May 06, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Mumps, measles, polio, whooping cough – are you safe from these diseases?
How about the child who sits beside yours in the classroom, or the coughing cashier who just handed you change for your morning coffee? Have they been vaccinated against all of these illnesses?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate one in four American toddlers are not vaccinated sufficiently against childhood diseases, according to a study of more than 17,000 two-year-olds. The study found that two-thirds of the children either missed doses or were administered doses at incorrect time intervals, rendering the vaccination useless.
And outside of those children mistakenly believed by parents and doctors to have been inoculated correctly are those who do not receive any vaccinations at all. Forty-eight states allow parents to waive the vaccinations because of religious beliefs, 20 states allow for conscientious objector waivers.
Jan Food-Nichols, a DeWitt native and polio survivor, was among the majority of Americans who believed vaccine-preventable childhood diseases no longer posed a threat in the United States – they are, after all, vaccine-preventable.
Nichols said it was in 2003 when a friend sent her an article about the prevalence of Polio around the world that she was compelled to share her survival story and spread awareness of the disease.
Twin Voices: A Memoir of Polio, the Forgotten Killer, is Nichols’ rendition of the 1953 Polio epidemic that gripped the Syracuse area and claimed the life of her then 6-year-old twin brother, Frankie.
I never thought I would write a book, I never thought I would talk about our experience, Nichols said.
I thought it was a personal matter no one would be interested in.
But when Nichols, who holds a Master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, realized the threat still posed by illnesses thought to be eradicated from the U.S., she knew it was time to tell her story.
By writing, I could explain to people why it’s insane not to vaccinate your children, she said.
Parents who choose not to inoculate their children cite various reasons, including the claim that preservatives and other products found in the serum can cause autism, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and other chronic and fatal illnesses.
The anti-vaccination movement may be gaining momentum, with popular faces, like actress Jenny McCarthy, at the helm.
McCarthy blames the preservative Thiomersal, once found in the MMR vaccine, for her son’s autism, an argument used worldwide to promote vaccination refusal.
Nichols points out that the preservative has not been used since before 2002, and the rate of autism has increased since then. She also notes that vaccinations are administered around the same time in a toddler’s life when socialization begins, and the symptoms of autism become apparent.
Despite the high numbers the CDC reported, local schools and daycares say they have not had a problem with un-vaccinated children.
Debbi Luke, director of Fairmount Nursery School, said in the 20 years she has been with the school only one child applied whose parents refused to vaccinate.
The parent cited religious reasons, and the child did not end up attending, said Luke. She said she probably would not allow a child to attend the nursery school without complete vaccinations.
At Solvay Elementary School, school nurse Maureen LoBello said there is a different process for a child who cannot receive vaccinations due to a medical condition, and a child whose parents refuse to vaccinate.
A parent citing religious reasons must first submit a written statement to the district office stating their reasons, then the case is reviewed by the district attorney.
Most parents certainly want the best for their children, LoBello said. She has been at Solvay Elementary for 18 years and said vaccination refusal has not been a big issue.
Nichols said many anti-vaccination parents sidestep the rules by home-schooling their children.
She reminded the audience at Solvay Public Library, where she spoke of her experiences on Friday, May 2, Polio is just a plane trip away.
Especially if that plane trip lands you in Polio are Nigeria, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the nations most affected by Polio. But cases have been popping up all over the world – in the fall of 2007, Polio virus genetically related to the prominent virus in Chad, Africa was found in the sewer systems of Geneva, Switzerland.
The summer prior, a 22-year-old Pakistani studying in Australia was diagnosed with Polio; Australia had not had a reported case of the disease for 20 years prior to the incident.
Despite the numbers and recent headlines, Nichols says she does not feel overwhelmed.
I’ve never been so focused in my life, she said.