Friday, March 11, 2011

Lawmakers ponder the safety of vaccinations

Lawmakers pondered the nuanced differences between science and philosophy today as they listened to a presentation on the safety of vaccinations for children.

The presentation, sponsored by the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition, was delivered to a joint meeting of the House Health and Environment Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. At the heart of the presentation was author Seth Mnookin, author of the book, “The Panic Virus: A story of Science, Medicine, and Fear.”

Mnookin said the book was a result of his own experience as a new parent looking for information on vaccinations.

“I wrote the book because there were two extreme views and not a lot of discourse—with little room for compromise,” said Mnookin.

His book delves into the debate over whether or not vaccinations are a contributing factor to recent increases in autism diagnoses along with ailments such as asthma. Mnookin said science suggests otherwise and that in the absence of any conclusive studies showing the link to autism, parents should embrace the merits of inoculation against preventable diseases.

The questions that lawmakers posed to Mnookin were primarily concerning the public policy aspect of balancing the need for public safety and personal autonomy of parents in making decisions for their children based on their own conclusions.

Mnookin indicated that he understood the dilemma, acknowledging that, “people on both sides of the issue that are the most passionate about this are parents that care a lot about their children.” However the bottom line for Mnookin is that the perils avoided by inoculation outweigh the risks of vaccinations.

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D- Denver, a doctor, said she can understand both sides of the issue but she is not quite ready to write off the skepticism and is hesitant to say vaccinations should be required.

“It’s always hard to try to find good ways to make people do things,” said Aguilar. “It’s still an open-ended question, and I respect that parents have a right to make these decisions, but exposing other people to dangers is not okay, either.”

Still, Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said that there is enough anecdotal evidence that may give some parents pause in inoculating their children and that their concerns must be respected.

“The bottom line is that parents still need to be the ultimate decision maker for their children,” said Lundberg.

Via - Colorado News Agency

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