Written by: Dr. Francis Rogalski
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Francis Rogalski is a Toledo-Area Pediatric Specialist. As a father of an Autistic child, I once asked Dr. Rogalski if he believed if there was any relation between vaccines and autism. It was a conversation that changed my perspective. I invited him to share his views on vaccinating children
The United States may be on the verge of a Public Health Crisis! Wide spread use of religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccines have resurrected old sleeping giants. In the pre-vaccine era Polio resulted in 20,000 cases yearly, Pertussis(whooping cough) averaged 9000 deaths per year, Hemophilus Influenza b(a bacteria) was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis and post-natal mental retardation, and measles was affecting 500,000 people per year with 500 resultant deaths. These and other diseases, once on the brink of eradication, are now making a comeback.
Looking back at the factors that have made a significant impact on the public health of this country, vaccines have had a tremendous effect, and in fact rank second only to the purification of water, just in the lifetime of many of us, society has witnessed the full cycle of one disease “Polio” from illness, to epidemic, to cure. Measles was no longer considered endemic in the United States since 2000, and Hemophilus Influenza b has all but disappeared. These are the fruits of vaccination.
Why then are we returning to the days of yore when infectious diseases accounted for such significant morbidity and mortality especially when vaccines are one of the most cost-effective and successful public health interventions?
Has our progress produced complacency? Are we the victims of our own success? Now that many of these diseases are unseen and forgotten people have taken to the anti-vaccine movement often fueled without evidence, science, and reason.
Currently 48 0f 50 states (excluding West Virginia and Mississippi) allow for religious belief exemptions to vaccines and 18 states, including Ohio, exempt individuals with non-religious cultural or philosophical objections to vaccines. These beliefs include but are not limited to:
1) Devotion to natural or alternative healing
2) Opposition to State and Federal powers
3) Mistrust of pharmaceutical companies
4) Beliefs that vaccines are not safe(especially a concern about autism)
This results in pockets and sectors of the population being unprotected. With our current mobile society and the ease of worldwide travel to and from countries where many of these diseases remain endemic, the cycle of disease introduction is initiated and large outbreaks take place. We must maintain vaccination rates high enough to prevent these potentially devastating outbreaks.
Numerous scientific studies have refuted any association between vaccines and autism but the lay literature, the internet, and prominent national figures who embrace this notion continue to fuel the debate.
The truth is that vaccine preventable diseases account for over 30,000 otherwise avoidable deaths each year in the United States. If we continue to tolerate vaccine refusal, we may be destined to repeat the past. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”