Guilford County Health Director Merle Green said that Guilford County is trying to get out ahead of a trend that could have very bad repercussions for public health: More and more parents are refusing to get their children vaccinated because of stories they’re hearing primarily on social media about the supposed dangers of vaccines.
Green said this week that fewer and fewer parents in Guilford County are getting their children vaccinated. She said they’re worried about recent publicized incidents where a vaccination has been blamed for a major health problem and she added that it’s creating a dangerous situation where the risk of disease outbreak is greatly magnified.
“This is a rising trend in childhood vaccinations,” Green said of parents opting out. “A lot of people are uncomfortable getting their children vaccinated because of anecdotal evidence.”
Green cited social media as one reason for the alarming trend that, she said, makes Guilford County’s population much more susceptible to diseases such as Chickenpox.
“There has always been a population of people who are skeptical, but now that population is growing,” Green said.
According to the health director, medical evidence from highly authoritative agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that vaccines are safe, but more and more these days people in Guilford County are being swayed by stories on social media in which someone has purportedly had a highly negative outcome that they attribute to a vaccine.
Actress Jenny McCarthy is one of the most famous examples of a high profile star who’s been touting the dangers of vaccines. Her son Evan was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and like most young children had had a series of vaccinations. McCarthy, who’s written several books on autism, has helped organize a parents’ movement and has publicized what she says is a link between vaccines and autism. That’s just one instance. Anyone who googles the issue or does a search on Facebook can find multiple instances of all types of medical horror stories where people claim that severe problems are linked to vaccinations.
Green said she can cite plenty of stories of her own on the other side of the issue. She said that, while there’s no real evidence of the dangers of vaccines, there is unquestionably solid evidence of the harm caused by a failure of parents to vaccinate kids.
In November, TheNew York Timespublished an article on a major Chickenpox outbreak at the Asheville Waldorf School in Asheville.
About 35 of the school’s 150 children came down with the disease after a large number of parents failed to get their children vaccinated.
TheNew York Timesarticle quotes Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, the medical director for the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services as saying, “The size of this outbreak and the fact that this school continues to have a large number of unvaccinated students makes it very likely there will be continued spread of chickenpox within the school. This also poses a risk of spread to the surrounding community.”
Green said that, if parents in Guilford County continue to refuse to have children vaccinated, the county could see a similar outbreak.