Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Misinformation has spurred anti-vaccine movement; non-compliance is a health concern

The anti-vaccine movement continues to flourish in the U.S. Many people say they fear side effects or don't trust the government. A recent survey by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Pew Research Center found that only 68 percent of the general public believes parents should be required to vaccinate children, compared to 86 percent of scientists.

Refusing to vaccinate children is unnecessarily spreading preventable diseases and costing the health sector thousands of dollars spent on cases that could have prevented with a vaccine, John Wihbey reports for Journalist's Resource.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that among children born between 1994 to 2013, vaccinations will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths. Wihbey writes. But some children are not being vaccinated. Overall, between 92-94 percent of U.S. children are vaccinated with MMR—measles, mumps and rubella—but numbers drop in some states, as low as 81.7 percent in Colorado, 85.3 percent in Pennsylvania, 86.5 percent in Arkansas and 86.9 percent in Kansas. (CDC graphic)
While those numbers might still seem high, it is estimated that measles outbreaks cost $10,000 or more per case, Wihbey writes. But because of the potential for measles to spread, outbreaks cost "$25,000 or more because of a single case in Kentucky; more than $140,000 and 2,500 hours of public health workers’ time for three cases in Iowa; and an estimated $800,000 to investigate 14 cases in Arizona, all related to a single contagious traveler from Switzerland in 2008."

Why non-compliance? A 2014 report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences says: "Over the past two decades, a combination of fraudulent scientific studies, irresponsible reporting and well-meaning but misinformed citizen activists has led to a steady increase in the proportion of parents who have concerns about the recommended childhood vaccine schedule. While overall vaccine uptake rates in the United States remain high, these concerns have resulted in a significant expansion in the number of parents who are delaying—and in extreme cases even refusing—vaccines for their children."

Researchers say the misinformation problem began in 1998, "when a now-discredited scientific paper was published in Britain linking vaccines to autism, a link that was proven entirely false and even labeled 'fraudulent,'" Wihbey writes. "A number of activists and some celebrities have adopted prominent anti-vaccine positions, and media and entertainment outlets have provided a platform for some of their views." (Read more)

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