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The Informed Parent

Before Immunizations

by Louis P. Theriot, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jan. 01, 2000

 Every so often, a child is brought to the office for their well-child visit, and at the end of the visit when it is time for the immunizations, a parent boldly announces that they have decided to NOT have their child immunized. This is rarely because of religious beliefs, but usually because of mis-information or fear on the part of the parent.

One dad recently told me that he thought that it was all a money-making racket and the medical community was "in bed" with the pharmaceutical companies. Before he would agree to have his two month old daughter immunized, he wanted hard proof that the vaccines were effective and necessary. Fortunately, I had just finished a report put out by the Center for Disease Control and it covered this in great detail. What I shared with him was...


Prior to the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, virtually ALL the children in the U.S. developed pertussis. There were around 9,000 cases of pertussis related deaths each year. Pertussis may cause severe coughing spells that can last for weeks/months, and in infants it can cause pneumonia and lead to brain damage and death. In England during the 1970’s, there was concern about the safety of the pertussis vaccine and this led to a decrease in the number of children immunized. Within a few years, there were a number of pertussis epidemics, and during one such epidemic there were over 100,000 cases of whooping cough reported with 36 deaths. Japan had a similar experience also in the mid 70’s. Immunizations against pertussis in Japan dropped from over 80% in 1974, to only 20% by 1979. There was a major pertussis epidemic in Japan in 1979 that resulted in over 13,000 cases with 41 deaths. This trend dramatically reversed itself once the pertussis vaccine was re-instituted. The Japanese have developed an acellular vaccine for pertussis which is a much purer vaccine that has far less side effects and is much safer than the old whole cell vaccine. This acellular vaccine is currently being used in the U.S. with great success.


Prior to the polio vaccine, there were 20,000 cases of paralytic polio each year in the U.S.. Routine immunization against polio in this country has all but eradicated wild polio in the U.S.. In fact, the only cases of polio that occur here are vaccine-associated paralytic polio (VAPP). Estimates are that there are about 6 cases of VAPP each year in the U.S....this means that there is around one case of VAPP for each 2-3 million doses of oral polio (OPV) given annually. To further eliminate this, the OPV is being replaced by an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) which is an injectable vaccine that is as equally protective as the OPV but will not cause VAPP. This should completely eradicate ALL cases of polio in this country.


Prior to the measles vaccine, all children in the U.S. got measles. Between 1953 and 1963, there were on the average of 450-500 deaths per year from measles. Since the routine immunization of measles has been implemented in the U.S., the incidence of measles and measles associated complications (pneumonia and encephalitis) has decreased by over 95%.


Prior to the rubella vaccine, congenital birth defects of babies born to mothers who came down with rubella during the first trimester of pregnancy was over 90%. These defects included heart defects, cataracts and blindness, deafness and mental retardation---the so called congenital rubella syndrome. In 1964-65, before the rubella vaccine was routinely used in this country, there was a rubella epidemic which resulted in 20,000 infants born with this syndrome. There were 2,100 babies born stillborn, 11,600 cases of deafness, 3,500 cases of blindness, and 2,000 cases of severe mental retardation. Nowadays, with the ability to measure serum antibodies in women who are of child bearing age, and the availability of the vaccine, there is no excuse for a single case of congenital rubella syndrome to ever occur in this country.

Hemophilus influenza

Prior to the Hemophilus influenza (H flu) vaccine, this bacterium was by far the leading cause of meningitis in children under 5 years of age accounting for over 80% of all cases of meningitis. H. flu is also a very invasive organism that can cause epiglottis (a life threatening respiratory tract infection), pneumonia, and joint infections. Before the vaccine was available, there was on the average of 600 cases of H. flu related meningitis deaths per year. Since the vaccines introduction in 1987, the incidence of H. flu disease has dropped by 98-99%. In fact, there were fewer than 10 cases of H. flu related deaths in 1995 in the entire country. The infectious disease text books literally had to be re-written because of the vaccine.

Before I could even discuss tetanus, chicken pox, diphtheria and hepatitis B, the dad (who was a bit over-whelmed) threw up his arms and said, "I surrender! Give her her shots."

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