The fact is, when people tell me that they decided not to vaccinate their children, I am taking it personally.
Here is why.
Loved the piece! You give such a great viewpoint representing us human physicians :) This gives me such a better expression of how I feel, because I too have that same, visceral reaction. Though perhaps you trying to put a human face on this issue is really just part of the bigger conspiracy by the vaccine companies! :)
I agree with you and although I'm not a medical provider, I think part of the issue relates to the general lack of scientific literacy in our society. People are much more comfortable believing and listening to something they read in the news or on the internet, than they are in trying to understand the actual information and to critically analyze it themselves. I am continually amazed at how many folks believe in magnet therapy or those new wrist bands that can help you keep your balance, even though there is no scientific evidence that the work: http://news.discovery.com/human/power-balance-maker-admits-bands-are-wor...
Also, what strikes me about your post is perhaps a general lack of trust that people have in their physicians - despite the training, the knoweldge base and the experience that is part of physician training. Someone will readily argue with or not believe their physician about vaccinations, but they will readily believe the person at the cosmetics counter, who has no medical or scientific background, tell them that this face cream they are trying to sell can change the "structure of their skin cells and prevent the again process" If I was a physician, this would make me angry and frustrated too.
"Our children face the possibility of death or serious long-term adverse effects from mandated vaccines that aren’t necessary or that have very limited benefits," said Jane M. Orient, MD, AAPS Executive Director.
"Vaccines produce chronic brain inflammation, leading to ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and sets you up - later in life- for chronic brain degeneration. This is the thing that is well demonstrated in the scientific literature, particularly the neuroscience literature, but being totally ignored by the media, by health authorities, by regulatory agencies, by the people promoting vaccines - they're completely keeping this silent and away from the general public, so that mothers and people getting these multiple vaccinations do not know the danger that is inherent in this practice."
Dr Russell Blaylock MD at 4:15 on
RUSSELL BLAYLOCK M.D. 3/5 FLUORIDE & VACCINES: NAZI EUGENICS
"We live in a world ruled by corporate interests and agendas that are not in the best interests of the citizens of this planet. The type of mercury used in vaccines has never been safety tested by the Federal Government for toxicity in humans. This is an unconscionable oversight failure at best, and at worst it is an example that we have left consensus reality to be created by liars, cheats, killers and the junk scientists they employ."
Dr Kenneth Stoller MD
Autism, Vaccines, Mercury and the Culpability of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Dr Kenneth Stoller, MD was trained as a pediatrician at UCLA and was a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics for two decades. In 2008 he resigned from the AAP after realizing that the AAP has known that mercury in vaccines can cause Autism and other neurological damage, yet the organization has refused to make a determined effort to have mercury (in thimerosal) removed from all vaccines. And in fact, has instead engaged in a cover-up to protect the interests of the vaccine makers and pharmaceutical empires.
In his book 'Vaccination, Social Violence and Criminality', Dr Harris Coulter PhD warns that childhood vaccinations may be responsible for a host of medical and social ills including autism, minimal brain damage, mental retardation, hyperactivity, dyslexia, and a broad range of criminal behavior such as sociopathy, theft and murder. Less dramatic problems such as narcissism, ego weakness, alienation, impulsiveness, emotional lability, flat affect, anxiety, paranoia, impatience with criticism, rage, depression, and suicidal impulses also may be traced to subtle changes in the cerebral cortex brought on ultimately by vaccinations.
"We are slowly but surely destroying the intelligence of our future generations with vaccination."
Dr med Gerhard Buchwald MD
Hear, hear! The anti-vaccine movement also makes me worried for those who aren't eligible for certain vaccines, like small babies or immune-compromised people. The increased incidence of preventable diseases is a real risk for these vulnerable populations. People may not realize that by choosing not to vaccinate they are putting others at risk.
I really appreciate this article, as well as your blog and book, for the honesty you put forth. You are always willing to rationally analyze and understand your reactions to a problem or topic, even if your reactions are not always rational or objective.
That said, it always makes me mad too when people vilify doctors. It's one thing to disagree with a person's principles, beliefs and advice but it's another thing completely to paint a doctor as some villain who will orchestrate a home invasion to vaccinate a kid. And honestly, there are far worse things and people in the world that are "out of to get you" than a doctor.
I really appreciated this article, not so much for the point on vaccination, but more for the fact that people in general are eager to condemn their healthcare providers as the epitome of evil(right next to lawyers and businessmen it seems).
I know some medical practices are not allowing unvaccinated kids in the clinic doors and I wish this was more universal. As a college librarian I see young people buying the anti vaccine agenda and perpetuating it to their fellow students regardless of the evidence I provide them. We had an environmental science teacher bragging to her students about how her family was unvaccinated. This same teacher ended up with pertussis (as did her children) and she put all of her students at risk. It seems to me that those fringe doctors who are perpetuating the anti vaccine agenda are the really bothersome elements. Maybe they are not even physicians, but they are part of some grass roots effort to encourage large groups of people to defy common sense.
People can convince themselves of the most amazing things by evaluating evidence eccentrically. To be honest, we all do this to some extent, even if we try to resist the impulse, but some are unabashed about it. One need only listen to (in most respects perfectly normal) moon landing deniers, Illuminati conspiracy theorists, or (my personal favorite) David Icke, who in all seriousness informs us in books and lectures that the world is being run by alien reptiles, to see how much effort often goes into their research, selective though it may be. The less bizarre the theory, naturally, the wider the support for it is likely to be. The point is that there always will be opponents of vaccination, especially since what they say is not bizarre but merely wrong. There always were opponents, though their reasons have evolved with the times. No amount of evidence will convince all of them to change their opinions – some folks always will dismiss the evidence as propaganda of the drug companies or some such thing. Nonetheless, it is worth saying what you did. It still counts even if you convince some – or one.
I never get why people are so willing to reject the general advice of the greater scientific community, and instead believe there is some big conspiracy. It really makes no sense. In order for there truly to be a big conspiracy, so many people would need to be "in" on it.
However, I have the great fortune of having pediatricians I can trust. But I also had the privilege of having a science education. I know what it takes to publish a peer reviewed scientific study. Additionally I have worked in vaccine production, and know what it is really like on that end.
While I generally don't have a problem with parents who choose not to. I also have learned to tune them out. I'm not a doctor though, so I can see how much harder it would be for you.
Sigh. It is good of you to write this, and it is remarkably restrained. I am not a medical provider of any kind, but I also get viscerally angry, not so much at people who don't vaccinate their kids in general, but at the level of smug complacence and plain ignorance or misunderstanding of science some of those people show in defending their choices. It is discouraging.
I'm not a doctor and I don't have the parents vs doctors issue to deal with, but I am a parent and the idea of a baby too young to have been protected contracting measles (for example), spread by deliberately unvaccinated children, makes me very, very angry. It's discouraging, too, to see how any significant number of people can be so duped.
it's a shame that so much harm has come from just one study. in Canada, there's a measle outbreak in quebec.
measles is a preventable disease. complications and deaths can be prevented from simple vaccines.
as a medical student, parents take on vaccines fall in 3 camps. they are either for it, totally against it, or undecided. i've learned no matter what you say, those who are opposed to vaccines will not change their minds. hopefully, a bit of education and health literacy will convince enough people to be immunized for herd immunity
I get that it makes you angry.. it makes me angry too. And you even kept the whole infectious disease thingy out of the discussion.
I think it all hinges on ignorance. For people without education doctors are still magicians, able to cure your misery with a pill or a bit of sugarwater. And it scares people to be dependent on magicians.. you can tell people they need to wash their hands because of bacteria, and at the moment there are a large number of people that believe you, but still don't wash their hands after boing to the bathroom. That is the thing, they "believe" which is very different from they "know" .
Good science education, including the fundamental difference between theories and facts is SO important!
I'm not a doctor but I am a parent and it makes me angry that there are parents who not only put their own children at risk for diseases but other children as well, since some vaccines are not given until later in a baby/toddler's life. I am extremely appreciative of my pediatrician as he is firm in his stance on vaccines. If you refuse to do the vaccines on the set schedule, then you are welcome to seek out another practice. It is great to be on the same page as my child's caregiver.
All that said, I do empathize with those who bought into the fear and hysteria over vaccines. The high autism rate is scary, and I can see why folks would cling to any suggestion, rational or not, for the cause. Do I distrust all doctors because one published an article that caused all of this hysteria? Of course not. But I do understand how the hysteria has grown. I also have faith that doctors and scientists will continue to work on the mystery of autism so that we won't have Andrew Wakefield version 2.0.
I'm married to a hardcore antivaxer. It's tough. Our kids have most (but not all) of their vaccines, 'cuz she didn't really become hysterical over this until the kids were a bit older. But booster shots and "older kid" vaccines such as the meningitis shot -- my wife screams bloody murder if I even broach the subject.
She's perfectly rational about every other subject under the sun, I hasten to point out. But not this one.
My choices are to go behind her back and get the kids their shots anyway (doesn't seem ethical); tell her I'm going to get them their boosters whether she likes it or not (likely to result in something really extreme on her part, like a court order or something, which would certainly harm the kids); or cross my fingers and agree to her wishes (demands, really) not pursue further boosters at this time (also doesn't seem ethical).
Whatever I do will result in harm to someone. This is a dreadful position to be in.
When the kids are older they can decide for themselves. They all think their mom is crazy and understand that vaccines are not cause for hysteria. But this is just tearing me apart -- and my kids and marriage as well. It's really hell.
Take them. I don't think you realize how dangerous it is especially for older children to walk around improperly vaccinated.
1) pertussis is no joke and its not "mild" - it KILLS babies. Babies who are too young to get vaccinated. Kills them. There are stories and videos online of babies who have suffered and died from pertussis. YOU should get a booster too as the DTaP wears off as you age. Every time your family goes in public, you are risking the lives of newborns and the unborn (because their mother can unknowingly catch pertussis and pass it to her newborn) Do you really want that on your conscience?
2) meningitis is no joke either. It can kill or disable. I had two friends who were rendered deaf because of meningitis. There are thousands of others. Its also agonizingly painful. I've had viral meningitis several times and let me tell you, if you ever see someone dealing with the pain, you would NEVER want to subject anyone to the risk of catching it, not even your worst enemy.
The other diseases may be "no big deal" (and that's debatable) but Pertussis and Meningitis are a very big deal. So many immuno-compromised folk (including the unborn) rely on herd immunity to keep them from getting these illnesses. YOu're not just risking your own children, you're risking everyone they pass by.
Lastly, Rubella causes severe birth defects in the unborn. Most women get pregnant and don't even know it for several months. Then its too late for them to get a booster.
PLEASE I know it isn't pleasant to think about upsetting your wife but how does that compare with knowing you might kill someone's baby? or immuno-compromised toddler? or grandmother?
1) The Pertussis vaccine does NOT prevent infection or transmission. It simply reduces the severity of the symtoms. This has been stated many, many times and yet people still choose to close their ears when they hear this. Let's repeat that. DTaP does NOT prevent infection or transmission. It simply reduces the severity of the symptoms. That means that someone (vaccinated) who has pertussis will have less severe symptoms than someone who is unvaccinated. What do MOST parents do when their kids have a cold? Send them to school anyways...so then their vaccinated, reduced symptom child is spreading their germs all over the place. It should also be noted that MOST adults, vaccinated or not, will never know they had pertussis...
2) There have been studies that proved that meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type B has decreased dramatically! YAY!! But, there are also studies that prove with the dramatic decline of HiB, has been the very sharp, dramatic climb of other more virulent strains causing meningitis...strains that are harder to treat. So, you remove the one illness and replace it with a more virulent illness. To me...that is NOT eradicating or making anyone more safe.
Did you also realize that if your child is vaccinated, they are supposed to avoid coming into contact with immunosuppressed people (chemo patients, newborns, etc)? I'll bet you didn't...and your vaccinated child is much more dangerous to those individuals than any unvaccinated child.
It should also be stated that once someone contracts measles, chicken pox, etc. they have life long immunity that is supposed to 'renew' itself every 10-15 years (when they are adults and being re-exposed). The upside to that is that moms who breastfeed pass those immunities onto their newborn. Moms are supposed to breastfeed until the age of 2 when the child's own immune system is moving into full swing and their bodies can handle sickness much better. Vaccine immunities are not proven to pass through breastmilk.
As to the father of the "nazi" wife...I have to wonder how much effective communication you have with your wife. I wonder if, while she's telling you her concerns, you are writing her off as kind of crazy and rolling your eyes. These decisions should be mutual...not pit one parent against the other. The good thing, though, is that you can always get vaccinated...you can never take it back.
Do your research and then make your decisions. Don't just assume that people who choose not to vaccinate are clueless, uneducated fools. There is a lot of information out there. Read it over, decide what is best for you and your family and go with it.
My wife breastfed our son, and he contracted chickenpox from his cousin who came to a family reunion with it. He was 6 months old, and again, strictly breastfed. And before you say anything else, my wife had also had chickenpox as a child; the antibodies just were not passed along. Not only that, my mother, who was 63 and had already had chickenpox, had a shingles outbreak from this same event. Additionally, chickenpox (or zoster, as we medical people call it) encephalopathy (brain damage, for short) is a very real thing. As you said, "Do your research..."
1. Wrong. The pertussis vaccine prevents infection. Get the vaccine and the odds of your becoming infected in the first place go way down.
2. Wrong. If that were true, and the rate of meningitis caused by other infectious agents increased 'dramatically', as you say, then the rate of pediatric hospitalization for meningitis should have remained constant since the introduction of the HiB vaccine about twenty years ago. Instead, we're seeing a dramatic and sustained drop in pediatric hospitalization for all causes.
2a) Your vaccinated child is not much more dangerous to immunosuppressed people than any unvaccinated child. Exposure to the vaccine strain of a live virus is much less dangerous than exposure to the wild-type virus. This is why varicella vaccine was used in siblings of pediatric cancer patients years before it was licensed for general use about ten years ago.
I agree with your last two paragraphs. Communicate well with your spouse, but interrogate the facts you are using to make your decisions.
immunize.org and aap.org have great resources for parents with questions about vaccines.
1. It's apparent you have not done much reading. The vaccine does NOT prevent infection.
"Pertussis is considered an endemic disease, characterized by an epidemic every 2-5 years. This rate of exacerbations has not changed, even after the introduction of mass vaccination – a fact that indicates the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing the disease but not the transmission of the causative agent (B. pertussis) within the population."
So, if people are still getting this even after being vaccinated...why should I have my children flooded with toxins on a vaccine that doesn't work? Aside from the fact that all of my kids have been exposed to pertussis and never got sick (which I do understand doesn't mean that the weren't still carriers--but being that it's the EXACT same with vaccinated kids...what's the issue??).
From the Boostrix product info:
"There are currently no data which demonstrate a reduction of transmission of pertussis after immunisation with BOOSTRIX. However, it could be expected that immunisation of immediate close contacts of newborn infants, such as parents, grandparents and healthcare workers, would reduce exposure of pertussis to infants not yet adequately protected through immunisation."
So, they don't know if it does, in fact, prevent transmission, but theoretically (they're hoping) it does. Sorry, that's not enough to convince me to pump my kids up with their product that contains immunosuppressants, neurotoxins (formaldahyde, aluminum, glutaraldehyde, and 2-phenoxyethanol).
2. I will do more research on this, but last I read...there was an increase in more virulent strains causing meningitis than before.
2a. When my MIL had breast cancer and was going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy, her oncologist told her that she should stay away from my daughter for 1 month after all vaccines. She told him that her granddaughter is vax free and he stated, "Good, then you have nothing to worry about". It is all over the place that live vaccines, chicken pox, measles, mumps, etc. shed. So, if you are vaxed with those vaxes, you are supposed to be "quarantined" for up to 3 weeks post vax. Of course, no one ever does this and yet they try to state that it is the unvaxed causing the outbreaks when it really is the vaxed causing it through their shedding. I would also like to see documentation that states that the "vaccine strain" is much less dangerous than wild strains. I've not seen that one...and frankly, I don't believe it.
What it all comes down to...I'm not willing to inject toxins and poisons into my children in the "hopes" that they are protected from diseases. Those vaxes screw up the body's own defense systems. Why do this when you can make the body stronger by avoiding the toxins? I mean, you are really comfortable injecting something into your child that must utilize a hazmat clean up process if the vial is dropped on the floor?? No thank you.
Let's try to keep the discussion productive and not personal.
The assertion you are making is incorrect. It doesn't matter what literature you quote. Pertussis works by inducing a humoral (antibody) response to the bacteria that causes the disease (B.pertussis). After completing the recommended series, an estimated 80-85% of people will have levels of antibody sufficient to prevent infection. Now, 80-85% is still less than 100%, so having the complete series of vaccines is not a guarantee that exposure will not lead to disease. That's why there is a universal recommendation. From the CDC site immunize.org (http://www.vaccineinformation.org/pertuss/qandavax.asp)
2a. Believe what you want. The vaccine strain is less dangerous to an exposed immunocompromised person than the live strain. Again, from the CDC site (http://www.vaccineinformation.org/varicel/qandavax.asp):
"Can the varicella vaccine virus be transmitted (caught) from a person who was vaccinated?
Yes; however, transmission of the varicella vaccine virus is extremely rare. It has only been documented in healthy people on five occasions out of more than 55 million doses of vaccine distributed. All five cases resulted in mild disease without complications."
I'm an adult autistic, and one of my children is autistic as well. I live in an anti-vax hotbed. Other parents have called me names I would not dare put in print simply because I've asked to agree to disagree on the subject. I've had a difficult time finding needed therapy for my son because so many SLP and OT professionals here are steeped in ant-vax rhetoric. It makes my son and I too uncomfortable to benefit from their services. We would like to be treated with a little civility, but I don't see a change coming any time soon.
While I wholeheartedly agree, there is a larger cultural issue at play, and that is that we don't feel entirely safe trusting ANY profit-earning institution, including pharmaceutical companies and the physicians and pharmacists who dispense their products. I'm no conspiracy theorist, and I'm not comfortable villifying all members if any group, but I can understand how nervous, even suspicious, some people are after the shocking displays of government and corporate greed we've witnessed in recent years. Is it any wonder that some people stumble in the direction of paranoia when we've seen people sacrificed to the god of economic growth again and again?
(For the record, my children are fully immunized and we visit, and heed the advice of, our health care providers. I'm only saying that I understand the fears that drive the anti-vaccination movement, not that I agree with it.)
"...it is difficult to argue against the fact that the development of vaccines is one of the greatest advances in modern medicine– right up there with antibiotics and anesthesia."
Difficult, but many still deny the benefits of vaccines. This makes for strange bedfellows. Radical Islamists in northern Nigeria, for instance, claim that vaccines are a plot by the western world to sterilize women in poor countries. The same claim is made by some very strange American anti-vaccine activists, including Dr. David Ayoub, a radiologist in Springfield, IL, who delivered this lecture on Radio Liberty:
Well said Dr. Au. Thank you for expressing exactly how I feel, although I know I wouldn't have put it as nicely as you!
The thing that "gets" me (read: induces despair, and yes, visceral anger) the most is the gleam of defiance and resolve in a parent's eye when vaccinations come up in the discussion. Their mind has been made up, long before they ever walked into the office. I just wish we as MDs were part of the decision process. It really is an "us" vs "them" mentality on BOTH sides sometimes, and it just shouldn't be that way. It boggles my mind that people will listen to Jenny McCarthy about this issue but not their physician.
Don't take it personally! Its just something you remember from Psych 101 in college, cognitive dissonance. If you believe that vaccination is bad, then, ergo, the people pushing vaccination must be doing so for nefarious purposes. If you just suggest it, maybe you want to give the kids the shots and maybe you don't, then you won't be treated this way (or as effective!) But when you strongly urge a course of action, someone who opposes that action has to explain why a MD is pushing it.
That works well in social situations, outside the office, but in the examination room a parent needs to hear, unambiguously, what the doctor is recommending. A soft recommendation or a suggestion is very likely to fall on deaf ears.
I think the anti vax movement is a prime example how unsubstantiated research can create a culture of mistrust along with fostering misinformation. It just takes a vocal few and flawed research to whip up hysteria over an issue.
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Michelle Au, M.D., is an attending physician at St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta. This Won't Hurt a Bit is her first book.
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