Childhood vaccines have become a fraught subject for many parents. Some worry vaccines can be injurious to their children while others dismiss concerns as ignorant or unfounded. The conflict has created friction and pushed parents to extremes. And in the rifts between the vaccine proponents and the vaccine-hesitant, diseases like measles, which was previously eradicated in America, are finding purchase in places like Washington State. Why? Because the anti-vaxxers are wrong on science and the vaccine advocates often seem disconnected from a reality they don’t want to acknowledge: Vaccines suck. That doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t get them — just that it’s an understandably daunting process.
Yes, vaccines have become a politically and ideologically messy subject, but the harsh truth is that no matter what irresponsible celebrities like Jenny McCarthy or pseudoscientists says, they are largely safe, wholly necessary and always painful. But with a little research and adequate preparation, parents and kids can get protected from preventable diseases with just a couple of tears. And that’s a much better proposition than dying from measles.
Vaccines Will Make Your Kid Cry
Parents should expect that when they receive a vaccine they might cry. That’s because being jabbed with a needle is painful. So, that to be expected. Does this seem obvious? Sure. But many parents go to pieces when they see their kid shrieking in pain from a needle prick. But that momentary pain will fade. It’s just an unfortunate side effect for protecting a child from diseases that are far more painful at their best, and fatal at their worst.
That said, parents can help mitigate pain by modeling confidence and a good attitude, using distraction techniques like laughter, promising rewards and making sure that any topical numbing agents available in the office are applied at the time of vaccination.
Vaccines Are Not 100 Percent Effective
There are almost no medical interventions that are 100 percent effective. That not how medicine, or the human body, works. The Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine, for instance, is about 97 percent effective. So a very small number of children who receive the vaccine will not be protected. What’s more, the only way to know for sure if a vaccine has been effective is to be exposed to the virus.
That’s why is wildly disingenuous for anti-vaxxers to suggest that vaccinated kids aren’t at risk for measles from unvaccinated kids. It’s simply not true. In order for everyone to be protected from a disease like measles community vaccination rates should be somewhere between 90 to 95 percent. That would essentially require anyone who isn’t too old, too sick or too young to be vaccinated.
There Are More Shots Now, But Less Stress to the Immune System
Some parents worry that today’s children get too many vaccines too early, particularly when compared to vaccine schedules of the past. The wonder if the current vaccine schedule might overload a baby’s delicate system. But while it’s true that kids today receive a few more shots, they are protected from far more vaccine preventable diseases while simultaneously being exposed to fewer vaccine-related antigens and preservatives.
The fact of the matter is that even though there were fewer vaccines in the past, those vaccines were less sophisticated. The amount of dead, weakened, or synthetic antigens meant to help the body build immunity was in the number of thousands per shot. Now the amount of antigens a child is exposed to over the course of the vaccine schedule is in the hundreds. The same goes for the chemical preservatives present per shot.
Vaccines today are both safer and protect against more diseases. A child’s immune system is far more challenged by the antigens present in daily life over their first two years on earth than they are from those present in vaccines.
Alternative Vaccine Schedules Increase Risk of Disease
The vaccine schedule is designed around the optimal delivery of vaccinations to make sure every child is best protected from preventable diseases. It is based on years of peer review research and medical study.
Alternative schedules, on the other hand, are educated guesses, at best. And by changing the schedule, particularly for the early vaccines, vaccine-hesitant parents not only expose their children to more shots over time, they also leave them vulnerable to dangerous diseases for far longer than necessary.
Vaccines and Fake News Go Hand and Hand
Because vaccines are needlessly divisive, they have become a fertile land for disinformation campaigns spread by bad actors. Facebook, in particular, has recently come under fire for not tackling so-called “Russian troll farms” that have used vaccines as a wedge issue to divide Americans.
Vaccine information on social media is often misleading. That makes it incredibly important for parents to check and double-check their sources. News articles that sound extreme or suspect should be brought to pediatricians for a fact check. No parent in their right mind should be taking health advice from extreme and unvetted sources.
Saying No to Vaccines is Saying Yes to Preventable Disease
Not vaccinating a child is the best and easiest way to ensure diseases like measles and polio make a swift and decisive return. Kids who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated unless they are too young or too sick.
Pediatricians Can Fire Patients for Not Vaccinating
Pediatricians have a responsibility to follow a standard of care for their patients. Right now, that standard of care includes vaccinations given in accordance with the CDC vaccine schedule. Parents who chose not to vaccinate their children not only put pediatricians in a bad spot, they place every patient in their waiting room at undue risk for exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases. Parents who are hesitant to vaccinate should understand that their pediatrician is well within their rights to end their patient relationship.