Doctors Weigh In
Presenting a Balanced Point of View
For Dr. James Herrin, FAAP, a general pediatrician in Conroe, Texas, having parents with concerns over vaccines is not a recent issue. When a parent comes to him with questions about vaccinating her child, Dr. Herrin seeks to give the parent information so she can make an informed decision: He hands them pamphlets with information on the vaccines and points them to Web sites, including a few of the "anti-vaccine" sites, so the parent can read both sides of the issue.
He, however, believes parents are getting an unbalanced view of vaccines from the media.
"[Parents] are concerned," the father of three said, referring to the 'conspiracy theories' and the suggested link to autism. "They've heard a lot of things. The media is not presenting a balanced approach."
Dr. Herrin said he is more concerned with the welfare of the children and their families than anything else, pointing out that diseases like diphtheria and polio are just a plane ride away -- or just a plane ride into America -- as in countries such as Russia and Mexico, many parents do not have enough money to vaccinate their children.
"These illnesses are still around," he says. "It is not a benign thing." Dr. Herrin chose to have his own children vaccinated.
Concern for Future Outbreaks
Dr. Martin Myers, the Director for the National Network of Immunization Information, is worried that there will be a measles outbreak in the future, due in part to parents declining the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.
"Measles is a really ugly disease," Dr. Myers says, pointing out side effects such as encephalitis, brain damage, and death.
While Dr. Herrin has some patients whose parents choose to delay vaccinating their young children, he points out the risks of doing so. "These illnesses are more serious in younger children. If everyone delays, we'd have a lot of sick kids."
Dr. Myers agrees, pointing out that there is no such thing as a vaccine that is 100 percent safe, but still feels that he supports vaccinations, and adds that his children and grandchildren have all been immunized.
Dr. Myers encourages parents who have questions to seek out the answers from a medical profession they trust, and not just what's passed as "truth."
"If you have questions, ask a pediatrician," he said. "There's an awful lot of misinformation on the Internet. Google doesn't differentiate between misinformation and good information."
Dr. Herrin agrees that when seeking out information on vaccines, it is important to read about it from all perspectives.
"I help parents realize it is important to be informed," he says. "It is important to get balanced information and not just one point of view."
Rachel Mosteller is a freelance writer and mother of two in Houston, Texas.
Originally published on AmericanBaby.com, July 2006.
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