Monday, February 8, 2010

NPR on Vaccines

Joanne Silberner from NPR wrote an excellent piece on the benefits of vaccinating children, and of the problems with the "over-vaccinating" argument:

Some parents ask their pediatricians to space out the vaccines. But that's a bad idea, says Marcuse. "When you space out the vaccines, you leave your infant susceptible to diseases you could otherwise have prevented, particularly in the first six to eight months of life," he says. Babies can get diseases such as whooping cough or meningitis, and these can be tough on them.
Babies are going to be exposed to bacteria and viruses in one way or another — either during an outright infection, or in the vaccines, says Saad Omer, a vaccine expert at Emory University.
In the vaccines, [Dr. Edgar Marcuse] says, babies are only seeing bits and pieces of the viruses or bacteria, and vaccines are much "cleaner" now than they used to be. "A lot of people say that the number of vaccines has gone up," he says. But, in reality, the number of antigens — the molecules in the viruses and bacteria that spark the immune response — hasn't gone up, it's gone down, he says.

I love that point:  babies are going to be exposed to bacteria and viruses no matter what.  Much better to be given a controlled dose via vaccine, which has been tested for safety than roll the dice on being infected out in the wild.  Saad Omer, a vaccine expert at Emory University, also makes the point that many who don't want to vaccinate don't know what these diseases are like, because of the vaccines we have today:

Omer says parents need to remember that for every type of vaccination, the disease is a bigger challenge to the baby than the vaccine. That's easy to forget today, when few can remember what polio and whooping cough and even measles look like.
"After effective control of these diseases, there's a shift in the mental calculus of parents," Omer says. They stop worrying about the disease, and start worrying about the vaccine. But the measles vaccine causes brain damage in 1 in 1 million recipients. The disease itself, which used to hit the majority of kids, killed 1 in 500 people who got it, and caused brain damage in 1 in 1,000.

The entire article is extremely well written, and should be read by anyone even considering not vaccinating their children.  

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