Many Wyoming parents question childhood vaccines

By Laura Hancock

Casper Star-Tribune

Published: Saturday, April 26 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

A 4-year-old girl gets vaccinations at the doctor's office in Berlin, Vt. A number of people in the past decade have declined to immunize their children, convinced they are not helpful or are even harmful.

Toby Talbot, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CASPER, Wyo. — Danielle Sample, of Casper, used to argue with her mother, a nurse, about her choice to discontinue vaccines for her children.

She's taken heat from medical providers. It's hard to find a physician in Casper who will treat unvaccinated children.

Sample's oldest son was vaccinated until he was about 18 months old, when she concluded she didn't want her children getting immunizations after reading some items on the topic.

Her second child wasn't vaccinated at all. And the child she is pregnant with probably will not be vaccinated, either.

"I don't think there is enough research on them to prove that they work," she said.

From vaccinations for the flu to meningitis to smallpox to human papillomavirus, immunizations are believed by most people to save lives and extend lifespans.

But a number of people in the past decade have declined to immunize their children, convinced they are not helpful or are even harmful. Yet the medical community blames recent outbreaks on the so-called anti-vaccination movement, also called the anti-vax movement.

"The re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases that have largely been eliminated is a legitimate health concern," said Kim Deti, spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Health.

In Wyoming, there has been a marked increase in whooping cough, also known as pertussis, in recent years, Deti said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that is driving up measles cases in the U.S.

"There is likely more than one reason for that, but many of the reported cases in our state have been in unvaccinated children," Deti told the Casper Star-Tribune.

In Wyoming, 67.2 percent of children between 19 months and 35 months were current on their vaccines, according to the 2012 National Immunization Survey.

That's slightly below the national rate of 68.4 percent.

But by the time Wyoming children begin school, they're mostly caught up on their vaccines, said Deti.

In the 2012-13 school year, kindergarteners were 97.01 percent to 98.11 percent compliant on school immunization requirements, depending on each vaccine. Seventh-graders were 96.51 percent to 98.56 percent compliant, according to the Health Department.

In both grades, fewer than 1 percent were noncompliant in each vaccine category. The remaining students received an exemption from having to be vaccinated.

State figures for kindergarteners were slightly higher than national figures.

Nationally, 94.5 percent of kindergarteners had the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, 95.1 percent had the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine, and 93.8 percent had two doses of the varicella vaccine for chickenpox, according to the 2012 National Immunization Survey.

Casper mother Hayley Sigler said it may be in the Wyoming spirit to question vaccination of children.

"I'm a traditional Wyomingite," she said. "I question a lot of things."

Sigler chose to stop vaccinating her first child when she was 1 and never vaccinated her second.

Other Wyoming parents who don't get their children immunized are fiercely independent, too. Since the medical community heavily promotes vaccinations, some Wyomingites may equate that to stifling parental rights.

"For some people, it's like, 'You're not going to tell me what to do. And that's the end of it,'" she said.

Sigler halted family vaccinations when she looked at their ingredients, she said. She couldn't figure out their long-term effects. She doesn't like the fact that they contain mercury or aluminum salts.

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