Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vaccine Trouble

An October study in Pediatrics shows that 13% of parents follow a non-standard vaccination schedule for their children, by refusing particular vaccines, delaying certain vaccines, or (in about 2% of all cases) refusing all vaccines. More disturbing is the fact that many parents who are currently using the recommended schedule are at risk of departing from it in the future: 22% of them disagreed that the expert-recommended schedule they were following was the best one to use, and 28% of them thought delaying vaccination would be safer for their children. This is the legacy, I think, of Andrew Wakefield's fraud and the misguided activism of RFK Jr., Jenny McCarthy, and others. Meanwhile, a paper presented at last week's meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America showed that younger doctors have less faith in vaccines than older doctors. In a WebMD interview, one of the authors stated that while there was generally strong support among all doctors for vaccination, every increase of five years in year of graduation was associated with a 20% reduced likelihood that the doctor believed that vaccines were very safe, and with a 20% increased likelihood of agreement with the statement that "children get more immunizations than are good for them." Why would younger doctors have less faith in vaccines? This, too, may be partly a legacy of the recent controversies surrounding HPV vaccination, the alleged vaccine/autism link, and so on. But there may also be something else at work: younger doctors have no experience of the devastating effects of childhood diseases. Indeed, many young physicians are more apt to have seen an adverse reaction to a vaccine than a case of polio or whooping cough or rubella. Vaccines, in other words, may partly be victims of their own success.

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