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Vaccinations

 
The practice of immunization has saved more lives and prevented more permanent disabilities than any other public health intervention. Immunizations protect us from many serious illnesses such as measles, meningitis, polio, pertussis, pneumonia and diphtheria (a swelling of the throat causing obstruction of your airway and possibly suffocation).
 
Due to the massive vaccination campaign starting in the 1950's, there has not been a case of polio reported in the United States since 1979. Anyone who remembers the polio epidemics of the early 1900's can recall how devastating this illness was to a child. It caused permanent paralysis and muscle weakness so severe that patients had to be placed in an "iron lung" to assist with their breathing.
 
The Hemophilis meningitis (HIB) vaccine, which was instituted during my residency at Children's Medical Center, changed how we manage a child with fever. At that time, virtually all children under 18 months of age with a high fever, required blood cultures and a spinal tap. These procedures helped to determine if this life threatening bacteria was present. The introduction of this vaccine into the routine immunization schedule has virtually eliminated this devastating illness. The Hemophilis bacteria can be carried in the nasal passages of healthy adults and can then be passed to unimmunized infants and children. Delaying this vaccine for even a few weeks can leave your infant or child at risk for this illness.
 
The DPT vaccine prevents pertussis or "whooping cough". Early immunization is important as infants and young children are the most susceptible to the severe form of this illness. Children under the age of 6 months who get pertussis are at risk for sudden death or a prolonged debilitating cough that can last up to 3 months. Those that survive this illness can be left with permanent mental disabilities. This bacterium can be carried in the nasal passages of healthy individuals and passed to unimmunized infants and children.
 
Some parents are choosing to delay or skip the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine due to the inaccurate belief that there is an increased risk of autism associated with its administration. These concerns stem from a flawed research study done in 1998 by a British Physician named Dr. Andrew Wakefield. This study has been retracted as it included only 12 subjects and Dr. Wakefield was in the process of developing his own vaccine to compete with the MMR vaccine. The British Medical Panel concluded that his study was flawed and also violated basic research ethic rules. In addition, several subsequent research studies, which included hundreds of subjects, have demonstrated no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.
 
As more parents refuse to vaccinate their children, we may see the reemergence of illnesses such as paralytic polio and Hemophilis meningitis. There are presently epidemics of both pertussis and measles in California due to a large unimmunized population.
 
I do not recommend "alternative vaccine schedules" which suggest splitting or delaying immunizations. Splitting or delaying immunizations will leave your infant susceptible to these devastating illnesses during the most vulnerable time of their life. Additionally, there is no proven benefit to splitting or delaying immunizations.
 
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Websites
 
www.vaccinesafety.edu
 
www.vaccinateyourbaby.org
 
www.cdc.gov/vaccines/default.htm
(CDC recommended vaccine schedules, school requirements and common questions about vaccines)
 
www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/index.html
(CDC detailed statements on individual vaccines)
 
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Books
 
Autism's False Profits: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for a Cure - Dr. Paul Offit
 
Do Vaccines Cause That?! A Guide to Evaluating Vaccine Safety Concerns - Martin G. Myers ,MD and Diego Penada
 
Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. A comprehensive vaccine guide from the CDC.
 
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