With a small but loud anti-vaccination movement locally and nationally, the medical community is looking for ways to have meaningful dialogue with parents who are hesitant about vaccinating their children.
Medical professionals want to engage in a way that helps parents understand why vaccinations are important without insulting them or implying they don’t want to protect their children. It is essential work because vaccinations are a simple yet effective way to save lives.
“If people only knew what was out there, they would vaccinate their child on a regular basis,” said Joseph Bailey, MD, a pediatrician with TriHealth’s Queen City Physicians and system chief for pediatrics at TriHealth. “We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to keep these diseases at bay.”
Some people skip vaccines because they figure they aren’t in danger.
“People may say, ‘Why should I get the polio vaccine? Polio isn’t out there anymore. Whooping cough isn’t out there anymore,” Dr. Bailey said. “It is out there, but, because most of us have the vaccine, we don’t contract it even when we’re exposed to it.”
Even the flu shot you get every year protects you from a worse version of the virus.
“I hear people asking, ‘Why should I get the flu vaccine? Because it doesn’t work.’ It may not protect you from getting the flu, but it helps control the severity. Every single year kids die of the flu, and it doesn’t need to happen.”
Dr. Bailey warns people to be cautious about information circulated against vaccinations, as much of it is inaccurate.
“The bad news is, when you Google something, only a third of what you’re getting is actually true,” Dr. Bailey said. “The measles/mumps/rubella shot was avoided for a time and we may now be seeing the results of that. Now there are measles outbreaks in colleges because of that. There are people who will be neurologically damaged and potentially die because of irresponsible information in the media.”
While there is some concern available about the influenza vaccine and Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization suggests there is little, if any, risk of the flu vaccine causing GBS.
“Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a known issue with some vaccines,” Dr. Bailey said. “However, the cases are so few and far between that actually getting the disease with the vaccine is the higher risk than the vaccine itself.”
In the past, some vaccines were developed using entire dead cells of the virus or bacteria to make the injection, Dr. Bailey said. Today, medical researchers just pull out certain proteins to make vaccines instead of the whole cell, which makes them even safer.
The risks of skipping vaccination are significant and can include serious illness, permanent damage or even death.
“People die from measles,” Dr. Bailey said. “Years ago, babies died of whooping cough not infrequently. Since the vaccination came out, it’s not common at all. Our life expectancy is going up because of the vaccines.”
Another risk with not vaccinating is exposing others to the virus or disease, according to the CDC. This can lead to contagious unvaccinated children being kept out of schools, churches, sports groups and even public transportation until they are cleared by the local health department. This is to keep them from putting other children and their families at risk.
Beyond getting vaccines, it’s important to follow the schedule your child’s doctor recommends, as the timing makes a difference.
“The schedule was created for a reason,” Dr. Bailey said. “It has to do with how a baby’s immune system can respond at a certain time, and the vaccines are different at different stages of life. We can’t guarantee that they’ll be safe if they go off-schedule.”
Keep your children and yourself up to date on vaccinations, with the help of your pediatrician or TriHealth Priority Care centers, which offer flu shots as well as other routine vaccinations. No appointment is necessary at Priority Care, so walk in at a location near you. Visit trihealth.com for more information or to find a doctor.