EASTCHESTER, N.Y. Eastchester mom Iris Schecter has no doubts about vaccinating her two boys, Ian, a third grader, and Zachary, who is 18 months old.
"It is so scary that we are seeing preventable diseases making a comeback and children suffering from these diseases needlessly," Schecter said. "I think it is much more dangerous not to vaccinate. I have seen kids pass something around and around a classroom like pink eye or lice. Imagine if that were whooping cough or measles?"
Vaccinated children develop immunities without suffering from the diseases the vaccines prevent. However, some parents believe there are links between the vaccine preservative, thimerosal, and autism.
There have been studies conducted by health organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization, that have failed to show any causal link between the two. However some parents believe there is enough anecdotal evidence to support their concerns.
"I know a lot of people come in fearful of autism, but that connection has been disproven at least 20 times," said Dr. Wendy Proskin, pediatrician at the WestMed Medical Group's Rye and White Plains offices. "It's based on absolute junk science and there's no evidence of that except to disprove it."
Vaccines, responsible for the control of such infectious scourges as polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), prevent those diseases in people who receive them, as well as those who come into contact with unvaccinated people.
Vaccines contain the same antigens, or parts of antigens, that cause diseases. Antigens in vaccines are either killed or greatly weakened so when they are injected into the human body they are not strong enough to produce symptoms of the disease. They are, however, strong enough for the immune system to produce antibodies against them.
A study published late last year by the Centers for Disease Control showed that death rates for 13 diseases preventable by childhood vaccinations are at an all-time low in the United States. However, there have been recent stirrings of some diseases making comebacks with deadly outcomes. Earlier this year, California endured the largest whooping cough outbreak in 65 years, sickening almost 9,500 people and killing 10 infants. And so far this year, there have been more cases of measles in the United States than any year since 1996. Forty percent of people who contract the disease need to be hospitalized.
"There's still risks out there that we immunize against," Proskin said. "A lot of people think that all of the things we vaccinate for are ancient history, that's just not true and each child should be protected."
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