As a health care provider who sees many infants each year, I know that many parents are understandably nervous about giving their new babies vaccines. If you follow the CDC vaccine schedule, your child will have gotten 20 vaccines (though some are combined), by the time they are 12 months old.
I believe in shared decision-making between parents and their health care providers. I also believe most parents are smart, want to do the best thing for their children, and have the right to make decisions for their children. That said, I hold research and factual information in the highest regard, and I believe that there are a variety of alternative therapies that can help with many health issues that haven’t been well studied. I have studied herbal therapies and functional medicine and have seen the benefits of these in my practice. In general, I feel that more information is typically better, but I’m more anxious due to the spread of false information these days.
We’ve been hearing more about false information and “fake news” in the media since 2016. It’s getting more difficult in these internet and social media times to decipher false from true information, say the experts whose job it is to try to do that. According to a 2018 Science journal article, and other studies since then, lies and false news that cause emotion, spread faster and farther than truthful information, and it is people that spread the bulk of it through social media.
On top of this, people are becoming warier of our government. There are many hardworking, honest people out there who are trying to conduct reliable research, and give us accurate information, though quality information can take longer to determine and find.
Adverse reactions rare
You do not want to be that parent of a child who has an adverse vaccine reaction. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has a great search tool of all the reported adverse reactions in the United States since 1980. Since 2010, in the entire United States there has been:
• 56 adverse reactions reported to the Pentacel vaccine (the combi shot infants get three doses of that has Dtap, HIB and IPV or polio).
• 15 adverse reactions to the MMR vaccine (versus the 500-600 people that would die yearly in the 1960s before the vaccine was made per the CDC).
• 21 reactions to the Pneumovax pneumonia vaccine.
• 169 reactions to the Prevnar 13 pneumonia vaccine.
• 275 reactions to the 25 different types of flu vaccines.
These are not a large number of adverse reactions for an entire country of 327 million people over 10 years. When some parents have claimed that all vaccines cause illness, that is false information.
No link to autism
Autism makes parents nervous. Somehow the belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism is still widely shared, despite many well-done studies showing there is no correlation when at least 752,000 vaccinated and unvaccinated children were studied in Denmark and the United States over at least three years. Furthermore, the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), is an international, not-for-profit, educational organization with the mission of advancing Information Technology in Education and E-Learning research. They quote that one of the three false information topics most spread online was that vaccines cause autism. The CDC says 1 child in 88 (0.01%) has this spectrum of disabilities and it is diagnosed in most kids by the age of 3. In Washington state, it’s estimated at the high end that 12,000 people might have autism according to the Department of Health, or 0.0016% of our 7.5 million residents. The correlation of autism with the MMR vaccine has been part of a false information campaign spread on the internet and can easily be found, if you spend a few minutes searching.
I encourage everyone to try to improve your “media literacy” in this new information era and take the time to question if your information is true or false. Some simple tips from internet experts include:
• Always look at the creator and the “About Us” link and consider doing a counter search on the internet about that author.
• What is the message? Can you find the same message on multiple websites? Can you find a date, and can you determine if it is their opinion or a proven fact?
• Why was it created — was the author getting paid?
• If it is increasing your emotion about something, question if it’s true before sharing it.
Despite studies showing that once we form our beliefs, they are next to impossible to change, we should still try to scrutinize any online reading we do, so we can continue to limit the sharing of false information. This will help us care for ourselves, our families, and keep up our media literacy in this new online world.
Blue Bradley is a Certified Nurse Midwife since 2008, and has lived in the Methow Valley since 1995.