Increase in opting out of vaccinations sparks debate among parents

Vaccination debate in Maine

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – The debate over whether or not to vaccinate has intensified after the Maine CDC released new data that showed an increase in parents declining to vaccinate their children.

That data found the number of parents opting their children out of immunizations for non-medical reasons jumped from 4 percent to 4.8 percent.

To put that into perspective, that would be about 611 kids out of the more than 12,700 enrolled in kindergarten public schools in the state. That 0.8 percent increase would be about 5 more kids unvaccinated each year.

“It’s very difficult,” Elizabeth Wilson said.

Wilson and her partner Chad Lane just had her first baby, Charlotte.

Wilson said she does her best to learn all she can before making tough medical decisions for 3-month-old Charlotte, especially when it comes to immunizations.

"If I wouldn't want it in my body why would I want it in my child's,” she said.

Though they did opt for standard vaccinations, Wilson admitted that it is up to the individual parents.

"Whatever I can do to keep her safe is what I can do. I can't really control anyone else,” she said. "I know if someone doesn't get their child vaccinated she could get sick and its a concern for me for when she starts school.”

“It disturbs me,” Donna Cotton, a nurse practitioner in family medicine at St. Joseph’s Healthcare said.

Cotton said she always has that important conversation with parents.

Many people took to the NEWS CENTER Facebook pages to share their concerns, including Jeffrey who wrote, "People are waking up to the fact that vaccines are full of poisons."

"They are not full of poison,” Cotton said. “They are in many respects life-saving."

She said thiomersal, the controversial preservative once found in all vaccines, was removed back in the early 2000s with the exception of the flu vaccine.

"That's why we have a resurfacing of these illnesses and diseases. Go figure,” another Facebook user commented.

“We've all seen an increase in vaccine preventable illnesses,” Cotton said.

In fact, the CDC is concerned about pertusis cases in the state, and this year Maine had its first reported case of the measles in 20 years.

Cotton said she also fears the impact it could have on herd immunity, to protect those who cannot be vaccinated, when less and less people are choosing to be.

That is something that medical experts say could be bad news for babies like Charlotte.

"I just hope that she's healthy. I would get any vaccination that she needs,” Wilson said.

In Maine, the ability for parents to opt out is rather simple, despite attempts to make it harder.

Right now that increase of about five kindergartners a year in public school, could amount to more than 8,000 kids out of the more than 180,000 in public schools without vaccinations if the trend continues.

© 2017 WLBZ-TV


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