Parents encouraged to have children vaccinated

Published 9:31 am Friday, March 16, 2012

by Katie Conner

A silent army is making a deadly comeback in Virginia.

Pertussiss, tetanus, measles, the flu and more are rearing their ugly heads putting kids — your kids — in danger. These beasts could be truly silenced with one simple tool: vaccines.

However, misconceptions of the supposed dangers of vaccines, lack of medical insurance/poverty levels, and lack of education and awareness levels have led to a wide open door for these diseases to burst through and make a comeback.

When you think about the claims against vaccines, you will notice a lack of substance. Claims of the supposed dangers of vaccines are often substantiated by little more than the media sensationalism of a one-in-a-million reaction and parents’ fear that autism will be “triggered” or “caused” in their child.

News flash: All vaccines have to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and rigorously tested on humans before they are allowed to be used on children.

And the supposed autism link?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who conducted the study that “found” the link in 1998, has since been stripped of his medical license. The journal that published his work has retracted the article because of the fraudulent nature of the information within.

Vaccines aren’t something to fear. In the long run, a child will be safer with a sore arm and some fatigue from a vaccine than he will be if he attempts to fight diseases that kill millions of children worldwide every year.

Franklin and Southampton County have child poverty rates above the state average. With the closing of International Paper, insurance coverage among adolescents dropped due to unemployment.

However, in talking with Laura Nicolai with the Virginia Department of Health, I learned that underinsured or uninsured children under 18 can get any and all shots required for school at the local health department for free.

If this is the case, then why are parents not getting their children vaccinated?

Parents may say they are, but the numbers tell a different story. Every year, there are children who enter public schools without the proper vaccinations. Every year since 2008, diseases like Pertussis and the flu have had rising numbers, and now the measles are beginning to come back as well.

This is an extremely dangerous situation. By not educating kids on proper vaccination, they are given a lifetime of risks and possibilities of negative health effects.

Don’t believe me?

I surveyed 100 kids in sixth through 12th grades in Franklin to see what they knew. Of those surveyed, less than 25 students claimed to have had the following shots: Hepatitis B, MMR, MCV, Pneumoccocal, IPV and Varicella.

The scary part of these results is that our children had all of these shots to attend public and private schools, or to be home-schooled in Virginia.

Of 55 girls surveyed, six could identify HPV and what it could cause. It’s scary to think about just how much these kids don’t know it can cause genital warts and cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control has stated that about 50 percent of males and females in their lifetime will contract HPV, and with a host of cancers that it can cause, this is not something to be trifled with.

Why is it then that parents choose to not vaccinate their children with Gardasil, or an equivalent vaccine? I honestly cannot say, but my best guess is fear and lack of education.

Vaccines are important and not nearly as dangerous as people seem to think.

I have had all of my vaccines, and I am healthy, happy and content knowing that I most likely won’t ever have to deal with the stress of one of these terrible diseases.

However, not all kids are so lucky. Please, I implore those who read this, educate yourself and your kids. Stop saying, “It won’t be my kids; they’re too healthy.”

All it takes is a moment of bodily weakness, and a child could be in a fight for his life. Don’t wait until then to say, “Well, I guess we should have gotten the vaccine.”

Be proactive; get the vaccines. In the long run, a moment of discomfort for your child could save him from a lifetime of negative health, or even save his life.

KATIE CONNER is a senior at Franklin High School and founder of Project VA.c.c.i.n.e. She can be contacted at