It occurred to me that there may be some confusion among parents about childhood immunizations and their timely administration after the most recent Republican presidential candidate debate.
First, as stated by Dr. Ben Carson in that debate, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to relate immunizations to autism. None!
Second, in order to insure that children are immunized in a timely fashion and to minimize the time that children are not protected from serious diseases, several vaccines are given at the same time. There is no evidence that this is harmful or that it reduces the immune response in the child. It does insure that children are provided protection as early as possible.
Let me now point out from my personal experience as a pediatrician, the seriousness of the diseases that we are now miraculously able to prevent with immunizations. When I first began caring for children we still had patients on iron lungs because of paralysis from polio. Smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979 by the extensive use of the smallpox vaccine.
In the early days of my pediatric training and practice and prior to newer vaccines, I personally helped care for seven children who died from complications occurring with measles. There was no treatment for measles and its complications, as is true today, so all that we could do was provide symptomatic and supportive care. 1-3 children out of every 1,000 cases in a measles epidemic will die from its complications.
Also, during my training we often saw severely ill young children with diphtheria or whooping cough and even though vaccines to prevent these diseases were available they were not readily available in the remote areæs where they lived.
Almost every year here in Laurinburg where I practiced for many years there were epidemics of measles, mumps, and chickenpox and there were often cases of pneumonia, encephalitis, or other complications from these diseases. In one year at Scotland Memorial Hospital I treated 13 children with bacterial meningitis, an extremely serious illness that is rarely seen these days because of immunizations.
I was pleased when the measles vaccine became available in the 1960s. The same is true for the Hib vaccine, which became available in the late 1980s and prevented severe illnesses like bacterial meningitis as do the pneumococcal and meningococcal vaccines. It is wonderful that younger pediatricians rarely see these problems anymore because of immunizations. Some of the pediatricians in the practice that I started have never seen a case ol’ measles because of immunizations.
Immunizations are one of the greatest public health achievements in the history of medicine.
Every single child deserves the protection of all the recommended childhood immunizations.
William Purcell is a retired pediatrician and former state senator. He lives in Laurinburg.