MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Allan Xue's family has read up on the risks and benefits of having children vaccinated and said they haven't come across a good reason not to from their research.
However, some parents believe there are links between the vaccine preservative, thimerosal, and autism.
"There's no solid academic evidence to show that it is related, but people still have their suspicions," said Xue, a Mamaroneck resident whose wife is a doctor. Although Xue and his wife don't feel the need to get the flu shot every year, they agree that vaccinating their son Jonny, 9, was the right decision.
There have been studies conducted by health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization that have failed to show any causal link between the two, however some parents believe there is enough anecdotal evidence to support their concerns.
"I know a lot of people come in fearful of autism, but that connection has been disproven at least 20 times," said Dr. Wendy Proskin, pediatrician at the WestMed Medical Group's Rye and White Plains offices. "It's based on absolute junk science and there's no evidence of that except to disprove it."
Vaccines, responsible for the control of such infectious scourges as polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), prevent those diseases in people who receive them, as well as those who come into contact with unvaccinated people.
Vaccinated children develop immunities without suffering from the diseases the vaccines prevent.
"I would be more concerned if he didn't get vaccinated and then got something and died," said Erik Hofmann, a Mamaroneck resident who has had his son Ian, 2, vaccinated.
Vaccines contain the same antigens, or parts of antigens, that cause diseases. However, antigens in vaccines are either killed or greatly weakened so when they are injected into the human body they are not strong enough to produce symptoms of the disease. They are, however, strong enough for the immune system to produce antibodies against them.
A study published late last year by the Centers for Disease Control showed that death rates for 13 diseases preventable by childhood vaccinations are at an all-time low in the United States. However, there have been recent stirrings of some diseases making comebacks with deadly outcomes. Earlier this year California endured the largest whooping cough outbreak in 65 years, sickening almost 9,500 people and killing 10 infants. And so far this year, there have been more cases of measles in the United States than any year since 1996. Forty percent of people who contract the disease need to be hospitalized.
"There's still risks out there that we immunize against," Proskin said. "A lot of people think that all of the things we vaccinate for are ancient history. That's just not true and each child should be protected."
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