It’s getting to be the middle of the night. The last time I wrote a blog post in the middle of the night was when measles was going around. This time, I find my mind circling the same subject secondary to the recent remarks made by politicians. So, here I am again – writing about vaccines. I hesitate to broach the topic once more to avoid being a broken record, but, at the same time, it is so important – a matter of life and death in many ways. So here goes.
Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives.
Decades ago (not so long that our parents and possibly you and me don’t have memories of that time) people across the world were plagued with illness from polio virus, measles virus, smallpox, chicken pox, pneumococcus, Haemophilus influenzae type B, diphtheria and others. Brilliant minds came together to find a way to rid us of these illnesses that had potential to cause severe illness or even death. The vaccine came about. Over the next decades, vaccines were refined, redesigned and researched to provide the best immune effect with the least side effect. Slowly, these illnesses began to disappear. In fact, when was the last time you heard of a case of smallpox? You haven’t because the vaccine eliminated this disease.
In the recent past, vaccines have been put to the test. Even before the autism-vaccine scare (but even more since), immunizations have been repeatedly and rigorously examined. Thousands of patients have been studied. The vaccine schedule has been adjusted to offer the most protection as early as the body could safely handle that load. Scientific research studies testing the vaccines themselves and schedules they were administered on were conducted. The results have been unanimous – vaccines are safe, vaccines are effective, vaccines save lives.
Don’t get me wrong, anything and everything has potential for side effect. Did you know if you eat too many carrots your skin might start to turn orange? Vaccines have potential for less than ideal side effects as well; fevers, redness, swelling and welts are the most common effects we see. Seizures are also a possibility. There are other side effects possible too. Scary, I agree. Even so, every possible side effect is much rarer (and in a huge majority of the cases less severe) than the possible effects of the disease it protects against.
What about autism then, right? There are countless stories about families having a seemingly normal child who happened to get vaccines and then later be diagnosed with this condition. These stories are true in their timing of vaccines and autism. What isn’t true is the vaccines causing the autism. Correlation (two events happening at a similar time) does not equal causation. Of all the myths about vaccines this may be the biggest one. Even myself as a pediatrician was scared at the possible diagnosis of autism as my child grew and developed. But you know what I was even more scared of? Losing him to a vaccine preventable illness for good.
Raising a child is hard. You want nothing but the best for that child. I fully understand and appreciate that. In fact, that is part of the reason I became a pediatrician. With that said, please believe me when I say vaccines are safe, they are effective and they save lives.
On second thought, don’t believe me. Science is not a belief system. Science is not opinion. Science is fact. The facts are that vaccines are safe, they are effective and they save lives. As a parent who wants nothing but the best for my child, that is something I can believe in.
If you want more information please talk to your local expert in vaccines – your pediatrician – or visit a reliable website such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), or even Autism speaks (www.autismspeaks.org).
Thanks as always for reading. Stay healthy!