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.
T1: Hesitancy suggests indecision. Studies show that more information & support w/o pressure may be helpful to parents #abcDrBchat
- UH Rainbow Babies (@UHRainbowBabies) April 15, 2014
- Mayo Clinic (@MayoClinic) April 15, 2014
#abcDRBchat T2 Withholding or delaying vaccines does nothing to prevent autism; just increases chances for vax-preventable disease
- Alison Singer (@alisonsinger) April 15, 2014
T#: Parents don't always understand the risk of not vaccinating. Stories from affected families can help educate them. #abcDrBchat
- NMA (@NMAtweets) April 15, 2014
- Liz Szabo (@LizSzabo) April 15, 2014
Lifetime risk of dying from a car crash: 1 in 65. We drive anyway. Risk of severe life threatening rxn 2 vaccine: 1 in 1 million #abcDrBchat
- Dr. Daniel Flanders (@drflanders) April 15, 2014
T10: Public schools tasked with not only educating kids, but keeping safe. Impossible to do that if unvaccinated kids in schools #abcDRBchat
- Laura Jana (@kiddocjana) April 15, 2014
T10: To increase acceptance of vaccines, we need to focus less on coercive measures & more on (re)gaining trust - Dr. Opel #abcDrBchat
- SeattleChildrensNews (@PediatricPulse) April 15, 2014
T9 I don't think we should force people to vaccinate-but we should force people to learn and think before declining. #abcdrbchat
- Dr. Claire McCarthy (@drClaire) April 15, 2014
We know childhood immunization is our society's greatest health care achievement. It saves lives & prevents disabilities. #abcDrBchat
- March of Dimes (@MarchofDimes) April 15, 2014