7 Feb


Between you and me, I have spent (wasted?) hours (possibly amounting to days) in the last couple weeks reading (fuming) over every single vaccine-related post on my facebook feed, then checking in compulsively to sift through all the comments.  Every now and then–I wish I could pin point what makes me do it–I can’t help it, and I engage.  I try to be respectful; I hope I’m successful.  There have literally been studies showing that I won’t change anyone’s mind, so the least I can do is try not to alienate anyone.

I recently finished Dr. Paul Offit‘s Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases.  I think it should be required reading for any physician who will treat children.  It’s a great read, describing the fascinating history of many modern vaccines, including the recent conflicts regarding their supposed risks.  At this moment, I’m thinking of Offit’s description of parents, when the mumps vaccine was in development, coming out in throngs to sign their kids up for the trials.

I don’t have anything pithy to add to the discussion.  (But if you have any questions or concerns about the safety of thimerosal, thanks to Dr. Offit, I feel adequately prepared to at least begin to address them.)  I wanted to link my most recent favorites in the commentaries:

The succinct prose of Dr. Sanjay Gupta (I’ll admit it–and I don’t think I’m alone here–but he’s kind of a celebrity crush of mine; right up there with Dr. James Hamlin): “The anti-vaccination argument is often snugly wrapped in the “I love my kids” sentiment.  And, I find it, well, a little insulting.  To suggest that anyone who vaccinates their kids doesn’t love them is a whole new level of lunacy.  But here is the fact of the matter, for me.  It’s not just because I love my kids that I vaccinated them — it’s because I love your kids as well.”

This opinion piece by Professor Art Caplan: “That is why medical speech is subject to scrutiny by a doctor’s peers and can be curtailed by state licensing boards.  My home state of New York, for instance, warns doctors that they may not use speech that is ‘false, fraudulent, deceptive, misleading’ or relies on the use of ‘testimonials.’  Violations may be punished by revoking a medical license.  Those whose misinformation leads to harm can be charged by a patient, doctor or other health-care professional; investigated by the medical board; and found guilty by a hearing panel composed of doctors and a member of the public.  I have testified in many court and licensing hearings about physicians who abjure the standard of care for their own pet theories.  Many of them are now ex-doctors.  The vaccine crisis has introduced several worthy candidates — proponents of distrust and dishonesty — for dismissal from the ranks of doctors, and the rules in their states provide the mechanism.”

I wonder how Hamblin would handle a segment on vaccines


8 Responses to “vaccinated”

  1. pagingdrallie February 7, 2015 at 5:37 am #

    I have done the same thing, and it is SO frustrating! Totally agreed with everything you said. And now I will definitely read Dr. Offit’s book–thanks for the recommendation!

    • annaojesus February 7, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      Glad I’m not the only one 🙂 Sorry you have to join me in my frustration, though! I really hope you like the book–it is a surprising page-turner, reads like a true story!

  2. phantomdiver February 7, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    I heard on NPR (and so it must be true, right?) that parents trust their pediatricians. If they hear from their trusted pediatricians that vaccines are the way to go, then they will vaccinate their kids.

    And I also saw a cartoon (maybe?) that purported to be from a pediatrician. It basically said that if you won’t vaccinate your kids, s/he won’t treat your kids, because s/he didn’t want any MMR-type contagion associated with the practice. It’s a thought.

    My kids and I had chicken pox before the vaccine was developed. I had it as an adult. I’m here to tell you that it is NO FUN. And I had to take a boatload of sick leave. And when my brand-new great-niece came to visit my in-laws, and I had to stay in the car rather than come in and hold her. 😦

    • annaojesus February 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

      Hahaha, I love NPR. I also think there is some (if not a great deal) of truth in what you’re saying. We quickly write off that people are for or against vaccination due to an inherent belief set that is unwavering. While I think it’s very difficult to change people’s minds in the matter, I also learned while researching a paper that there is not much communication between physician and parent regarding the benefits/risks of vaccination, mostly due to time constraints I would imagine (the amount needed to shove into a well child check up is daunting). There is room for improvement there.

      There are certainly pediatricians I’ve worked with who won’t treat children whose parents refuse to vaccinate. I’m conflicted about this practice because I don’t like the idea of denying treatment to any children, and I also don’t know how effective it is at changing behaviors…but I’m only a med student, so clearly I have a LOT to learn!

      Ugh! I’m sorry you had to deal with chicken pox as an adult! When my neighbors and I all had it as kids, I remember one of the mothers having it–I think she had to get hospitalized! How awful! A lot of people think back almost humorously about when their mom made them go hug a neighbor so they could get chicken pox (my mom made me get on a slip-n-slide, ha!), oatmeal baths, and taped mittens on hands. But, like with measles, some kids do suffer horrible outcomes from varicella encephalitis. And, like rubella, congenital varicella syndrome (transmitted from mother to fetus) is devastating. I’m thankful for the vaccine, for sure!

  3. Linda Mills February 7, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    Anna, I know that tense, anxious feeling you have been getting about dealing with people who won’t do the homework. This book is a terrific way to pass on information and I think I’ll just buy a copy to have to lend when the occasion comes up next time. And I’ve had a crush on Sanjay Gupta since he first showed up as well. It’s a shame he did not become the Surgeon General because he has that Saganesque way of clarifying and elucidating important facts (while being easy on the eyes too).

    • annaojesus February 7, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

      Linda, so wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for empathizing! I hope you like the book; it is certainly a page-turner, reads like fiction 🙂

      I sometimes feel like a school girl (hmmm, maybe I am still school girl/woman?) grinning at SG through the television screen. But, yes, he certainly has a rare talent for saying things succinctly and eloquently, in layman’s terms. xo

  4. Kerry February 9, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    Not against vaccinations (my kids are all up-to-date, but I did spread them out a little), but I feel there are too many given during such a short period of time. Many European countries do not give as many vaccinations as the US and there is not rampant disease outbreaks. Is the Hepatitis B vaccine really needed right at birth? Can you please explain the reasoning behind that one to me? I have never heard of a young child contracting Hepatitis B, unless the mother is carrying the disease at the time of birth.

    • annaojesus February 10, 2015 at 11:46 am #

      Hi Kerry,

      Thanks for your thoughtful response! So, frankly, I have not researched Hep B extensively, so this is only based on what I read for another paper. The Hep B vaccine is unique because, as you alluded to, it’s one of the few vaccines that can actually prevent the infant from getting Hep B if the mother is a carrier–pretty awesome! Since it’s often transmitted through sexual intercourse women can be asymptomatic, it’s hugely beneficial to the infant to get that protection. However, I have known some parents who have opted out of the vaccine after they have confirmed on more than one occasion that the mother does not have Hep B and she is at low risk of getting the disease.

      I would imagine that Hep B vaccine would also help the infant if he ever had to receive blood products…

      I can’t speak to the vaccine schedule in Europe, but I would be interested to learn about it. I do know that there were outbreaks of a number of vaccine-preventable diseases in the UK following Wakefield, but I’m not sure of things at present.

      Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: