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Good Question: Is It Selfish To Not Vaccinate Your Kids?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
Jason DeRusha filed his first report for WCCO-TV on April Fool's D...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An alarming number of Minnesotans are opting-out of vaccinating their kids before sending them to school. An Associated Press analysis of state data reports that 6.5 percent of Minnesota parents opted out of vaccination before kindergarten.

However, if vaccination keeps all kids safe, is not vaccinating selfish?

“It’s very selfish. Vaccines are as much about the community’s health as they are individuals,” wrote Aaron Vehling on Jason DeRusha’s Facebook page. Most agreed, but a passionate minority spoke up for their right to not vaccinate.

“Forcing people to vaccinate is communism,” wrote Bonnie Kern.

“We get a fair number of questions” from parents, said Nancy Waller, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at University of Minnesota School of Medicine, and a pediatrician at Fairview Children’s Clinic.

“People have all kinds of different concerns why they choose not to vaccinate,” said Waller.

Most medical experts believe vaccines essentially have wiped out measles, polio and whooping cough, among other diseases. But skeptics believe that those diseases were on the decline anyway, and things like better sanitary practices are more likely to credit.

Nearly the entire scientific and medical community disagrees; pointing out the risk of not vaccinating is far higher than the risk of side effects from vaccine.

“Sometimes people have trouble balancing those risks in their mind, especially if there’s a personal story of someone who believes they were harmed with a vaccine,” said Waller.

This year, 21 Minnesotans contracted measles, and the department of health reports that just 1 was vaccinated.

“That was convincing to some people. We had people come in to get Measles vaccine,” said Waller.

Approximately, 2,100 Californians got whooping cough last year, yet only 1 was vaccinated. Ten infants died from the whopping cough.

“Do you think parents in their 30s never saw these diseases and don’t think they can happen?” asked DeRusha.

“That’s definitely a part of it. When polio vaccine came out, people scrambled to get it,” said Waller.

Vaccines protect our individual kids, according to Waller, but there’s a bigger picture too.

“There are some children who really have a good reason, might have leukemia, might have an autoimmune disease. So, they do count on the rest of us to be vaccinated and keep the rate of disease low in our community,” she said.

Researchers call it herd immunity.

“So you can hide in the herd if you’re not vaccinated. And we need the herd, to keep those kids who can’t get vaccinated from getting those illnesses,” said Waller.

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