There is no catchy title for this blog with good reason. I believe immunizing our children is a serious topic. It deserves this longer, thoughtful, well-intentioned blog.
As I sat down to write this, I wondered how I could present it in a way that is nonjudgemental and thorough. This topic stirs up lots of drama on social media, at mommy groups and elsewhere. It is a serious concern for us pediatricians, as we see vaccine preventable illnesses kill children. Present day. In our communities. In our local hospitals. My partners and I strongly encourage vaccines. So while I tackle the myths about vaccinating, I have the strong intent to educate and keep you well- informed. Our goal is to create a trusting relationship with you as we guide your children and keep them healthy into adulthood.
Myth #1: “Vaccines cause autism.”
Andrew Wakefield is the ex-physician who published a paper supporting a relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. I refer to him as ex-physician because his medical license was taken away after a lengthy trial. It was found to have major ethical flaws and financial conflicts of interest. The article was discredited and pulled from print. For those who don’t vaccinate, they may argue that there are financial benefits for the pharmaceutical companies and the pediatricians. I can assure you that the latter is certainly not true. As for pharmaceutical companies, I am thankful for them, as they manufacture these vaccines which provide protection for my four children and myself. Following Andrew Wakefield’s paper, repeated studies have been done and none have proven a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. If there was a link, how do you explain a diagnosis of autism before 1 year of age (time of the first MMR vaccine)? how do you explain the diagnosis of autism in non vaccinated children?
Myth #2: “Vaccines overload the immune system.”
As I explain to the parents of my patients, your child’s body is constantly working hard at mounting responses against hundreds of infectious organisms each day. This starts at birth. The human body is impressive. So much is silently happening in our bodies and we are only aware of what is actively affecting us at a given time, what we are interested in and proactively read about, and what we are told by the media. Even if you gave 14 vaccines simultaneously, only 0.1% of your immune system would be at work. I think coming into a doctor’s office every month to slowly vaccinate your child would expose him/her to more of a risk. Besides, none of us like to hear our kids cry. We feel their pain. Why would you want to prolong it and repeat the process more than you have to? If you are interested in learning how a vaccination works to prevent disease visit the link below. Our bodies are amazing.
Myth #3: “Natural immunity is better.”
Well, it is true that you may be just as protected from future infections if you get the disease. But who wants to take the risk of a severe reaction or even death? Vaccines contain a small amount of the infectious particles, while the actual disease may be much stronger and capable of causing serious illness. “Chicken Pox” or “Varicella” can cause an itchy rash, fussiness, fever, headache. It can also cause:
encephalitis (brain inflammation)
bacterial skin infections
infections in the blood
Now, I think my children are special. To me. To my husband. To those who love them. But to a virus or bacteria trying to invade them? they are not the least bit special. I personally don’t want them to fight that fight unnecessarily. For me it is simple. I take the risk of an adverse event (and they do happen), over the risk that my child may end up in an ICU or dead. One of the worst experiences is losing a child. I can’t even imagine losing a child because of a preventable illness. Healthy kids die every day. In the 2014-2015 flu season, 62% of the children who died were healthy. So it is also a myth that the only ones at risk are premature babies, kids with chronic illnesses and the elderly.
Myth #4: “The chemicals in vaccines are harmful.”
Mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde can be dangerous to humans. However, they are harmful only at very high doses. Thimerisol (a Mercury salt) is a big concern for a lot of parents which is understandable. But it is currently only in the multi-dose influenza vaccines (and it is there in trace amounts). Aluminum is used in vaccines such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, DtAP, Hib and the pneumococcal vaccine. It is also found in infant formula, beer, wine and honey. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s vaccine information sheet, “Indeed, the quantity of aluminum in vaccines is so small that even after an injection of vaccines, the amount of aluminum in a baby’s blood does not detectably change.” The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is ranked one of the top children’s hospitals nationwide. Their website has reliable information if you would like to learn more.
Formaldehyde in the human body is necessary for functions such as the synthesis of DNA. All of us have measurable quantities of formaldehyde in our blood. The total quantity of formaldehyde found in an infant's circulation would be about five times more than the amount an infant would be exposed to in vaccines.
The aim of this blog is to educate and lead you to reliable sources so that you may make informed decisions. I remain concerned about vaccine hesitancy. It bothers me that my child or patient may be placed at risk because your child comes down with a vaccine preventable illness. However, I respect that your children are not my own and when they are younger you need to make decisions for them. Just know that myself and my partners only want the best for all of our children. We are here to discuss vaccines and share what we know. We hope that someday vaccine rates will be higher and death rates lower.