Feature Article — Families and Vaccines: Figuring It out when Opinions Differ
Published on in Parents PACK
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Published on in Parents PACK
A multi-state measles outbreak is due in part to declines in vaccination with the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. While most parents choose to vaccinate their children, pockets of unimmunized people provide opportunities for diseases to gain a foothold in otherwise vaccinated communities.
One interesting story that has emerged from the current outbreak involves unvaccinated teenagers trying to get vaccinated against their parents’ wishes. Interviews with some of these teenagers have indicated that vaccines were not an option because of their parents’ views, and in some cases, discussion was also not an option. Now, as those teens see outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, or transition to phases of life when they need to be vaccinated, they are taking matters into their own hands.
Teens are not the only ones whose positions about vaccines may differ. We periodically hear from family members frustrated with similar situations in their families. The differences occur between husbands and wives, parents and grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and other loved ones.
Often these people contact us looking not only for reliable information but also for guidance related to keeping vaccine-preventable diseases from harming their unvaccinated family members, or for guidance when having conversations with those in their family concerned about vaccine safety.
While lots of misinformation exists about vaccines, so too does reliable information. We provide a list of organizations with reliable information on our Vaccine Websites page. The World Health Organization offers a program, called the Vaccine Safety Net, that vets vaccine-related websites around the world.
You can also check out the Vaccine Education Center (VEC) resources page at vaccine.chop.edu/resources. Click each link to see the different topics and formats for our information, including Q&A sheets and booklets as well as a large number of short videos.
We have compiled some of the considerations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated family members in the Q&A Special Topics sheet, Vaccinated or Unvaccinated: What You Should Know.
Like with politics, vaccine conversations can become heated and uncomfortable. Unlike with political conversations, in some cases joint decision-making related to the health of a family member is required.
The ongoing multi-state measles outbreaks, as well as recent outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases, like pertussis and mumps, are likely to spur more of these vaccine conversations. With that in mind, remember that family relationships are more important than a single topic or issue. Hopefully, these tips and resources will help. Finally, don’t lose sight of the fact that by vaccinating your family and encouraging others to do so, you are protecting not only your family but also your community.
Categories: Parents PACK March 2019
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.