This article appeared in the New Haven Register. Read the full story here.
The beginning of the school year will be here before we know it, and ensuring that your child’s immunization records are up to date is as important as ever. It’s crucial that children receive their vaccinations to prevent an outbreak of serious disease within our communities.
Despite vaccines being strongly recommended by pediatricians and physicians across the country, in recent years, a number of parents are choosing now to immunize their children based on fears spread on the Internet and in the media.
Q. The diseases prevented by vaccines are nearly eradicated. Does my child really need to be vaccinated against them?
A. It is because of vaccines that these diseases are nearly eradicated. If we stop immunizing our children, it’s possible that these diseases will begin to affect people again. Diseases like measles, epiglottitis and whooping cough are still prevalent in developing countries that do not have the type of immunization schedule that we have in the United States. These diseases may lead to mortality in children and adults alike. In fact, in recent years, there have been increases cases of pertussis (whooping cough) and measles throughout the United States among children who were not vaccinated.
Q. Can vaccines cause autism?
A. A study published in 1998 led people to believe there was a link found between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. This study has since been retracted by the journal that originally published it, citing several flaws. In addition, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics concluded that the concern of “too many vaccines too soon” leading to autism was not supported. There have been many studies similar to this, all of which reject the notion that there is a causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Q. Can receiving multiple vaccines at once be too much for my infant’s immune system to handle?
A. The vaccine schedule used by pediatricians, including myself, is recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Available data shows that giving a child multiple vaccines at one time has no adverse effect on the child’s immune system.
Q. Can a vaccine infect my child with the disease it is supposed to prevent?
A. This is a common misconception. In rare cases, children may experience mild symptoms, such as a fever, after receiving a vaccine. Immunizations administered today use inactivated, or killed, vaccines, which do not cause disease.
Q. Is it better to delay vaccines until my child is older?
A. The vaccination schedule that has been determined by the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics is the standard that should be followed. It has been found that children who delayed their vaccinations during the first year of their life did not benefit from doing so.
Q. If I don’t vaccinate my child, am I putting anyone else in harm’s way?
A. Communities rely on herd immunity. If children are not vaccinated, this puts our herd immunity at risk. The CDC reports that 1 to 5 percent of children fail to develop immunity to a disease against which they are immunized, meaning if we lose our herd immunity, they are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Dr. Frederick Ogwara is a pediatrician at MidMichigan Health.