Recently I shared an article I wrote addressing what parents need to know about vaccines. Understandably, it sparked quite the passionate discussion and excellent debate. Parents are always encouraged to have dialogue about and discuss important parenting issues; we must never shut one another down.
I would like to offer a bit of followup. My position as a pediatrician has always been to advocate for parents. You are in charge of your child’s health, and if parents in my practice choose not to vaccinate, I respect their opinions. However, in many pediatric practices across the country, this is not the case.
There are far too many bloggers and writers on autism, who, while well-intentioned, fail to make sound, scientific arguments.
My position on vaccinations is not based solely on experience, but on scientific evidence. When you read articles, I encourage you to always question the source. Much of what is written about vaccines on the internet is anecdotal and fear-based, and this never serves your children well.
A common argument against vaccines is that they are connected to autism. However, the link between vaccines and autism has been clearly debunked. Many disagree because there are far too many bloggers and writers on autism, who, while well-intentioned, fail to make sound, scientific arguments.
The team, led by Andrew Wakefield, who cited the original connection between MMR (the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine) and autism has rescinded its original findings because they realized that they jumped to conclusions. In 1998, an article in the medical journal The Lancet published the “connection” Wakefield and 12 others said they found and how it was based on very soft evidence.
This piece in the British Medical Journal further explains: “Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent.”
Sadly, this team prompted widespread fear and promulgated false information. Now, people post stories about their child, or a child they know, who “got autism” from a vaccination. But anecdotal stories are not evidence. They may very well be coincidental.
What we do know is that brain changes are evident in young children with autism before many have even received immunizations.
Another issue that many parents are appropriately concerned about is the use of aborted fetal tissue in the production of vaccines. I, too, find this a moral and ethical concern. When vaccines are made, viruses are placed in tissue where they can reproduce. Then, the viruses (or parts of the viruses) are removed and used in vaccines.
Of greatest concern are the vaccinations for MMR, Varivax (chickenpox), Hepatitis A, Adenovirus, and Shingles. These are immunizations that currently use aborted fetal cell lines for the use of viral replication — but it is important to note that the cell lines these vaccines use were begun in the 1960s and no new aborted fetal tissue is used.
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These vaccines, unfortunately have no alternatives to use. There are other vaccines that use aborted fetal cell lines, but they have alternative vaccines.
Many Christians, specifically, find it morally and ethically objectionable to use vaccines that use these cell lines. I understand that concern. I, however, believe that it is morally right to ensure the health of living children by using these vaccines until alternative vaccines are available.
Vaccinating children against life-threatening diseases is serious business. Tetanus is alive and well, as is pertussis (whooping cough). I used to treat children with Haemophilus influenza B epiglottitis. It was every physician’s nightmare because it kills quickly. We rarely see this today because of the HIB vaccine.
Because I have seen children die from these diseases — I have great respect for vaccines. I encourage every parent to read good literature, ask their pediatricians questions, and parent according to their best instincts. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practice pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the best-selling book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.