You can’t turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, or surf the internet without coming across the debate about childhood vaccines.
Most of these articles, posts, and testimonials make the vaccine question seem like it’s completely black or white: either you’re reading that vaccines are a miracle and of absolute necessity and you should do all the vaccines the CDC and your pediatrician recommend without question (and that you are “selfish,” and “dangerous” if you do not), or you are discovering websites and columnists who insist that vaccines are all dangerous, vaccines will kill your infant, and all vaccines are bad. These anti-vaccine sites insist that if you want your baby to be healthy, you shouldn’t do any vaccines at all.
Whether you’re a first-time parent or you have a gaggle of children already, you may be starting to wonder what to do about vaccines.
You’ve heard over and over that “vaccines are safe and effective,” but something—maybe your Mommy Instinct—is telling you to beware.
It turns out that you’re not alone.
According to a CDC-sponsored study [link to the word “study” published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, "Childhood Immunizations, First-Time Expectant Mothers’ Knowledge, Beliefs, Intentions, and Behaviors,” only 75 percent of new moms plan to do the vaccines according to the CDC schedule.
The study also found that about 70 percent of new moms were not familiar with the recommended vaccination schedule and with the number of routinely recommended vaccines.
The study concludes: “Most who were planning to delay recommended vaccinations or were undecided relied primarily on socially available sources of vaccine information, rather than information provided by a healthcare professional. Improved access to vaccine information from healthcare professionals could foster better vaccine-related knowledge…”
I am a healthcare professional. I would like to foster better vaccine-related knowledge among expectant and new parents. I am also a pro-vaccine, pro-informed consent, pro-science pediatrician. I give vaccines in my office every day and I believe that vaccines are one important tool in the medical toolbox to prevent infections that can be dangerous and sometimes even fatal.
I have also seen firsthand how vaccines can cause devastating side effects, both immediately after the injection or by damaging a baby’s long-term immune and neurological health.
As much as your doctor may downplay the risk of vaccines—and for most children the risk is small—vaccine injury is real. Some babies and small children can even die as a result of an allergic reaction to vaccines or from contamination in a hot lot of vaccines.
Every vaccine is not right for every baby at the same age.
The CDC schedule is not for everyone.
Questioning the timing, safety, and efficacy of some vaccines does not make you anti-vaccine, selfish, or dangerous. You are the parent. You have to live with the consequences of the health decisions you make for your baby. Not your doctor. Not the CDC.
The best thing you can do is to make considered vaccine decisions that are logical and make sense based on the medical needs of your family, the prevalence of vaccine-preventable diseases, and the risks, benefits, and efficacy of each vaccine. A top down, one-size-fits-all vaccination policy is not necessarily in the best interests of your baby’s health.
Here’s a secret you don’t see mentioned very often in the mainstream media: In my practice, it is often the best educated and most intelligent parents who question and alter the CDC schedule for their children. These are the moms and dads who read the scientific studies themselves, read the CDC’s website, and turn to other balanced and well referenced resources like the National Vaccine Information Center, Dr. Aviva Romm, M.D.’s website, Dr. Bob Sears, M.D.’s The Vaccine Book and Dr. Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D.’s Your Baby, Your Way.
I find it disappointing and a little baffling that so many pediatricians, OB-GYNs, and family doctors feel threatened by those well-educated and thoughtful parents who choose to delay or forego some vaccines on the current CDC schedule. Though your obstetrician or pediatrician may try to stick to the party line and push the entire schedule on you and your baby despite ample peer-reviewed evidence that this may not be the best choice, you can always say, “No, thank you. I need a little more time to consider. I do not want that vaccine at this time.”
Though I recommend parents follow the CDC schedule for some vaccines, pregnant moms should not get injections with aluminum (Tdap), which is a known neurotoxin that can cross the placenta and may harm your growing baby’s brain. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease. There is no compelling medical reason to give the hepatitis B vaccine to every newborn in America. Babies born to moms who do not have hepatitis B do not need this vaccine. You should wait until your children is a teenager and is thinking of becoming sexually active or is using intravenous drugs to get the hepatitis B vaccine series. There are numerous other recommendations I would make if I were your child's doctor. You can learn more at www.drpaul.md and www.drpaulapproved.com.
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Dr. Paul Thomas
Dr. Paul Thomas is an award-winning Dartmouth-trained pediatrician with nearly 30 years of experience in pediatrics. In addition to being board certified in Pediatrics, he is an expert on addiction and board certified in Addiction Medicine. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book, The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health—from Pregnancy through Your Child’s Teen Years (Ballantine 2016).
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