A pediatrician gives vaccine advice to presidential candidates


First, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this; I know you’re busy fund-raising and campaigning, so I’ll try to keep this brief. It’s recently become quite apparent that several of you have some misconceptions about our immunization program. That’s unfortunate for people who are seeking such a prominent position. I know science can be complicated, but public health is a pretty important topic. (It’s especially disappointing that the physicians among you don’t seem to fully understand this issue, but I suppose immunizations are outside your specific fields.)

Anyway, the following are a few brief facts about vaccines that I hope you will find useful in your next debate.

1. Vaccines do not cause autism. Numerous studies have demonstrated this, and a huge meta-analysis involving over 1.2 million children demonstrated that pretty clearly. Evidence doesn’t get any better than that.

2. The guy that started this whole autism/vaccine thing lost his license because of his fraudulent study, which has since been retracted.

3. “Too many, too soon” is not a thing. Children encounter many viruses and bacteria every day, and their immune systems are not overwhelmed. (And they don’t develop autism.)

4. Although a popular book about alternative vaccine schedules has been quite a hit, the guy that wrote it didn’t bother to prove that his schedule was effective or safer than the schedule developed by the most knowledgeable infectious disease experts in our great nation. He just made it up.

5. Spreading out immunizations has been shown not to reduce the risk of complications from vaccines. All it does is extend the time period during which children are at risk for these infections. And since the most significant risk of immunizations is driving to the office to get them, it creates some indirect risks as well.

6. While we obviously disagree about some of those points, I support your assertion that we shouldn’t bother immunizing against insignificant diseases. So I’ve narrowed the list down to the diseases that cause “death or crippling.” (The links are from the CDC, a government organization made up of people who know more than you do about infectious diseases. You should get to know them; they will work for one of you some day.)

7. Since you’re probably not familiar with the CDC vaccine schedule that you think people should avoid, I just listed every one of the vaccines it recommends. All of those diseases kill people. Fortunately, they don’t kill very many people anymore. (Because of vaccines.)

8. And since I know your world isn’t all about saving lives, vaccines save money, too. That might be a good talking point.

I could go into more details, and I’d be happy to speak to you personally if you’d like to hear more. In fact, there’s a huge network of pediatricians that would be happy to field the vaccine questions while you tend to your more important affairs. (We were actually going to talk to these families anyway, because their children are our patients.) But hopefully, this basic information has been enough to allow you to speak a little more intelligently about the topic–especially since one of you will be running our country.

But in the future, if you’re unsure about similarly complicated topics, please feel free admit your lack of knowledge and defer to the experts. That’s what real leaders do.

Chad Hayes is a pediatrician who blogs at his self-titled site, Chad Hayes, MD.

Image credit: Chad Hayes

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