I get it. I really do. We all just want to do what is best for our kids. From the moment they are placed in our arms we feel this overwhelming need to protect them from heartache, pain, disease and illness. This desire, combined with an ever abundant amount of misinformation and misunderstanding of vaccines has led many parents to become vaccine hesitant. For some, hesitancy turns into refusal. What’s ironic is that in an attempt to protect children from the “dangers” of vaccines (which have been scientifically proven to be false), some parents are actually putting their child, and those around them, at greater risk.
I am fortunate to take my children to a pediatrican whose office requires new patients/parents to agree to follow the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommended immunization schedule. At our last visit I asked our doctor how the practice came to adopt this rule. He told me it was actually very simple. The doctors in the practice all came together and said it’s simply not fair for children who can’t be vaccinated (whether because of age or because of a medical condition) to be exposed to children who are not vaccinated and subsequently come into the office infecting the waiting room and those around them with anything from measles to chicken pox. Our doctor made it clear that he is more than willing to discuss any and all vaccine concerns with parents, but at the end of the day, he feels that it is his responsibility to provide a safe environment for his patients. Requiring parents to adhere to vaccine recommendations is one of the best ways for him to accomplish that goal.
I believe that vaccine hesitant parents truly have their children’s best interest at heart. In today’s world we are always a click away from information (whether right or wrong) and that has undoubtedly made an impact on parent’s concerns surrounding vaccines. It’s important that we arm these parents with the RIGHT resources to help them make decisions about their children’s health. Great places to start are, as I mentioned, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and of course, The Immunization Partnership! It is important that we spread that message that while vaccinating your child may seem like a personal decision, it is a decision that affects everyone around you. A great example of this is pertussis (or whooping cough). Most of the severe cases of this disease occur in infants under the age of 6 months (before they are able to complete the 3 dose primary series of the DTap vaccine). If an unvaccinated child contracts pertussis, that child could then infect a newborn or infant who simply hasn’t had the chance to get fully vaccinated.
I strongly encourage parents to do their research, but you need to make sure that you are looking for reliable resources with sound, scientifically proven information and not simply searching for what you want to hear to justify fears concerning vaccines. It is important to remember that the power to prevent disease is in our hands. Take advantage of the of the protection vaccines offer and protect yourself, your children, and your community today!