, Salem, MA


November 15, 2013

Column: Vaccine exemptions pose rising risks of disease


Those countries may be far away, but distance no longer provides the protection it once did. A measles outbreak in Brooklyn earlier this year, brought back by an overseas traveler, is a stark reminder that an outbreak — or epidemic — can be just one plane ride away.

Too many people are losing sight of the importance of vaccines. More states are granting medical and philosophical exemptions from childhood vaccinations, and the medical-conspiracy theorists are still at it; despite mountains of scientific evidence on the safety of vaccines, scare tactics can still work with some people.

The irony and frustration of the current resurgence of these diseases is that as more diseases become drug-resistant, as new ones like MERS emerge, we continue to fight the old ones we can easily prevent.

Physicians must recognize the rights of parents to make what they believe are proper decisions about immunizations for their children, even if the physician and the scientific evidence do not support that decision. However, physicians, parents and patients of all ages must recognize that immunization is a public health priority, as well as a personal health issue.

Vaccines have an enviable safety record. They prevent diseases that once claimed millions of lives (and in some countries, still do), and high vaccination rates provide a collective, public health advantage, as even those who are not immunized benefit from “herd immunity” because so many others do get vaccinated.

Vaccines are considered one of medicine’s greatest advances and should be an indispensable part of primary care. With them, we can easily, inexpensively prevent suffering, illness and death. Without them, our most vulnerable individuals are needlessly put at risk of disease, with the potential for future and lifelong complications. The choice should be clear.


Ronald Dunlap, M.D., a cardiologist at South Shore Hospital, is president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and John O’Reilly, M.D., a pediatrician at Baystate Health, is president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

AP Video
Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Palestinians and Israeli Soldiers Clash Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate