We have not eradicated most of these infectious diseases, only kept them at bay. At the turn of the 20th century we lost 100 out of 1,000 babies before their 1st birthday. Now, thanks to immunizations that rate has dropped to 7 of 1000. But as we saw this winter these diseases can come back. This year we saw over 590 cases of measles, 4 outbreaks of mumps, and we all know what mumps can do to our male children….Pertussis, a horrible respiratory illness produces 20,000-40,000 cases in the US annually. Most of these have occurred in unvaccinated people. Frequently, these outbreaks occur because of one unvaccinated person. As we travel more and more we are exposing ourselves to more unvaccinated people and are of course at more risk for getting sick.
I remember as a child seeing iron lungs in the hospital where kids with polio had to stay in order to breathe. Now they would be on respirators… I remember seeing adults crippled from polio, if they were lucky enough to overcome the paralysis.
Parents want to do the right thing for their children but some are just misinformed. Others have religious beliefs against healthcare. Some are distrustful of the medical community, the federal government, and pharmaceutical companies. They think that the risk of the vaccine is greater than the risk of disease.
Vaccines, as most other medicines, are tested to the nth degree in this country. Usually most drugs are available in Europe well before the United States. Vaccines especially, go through a stringent review before being licensed to use. This process takes about 10 years. Our Food and Drug Administration monitors this process every step of the way. Even after approval for use, the safety of vaccines is monitored by audits of vaccine sites, manufacturing sites and safety reports. I can tell you first hand this auditing is in detail! Every dose, lot number and expiration date must be accounted for.
One of the safety tools developed by the FDA and CDC is called VAERS. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System a national surveillance system where anyone; be it a patient, parent or pet can send in a possible side effect that someone had. They are then analyzed and made available to the public. This could be anything from sneezing, swelling, and may not even be related but it can be recorded and studied. Healthcare workers are required by law to report any serious event after administration of a vaccine. Another safety surveillance tool is the Vaccine Safety Datalink. This collects data at nine different sites across the country to observe clinical information and safety of vaccines. All this data that’s collected can be given out to the public quickly if needed.
In 2001 there was great concern over the additive Thimerisol. Multiple studies were done and no relationship was found that supported Thimerisol caused behavioral disorders, but the committee still removed all Thimerisol from vaccines except multidose flu vaccines.
Some people are afraid that vaccines will cause autism in their child. The Institute of Medicine studied this extensively and found no evidence to support this. A study was published in the lancet Journal in 1998 reported a link between MMR vaccine and irritable bowel and autism. This is unfortunately what has scared many folks. But later it was found that the lead author MADE UP his data for financial gain and he has since lost his license. They asked the author to repeat his study using larger numbers, but of course he could not. Investigations into his study found discrepancies all through it about when symptoms started and what they were. As it turns out, he wanted to create his own vaccines and sell them.
After this scare, thousands of people came forward complaining that their child had autism. So a study group was formed that studied all the cases. They concluded that autism was NOT associated with the MMR or the additive Thimerisol. However they did remove Thimerisol from the vaccines.
Autism is a developmental and behavioral disorder. The cause of autism is currently unknown but many researchers believe that 90% of cases are due to genetics. Some cases may be from exposure to chemicals during pregnancy that can cause birth defects. Getting German measles during pregnancy can lead to birth defects such as autism.
The take away from this information is vaccinate! Protect your children and your Keys community.