I can say last week I was quite disheartened. A patient was in the room and we were discussing her baby and the fact that she didn’t want to give her any more immunizations. The mom was crying, I was dismayed, but luckily the baby didn’t understand what we are talking about and was happily playing away.
Once a week I get into a discussion about immunizations and the pros and cons. At times it seems like a debate. Unfortunately it is one that I just don’t understand. I try to look at it from my parent’s perspective, and I realize that the information out there is confusing to a parent. We have had studies from well respected physicians, reports from well known people in the political world, and information blown up by the media about the evils of vaccines and how they are harming our children. Andrew Wakefield issued a report in the Lancet and then later in the British Medical Journal in 1998 that showed how the MMR vaccine could be a cause of autism. For years I have had patients scared because of this report and hesitant to give this vaccine and others. In the past few months the British Medical Journal has come out and shown that this well respected physician’s research was fraudulent. He wanted to make a point, but his research did not prove it so he altered it. Wow! The majority of the medical world did not believe in his research to begin with, but celebrities and playboy bunnies became spokespeople for autism and played on parents fears and convinced many not to vaccinate their children.
I cannot tell you the cause of autism. I cannot give you a 100% guarantee that certain children with immune problems who receive vaccines may not develop a problem. I can tell you that vaccines help people. We give vaccines for illnesses that kill infants, children, and adults all the time. My generation is lucky enough to not have seen many of these illnesses. If you ask our parents, they all know someone who suffered, and may have even died from polio. Thanks to the polio vaccine and Sabin and Salk we no longer see polio in our country today. Before I started my practice my first partner, Dr. Polacheck, told me that they use to hospitalize a child every month with HiB meningitis. I have only seen one case of this in my career, and my partners now have not seen one case thanks to the Hib vaccine. Vaccines are not perfect. They don’t prevent every illness, but they usually do lessen the severity. They also can have side effects like fever, fussiness, and a sore leg. The illnesses we protect against can be life threatening. From HiB meningitis, to Pneumococcal pneumonia and meningitis, to encephalitis from chicken pox, these illnesses can all cause severe morbidity and mortality. I treat my patients like my children. I would never recommend they receive something I would not give to my own child. I also would be devastated if one of my patients died from a vaccine preventable illness. It is not a common thing, but it does happen.
We will be sharing more on vaccines in the near future. With the more recent news that the study Dr. Wakefield presented as fact is now fiction, we would like to help you determine fact from fiction and help protect the children we so dearly love.