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Immunization Safety: Evaluating Science vs. Opinion

If you’ve watched TV, opened a magazine, or talked with friends lately, you’ve likely heard at least a few opinions on the vaccine debate, many of which are accompanied by very personal anecdotes. Some of the information can be very scary, and it’s understandable that parents are a bit wary of the childhood immunization schedule! But before you make a decision about vaccinating your children, I implore you to do some research on the matter. Not just any research – good, disciplined research from credible sources backed by science and fact. Sounds intimidating? Allow me to provide you with some tips and resources to make your investigation a little less daunting:

  • Talk to your pediatrician: You trust your pediatrician to care for your child when he or she is sick and to give you advice on a variety of childrearing topics, right? Then why not trust your pediatrician’s knowledge about vaccines? I encourage you to have an open dialog with your child’s doctor if you have concerns. Schedule some time with your pediatrician to go over any specific fears about immunizations, articles you’ve read, and advice you’ve received. He or she can help you evaluate this information and guide you in the right direction. An excellent time to do this is during a complimentary prenatal consultation with your chosen pediatrician – this way, you will have the information you need and have your questions answered well in advance.
  • Evaluate the source of the information: Who runs the websites you are consulting and where they get their information is very important. Is it backed by scientific studies and evidence? Look for references or supporting research that backs what the person is saying. Or is it more anecdotal observations and opinions? This type of information is often accompanied by very personal and convincing, albeit biased, stories. Look to the bottom of this page for good websites to peruse for credible information.
  • Learn about the diseases: Most of the diseases against which we immunize are quite rare in the US now, and very few parents have seen the devastation they can cause. I find that educating yourself on the various vaccine-preventable diseases is a good reminder of just how necessary vaccines are. Many pediatricians have seen children tragically affected by pertussis or Haemophilus influenzae meningitis, but most parents have not. This is another reason we so strongly support the vaccination schedule as it is.

The majority of parents actually do vaccinate their children according to the schedule recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The parents who choose “alternative” vaccine schedules or not to vaccinate at all are not as many as some would lead you to believe. By forming a partnership with your pediatrician and consulting good, credible resources to get answers to your questions, I think you will feel reassured and positive that you are doing the best thing for your child by vaccinating them fully and on time.

This blog is the first in a series of immunization safety articles. We hope you check back regularly for more updates! In the meantime, here are some websites that I highly recommend you check out:

  • http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/index.html
  • http://www.immunize.org/
  • http://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/
  • http://www.immunizeca.org/resources/vaccine-safety
  • http://vaccinateyourbaby.org/
  • http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/QuestionsaboutVaccines/UCM070430

Meet the Author

Jennifer Birkhauser, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Specialty: Pediatrics
Areas of Interest: General Child & Adolescent Care

Dr. Birkhauser is a pediatrician for Hoag Medical Group who enjoys caring for her young patients and serving as a resource to the parents of her patients. She practices at the Huntington Beach location and welcomes children of all ages. View Bio [+]