School’s back in session. But, while families are scrambling to buy new clothes and classroom supplies, one thing is glaringly missing from too many back-to-school “must have” lists—annual immunizations.
For more than 10 years, a number of public health campaigns and studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), have debunked any suggested link between vaccines and autism. Yet, the number of parents who are willing to forgo vaccinations for their children this year remains naggingly high in spite of a decade of public education and sound science.
According to findings from PhRMA’s Second Annual National Health Survey, 1 in 4 Americans believe vaccines can cause autism in young children, including 30 percent of adults who are responsible for raising a child.
This controversy has been ongoing for some time, with the mainstream scientific community on one side, and several small but vocal patient groups and celebrity figures on the other, leaving many parents feeling confused about their child's health, and many of those continuing to refuse vaccines.
But it’s time to put these dangerous and scientifically disproven myths to rest.
The truth is, vaccines are a critical medical advancement that have saved countless lives and have eradicated devastating diseases such as smallpox, polio, rubella, measles and more.
Unfortunately, these persistent myths and misguided safety concerns have contributed to a national decrease in vaccinations, leading to a rise in cases of once preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough. In fact, measles cases are at their highest level since 2000 with outbreaks in both Ohio and California.
And when it comes to health myths, PhRMA’s survey found that confusion exists beyond just vaccines.
For example, less than half of Americans (46 percent) know that older men have a greater risk of fathering a child with a genetic disorder than younger men, a health fact that has been verified by a number of scientific studies.
Other data from the survey provide insight into current misinterpretations based on recent trends. Take, for example, the meteoric growth of gluten-free food options. Gluten-free meals are ideal for people with celiac disease, but it’s estimated that only about 1 percent of Americans have the disease. Yet, according to the survey, 65 percent of Americans believe most people are sensitive to gluten and have difficulty digesting wheat products, even if they don’t have celiac disease. On this issue, the jury is still out. Some people who don’t have celiac disease may be sensitive to gluten, and may feel better on a gluten-free diet, but the science remains to be seen. Regardless, there’s little data to support the belief.