In the News: Vaccines and the Autism Link- A Fresh Perspective

by Dr. Kathleen Pratt

Childhood vaccines are one of the most discussed and controversial topics for the 21st century parent.  Recently The Lancet, a highly regarded medical journal, retracted the study that first suggested a connection between the MMR vaccine and some cases of autism. The journal stated that the 12 year old study was flawed.  For many parents making vaccination decisions, this link between vaccines and autism has been the foundation for their decision to not vaccinate their children. Now, more than ever, we need to discover a new way to make decisions about vaccines and our children. Many parents are finding that choosing to vaccinate or not is simply not a black and white, easily approached decision. Parents want, and deserve, to have a scientific and fair conversation regarding vaccinations and their appropriateness to a child’s developing system. This should include education of diseases, risk factors, immunological development, and pros and cons of each vaccine.  Both parents and the medical community need to look beyond the vaccine and autism controversy when making the vaccine decision.

Let’s look at the facts.
Vaccines work: Vaccines decrease the incidence of the diseases targeted.

Vaccines have negative effects: Many children and adults have negative effects from vaccines- fevers, discomfort, muscle aches and other symptoms such as flu are also common. Rarely, there are even more severe, life-threatening side effects such as Guillian-Barre Syndrome. Likely, there are more long-term effects that have not been directly connected to the vaccine. Cancer, autoimmune diseases, and atopic conditions such as eczema and asthma, have increased in the world’s developing countries over the last fifty years.

The Developing Immune System: At their best, vaccines stimulate an immune response that creates long-lasting antibodies. These circulating antibodies help the body to fight specific viruses or bacteria in the future.  An infant does not have the ability to produce these long lasting antibodies to a vaccine until at least six months of age. This is one reason that multiple booster shots are required. It is important to consider the developing immune system while choosing the timing of your infants vaccines and speaking with an expert will help you understand risks and benefits regarding a modified schedule for the infections if needed.

We are individuals: Each child and family are unique. We are not a one-size-fits-all nation.  With science advancing in disease prevalence and risk factors, as well as immunology, parents and their physicians can make smart and safe decisions regarding the vaccination of their children. Risk factors of the child need to be taken into account. Breast feeding protects your child from specific viruses, while household smoking and attending daycare increases the chance of your child contracting a virus. A family that travels internationally may have increased need for vaccinations. Another important question to ask is what happens if your child gets ill? Many diseases are not fatal but can take a child out of school or daycare for over two weeks. This is when your health care and lifestyle come into factor as means of prevention and effective treatments for illnesses.

What you can do:

  • Find a physician that is able to have an objective discussion with you regarding your child, your life and your beliefs in regards to vaccinations. The physician should be on top of the latest research and educated in developmental immunology  and vaccines in order to educate you. No parent should make a decision out of fear or bullying.
  • Create a schedule that makes sense for YOU.  This means looking at when the immune system develops, disease prevalence, your child’s risk factors and your comfort level.
  • Educate yourself. Look at both sides of the story and formulate your own beliefs. Write down questions you have to bring up at your next doctor’s visit.

Join Drs. Kathleen Pratt and Jessica Black on March 21st at 5:30 pm for their monthly Natural Families, Natural Medicine lecture  and discussion series. March’s topic will be on vaccines and discuss the specific diseases and vaccines, additives in vaccines, side-effects and answer questions brought in by you.  For more information checkout A Family Healing Center or email afamilyhealingcenter@gmail.com.

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