There’s No Debate: Vaccinate
By Eric Dorn, MD, Virtua Pediatrician
There’s a lot of media attention around what's called the "vaccination debate." However, there aren’t two feasible sides to the matter.
Simply put: Vaccines are safe, and they save lives.
Responding to misinformation
One small, fraudulent study published in the late ‘90s led many people to believe that there was a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism. As this misinformation circulated over the last 20 years, some parents began to distrust vaccines altogether, and other false claims took root.
For example, some parents believe that vaccines can actually attack their child's immune system. But, that’s just not true—it's misinformation that can be easily spread via social media.
As to the rumored autism link, a study published in the medical journal Vaccine analyzed the data of 10 other major studies on this topic. Collectively, these studies involved well over one million children. The results were as clear-cut as the article’s title: “Vaccines are not associated with autism.”
Dealing with disease resurgence
As misinformation has spread, declining vaccination rates have led to a resurgence of many previously controlled childhood diseases. Measles cases in the U.S. hit a peak in 2014, and the majority of people who got it weren't vaccinated. While whooping cough is a common disease, U.S. cases hit a peak in 2012 with the majority of deaths in babies age 3 months and younger. Since babies aren’t vaccinated against whooping cough (pertussis) until 2 months, or measles until 1 year, this leaves them most vulnerable. Mothers can give their newborns some protection by getting a TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine during every pregnancy.
Deciding not to vaccinate a child not only puts that child at risk, but also increases the risk to other young and vulnerable people in the child’s community. Complications that arise from both measles and pertussis can be fatal. Measles can cause brain swelling; pertussis can cause apnea leading to respiratory failure.
Parents who choose not to vaccinate, or who unnecessarily delay vaccines, are acting against their child’s and the public’s best interests.
Following the recommended schedule
The Centers for Disease Control offers this at-a-glance PDF vaccine schedule for children from birth through age 18.
Unless your child has a compromised immune system (for example, if they're undergoing chemotherapy or have a medical condition that affects their immune system), there's no medical reason to skip or delay any of the recommended vaccines.
Even in children with a weakened immune system, deciding to skip or delay vaccines should be decided on a case-by-case basis with your child's doctor.
For all other healthy children? There’s no debate—vaccinate! A pediatrician's job is to ensure your child’s health, and the number one way to do that is by vaccinating your baby.
It’s important, safe, and the healthiest choice for kids and communities.
To schedule an appointment with a Virtua pediatrician, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3.
Updated April 3, 2019