Tag: regret

Wonder Why My Parents Didn’t Give Me Vaccines?

Did your parents vaccinate and protect you against polio, measles, and whatever other diseases were vaccine preventable when you were a child?

Tom Little's editorial cartoon about an unvaccinated child with polio originally appeared in the Nashville Tennessean on January 12, 1956.
Tom Little’s editorial cartoon about an unvaccinated child with polio originally appeared in the Nashville Tennessean on January 12, 1956.

Or did they skip and delay a few, hoping you wouldn’t get sick?

Wonder Why My Parents Didn’t Give Me Salk Shots?

Tom Little helped parents understand what that might feel like without actually having to regret making a poor decision.

The inspiration for Tom Little's cartoon came from thinking of the "children who were left unprotected from from polio through no fault of their own."
The inspiration for Tom Little’s cartoon came from thinking of the “children who were left unprotected from from polio through no fault of their own.”

In addition to receiving a number of prizes and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons, he helped convince a lot of parents to vaccinate and protect their kids against polio.

Tom Little's cartoon helped get kids vaccinated and protected.
Tom Little’s cartoon helped get kids vaccinated and protected.

The cartoon, published 64 years ago, was so effective, it was distributed nationally by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

Would it be effective today?

In 1972, there was an outbreak of paralytic polio among unvaccinated students at Daycroft, a Christian Science boarding school in Greenwich, Connecticut.

What do kids think when they get sick after being exposed to a life-threatening disease that has been vaccine-preventable for many years?

Hopefully we won’t have much opportunity to find out…

More on Regret Not Vaccinating

Is It Rational to Be Anti-Vaccine?

Why do some people think that they are making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children’s vaccines?

Are parents making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children's vaccines?
Are parents really making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children’s vaccines?

Is it because they “know” that they are right?

Or because others reinforce their beliefs?

Is It Rational to Be Anti-Vaccine?

Whatever the reason, we should be clear that skipping or delaying vaccines, leaving your child at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease and putting others at risk, is really not a rational decision.

“It is not the case, of course, that people make decisions about vaccination based solely on rational, evidenced-based, scientific perspectives.”

Timothy Caulfield et al on Injecting doubt: responding to the naturopathic anti-vaccination rhetoric

Instead, people often seem to skip or delay vaccines after fear helps a number of cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies take hold and change their perception of risk into something that is much different from reality. That fear is stoked by misinformation and propaganda they see on the Internet or hear from friends and family.

Or they become influenced by the idea that their child has been damaged or injured by a vaccine, even though in the great majority of cases, it has been shown that vaccines do not cause those problems.

“Well, if you’re going to inform yourself about vaccines, I think anybody who’s truly informed will realize that getting a vaccine is much better than not getting one. If you’re choosing not to vaccinate your child, it’s because you’re getting, frankly, bad information about vaccines.”

Paul Offit, MD

So call it what you want, but no, in general, it is not rational to be anti-vaccine, especially considering that:

Do you know what the biggest clue that it isn’t a rational decision in most cases?

Changing Your Mind About Vaccines

When a rational person is given new evidence or information that not only challenges their worldview, but blows it out of the water, what do they do?

They change their mind.

“It is irrational to hold any view so tightly that you aren’t willing to admit the possibility that you might be wrong.”

What would it take to convince you that you were wrong?

When do anti-vax folks change their minds?

“I don’t feel I’m putting my child at risk. There’s nothing that’s going to change my mind on this on that specific vaccination.”

More often than not, it is after one of their kids gets sick or there is a disease outbreak nearby.

Instead of changing their minds in the midst of disease outbreaks and immunization mandates, some parents decide to break the law

If you are not vaccinating and protecting your kids, what would it take to get you to change your mind about vaccines?

Do you need to see double blind placebo controlled studies, studies with saline placebos, studies with vaccines tested together, or long term safety studies?

Do you need to remind yourself what the pre-vaccine era was like? Or understand what will happen if too many people stop vaccinating their kids?

Don't wait until it's too late to vaccinate your child.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to vaccinate your child.

Whatever it takes, hopefully you don’t wait too long and regret your decision.

Of course, no one wants to intentionally harm their children. But you can’t do what’s right and make a rational decision if you are relying on bad information and advice.

More on the Idea of Rational Anti-Vaccine Beliefs

Healthy Kids Can Just Die

No one likes to think about it, but yes, healthy kids can just die.

Tragically, misunderstanding this fact can lead some parents who have lost a child to blame vaccines.

Healthy kids can just die and they are often attacked by anti-vaccine groups who push them to blame vaccines.
The 8 year-old child they are talking about died of SUDEP or Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy.

It certainly doesn’t help that anti-vaccine folks are targeting families who have recently lost a child, pushing them to blame vaccines…

Healthy Kids Can Just Die

Speaking of vaccines, that leads us to one group of healthy kids who can die suddenly – those who die with a vaccine-preventable disease.

All of those kids who die with the flu each year? Many are healthy. And many are unvaccinated.

Infants who die with pertussis.

Teens who die with meningococcemia.

They were all typically healthy – at least they were before they got sick.

And then some of them died.

Of course, vaccine-preventable diseases are not a common way for children to die in developed countries anymore – thanks to vaccines.

Healthy Kids Dying is Not a Vaccine Injury

Again, although no one likes to think about it, healthy kids can just die.

Surprisingly, about 10% of deaths in children over age 12 months are classified as sudden death, including many in healthy kids with no explanations for how they died.

These types of sudden, unexplained deaths are actually the 5th leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1 and 4 years. That adds up to about 400 deaths a year in the United States alone!

Were some of these kids recently vaccinated?

Of course.

Just like some infants who die of SIDS were recently vaccinated.

That doesn’t mean that the vaccines caused the deaths though.

“Dealing with the sudden, unexpected death of a baby to any cause is devastating – but in the case of a death for which no specific cause can be found, the lack of answers about why your baby has died can be overwhelming.”

Surviving the Sudden Death of a Baby

So why do some people blame vaccines?

“The parents’ need to understand why their baby died came across very strongly in most interviews despite parents not being asked specifically about this.”

Garstang et al on Parental understanding and self-blame following sudden infant death: a mixed-methods study of bereaved parents’ and professionals’ experiences

Few people like the idea that there isn’t a known reason for why a child died.

“Our results suggest that most parents really want to know why their baby died; not knowing why their baby died may cause further distress to parents, whether this is due to long waits for the results of postmortem examinations or because deaths remain unexplained. An unexplained death by its nature is an unpredictable event rendering the parents powerless to prevent future tragedies, thus increasing the anxiety and grief; having as much information as possible should help parents to emotionally accept and make sense of the death to themselves.”

Garstang et al on Parental understanding and self-blame following sudden infant death: a mixed-methods study of bereaved parents’ and professionals’ experiences

Saying it was vaccines gives people an answer.

“The aggregated theme, We Feel Like We’re to Blame, was composed of three categories: (a) Not where s/he was supposed to sleep, (b) Naming the cause of death increases my guilt, and (c) It was our fault. Mothers often felt that they were being told that the baby’s death was their fault.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

And in the case of SIDS, especially if the baby was in an unsafe sleeping environment, it is easy to see that blaming vaccines might help those who were made to feel that the death had been their fault, even though bedsharing is widely pushed as a safe alternative to roomsharing in many parenting circles.

It isn’t.

“The mothers talked about how difficult it was trying to move on after an unexpected infant death. They expressed that they are not only dealing with the grief of losing a child, but they are dealing with the feelings of guilt, despair, and regret. In this aggregated theme, there were three categories: (a) I can’t talk about it, (b) One step forward, and (c) Support helps me get through.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

One thing should be clear.

Seeking support in anti-vaccine Facebook groups is not healthy and will not help parents deal with their feelings of guilt, despair, or regret.

Shaming was described from the mothers’ perspective “ . . . it sounds so blaming and makes me feel like they think we killed our baby.” Parents were dealing with the grief of losing children, but they were also exhibiting feelings of guilt and responsibility for the deaths. The mothers did find support and eventually moved forward emotionally. In the end, as one mother succinctly expressed, “I am pregnant now . . . we are happy, but are scared, too.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

These parents instead need support and doctors, nurses, first responders, child protective service workers, and medical examiners that don’t worsen their grief and guilt.

If you need to blame vaccines, then go ahead and do so, but please also get some extra help from the resources below.

And lets work to figure out why these healthy kids are dying, so we can get better at saving them and preventing these deaths.

More on Healthy Kids Can Just Die

Who Are the Anti-Vaccine Pediatricians?

Surprisingly, not all of the members of the American Academy of Pediatrics are on the side of advocating for vaccines!

Who Are the Anti-Vaccine Pediatricians?

Sure, except for a few outliers, most of the members of the AAP are typically strong advocates for vaccines.

In fact, one of the very first actions of the AAP was to establish the Committee on Immunization Procedures in 1936. They soon published the first vaccine recommendations for kids in the 1938 pamphlet, Routine measures for the prophylaxis of communicable diseases.

So what happened?

How did we end up with anti-vaccine pediatricians?

In 1954, Dr. Roger L. J. Kennedy, the president of the AAP, declared that he would not allow his own children to get Salk’s polio vaccine during the Polio Pioneer trials.

New York Times April 8, 1954.

Was he right, considering what happened with the Cutter Incident?

Since none of the polio vaccines produced directly by Jonas Salk caused any problems, no, Kennedy wasn’t right and could have put the whole trial at risk if folks had listened to him.

We next saw Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, a pediatrician who was against many standard practices, including ultrasounds in pregnancy, “water fluoridation, immunization, coronary bypass surgery, licensing of nutritionists, and screening examinations to detect breast cancer.”

He appeared on Donahue in the early 1980s, making claims that “The greatest threat of childhood diseases lies in the dangerous and ineffectual efforts made to prevent them through mass immunization.”

mendelsohn
The AAP Committee on Infectious Disease called out Dr. Robert Mendelsohn in a Red Book Update published in Pediatrics in 1982

Mendelsohn also appeared as an “expert” in Vaccine Roulette, falsely calling the pertussis vaccine “probably the poorest and most dangerous vaccine that we now have.” Of course, none of the claims against the DPT vaccine ended up being true, but we are still left with the DTaP vaccine which is less effective.

Although he wasn’t the last anti-vaccine pediatrician, he was the last to be formally called out by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Jay Gordon, a celebrity pediatrician in California and Fellow of the AAP, appeared on Good Morning America with Cindy Crawford in 2000, saying afterwards that “They edited the segment to make me sound like a vaccination proponent. We also have to understand the impact of a person as well-known as Cindy Crawford delaying vaccines for over six months.”

Jay Gordon thinks infants should get vaccines slower, with fewer shots at one time.
Delaying vaccines and leaving infants at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease doesn’t make any sense to most pediatricians.

Since then, he has continued to push the idea that kids should get vaccines on a slower schedule, perhaps only getting one or two at a time.

Also in California, Dr. Bob Sears,  also a Fellow of the AAP, published his Vaccine Book in 2007, pushing his own alternative vaccine schedule and creating a list of vaccine-friendly pediatricians.

Bob's warning about not sharing their fears appeared in the first edition of his book.
Bob’s warning about not sharing their fears appeared in the first edition of his book.

Although the AAP hasn’t formally called out today’s disease friendly pediatricians by name, they have repeatedly stated that there are no alternative immunization schedules.

“There is no ‘alternative’ immunization schedule. Delaying vaccines only leaves a chil​d at risk of disease for a longer period of time; it does not make vaccinating safer. 

Vaccines work, plain and simple. Vaccines are one of the safest, most effective and most important medical innovations of our time. Pediatricians partner with parents to provide what is best for their child, and what is best is for children to be fully vaccinated.”

Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP, Executive Director, American Academy of Pediatrics​

And the AAP has said that the views of pediatricians who push alternative immunization schedules “are counter to scientific evidence and clearly they do not reflect Academy policy or recommendations.”

“No alternative vaccine schedules have been evaluated and found to provide better safety or efficacy than the recommended schedule, supported by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the CDC and the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the AAP (the committee that produces the Red Book).

Pediatricians who routinely recommend limiting the numbers of vaccines administered at a single visit such that vaccines are administered late are providing care that deviates from the standard evidence-based schedule recommended by these bodies.”

Countering Vaccine Hesitancy

Are there others?

Unfortunately, there are.

“Most of my patients make the educated decision not to give one vaccine-hepatitis B – to their infants. This is because you catch hepatitis B from sex and IV drug use so if a child is born to a mother that does not have hepatitis B, the child is at no risk of getting this disease. Preschool and young school-aged children are not at risk for hepatitis B, which is why most countries in the developed world only recommend this vaccine for at-risk groups and not for everyone.”

Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas is another pediatrician and Fellow of the AAP who has written a book about vaccines that pushes his own alternative vaccine schedule.

And even though he has written a book about vaccines, it seems clear that he doesn’t really know which vaccines most countries in the developed world actually give to their kids.

Larry Palevsky spoke at an anti-vaccine rally in New York in the middle of a record setting measles outbreak.

Then there is Larry Palevsky, the pediatrician “who utilizes a holistic approach to children’s wellness and illness…”

Some folks are likely wondering how Larry Palevsky still has a medical license after the things he said at the so-called vaccine symposium in Rockland County this year. Yeah, that Rockland County with the longest active measles outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was declared eliminated.

“The pediatrician who spoke on Monday night, Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, is regularly cited in pamphlets circulated in New York City that urge women not to get their children vaccinated. His views have no basis in science, experts said.”

Despite Measles Warnings, Anti-Vaccine Rally Draws Hundreds of Ultra-Orthodox Jews

Most others who are familiar with things he has said in the past aren’t surprised by his statements though. After all, he was an “expert” for the anti-vaccination movie The Greater Good.

Are you really going to pay extra for a pediatrician that follows a made up schedule that leaves your kids at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease?
Are these alternative pediatricians encouraging parents to only give their kids one vaccine at a time?

And they are familiar with other holistic and integrative pediatricians who are obviously anti-vaccine.

What Makes a Pediatrician Anti-Vaccine?

Although none consider themselves anti-vaccine, preferring to think of themselves as pro-safe vaccine, pro-vaccine choice, or pro-informed consent, as they continue to push myths and misinformation about vaccines, it should be clear who they are and what they are doing.

No, a pediatrician isn’t anti-vaccine just because some of their patients follow a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule. They are anti-vaccine if they encourage parents to skip or delay vaccines, scaring them away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“The American Acade​my of Pediatrics is dedicated to the principle of a meaningful and healthy life for every child. As an organization of physicians who care for infants, ​​children, adolescents, and young adults, the Aca​demy seeks to promote this goal by encouraging ​and assisting its members in their efforts to meet the overall health needs of children and youth; by providing support and counsel to others concerned with the well-being of children, their growth and development; and by serving as an advocate for children and their families within the community at large.”

preamble to AAP Constitution​​

It’s time that more pediatricians call them out, even if they aren’t members of the AAP, as we see more outbreaks and more parents following their advice, leaving more kids unvaccinated, unprotected, and at risk to get vaccine-preventable diseases.

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