3 ways to help get more children immunized

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Follow me on Twitter @drClaire

There is much to celebrate during National Infant Immunization Week this year. More than 90% of children 19 to 35 months have received all the recommended doses of vaccines for their age against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and hepatitis B — and more than 80% have received all the recommended protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, pneumococcus, and Haemophilus influenzae.

But there are also reasons to be concerned. Only 72% have had all the recommended vaccines, which means one in four children is missing at least one. Even more concerning, studies show that there are geographic clusters of underimmunized or unimmunized children — and it’s within these clusters that vaccine-preventable diseases can sprout up, and spread, quickly.

Vaccines save lives. They have dramatically decreased the incidence of many diseases that used to cause real harm and even death. Illnesses that used to be dreaded are now becoming almost forgotten. But vaccines don’t work if children don’t get them.

Here are three ways we can work together to save more lives:

1.   Make sure that all children have access to health care. It isn’t just vaccine hesitancy that gets in the way of vaccination. For many families, it’s more about not having a doctor nearby — or not having health insurance or other means of paying for health care. While there are programs that help with the cost of the vaccines themselves, they don’t cover the cost of the doctor’s visit and other well-child care that usually comes along with vaccines. Health care access and coverage is important for all aspects of child health, of course — vaccines are just one part, but an important part.

2.   Make sure that all parents have access to accurate information about vaccines. There are a lot of rumors out there, such as that vaccines cause autism (they don’t) or that spacing out vaccines is better for babies (it’s not). With the rise of the Internet, it has become easier for misinformation to spread — and once parents are afraid, that can be hard to undo. There is lots of good scientific evidence to show that vaccines are both effective and safe, and we need to do a better job of getting that information to parents. It’s not always possible to have a really full discussion at a 15-minute well-child visit, so we need to think more creatively about how we can proactively get information to parents — and make better use of social media and other communities to spread facts instead of rumors.

3.   Make sure that we understand the concerns of vaccine-hesitant parents. Research on vaccine hesitancy has shown that there are lots of different reasons why parents worry about or refuse vaccines, and just telling people it’s a good idea isn’t going to do the trick. For example, an interesting study published in Nature Human Behavior used moral foundations theory to explore how parents make decisions about vaccines, and found that vaccine-hesitant parents placed a high value on personal liberty and purity. That means that arguments about avoiding harm (by vaccinating against harmful diseases) or fairness (saying it’s not fair to put others at risk by not vaccinating) simply weren’t as important to them as their arguments that forcing them to vaccinate violates their personal liberty, or that vaccine additives are impure (this is another area where misunderstandings are common). If we want to be successful, we need to take the time to understand and address all the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy.

Ultimately, we all want the same thing: to keep our children healthy and safe. Working together, we can make that happen.

Comments:

  1. maria sobolewski

    Thank you for including reasoned comments to enhance and expand upon the original article.

  2. Bernadette Pajer

    Accurate information? Such as the author of this article, and the CDC, stating that vaccines–plural, all inclusive, any combination–do not cause autism when only MMR and thimerosal have been studied, and then only with epidemiological studies, which by their very nature cannot include or exclude causation because they aren’t designed to find individual genetic or other environmental susceptibility to vaccine exposure?

    Where are the biological studies?

    Has the author read the latest research on thimerosal? Aluminum adjuvants? Cancer researchers accidentally discovered one of the thimerosal-autism connections while searching for a substance to down-regulate ERAP1 (PMID: 27437077 ). As thimerosal was being phased out of vaccines (but it’s still in some), the number of vaccines with aluminum adjuvants rose. Studies that show show phasing out thimerosal failed to stop the rising rates of autism fail utterly to consider that the new factor — increased doses of aluminum throughout infancy–might be even more neurologically damaging to more children in more circumstances. FDA fully acknowledges the neurotoxicity of aluminum. Are the amounts of aluminum allowed in pediatric vaccines based on safety, weight, or kidney function of pediatric populations? A recent paper looked into that — the answer is no (doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2018.02.025).

    Why does this article mention the hotbed topic of autism and not mention the rise in other chronic disorders known or suspected to be associated with vaccination? Allergies, asthma, many types of autoimmune and neurological disorders. Did she see Julie Gerberding on CNN admitting that a child with mitochondrial problems could poorly respond to vaccination and develop autism symptoms? Does she know that many environmental exposures temporarily and significantly impair mitochondria, such as acetaminophen, antibiotics, 2nd hand smoke? Has she read the many IOM reports written over the past couple decades that repeatedly state there is simply not enough data—meaning no science being done–to say one way or the other whether associations exist for so many of the injuries individuals are reporting following vaccination? Why can scientists in labs can so easily induce these disorders in animals by the injection of aluminum hydroxide and antigens?

    Does this author know that the ACIP regularly makes recommendations despite the lack of safety data? Such as the recent recommendations for Shingrix and Heplisav-b, both of which contain new (different from each other) adjuvants that were not studied in any clinical trials for safety when used with other adjuvanted vaccines, yet readily admitting they would be administered with other adjuvanted vaccines? Who wants to be the first to roll up their sleeves?

    And why doesn’t the MD who wrote this article not know that “saying it’s not fair to put others at risk by not vaccinating” doesn’t work — because it’s not true. The flu vaccine does not prevent mucosal infection (PMID: 14723616) and in fact increases aerosol shedding (PMID: 29348203), the pertussis vaccine wanes in 18mos – 5 years, children who have had up to 5 pertussis vaccines are catching pertussis, and the pertussis and diphtheria vaccines cannot prevent colonization and transmission (surely, I don’t need to cite this common knowledge?) The mumps vaccine wanes in a very short time and outbreaks have been pushed into fully vaccinated young adult populations. And while measles campaigns have drastically reduced measles morbidity, measles antibodies wane, do not provide adequate passive immunity from mothers to infants, and we are moving into a post-honeymoon era where the population born before 1957 is aging and shrinking, removing those who had lifelong immunity from “the herd” and revealing the limitations of artificial immunization. And in a sad ironic twist, drug companies are now looking to patent forms of measles because it has been learned that measles can halt and heal cancer, and that childhood exposure to wild measles once conferred this protection to everyone? Might there be a better way of protecting those from poor measles infection outcomes than by increasing the risk for cancer for the entire population of planet earth?



    And how do vaccines and mass vaccination campaigns fit into all the new discoveries about the microbiome, the lymphatic system, the gut-brain connection? Vaccines were not designed with this in mind, not studied to look at their impact. So much is not known. What is known is that our children might be experiencing fewer once-common transient childhood infections but they are suffering from lifelong chronic disorders. One out of 6 has a developmental disability according to CDC.

    Many people are deciding that the “germ theory” of pharmaceutical attack on specific pathogens takes far too many victims and has far too many unintended longterm consequences–and that the “terrain theory” holds more promise for both individual and community health.

    
This is just a tiny taste of what a growing number of parents, doctors, nurses, and researchers know and continue to learn. There is no such thing as “vaccine hesitancy.” That is a marketing term created to marginalize and demonize those are informed and choose to exercise their medical freedom rights to give fully informed declination.

  3. C Rose Adams

    I didn’t vaccine my children 45 years ago. They are healthy and well educated. Well adjusted to Society and working individuals with families and they have no allergies. Through science based information. My children are choosing not to vaccinate their children.
    They have healthy children. Four children between the ages of 15 and 13.
    They are well adjust socially. And academically above average.

    The CDC has not been Honest with their research and findings on vaccines. As a whistle blower from the CDC has already confessed. The whistle blower says their findings do show vaccines cause autism. By percentage more African heritage boys have more reaction to the vaccines.
    Young woman have died taking the HPV VACCINE
    Many have been injured.
    What I see is that the parents choosing not to vaccinate are doing their research on vaccines.
    Many doctors who are doing the research don’t vaccinate their children.
    I have done my research using science based information.
    Look at all the research based information on this blog.
    Vaccines need to be safe. I believe there is a safer way to make these vaccines.
    Babies and young children should be tested for mitochondrial defects before vaccines.

  4. vinu arumugham

    More details on vaccines and food allergies
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/giving-antacids-and-antibiotics-to-babies-can-lead-to-allergies-2018041013627#comment-287765

  5. vinu arumugham

    David L,

    My son has multiple food allergies and I went through the same exercise as you.

    If your daughter received a cow’s milk protein containing vaccine, that is the most likely reason she developed dairy allergy in the first place.

    Injecting protein causes the development of allergy to that protein. Known for a hundred years.

    “We are so constituted that we can never receive other proteins into the blood than those that have been modified by digestive juices. Every time alien protein penetrates by effraction, the organism suffers and becomes resistant. This resistance lies in increased sensitivity, a sort of revolt against the second parenteral injection which would be fatal. At the first injection, the organism was taken by surprise and did not resist. At the second injection, the organism mans its defences and answers by the anaphylactic shock.”

    https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1913/richet-lecture.html

    We now know that as IgE mediated allergy.

    Even if she does not react to a cow’s milk protein containing vaccine, her dairy allergy can be boosted as described in the British Medical Journal:

    Vaccines and the development of food allergies: the latest evidence
    https://www.bmj.com/content/355/bmj.i5225/rr-0

    You are being asked to choose between vaccine preventable deadly diseases and vaccine-induced deadly diseases. No parent should ever have to make such a choice.

    “can we have dairy-free vaccines”

    The NAM committee on food allergy wrote that food allergens in vaccines are not regulated by labelling laws:

    https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23658/finding-a-path-to-safety-in-food-allergy-assessment-of

    NAM report pg.241
    “Allergens in Vaccines, Medications, and Dietary Supplements
    Physicians and patients with food allergy must consider potential food
    allergen exposures in vaccines, medications, and dietary supplement prod-ucts (e.g., vitamins, probiotics), which are not regulated by labelling laws.
    Also, excipients (i.e., substances added to medications to improve various characteristics) may be food or derived from foods (Kelso, 2014). These include milk proteins; soy derivatives; oils from sesame, peanut, fish or soy; and beef or fish gelatin. The medications involved include vaccines; anesthetics; and oral, topical, and injected medications. With perhaps the exception of gelatin, reactions appear to be rare overall, likely because little residual protein is included in the final preparation of these items. The specific risk for each medication is not known.
    Vaccines also may contain food allergens, such as egg protein or gela-
    tin.”

    So, as you found out, dairy is a declared ingredient in many vaccines. But no one can be sure that other vaccines are dairy-free due to the lack of control or regulation of allergens in vaccines.

    And of course food proteins are not the only safety problem with vaccines. Vaccines contain numerous non-target proteins that cause various diseases. Please see my other post for details:

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/3-ways-to-help-get-more-children-immunized-2018042313731#comment-287759

  6. David L

    As a father currently researching efficacy rates and safety of vaccines for my daughter, I believe the best thing that can be done to improve vaccination rates would be to provide transparency and honesty about vaccines. It is damn near impossible to find unbiased information re: vaccines. My daughter has a dairy allergy and reacts with hives when exposed to dairy. It appears that most vaccines have a dairy ingredient, and some vaccines have undisclosed dairy ingredients (supposedly). Because all vaccine ingredients are not required to be listed and are not available to the public (at least that I can find), I have apprehension about giving some of these to my little girl.

    Also, it appears there are several “scary” ingredients in some vaccines, including many known toxins. I can’t find anyone who can explain in honest terms the reason for these.

    Our pediatrician and other doctors and school administrators we have talked with don’t have answers for my questions either – they have been given talking points and obviously biased information to tell me and I don’t think they have the time to try and find answers to simple questions such as what ingredients are in these vaccines and can we have dairy-free vaccines, because the answers are not readily available.

    I am a rational and caring father who wants to do what is best for my daughter (and who hopes that coincides with what is best for society) but the truth is the lack of transparency and honesty around today’s vaccinations gives me pause and concerns me.

    Does anyone have any truthful, unbiased information that can help me out?

  7. vinu arumugham

    Vaccines save lives. But that does not make them safe.

    In the British Medical Journal:

    MMR, TBE vaccine and type 1 diabetes
    https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1378/rr-2

    Vaccine safety claims do not stand up to scrutiny
    https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1378/rr-0

    SIDS, Kawasaki Disease and narcolepsy: Same mechanism, different vaccines
    https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1378/rr-11

    New unsafe vaccines will only add to vaccine hesitancy
    https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1378/rr-10

    Influenza vaccines seem to be modifying influenza disease into a dangerous dengue-like disease
    https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1378/rr-15

    Ignoring immunotoxicity of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines, won’t make it go away
    https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1378/rr-14

    All responses:
    https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1378/rapid-responses

    Vaccines and the development of food allergies: the latest evidence
    https://www.bmj.com/content/355/bmj.i5225/rr-0

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