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Health Column: Vaccine myths

Phil Mohler, M.D.
MOHLER’S MEDICATION MAXIMS
Free Press Health Columnist
checking vaccine
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

2013: Worst year for measles in the U.S. in 15 years. Outbreaks of whooping cough continue in Colorado! Our state ranks 41st for percent of young children having received the four recommended doses of DTaP on time.

What’s going on?

Coloradans are victims of vaccine myths. The notorious, de-stethescoped Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the British gastroenterologist whose discredited study linked autism and the MMR (Measles, Mumps & Rubella) vaccines, started the myths rolling in 1998. Since then, a large number of anti-vaccine groups have thrived, most infamously led by Jenny McCarthy, who should have stuck to doing something she knew about — taking off her clothes for Playboy magazine.



MYTHS



Grand Valley parents’ commonly voiced beliefs about vaccines:

1) Myth: Vaccines don’t work!

Not only do vaccines work, they work extraordinarily well, and they save lives!

Before vaccines, each year in the United States:

Polio would paralyze 10,000 children.

Measles would infect about 4 million children, killing 3,000.

Haemophilus influenza type b would cause meningitis in 15,000 children, leaving many with brain damage.

2) Myth: Vaccines are unsafe.

Consider that more than 3.5 million children born every year in the United States receive 21 different vaccines by the time they are 6 years old and that some of the vaccines have been around for 50 years. The record of vaccine safety in this country is remarkable. Extensive reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that there is no proven association between MMR vaccine and autism.

3) Myth: Vaccines aren’t necessary.

In 40 years of practice, I have never seen a case of diphtheria and it has been 20 years since I diagnosed measles. So do we still need to immunize? Absolutely yes!

Some diseases like chickenpox are still so prevalent that a decision not to immunize essentially guarantees that you will get this disease.

When immunization rates drop, outbreaks recur and some children die. In California in 2010 there were 9,000 cases of whooping cough and 10 infants died.

So, whose advice do you trust? Ms. Jenny, who is now selling e-cigarettes to teenagers, or the overwhelming evidence of modern medicine?

GJ Free Press health columnist Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 39 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Email him at pjmohler@bresnan.net.


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