It seems the “anti-vaccine” movement is still alive and well and has become a hot topic on Twitter and Facebook again.
Unfortunately, much of what I’ve read on these sites seems to be inaccurate and based on a lot of emotion and very little science.
Alas, emotional posts can be quite persuasive, especially for new parents who want to do everything possible to safeguard their babies’ health. I should think that would include protecting them from deadly diseases that have not been totally eradicated.
One of the first things you learn during medical school is the mantra that doctors should “first do no harm.” I’ve always conducted my daily pediatric practice with this in mind, so how could I not vaccinate my precious patients?
Vaccines have been well studied, and continue to be studied, and absolutely DO protect children (and adults) from numerous diseases, including polio, bacterial meningitis, whooping cough and measles. Vaccines are also safe. How many studies does it take to assure parents of this?
Choosing to not vaccinate your child can “cause harm.” Do parents not realize that we’re all exposed to diseases unknowingly? I know there’s not a parent out there who would purposely expose their child to a disease, especially one that could cause death. That being said, the bacteria (h. flu and pneumococcus) that cause meningitis are often harbored in a person’s nose – just a sneeze away from an unprotected baby.
When I used to do spinal taps on a regular basis on very ill children – some of whom indeed had bacterial meningitis – every parent would ask, “How did my child get this?” The answer at that time was, “We don’t know where they were exposed.” Not a very reassuring reply for the parents of a critically ill child, especially if the youngster soon died.
Since the vaccines against meningitis have been released I haven’t seen a single case of H.flu or pneumococcal meningitis in my practice. I can’t remember the last time I did a spinal tap.
My office was also involved in the studies for the HIB meningitis vaccine, and I saw first-hand how labor-intensive and difficult vaccine studies are. A lot of parents at that time allowed us to stick their infants for blood samples – many times, on a regular basis – to prove that the vaccine provided antibody and protection for their baby. Thank you to all of those parents!
I continue to be alarmed that there are still parents, often clustered in certain areas, who want to deny their children vaccines. I wonder what their babies would say if they had the chance to choose to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, they don’t.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is a pediatrician, medical editor and media host. Submit questions at kidsdr.com.