By Janani Narumanchi, MD
Immunizations – the word evokes different emotions and responses in various people. As a pediatrician and a mother, I am a strong supporter of immunizations. I also know people who question the necessity of immunizations, given that we haven’t seen some of the illnesses in a very long time. This is an ongoing discussion, and I welcome it because the dialogue helps me learn more about vaccines and why we need them.
As soon as my family and I returned from a Disneyland vacation last year, we heard the news about a measles outbreak occurring there. Even though we all were fully immunized, we did pause for a moment to see if the outbreak occurred at the Disneyland location we visited. Vaccinations not only protect our children, but they also limit the spread of a disease. I noticed some kids who were at Disneyland as part of a Make a Wish Foundation gift. These children may not have been able to receive live vaccines due to their medical condition. One or more of them could have gotten a devastating illness from what was supposed to be a fun vacation.
Vaccines are among the best public health initiatives we have. The current generation of doctors has not seen illnesses like epiglottitis, polio, or smallpox because of today’s excellent vaccines. Once upon a time, these illnesses caused a lot of devastation, and when the first vaccines were developed, people waited in line to get them because they had an ill friend or family member, and they didn’t want to get sick too.
Today, we worry more about the safety of vaccines rather than the illnesses themselves. We sometimes forget that vaccines help prevent and decrease the chances of a lethal outcome or a lifetime of suffering. Vaccines also reduce the chances of ear infections and pneumonia, decreasing the need for antibiotics and bacterial drug resistance.
Be open to a discussion about the risks and benefits of vaccines with your healthcare provider. Physicians also need to be receptive to discussing vaccines and be able to answer your questions. By promoting open discussion and giving you an opportunity to ask questions, perhaps we can resolve any doubts that you or your family members might have about vaccines. Sometimes, your questions will enable us, the physicians, to keep learning and educating ourselves about why we need vaccines and recommend them to you.
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