I’m a mom of three, and pediatrician to many, many more. Lately my office has been bombarded with well-meaning parents who want to make sure their child is vaccinated with the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR). I’m sure you have heard about the recent resurgence of measles infection around the world, with several confirmed cases in the Greater Toronto Area in recent weeks. Elsewhere - including the United States and Philippines - there are many more cases. The unfortunate result is that many more kids are becoming ill and dying from this vaccine-preventable illness.
I routinely give vaccines in my office, and my kids are all fully vaccinated. I don’t take this lightly. Subjecting my kids to the discomfort of the needle and the potential side effects afterwards is difficult for any mom, but it is a means to an end. Vaccines protect my children. I know this to be true – there is hard evidence for this. Thousands of studies by independent researchers have demonstrated time and again the safety and efficacy of vaccines in Canada. There are no tricks here.
In my own practice and at the hospital where I work, I have seen real vaccine preventable diseases present in children. These kids were healthy, happy children one minute, and the next they were fighting for their lives. Whooping cough (pertussis), one such vaccine-preventable illness, is real. I have seen two babies die from it in my short career, and many more who were ill but were lucky enough to survive. These children were too young to receive the vaccine - it was not a choice. I have seen a case of tetanus in a child, and hope to never see such horror again; a body tightening and clenching against will. The look of pain and fear cannot be forgotten. Countless cases of pneumonia and meningitis come to mind as well, all vaccine preventable.
So if these things have not convinced you, here are 5 more reasons why this doctor believes in vaccinating all children:
Vaccines have saved more lives of babies and children than any other medical intervention in the past 50 years. That’s right – more than antibiotics, surgery, clean water, and sanitation! Have you ever seen a case of polio? This disease was once North America’s most feared, causing death and paralysis in thousands. Now, it is eradicated in Canada. Vaccines work.
Would educated health care practitioners and researchers willingly give their own kids vaccines if there was not a long and careful review of their safety? Not a chance. Tons of resources and time go into ensuring vaccines are safe. Sure, there can be side effects (most commonly fever, discomfort, and rash), but the disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects in most children. The one study that suggested developmental abnormality resulting from vaccines has been disproven time and time again.
A hundred years ago, infectious diseases were the leading cause of death in Canada. Now fewer than 5% of deaths are attributable to these viral and bacterial infections. Smallpox vaccination eradicated the illness worldwide. MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella - an illness that once caused severe birth defects in thousands of babies. Now, this is uncommon. Meningitis once caused severe brain injury, deafness, blindness, and death in thousands of kids in North America. Thanks to vaccines, we see meningitis uncommonly. Vaccinating our kids now means that some diseases will no longer exist for future generations. What a legacy!
Vaccinating school-aged children protects other kids who are too young or too sick to safely receive the vaccine. Whooping cough, for example, is often spread from unvaccinated people to babies who are too young to receive the vaccine. Vaccination protects those that cannot be, and prevents the spread of these diseases. Young and healthy people are not immune to these diseases. In fact, many vaccine preventable illnesses such as influenza, meningitis, pneumonia and pertussis are more dangerous in young, healthy kids.
If your child becomes ill from a vaccine-preventable disease, he or she will not be able to attend daycare or school. You may spend time in the hospital. Some vaccine-preventable diseases result in prolonged disabilities. Your child may die. No one wants to even think about the tragedy of losing a child, and even in better case scenarios, illness takes a toll financially due to lost time at work, medical bills and disability care. In contrast, routine immunizations in Ontario are free – a good investment in my books.
So together, let’s monopolize on the recent measles situation and ensure all of our kids are fully vaccinated. This will protect them, your friends, family, the general public and generations to come, from avoidable illness and the unthinkable.
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