Vaccines: Deadly Choices Or Your Child's Best Shot?
On the back of the exam room door in our pediatrician’s office, there is a detailed vaccination schedule. I do not have this schedule memorized, but I don’t need to–our eight year old has committed it to memory. She will happily tell anyone who might be interested that she does not have to have a shot until she is 11.
However, knowing the schedule is crucial, and having open conversations with your child’s pediatrician about vaccines is always important in order to stay informed.
What are Vaccines?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) website reads, “A vaccine is made from very small amounts of weak or dead germs that can cause diseases–for example, viruses, bacteria, or toxins. It prepares your body to fight the disease faster and more effectively so you won’t get sick.” According to HHS, vaccines are tested for years before the vaccines are distributed to the public.
Why Do Parents Vaccinate?
“Vaccines are the best way to protect your child against a number of illnesses, including measles, whooping cough (pertussis) and mumps, all of which have made a comeback in recent years due to a drop in vaccination rates. Other vaccine-preventable illnesses include tetanus, diphtheria, varicella (chickenpox), rubella, hepatitis B, polio and meningococcal meningitis,” shares Dr. Dawn Marcelle, pediatrician and director in the Capitol Area for the Office of Public Health.
Parents vaccinate because vaccines are the most effective way to guard against grave and deadly illnesses. One example of life-saving vaccination is the measles vaccine. Since global vaccinations began for measles, the death toll from the disease has fallen 79 percent, according to PublicHealth.org. Additionally, the rotavirus vaccination alone, which was added to the slate of childhood vaccinations in 2006, is estimated to prevent 40,000-60,000 hospitalizations yearly.
Why Don’t Some Parents Vaccinate?
An important difference to understand is that some parents simply cannot vaccinate their children due to severe, and sometimes deadly, reactions to vaccinations, and some parents are a part of the anti-vaxxer movement.
A fairly recent and somewhat controversial term “anti-vaxxers” refers to a group of parents who intentionally withhold vaccines from their children because of the belief that vaccines cause autism, brain damage, and other disorders, whether or not they have attempted to vaccinate their children.
Local mom Patrica Goode (the name changed as she and her family have received threats due to their decision to intentionally withhold vaccinations from their child), shares some of her family’s story. “We stopped vaccinating when Annie was five. She almost died from them. She was hospitalized five times in 15 months, after receiving every set of vaccines. I personally gave her CPR three times. She is still recovering from her injuries more than five years later. She is healthy and wise and a fighter. Her pediatrician fired us when I questioned her that it could be the vaccines. Her new pediatrician, however, agrees that it was the vaccines, and we now have a medical exemption. Some states, are doing away with all exemptions. I loathe the term anti-vaxxer, because we did vaccinate. She was injured and now we fight every day to have rights and be recognized.”
It is a fact that some children cannot be vaccinated. Dr. Marcelle urges, “Keep in mind that some children can’t be vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems due to an illness or medical treatment. The best protection for these children is for everyone around them to be vaccinated–that includes parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and all caregivers.” Gaining protection by everyone around the child receiving vaccinations is referred to as the “herd effect.”
Dr. Marcelle’s Vaccination Myth Busters
“There’s a lot of myths circulating out there around vaccines, especially on the Internet,” shares Dr. Marcelle. “Unfortunately, a lot of parents have fallen victim to their falsehoods, and believing vaccines to be dangerous or ineffective, have chosen to delay or withhold vaccines entirely for their children. Let’s look at a few of the myths that pop up most frequently.”
MYTH: Vaccines cause autism.
TRUTH: This myth has been thoroughly debunked by the medical community. The study linking autism to vaccines was completely discredited by the medical community due to major procedural errors in the study, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and even ethical violations. It was retracted from the journal it was published in and its author, British surgeon Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license.
MYTH: Vaccines contain unsafe toxins (i.e. mercury).
TRUTH: These chemicals are indeed toxic to humans in certain levels, but the amount present in FDA-approved vaccines is so minimal that there’s no risk at all to people. Also, mercury, or thimerosal, hasn’t been in childhood vaccines since 2001 and has never been part of the MMR vaccine.
MYTH: Vaccines contain tissue from aborted fetuses.
TRUTH: No current fetal tissue is used to create vaccines. Previous vaccines from the early 1960s did use some fetal tissue, but the practice has since been discontinued and no longer occurs.
MYTH: Natural immunity, gained from becoming sick when you catch a disease, is better than vaccine-acquired immunity.
TRUTH: While there are some cases where natural immunity helps to build a stronger immunity than a vaccination, it also results in greater danger to the individual. For example, if your child gets the measles, they could face a 1 in 500 chance of death from symptoms, compared to less than one in one million from getting the MMR vaccine.
MYTH: Vaccines aren’t really worth the risk.
TRUTH: Life-threatening allergic reactions and severe side effects from vaccines are rare. It’s believed that the rate of severe allergic reactions is about one case for every one or two million injections. Medical staff should be present at sites where vaccines are given in the rare occurrence of a medical emergency.
“Some parents are concerned about the number of vaccines their children receive from infancy to school age,” shares Dr. Marcelle. “These parents may express the desire to follow an alternative schedule that spreads out vaccines or even leaves some [of the vaccines] out.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages this practice and recommends parents to follow established immunization schedules. All vaccines listed on the immunization schedules have been exhaustively tested to be sure they are safe and effective.
Sometimes, multiple vaccines will be given at a single pediatric visit, and this is safe and normal.
It’s not possible to overload a healthy baby’s immune system with the antigens found in vaccines. In fact, babies will encounter more antigens in their regular daily lives than they will receive in a vaccine.”
Dr. Marcelle shares that it's important that you know that these schedules are for your child’s protection, and following them gives your child immunity early in life, before he or she can be exposed to potentially deadly diseases. ■