When it comes to immunizations, most parents are smart. They want their kids kept up to date on their shots. But there are a vocal minority who have the mistaken belief that immunizations cause all sorts of things from autism to attention deficit disorder, from cancer to heart disease.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Today’s kids are healthier because of immunizations. Tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough — all scourges of the early 20th century — are gone thanks to vaccinations.
I was a child of the 1950s. I remember when my mom was afraid to take me to the Lake Michigan beach in Chicago because she was worried I would contract polio — a fear that was well-founded at the time. Then the vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk came out. And, by the way, he gave it to the world for free. He was a hero.
Polio, that crippling disease, has been wiped out everywhere in the world except where people have the mistaken belief the shots will make them sterile. Doesn’t this sound similar to the same junk immunization naysayers are using to keep kids from getting protected from measles, mumps and rubella? All of those diseases can be devastating, which is why an MMR vaccine exists.
Let’s start with rubella. You might not think it’s that serious, but if you’re a pregnant woman and you contract it, you’re more likely to have a stillborn delivery. But even if the baby survives, he or she is likely to have severe congenital problems — including deafness, heart disease, liver damage or a serious intellectual disability. In 2004, rubella was wiped out in the U.S., with nearly all cases now occurring outside this country.
This brings me to a recent article about the measles outbreak in New York in 2013. That year, an unvaccinated adolescent returned to the city after becoming infected with measles on a family trip to London.
Between March and June of that year, 58 other people were found to have measles — nearly all of them because of parental beliefs or just “not having enough time” to go get their kids the right shots. All in all, more than 3,300 contacts were identified and 11 health care facilities were exposed to the measles outbreak.
An analysis of that 2013 situation, printed recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Pediatrics publication, showed it cost the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene nearly $400,000. It also required more than 10,000 hours of personnel time. And it was all because of parental stupidity and nonchalance.
Just think about how far that money and work time could have gone to improve the health of New York City kids.
Now, close your eyes and guess which states have the highest rates of childhood immunizations. Would you believe Mississippi and West Virginia? Because in those states, health authorities do not allow “parental preference” as an acceptable reason to refuse to immunize children.
They want their kids healthy. They don’t want some funky, touchy-feely, pseudoscientific belief that has been discredited time and time again to affect a child’s health.
So where did this garbage start? In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield reported in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet that he had found eight children who showed signs of autism within days of being inoculated for measles, mumps and rubella. He claimed the MMR vaccine was leading to inflammation in the youngsters’ guts that then impeded normal brain development.
In 2010, the UK took away his medical license to practice because they discovered he had faked his research. Yet still today, people believe him. And he’s not even a family doctor or pediatrician. He’s a gastroenterologist — who, by the way, gets paid to lecture on his fake research.
Now you might think that measles is a benign disease. You’re wrong. In 1980 – 2.6 million people worldwide died from it – it’s down to about 73,000 now. Why is it down that low? Because of immunizations– not because of pseudoscientific stupid beliefs.
My spin: Get your kids their shots. And while you’re at it, get yours, too — the two pneumonia vaccines, the new shingles vaccine, hepatitis B and, if you’re traveling outside the U.S., hepatitis A.
And if one of your neighbors, friends or relatives tries to tell you vaccines are bad for your kids, tell them they’re wrong! Stay well.