With recent news reports of measles outbreaks in schools and child flu deaths, it could appear as though a large percentage of the population is forgoing vaccinations. Yet, reports from state and national organizations reveal vaccination coverage remains high among children.
As the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, said, “Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future.” Medicine is ever-evolving, and this is especially true as it relates to vaccines. Vaccination research continues to advance the effectiveness of current vaccines and address new threatening viruses.
To many doctors’ dismay, vaccine hesitancy, the delay or refusal of immunizations, is on the rise. According to a recent report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors are seeing more children whose parents have decided to forgo one or more of the recommended vaccinations.
The recent news cycles have produced a national paranoia surrounding the virus, Zika. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus, a “public health emergency of international concern.” In this early stage, a big factor in the news about Zika is the amount of unknowns. As Dr. Margaret Chan, General Director of the WHO, said, “The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty.”
The bacterial infection, pertussis, kept largely under control in recent decades by vaccination is again making headlines. Pertussis, known commonly as whooping cough, is on the rise. From 2013 to 2014, total cases reported increased 15 percent, and almost daily new outbreaks are reported in the news here in the United States and abroad.
As a parent, sending a child off to college or into the working world is scary enough. The last thing they want to imagine is a potentially life-threatening disease. Unfortunately, they should. On college campuses across the U.S., outbreaks of meningococcal disease (meningitis), a serious bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord, have occurred.
When it comes to advancements in healthcare, it’s alarming to see a string of developing countries listed ahead of a major American city. Yet, due to a recent precipitous decline in immunization rates, Seattle, known as one of the country’s smartest cities, now lags behind numerous third-world countries for polio vaccination rates among children.
Each August, our nation recognizes and celebrates the tremendous impact vaccines have had on people worldwide. Vaccines have been credited with preventing more than 2.5 million deaths annually by protecting us from countless diseases and health complications. By celebrating National Immunization Awareness Month, our goal is to remind people that vaccinations are important at all stages of life, from infancy to elderly.
There’s no question that the development of new and better vaccines was one of the greatest medical advancements in the 20th century. The only question is what will the 21st century hold for vaccines?
The recent measles outbreak stemming from Disneyland in California provided a glimpse of what could happen if more individuals stopped vaccinating. The outbreak led to 117 individuals across multiple states being infected. Parents of infants and those with weak immune systems feared exposure. Although it is an unfamiliar feeling for those of us vaccinated, this event was an unfortunate reminder of life without access to vaccines.
The scariest word for a primary care physician these days isn’t ACA, reimbursements, or even liability insurance. It’s attrition. The great migration of patients continues to shift from the primary care practice to other facilities. They will go where there’s quick and easy access to good care. In recent years, that has meant a migration to urgent care centers.