Vaccines still saving children's lives

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Did you know that immunizations still save lives?

Most people understand that vaccines play a large role in protecting the community from a number of life threatening illnesses. However, vaccines have become a victim of their own success. The vaccination program in the U.S. resulted in drastically lower rates of these diseases, such that most parents today do not hear about or see children affected with vaccine-preventable illnesses.

With the media attention on vaccine safety, many parents are left wondering: Are immunizations worth the potential risks?

We at The Vancouver Clinic strongly believe that the benefit of vaccines outweigh the risks. Do vaccines come with risk? Yes. But the diseases they prevent come with significantly higher risks, many involving permanent injury and death.

We realize parents are trying to do what is best for their child. We at The Vancouver Clinic want to do what is best for children, as well. We believe vaccines are the best way to protect children from life threatening illnesses.

Vaccines safety was largely called into question in 1998 when British doctor Andrew Wakefield presented an article in a prestigious journal suggesting that the MMR vaccine was associated with autism. But Wakefield was also attempting to market his own measles vaccine -- which was a financial conflict of interest.

Wakefield has been discredited, and multiple, very large-scale, very well-done studies have shown that the MMR vaccine is not associated with an increase in autism. Children who get their vaccines on time develop autism at the exact same rate as children who do not get their vaccines on time. However, the damage to vaccine perception in society was done. The rate of MMR vaccine in England plummeted and the country saw a resurgence of measles (one of the most contagious germs in existence with a rate of death or significant permanent injury at 1 in 100 to 1 in 1000).

Jenny McCarthy and other celebrities have called into question the safety of vaccines, as well.

Dr. Robert W. Sears wrote a book discussing his concerns about vaccine safety and offered a schedule to delay or decline certain vaccines. However, a delayed schedule of vaccines has not been studied. The current vaccine schedule has been very well-studied and has been shown to be safe and effective. There is no evidence that a delayed schedule does anything except delay protection of children against vaccine preventable illnesses.

Vaccine safety is continuously being monitored and studied. This is why the vaccine schedule changes every few years. Experts in infectious disease and vaccine safety evaluate new data on vaccine effectiveness and side effects and make recommendations based on that information.

If you would like additional reliable information on vaccines, please visit: http://www.healthychildren.org and http://chop.edu/vaccine. Please also discuss your specific concerns with your provider. We all want to work toward building caring and respectful relationships with parents so that we can care for all children to the best of our abilities.

Dr. Devon Elizabeth Ebbing received her medical degree in 2002 from Rush Medical College in Chicago. She completed her residency in Pediatrics at the University of Virginia Pediatric Residency in Charlottesville, Va., and works at The Vancouver Clinic's Columbia Tech Center office.