccines contain the same antigens (or parts of antigens) that cause diseases, but antigens in vaccines are either killed or greatly weakened so that when they are injected into the human body they are not strong enough to produce symptoms of the disease. They are, however, strong enough for the immune system to produce antibodies against them.
Vaccinated children develop immunities without suffering from the actual diseases the vaccines prevent, so many health professionas believe there is no solid reason not to vaccinate.
"You really just have to have trust in your doctors, the pediatricians" Vicchio said.
Some parents, however, believe there are links between the vaccine preservative, thimerosal, and autism, despite scientific studies conducted by major health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization. Those studies have failed to show any causal link between the two.
"Is there a known fact saying yes there going to get it because they're vaccinated?" Vicchio said. "No that's what I've been saying all these years."
In fact, a study published late last year by the Centers for Disease Control showed that death rates for 13 diseases preventable by childhood vaccinations are at an all-time low in the United States.
Vaccines are safe and effective in preventing debilitating diseases but there have been recent stirrings of some diseases making comebacks with deadly outcomes.
Earlier this year California endured the largest whooping cough outbreak in 65 years, sickening almost 9,500 people and killing 10 infants. So far this year there have been more cases of measles in the United States than any year since 1996. Forty percent of people who contract the disease need to be hospitalized.
"I'd rather my grandchildren be vaccinated," Vicchio said. "I am a little scared that going in to school some of these kids are not vaccinated though."
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