Are vaccines safe?
There is no treatment in medicine that is 100 percent risk-free, and we are skeptical of anyone who says otherwise. But the safety of vaccines has been well studied. Think of it this way. Most medications that are used in pediatrics are only used by a small percentage of children. Since vaccines are recommended for all children there are far more doses given to children annually than any other medication we use. Yet the incidence of side effects from vaccines is far lower than most prescription drugs. Yes, bad things can happen from vaccines. But the risk is very small. When you weigh the pros and cons, vaccines are FAR safer than the illnesses they prevent.
Are vaccines still important? Most of these diseases aren’t around anymore.
YES! Most physicians in our generation would have a hard time recognizing diseases like diphtheria because we just don’t see them often. We have forgotten how devastating these illnesses can be. Unfortunately, we still see clusters of measles, mumps, and pertussis cases in the US.
Some people choose not to vaccinate because they rely on herd immunity, which means that if everybody else is vaccinated nobody will pass the disease to their child. This just doesn’t work. The infections spread fastest among the unvaccinated, but can also hit the very young and the elderly. So the decision not to vaccinate your child also puts those around you at increased risk.
Do vaccines cause autism?
No. A 1998 study, The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield, pointed to a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This was the study that first ignited the controversy. Several follow-up studies do not show any link between the two. Additionally, the Lancet retracted the study in 2010. New information showed that Wakefield was involved in patenting a vaccine that would compete with MMR, and stood to make a significant financial gain by his study. There were also allegations of forged data. Despite this new information, fear of the MMR is still prevalent.
No topic is more important to a parent than the health of their child. Years of research and experience have shown us that vaccinating our children is one of the safest and most effective ways to protect their health. If you have questions about vaccines, please talk to your child's doctor. They are in the best position to help you sort through the information and do what's best for your child.
(Dr. Laura Archuleta is a family medicine provider at CHI St. Alexius Health Mandan Medical Plaza.)