By Peter J. Shulman, M.D., F.A.A.P., M.B.A., Pediatric Associates Chief Executive Officer
The debate over the safety of vaccinations has once again resurfaced after it was reported that President Elect Donald Trump has appointed anti-vaccine crusader Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to chair a federal advisory committee on vaccine safety and integrity. Although it’s incredibly unfortunate that anti-vaxxers like Kennedy continue to doubt the safety of vaccinations, it gives physicians like myself the opportunity and the platform to reinforce the fact that not only are vaccines safe, they are effective, they are vital and they save lives each and every day.
Every reputable medical association, committee and publication, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have all stated as simply as possible: there is no link between vaccines and autism. Yet, the skepticism continues. Despite the overwhelming evidence on the safety and necessity of vaccinations, the myths and misperceptions will continue to influence impressionable parents and adversely impact critical decision-making. As a result, their children are suffering from conditions which are completely preventable.
Not only are unvaccinated children susceptible to very serious and sometimes fatal illnesses, they continue to expose others to substantial risk. According to public health officials, at least 90 percent of the population needs to be immunized to prevent the spread of diseases and to protect people who are too young or ill to be vaccinated. In 2014, a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland was amplified as a result of an overwhelming incidence of unvaccinated children.
I have practiced medicine long enough to know not every parent will want to vaccinate their child, but I think it’s critical that the mistrust over vaccinations is not perpetuated publicly, especially by elected officials or those without any medical background. I strongly discourage parents from making medical decisions for themselves or their children based on political opinions. Instead, seek guidance from your family physician. Aside from yourself, no one cares more about the well-being of your child than his or her pediatrician.
It would be easy to treat this recent issue as just one in a sea of unconventional headlines we have seen since November 8. However, the consequences are far too dire. In a world where we are constantly hearing about “fake news”, I will leave you with something very real: vaccinations save lives.