JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It is one of the most controversial topics of our time: whether to vaccinate your children or not.
So controversial, a local pediatrician says health providers are concerned.
Region 8 News caught up with parents who are either for and against vaccinating their kids and what doctors had to say.
One parent who chooses not vaccinate says the debate has turned ugly.
"We've had people say they wish our children died," a mother of three said as she teared up. "You know, it's just hard that adults can be so mean to children."
Region 8 News screened her identity because of this backlash. She fears her children would also get the same treatment if she showed her face.
"I feel like we should have the right to make the decisions we want to when it depends on our child's health," she said.
The woman, with two toddlers on board, blames vaccines for her oldest child's health issues.
"I tried figuring out why he had asthma and eczema when no one else in my family did," she said.
After months of research, she learned vaccines had a negative impact on her son.
"That's when I discovered those were side effects from vaccines," she said.
Now, years later she does not vaccinate her two youngest kids.
Many parents disagree with this mom's choice.
"The responsibility of any parent is to keep their child safe from harm," said Jim Essman, a father of two vaccinated children. "There are so many things out there that they could contract that could deal with very real physical harm or even death."
Region 8 News sat down with Dr. Andrea Read, a local pediatrician to see if vaccines are harmful to children.
"We are really coming up to a point of crisis and realizing we are going to have to set some hard boundaries," Read said.
Read said it is those boundaries to eliminate certain vaccine exemptions that are necessary as a Northwest Arkansas recent mumps outbreak comes as no surprise to her.
"We are starting to come about those times where we are seeing those diseases resurface," Read said.
She links this reemergence to parents who are deciding collectively in groups not to vaccinate.
"The illnesses resurface and can cause severe problems in children that would've previously had protection had they been vaccinated," Read said.
Despite what doctors say, the mother I spoke with stands by her decision, believing vaccines could do more harm than good.
"Adverse reactions, now known side effects to vaccines are seizures, hydrocephaly, rashes, all kinds of things," she said.
She also believes many doctors are not telling the full truth about the harmful side effects.
"Anytime you have a procedure done they have to tell you every possible adverse reaction and that's not being done when it comes to vaccines," she said. "People are told very little, you may have a little swelling or redness at the area and that's it."
Dr. Read directed me to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website where a study shows a small increased risk for febrile seizures--those caused by fevers--after a child gets the flu vaccine at the same time as the PCV13 and DTaP vaccines.
On the flip side, the website also states vaccines can prevent seizures and the risk for seizures remains small.
Dr. Read said the outcome could be worse when patients develop the severe medical conditions that are vaccine preventable.
"Those conditions could be severe pneumonia, severe meningitis in infants that we really haven't seen in years because we've vaccinated children for so long and measles, mumps, rubella.
Some parents also believe vaccines have a connection to autism, which Dr. Read immediately shot down.
Read said about 10 years ago a study came out from the United Kingdom showing that there could be correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism; however, the study never proved the link between the two.
She said the MMR is given around 15 to 18 months and parents could start seeing autism symptoms at that time too.
"There are absolutely no studies that prove there is a relationship between autism and vaccination," Read said. "What actually happens is for patients who are at risk or have certain conditions, that have predisposed them to autism,an those types of conditions start to develop around that time. That's when parents start to notice those symptoms that are related to autism."
Essman, who strongly feels every child should be up-to-date on vaccines, fears what may happen if the trend of non-vaccinations continue.
"If we don't do something to address this and get people to understand the risks that they are putting their children through and other people's children through, it's just going to spiral out of control and we are going to be in a situation that we were before vaccines," Essman said.
That is why Read believes setting firm boundaries is necessary.
"Really no longer allow religious exemptions or exemptions for very mild vaccine reactions because those really haven't shown to be valid reasons not to vaccinate," Read said.
She said as a pediatrician she will continue to educate parents on the importance of vaccines.
"The most important part about parents who choose not to vaccinate is the discussion," she said. "Just simply discussing with them what their concerns are and how I can better help them understand."
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