The Internet and social media have both brought about wonderful advances in the ability to communicate information. In fact, they have completely changed medicine.
The Internet is tricky, though, because anyone can post anything whether true or false and then it can quickly become legend.
In the old days, parents went to their pediatrician for medical information. Now, people go to the Internet and oftentimes believe what they’ve read on the Internet more than what their physician says.
A vast majority of the controversy over vaccinating children stems from a totally bogus report by an English scientist who proposed a relationship between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination and autism. The Internet is what got him the publicity, but the report was totally fabricated and carries no real link between the two.
Shift in thought
Over the last 10-15 years, there has been a shift in people’s thinking about vaccinations. Incidences of autism were beginning to rise. But what actually happened is that we got better at identifying autism.
At that time, we didn’t know why a child was autistic. Now we are learning there is a genetic component, so I am hopeful as we learn more about autism, people will begin to feel safer again about vaccines.
A parent will say to me that they don’t want their son to get the MMR vaccine because they don’t want them to get autism. I tell them there are multiple studies that show there is no relation between MMR and autism and that by vaccinating your child, you are not only protecting your child, but you are protecting everyone around them.
Victim of success
Another reason I see people straying from vaccinations is that as a society, America is becoming a victim of our own success. People in America don’t see these diseases anymore because the vaccines work. Parents don’t have any experience with something like measles, so they don’t want to believe it can happen to their child.
They haven’t seen a baby dying of whooping cough because we’ve vaccinated against it.
But all you need to do is walk through a cemetery to see how many babies died before age 1 when there was no vaccination against it. My mom remembers not being able to go to the pool in the summer because of Polio.
I worked in Chicago during the measles epidemic in the late ‘80s and I saw so many children who were so, so sick. They had a horrible rash. A 104-degree fever. They were just miserable. You haven’t even seen miserable until you have seen a child with the measles. That was one of my hardest months of residency. Those children just kept coming in night after night. All ages. We saw babies and 15-year-olds and they were all so miserable.
You do still need to get your child vaccinated against these diseases because they all still exist outside of the U.S. Children still die of measles and polio. We always have a risk that these diseases will be imported into the U.S. In this day and age, and especially in Williamson County, people are traveling internationally more and more.
There was a measles outbreak in summer 2016 in West Tennessee, so it is only a matter of time before we see more and more cases showing up. It is a highly contagious disease that children die from. Why do we have to allow that?
If you are a parent that wonders why we begin vaccinations so young, it’s because that’s when they are most susceptible to these diseases. Whooping cough is often deadly in children under six months of age. That’s why we give tetanus and whooping cough as soon as a child’s immune system is ready for it.
Although Williamson County has a very high rate of parents who don’t vaccinate their children, that group is about 5 percent of our practice. Those in that 5 percent made their mind up a long time ago. We will still see them and try to counsel them. The percentage of those who will do nothing at all is small. The vast majority of people you can get to eventually come around.
In the old days, it was the lower socioeconomic families who didn’t vaccinate because they couldn’t get to a doctor. Now we have a system in place to make sure those children get vaccinated. It’s the upper and middle class now who are choosing not to vaccinate.
In my experience, it’s not the younger parents who are opposed to vaccinations. The mid-to late-20s parents are on board. It’s the parents in their 30s who are more resistant to it.
You have to keep in mind that vaccines have saved millions of lives over the last 60 years since the polio vaccine was developed. There is no association with autism. You run the risk of harming your child more by going without them.Share this Article