Vaccinations are common requirements for children all over the country in order to attend public school and college. However, half of American adults (52%) say they are concerned about the safety of vaccinations for children, including 27% who are Very Concerned.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 44% are not concerned about the safety of vaccines for children. But this includes just 13% whoa re Not At All Concerned.
Nearly one-out-of-three adults with children under 18 (32%) is Very Concerned about vaccine safety.
Still, 92% of those with children under 18 say their child has received all the vaccinations he or she is supposed to have.
The state ranked 42nd last year — and 45th in 2008 — in a telephone survey of parents and pediatricians by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New Jersey’s 64 percent rate for giving infants and toddlers recommended shots for polio, hepatitis B, mumps, measles and rubella and other diseases last year was well below the national average of nearly 71 percent, and the lowest in the Northeast. In Pennsylvania, 72 percent of infants and toddlers got their shots. Nearly 71 percent got them in New York City.
Nobody knows for sure why New Jersey’s vaccination rate has slipped so low, but public health professionals and pediatricians say they’ve seen it building for several years.
Vaccine opponents are meeting regularly with lawmakers to build momentum for a bill that would allow parents of school-aged children to claim a "philosophical exemption" to shots, said Collins, a Long Hill resident.
A small but growing number of parents already use the state’s religious exemption to allow their children to skip the shots required for school. It does not require parents to reveal their religion or present a letter from a member of the clergy.
In the 2005-06 school year, schools gave 452 students a pass because their parents cited religious reasons, state health spokeswoman Donna Leusner said. In the school year that just ended, 3,865 were allowed to skip shots on religious grounds.
Many say the early catalyst to the questioning of vaccines was a study by a British doctor 12 years ago linking the measles, mumps and rubella shots to autism. That study was debunked this year by the medical journal that published it.
New Jersey’s immunization rate plummeted from 76 to 62 percent in 2007, the same year the CDC announced the state has the nation’s highest autism rate. That was also the year New Jersey became the first to mandate a flu shot for children from 6 months to 59 months who attend a child care center or preschool.
"When that mandate passed, a whole lot of parents who had no interest in vaccines felt like this was too many and too much," said Barbara Flynn of Summit, an Alliance for Informed Choice member.
Among those Horn considers good doctors is Andy Wakefield, who recently gave a reading at Horn's Hillsborough home to a roomful of local parents as part of a book tour. Highly charged at the reading was the discussion of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is the particular shot parents worry is related to their children's troubles. Wakefield was a doctor specializing in digestive and gut medicine in the United Kingdom until, in 1995, several parents of autistic children approached him to treat their children's severe digestive problems.
In the years that followed, Wakefield assembled a team of autism researchers who became hugely controversial and widely criticized in a vaccine-autism research scare that authorities called irresponsible and which they said showed "callous disregard" for the well-being of the children at the center of the storm. Wakefield was struck from the U.K. medical register in May, and he's since moved to Texas.
"I don't see a point of making one guy the bad guy," Horn said of Wakefield. "Autism is the bad guy. Autism is the villain in this story."
Despite the controversy, Wakefield said at the reading that he's never argued specifically that vaccines cause autism.
"Causation is extremely complex," he said. "The issue is that we don't know. They will tell you they do know. But what has not been done is a comparison of health outcomes for children who are fully vaccinated and those who are not vaccinated at all." [But see study of kids in Denmark.]