Concerns about vaccines are making headlines in our society but promoting little in terms of constructive dialogue on the subject. It seems that opposite sides are entrenched in contrarian positions and there is nothing to make them change their minds. Furthermore, although immunizations take the brunt of complaints in this polemic, people are generalizing their concerns to any type of injection, including vitamin K at birth (used to prevent hemorrhagic disease of the newborn) and vitamin B12 shots to treat pernicious anemia. Misinformation runs rampant and may play into the minds of parents as they take health care decisions for their children. There is a popular blog advertising a tea meant to be given twice a day in order to get rid of the toxins a child may have received from his/hers vaccinations. Alternatively some people advocate a “detoxification bath” using 5 drops of lavender with ¼ cup of Epsom salt. A children’s book, Melanie’s Marvelous Measles proposes that having the illness (measles) is wonderful for the body. A review of the book in Amazon has some biting criticisms:
“Thanks to Melanie’s Marvelous Measles I now have an easy reader guide that makes mey eldest feel less down about the fact he’s been crippled from Polio. Apparently telling him”Your grandfather had it in the 1920’s and he lived to be 52 thanks to a weakened heart” just hasn’t cheered him like it should.”
“Chloe, my 3-year was worried about the horrible scaring that came along with her case of Rubella. “Don’t worry dear,” I told her, “Remember Melanie’s Marvelous Measles? Melanie is more beautiful for her scars. If you kids don’t get sick, how else are we going to go on to build a glorious master race?”
“Think of the unique life experience the bubonic plague could bring? To bad Small Pox is so hard to get, those horrifying blemishes they leave would be a real conversation starter for myself and my horribly misshapen children.”
In an American Academy of Pediatrics survey on immunization administration practices (2006), 75% of pediatricians had encountered a parent who refused a vaccine. A follow up survey in 2013 revealed that this figure had increased to 87% of pediatricians. Indeed, an increasing number of people are requesting alternative vaccination schedules, and postponing or declining vaccination.
Recent years have seen a marked increase in the availability and use of “philosophical” or “personal belief” exemptions from vaccination. From 2005 through 2011, rates for non-medical exemptions in states that allowed it were 2.5X higher than in states that allowed only religious exemptions. Use of “personal belief exemptions” from vaccinations has grown to rates in excess of 5% of the school-aged population.
Dr. Edward Jenner is credited with the modern concept of vaccination from his observation that milkmaids with cowpox were immune t0 smallpox. . Since then, immunization has been credited with the eradication of smallpox in 1979, the elimination of measles (documented in 2000), rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (documented in 2004). In addition, poliomyelitis was eliminated in the US in 1979 and 99% worldwide (37 reported cases in 2016 in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria).
Jimmy Kimmel has provided his own personal views on the subject. The YouTube video provided in the attached link has Jimmy asking his audience to take vaccination seriously.
I think both sides of the debate should be heard and this could start when parents visit their doctors. They should be given full attention and physicians should have a willingness to listen. Physicians should not multitask while listening to the concerns of parents, and if they are busy at that moment, schedule a visit just to discuss these concerns with open ended questions. Parents and physicians should make the point that they are all on the same team. Indeed, physicians should have the mindset that parents, more than anyone else, want to do the best for their children. Physicians should therefore present information in a non-confrontational manner. Also, of importance, physicians should address the most common side effects of vaccinations. It is all too common for physicians to provide only one side of the story and represent themselves as trying to sell the vaccines to the parents. Parents can research vaccine safety by accessing Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) compiled by the CDC. These reports are available online for each particular immunization (see example below). Physicians should make parents aware of their own personal choice as to whether they have immunized their own children. Additional personal accounts can be found in Immunize.org/reports (check Real-Life Stories at the very top of the right hand column). For those parent who pursue their right not to vaccinate, the legal form to peruse and examine before taking any decision is available from the American Academy of Pediatrics.