How to Stop Worrying About Autism and Vaccinate Your Kids

Health & Wellness on 08.29.11
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When our kids are sick, the guilt sets in. What could I have done differently? Could this have been prevented? And when it comes to conditions like autism, or diabetes, we suffer the fear that our child may not enjoy the life we have given them to the fullest. This is why concern that vaccinating a child might cause one of these life-changing diseases puts parents in a terrible bind -- what if the cure is worse than the disease? So with vaccination still on your back-to-school checklist, what can you do to put your mind at ease?

Disease on the Rise

This conflict has spurred some parents to refuse vaccination for their children. When just a few opt out of vaccination, the general health of the population keeps the risk of the unvaccinated quite low. But the spread of fear about vaccination creates a toe-hold for disease to claw its way back.

From January 1 to June 17, 2011, more cases of measles were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) than in the similar period in any year since 1996. Significant mumps outbreaks have occurred twice in the past decade. Most of these cases are caught when an unvaccinated person is travelling abroad, where lower vaccination rates create a higher risk of contagion. But the recent outbreaks demonstrate that it is certainly not safe to think that choosing not to vaccinate is safe because all the other kids are vaccinated.

Autism Link to Vaccination Rejected

The autism scare continues in large part due to legal claims for compensation, which is issued through a government fund intended to quickly and effectively help out in the rare cases of adverse reaction to vaccinations. The fund was set up out of recognition that the overall risks of illness and complications from disease is lower in a society where a high percentage of the children are vaccinated -- but that some risks do still exist. But the studies which support the vaccine-autism link have now been retracted.

And a new study should put the nail in the coffin of the vaccination-autism scare. The Institute of Medicine, an independent non-profit organization that works without political or commercial agenda, just released a report on their review of the risks of vaccination.The work is actually a meta-study, looking at the results of many available primary studies, in order to achieve a high sense of confidence before making conclusions.

And the conclusion is that the evidence favors rejecting any link between MMR vaccines and autism. The study also rejects any link between vaccines and type 1 diabetes. Yes, there is that wishy-washy scientist language again: "evidence favors rejecting" a link. In normal-speak, it means the group achieved a high level of confidence that there is no link. So you can be confident too.

How to Vaccinate Your Kids with Peace of Mind

The IOM examined 158 potential adverse effects in total. Their study shows that vaccination does have some risk of side effects. But most of these are minor and reversible, like swelling or aching. Your pediatrician should advise you on the rare but more serious risks, such as high fever which may lead to seizures. Keep in mind that these side effects are rare, and certainly still a lower risk than the risk of complications associated with the diseases. Your pediatrician should also advise you on special cases, such as allergies to any of the ingredients used to make vaccines or in case your child has a weakened immune system.  

But assuming there are no special conditions and your pediatrician advises you to follow the recommended vaccination schedule, just say "yes". You can rest assured that you are making the right choice to protect your child from diseases, and that the risks are lower than the risks of not vaccinating. And if (grant that it may not be so) your child is one who suffers a rare adverse effect, know that you still made the right choice. Because risk cannot be eliminated; we can only choose the lesser risk and then play along with the cards life deals.   


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