Parents: Choose shots for children

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Increasing numbers of parents are choosing not to submit their children to required vaccinations in Illinois and elsewhere, The Associated Press reported last week.

We find that news alarming.

There is sound scientific evidence that vaccines work. Parents need to do their homework and read authoritative sources. Then they should be convinced that a short period of pain and inconvenience could prevent a whole lot of heartache for their families and, perhaps, the rest of us.

An AP analysis showed that in Illinois and eight other states, more than 1 in 20 public school kindergartners did not get all the vaccines they were supposed to for admission. Instead, they got exemptions, which literally could mean someone in your child's kindergarten class could have the potential to expose your children and you to serious illness, maybe even death.

That's not hyperbole. Consider this timeline: On Oct. 17 of this year, we reported nine cases of whooping cough at Cary-Grove High School. On Oct. 26, it was 25 confirmed cases in McHenry County, involving three schools. By Nov. 4, it was 38, and another school affected. Six days later, the cases had grown to 79. Five days after that, the Daily Herald reported four cases of whooping cough now in neighboring Lake County. And six days after that, on Nov. 21, we reported cases had mushroomed to 121 in McHenry County. Last Thursday brought word of a whooping cough case across the border in Racine.

The AP also reported in early October that a new study showed the whooping cough vaccine might not last as long as doctors had believed. It's possible the first McHenry resident who contracted whooping cough in McHenry had been vaccinated but the shot's effects waned. Still, the numbers show how quickly illness still spreads. And notes that before a vaccine existed, whooping cough killed 5,000 to 10,000 people a year in America. Now, with a vaccine, that website reported, it kills fewer than 30 people.

Illinois, the AP report said, had just under 6 percent of parents exempting out of required vaccines. In the five-year period studied, Illinois and neighboring Wisconsin were among 10 states that saw an increase in exemptions of 1.5 percentage points or more over the five years, a rise health officials say is troubling.

Parents reported they skipped shots because they doubt the vaccines are critical