Doctor to vaccine-leery parents: We're not mad at you

Tuesday , February 17, 2015 - 12:00 AM

By CHAD HAYES
The Washington Post

Dear anti-vax parents,

In the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak, there’s been a lot of heated talk about parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. It seems like the medical community is now protesting even louder than the anti-vax groups were a couple of years ago. But I want to take a moment and apologize for the harsh tone some of us have taken.

It’s not personal. We’re not mad at you.

We are mad at people like Andrew Wakefield, who fabricated a study linking vaccines to autism and scared millions of parents into avoiding vaccinations.

We are confused by television personality and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, who has zero medical training but somehow managed to lead a massive movement against immunizations (although she now claims that she’s not anti-vaccines).

We are infuriated by California pediatrician Bob Sears, who advises parents to delay or decline vaccines, placing the lives of your children at risk.

It’s not your fault. You’ve been misled. You’ve been lied to. And all you wanted to do was to protect your children, whom you love deeply.

We’re really not that different. Pediatricians across the country have dedicated their lives to protecting your children. None of us picked pediatrics for the money (although I like to make surgeons laugh by telling them that I did). We don’t get kickbacks from vaccine companies. None of us sells millions of books recommending that you follow the CDC’s immunization schedule — that would be a hard book to get published. We get no joy from sticking your kids with needles (and neither do our nurses). We do it because we care, and because we love your kids, too.

Really, the only difference between you and us is that we know how effective vaccines can be. We know the diseases they prevent. We know that about 2 in 1,000 kids with measles will die, that pertussis can kill babies and that varicella (chickenpox) can cause more than just an itchy rash. We understand that the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a quality control system designed to monitor for potential complications, not a registry of adverse events that are indisputably linked to vaccines.

We view immunizations as one of the most important medical advances in the prevention of infectious diseases. We know that immunized children are less likely to die from preventable diseases.

So let’s band together. We’re not evil — and you’re not, either. We all want nothing more than healthy, happy kids. And you don’t have to trust us: Feel free to do your research. But get your facts from reputable sources. Talk to your doctor openly about your concerns. And if your child isn’t immunized, tell the health-care providers who take care of her; it changes our medical management, and it could save your child’s life.

Your Child’s Pediatrician

Hayes is a resident physician in pediatrics in Greenville, S.C. This article is reprinted from his parenting and pediatrics blog, at www.chadhayesmd.com.

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