Americans continue to debate issue of vaccinations

A patient receives a vaccine Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 at a Boston area medical clinic. (AP Photo/Dwayne Desaulniers)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For many parents, it is one of the most difficult decisions to make and one of the most controversial questions to answer. Should I vaccinate my child early on in life?

It has been a hot-button, controversial issue for quite some time. The issue is hotly debated – are vaccinating hurting or helping kids?

Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump tapped a well-known anti-vaccine activist, Robert Kennedy, Jr., to lead a commission on vaccination safety.

What does this mean for moms and dads in the future? Will their child’s vaccination schedules be scaled back? Will parents continue to be required to get their children vaccinated to enter the school systems around the country?

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It’s no secret that Donald Trump wants to decrease the number of child vaccines, and has spoken publicly about his believes that vaccines lead to autism.

He famously tweeted during the campaign, “Healthy Young child goes to Dr., it gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, it doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!”

During the course of our 8 on Your Side story, we discovered just how big, how powerful and how personal a decision this is for moms and dads.

Whether they are for or against vaccinations – one thing is crystal clear. They are passionate about protecting their children and keeping them healthy.

For Sarah Knight, this is, indeed, deeply personal and hits close to home.

Her 11-year-old son, Trey, is autistic.

“It’s exhausting at times, frustrating. But, he’s the sweet sweetest thing. I wouldn’t trade it,” Sarah told News Channel 8.

The first-grade teacher at Gorrie Elementary in South Tampa and mother-of-four said everything in her family’s lives changed after her son received numerous vaccinations at 18 months old.

“Prior to that, he develop normally. He would smile, he was engaging, he like to be held and touched,” she said.

Within months, she tells us, her son changed drastically and was soon diagnosed with autism.

“After that, the stimulatory behaviors changed, lack of eye contact, no verbal development and regression in that area,” she said.

While Sarah understands the data from doctors touting that there is no proven link between vaccines and autism, she would like to see vaccinations scaled-back and spaced apart.

Donna Keith is an immunization expert in Sarasota County.

She reassures parents that vaccines are safe.

“I don’t think they should be concerned with vaccines. I think they should be concerned about the diseases that the vaccines protect against,” she said.
For Knight, her mission is one of determination, dedication and pure love. She wants to raise a healthy, happy little boy.

“I think parents need to have choice. Cause I’m not anti-vaccine by any means, but I do feel like there needs to be more studies and regulations on safety.”

It appears that is the goal of this safety commission on vaccines proposed by the President-elect. For Knight, that is great news as she continues her mission on raising healthy children, educating herself and educating others on Autism.