VIRGINIA BEACH — In the wake of New York state’s longest measles outbreak since the disease was declared officially eliminated from the United States in 2000, parents are pushing back on their right of whether or not to vaccinate.
As of 2017, children are recommended to receive 50 doses of 14 vaccines by age 6 and 69 doses of 16 vaccines by age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those vaccines cover diseases such as hepatitis B, tetanus, measles, pertussis, diptheria, rotavirus, polio and more, according to the CDC.
One local mother, Danielle Knewstep, has advocated for parents to adopt a “pro-choice” method when deciding whether or not to vaccinate their children.
When she became pregnant with her now 5-year-old, one of the first things she did was start researching everything she could about her new baby, including vaccines, she said.
Knewstep’s concerns ranged from the number of vaccines increasing from when she was a child in the 1980s to now, what the risks associated with vaccines were and why the government was mandating what she did for her child.
“It’s me choosing what’s best for my child,” she said.
As of 2018, Virginia has two options for vaccine exemptions: medical and religious, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Parents who wish to opt out of vaccinating their child must either:
- Submit a completed and notarized Commonwealth of Virginia Certificate of religious exemption that the immunizations are contrary to religious tenants or practices;
- Or a medical exemption written statement is provided from a physician or licensed nurse practitioner that, in his/her professional judgment, all or part of the immunization requirements are contraindicated, according to the Virginia Beach City Public schools website.
The state has a 96.3 percent public school coverage rate for vaccinations and Virginia Beach has a 96.1 percent coverage rate.
Laurie Shaw, nurse manager senior with the city’s department of public health, said vaccines are the most effective strategy to preventing communicable diseases that we have vaccines for.
“It has been proven to be safe,” she said. “And from our perspective, it is far better to take that opportunity to protect your child than let your child get the disease.”
She also gave comment on the jump in number of vaccines children are receiving in 2017 versus the 1980s.
“We’ve been able to develop more vaccines to cover or protect them [children] from things such as hepatitis,” she added.
Harmed by vaccines
The concept of being harmed by vaccines is something the National Vaccine Information Center has worked to spread information about.
Being harmed by vaccines refers to an individual claiming serious health problems, injuries, hospitalizations or death following vaccination, according to the NVIC website.
According to the CDC, from 2006 to 2017 more than 3.4 billion doses of covered vaccines were distributed in the U.S. and during that time 6,197 lawsuits were adjudicated by the court, and of those 4,250 were compensated.
That means for every 1 million doses of vaccine that were distributed, one individual was compensated.
Knewstep said her concerns lie with those who have been harmed by vaccines and it is her opinion that parents should have a complete understanding of the risks associated with vaccines.
“Where there is a risk there must be a choice,” she said.
While the city’s department of health does agree parents should be informed, they also emphasize that by making the decision to vaccinate children, parents are not only protecting their children but also the community, Shaw said.
To learn more about vaccines and the recommended pediatric vaccination schedule, click here.