Parents weigh pros and cons of measles vaccine

By Eve Fuller

Illinois ranks higher than any other state in the country for measles cases, and public health authorities believe a decrease in child vaccinations could be to blame.

Chicago, specifically, has reported 32 cases of measles, more than any other year since 1994, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois.

Citing religious or philosophical reasons, parents are not getting their children vaccinated, according to findings from the report, and are posing a risk to other students and people living in their community. In fear that child vaccinations have a link to cases of autism, some parents are opting to not have their children vaccinated.

The DuPage County Health Department did extensive community outreach to inform physicians and school nurses after the cases of measles were reported this summer.

“It is people’s right to decline the vaccination by law, but we strongly suggest they don’t,” said Dave Haas, spokesperson for the DuPage County Health Department.

“It is a huge advantage for parents to vaccinate their children if they want them to stay healthy as they go through school,” Haas said.

Since 1970, Merck, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, has been the sole provider of MMR II, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

Children who are 12 months of age or older are eligible to receive the MMR II vaccine, which has contributed to a more than 99 percent reduction in the United States in the incidence of measles, mumps and rubella,  said Nalini Saligram, director of global communications for Merck.

“Our vaccination has been well studied and established and is recommended as the universal vaccination,” said Saligram.

Most parents get their children vaccinated without thinking twice, in fear that if they don’t, they may risk illness.  But  vaccinations have gained more attention due to speculation linking them to autism, according to various interest groups and bloggers, although it has not been proven.

Maureen Connolly, a mother of three,  said she understands why parents choose not to get their children vaccinated.

“It’s a scary thing for a parent to take their child in and know there is an outside chance that something may happen to them if they get the vaccination,” Connolly said.

Illinois law requires children to be vaccinated if they are enrolled in Chicago Public Schools.  According to the CDC, many of the children who were reported to have measles this summer were home-schooled.

“Children who are home-schooled are not exposed to a large number of students, but they are not in a cave,” Connelly said. “They are still exposed through sports and other activities.”

The majority of kids who are at risk of getting measles are those who were not vaccinated and attend public schools, according to the CPS website.

“I went ahead and did what I thought was the right thing for my family,” said Connolly, who has had all three of her children vaccinated. “I did my research, weighed the pros and cons, and there are risks with both sides.”

It seems online blogs have become a popular place where people can freely share their stories and comment on others.

Haas said the message he tries to get out is that vaccine prevents disease and children should be vaccinated. Parents should also be careful of where they get their information.

“There are a lot of anti-vaccination people in the world and most of the information being spread on the Internet is inaccurate,” he said.