By Lilo Stainton
Childhood immunization is a highly charged issue, pitting the needs of public health against the fears of parents, who worry that vaccines can harm rather than help their kids.
It’s also an argument that’s rapidly coming to a head in New Jersey, as the legislature looks to update regulations requiring mandatory vaccinations for schoolchildren.
Proponents want to ensure that more children are immunized, by tightening the so-call religious exemption that parents can claim. An opposing bill would expand parents’ rights to have their children opt out of part or all of a vaccination schedule.
It’s a question of public benefit versus independent choice.
Doctors say vaccinating children protects society from diseases like diphtheria, measles and polio, saving several million lives worldwide each year. They also insist that fears linking the shots to auto-immune diseases like autism are unfounded.
Still, a growing number of parents are raising concerns about the possible negative impact these inoculations might have on their kids, and prefer instead to avoid any chance of harm. The controversy is particularly acute New Jersey, which has the highest rate of childhood autism in the nation.