As school starts again, many families with children are faced with questions about vaccinations.
Does my child need those shots?
The simple answer is “yes.” Not only do the vaccinations protect your children, they protect your community. Many vaccinations are not 100 percent effective, so say they are 90 percent. In order to avoid epidemics, we need most of the children to get them. While the concept of “herd immunity” isn’t exactly flattering, watch a group of second graders returning from the playground and you’ll get the idea.
Do we need all the vaccines? Well, what epidemic would you choose? Even in diseases that are often not fatal, the vaccines prevent pain and suffering. Consider chicken pox. Before the vaccine, about 11,000 people in the United States were hospitalized every year and 100 to 150 died from it. Since the vaccine was introduced in 1995, the death rate has dropped by over 90%.
Do vaccines cause autism?
Well, there has been a lot of speculation. The debate started when Andrew Wakefield published in THE LANCET in 1998 a study linking the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine to autism. That study has been retracted and Wakefield later lost his medical license when it was uncovered that a law firm paid Wakefield, and the data had been altered.
Numerous pediatric experts and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have supported vaccines and questioned such findings. Perhaps, it is more likely that the autism already existed and that it was noticed at ages when children are getting vaccines and getting more socialized. I wonder if more claims are made by single children families than by families with multiple children?
In any event, I thank God every day for the CDC, for the miracle of vaccines, and for the unraveling of DNA which will lead to better understanding and prevention of diseases.
Ponder this: Even in countries with Ebola, it is a relatively small bump on the side of other public health problems we don’t have. But just in case, once you’re done reading this, wash your hands.
Bruce Cross, M.D.