This week it became almost painful to watch the technical commentary regarding the outbreak of measles at Disneyland that sickened more than 100 people last year. The vaccine (human papillomavirus vaccine), or HPV vaccine, is seen as an absolute necessity and too expensive for many families to afford. Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician at the renowned Children’s National Health System, argued that “many parents mistakenly believe the vaccine causes mental retardation, when in fact there is no evidence it does, and that the vaccine has been proven to save many more lives than it is causing harm to others.”
But we now have a science that is proving that “many parents mistakenly believe the vaccine causes mental retardation” is largely correct. According to a new study published in Pediatrics by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of California, San Francisco, this mistaken belief is strong among very young children.
The study, which is reported this week on the CDC website, found that 48 percent of 8-year-olds and 63 percent of 4-year-olds believe that the vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) cause mental retardation. And 23 percent of children in that age group said they would “never” get the vaccine.
As with much of what goes on in this country these days, though, there is a modicum of hope. Forty-one percent of those kids said that “if my doctor recommends I get the vaccine, I would.”
Also of some comfort is the small number of parents who support the vaccine. Forty-one percent of the parents were opposed to antivaccine claims. But among those who were not opposed, 65 percent said they believe the vaccine causes disease. And, this is perhaps the biggest part of the study, here’s what makes this research very interesting:
“Given that most children will have been vaccinated by the time they turn 18, the results of this study will help researchers better understand the role of beliefs among young adolescents on vaccine uptake.”
Well, if the study confirms this research (which I hope it does), I can still understand some of the those against the vaccine. My father was against the vaccines he believed caused mental retardation. For me, this decision was a lot easier. I was not a teenager.