Vaccine refusal: Wake up Colorado! |

Vaccine refusal: Wake up Colorado!

Phil Mohler, M.D.
Free Press Health Columnist

Recent outbreaks of whooping cough in Colorado dramatize the importance of universal immunization. Why do totally preventable, at times fatal infections, continue to occur in a nation with abundant medical resources?

The biggest factor in our failure to eradicate vaccine-preventable disease is the increasing percentage of adults who refuse the vaccine for themselves or their children. Why do they refuse? Unfortunately, the totally discredited relationship between childhood vaccines and autism has driven many parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.

The current generation of parents has not witnessed the throes of epidemics their “70-something” parents did. One of the indelible memories of my childhood is of my tearful mother on her knees scrubbing the bathroom floor with disinfectant the Sunday morning after she and my dad took my 3-year-old brother to the hospital with polio. Parents today ARE exposed to the nonsensical media hype of former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy and others who rail against immunization.

Colorado remains one of the easiest states in the nation to exclude kids from school-required immunizations. In our state, the county level incidence of measles and whooping cough in vaccinated children from 1987 to 1998 was directly associated with the frequency of vaccine exclusions. At least 11% of the non-exempt kids who got the measles were infected by a contact with an exempted child.

High vaccine coverage in a community is particularly important for children who cannot be vaccinated either because of a medical condition or because they are too young. These children are more susceptible to the complications of infectious diseases than other children and depend on the protection provided by having the kids around them immunized.

Colorado needs to adopt the minimal requirement that a parent must engage in a face-to-face discussion with a primary care physician before they are able to exempt their kids from routine immunizations!

Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 38 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.

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