By Michael F. Roizen, MD
Mae West once said, "Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can't figure out what from." Well, I know what we want to protect kids from: diphtheria, flu, measles, meningitis, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rubella (German measles), tetanus, and chickenpox. These are vaccine-preventable diseases, and until the vaccines were developed, these diseases claimed thousands of lives annually.
Unfortunately, there's widespread anxiety about vaccinations. I know you're trying to do right for your child, but rumors spread across the Internet that vaccines cause diseases, that natural immunity is better and safer than vaccination, and that newborns aren't ready for vaccines.
I want to be very clear: I interviewed more than 150 experts on every side of the issue for YOU: Having a Baby and YOU: Raising Your Child. My bottom line is this: Vaccinations have more benefits than risks. Are they 100% safe? No. But the benefits vastly outweigh the dangers.
Refusing to vaccinate has consequences. In 2010, more than 21,000 cases of whooping cough occurred in the U.S., and 22 children younger than a 1 year old died. When children don't get vaccinations, their health and everyone else's is at risk. About 5% of the time vaccinations don't produce immunity, but since there's no easy way to tell for whom the vaccine didn't work, everyone should get vaccinated so the disease never takes hold in a community. Widespread vaccination even helps those 5% of people whose vaccines aren't effective avoid exposure and infection.
Michael F. Roizen, MD, is the cofounder of RealAge.com and chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
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