It’s time for you to step up to the plate and provide some guidance for your children who are ambivalent about vaccinating your grandchildren. Your parents remember children of your generation that were crippled by polio or who died or became deaf or mentally retarded after having meningitis. You should remember how relieved your parents were when they lined you up to receive the polio vaccine. For those of you who had some of the vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles or chickenpox you should realize that you are lucky that you did not suffer a life-threatening complication from them and survived intact. You gave your children the childhood vaccines that have allowed them to become healthy child-bearing adults.
Some of the diseases are becoming rare now precisely because of the immunizations we’ve used since you were young and the newer vaccines that have been developed over the last 25 years. But the diseases are not eradicated and will re-emerge as the immunization levels drop. This has already happened with measles and now pertussis in Washington State, Haemophilus influenza type b (a serious bacterial disease that can cause meningitis and death) in Philadelphia and measles and mumps cases in New Jersey over the last few years. Since last July, there has been an increase in pertussis in New Jersey, with an outbreak confirmed in Ocean County this past January.
Some facts you can use for your discussion with your children:
Vaccines are safer than ever: acellular vaccines are purer than in years past thus reducing the incidence of side effects like fever; conjugate vaccines that are linked to proteins provide longer lasting immunity and efficacy in younger targeted populations that are the most susceptible to the diseases.The H1N1 vaccine was produced using the same technology and testing that is applied to the seasonal influenza vaccine each year as its antigen ingredients are “tweaked” to provide a good “match” for the upcoming season.
Vaccines do not cause autism: hundreds of studies have failed to substantiate any link between vaccines and autism. In fact, the co-authors of the original article proposing a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism have retracted their suggestion of a link and the author’s paper has been discredited as a conflict of interest and that it misrepresented data. While studies are ongoing as to genetic and or environmental factors that may contribute to the onset of autism, there is overwhelming evidence that vaccines are not involved.
Additives such as thimerosal are harmless (and not in most vaccines anyway): As with vaccines, there are numerous studies exonerating preservatives such as thimerosal and adjuvants such as aluminum from any causal link with autism. As the use of thimerosal in vaccines has decreased due to public pressure, there has not been a concomitant reduction in autism.
Vaccines prevent life-threatening diseases and their complications: Polio has been virtually eradicated in the Western hemisphere, while rates of measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, chickenpox and more recently Haemophilus influenza b, and invasive pneumococcal disease have been dramatically reduced in communities where immunization rates remain high. In past years, influenza vaccine has reduced morbidity and mortality overall and especially in the most vulnerable populations.
So talk to your kids. Tell them how vaccines have kept them and you healthy; encourage them to trust you and their doctors and vaccinate your grandchildren!
Elliot Rubin, MD, FAAP