The people who really ought to have the best intentions for children’s health are parents and pediatricians. Why then, do we sometimes seem to find ourselves on opposite sides of what some people are calling “the vaccine controversy”?
The majority of parents want to get vaccines for their children, and almost all pediatricians recommend vaccinations per established schedules and recommendations. It’s actually a quite small number of parents who are distrustful of vaccines, and a very small number of professional practicing pediatricians who recommend straying from the established schedule. Almost all parents and almost all pediatricians are on the same side, here, supporting vaccine programs and encouraging immunizations to keep all of our children healthy in the safest and most effective way. Yet distrust remains.
Parents and pediatricians both could be doing a better job in working together on this issue.
Pediatricians need to listen to parents’ concerns; provide good, thorough, up-to-date, and reliable science-based information; and acknowledge that vaccines are not perfect and that they can, rarely, cause serious reactions. Parents should be given the information they need to feel comfortable that they understand why vaccines are a good idea, and that the benefits are much greater than the risks. If something untoward does happen, parents should know when and how to contact the doctor, and have their concerns taken seriously and addressed appropriately.
Parents, on the other hand, should recognize that “Dr. Google” and celebrities with books to sell may not be the best sources of health information. Health decisions about vaccines are important, and need to be made weighing the best scientific evidence, not the latest fad among their neighbors. There’s no controversy about this: deciding not to vaccinate really does put your children, and all of our children, at risk.
Most importantly of all, parents and pediatricians both should look towards each other as partners, rather than adversaries. They are all “our” children, and all of us want to keep them healthy, happy, and safe.
- Roy Benaroch, MD