To Vaccinate or Not?
Andrea McMaster, of Lincoln, Nebraska, thought she was just making casual conversation when she told her mommies group that the following day she was taking her daughter, Erin, to get her two-month vaccinations. Instead, the reaction stunned her. Of the 20 moms, 17 weren't immunizing their children. And they were urging her to do the same.
"I'd never thought twice about vaccinations, and suddenly I was confronted with, 'Are you sure you want to vaccinate your child?'" McMaster recalls. With her stomach in knots, she spent the rest of the day learning all she could about infant vaccinations. "I searched the Internet, called friends and relatives, and talked to my pediatrician. But the more research I did, the more I found out that it's even riskier not to immunize."
Pediatricians consider childhood immunizations to be the foundation of a lifetime of good health, but some parents choose to delay vaccinations or avoid them altogether despite their decades-long track record of preventing dangerous childhood diseases.
It's natural to be a little anxious. No one likes needles, and today, by age 3, a fully immunized child can receive up to 26 shots to protect against 13 diseases, such as polio, mumps, and measles. If your pediatrician uses combination vaccines, such as Pediarix for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and hepatitis B, or Pro-Quad for measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox, that can cut the number of shots down. Still, while the pain is fleeting, it's hard for parents to watch their kids become pincushions.
But parents usually decide not to vaccinate based on misinformation gleaned from the Internet or playground gossip. "There's a lot of bad information out there," says Paul Offit, MD, author of Vaccines: What You Should Know (Wiley). "When people talk about vaccine safety, they invariably discuss things such as learning disorders, behavior problems, autism, and other diseases, which numerous studies have shown have no relation to vaccines."