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Fear of Vaccines Has a Long, Persistent History
Date:1/26/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- As long as vaccinations against disease have been around, there have been die-hard opponents convinced that these shots do more harm than good.

This type of "vaccine phobia" has perhaps never been expressed more vehemently than with the standard measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) childhood vaccine, which many insist is tied to autism.

Even after the retraction last year by The Lancet of the controversial study that first proposed such a link, and subsequent charges of fraud against its lead author, 18 percent of Americans surveyed in a recent Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll said they believed the MMR shot could cause autism.

Why are vaccines such lightning rods for suspicion and fear, despite scientific evidence that immunization campaigns have helped millions of people around the world live longer, healthier lives? One thing is for sure: the trend is not a new one.

According to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, fear of vaccinations has been around since Edward Jenner administered his first smallpox shot in 1796. Skepticism waned during the middle of the 20th century, however, as the first large-scale immunization campaigns beat back longtime killers such as diptheria, tetanus, polio and measles.

And yet early in the 21st century, fear of vaccines has reared up once more. A study published in the March 2010 issue of Pediatrics found that although 90 percent of surveyed parents still thought vaccines offered good protection for their kids, almost 12 percent had refused at least one vaccine for their child.

These fears come at a real cost to public health, experts say: Declines in vaccination rates have been tied to recent U.S. outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, potentially fatal diseases the shots were meant to prevent.

Doctors have noted the trend, even am
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