April 9, 2012 - Parenting

Although I am a practicing physician, I don’t normally write about medical topics on this blog, but there is something I need to discuss.

As parents we want the very best for our children, and will stop at nothing to get it. We do whatever we can to provide them the best living conditions, the finest nutrition, and the most advanced medical care. But there is something out there that threatens our children’s health and wellbeing—even their lives.

Over the past 20 years there has been a movement among some parents to refuse to immunize their kids. In the last 5 years, the number of individuals involved in this practice has grown exponentially.

Various reasons are given for refusing childhood immunizations, including religious convictions, lack of faith in the government to provide safe immunization programs, and the belief that vaccinations cause problems such as dyslexia and autism.

The current dilemma is very real—parents are noting any number of these and other reasons for refusing to give the scheduled immunizations, and are then being allowed to enroll their children into public schools where they are exposed to other immunized and non-immunized children.

I have no intention of entering into a discussion about the politics of this issue. My focus is simply medical.

Unfortunately, as parents diligently trying to make the best decision for our children, we find literature and blogs on the Internet distributing information that is biased, confusing, and at times less than accurate.

The growing number of individuals bringing non-immunized children into my practice has risen sharply over the last two years. Most information these parents have found has indicated that childhood immunizations can, and likely will cause polio, smallpox, autism, mental retardation, dyslexia, and neurologic disorders of all kinds.

The problem here is basic—there is no evidence to substantiate any of these statements. The data, however, is presented to the public as fact when it is only unproven theory—theory that has failed to produce evidence in 20 years.

There are no medical journal studies that indicate a true correlation between childhood vaccinations and any of these medical conditions. Yet many believe the information to be reliable, causing them to prevent their children from being immunized against diseases that once ravaged the youth of our nation.

For generations we have been immunizing our children in this country against devastating diseases including polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella. This practice has led to the eradication of some diseases, and the prevention of many—saving the lives of our little ones.

The current practice among parents who decide not to immunize their children will cause the development and re-emergence of these diseases in this and other countries over the course of the coming years. Both current and future generations are at risk.

This is an important issue so let me be clear:

  • There is no medical data that immunizations cause children to develop autism, mental retardation, dyslexia or other neurologic conditions.
  • No one catches polio from the polio vaccine
  • Children’s immune systems are not at risk from receiving immunizations.
  • Sometimes problems or side effects occur following vaccinations that indicate to the public that there are widespread problems with the vaccines causing illnesses, resulting in misinformation.
  • It is our responsibility to our children and to society that we make certain our children are immunized properly in order to prevent disease in them or in the generation to follow.

Failure to give our children their childhood vaccinations not only increases the risk of disease to them directly, but places others at risk as well. For this reason, I will no longer see any patient/child in my office that is not immunized. This is not a matter of judging anyone’s convictions—it is a matter of protecting my patient population.

If parents determine they don’t want their children immunized, they need to understand what that means, and determine if the tiny risks associated with vaccinations is worth the enormous benefit. For generations of responsible individuals it has been, not only for their children’s own good, but for the good of society.

Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.