To Vaccinate or Not to VaccinateAnn E. Butenas
Vaccinations are an integral part of a child's well-care routine. They are designed to protect children from illnesses and diseases that otherwise could make them ill, incapacitate them, or worse yet, kill them. Nonetheless, there has been growing concern over the years about the safety of some of these vaccines. Many speculate that the potential side effects from certain vaccines may be more serious and life threatening than the actual diseases or illnesses which they are designed to prevent. As such, many parents have opted not to have their child(ren) immunized at the recommended ages and guidelines.
One of the concerns of late, centers on the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Originally, the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, with the current version introduced in 1968. The mumps vaccine was introduced in 1948, but was later withdrawn. Its current version was begun in 1967. The rubella vaccine was initiated in 1969, and the current version began in 1979. The combined vaccine, MMR, was introduced in 1971.
According to Vincent Iannelli, M.D., F.A.A.P., pediatrician and President of Keep Kids Healthy, LLC (www.keepkidshealthy.com), the MMR vaccine is given at 12-15 months of age, with a booster dose routinely given at age four to six years. "The second booster dose can be given at any time, though," noted Dr. Iannelli, "as long as it is at least four weeks after the first dose (has been administered)." Children who are older and have not received their MMR booster should be immunized with it by age 11 or 12.
According to Dr. Iannelli, measles is a very big problem globally. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has estimated that one million children continue to die from measles annually, and this disease is preventable.
The possible side effects from administering the MMR vaccine, according to Dr. Iannelli, include fever, mild rash, and swelling of the glands in the cheeks or neck. These side effects can occur seven to 12 days after the vaccine has been given. "More moderate problems that might occur," explained Dr. Iannelli, "include febrile seizures, temporary pain and joint stiffness, and a temporarily low platelet count. Severe problems are very rare, but might include serious allergic reactions."
The CDC reports that giving the MMR vaccine "is much safer than getting any of the three diseases," and that most people who get the MMR vaccine do not experience any problems with it.
So what is all the concern over the MMR vaccine? "There has been some concern about the MMR vaccine being associated with autism," said Dr. Iannelli. "But most health officials do not believe that they are related. The CDC has long held that "the weight of currently available scientific evidence does not support the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism."
There has also been concern over the use of thimerosal in the MMR vaccine. However, the vaccine is now available thimerosal-free, thereby eliminating this problem.
Dr. Iannelli notes that there have always been parenting groups who stand against vaccines. This became more pronounced in 1998 when Dr. Andrew Wakefield suggested that autism and the MMR vaccine were linked. However, according to Paul A. Offit, M.D., Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, these studies had "critical flaws" which made them unreliable.
As the Institute of Medicine's report on MMR and Autism concludes, "The vast majority of cases of autism cannot be caused by the MMR vaccine and that the MMR cannot explain the recent increasing trends in autism diagnoses."
For parents, it is important to make educated choices regarding the health, safety, and welfare of their children. It is imperative to weigh all the information and make a conscious decision as to the long-term health of the children.
"Measles may not be very common in the United States anymore," explained Dr. Iannelli, "but can you be sure that your family or your child will never travel to a part of the world where measles is still common? Or a more likely scenario: can you be sure that your child will not come in contact with someone from a part of the world where measles is more common and become infected?"
Be sure to visit www.keepkidshealthy.com for a host of information related to the health and well-being of children!
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