Ahhhh, the ever controversial topic of vaccines. I'd like to preface this post by acknowledging that people have very strong opinions on vaccines (myself included). I welcome and encourage discussion on this topic, but please note that any attacking or negative comments will be deleted. Also, as with everything, please talk to your pediatrician about any medical questions or concerns, especially regarding vaccinations. If you are a West Pediatrics patient, just give me a call anytime!
I am often asked my opinion regarding vaccines. To me, there is no controversy: My kids get them. All of them. On the recommended schedule.
I feel like I'm always reading something about vaccines in the headlines. Most recently in my mind was earlier this year when President Trump met with known vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about the possible formation of a commission on vaccine safety. Shortly after said meeting, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement reiterating "Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives." Amen AAP. Amen.
Now, I do sympathize and understand the fear associated with the small chance of side effects related to vaccines. I myself hesitated for a (very brief) moment when signing off on giving my firstborn her first set of shots. She was so little and so precious and I certainly didn't want to be responsible for causing her any harm!
But then I remembered that baby I saw, intubated and on a ventilator, barely hanging on to life because of a pertussis infection. And I remembered the toddler with Haemophilus influenza bacterial meningitis that I had to remove from life support less than 24 hours after rapid escalation of symptoms that began with a simple fever. And I remembered the teenager who lost multiple fingers and spent months in the hospital due to meningococcal meningitis. These horror stories could continue on and on and likely could have been prevented by vaccines. Luckily, I can count the number of horror stories I have seen thanks to the miracle of modern vaccines. The generation of pediatricians above me, my mentors, unfortunately saw much worse.
And so, I also remembered that I would be causing her harm by not giving her the vaccines.
Parenting (and shoot, life) is all about making choices. But it's important to ensure they are informed choices. Informed with sound, concrete, scientific data. When it comes to vaccines, I choose to do what has been repeatedly shown to protect babies from debilitating, deadly diseases. Might they have a side effect from one of them? Perhaps. But I'll sleep more soundly knowing that I did what I could to keep them safe.
There is an overwhelming body of scientific literature that supports the above claims that vaccines are safe, effective and save lives. Below are some FANTASTIC resources that address specific concerns you may have with vaccines.
- Do vaccines cause Autism?
- Nope. See here for links to the many studies debunking that claim.
- Worried about the number of shots kids receive?
- Read this post that eloquently describes how even though babies get more vaccines nowadays, they are actually getting a smaller amount of antigens (the part of the vaccine that triggers immunity).
- The above post also has some good information on contents of vaccines and dangers of a delayed vaccine schedule so be sure to read in its entirety!
- Does the flu vaccine cause the flu?
- No, it does not. However, since there are so many constantly changing strains of influenza virus, it is difficult to produce a highly effective vaccine for the flu. As such, there is still a chance of coming down with flu even after receiving the vaccine. :(
- The good news, and why we still encourage flu vaccination, is that there is a reduced risk of pediatric influenza related death if kids have received the vaccine.
- Scientists and researchers are constantly monitoring vaccine effectiveness and changing recommendations based on their findings. For example, the Flumist (LAIV4, the flu vaccine nasal spray), has NOT been recommended for the past two years due to much lower effectiveness compared to its injection counterpart (IIV3 or IIV4).
- You can read more about the flu in Baton Rouge here.
So, now you know, I'm pro-vaccine! But, as a parent, I do understand trepidation.
I pledge to my patients that I will be here to listen to and address your concerns. I want to understand them and help you feel comfortable in your decision regarding vaccinations. I pledge to individually research your concerns, tailored to your child, with an open mind. I pledge not to judge any parent for trying to do what is best for their child. In return, I only ask that you come to the conversation with an open mind as well.