Why do vaccines in particular give parents concern?

I’ve been involved in several boisterous Twitter debates about vaccines, at least to the extent that one can debate using snippets of 140 characters or less. I’ve also been a “super moderator” at a very large Internet message board for many years and have seen my share of passionate vaccine debates there. I’ve been a pediatrician for over 30 years and trained in the subspecialty of pediatric infectious diseases before I went into critical care.

So I think a lot about vaccines and have watched controversies about them come and go for a very long time. It’s been interesting. One very interesting aspect for me is trying to understand how parents think about the relative risk of medical treatments and procedures for their children. It’s different from how physicians think of risk, and I think this difference is key to understanding the continuing ferment over vaccinations. I’ve previously written about the risk of a vaccine injury (about 1 in a million at worst) compared to the risks of everyday life, but there is another aspect to the issue: in my experience parents are uniquely worried about vaccine risk in ways they are not about other medical procedures and treatments. A few examples illustrate my point.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a severe skin reaction to something, most commonly a medication. It varies in severity but can progress to a very bad condition known as toxic epidermal necrolysis. This is a life-threatening condition and often requires a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit. I have seen several life-threatening cases over the years. The drugs that can cause it are quite common ones. Many are antibiotics: Sulfa drugs, for example, are well-known offenders. How common is this condition? There are about 300 cases per year in the USA. This makes it much more common than vaccine injury, yet nearly all parents think of antibiotics as safe drugs. On balance, they are — but they are not risk free.

Medications like antibiotics can cause other kinds of allergic reactions, which can be severe or life-threatening. A very conservative estimate is that about 0.01-0.05 % of all people — about 1-5 per 10,000 individuals — will have such a serious drug reaction in their lifetime. Yet parents accept prescriptions without worrying about that.

Another example is anesthesia. As part of my practice I anesthetize many children for procedures, such as MRI scans. The risk of doing this is low, but it is well above zero. The actual risk of death from an anesthetic is around 1 in 250-300,000 — about 3 times the risk of a serious vaccine reaction. There also may be neuro-developmental risks to young children who receive anesthetics. That risk is very low, too (there are many studies ongoing to define it), but it is not zero. Of course if a child needs emergency surgery the balance of risk versus benefit overwhelmingly favors using the anesthetic, but there are many other situations that are not so clear-cut. Yet virtually all parents willingly allow me anesthetize their child.

My point is that vaccine risk, compared with the risks of other medical interventions, causes particular concern among parents, and I am not sure why that is. However, it is not new. Since the introduction of the very first vaccine, Edward Jenner’s use of smallpox vaccine, people have been particularly suspicious of vaccines. (The name “vaccine” itself is derived from Jenner’s use of the vaccinia virus, the cowpox virus, as a protection against smallpox.) As noted in the essay linked above:

Although the time periods have changed, the emotions and deep-rooted beliefs—whether philosophical, political, or spiritual — that underlie vaccine opposition have remained relatively consistent since Edward Jenner introduced vaccination.

I suppose the notion of putting a foreign substance into a child’s body with the intention of provoking the body to react to it is philosophically distinct from giving a child a medication that is not intended to do that. But I would be very interested in what other people think makes vaccines unique.

Christopher Johnson is a pediatric intensive care physician and author of Keeping Your Kids Out of the Emergency Room: A Guide to Childhood Injuries and IllnessesYour Critically Ill Child: Life and Death Choices Parents Must FaceHow to Talk to Your Child’s Doctor: A Handbook for Parents, and How Your Child Heals: An Inside Look At Common Childhood Ailments.  He blogs at his self-titled site, Christopher Johnson, MD.

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  • Dr. Drake Ramoray

    You are using science and medical facts to discuss health issues with people who believe Dr. Oz and Jenny McCarthy.

    • Patient Kit

      Is Dr Oz anti-vaccine?

      • Dr. Drake Ramoray

        I don’t believe so, my apologies for being loose with my name dropping, although he does hold some positions that I do question but they are beyond the scope of this post. I edited my comment to reflect that. Thank you.

        • Patient Kit

          No problem. I asked because I really didn’t know. Dr Oz is a tough doc to figure out: respected cardiothoracic surgeon at NY-Presbyterian and Columbia University or alternative medicine guru — or both? I don’t actually know his position on vaccines.

          • JR

            All the stuff I’ve watched from Dr. Oz has been in line with standard medical recommendations – but I’m not a fan and haven’t watched a lot. So part of me wants someone to link to the questionable stuff he supposedly does…

  • guest

    Speaking as a physician who is somewhat leery of vaccines, I am happy to tell you what the basis is for my concerns (by the way I am also quite careful about antibiotics and general anesthesia).

    When my first child was born, I took him for his first prenatal visit and the pediatrician began to prepare to administer a Hepatitis B vaccine. I was a little surprised and, since vaccines are medications and I am generally careful about medications, especially for tiny children, I asked about the risks and benefits, specifically in terms of the fact that there was an extremely low likelihood that my child would ever be exposed to Hepatitis B.

    She was unable to tell me about long-term risks of the vaccine, and was unable to explain why my child would be at any risk for Hepatitis B that would warrant being vaccinated at age 10 days.

    It was quite clear to me that the vaccine was being administered, not to provide any real protection for my child, but for population health management purposes. The fact that the doctor could not explain any of this to me told me that she was uncritically accepting the vaccine on the premise that “vaccines for childhood illnesses are good, therefore all vaccines are good.” I happen to feel that this is bad critical thinking.

    I am also aware that pharmaceutical companies use lobbyists to convince state legislatures to mandate vaccines. So yes, I am concerned about my children being injected at a very early age, with substances that have been developed by for-profit companies, and which have not had long-term safety studies completed, especially when I see boosterism and weak critical thinking being employed by almost every pediatrician who recommends the vaccines.

    P.S. My children have eventually had almost all of their vaccines, but on a customized schedule. I remain unconvinced of the value of Gardasil.

    • Close Call

      I’m curious to see the data behind your “customized schedule”. Did you do the studies yourself? If not, which studies did you use to come up with your customized schedule?

      Re: Hepatitis B… Our 4 month old son recently started a home daycare where one of the family members living there had chronic Hepatitis B (was confided to us because we were doctors). Knowing that things like toilets, nail trimmers and other things had the potential to be shared with our son, we made darn sure our son was vaccinated AND had antibody response to the vaccine (10% of people don’t have antibody response initially) before he started daycare.

      With the growing immigrant population from places with high prevalence of Hep B – east Asia in particular – you should be extra concerned about exposure, especially among childcare providers and college kids (because of risk of transmitting sexually).

      • goonerdoc

        I’d be interested too, but I can probably save time by saying there isn’t any.

      • guest

        My child was not in daycare; all of my kids have been cared for at home by providers whom we had tested for infectious diseases as part of the application process. In any case, if you are an MD, you know that the rate of transmission of Hepatitis B by routes other than sexual or direct blood contact is vanishingly small…and my children are now, as teenagers, vaccinated for Hepatitis B (although quite frankly I worry more about Hepatitis C).

        As for the data for a customized schedule, I don’t recall seeing any data that supported the safety of the U.S. vaccine schedule at the time I was making these decisions; it had actually not been studied at all in the 1990s. Of course recently the IOM has come out with a “study” proving the safety of the vaccine schedule but I don’t really consider that to be an independent study, as the IOM is a significant stakeholder in the pro-vaccine movement.

        • Esther Klein Buddenhagen

          It’s startling to read that those who have their kids vaccinated and docs who do it are part of a “pro-vaccine movement”. They are just members the public following good public health practices. By labeling them as part of a “movement” you turn this into a political issue, which it really should never be.

          • guest

            Sorry, but I completely disagree that vaccinating for typically non-lethal diseases such as chickenpox and HPV is a “good public health practice.”

          • http://www.chrisjohnsonmd.com/ Chris Johnson

            I’ve seen some pretty awful chickenpox cases in my career (before the vaccine) and one death. So yes, “typically nonlethal.” But not always.

          • Esther Klein Buddenhagen

            There are clearly reasonable questions that we can ask about vaccines. One might be, why do we vaccinate for non-lethal diseases. I’m old enough to remember having chickenpox, and I was happy to have my kids vaccinated against it. Other good questions should address the role of for-profit pharma companies in deciding a vaccine should be given across the population.

          • Esther Klein Buddenhagen

            Generally it seems to me that some Americans unfortunately view doing something for the benefit of the larger group, not just for themselves, as burdensome and undesirable.

          • guest

            Actually it was far, far more burdensome for me to have all the annoying conversations with my children’s various pediatricians over the years about vaccines than it would have been for me to passively accept the vaccines on their behalf.

            But again, this is typical of the moralistic stance that mainstream pro-vaxxers take against parents who are asking reasonable questions about vaccines. Black-and-white thinking like that does nothing to persuade or convince and certainly does not provide any reassurance to a parent who is asking valid questions about an intervention which will likely not directly benefit her child, and whose long-term safety has not been definitively proven.

          • guest

            And furthermore, American parents are faced with a far more onerous vaccination schedule for their children than in the U.K., or any other European country including Germany and the Netherlands.

            http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/janak/080605

          • guest

            Exactly, A more measured and thoughtful stance about vaccines is more likely to engage a lot of us than is moralistically dismissing reasonable questions.

            Another good question (to which I never got a satisfactory answer) is this: since we know that the mortality rate from varicella infections in adults is much higher than for children, and we know that the varicella vaccine does not confer lifelong immunity, what is being done to avoid creating a population of adults who are at risk for much more serious varicella infections when their vacccine-provided immunity wears off? Expecting adults to remember, on their own, to get a varicella booster every ten years, is probably not a reasonable expectation. It’s already hard enough for people, in today’s fractured healthcare delivery system, to keep their tetanus booster current. Especially people from the socioeconomic class that does not enjoy the privilege of having annual physicals with the same long-term physician.

          • http://www.chrisjohnsonmd.com/ Chris Johnson

            But most diseases are typically nonlethal because of advances in medical care. So polio and pertussis (whooping cough) rarely kill now. But the morbidity is huge.

            Our rubella vaccine is intended to protect the unborn, since, although German measles is no big deal for a toddler, congenial rebella, when a susceptible pregnant woman is exposed, is a dreadful disease. I have seen cases.

          • guest

            I really don’t have a problem with the traditional vaccines against childhood illnesses. I was first in line to get my kids the Hib vaccine. Where I started to draw the line was with Hep B, varicella and HPV. Branding parents like me, who have reasonable reservations about an all-holds-barred vaccine schedule as “hysterical anti-vaxxers” or whatever, only reinforces the impression that the mainstream is using weak critical thinking skills in assessing risk vs benefit for some of these vaccines, and therefore cannot be trusted.

  • Patient Kit

    Not about childhood vaccines, but related because it’s about a doctor’s attitude about another vaccine: This year, when I requested a flu shot at the primary care clinic at the teaching hospital where I get all my care until I’m off Medicaid, the resident treating me was reluctant to give me the flu shot and tried to discourage me. He said the needle would hurt, my arm would probably be sore for days and there was no guarantee that it would work. I told him that I understood that it didn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t get the flu but to go ahead and hit me with it. But he clearly didn’t want to. As for the needle hurting (really doc?), I’d just been through major surgery for ovarian cancer earlier that year. I think I can handle a flu shot.

    My senior citizen mom, on the other hand, can never be convinced to get a flu shot. Ever. Her sole reason? She hates needles. She believes vaccines work. But she avoids needles with a passion. My sister and I have given up trying to convince her. She’s 90, healthy, still living in her own home independently (alone) and even driving. So, it’s hard to argue with her about what she should do for her health.

  • Patient Kit

    I do think that the seriously eroded trust in our healthcare system is a huge part of why some parents don’t trust vaccines. Many peeps don’t trust government, hospital corps, pharmaceutical cos, insurance cos, etc to be motivated by what is best for them and their children. And as trust in doctors erodes as the doc-patient relationship is minimized or non-existent, I think lack of trust is a major key. The question is: What can we do about that?

    • Deceased MD

      This is actually one of the conspiracy theories listed in recent JAMA article. I think it was somewhere around 20-30 percent of people believe the government and doctors know that vaccines are harmful but keep giving them anyway. I just wrote a short piece with something similar on here that came to the same conclusion about mistrust. I am not sure there are great answers. Educating people that have become so fearful and mistrustful is hard. And HC and the corruption we see is not changing anytime soon. But i also think it is key.

      • guest

        I think medical conspiracy theories are ridiculous. Doctors can’t even get organized to do anything about getting our lunch eaten by insurance companies, how would we ever get organized to create a conspiracy??

        The bigger problem is that: 1– doctors are socialized to be very compliant with authority, and 2–critical thinking is not our strong suit, since the way we get into med school and do well there is mostly related to how well we memorize a bunch of stuff.

        So, when the government tells us to make sure our patients get vaccinated, it doesn’t occur to us to think: “Wait, most of these diseases are non-lethal given medical advances today, so, in reality, vaccines are being pushed NOT to save lives, but to save healthcare costs. Let’s maybe take a closer look at the risks…”

        • Patient Kit

          If true, I find this both surprising and disturbing: that doctors are not good at critical thinking? I would think strong critical thinking is necessary for both making good diagnoses and understanding your patients, who are all much more complex than the numbers on our charts. I can’t see how doctors could do their jobs without good critical thinking skills. If you are right about this, that is kind of scary.

          Compliance with authority, I can kind of see more. It goes a long way toward explaining why docs, who should have more power in our healthcare system, by the nature of what they do in it, seem to feel so powerless.

          I totally believe that you often don’t have time for lunch. And it must be very frustrating that many patients assume you always have a much better lunch than theirs. But I’m much more disturbed by the lack of critical thinking thing.

        • Deceased MD

          I agree with you. It’s as if we are following through on instructions rather than critical thinking, that like you said may not make sense any more. Is that what you think parents may be reacting to? That it just does not make sense to them?
          As far as medical conspiracy theories, they do sound ridiculous. But my point simply was also to understand why certain people in the population, I believe , have actually become mistrustful of medicine (maybe for good reasons like what you just explained). Unfortunately, they turn it into fear and paranoia. But like you asked , there are way too many parents that are against vaccines and the JAMA article that looked at the public’s perception I thought explained in part what we are up against as well.

      • Patient Kit

        I think a profound loss of trust is one of the defining characteristics of the times we live in. And it’s not just in healthcare. It amazes me how many people actually believe the US government intentionally planned 9/11 — and they’re not talking about the dynamics of our international politics. They think our government actually flew the planes. Every police officer is a potential violent racist.

        Every priest and teacher is a potential pedophile. To some, every man is a potential pedophile. I was at a drug store recently and witnessed this: A young woman’s toddler got away from her and ran out the front door into the parking lot. A man got to the kid first, picked him up from amongst the moving cars and brought him into the store to find his parent. The mother went ballistic on him, calling him a pervert for touching her child. Since I witnessed the whole thing, I spoke up and defended the man. But my god, that poor guy was shaken by the intensity of her accusation. All he did was what any decent human being would do and ended up the victim of extreme mistrust.

        In healthcare, I’m shocked at how many women say they don’t trust the motives of male gynecologists. They think they have to be perverts to have chosen that field. It’s a real eye opener. Personally, I love my male GYN and can totally wrap my head around the appeal of a specialty in which you can both do surgery and have long term relationships with your patients.

        And then there is the enduring power of history like the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. It’s not hard to understand how poor people with few options who know about things like Tuskegee might find it hard to trust the care they get.

        I don’t know. Maybe we live in a time of knowing way too much and way too little at the same time. But clearly, a lot of people no longer trust a lot of the things and people we used to trust. Personally, ever my own rogue self, I tend to err on the side of sometimes trusting a little too easily. Every stranger is a potential new friend. Or at least innocent until proven guilty instead of the other way around. But I think we, as a culture, have a huge trust problem.

  • goonerdoc

    Ahhhh. Here we go again. I’ll make the popcorn.

    • Patient Kit

      Can I get a drink with that popcorn?

  • http://www.ParentingMD.com/ Natasha Raja, M.D.

    Thank you! I will be sharing your perspective with my vaccine-phobic patients today. The vaccine rates are down to 85% in my county and it terrifies me. I had to cut back on my hospitalist practice because I was so haunted by the children I kept losing to vaccine-preventable diseases. I am dedicated to education now and every time I share an article like this I sleep a little better at night.
    Natasha Raja, MD
    http://www.ParentingMD.com

  • http://www.chrisjohnsonmd.com/ Chris Johnson

    But why vaccines in particular? That’s what interests me. Parents who are quite anti-vax don’t much question many of the other, and more dangerous things, I do.

    • Patient Kit

      I think people associate anesthesia so completely as a way to avoid pain (including avoiding inflicting pain on their kids) that they somehow completely block out the possible risks. I’ve heard adults say, in all seriousness, that they would like to have general anesthesia while having their teeth cleaned. To many, avoiding pain trumps all risks.

    • JR

      You’ve seen the anti-versed pages right? It seems a lot of people have adverse reactions to it.

      • http://www.chrisjohnsonmd.com/ Chris Johnson

        I use Versed (midazolam) quite a bit in my practice. I have seen the occasional unusual reaction to it. The main serious complication is respiratory depression, so anybody using it needs to be trained to handle that possibility. That is not always the case.

        • JR

          You’re aware of the HUGE anti-Midazolam movement right? I guess it hasn’t hit TV yet. Just a few links I found quickly – I know there are tons more out there. If you haven’t had a Midazolam refuser yet it’s just a matter of time.

          http://nomidazolam.blogspot.com/
          http://versedbusters.blogspot.com/
          https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080711135627AAtKGjM

          Just pointing out that anesthesia isn’t always seen as benign.

          • Martha55

            People also find anecdotes more powerful than statistics.

          • Patient Kit

            I totally agree with this. In general, many people do find anecdotes and personal stories much more compelling than statistics. Not only do personal anecdotes appeal more to our hearts than to our heads, but our heads tell us that we’ve frequently seen statistics and data manipulated and spun and later proven wrong. In general, many don’t worship statistics as evidence and certainly not as absolute truth.

          • JR

            I think you make a good point about statistics. You’ll hear “this reduces your chance of getting a heart attack by 50%” but the actual change is 0.001% vs 0.0005%…. Of drugs that work for 45% of the people who took it, and 35% of the people who had placebo so the difference is only 10%. Statistics like this makes me question a lot of medical advice.

          • http://www.chrisjohnsonmd.com/ Chris Johnson

            Interesting. I’ve used Versed since the drug was introduced into clinical practice over 20 years ago and I’ve never had any parent refuse it. It’s not really an anesthetic per se, but it is pretty essential to PICU practice.

            I have had some parents express concern when I’ve used propofol on their child after the Michael Jackson case, but they’ve always been fine with it once I’d explained things.

          • JR

            Reading the stories from people with adverse reactions suggest the patient had an acute trauma reaction, which may or may not have been related to the drug administered. Having those around you respond with disbelief and lack of support can make those reactions worse. I wonder how different their stories might be if they were met with acknowledgement of their problems, reassurance, and direction to helpful services.

            It seems to me that Children’s providers are at the forefront of preventing, identifying, and helping patients who have traumatic reactions to their care.

  • JR

    Drug A carries risk that I’ve never heard about or been exposed to – none of my friends or family have been badly effected and they’ve all been personally helped by it. It doesn’t hurt to take. The bad reactions are rare. It’s only given to me or my child when I’m sick and in need of it. When people have negative reactions, it’s widely accepted to be caused by the drug.

    Drug B carries a risk too, though it’s rarer. Yet, I hear stories from people I know about it – it made them sick, it hurt them, it scared them, or it didn’t work at all. I’m ordered by the government to give it to my children when they are perfectly healthy. When people have negative reactions, they are told the drug didn’t cause it and no one believes them. New ones are being created all the time and more and more have to be given out, all to my children, all ordered by the government…

    Drug A = antibiotics
    Drug B = vaccines

    Ok I’m playing devils advocate here, but I think it’s pretty clear why people are afraid of vaccines. My parents got me vaccinated ONLY for childhood illnesses that their generation had personally experiences that left long lasting harm for people they personally knew. My generation is being asked to vaccinate their children for diseases that everyone they personally know had that hurt no one (chicken pox) or for diseases they’ve never heard of and no one they know has ever had (hep b). And they can’t pick and choose – it’s required you say you are religiously opposed to ALL vaccines to attend school in my state. Is it no wonder my generation is questioning vaccines?

    I mean, for crying out loud, to take your baby home from the hospital you have to bring in a certificate that proves you took a course on “how to properly buckle a baby seat into a car”.

  • http://onhealthtech.blogspot.com Margalit Gur-Arie

    I think this complex question has a very simple answer. Unlike all other interventions, the child is healthy and in no immediate danger when you propose to vaccinate him or her. You are creating a threat where there was none. I don’t think the human brain (or any other animal for that matter) is naturally wired for preventive care, particularly the herd type of prevention. Everything else is just justification for what we are.

  • guest

    I would characterize my attitude more as: “just because a doctor recommends it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe”

    Does anyone happen to recall the many cases of breast cancer that are thought to be linked to HRT that millions of American women were told by their physicians was safe??

  • guest

    No, because those harmed by antibiotics and anesthetics were in medical need of treatment at the time that they received those drugs, and were informed by their doctors of the risks and benefits.

  • guest

    I would suggest that you go back and re-read my post so that you understand it more accurately.

  • guest

    Actually I am about 100% sure that my teen will at some point engage in practices that put her at risk for HPV. My skepticism about that vaccine is based on mortality statistics and other objective data. But your assumption that it is somehow a moral matter for me is very typical of the ad hominem rhetoric that the pro-vaccine movement engages in. That type of weak critical thinking does nothing to impress or convince rationalists like myself.

  • Deceased MD

    This is actually one of the conspiracy theories listed in recent JAMA article. I think it was somewhere around 20-30 percent of people believe the government and doctors know that vaccines are harmful but keep giving them anyway. Oddly enough I actually wrote something on here that is along a similar train of thought. It is hard for the public to trust HC. But can you blame them?

  • Deceased MD

    There are a lot of medical conspiracy theories out there. According to JAMA article, 50 percent of the public believe in some kind of medical conspiracy theory. THe biggest one is regarding cancer tx. I found it kind of surprising.

  • guest

    Yes, because the potential mortality from heart attacks and strokes is of course far more significant than the potential mortality from chickenpox or HPV.

    You do bring up an interesting point, however, which is that nonadherence to hypertension and hyperlipidemia treatment is apparently a much bigger problem than non-adherence to the U.S. vaccination schedule, and yet we don’t see anything close to the morally-tinged outcry against people who choose not to get their blood pressure under control as we do against parents who decide that the Gardasil vaccine doesn’t make sense for their child.

  • liberty4awl

    I can only speak for myself, but as a RN who has lost their job due to mandatory flu shots, it’s about choice. You talk about how abx could be harmful to patients yet parents have no problem with those, well abx are a choice, I can choose to take them or not, vaccines are mandated. Also it drives me crazy that doctors assume that patients know the risk associated with anything medical. I’ve been an RN for 11 years and just recently found out about Stevens-Johnson syndrome. They don’t teach you about that in nursing school and I’ve only had abx prescribed once and my doctor never mentioned any side effects at all. I knew of course there were side effects, but you assume the average person knows anything about medicine, well being in a hospital setting for 11 yrs has proved to me that very few people do. Unless a patient has been chronically ill and in the healthcare system for a while, they usually have no clue. People are busy living their lives, they aren’t sitting around studying up on the latest advancements in medicine. Just like I’m sure many doctors don’t know jack about fixing a car, non medical people usually don’t know jack about health and even many medical people seem to know little about it as well. My children are all vaccinated, although I must admit I was furious about the Hep B vaccine for my 1 day old, really my baby is going to be at risk for a sexually transmitted/drug use related disease at the ripe old age of one day! If it such an epidemic well then why don’t we mandate Hep B for all people over 18? Oh that’s right, they would never stand for it, but hey kids have no say and parents who have to work and need their kids to go to public school have no say. So we now vaccinate all kids for a disease that you can easily avoid by having protected sex and not shooting up drugs. That is the problem I have with vaccines, plus the fact that the vaccine companies have full immunity from law suits for the rare cases of vaccine injuries that do occur, which that doesn’t bother me in the sense that crappy things are bound to happen in the medical field, nothing we do is perfect and sometimes people have bad reactions to stuff most people are fine with. But what happens if a vaccine company has the problem we had in MA here a few years back, when a drug was made badly and contaminated with meningitis and 751 people were injured and 64 died? If that by chance happens with the Flu vax, will the company be held liable? As the law stands now, no it won’t. That I have a huge problem with. So no it’s not that I don’t trust all doctors, although as with any profession there are plenty I know that I would steer clear of, it’s that I don’t trust our government and the pharm companies to really have my best interest at heart. Nor do I trust hospital administrators to care about anything but shareholders, I’ve watched many patients not get the care they needed because insurance deemed it unnecessary. I what to know why more doctors aren’t upset about the fact that you aren’t in charge of their patient’s care anymore? When did we decide it’s okay to let medically uneducated people run our hospitals? That’s what concerns me most. Choice and access, we seem to have very little of that in healthcare now a days, unless you have the money to pay, you have to make do with what the insurance companies say, yep that’s a great healthcare model!

  • guest

    Oh, I definitely found a better doctor, especially given the fact that the first doctor’s explanation of my child’s potential risk for Hep B consisted of “well he could pick up a dirty needle at the playground,’ as though we all lived in a ghetto somewhere. However, our next pediatrician (who was great) didn’t need to explain any risks to me, since my child’s vaccinations for the next two years were all for diseases that I didn’t have a problem vaccinating for. I will say that having him diagnosed with autism a number of years later has given me some pause, however, at this point I feel that the MMR has been convincingly found not to have a connection with autism.

  • ninguem

    I wonder if the people opposed to vaccinating their children, also oppose vaccinating their dog or cat?

    • JR

      I’m sure they don’t vaccinate their pets either. Look up “vaccine-associated sarcoma.” Yikes! Every vaccine a pet gets is in a different spot so they can track the vaccine reactions.

      It’s safe to get a rabies vaccine every three years rather than every year, but some places still require yearly vaccines. There is research being done to prove we can extend that out to 5 or 7 years:

      http://www.rabieschallengefund.org/

  • Kathryn Bowsher

    I’m a parent, healthcare strategist and vaccine advocate (in my spare time). I think the key difference is that there is an immediate benefit associated with the other risks you have described – an antibiotic will stop the ear infection, the MRI might explain and lead to treatment for a troubling symptom, etc. The average parent has never experienced a serious case of a vaccine preventable disease so the fear of what could go wrong seems more serious and immediate than the threat of the possible disease. Add lack of trust in the establishment and there you have it. At Princeton when the threat of meningitis was very real and immediate over 90% signed-up for the vaccine on the first round.

    My advice to doctors and other advocates is talk more about what vaccines prevent or limit (in human not statistical terms) and the relative risk of developing a “vaccine preventable disease” versus the odds of a serious adverse event. Check out ‘Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes” for wall art and print out some copies of “Growing up Unvaccinated” on VoicesforVaccines.com and “After the Shots” which I think can be found here on KevinMD.

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