There was a recent article in the WSJ entitled more doctors dismissing patients who refuse vaccines for their children. It was interesting to me as I too now only accept new patients who are going to vaccinate their children. This was not an easy decision on my part, and prior to the decision I had several families who refused vaccines completely, and another group that followed an alternative vaccine schedule. Even so, I was never comfortable with their decision and it always gave me pause and sleepless nights when their children would get sick.
During the height of the debate over vaccine safety and the possible link to autism it seemed like much of my day was spent debunking vaccine myths. I spent a great deal of time discussing the reasons behind the AAP/ACIP (American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommended vaccine schedule and also explaining how vaccinations had saved lives, actually millions of lives.
As more and more data was gathered, and the Wakefield papers were discredited, it became apparent that there was not a link between vaccines and autism. The arguments about thimerasol in vaccines were also moot as thimerasol is no longer the preservative used in vaccines (except for flu vaccine). With all of this being said I decided to take a stand and vaccinate all of my new patients, according to AAP guidelines.
I discuss this decision with families even before their child is born. I tell them that it is important to pick a pediatrician that shares their beliefs as the doctor patient relationship is a long one in pediatrics. (hopefully cradle to college) It is analogous to dating; why would you pick a date on a match site if you held opposite beliefs to begin with?
The same goes with picking a pediatrician, you need to start off the relationship on common ground. Even if there may be some other disagreements on subjects down the road, I think you need to begin the relationship holding similar beliefs.
I have practiced long enough that I remember doing spinal taps in my office and treating children with meningitis or bacterial sepsis. There were long nights spent in the ICU with families and unfortunately a few patients died, while other survived but are deaf or have other residual effects from their disease. It was devastating to me and I can't even imagine for those families. I also bet that those families would have given anything to have a meningitis vaccine or a chickenpox vaccine for their now deceased children.
I understand that every parent has to make their own decision for their children. At the same time I believe that it is also my practice and I get to choose how I practice pediatrics. With that being said, my parents choose to vaccinate their children and we happily start off the parenting/doctoring partnership together. I also sleep better at night not worrying that their child will contract a vaccine preventable disease.
That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow.