As a pediatrician I am asked many questions on a variety of topics, but the ones that come up most frequently are regarding vaccinations: Are vaccines safe? What are the side effects of vaccines? Do vaccines really work? Do vaccines cause autism? Should I vaccinate my child? These are all important questions that every parent should ask and I have decided to address them in my first column because vaccine continues to be a hot topic and extremely important!
Everyone wants to do what is best for their child, so it is understandable that as a parent you want all the information available before making a decision. The difficulty is figuring out what information to believe since there are so many different and opposing sources, especially with social media and the internet.Here is my opinion and links to additional resources that I hope will help you if you are undecided about whether or not to vaccinate your children.
Are vaccines safe and what are the sideeffects?
Vaccines are continuously monitored for safety and before they are available to the public they undergo years of extensive research which has again and again concluded that there is no causal relationship between vaccines and autism. Yes, vaccines have side effects, but you must weigh the common side effects against the effects of getting the disease. Fever, redness, soreness, fussiness, fatigue, and headache are the most common side effects and are usually short lasting. Serious problems after vaccines are extremely rare. Side effects can be slightly different for each type of vaccine so I encourage you to look them up on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov, and ask your doctor if you have additional questions.
Do vaccines really work?
Yes! Let's use polio virus as an example. In the 1940s and early 1950s more than 35,000 cases of polio were reported in the United States. In 1965, 10 years after the polio vaccine was introduced,only 61 cases of paralytic polio were reported. If you have been watching the news lately you have learned about the polio outbreak in Somalia - most Somali children have not been immunized against the virus. Or take measles or pertussis, also known as whooping cough, as examples - the United States has seen recent outbreaks of these diseases in individuals who are not vaccinated.
Should I vaccinate my child?
My answer, based on years of training and work as a pediatrician is unequivocally yes. I understand that each family has different circumstances or beliefs that affect their decision on whether or not to vaccinate, and I think it's important to get all of the facts in order to make an informed decision. For me, the bottom line is that it has been proven scientifically that vaccines save lives by preventing diseases and complications of diseases. Checkout the CDC website and the American Academy of Pediatrics website,www.aap.org, for more information.
Callie Byrd, MD, is a pediatrician at Valley MedicalCenter's Covington Clinic. She can be reached at253-395-1960.