Vaccines Give Kids a Fighting Chance to Prevent Disease

Pediatricians now vaccinate children against as many as 14 different diseases, from chicken pox to HPV. Science has consistently shown that vaccinations are extremely safe and effective, but Dr. Eric Meikle, Chief of Pediatrics for Lowell General Hospital, says many parents still have questions about the need for vaccines and potential side effects.

Vaccination Q&A with Dr. Eric Meikle, Pediatrician

Getting the body to fight its own battles is a much more lasting treatment than using antibiotics and is probably the most effective tool in medicine we’ve ever had. It’s the only thing that ever wiped a disease off the earth. Smallpox is now extinct.

The main concern I hear is perceived vaccine overload. We give the babies a lot more vaccines than we used to. The concern from parents is that all this might have some downside. But the truth is vaccines are much more pure, so actual exposure to the antigens is 1/10 of what we gave in the past.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is very common and usually harmless, but it can potentially set off six different types of cancers. We now have the ability to engage the immune system to actually take out this disease entity. By preventing the virus from getting in there in the first place, we can prevent those cancers.

Research shows, at that age, we get a lot stronger and longer response than if we give it to an older child. Rumors that it might cause teenagers to be promiscuous if they think they are immune, or that it might affect fertility later on, are unfounded.

There is no evidence of that whatsoever. Interestingly, purported side effects vary in different parts of the world. In the English speaking world, parents are terrified that vaccination causes autism. In France they fear vaccines cause multiple sclerosis. In the Islamic world, many fear vaccines, particularly measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), are a way to sterilize men.

No. The vaccine could cause some mild side effects that go away quickly, but you can’t get the flu from the flu shot, and you can’t get HPV or diphtheria or tetanus or pertussis from those vaccines. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention come out and say the flu vaccine was 55% effective, that means the other 45%, if they did get the flu, got a mild course that wasn’t as bad as in those who went unvaccinated.

Don’t forget that these diseases are real terrors that exist elsewhere in the world. If someone with one of these diseases gets on a plane that lands in Boston, you can lose your life or your child’s life. The diseases are serious threats, even if we haven’t seen them in a while.

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