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The Informed Parent

It’s Time to Wake Up: Do Not Pass Up Immunizations

by John H. Samson, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Mar. 11, 2002

Some of our readers are acting like uninformed parents when it comes to immunizing their children. I certainly believe in freedom of choice for most things regarding the raising of children. That is because in most matters there are more than one correct way to do things.

Whether one introduces cereal, vegetable or fruit first when offering solids is truly not critical. However, some “experts” would have you believe the baby’s future depended on it. In the same vain, choosing the infant’s first shoes is equally arguable. The hard-soled leather shoe versus the sneaker is debated continually by parents and grandparents. In reality, as long as it fits it doesn’t matter.

Covering ears on windy days is held by some to be absolutely necessary for the toddler, while others realize it doesn’t matter. This subject is discussed at length between parents and grandparents. Again, in truth, no harm is done by leaving the ears exposed to the breeze unless the air is very cold and one fears frost bite to the ears.

Which solids you start, what shoes you wear or whether you cover the ears is a different matter than immunizing your child against common serious diseases. Somehow parents feel the information fed to them by pseudo experts over the Internet, television, radio or printed media is infallible. Some person without professional credentials, or with degrees unassociated with medical training, makes a statement. It is supported by anecdotes or skewed incomplete statistics, and it becomes gospel. These proclamations take on the image of solid documented facts. They become concepts in which to guide the parent toward making critical decisions that will effect the future of the baby. Unfortunately, often these decisions become a means that can lead the little one to a crippling handicap, nervous system damage or even death.

Experts in infectious disease and the American Academy of Pediatrics have medically refuted these fallacious claims. Yet, the discussion goes on among the medically untrained.

The notion that physicians give shots to make money could not be further from the truth. In current medical business climes there is no significant profit in administering these immunizations. In fact, some physicians defer the giving of these injections to the health departments. Some health departments and HMO’s have allegedly lobbied against making the pneumococcal vaccine and hepatitis A vaccine mandatory for school. This was done to eliminate the cost of administering these vaccines. (I use the word “allegedly” because I have no proof; only professional conjecture.)

Why, then, do I, along with most physicians, feel so strongly in immunizing our children?
I can only speak for myself, based on the history of medicine and my personal professional experience. In the early 1900’s our pediatric population was ravaged by whooping cough, diphtheria, measles and tetanus. In the ‘30’s and ‘40’s these same people were devastated by polio. Until the ‘90’s H. flu meningitis and serious infections left many children damaged or even dead. Today pneumococcal bacteria causes meningitis and sepsis, frequently followed by fatal consequences.

What has caused control of these terrible invaders of children? Immunizations! The DPT shot controlled diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus so that we no longer worry about these diseases with immunized children. The polio vaccination removed this virus from the list of pediatric predators. Smallpox was eradicated, yes, ERADICATED, from the planet as a natural fatal disease by a global immunization program in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

We no longer see encephalitis of measles, birth defects caused by rubella or the infection of testicles and ovaries caused by mumps. H. flu meningitis that once destroyed brains has been controlled for children who have been immunized. It is also felt that the strangling effect of H. flu epiglottis has been significantly decreased with the same vaccine.

Varicella (chicken pox) encephalitis should become a thing of the past for children who are immunized. It is difficult to evaluate the impact of the Hep. B vaccine since the current population of children who are protected have not yet been associated with that virus.

I have cared for three cases of Varicella encephalitis (brain infection by chicken pox virus) in the past eight years. All three cases resulted from the parental choice to not immunize. These same parents purposely exposed their children to infected friends in order for them to get the disease and “be protected”. This exposure was a way that sickness was guaranteed. They could have chosen to use an immunization that would give protection without disease. It is difficult to understand the logic of this.

The protective results of the use of pneumococcal vaccine and hepatitis A vaccine are not yet in. But, if we can control the pneumococcus bacteria as we did H. influenza, another serious infection will be removed from the list of predators.

Being an informed parent is a status worth seeking. Being a misinformed parent is devastating to your children and, at times, to yourself. Wake up! Help preserve our greatest resource--our children. Let us work as hard to protect them as we do to protect the whales, seals and birds.

If you want information, contact the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC or your pediatrician for correct information in making an informed decision. Remember, your decision not only effects your children but all the babies waiting to be completely immunized. They are not yet totally protected because of their age. Your decision to withhold immunization forms a pool of unprotected children. They can be a source of infection to infants not yet protected. No one has the right to be that selfish.

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