Sun

Immunization Policy

August 25, 2008

Vaccinating children absolutely the right thing to do!


To Our Patients,

Our practice has experienced a marked increase in parents requesting to delay or decline vaccinations. This may be a result of recent appearances by celebrities claiming that vaccines harmed their children in some way or as a result of the tremendous increase in the numbers of vaccines and injections in recent years.

I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time defending our use of vaccines in each well-child check, as well as during increasing numbers of telephone calls. Furthermore, I find myself on the defensive side more often than not.

In response to this heightened demand on our time and energy, I have developed a vaccine policy statement that is posted in every exam room as well as Alice’s “Baby News” give out at the one week well visit. The response has been tremendous! New parents clearly know where we stand in the vaccine “controversy”, and our established patient families have expressed their appreciation for confirming choices they made with their children.

The statement also has been a tremendous time saver for all of us. Readers should feel free to reproduce and distribute the information in any way they please.

Sincerely,

Paul Christakis, MD, FAAP

Christakis Pediatrics’  Vaccine Policy Statement

I firmly believe in the effectiveness of vaccines to prevent serious illness and to save lives.

I firmly believe in the safety of our vaccines.

I firmly believe that all children and young adults should receive all of the recommended vaccines according to the schedule published by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

I firmly believe, based on all available literature, evidence and current studies, that vaccines do not cause autism or other developmental disabilities. I firmly believe that thimerosal, a preservative that has been in vaccines for decades and remains in some vaccines, does not cause autism or other developmental disabilities.

I firmly believe that vaccinating children and young adults may be the single most important health-promoting intervention we perform as health care providers, and that you can perform as parents/caregivers. The recommended vaccines and their schedule given are the results of years of scientific study and data gathering on millions of children by thousands of our brightest scientists and physicians.

These things being said, I recognize that there has always been and will likely always be controversy surrounding vaccination. Indeed, Benjamin Franklin, persuaded by his brother, was opposed to smallpox vaccine until scientific data convinced him otherwise. Tragically, he had delayed inoculating his favorite son Franky, who contracted smallpox and died at the age of 4, leaving Ben with a lifetime of guilt and remorse. Quoting Mr. Franklin’s autobiography:

“In 1736, I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the smallpox…I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it, my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”

The vaccine campaign is truly a victim of its own success. It is precisely because vaccines are so effective at preventing illness that we are even discussing whether or not they should be given. Because of vaccines, many of you have never seen a child with polio, tetanus, whooping cough, bacterial meningitis or even chickenpox, or known a friend or family member whose child died of one of these diseases. Such success can make us complacent or even lazy about vaccinating. But such an attitude, if it becomes widespread, can only lead to tragic results.

Over the past several years, many people in Europe have chosen not to vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine after publication of an unfounded suspicion (later retracted) that the vaccine caused autism. As a result of underimmunization, there have been small outbreaks of measles and several deaths from complications of measles in Europe over the past several years.

Furthermore, by not vaccinating your child you are taking selfish advantage of thousands of others who do vaccinate their children, which decreases the likelihood that your child will contract one of these diseases. I feel such an attitude to be somewhat unfair.

I am making you aware of these facts not to scare you or coerce you, but to emphasize the importance of vaccinating your child. I recognize that the choice may be a very emotional one for some parents. I will do everything I can to convince you that vaccinating according to the schedule is the right thing to do. However, should you have doubts, please discuss these with me before your visit. In some cases, I may alter the schedule to accommodate parental concerns or reservations. Please be advised, however, that delaying vaccines goes against expert recommendations, and can put your child at risk. 

Finally, if you should absolutely refuse to vaccinate your child despite all our efforts, we will ask you to find another health care provider who shares your views. We do not keep a list of such providers nor would we recommend any such physician. Please recognize that by not vaccinating you are putting your child at unnecessary risk for life-threatening illness and disability, and even death.

As a medical professional, I feel very strongly that vaccinating children on schedule with currently available vaccines is absolutely the right thing to do for all children and young adults. Thank you for your time in reading this policy, and please feel free to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about vaccines with me.

Sincerely,

Dr Paul