Four Seasons Pediatrics

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Vaccines – Still Necessary?

Are vaccines necessary?  Are they safe?   Sources from the internet, TV, radio and the newspaper abound with information about vaccines.  It is more interesting to present a story that questions the validity of giving vaccines than to support something which, if successful, nothing happens.  The media has given a voice to a vocal group that has raised concerns about vaccines for almost as long as the success of vaccines have been evident.   These are folks who are against all vaccines, no matter what the evidence shows.  They feel that vaccines are a poison and that the “natural” disease is the better way to grow the immune system.  Contrast this with the view from the drug company.  They would like you to use their drug without thought as an absolutely safe and effective treatment without side effects.  Both these views represent views that are not balanced. 


In the mean time, a parent may be concerned by all the negative press that vaccines are getting.  They may choose to vaccinate at around the same time that their child was diagnosed with autism.  You could imagine that such a parent might view the vaccine as the cause for their child’s autism since the timing was close to the diagnosis.  It does not matter that the average age of onset of autism occurs during a time when vaccines will be given anyway.  Nor does it matter that autism has been found to be genetically linked.  (We are born with the genes that will make this likely happen)    


To view this another way, imagine that someone was walking across the street wearing a new pair of red sneakers.  While crossing the street, they are hit by a car.   That person becomes convinced that the red sneakers are the cause for the accident.   They pitch their case on the radio, TV and newspaper with emotion and passion.  Meanwhile, an investigator studies this event and comes on TV weeks to months later to comment that there is insufficient evidence that the red sneakers contributed to the event.  He reviews the accident report, studies the traffic flow, the angle of the sun, other traffic accidents where red vs. white sneakers are involved.    Another person comes forward and states that they also had an accident while wearing red sneakers.   Other investigators review the facts and come to the same conclusion, showing insufficient evidence (terms that researchers use).  Who will we remember more – the passionate parent, or the investigator who recites the cold hard facts.


How successful have vaccines been?


The measles vaccine was licensed in 1963, when there were 500,000 reported cases and 500 deaths per year.  In 2006, 55 cases were reported.  In 1985, the H flu vaccine was introduced for a disease that causes brain damage, deafness, death and other long term problems.  This disease has gone from 20,000 cases per year to 29 cases in 2006.    Rubella was licensed in 1968.  Four years earlier there was an epidemic of 12.5 million people.  20,000 infants were born with congenital rubella syndrome causing 11,600 deaf children, 3,580 blind children and 1,800 mentally retarded children.  With widespread vaccination there were only 4 cases of congenital rubella from 2003-2006.  In 1952, polio paralyzed 21,000 people.  In modern times there have been no cases of natural polio in almost 30 years.


Why does my child still need the vaccine?


When the diseases were still quite prevalent, we had a constant reminder of the disease that created the fear to vaccinate.   Due to the success of the vaccinations, our reminders are gone.  High immunization rates have lowered cases of disease to a very low level.   In this way vaccines really are victims of their own success.   Parents are not afraid of many of the diseases, but they should be.   These diseases are still here and some are making a come back.  In fact we are seeing rising cases of Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Mumps, and Streptococcal infection.    Many of these diseases are an airplane ride away awaiting an unvaccinated child. 


In the state of Washington, vaccinations may be refused due to personal reasons.     Whidbey Island’s children had a non-vaccination rate of 12.4% in their school district.  In July 2008 they scrambled to vaccinate children in an attempt to contain an outbreak of Pertussis.


Although we should consider side effects in any medication we need to consider the continued benefits of preventing the disease against safety concerns.  We also need to understand the science of vaccine safety.   Just because we don’t see as many of the diseases and thus the success of the vaccine story, does not mean we can take comfort in not vaccinating.   We hear many concerns about vaccines and many parents want to do what’s best, but are confused by what information is out there. 


We hope that you choose Four Seasons Pediatrics as an expert in your child’s care.  We will guide you through the fact from fiction and hype from the evidence.   We constantly review evidence based studies.  We stand firmly behind our recommendations and stand with you to protect your children.




 “Do Vaccines Cause That?! – A Guide for Evaluating Vaccine Safety Concerns” by Martin G. Myers, MD and Diego Pineda.          

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