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Should parents vaccinate their children?

March 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new study shows the dangers and consequences of refusing childhood vaccinations.Hearing her 2-month-old crying hurts more for new mom Sohair Suady, but she knows giving her son the measles mumps and rubella vaccine is the best thing for him.

"It is a tough schedule to get all of the vaccinations at once. But it has been proven that it's the most effective way," said Suady.

She's heard all the concerns about the vaccine's connection to autism, but she's also done a lot of research and believes in immunizations.

The head of Family Medicine Residency Program at Northridge Hospital Medical Center says she does encounter some resistance from parents.

"Family doctors have been asking and begging their patients to get vaccines. The fear over the autism scare has really repelled a lot of people from accepting vaccines," said Dr. Pamela Davis.

A new report in the Journal Pediatrics profiles the case of a 7-year-old whose parents intentionally didn't vaccinate him. The boy went to Europe and contracted measles, and when he returned to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed 839 people. Eleven unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

While people may not perceive measles as a problem in this country -- in reality, it's just a plane ride away.

"All you have to do is travel to a country or someplace where there is a lot of measles you can bring it back," said Dr. Davis. "If there is an unvaccinated population they are going to be exposed."

Doctors say that if you choose to not give your child the MMR vaccine you should know that choice comes with risks.

"Measles can be a very serious disease," said Dr. Davis. "It can be very painful for the child. It can cause long term complications."

Dr. Davis says every major study confirms there is no link between childhood immunizations and autism and she does her best to reassure parents as best she can.

Sohair Suady understands the fear other new parents must feel, but she is certain about getting her son vaccinated.

"I just think it's the best for your child," said Suady.

Measles infects 20 million people globally every year, and the risk for bringing it back into this country is very real. Public health officials say the only way to prevent a serious outbreak is to continue with a vaccination program.