Welsh actress Joanna Page playing the cover girl for the men’s magazine FHM UK for the month of December 2009. She is best known for her role of Stacey in Gavin and Stacey. During Christmas 2009, Page is playing the role of Cinderella in pantomime in Working.
In the U.S., immunizations against childhood diseases have saved millions of lives and reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases. A study released by the CDC in 2007 found that death rates for thirteen preventable diseases had hit all-time lows. For nine of the diseases studied, death rates had dropped 90 percent since vaccines were introduced, while for smallpox, diphtheria and polio, deaths had dropped by 100 percent. But it appears that the very success of immunizations has become an Achilles’ heel. A growing number of parents feel that vaccine-preventable diseases no longer present a real danger and are refusing to have their children immunized. And when immunization rates drop—outbreaks occur.
From 1992 through 2000, 386 cases of tetanus were reported in the United States, 15 of which were among children. The majority of these children were unvaccinated. In 2003, 13 unvaccinated children died from whooping cough (pertussis). And in the first seven months of 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received reports of 131 measles cases from 15 states and the District of Columbia, the highest year-to-date number since 1996. More than 90 percent of those infected had not been vaccinated, or their vaccination status was unknown. Many were children whose parents chose not to have them vaccinated.
At least 20 states allow exemptions from vaccinations based on personal beliefs (including California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and much of the West), and their opt-out rates rose from 1 percent in 1991 to 2.8 percent in 2008, according to the CDC. However, research has shown that kids who aren’t immunized are at increased risk of infection. In fact, a 2009 study found that children who aren’t vaccinated against whooping cough are 23 times more likely to contract the illness. And, according to a recent analysis published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, children who aren’t vaccinated against chickenpox are nine times more likely than fully immunized children to develop the disease, as well as complications that require medical intervention.
The vaccine for chickenpox is one that parents most often skip because they believe the disease is the least serious preventable childhood illness. In order to gauge the risk of refusing the immunization, researchers studied the health records of 86,993 children between the ages of one and eight in Colorado. They identified 133 doctor-confirmed cases of chickenpox, which they then compared with 493 others who were not infected. The researchers concluded that while many of the cases occurred in children too young to be vaccinated or in children who had recently been vaccinated, seven of the cases, about 5 percent, were in children whose parents refused vaccination, and that those children were nine times more likely to contract the disease than those in the control group. Although the numbers were small, the results were statistically significant. “The common perception among parents is that they don’t believe chickenpox is a serious illness, and they don’t believe their children are at risk,” said lead researcher Dr. Jason M. Glanz, of Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Research in Denver. “This study shows that they are wrong on both counts.”