Healthy Kids    

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate- That is the question

When Gulay Powell was young, she was vaccinated to prevent her from contracting the measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox, once deadly infectious diseases. She also remembers that her older relatives became very ill from these same viruses.


“Partly based on those memories and the fact that I didn’t contract these diseases because I was vaccinated, there was no question that my son, Karem, now two-and-a-half, and my seven-year-old daughter Ceren, would be vaccinated based on the schedule my pediatrician recommended,” she says.

When the children are older, Powell hopes that the family will travel to Tanzania to visit their father’s homeland. “I also plan for the family to get the necessary vaccines before we go to make sure we are safe.”


New York State statistics show that approximately five percent of vaccine exemptions are given for medical reasons and another five percent are given for religious reasons. Over the last 10 years, this number has doubled for both types of exemptions.

Hundreds of students in the Hudson Valley are not vaccinated. Learn why here.


According to Jeffrey Hammonds, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health in Albany, medical reasons are done on a case-by-case basis. “For example, some medical conditions a child might be experiencing can become fatal if a child received a live vaccine; other vaccines without live viruses might not pose a problem. Sometimes, a child may have a documented allergy to one of the ingredients in the vaccine, such as eggs.” Some parents request religious exemption so they will not have to vaccinate their children. It is interesting to note that you do not have to belong to an established religion that is opposed to vaccinations.

Not all agree to vaccinate


Audrey, a stay-at-home mom who lives in Poughkeepsie, uses a religious exemption so her four children, all under the age of 12, do not have to be vaccinated to enter school. Audrey believes that people are created perfect by God and introducing vaccines into their body’s changes that perfection. She says that only the principal of her children’s school and the school nurse know that the children are not vaccinated.


“The nurse will call me if there is a child sick with measles or chicken pox in the school,” she says. “I’ll keep my kids home from school then. My younger children will not be accepted in daycare, so if I need daycare for them, it has to be in my home. None of my neighbors or other parents in the school knows that my kids are not vaccinated. If my children get sick, I take them to their pediatrician and they get the medicines they need. Two of the children have had chickenpox. One of my sons had a strep throat and received antibiotics.”


Is she worried about serious side effects from the typical childhood diseases if her children contract them? “No, because we have the medications to treat them,” she says.


Claudia M. Caruana is a freelance health and medical writer who lives in Columbia County.