Worth A Shot?
One of my friends made a statement that I had not really had to consider, until recently. He explained that there are two things in life that invoke passion and emotion nearly universally, and those are one’s children and their money. My grandfather had a similar philosophy, but he had a slightly different list of passions. He believed the only reason that might merit violence against another person was if they harmed his family or his dog. As a soon-to-be parent, I have now begun thinking about things differently. A child is your own flesh and blood, it makes a big difference.
Vaccination has been a hot-topic item over the last several years; however, the controversy is as old as the practice. History has documented the practice of immunizations dating back to the ancient Chinese. Modern medicine attributes routine vaccination to Edward Jenner in the late 1700s. His method of identifying the vaccine for smallpox would certainly not be allowed in modern-day science or medicine. Jenner had read about the Chinese practice of creating immunity and decided to inoculate a young boy with cowpox. Jenner had astutely noticed that people with a history of cowpox did not contract smallpox, or if they did their infection was not as severe. About six weeks after exposing the boy to cowpox, he then purposefully exposed the boy to smallpox. Fortunately, my grandfather was not around at that time and I was not that boy, otherwise society may have had to wait a bit longer for someone else to develop the practice of modern-day vaccination. The boy did not develop smallpox. As a result of this discovery, we live in a world that no longer has to suffer from the disfiguring disease.
I will admit, prior to recent days, I was somewhat skeptical about the amount of vaccines and the schedule that is recommended by the CDC for immunization and vaccination. There are about 24 immunizations given by the time a child reaches two years of age. I also confess that I skipped the immunology lectures in medical school, but I did read the 300-page book at least three times prior to the test. My professor wrote the textbook and was an international expert on the subject, so I thought if it were important, she would have written it down. In case you were wondering, I passed. It was nice to meet the lady behind the words the day I turned in my final exam.
For some parents, the decision to not vaccinate is held deep in their heart. Certainly, I would never doubt or question their intent and desire to provide love and care for their children. Studies have actually shown that trying to convince parents using studies and data really just does not work. Most doctors and nurses don’t have time or make the time to really discuss the issues and risk at hand. Information is usually obtained from headlines on the news or the internet. The scare of autism being developed from the MMR vaccine catapulted fears and skepticism and led to some of the highest numbers of non-vaccinated children in our history. In the 1950s, there were almost 800,000 measles infections. After routine population vaccination, the cases dropped to less than 100 per year in the early 2000s. We are now actually seeing a rise in the diagnosis of measles. Population maps clearly demonstrate where measles is rising and the cases correspond directly to areas where vaccination rates are lowest. By the way, the doctor who originally published and proclaimed the link between the MMR vaccine and autism has subsequently been disproven by hundreds of independent studies and no longer has a license to practice medicine in Britain. The rise in rates of autism is real, but the link to vaccination is unfounded, in my opinion.
Some people either do not respond to vaccines or have a condition that prevents them from receiving vaccines. Historically, because of high-vaccination compliance these people are protected from many contagious diseases by something called herd immunity. Essentially, if enough people in the herd are vaccinated and thus immune, the opportunity for the contagion to spread is limited. However, as less people are vaccinated in the herd, the less protection the herd offers.
Vaccination is no doubt one of the most effective methods of preventing infectious diseases. The history of vaccination against infectious diseases and the cost savings and life impact on populations represents one of the most significant advances in all of modern medicine. Life-threatening illness can be prevented, disfigurement can be avoided, even cancer risk can be reduced.
I understand the controversy surrounding immunizations. The anti-vaccination advocates speak boldly and loudly. The 24-hour news cycle and internet thrives on controversy and scandal. I respect the concern and will continue to remain vigilant in my effort to provide the best care and information for my family and patients. As for me and my herd, we will be choosing to be vaccinated.