It’s how you question vaccines |

It’s how you question vaccines

Several years ago I was in an administrative meeting at the Children’s Hospital where I have been taking care of my seriously ill patients for 35 years. I listened to a report from a bright young lady who identified herself with a name I remembered from the early years in pediatric practice, a time when we had no vaccine against haemophilus influenza or pneumococcus.

She was brought into my office by her mother, who was worried about her fever and behavior. As a parent looking at your sick 1-year-old, it is hard to know what is wrong, only that your child seems sicker than you are comfortable with and you want to get help from someone whose judgment you trust. One look at this child and a quick exam tipped me into the protocol I had come to know quite well through my years of training and seeing dozens of babies with similar symptoms who, after examining their spinal fluid, were diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. She was a fortunate one; I diagnosed and started the appropriate antibiotic treatment quickly, before any tumultuous impact such as death, deafness, or other neurological injury could occur.

I know firsthand what vaccines do to save lives and protect the most vulnerable from devastating disease. They are an essential part of giving our children a healthy start to become productive adults. It is an uncomfortable leap of faith for some parents who, for a variety of personal reasons, refuse to vaccinate their kids and ultimately put their needs well ahead of the greater good for their children and their communities. I take my work with children very seriously and weigh the pros and cons for everything from advice about breast feeding to which immunizations to give and when they are most effective. I look at the epidemiological data, review the thorough reports on vaccine safety, and consider the most expert recommendations on immunization schedules. I ask, and am expected to be a trusted professional, responsible for the care of our most precious resource: our children. It is how the “ask” is expressed that is the nuance. When it is phrased to undermine individual and public health and to create doubt, not to enhance understanding and confidence, it is counter-productive.

Do not think for one minute that avoiding vaccination or letting people choose if, when, or which would create a healthy, serious infection free environment. When we have the opportunity to create a healthier and safer future for our children, we need to take full advantage of it. Throughout the history of man, infectious disease has been a serious threat to our existence and responsible for more devastation and death than any war or ideology. We need to support the continuing efforts, research, and monitoring of our efforts to combat it.

So, if you want to question why we have chronic disease and autism, do not overlook the things that are much more likely to be responsible, ubiquitous, and pervasive in our environment and lives. Many of these things are unnatural and manufactured and many of them are natural and present since the dawn of man. There is always a trade-off of bad no matter how great the good. Life is a balance and, in my opinion, immunization has demonstrated an overwhelming benefit.

Russell C Libby, MD, FAAP