Most of the parents that come into my practice with healthy children under the age of six months usually want to talk about vaccinations for their children. Many parents are concerned about vaccinations having negative side effects for their children and don’t want their children to have developmental delays or impairment as a result of vaccination. The discussion as to whether vaccines are one of several causes of autism has been debated in the medical literature for the last 20 years. The challenge is that one side has not been able to prove its point with certainty, leaving parents concerned about whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, for the safety of their children. The discussion about the positive reasons to vaccinate generally revolve around the herd immunity theory. The theory of herd immunity is that if everyone in a community or herd ( like a herd of cattle) gets their children vaccinated, the disease that is being vaccinated against will not be able to live and grow in people in that community.
If everyone in that community and the community next to them gets vaccinated the disease will over time be eradicated because it will not find any host to live in. As parent stop vaccinating their children, public health officials believe the incidence of the diseases that are not being vaccinated against will increase. History has shown as more children are vaccinated the incidence of childhood diseases has gone down. The reasons against vaccinating center around a correlation between children getting vaccinated and mental developmental delays or damage to the child’s nervous system, after a vaccination. There has not been a direct link, but some parents report changes in behavior soon after vaccination. The theory is one or more constituents in the vaccine damage the immune system or the brain of the child recipient. The immune system continues to develop as children reach about the age of seven, so the idea of delaying vaccination is appealing to some parents. This is because they believe it will allow the children’s immune system to handle the vaccinations better, preventing negative impacts to the brain. I am a doctor and I do not have children yet, so when parents come into my office to ask my advice, I try to share both sides of the story with them and allow them to make the best choice for their children. This debate will continue in the medical community until there is more concrete data for one side than the other. For now, parents will have to continue to ask for all the information and make their own informed choice.
Dr. Dae is a Naturopathic Physician who practices in the Washington DC metro area treating the whole person using safe and effective combinations of traditional and natural methods to produce optimal health and well-being in the lives of her patients.
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