According to Bridgeman (2007), the responsibilities of parents arise from the relationship with their child, and hence directs the consideration of their expertise. The more experience that parents have with medical illness and vaccination, the more likely a parent is to make sound choices based on medical evidence and scientific fact. One must consider the validity of the evidence presented before one makes sound judgment. There is medical evidence suggesting that vaccines are beneficial; there is also medical evidence available suggesting that vaccinations have caused harm. However, this latter evidence is partial and often focused on medical condition, prognosis and treatment options.
Some of the evidence against vaccines arose from evidence between the link between the pertussis vaccine and brain damage that arose in the 1970s, and the MMR vaccine, autism and bowel problems (Bridgeman, 2007). However, recent studies confirm that children can suffer harm from contracting diseases from which they are not immunized. Further, studies confirm that vaccines have been improved and that the risk is much less than previously realized (Bridgeman, 2007). Further, parents have an obligation to assess the risk of immunization vs. the risk of lack of immunization. As yet there is scientific uncertainly regarding the link between MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorders and bowel disorders (Bridegman, 2007).
Ayim (2012) notes parents have a need to become educated regarding childhood disease and vaccines as they have to live with the decisions that arise when uninformed decisions are made. The more educated a parent is on disease the better choice a parent may make. Further parents have an obligation to ask health officers to provide children with physical examinations to ensure that children are healthy prior to permitting vaccinations. Sick children are more at risk for developing reactions to vaccines (Ayim, 2012). Parents can reduce the risk of vaccine related illness by including information including health history in children’s permanent medical records. Monitoring children closely following vaccine administration can further reduce the risk of a reaction. Legal stipulations require that health officers provide parents with vaccine benefit and risk information materials prior to vaccinating children.
Romm (2001) notes that vaccines have played an important role in keeping many diseases under control. Other factors can also help provide immunity and protection. These include good hygiene, nutrition and living conditions which also contribute to reduced disease susceptibility. As long as parents are informed of the full protections available to them, they can make educated decisions regarding the risks and benefits of vaccinations.
According to Plotkin, Orenstein & Offit (2012), communicating the benefit-to-risk balance of vaccines is important and needs to be taken into careful consideration. Benefits are vital in terms of protecting the public health, but may be difficult to convey. This is particularly the case of the number of cases of the disease in question is not very high. However, when common or non-serious adverse events occur after immunization, including fever or pain following injection, these are considered acceptable risks. There is uncertainty in many cases regarding potentially rare and sometimes serious adverse effects. However this uncertainty can affect public confidence in vaccinations and the necessity of vaccination programs. Therefore, it is necessary that healthcare officials provide up-to-date and factual information about the benefits, risks and disease epidemiology so that parents and communities can take measures to minimize the risks associated with disease and with taking or refusing to administer vaccines to children (Plotkin, Orenstein & Offit, 2012). Information that should be disseminated to families includes essential data regarding timelines for vaccinations. Further, healthcare providers have a duty to coordinated centrally authorized vaccinations, and to provide details to states and other agents regarding their duties in making vaccines regularly available to families, healthcare providers and others. Surveillance of the routine side effects and adverse effects of vaccinations including rare side effects can provide authorities with more detailed information regarding the likelihood that vaccines contribute to serious illness, or may contribute to serious illness in the future.
Neustaedter (2002) notes that many people are apprehensive of vaccines simply because of the pain and discomfort associated with vaccination that is not a pleasant experience for most. The idea of giving vaccines to a newborn is uncomfortable. However, vaccines have helped reduce the incidence of diseases including whooping cough, mumps, measles and polio, which have virtually been eliminated. The risk of many diseases or the risk of massive spread of many of these diseases and the rare adverse side effects have become much less intrusive.
The National Academies Press (2012), suggest that it is helpful to capture the value of vaccination, which historically has not been captured in prioritization models. This is because models have traditionally only reviewed the short-term effects and benefits of vaccinations. Additionally, many models do not review the intangible benefits of the long-term effects of vaccinations. These can include the long-term economic advantages that vaccinations may offer. These can include providing the population with an overall healthier lifestyle and population status. Further, vaccinations over time can help reduce unnecessary absences in school that result from illness, and help or reduce pandemics including severe outbreaks of diseases that include influenza or syndromes that have resulted in mass illness. Examples may include SARS or severe acute respiratory syndrome (National Academies Press, 2012). In reviewing these benefits, it is easy to conclude that vaccinations provide many long-term benefits to society. The benefits include preventing many serious and devastating illnesses from penetrating communities. The effects of these diseases, if left unchecked, may include diseases with the potential to wipe out significant portions of the population. Still other diseases have left children disfigured or physically and mentally challenged. Thankfully, proper vaccinations conducted in a timely fashion have resulted in a total improvement in general health among the population at large. The National Academies Press (2012) points to the value of the smallpox vaccine as an example of a vaccine that may not have seemed as worthwhile in early studies, but one that proved to have tremendous value over time, when one looks at how vaccines contributed to the eradication of the disease.
Herlihy & Hagood (2012) suggest that the media is often sensations with regard to the risk of autistic symptoms and other harsh side effects associated with vaccinations. Some stories suggest that children become “instantly” autistic as a result of taking vaccinations, which is impossible at best. Often such cases are examples of what the author suggest is “illusory correlating” where humans work with a “confirmation bias” rather than fact based confirmation because human’s creation pictures in their minds according to the author, of how things should be or how things should justifiably be. Stories find their way into people’s minds rather than scientific fact. The scientific facts suggest that historically vaccinations have saved thousands of children’s lives. The scientific facts include cases of smallpox and other major diseases being eradicated thanks to the use of vaccines. If parents are required to use vaccines then children’s lives will continue to be saved and the risk of epidemics will continue to be decreased in public settings. Should vaccines no longer be required, then the odds that epidemics may rise may dramatically increase, causing more problems in society than good.