generating a dialog about vaccination

By Dennis Tribble posted 11-01-2019 16:49

An online story from today (May 13, 2019) from Reuters documents that 75 new cases of measles were recorded last week, bringing the total number of measles cases to 839 in what is billed in the country's worst outbreak of measles since 1994..The article appears to blame the outbreak on "a vocal fringe of U.S. parents" who oppose the use of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine on the fear that it can cause autism.

Coincidentally, there is an article in today's version of The Advisory Board Daily Briefing on the actual reasons for which parents elect to not have their children vaccinated. According to Jennifer Reich, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, those reasons are actually more complex. While she does admit that there are people who fall into the camp of believing it causes autism, she also asserts that it has more to do with an assertion that the determination regarding vaccination is a parental responsibility (not governmental) and that exercising those responsibilities results in choosing to not have their children vaccinated for a wide variety of reasons other than the safety of the products themselves. Specifically she cites a belief that a parent is responsible for the welfare of their own children, but not for the welfare of other children.

Reich therefore suggests that current strategies of either treating parents who choose not to vaccinate their children with disgust, or appealing to to them on the basis for the love of their own children are likely to be less effective than appealing to these parents on the basis of their civic responsibility to protect others in society who may be at risk from exposure to unvaccinated children carrying the disease. For example, she cites that rubella, which is a mild disease in children, could cause a number of harmful effects to the fetus of a mother that acquired the disease while pregnant. 

Whatever the reasons may be for choosing against vaccination, we are seeing the effects now with the increase in measles seen since the beginning of this year, and we need a more effective dialog with those who choose against vaccination than our more common strategies. What Reich proposes might be an interesting alternative.

What do you think?

Dennis A. Tribble, PharmD, FASHP
Ormond Beach, FL

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and not necessarily those of ASHP or of my employer, BD.