Interest in vaccine safety has been, and continues to be, a hot topic with parents and the media. Unfortunately, from where I sit, the AAP and others professional organizations have been missing in action when it comes to mounting an effective media campaign to educate parents and counter much of the misinformation parents are exposed to. I have been to professional meetings where my pediatrician colleagues have stood up and railed at our professional organization for not being very visible in this important debate. Given that as background, it was of great interest when I came across a new handbook, written and published by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC, laying out the facts including vaccine safety. Maybe as the number of outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, and mumps continue to climb, organizations like these will put more effort toward countering the messaging from people and organizations that are opposed to vaccines. I actually think this beginning to happen since many state legislatures, public health groups, and even the AAP have been becoming more public about their support for vaccines. My guess is that it will take at least five positive vaccine messages to counter the unrealistic fear that one negative message about vaccines can create. Multiple positive messages from multiple reliable sources, on an ongoing basis, are what are needed. That’s why is this handbook is significant in my opinion so let’s get into the details of my review.
I think it is fair to say that the Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunization is more than a pamphlet but not quite a book. I would describe it as a handbook. I think readers of varying reading abilities will find it short and easy to read but full of direct and useful information. The language used is not full of medical jargon and is understandable to almost anyone. I found the illustrations simple and colorful, most were done by children. And finally, the greatest thing about this book is that you can get it for free. Just request a copy! You can’t beat free!
I found Part 1 that lays out the vaccine schedule and gives a description of the diseases caused by many of the childhood infections too detailed for most parents to digest.
But Part 2, on side effects of vaccines I thought was well written, accurate, and powerful.
And finally, I think the best part of the book is the “Frequently asked questions section”. These questions effectively address what I know parents worry about. They can’t help but worry if they are paying any attention to what is printed in magazines, written on the Internet, broadcast on TV, or even hear on political debates. The media seems to be intent on scarring parents about vaccine safety. I guess it sells.
I know we will never get 100% agreement on the need for vaccines and I also know that vaccines are not perfect. But the alternative…is beyond horrible. I think the Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunization is a good resource for parents to begin their education about vaccine technology and what it can do for their children. As a healthcare professional that has spent the past 35 years vaccinating children, it is obvious how safe and effective vaccines truly are. Does corporate America and the healthcare system make some money administering vaccines– you bet they do. But that fact doesn’t make all involved lie hide the terrible side effects of vaccines. The truth is, that side effects are rare. To me the most cogent argument in favor of vaccines is the realization that the people administering vaccines, those who see and are held responsible for severe reactions should they occur, are strong advocates for using them. The very people, who are taking the most risk giving vaccines, are their biggest advocates.
Think about this for a second; If our grandmothers had resisted vaccines like many of today’s anti-vaccine advocates are doing, it is very likely we would still be visiting children in our hospitals living in iron lungs from polio and going to funerals of literally millions of babies each year.
So if you are a new parent or a parent on the fence about vaccines, take a few minutes to read the Center for Disease Controls perspective on vaccines. Ultimately, every parent has to make a decision about vaccines. It’s a good time for a nice publication that families can use as a reference, should they have questions about vaccines and vaccine safety. It’s about time more than time for the public health community to take on the anti vaccine community head on.
As always, thanks for joining me for this edition of Portable Practical Pediatrics. I think you can tell that I enjoy creating these episodes I hope you find them entertaining and informative. I would love to hear your comments on my blog, www.docsmo.com or reviews on iTunes. Take a minute to share episodes you think your friends and relatives would enjoy learning about child health with podcasts, subscribe to my blog to get an email notice of each new topic as they are posted. Each episode is free, peer reviewed and accurate. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping you don’t prevaricate when it comes time to vaccinate. Until next time.