By Sarah Breitenbach
When Jennifer Stella’s two children were babies, she made sure they got all the usual vaccines.
But when one started having seizures and the other developed eczema after they’d gotten immunizations, the Vermont woman decided her kids would no longer get shots required to attend school.
Stella, a co-founder of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, is among a growing number of parents who are opting out of childhood vaccinations because they’re worried about their safety. Public health experts say the movement is leading to outbreaks of nearly eradicated dangerous diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, among clusters of unvaccinated kids.
All states require children to get vaccinated to attend school, and immunization rates across the nation remain high, with 92 percent of children between 19 months and 35 months getting the shots to protect against potentially deadly measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
But even a small number of unvaccinated people can undermine the immunity of the larger population, which is leading public health officials and vaccine advocates to push for changes.
Some want to educate parents about the risks of forgoing vaccines and fight what they say is misinformation about the risks posed by the vaccines.
Others have pushed lawmakers to eliminate exemptions from state vaccine requirements and sought to make it more difficult for families to qualify for the exemptions that remain. Continue reading