To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate

Rachel CunninghamAs part of our guest blog series please help me in welcoming Rachel Cunningham, MPH from Texas Children’s Hospital.  Rachel is the primary author of Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story.  Rachel is also the Immunization Registry and Educational Specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital in the Immunization Project.  Her focus is primarly on educating health professionals and parents about the importance of vaccines.


To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

That is the question many parents spend hours, perhaps even days, contemplating.  We talk to our friends.  We talk to our pediatrician.  We google.  As the new mother of an 8-month old, I’ve googled everything from baby schedules to sleeping problems to teething.  Like all parents, my research is intended to make the best choice for my child.  However, not all information is good information and bad information can lead to dangerous choices.  With vaccines, this is too often the case.  More and more parents are deciding to space out, delay, or entirely refuse vaccines.  Oftentimes these decisions are based on the belief that vaccines cause harm.  But what is the harm in not vaccinating?

Consider this.  Since June 2009, more than 8,300 cases of pertussis or “whooping cough” have been reported in California.  Ten infants have died.  Nine of which were less than 2 months old.  In 2009, more than 3,300 cases of pertussis were reported in Texas alone.  In 2008, 138 cases of measles were reported in the U.S. and 20 children were hospitalized.

However, statistics are oftentimes too abstract.  How can bad information about vaccines lead to a dangerous choice for your child or other children?

Let me introduce you to Julieanna Metcalf.  Julieanna was 15 months old when she nearly died from Hib meningitis.  She had to undergo emergency brain surgery, was hospitalized for a month, and had to re-learn how to walk, talk, and eat.  Despite having received all of her immunizations on time, Julieanna was vulnerable to Hib because of an undiagnosed immune disorder.  Unfortunately, many parents in Julieanna’s community had chosen not to immunize their children.  This choice resulted in 5 children contracting Hib – including 1 who died.  Four of the children were unimmunized.

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By now you’re probably wondering where you can get good information.  First and foremost, talk to your pediatrian.  After all, they are the experts.  Second, visit a reputable website with reliable information.  Below are a few I’d recommend:

Hopefully, we can draw from Julieanna’s experience and gratefully acknowledge that the choice to immunize is not only what’s best for our children but for our community.

Julieanna’s story is an excerpt from Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story.  Please click here to learn more

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