Vaccines: Fact and Fiction (part two)

by Baylor Scott & White Staff on August 13, 2013

in Healthy Living

This is the second article in a two-part series about vaccinating your child. Read the first article.

shotWhether or not to vaccinate your child is a personal decision that every parent has to make. And although organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and other health organizations have recommended that children receive immunizations, there is a lot of talk about the safety and validity of these vaccines.

This talk has led to widespread fear and misinformation about immunizing young children and several persistent myths. Lynn Azuma, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with McLane Children’s Scott & White – Round Rock Clinic, offers some truth to debunk some of these myths and allay parents’ fears.

Myth 1: There is a link between vaccines and autism.

This myth is untrue, Dr. Azuma said. She explains how this myth got started.

“In the late 1990s, a British physician published something in a medical journal about the link between vaccines and autism. But all of that has been retracted.”

Often times parents draw a parallel between vaccines and autism because autism is usually diagnosed in early childhood when children are receiving a lot of vaccines.

“The MMR vaccine has been implicated as the cause of autism in the past, and that’s because children get that vaccine around a year of age,” Dr. Azuma said. “And that’s usually when kids are diagnosed with autism—at around 15 to 18 months of age.”

The reason children aren’t diagnosed before this time is because a key part of an autism diagnosis is delayed language development. And you can’t necessarily see a delay in language until they’re at least a year old.

“If you look back at those kids, they were delayed in all of their early milestones—smiling, fine motor skills and other things.”

Myth 2: Delaying vaccines can help children adjust to vaccines slowly.

There is no scientific proof that there are benefits to delaying vaccines, the pediatrician said.

“There’s no benefit because you’re just making these children vulnerable and unprotected from disease longer while you’re delaying these vaccines,” she said.

Dr. Azuma and other McLane Children’s Scott & White pediatricians recommend the CDC-approved vaccine schedule because it has been studied and tested.

“[The CDC] knows which vaccines work well together and the appropriate timing for vaccinating,” she said. “We want to protect children as young as we can.”

Myth 3: Vaccines aren’t really the cause for healthier children. It’s just because we are leading more sanitary lives.

While leading healthier lives with better medical treatment options and better nutrition can help with overall disease control, it does not lower your risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

“There is research that shows that even when there are better socioeconomic conditions, the disease rate does not go down until the vaccine comes into play,” Dr. Azuma said.

Myth 4: It’s better for your immune system to get the disease than to be vaccinated.

The pediatrician said that if you are at risk for the disease, then you’re at risk for the complications of the disease. And the complications of the disease far outweigh the side effects of the vaccine.

“With measles, you could get pneumonia, an infection in the brain (encephalitis) or you could die,” she said. “You’re at risk for death if you get the infection. And death is not a high risk with a vaccine.”

Most of the side effects with an immunization are local soreness or fever. These are mild and treatable, according to the doctor, unlike some of the complications from vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Myth 5: It’s better to not get some vaccines because their effects wear off.

“In the case of the chicken pox vaccine as well as tetanus and pertussis, researchers did find that immunity was waning,” Dr. Azuma said. “But when the kids who had been vaccinated got the chicken pox, it was a much milder case.”

The pediatrician said avoiding these vaccines can cause serious problems.

“Chicken pox is still a big deal,” she said. “There are serious complications that can happen from chicken pox. Children die from chicken pox. They can get secondary infections or pneumonia.”

Myth 6: Kids are vaccinated against too many diseases.

If you look back at the historic vaccine schedules, you will see that children are vaccinated for more diseases now than they were 20, 30 or 50 years ago. The reason children are vaccinated against more diseases today is because we’ve made advances in medicine, the doctor said.

“We’ve found ways to protect children from diseases that they were not able to be protected against in the past,” Dr. Azuma said. “And because of that we’ve seen a decrease in a lot of disease.”

Myth 7: Vaccines overwhelm developing immune systems.

There is no data to support the idea that immunizations are overwhelming to a child’s immune system. Children are actually exposed to more foreign antigens—particles in the air—then they are from vaccines, the pediatrician said.

“They have refined the vaccines so that there are fewer foreign antigens,” she said. “They only contain a small amount of foreign protein. It is less than what a baby encounters from a cold or from just playing outside.”

If you would like more information about vaccinating your child, make an appointment with a McLane Children’s Scott & White – Round Rock pediatrician or our General Pediatrics site for more information about the recommended immunization schedules.

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