Vaccination Hesitation: Truths and Myths

The topic of childhood immunization can bring strong reactions from patients as well as physicians. We talk with Gregory Sonnen, M.D., pediatrician at Pediatric & Adolescent Specialists of Rockwall, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, about the truths and myths surrounding vaccines.

Myth: Childhood vaccines are linked to autism or other chronic conditions.

Truth: According to Dr. Sonnen, the scientist who published an article linking certain vaccinations to autism in children was later found to be a fraud — the article was retracted because he used false data. Since then, multiple studies have found no connection between autism and immunizations.

Myth: My child does not need to be vaccinated because measles, mumps, rubella and other vaccine-preventable diseases are not found in my community.

Truth: “Herd immunity, or the idea that an entire community is protected against a certain disease, only stays in place as long as a certain percentage of people are vaccinated,” Dr. Sonnen says. “We also know it’s extremely important to vaccinate school-age children — there’s research to show that elementary school infections of diseases can infect an entire community. A high vaccination rate for children can knock out the connection point for vaccine-preventable diseases, including the flu.”

Myth: I can use a delayed schedule of vaccines to keep my child safe from potentially deadly diseases while not overwhelming her immune system.

Truth: “I advise parents to follow the vaccine schedule published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Dr. Sonnen says. “Certain other physicians or sources on the Internet may offer a different opinion, but I encourage parents to dig into the scientific data available. Is the safety and effectiveness of an alternative schedule someone’s opinion, or is it based on research?”

The Bottom Line

“Vaccines are so important for children,” Dr. Sonnen says. “Childhood vaccinations are the No. 1 medical advancement of the 20th century. Immunization has improved our public health more than anything else, including improved public sanitation. We need to keep vaccinating because we have a global community — people travel across continents regularly, and they go to places where vaccine-preventable diseases are endemic. We’ve seen resurgences of these diseases in certain parts of the United States, and the hot spots are areas of the country where there is a higher incidence of vaccine delay and refusal.”

A pediatrician with Texas Health can help discuss any vaccination concerns you may have. To find a pediatrician near you, visit THPG.org.

Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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