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Letter to the Editor: Vaccines - Elected Officials Should Not Feed Fear and Misinformation

on November 4, 2012 - 12:35pm
By Dr. Tom Csanadi, MD

As a health care professional who has dedicated my life to the health, well being and safety of children, I am deeply disturbed by a recent story published in the Los Alamos Daily Post and the comments made by (Rep.) Jim Hall concerning childhood vaccinations.

Hall said, “I’m concerned with this intensive business of hitting young children with these medicines in their formative years without fully understanding the consequences.”

As someone who has lived through the devastation of polio, measles, haemophilus, diphtheria, whooping cough and mumps it is stunning that he is capable of such an irresponsible statement.

This "business" of vaccination has increased our lifespan in the last century by 30 years.

It is interesting to note that even though our high immunization coverage has resulted in dramatic declines in vaccine-preventable diseases, this reduction in incidence of disease has also led to the public perception that the severity of and susceptibility to disease have also decreased.

This perception is commonly held by the highly educated parents he was referring to, but who look for their information from providers who offer complementary health care, Internet sites and groups dedicated to the opposition of immunizations.

It is a perception that should not be held by one who very likely witnessed friends and classmates who were paralyzed or died because these diseases.

In my practice, I welcome discussion about immunizations as I do any other health topic. I will always respect the opinions of my parents but sometimes have to openly tell them that I disagree.

In 20 years of practice, I have yet to come across a parent who has a religious objection to vaccines. This observation is also supported in a recent national study, which found that a religious objection is really quite rare.

The number one reason to refuse vaccines is fear that they might cause harm.

Because there is so much misinformation that masquerades as science and because it can be fairly easy to frighten people, especially when it comes to our children, there will probably always be groups who refuse immunizations.

What we should not tolerate are public officials who feed into this fear and misinformation.

Vaccine development is a meticulous and arduous process. Expert panels of professionals spend years weighing the evidence.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices advises the Center for Disease Control and the Committee on Infectious Diseases advises the America Academy of Pediatrics.

These committees and their parent organizations have expertise in virology, microbiology, statistics, epidemiology and pathogenesis.

The consequences of vaccines given in our kids' "formative years" are taken into consideration, rest assured.

We are incredibly fortunate to even have this discussion. In 2008 1.5 million children died from vaccine-preventable disease worldwide.

In the 1950s, roughly 30,000-50,000 kids a year contracted paralytic polio. About 4,000-5,000 children in the U.S. died each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.

I counted 17 children in the photo with Jim Hall (that accompanied the story in the Los Alamos Daily Post.)

If we did not have vaccines available the way we do today, roughly 2-3 of those beautiful children would not survive into adulthood. Which ones would they be?


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