No Debate: Vaccinating Children is Safe, Effective for Disease Prevention

Little boy holding up his sleeve for a shot

There’s a big debate raging among parents: to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. But if you ask pediatricians, infectious disease physicians and allergists, there’s no debate. Vaccinate.

“There isn’t a single vaccine on the market that hasn’t been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration,” says Bishara Freij, M.D., chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. “The FDA even sends inspection teams to the manufacturers overseas who distribute vaccine in the United States. Having children vaccinated in the United States is a safe and effective way to prevent many communicable diseases that can be deadly.”

Those who argue against vaccinating children tend to fall back on the same misinformation:

  • There’s mercury, or thimerosal, in vaccines.
    There hasn’t been mercury or thimerosal, which is a preservative, in pediatric vaccines in more than 10 years. “The concern was always with the developing brain and the effects of mercury,” explains Dr. Freij. “Researchers measured mercury levels before and after vaccination, and found there was nothing to note.” Only multi-vial doses for adults contain some thimerosal.
  • Vaccines can cause autism.
    “This has been studied and researched endlessly in many countries because parents expressed concern,” says Dr. Freij. “There is no increased risk for autism and there’s no science to support a link. It’s just an unfortunate coincidence that children are at the height of their vaccination schedule around the same time that autism signals start showing.”
  • Why would I inject my child with poison?
    “I tell people that my son got every vaccine that was available and sometimes before it was recommended for his age,” shares Dr. Freij. “The idea of ‘poison’ is the price for success. Many of the diseases children are vaccinated against are under control now, but that leaves room for people to focus on the sideshow. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh any perceived risk of poisoning.”
  • The herd mentality
    There’s a difference between herd immunity and herd effect. “Herd immunity only happens with live vaccines,” explains Dr. Freij. “For example, I get the vaccine and it passes through my system and comes out as bodily waste. Other people inadvertently become vaccinated with direct contact and cross contamination.” The herd effect happens when unvaccinated people are the minority population. Those who are vaccinated won’t become ill, which reduces the transmission of the infection and reduces exposure for unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated people aren’t protected, they are just less exposed. “The ideal rates for vaccination are over 95 percent,” says Dr. Freij.
  • People die from being vaccinated
    Death from vaccinations is extraordinarily rare, according to Dr. Freij. “If a child dies from a vaccine, it’s usually because they were immune compromised and didn’t know it,” he says. “Or they developed anaphylactic shock which is an exceedingly rare event.”
  • My child is allergic to eggs.
    According to Devang Doshi, M.D., chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Beaumont, Royal Oak, eggs are only a concern with two vaccines in the United States: influenza and the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). “The amount of egg protein in these vaccinations is so miniscule, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommend giving them to children with egg allergies,” Dr. Doshi says. “The typical protocol is to give the vaccine and then have the patient stay in the doctor’s office for 30 minutes to be monitored as a precaution.” A normal reaction to the shot includes a low-grade fever, redness at the injection site and slight swelling. “Restricted airway, hives, swelling of the lips and eyelids are signs of an anaphylactic reaction, which is exceptionally rare, especially in view of an egg allergy. But the risk of not vaccinating due to an egg allergy is not worth the theoretical risk of a potential reaction and definitely not worth getting a life-threatening infection.”

If you have concerns about vaccinations, Dr. Freij recommends checking out the websites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics. “All these concerns have been tested and debunked,” says Dr. Freij. “It’s a false sense of safety to believe medical information that’s not supported by science. You’re setting yourself up to be bamboozled.”

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