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Some Parents Shun Vaccines

They're opting instead for 'measles parties'

Some parents are becoming so concerned about side effects from the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, also known at the MMR vaccine, that they've decided not to have their children inoculated.

Instead, according to an article from the BBC, they're opting to expose their children to the diseases with the help of an informal network of like-minded parents. When one child comes down with one of the diseases, other parents are informed and they have "measles parties," the article says.

More than 500 sets of parents are linked by the network. Many are concerned that the vaccine may cause side effects like autism, bowel problems or problems with the immune system. They also say that this is the way things were done when they were kids: They were exposed, got the disease, then had lifelong immunity.

But health officials say that the parents are being careless with the health of their children and that the vaccines are designed to prevent diseases that can be harmful and, in some cases, deadly to children. Those who don't get exposed as children could instead get the diseases when they're adults. Side effects from these diseases are much more common in adults.

The parents in the group, however, say their concerns about the vaccine outweigh possible drawbacks. Another option, they say, is to have the vaccine for each disease administered one by one, rather than in the group of three. But that option, so far, has been rejected by medical experts. In the meantime, statistics show that these parents might have a lot of company. Since 1998, when concerns first were raised about the MMR vaccine, immunization rates have fallen below recommended World Health Organization levels.

To find out more about the measles vaccine, including possible side effects, you can read this information from Medline. To find out about a measles epidemic in the Netherlands last year, you can read this article from the British Medical Journal. During that epidemic, 40 children were hospitalized with severe complications, including encephalitis, and three children died.

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