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The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The great vaccine debate

Some parents are wary of vaccinating their children, for either personal or medical reasons, and have launched a debate over what has been a common medical practice in the United States.

Less than 1 percent of Americans refuse vaccines altogether, USA Today reported, but residents in some states are increasingly foregoing them based on personal beliefs. According to Mother Jones, 20 states permit personal-belief exemptions, and 48 allow them on religious grounds.

One of those states is Illinois. Mother Jones reported that 4.1 to 5 percent of kindergartners in the state claimed non-medical vaccine exemptions during the 2012-2013 school year. Additionally, the data showed a medium level of difficulty for Illinois residents wanting an exemption. The state requires only a health care professional’s signature.

However, this trend is not occurring nationwide. States like North Carolina and Texas have made it more difficult for children to get exemptions, requiring a letter of explanation along with the signed form.

In addition to religion and personal beliefs, some use medical justifications for not vaccinating their children. Potentially one of the biggest reasons for the anti- vaccine movement is the theory that getting vaccinated causes autism. According to Craig Klugman, professor and chair of the Department of Health Sciences at DePaul, there was an article published 15 or 20 years ago that claimed there is a link between autism and vaccines, which is where he believes many vaccine skeptics got the idea. Although that one article found a relationship between vaccines and autism, the DePaul professor said that there is no connection.

“Every study since has found absolutely no link between it. So with health organizations: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Center of Public Health Service have stated emphatically that there is no scientific link between the two. It’s a scientific fact,” Klugman said.

Ryma Garcia, a registered nurse and Chicagoan, agreed with Klugman and also referred to the findings of the CDC.

“I believe that vaccines do not cause autism. According to the CDC, thimerosal was an ingredient thought to have contributed to the link between vaccines and autism,” Garcia said. “In 2011, thimerosal- free vaccines or vaccines with trace amounts of the ingredient were given to children and the evidence determined that the rates of autism didn’t decrease.”

Instead, both Klugman and Garcia maintained the benefits of getting vaccines.

“The goal of vaccination is prevention, to some extent, but it’s mainly to protect the population,” Klugman said. “In any particular disease you need a certain percentage of the group to be vaccinated in order to have protection. This term is called herd immunity.”

All DePaul students must provide proof of immunization for tetarius (within the past 10 years), measles, mumps and rubella. Although this list may seem like enough for many students, Garcia and Klugman believe more vaccinations should be recommended.

“The meningococcal vaccine should be suggested to students because this bacteria can be spread to others living in close quarters. The influenza vaccine should be suggested as well,” Garcia said.

“Hepatitis A and B are something students should look into. Hepatitis A, at the very least,” Klugman said. “Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease, so students are at risk of getting the disease. Hepatitis A students can get from a drinking glass.”

Klugman also believes that students should look into getting vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV).

“Here you have a vaccine that prevents cancer in men and women, that people need to take before the age where they’re engaged in sexual activity,” Klugman said. “There is no place that requires it.”

The best way to avoid these diseases is getting vaccinated early, especially at a young age. Garcia and Klugman believe it’s very important for children to get vaccinated and highly recommend that although some schools don’t require vaccinations, parents should have their child vaccinated anyway.

“I believe it is very important to vaccinate children. Vaccines are able to protect children against disease more than ever before,” Garcia said. “In the long run, a vaccine to help prevent a disease can help families save on hospital bills. There will also be a decrease in school absences related to illness.”

“I think it’s incredibly important. The greatest killer of human beings throughout history has been infectious disease,” Klugman said. “The single greatest increase in human life expectancy in the 20th century was brought about because of vaccination.”

Haley BeMiller contributed to this report.

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