Vaccines

A Pediatrician Discusses Vaccines (8/05)

Unfortunately, propaganda regarding vaccines is rampant on the Internet, and we are hearing more on national media about the “connection” between vaccines and autism.  Accusations of “big medicine” and “big business” being out to hurt the public for a profit are quite common. 

To the best of my knowledge, there are no studies to document any connection between autism and immunizations.  In spite of comments by some, organized medicine has looked quite extensively for a possible connection but have been unable to show any direct cause and effect relationship. 

Many claims are speculative and scientifically unsubstantiated.  I have speculative theories of my own as to why we are seeing an increased number of diagnoses; but that is just what they are –speculative theories. We deal with this regularly at our office. 

Sadly, this type of publicity is better for sensationalism than for productive and useful dialogue.  I would be interested to know if there is a charge for the newsletter offered by the “medical professionals” who publish this hype, and if they charge a speaker fee to present their opinions.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that there exists a problem that has no solution as of yet.  People whose families are painfully impacted by this condition are crying out for an answer and any and all possibilities are “fair game”.  

Granted, no one can definitively state that some children might not have experienced some type of idiosyncratic reaction or response to vaccines that predisposed them to neurological abnormalities, but there are also an infinite number of exposures that women have when they are pregnant that did not exist in years past that could just as well be a possible answer. 

Another problem that exists is that the majority of the American population has forgotten why we immunize children.  Few have seen children paralyzed from polio, or neurologically devastated children who suffered hypoxic brain damage from pertussis, or children who died suddenly from third degree heart block as a complication of diphtheria, or children deaf or blind from Hemophilus influenza type B meningitis, or newborn babies dying from neonatal tetanus.  We have done such a great job of prevention that society has become complacent and satisfied. 

This does not mean that I am not concerned about these children and their families.  However, discussions need to be undertaken in an atmosphere of mutual respect. This needs to be the case for both sides of the issue. 

It is interesting that organized medicine has on several occasions reformulated vaccines, removed vaccines or re-evaluated immunization policies when there appeared to be problems or complications. 

The accusations of some on the anti-immunization side imply that all of us on the “other side” do not care or are uninformed.  The implication that we would intentionally hurt children rather than admit that we are wrong is very accusatory and inflammatory. 

You might be interest in a web site,  www.highschoolscience.com.   This is the site for Apologia Educational Ministries. Dr. Jay Wile is a nuclear chemist. There is a hyperlink on the home page to his article “Vaccines, the REAL Story”. 

This an issue that we deal with on a regular basis.  Our office policy is that all patients have to receive the standard “required” immunization necessary for school.  We respect the parent’s rights to choose not to have their children immunized for philosophical reasons.  But conversely, we also feel we have the right to make office policies from a philosophical and moral perspective with which we can live.  We have to be able to live with the decisions we make and for us, the data still supports the usefulness of immunizations. 

J.B., M.D.