Sometimes you wonder whether civilization has passed its peak and is regressing. I’ve had that feeling recently, reading about vaccination and outbreaks of preventable infectious diseases, like measles, at places like Disneyland.
Ohio, unfortunately, has the lowest measles vaccination rate in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 86 percent of 19- to 35-month-old children received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in 2013, tying Ohio for the worst performance in the U.S. Even worse, only 61 percent of Ohio kids have received the full set of childhood vaccinations, which includes shots for diseases like polio, chickenpox, and whooping cough, also among the worst resuts in the country. Those large numbers of unvaccinated kids can turn into unprotected adults who could be ravaged by an epidemic.
In Ohio, some of the unvaccinated children are part of groups, like the Amish, that oppose the shots for religious or cultural reasons. But there is no doubt that Ohio’s performance is growing worse in the general population, too. Statistics from the Ohio Department of Health show a steady decline in immunization rates from 2006 to 2013, to the Buckeye State’s current dismal standing at the bottom. It’s embarrassing.
Why aren’t Ohio kids getting their shots? Obviously, because parents aren’t insisting on it. Some parents justify non-immunization because they’ve heard that vaccinations may be linked to autism — a finding in a since-discredited British study — but even autism advocacy groups reject that link and encourage childhood immunization. Some parents may just be lazy, and others may believe that non-vaccination just won’t affect their kids. Regardless of how it is characterized, there seems to be a disturbing, anti-scientific feeling at work among American parents. It’s unimaginable to those of us who remember our mothers marching us to the doctor’s office to roll up our sleeves, smell the fresh, cold scent of alcohol being rubbed on our arms (or butts), and feel the sting of the needle. They insisted that we get those shots because that was the modern, scientific way to avoid disease.
Now that widespread view apparently has changed, even in educated parts of our society. How have we reached the point where a significant percentage of parents aren’t protecting their kids by employing proven methods to avoid potentially devastating diseases? Are other parenting basics being forsaken by these people? Are we on the downslope here?