Ask the Pediatrician: Do Kids Really Need All These Vaccines? | Way of life

Q: I read a lot online about vaccines. Do children really need so many vaccines?

A: Immunizing children has been one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine. In fact, vaccines for children have been so successful that we no longer see many of the diseases that once caused serious illness and lasting disability.

Thanks to vaccines, most children will never get whooping cough, tetanus, polio or meningitis – so we rarely see how serious these diseases can be. Therefore, parents may wonder if their child needs all of the vaccines in the recommended immunization schedule. The schedule is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and five other health care organizations. It is based on a review of the most recent scientific data for each vaccine. To be on the recommended schedule, vaccines must be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.

You may have wondered about vaccines and searched Google. These days, it’s easy to search online and find answers that support a belief about the risks of vaccines. But most of these claims are inaccurate and unproven. Much of this information is not only chilling, it has caused parents to question the facts they hear from their pediatricians and other reliable sources. And it scares people away from a vaccine that could save their child’s life.

You may be surprised to learn that much of the “anti-vaccine” content on social media platforms regarding children and vaccines comes from a small group of just 12 people. In a 2021 analysis, the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that this small group of influencers — dubbed the “misinformation dozen” — were the original source of about two-thirds of anti-vaccine posts and messages. These 12 people wanted to drive more traffic to their own websites.

Just like other rumors that go viral on social media platforms, these anti-vaccine posts are unverified for accuracy. This may not be the best or most accurate information about your baby’s vaccines. Here’s what to keep in mind:

— Social media algorithms promote posts that are likely to appeal to a large number of people, such as those with the most clicks or followers or posts by celebrities.

— When you click on or interact with even fake information, the platform will show you more and more similar types of content. This can lead you down a misinformation rabbit hole without you even realizing it.

— The messages seem authentic and convincing. This is why they are so effective in influencing parents seeking answers to questions about their child’s health. These messages spread easily and are shared by tens of thousands of people who may not even know where the message came from.

— When experts publish specific content, they are often the target of anti-vaxxers who want to suppress the facts.

For years, people have been spreading rumors online using a variety of angles, including rumors about vaccines and autism spectrum disorder, sudden infant death syndrome, and developmental delays.

How can this happen? Children with ASD, to take one example, are often diagnosed between 18 and 30 months – around the same time the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is given. This has led some people to speculate that the vaccine is the cause. A growing body of evidence shows that although ASD symptoms may not be noticeable until the second year after birth or later, ASD begins before a baby is born.

Extensive evidence from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Academy of Medicine, and researchers around the world have concluded that there is no causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Fears of a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism have led to under-vaccinated areas. Measles was declared eliminated from our country in 2000, thanks to vaccination efforts, but the virus is still spreading, causing epidemics in the United States and around the world.

When looking at facts about vaccines for your child, be sure to verify the source. Have a high level of suspicion if you do not acknowledge and trust the original source of the content.

And you can always verify the information by consulting credible sources such as HealthyChildren.org, AAP.orgthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and your child’s pediatrician.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Dr. Whitney Casares is a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media and blogs at @modernmommydoc. For more information, visit HealthyChildren.orgthe AAP’s parents’ website.

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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