Physician/Professor of Anesthesiology
Co-founder, RealAge.com, a consumer-health media company
Graduate, Williams College
Graduate, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
Certified: American Board of Internal Medicine and American Board of Anesthesiology
Dr. Michael Roizen on Baby Vaccines
By Mimi Elliott
The 700 Club
TO VACCINATE OR NOT
One of the highly charged conflicts today revolves around an issue that comes up moments after a baby is born. To vaccinate or not vaccinate?
Before Dr. Roizen can comment on the issue, he makes certain two things:
- That everyone needs to know that he will not tell anyone what to do or not do. It is his hope that parents educate themselves on the pros and cons about immunizations and to do additional research to make a thoughtful decision that makes sense to each family
- That by stripping the emotion out of this topic, Dr. Roizen can acknowledge that parents on both sides of the controversy are passionately trying to protect their children’s health.
So the conflict arises because there is enough data to show that vaccines do save lives and protect against illness. There are also safety concerns (as in the case with any medication) in that there is not enough data to truly know safety effects of vaccines in any individual, especially as they interact with other vaccines, drugs, foods, and other specific environments.
The “support” side of vaccinations are people who agree with and believe the advice of the majority of pediatricians and the government. Vaccines are much more likely to benefit your child than harm him and are helpful to the long-term health of children. Support data shows that infant deaths are prevented every year.
“Against” people believe that vaccines hurt the long-term health of their children and that no studies show that vaccines are safe and that the full range of serious consequences being caused by vaccines is being minimized and ignored.
“The great news or common ground is that both sides acknowledge that the debate cause by the ‘against vaccine’ has forced vaccines to become safer,” says Dr. Roizen. “Both sides appreciate the consequential improvements.”
Dr. Roizen says that “safe” does not mean “without risk.”
“It means safe for the population,” he says.
Basically, it has more benefit than risk. Vaccines have real risk, but he says the benefit far exceeds the risks by a wide margin: 20 to one or even 30,000 to one. A margin of 20 to one is like giving someone $2 and getting $40 back.
Basically, parents have 3 choices:
- Follow the schedule of immunizations recommended by the Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Follow an alternate schedule.
- Not vaccinate at all.
The advantage of the standard plan is that most doctors follow it, making it easier to avoid mistakes, especially if you are moving or switching doctors. The downside, some believe, is that some of the early vaccines (like Hepatitis B at birth) are unnecessary for low-risk babies. By following the alternate schedule, Dr. Roizen says he would still recommend vaccines but space them out a little more. The downside is more doctor visits, more money and more short periods of post-shot grumpiness.
Dr. Roizen says that children at higher risk need immunization: those who live in cities and take public transportation, whose parents work in healthcare, who travel or parents travel and who live in cities with immigrants.
TO KEEP IN MIND
Dr. Roizen says to be sure kids are hydrated when getting shots because they can get feverish and fussy. Parents should check beforehand with insurance carriers because insurance companies pay for shots on a set schedule. Choosing the alternate vaccination route may cause extra financial commitments. Spreading out shots makes for adverse relationship between doctors and kids. Some kids may associate going to the doctor as an unpleasant experience. Also if mothers didn’t question things related to vaccines and their kids, then we wouldn’t have the quality of vaccines we have today.
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