Sifting through the rhetoric can be difficult. Possibly, the best thing a parent can do is read the information on both sides of the issue and make the best decisions they can for their families. Several states allow philosophical exemptions for parents, allowing them to opt out of legal requirements to vaccinate their children based on their philosophical objections. Kansas and Missouri are not among these states. Most states allow for opting out based on religious exemption, including Kansas and Missouri. This exemption applies to persons who have a sincere belief against vaccines. Medical exemptions are available for people who have legitimate health reasons not to be vaccinated, and must generally be backed up by a written statement from a doctor.
On one side of the issue, individuals argue vehemently against the use of vaccines. Canadian physician and author Dr. Guylaine Lanctot made the following statement about vaccines: "The medical authorities keep lying. Vaccination has been a disaster on the immune system." He continues, "It actually causes a lot of illnesses. We are actually changing our genetic code through vaccination."
Another factor that confuses many people with regard to the safety of vaccines lies in the fact that no vaccine has ever been proven to be effective in clinical studies. Since researchers do not, for ethical reasons, infect immunized subjects with this disease or that in order to test the vaccine's effectiveness, there has never truly been clear evidence that vaccines actually prevent illness.
There is, however, evidence that seems to suggest (perhaps even prove) the effectiveness of vaccines for certain diseases that have seen serious declines in certain diseases. Polio and smallpox are prime examples - they were virtually eradicated globally following the widespread use of vaccines. Polio was a debilitating and even fatal disease which reached epidemic proportions prior to the introduction of the vaccine in 1955. In the year 1952 alone more than 21,000 people suffered paralyzing polio infections.
Despite these notable success cases, concern over the damaging effects of vaccinations has many people afraid to immunize their children. Over 11,000 new cases of serious reactions to vaccines are reported annually. Some estimate as many as 200 deaths are attributed to vaccines as well. Others claim that the actual numbers of vaccine injuries are vastly underreported.
One of the biggest claims against vaccines is the astronomical rate at which children are diagnosed with autism. In the state of California alone, the incidence of autism has increased a staggering 1,000 per cent over the past two decades. Dramatic increases in autism rates in England have been linked to the introduction of the MMR vaccine there in the 1990s.
One of the biggest debate over the safety of vaccinations centers on the ingredient some claim to be at the bottom of the drastic increase in autism rates. Thimerosal, derived from mercury, is thought to have been removed from vaccines; however, some claim that the removal of the potential toxin was merely recommended, never mandated.
Vaccines have been linked to other conditions besides autism. Attention deficit disorder, liver toxicity, neurological disorders, seizures, even death have all been suggested as possible side effects of one vaccination or another. The question is raised again, "what is a parent to do?"
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