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Dear Parents: There are More Unvaccinated Kids Than You Think

admin January 17, 2015

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For the last several months (years?) there have been an increasing number of reports in the media about who is vaccinated and who isn’t…and the repercussions of such a choice.

We aren’t going to dive into those repercussions today.  They’re mostly silly, anyway.  It “seems” to make sense that since fewer people are vaccinating, this must be the cause of all the of the “outbreaks” of disease.  We’ll pretend that we actually know who started the outbreaks and their vaccination status (we don’t), in most cases, or that 50 – 80% of those who get sick weren’t fully vaccinated (hint: they were).  It doesn’t really take a lot of critical thinking skills to realize there is much more going on here than simply who was vaccinated and who wasn’t.  It’s truly a complex issue, even though it isn’t really being treated as one.  It’s easier to use the people who don’t vaccinate as scapegoats.

Most people, though, feel relatively safe.  After all, their communities are highly vaccinated.  Their friends all vaccinate their children.  Their families aren’t really ever around kids who aren’t vaccinated.

But the thing is…that’s probably not true.

Parents, there are a lot more unvaccinated kids than you think.

More Unvaccinated Kids?!

The first thing everyone needs to understand is that all of the numbers they throw out about who is not vaccinated come from school exemption forms.  And, these are often just estimates — not all school districts are necessarily reported in those numbers.  These numbers are only accurate for the school districts that reported, for school-age children who attend public schools.  They are not necessarily accurate overall.

There are private school students.  Not all private schools report, and many private schools are likely to have lower vaccination rates, especially those that are “alternative” in nature, like Waldorf or Montessori.  If we included these numbers, the overall rates would probably go down.

But then!  There are students who are homeschooled.  Homeschooled students in most states are not required to fill out exemption forms.  They are not counted, either.  (In my state, it is not required.  My family has never signed any paperwork with the state or any doctor’s office stating that we refuse vaccines, although we have.  So “legally” we are not counted in any of those numbers.)  It’s also true that homeschooled students are more likely to opt out of vaccines, or to choose selective/delayed schedules.  A lot of our homeschooling friends don’t vaccinate.  More don’t, than do.  And they aren’t counted in these numbers.

And there’s more!  These numbers only count school-aged children.  That is, 5 and up, in kindergarten.  They don’t count kids who are too young to go to school and who are not in any system (Headstart kids, for example, would be counted in some cases).  The parents that were opting out 5 – 6 years ago were fewer in number than the parents who are opting out with their babies and young toddlers today.  More and more people are questioning vaccines, and are choosing to opt out of some or all of them.  None of these very young children are counted in any of these numbers.

Most states are estimating coverage rates of 90 – 99% for the “main” vaccines by school age.  There’s lower coverage for less common ones, like PCV or Hep A (down to 50% in some cases).

That doesn’t take into account any of the situations above.  If we say the average state is covered at 95% based on the school-age, public schooled kids, we might be looking at a figure of 85 – 90% — maybe even less — when we include private school, homeschool, and children too young to be in any system.

Bottom line?  We don’t really know how many kids are not vaccinated, but it’s likely a lot more than you think.

Not in My Neighborhood

Still think that you are safe?  That the people you know definitely vaccinate?  Think again.

The attitude towards those who question or opt out of vaccines is pretty hostile right now.  I think we all know that.  This means that families who have made that choice don’t exactly advertise it.  It’s not something that’s really going to come up in conversation.  It’s probably not going to come up on Facebook, either, especially if most people are talking about how stupid families that don’t vaccinate are.

Your friends, your neighbors…they might not vaccinate.  But they wouldn’t feel the need to tell you that.  (And why should they?  It’s a private medical decision.)  If you start asking people, “Did you vaccinate your kids?” you might find out just how few admit that they did — or who admit to skipping one or two of the shots, or delaying some.

Honestly, most people just don’t bring it up, because they don’t feel like being berated for it.  That happens…far too often.  But trust me, there are plenty of people who don’t vaccinate or skip some vaccines and who simply don’t talk about it.  More than you think.

It Doesn’t Matter

Here’s the thing.  We cannot control the decisions other people make.  We cannot control which people around us haven’t had their vaccines, or even who go to the store or the library or school while sick.  (Wish they wouldn’t do that second part, but whatever.)  We can’t.  We can only control ourselves.

It’s also very true that most of the adult population isn’t up to date on their boosters — and that most never had several of the vaccines on today’s schedule in the first place.  Adults of my generation — mid-20s to mid-30s — did not have PCV, Hep A or B, meninigitis (some got it before college, but not all), rotavirus, Hib, or varicella.  We simply didn’t, because they weren’t available.  And unless someone’s in the medical field, they didn’t have them later, either.

As a whole population — not just kids — we don’t and never have had a very high vaccine coverage rate.  But we haven’t seen massive outbreaks, sickening millions and killing thousands.  It just hasn’t happened.  It won’t happen.  All those “what if we stopped vaccinating” type posts?  Yeah, those are basically made up.  They use data from a time when our country knew very little about disease and medicine (compared to now) and/or use illness and death rates from third world countries.  I don’t need to explain that the circumstances here, vs. say, Rwanda, are strikingly different in more ways than just vaccination rates.

Bottom line: it’s your choice if you want to vaccinate or not.  Give up on caring what others around you do, because you can’t and shouldn’t control it.  You’re already surrounded by people who are not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated (both kids and adults).  You don’t even know it.  And it’s okay.  Really.  It is.

We can’t erase all risk to ourselves, or the risk we may pose to others.  We could look down at the wrong moment while driving and get in a car accident and hurt or kill someone else.  It doesn’t stop us from driving.  We could go out in public with what we think is “just a cold” that turns out to be pertussis, which could be passed on to others.  (Why I am not concerned about pertussis infection — in general, not newborns — and why I *am* concerned about vaccines is an entirely separate post.)  We do our best to be considerate of others.  We do our best to protect our own health and safety.  That’s all we can do.

Let’s just stop worrying about what others are doing.  Our sanity will be so much better for it!

If you think parents deserve the right to choose whether or not to vaccinate their kids — it doesn’t matter what you personally decided — please sign this petition to protect our rights.

How many people around you are unvaccinated?  Do you discuss your choice?

Confused about vaccines?

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15 Comments

  1. In a moms group im in of about 15 active moms with kids 4 years and younger, 4 of those families do not vaccinate, and 2 more on a delayed / alternate schedule. And those are the ones I am close to and know about. The 4 of us that don’t absolutely do not advertise it and stay out of any discussions about it for the reasons you mentioned.

    Many of us are now close friends, and several moms don’t have any idea that there are so many unvaccinated kids in the group .

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  2. This affects those that do vaccinate, too. Not all people that receive vaccines have conversion. Not everyone converts. Meaning MAYBE 80% of those vaccinated are protected, depending on the vaccine. You should learn more about it. Your decision affects the adults, children, and elderly around you. I just wish people would become educated on the whole story.

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    • Why would you come here and assume I have never heard that vaccines fail sometimes? Or that people believe in herd immunity, the theory to which you’re referring? Frankly it’s highly insulting that you think you are the FIRST person to ever mention these things to me. I’ve posted on vaccines extensively, I have researched them for thousands of hours. Yes, of course I have heard of those things! Goodness.

      But no, I don’t care. I don’t think I have a responsibility to protect other peoples’ health by taking an immediate risk with my family. My responsibility is first and foremost to my family.

      Since you think I am not educated, how much research have YOU done? Do you know which vaccines children receive at each visit? I do. Have you read the package inserts for each, and learned about the potential adverse reactions? I have. Have you read independent research studies on the safety and efficacy of each? I have. Have you researched the natural course of each disease — typical symptoms, when it’s contagious, what to expect? I have. Have you looked into the potential complications of each disease, what increases the likelihood of complications, and how likely they are? I have. Have you researched the development of the immune system, how vaccines impact the TH-1 vs. TH-2 system and how they differ from natural infection? I have.

      Perhaps you don’t want to go and tell people they’re uneducated anymore.

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      • Katie, I believe Cassandra was actually supporting what you said in your blog. I don’t believe she meant “you” as in you. I think she meant that people in general need to be more educated since most people (yourself not included) don’t realize that vaccination doesn’t always mean immunization and those terms aren’t synonymous. I believe she was voicing agreement with you.

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      • PREACH MAMA PREACH! I agree with you WHOLEHEARTEDLY Kate!

        I wish i could be louder about our not vaccinating status. I want to scream it from the mountain tops. The risk does not outweigh the benefit. Both of vaccinating and sharing it with the world.

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  3. My mother did not vaccinate me as a child, it wasn’t until my parents divorced and I was forced from homeschool to public school at age 13 that I got a whole bunch of shots at once. Do I have a lot of medical problems now? Yep. Can I for sure blame it on the shots? No. I’m not a scientist, I can’t do that. But I do THINK that it is because of all those chemicals being injected into my body at once that caused some of it. We do not vaccinate our daughter, she’s now 3. We do NOT advertise it with anyone, especially friends and family because we have gotten such bad reactions, and have been lectured about something that should be OUR choice. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told “But your unvaccinated kid is going to harm my vaccinated one.” WOW. Okay then. So yeah we don’t advertise it, there’s far too much ignorance, narrow mindedness, and hatred in this world to just let your opinions and choices be heard anymore. Loved the post, thank you for sharing!

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  4. More than 70% of adults do not get their booster shots. Yet, the “outbreaks” of disease are due to unvaccinated children. Riiiight. SMH.

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  5. People are getting wiser about the vaccination scam.

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  6. There are also quite a number of people (only going by my own observations) who have found private Doctors who are cashing in on on the whole “alternative” non vaccinated lifestyle (for lack of better words). Pay them enough and they will fudge your child’s records for you. One doctor in my home state is recommended soley because of his willingness to do so. I’ve known two sets of parents (real life, not online acquaintances) who had the money to go that route, and even though no shot was ever injected into their children, they have records that prove their immunizations were all given on time, and on schedule.
    I vaccinate so I stay away from any sort of conversations about it online because the conversation will then turn into a debate.
    Most of my friends online who make mention of flu shots or immunizations in their posts and facebook statuses have to put a disclaimer about how they don’t want to hear how they can be detrimental, or how they are unessesary, unnatural etc “Please, respect my decision to vaccinate. I don’t want this turning into a debate”. Not the other way around.
    Yes, there are a lot more unvaccinated kids out there than you think, but if you choose to vaccinate against childhood illnesses, don’t let anyone try to tell you that you were wrong for doing so.

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  7. THIS. THIS. THIS. THANK YOU.

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  8. My husband and I are trying to get pregnant with our second. I have started asking about vaccination status. So far only one family is anti vaccine so I have a pretty large group of vaccinated children to choose from to play with my son. We do plan on avoiding the unvaccinated family until our baby is able to get the 1st MMR vaccine at 15 months. My husband and I have appointments to check our measles titer (immunity). Our state has a reported 17% unvaccinated rate with some cities being as high as 29%. We have regular outbreaks of pertusis and recently we were graced with measles cases. So yes, I do ask vaccination status.

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    • Why wouldn’t you ask if people are actually sick? Because if they’re not sick and haven’t been exposed to anything, then they are no risk to you…. I ask that people not visit if they are sick/have symptoms when I have a newborn. But I don’t avoid everyone and I certainly don’t ask someone’s vaccination status. It’s none of my business. I wouldn’t answer that question, either. But I’d be happy to stay away from people who think I should, since clearly we don’t see eye to eye.

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  9. This is so true, I’m finding out. We have not vaccinated our daughter and have never been loud about that decision. But I have slowly found out almost every single one of my friends has not vaccinated either. Even the ones I would have bet money on vaccinating their kids. And we all have very different ways of life and doing things. I don’t really tell anyone I don’t vaccinate either, but I do stay away from newborns and if the new parents are bugging us about visiting we will inform them that our daughter is not vaccinated and I will not be offended if they want us to wait to see the baby. I think that should be the new parents Decision too because I didn’t want the public or any kids touching her for at least 3 months after she was born. Newborns are more vulnerable and even if you don’t agree with that, parents are more sensitive during the newborn stage.

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  10. About 8 years ago I was part of a mom’s group. I casually mentioned I liked our pediatrician because he was okay with my choice not to vaccinate. Less than 24 hour later the group decided to vote as to whether or not vaccinations should be required to belong to the mom’s group. (Of course, this had nothing to do with me; it was entirely coincidental.) I was voted out. I don’t tell anyone about my child’s vaccine status any more.

    Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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