I am astonished that vaccination is controversial

I am astonished that vaccination is controversial July 31, 2013

I never know what people will respond to. I put up a (to me) completely unremarkable post about Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccination celebrity medical advice. To my amazement, the comboxes explode.

I don’t get it.

One of my readers, a pediatrics doctor, pretty much sums up my own take:

I am a fan of vaccines as a physician.

Yes, deaths, brain injury, loss of limbs, etc from vaccine-preventable diseases is thankfully rare in this country today. Because of aggressive vaccine efforts, deaths from pertussis in infants have decreased, largely due, not exclusively as a consequence of the vaccination of the infants, but due to the vaccination of those around the infants.

I have seen deaths due to pertussis in infants, sad horrid deaths. I have seen deaths due to pneumococcal meningtis, chicken pox, and brain injury due to measles infections. Most folks should be grateful that these do not occur more often. That they do not is the gift of vaccination efforts.

Vaccination fulfills an individual responsibility to oneself, and a responsibility to one’s children. Communal responsibilities are fulfilled also, because vaccination protects others, especially those with weakened immunity.

My mother recalls the era of polio, of not going swimming in public pools due to outbreaks, and I had a piano teacher that had a paralysis in her legs due to polio. I had a cousin who died as a consequence of pneumococcal meningitis, a now preventable problem. His parents did not recover from the trauma of losing their son-his death haunted them for 60 years.

The era of epidemic measles, meningitis, and severe invasive bacterial disease is discussed by older physicians as soldiers relate war stories. The era sounds exciting. I am glad, however, to have missed that era, a time in which children suffered intensely while parents lost children day and night in pediatric hospitals due to illnesses we can now prevent.

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