They receive waivers for them to go to school, or they home school them so they are not bound by the school district's guidelines. They find doctors who support a lack of vaccination, or they work with more holistic medical practitioners. There are a number of ways a parent can avoid vaccinating his or her children, since the vaccination schedule created by the CDC cannot be legally forced upon a parent or a child (Largent, 2012). The main reason these parents do not want their children vaccinated is because they believe that vaccines are linked to autism, and can cause the disorder (Elliman & Bedford, 2004). This is based on some studies that have been done, and on the idea that many of the children who have developed autism have done so around the same time that they were given vaccines, based on the CDC schedule. Of course, the argument can always be made that this is coincidental, but not all parents believe that.
The parents who are convinced they would be putting their children at risk for autism if they allow them to be vaccinated understand that their children are susceptible to other illnesses. They generally feel that their children will not catch these illnesses because they are not that common in society today (Largent, 2012). In some cases they also feel as though their children's immune systems will be enough to fight off (or fight through) these illnesses, and that there will not be any lasting effects from the illness itself (Largent, 2012). While some believe these parents are playing a dangerous game with their children's health, others agree that there could be a link between autism and vaccines. There are parents who will not vaccinate their children at all, and those who will consent to have their children vaccinated when they are older -- presumably because the autism risk would be lower for them at that time.
In addition to the autism issue, there are parents who avoid vaccines for their infants and toddlers because they are concerned that their children may have an adverse reaction of some kind (Largent, 2012). It is true that this can occasionally happen, and that some reactions can be very severe. When a very young child has a reaction to a vaccine it is usually mild, but since that is not always the case there is some risk. Information about this risk is generally provided to the parents before the vaccine is administered, so they are aware of anything they should watch for after they take their child home. This can help to reduce the chances of a serious issue, but cannot necessarily prevent the issue or keep the child from feeling poorly as a result of the vaccine. Parents who are worried about their children having a bad reaction to a vaccine may know someone else that has happened to, or they may simply be concerned based on what they have heard and read. Either way, they want to avoid the risks the vaccine can pose in some infants and toddlers.
The debate over whether a child should be vaccinated is often very heated. Many parents believe it is necessary to vaccinate children for their own safety, and also as a matter of public health. Other parents do not share this view, and they are concerned about adverse reactions and the possibility of autism. Both sides have arguments that are very valid to them, whether they appear to be right or wrong to other people. There is some risk to the child whether he or she is vaccinated or not, and the parents must make the best and most informed choice they can with the information they have. That means they should carefully education themselves on factual studies regarding the value of vaccination and the risk of problems from it, so they can make the right choice for their children while still taking public health and safety into account. That results in the best outcome for everyone.
Elliman, D., & Bedford, H. (2004). MMR: Science and fiction. Exploring the vaccine crisis; MMR and autism: What parents need to know. British Medical Journal, 329(7473): 1049.
Herlihy, S.M., Hagood, E.A. & Offit, P.A. (2012). Your baby's best shot: Why vaccines are safe and save lives. NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.