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???The number of children in private health plans getting properly immunized declined by as much as 3.5 percent last year, according to a recent report by the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA), a nonprofit organization that tracks health care quality.
In many cases, a routine vaccination is missed due to ignorance or inadequate health care. Vaccination rates for children on Medicaid hover below those of private health plans by several percentage points, according to the NCQA.
But some parents are purposely avoiding vaccinations, opting for a "philosophical exemption" to excuse their child from school immunization requirements, said Jeffrey Dimond of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They point to rumors littering the Internet that suggest shots can make children autistic or otherwise chronically ill.
Here are five myths about vaccines, and the truth behind them.
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Myth: Vaccines aren't necessary.
The only disease that has been eradicated is small pox. Everything else is still out there. Some like whooping cough and measles continue to cause disease in the developed world. Others, such as polio, mainly occur in developing nations, but could be reintroduced anywhere, via international travel.Slide 3 of 11
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Myth: Children get too many shots, too early.
Vaccines are a trivial challenge to what children typically encounter and manage every day, said Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Their bodies constantly face things in their environment that challenge their immune systems to work hard, such as bacteria that line our skin, nose, throat and intestines, as well as bacteria in food, water and the air.
Immunologists at the University of California, San Diego looked into the number of immunological challenges a person can respond to at one time. After considering the variety of compounds in vaccines, including bacterial proteins, bacterial polysaccharides and viral proteins, Offit explained, they calculated that young children could safely respond to as many as 100,000 vaccines at once. The CDC recommends children get vaccinated against 14 diseases over a two-year period.Slide 5 of 11
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Myth: The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism.
This myth started in 1998, when a study authored by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was published in the journal The Lancet. The study followed 12 children, eight of whom had parents who believed their child's behavioral problems were caused by the MMR vaccine. The study set off a panic, causing vaccination results to drop and rates of measles to skyrocket. Earlier this year, the editors of the Lancet officially retracted the paper, citing evidence that it held false information.
Many other studies, including ones published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal, have shown the increase in autism rates is not linked to the MMR vaccine. One of the largest long-term studies was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002. Following 537,000 children, it found the rates of autism were the same among kids who had been vaccinated and those that had not.
After extensive reviews, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization and other major medical authorities have all concluded the same thing: The MMR vaccine is not causing the rise in autism .Slide 7 of 11
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