Newborn Nearly Dies Contracting Whooping Cough

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Leena's story comes on the heels of an Associated Press report released Monday that found more and more parents have opted out of school vaccines for their kids. The AP reported that the reasons for declining vaccines varied. Some doubted the need for vaccines, others feared adverse effects and other parents said it's easier to check a box opting out of the shots, rather than go through the necessary paperwork and time.

A current example of the problems caused when increasing numbers of people do not get the recommended vaccines is described in a report published Thursday, which found a very large measles outbreak that involved 26,074 people living in multiple countries in Europe, Abramson said.

"In these countries, measles had been a rare disease, but the incidence is now markedly increased due to declining use of the measles vaccine," said Abramson.

There was a roughly 30-year increase in life expectancy in the United States in the 20th century, and 25 of those years are attributable to public health interventions, said Dr. Matt Boulton, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

"Of all the public health interventions we have undertaken, most public health professionals would agree that vaccination has been the most cost-effective and has had the greatest impact on prolonging life and reducing serious illness and death, especially in pediatric populations," said Boulton. "Most of the major vaccine preventable diseases that literally killed thousands of children in this country at the beginning of the 20th century have experienced reductions of greater than 99 percent because of vaccines. It is ironic that the very intervention that has saved so many lives would now be criticized as a cause of adverse events or life-threatening reactions."

While many anti-vaccine activists argue that there is not enough sound research for vaccination advocacy, Dr. Mark Sawyer, a professor of pediatrics at University of California at San Diego, said that vaccines are actually the best studied medical intervention out there.

Experts know more about the safety of vaccines than most available surgeries and medications because of the ability to track adverse effects of people who receive various vaccines.

"Those studies are going on all the time scanning for rare vaccine reactions," said Sawyer. "By doing so, we now know that vaccines do not cause autism and they do not cause other serious problems. Although any vaccine can have side effects, in all cases the risk of getting the disease is much greater than the risk of a serious side effect from the vaccine designed to prevent that disease."

"The vaccines that [babies] get are a drop in the bucket compared to the wide variety of "friendly" germs that we all carry, so the idea that vaccines can overload the immune system and cause harm is nonsensical," said Gershon. "If parents want to do something beneficial for their children, they should vaccinate them, and according to schedule."

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