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Vaccine Truths

Learn what's fact and what's fiction about this preventive medicine.

Wed, 22 Aug 2012|

-Hi everyone, I'm Juli Auclair. And you're watching the First Year on Parents TV. There's a lot of controversy surrounding vaccines and this has some parents wondering whether or not they should have their babies vaccinated. Well, joining me to talk about some of the misconceptions about vaccinations is Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and author of A Map of the Child: A Pediatrician's Tour of the Body. Doctor, thank you for coming in. -Thanks for having me here. -It's already great having you. Let's start with the first myth. A lot of parents say, "Oh, my baby is too young to be vaccinated. We have to wait until he or she is older." True? Not True? -That's not true. The reason is that, believe or not, many of the diseases against which we vaccinated kids can actually happen during childhood and infancy, even starting right around birth. Of those are pneumococcal disease, which is one of the most severe bacterial infections. It can cause meningitis and hepatitis B, which can infect the blood even right around birth. -So, you're never too young. -That's exactly right. -Another myth is that giving a child vaccination can actually lower their immune system or damage it in some way. True? Not True? -Now, this is a very common misconception of some parents. You think that the more infections you've got, maybe the better and stronger your immune system will be as you got older. It actually turns out that scientists think that babies learn to fight off almost 100,000 infections in their first few years of life. -100,000 infections is a lot. -Well, they're learning a lot. And they-- their immune systems are getting a huge workout. -There's a lot of controversy surrounding the safety of vaccinations and whether or not they can do more damage than maybe they can prevent. -I think it's really important to understand what do we talk about when we talk about safety. For example, every time they get in the car and start that up, I'm taking a little bit of a risk, but I obviously will continue driving. The question is do the risks outweigh the benefits of certain health problems. With vaccines, clearly there are very rare side effects that can be dangerous, but on the other hand, the diseases themselves are far more dangerous. So, when you look at it and balance the risks and benefits in that way, we clearly come down on the side of vaccine. -Hey Emily, come on in. Let's get you up on the table. Gonna have some shots today? Are you gonna be brave? -There are parents out there who say, "Well, my child doesn't need to be vaccinated. The diseases that we're trying to prevent are so rare like polio." -Right. -"He's not gonna get that." -Right. Well, it is tempting to think that just because we've been so successful in fighting the diseases that it's not important to get the vaccination. -All right. We're gonna give it right there, okay? -Okay. -It's gonna hurt just a little bit and then it'll be all over. -We know that when vaccination rates fall particularly for diseases like whooping cough or pertussis or measles, which are 2 good examples where vaccination rates fall in some areas, those diseases immediately come back. And so, we really, really don't wanna wait until kids and adults start coming down with those diseases before we vaccinate. -I think a lot of parents don't realize that the vaccinations don't always prevent the disease. You could still get it. -Right. There's no guarantee. Vaccinations are never perfect. It's like saying I got my flu shot, but oh I got a cold anyway. That shot didn't work. It's tempting to think that way. That's really not the way. Instead, vaccines prevent most infections. So, if you get a vaccination, maybe there'll be a 70 to 90 percent chance you won't get the disease. Now, if everybody gets those vaccines, then population wide, the risk of the disease are so much lower and so I think we can all rest easier knowing that most people are getting their vaccines. -Do you think some people underestimate how dangerous illnesses like chickenpox can be because they feel, oh, I had that when I was a kid and I wasn't vaccinated and look I'm fine? -That's absolutely true. And it's hard to fault parents for thinking that way. I say to myself, "Well, when I was growing up, my parents certainly didn't put me in a car seat." You know, I-- -True. True. -played on playgrounds without soft bottoms all the time and here I am and I look just fine, but then you don't remember all the kids who really did have these problems, all those kids that unfortunately were killed in car accidents. I think about vaccines the same way. It's-- I'm thankful that I'm fine, that all my family members were fine with, say, chickenpox, but you forget that chickenpox actually kills more kids than all of the vaccine preventable illnesses combined as of about 10 years ago. And it's only when kids started getting vaccinated that those kids now are living and are doing just fine. I think one thing that's great today that was different when I was a kid is some of the vaccines are actually-- you can get 3-in-1 now rather this-- So, it's fewer shots for your infants. -One of the hardest things is actually watching your child get all these vaccines. -It is. -I mean, there are certain times you go to the doctor's office and you think your kid is a little pincushion. -Uh-huh. -There are 5 or 6 different shots. And you're right that combining them certainly takes a little bit of the pain away. All right, Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, thank you so much for shedding some light on vaccinations. Now, we know what some of the myths are and misconceptions. We appreciate it and thanks for watching Parents TV, your source for the best information for your growing family. Hi, I'm Juli Auclair. I hope you enjoyed the segment on Parents TV. We have so much more available now that you're gonna love and keep coming back. 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