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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


AZ parents opting out of vaccines

The number of Arizona parents opting out of vaccinating their children has more than doubled in the past decade, according to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

There are a variety of reasons for this, such as misinformation about the risks involved in vaccination, according to Elizabeth Jacobs, an associate professor of public health at the UA. The “major adverse events” of health problems caused by vaccinations are “extremely rare,” she said. Jacobs, who is conducting a study on this issue with a colleague, is looking at different demographics in the state to see how groups of people who aren’t vaccinating are clustering.

“The biggest problem is that they (unvaccinated children) are in clusters, they’re not spread out,” she said. “That’s why it’s a health problem.”

Arizona law allows parents to file an exemption form to be given to their children’s school if they don’t want them vaccinated due to personal or religious beliefs, and it’s an “easy” state to do this because a physician is not required to sign or notarize the form, according to Jacobs. Unvaccinated children are also not permitted in school during disease outbreaks, such the measles or mumps, that could be prevented by vaccines.

The proportion of children whose parents filed an exemption based on personal or religious beliefs increased from 1.2 percent to 3.4 percent in child care and from 1.2 percent to 3.2 percent in kindergarten from the 2001-2002 school year to school year 2010-2011, according to data from schools by the state health department and Maricopa and Pima counties.

Dr. Karen Lewis, medical director of the Immunization Program Office at the Arizona Department of Health Services, said some parents “blame vaccines first” for their children’s health problems, even if they have no evidence vaccines caused the problem.

“Parents are sometimes afraid of the vaccines on an incorrect basis,” Lewis said. “They don’t feel threatened by the disease. They think, ‘my child is healthy, we eat right and we want to be on the safe side.’ Although they (the parents) are trying to do what’s best for the child, it puts other children and the rest of us at risk.”

The fear of vaccinations began when Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor, linked a vaccine with autism, said Lewis, who added that many “good” scientific studies showed “over and over again” that there’s no link between the two.

“There’s never been any proof that there’s a link,” she said. “Parents sometimes just needed an explanation for why their children had autism.”

Steve Walters, a consultant at Omega Media, said he decided not to vaccinate his 3-month-old daughter because after doing his own research he said he found that vaccines are not only unsafe, but ineffective in preventing diseases.

Walters said he started fearing vaccines when he heard about vaccine recalls on an annual basis. These recalls, he said, included flu vaccines for “tainted ingredients” and pieces of plastic being found in the vaccine.

“It was all these recalls that led me to start wondering what’s going on here,” he said. “I cannot speak for the general population, but those in my family that also choose not to vaccinate are choosing not to vaccinate because they believe the vaccines simply don’t work, could damage their child and we read about unvaccinated kids being healthier so, why bother?”

Potential damages to children from vaccines could include asthma, attention deficit disorder, allergies, “or worse,” Walters said. He said instead of vaccinations, parents should utilize vitamins, proper nutrition and chiropractic adjustments as the “right solution” to help their children be healthy and not get sick.

For other parents, like Audrey Fitzsimmons, a journalism senior and mother of a 7-year-old girl, vaccinating is a “responsibility” she said she has as a parent. Fitzsimmons said that although she had concerns about vaccinations in general, she was okay with them after doing some research.

“I understand concerns other parents have about vaccinating their children,” she said. “It’s a choice I feel right about making for my daughter.”

Fitzsimmons said she is worried about having her daughter being around unvaccinated children because it puts her daughter’s health at a disadvantage.

“I feel like I do what I can not just with vaccines, but health in general. I do what I can to make sure she won’t spread diseases or viruses,” Fitzsimmons said.

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