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A Pediatrician’s Argument for Vaccines

It’s getting scarier as childhood diseases that had been held at bay through vaccinations are now making a comeback. Whooping cough (pertussis) cases alone reached a fifty-year high in 2012. More and more we hear heartbreaking stories from parents who have lost an infant to pertussis. 

Doctors are not taking this lightly. Listen to what one pediatrician had to say about declining new patients who have not been vaccinated:

No contemporary phenomenon confounds and confuses me more than seemingly sensible people turning down one of the most unambiguously helpful interventions in the history of modern medicine…

I always ask [parents of potential new patients] if the children are vaccinated, or if the parents intend to vaccinate once the child is born. If the answer is no, I politely and respectfully tell them we won’t be the right fit. We don’t accept patients whose parents won’t vaccinate them. 

It’s not simply that we think these beliefs are wrong. Declining vaccines is, at best, misguided. But of course those inclined to refuse them don’t agree with me, and I’m not going to try to change their minds. I’ve had too many of that kind of conversation over the years to hold out hope that anything I can say will sway them.

And that is precisely the problem, in this doctor’s book. 

I have no doubt that these parents love their children immensely and are making what they believe to be the best decisions for them. I don’t dispute that. But any potential partnership we might create in caring for them together would rely on their belief that I have something other than a signature on an order form or prescription pad to offer.

They must believe I have a perspective worth understanding.

I often wonder why a parent who believes vaccines are harmful would want to bring their children to a medical doctor at all. After all, for immunizations to be as malign as their detractors claim, my colleagues and I would have to be staggeringly incompetent, negligent or malicious to keep administering them.

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