August is here and that means back to school across the country. When I think of kids heading back to school I also think about their immunization history. I want to make sure that everyone is up to date on their vaccines, because what better place to be exposed to disease and germs than in a school full of children!
Vaccines continue to save lives…and vaccines are one of the greatest medical achievements in history. But, despite the continued data on the safety and efficacy of vaccines there are those who prefer to “ignore” the data and either “decline to vaccinate” their children or want to vaccinate with an “alternative vaccine schedule”.
Most recently, I was a guest in a Facebook Live segment discussing back to school vaccines and I was amazed at some of the comments that were posted after the segment. It seems that there are many people who are reading “fake news” to make decisions about vaccines and their children and they are a vocal group.
There are also those who will continue to believe discredited physicians who wrote “fake” articles which have been retracted and resulted in a doctor having his license taken away. But, this one “former doctor” has caused so much parental anxiety that I find myself discussing the safety of the MMR vaccine on a regular basis. I am always ready to discuss vaccines, their safety and efficacy with my patients, but I also rely on science and data and not anecdote to make a point.
Vaccine preventable diseases are just that….preventable but not eradicated! This means that although the latest generation of parents may have never had the disease or even seen the disease, these diseases are still present. Measles, meningitis, polio, mumps are still circulating around the world and may “drop in “ to visit our country at any time. This is evident in the recent measles outbreak in an unvaccinated population in Wisconsin and prior to that a measles outbreak in CA several years ago. We currently have mumps in Texas and are on the look out for more cases.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) publishes the immunization schedules based on a plethora of science and input by some of the smartest minds in immunology, microbiology, infectious disease and medicine. The vaccines that are recommended are given in a certain order and at certain intervals because they have been well studied to show that this is how the vaccines “work” and protect. It is not arbitrary as some parents seem to think and want to do a “cafeteria plan” of vaccines when they “want” to give them. That really makes no sense…how do you know that your “plan” actually protects your child? In my own experience this also leads to a lot of confusion in what has or has not been given and in some cases missed vaccines due to the wrong intervals between vaccines or age limits for vaccines.
Lastly, when parents “choose” not to vaccinate their child they are not only putting their own child at risk (they tell me it is a personal choice), but they are also putting others around them at risk of getting sick from a vaccine preventable disease. Does that seem fair?? Should we all immunize our own children so that their unvaccinated children are protected? The word “selfish” comes to mind…as I am now immunizing my own grandchildren and don’t want them “hanging out” with un-immunized children.
I am happy to point anyone to online science and websites with reliable information on vaccines. Just let me know….