IHA - Local whooping cough cases highlight safety and necessity of vaccines for children
A 6-year-old child recently came to the office because his mother thought he had been coughing for a long time, certainly more than with a common cold. He also had a cough that seemed unusual; his coughing spells would be quite long, and it would be a few moments until he took a breath. He never had a fever, and he was never short of breath. He was going on his third week with the cough, and, in the last few days, his father began to cough also.
In the office, a small swab was used to a a culture of secretions for the lab. The results came back positive for pertussis. He was placed on a five-day course of antibiotics, kept out of school for five days, and in several days his cough started to improve.
There is currently an outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in our community. This is a potentially very serious illness for young children and, in fact, can be fatal for infants. The disease is caused by the bacteria Bordetella Pertussis. Protection against this illness is acquired in the series of immunizations given to infants and young children. In the last several years, the vaccine has been part of a vaccine given to older children and adults. Unfortunately, the number of unimmunized or under immunized children combined with the loss of immunity in adults has contributed to the current outbreak.
Pediatricians across the country strongly support the vaccination of children according to the vaccine schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. These vaccines offer protection against very serious diseases which can cause severe illnesses and even death in infants and children.
Myths and misinformation have created unnecessary fears and concerns for parents who are trying to decide whether or not to vaccinate their child. We know the following to be true.
Vaccines are safe. Thimerosal, which is a preservative, does not cause and has never been proven to cause autism nor other neurological illness. In fact, there have been a couple of large scale studies that showed that children who received vaccines with Thimerosal had fewer neurological problems years later than those who received the Thimerosal-free vaccine. With the exception of some preparations of the seasonal flu vaccine, all of the standard childhood immunizations have been Thimerosal-free for several years.
There has been heightened fear for years that Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine could cause autism. This rumor was started by faulty research in England on a very small number of patients. In short, the research was invalidated, pulled from the scientific literature and the scientists lost their jobs. MMR vaccine is safe and essential for preventing these serious illnesses.
Delayed and protracted immunization schedules put infants at risk for serious illnesses, and there is no proven value in giving single immunizations over a period of time. In our own community, we have had infants with potentially deadly bacterial illness which could have been prevented had these kids been immunized in a proper, timely manner. The author proposing the delayed schedule offers anecdotal but no scientific evidence for delaying and changing the schedule of vaccines. Childhood vaccines are tested using tens of thousands of patients and the schedules for their use are derived from the duration of time it takes to develop what is considered adequate immunity to the bacteria.
Families who do not immunize their children place other children and adults in our community at risk for serious and potentially fatal illnesses. The diverse nature of our population in the Ann Arbor area and our proximity to a major international airport increases the number of potential exposures to communicable diseases in the community.
Many pediatricians and family practitioners in our area and the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend the immunization of children in the state with the full series of recommended vaccines according to the schedule of the AAP. As pediatricians, we encourage parents to seek factual information about vaccines from reliable sites such as the AAP (www.AAP.org), the Center for Disease Control (www.CDC.gov), and the National Institute of Health (www.NIH.gov). Please make sure to ask your pediatrician any questions you have about vaccines and their safety. They are essential for the health of children and the community.
Neal Weinberg, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and the founding partner of IHA Pediatric Healthcare - Arbor Park. Dr. Weinberg has extensive experience in pediatric care with special interest in caring for premature infants and children with complex problems, the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, as well as in helping children and families affected by ADD, ADHD and other learning disabilities. IHA Pediatric Healthcare - Arbor Park is located at 4936 W. Clark Rd., Suite 101, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. Dr. Weinberg can be reached at 734.434.3000. For more information please visit www.ihacares.com.