Being a new parent is hard enough without the multitude of conflicting information on caring for a baby around sleeping, feeding, bathing and nurturing, to name a few. Yet, one of the most debated topics among parents centers on children's immunizations. And it’s one of the few issues where science clearly supports only one side: pro-vaccines.
Much of the vaccine debate stems from misinformation and misperception generated by an article published in the late 1990s implying that vaccines are linked to autism in children. The article, written by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, appeared in The Lancet insinuating that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine directly caused autism. The collateral damage from the article was significant. It gained widespread publicity and fear among parents. The article also cost Wakefield his medical license and the study was revoked after it was discovered that his research had significant procedural and ethical violations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers have conducted numerous studies and reviews in response to Wakefield’s article, and every one confirms there is no link between vaccines and autism.
The spotlight on children’s immunizations has raised other concerns with vaccine ingredients, including some poisonous chemicals, such as mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde. While these ingredients can be attention-grabbing, many do not realize that according to the CDC and FDA, the trace amounts of these chemicals in vaccines are lower than the levels of these chemicals produced naturally by the body. Concerns were also raised over the most well known preservative, thimerosal. Even though no link to autism or other conditions as a result of thimerosal were ever found, the Public Health Service agencies, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and vaccine manufacturers agreed it should be reduced or eliminated as a precautionary measure. As a result, since 2001, all childhood vaccines are preservative free.
The CDC-approved vaccination schedule has proven safe for children. One prominent organization, WhyIChoose.org, cited research institutions indicating that vaccines are even safer than vitamins. Additionally, according to PublicHealth.org, all vaccines undergo rigorous testing by both the FDA and CDC and are monitored regularly for even the most minor side-effects. Furthermore, the lack of vaccination can have more adverse effects than potential side effects. The CDC warns that opting out of the immunization schedule can lead to deadly outbreaks, preventable by immunization, like the California measles outbreak of 2015.
Doctors and other medical professionals should guide parents in making informed health decisions for their children. While parents and others may be influenced by headlines, caregivers play an important role in sharing factual and scientific information to parents. The right amount of concern coupled with the appropriate education will ensure that parents and guardians make the healthiest and safest decisions for their children. With science on its side, immunizations should not be up for debate.