Dangers of Vaccine Hesitancy Explained in 10 Tweets

By Dr. Alok Patel, ABC News Medical Unit

Parental decisions are the bedrock of childhood vaccination rates. While most parents turn to their pediatricians for help making decisions about immunization there's also a lot of conflicting information for them to sift through. Worry over whether it's safe to allow their child to have 24 shots before the age of two and up to five pokes per visit has left many parents on the fence about if and when they should stick to the vaccination schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccine hesitancy and outright refusal to vaccinate are now helping to drive the resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases including measles, mumps and chicken pox. Recently, for example, there have been measles clusters cropping up in parts of California with lower vaccination rates and new cases of mumps appearing in Ohio.

As more parents switch to alternative schedules or delay shots, experts say we are losing the "herd immunity" that protects not only individuals but large populations. This leaves susceptible individuals vulnerable to all kinds of preventable infections. Ironically, among the most vulnerable are the vaccine refusers and delayers themselves. Just one case of the infection pertussis can turn into 10 to 15 in an unimmunized group.

Should public health officials mandate childhood vaccinations? That was the topic of discussion on this week's ABC News Health tweet chat moderated by Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical correspondent. Both parents and practitioners respectfully weighed in on the safety, schedule and importance of vaccinations.

In case you missed it, here's the full transcript. Or, scroll through the top ten tweets below. And it's not too late to sound off with your opinion in the comments section.

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