Over the last decade, concerned parents have been raising questions regarding the safety of common childhood vaccines, such as those against measles, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and many other diseases. One of the rumors persistently resurfacing on the web and in the social media is a speculated link between childhood vaccines and autism. Also, some people erroneously believe that, letting children suffer common childhood diseases is harmless and may strengthen their immune systems. We asked Dr. Christian Heesch for answers.
“First”, Dr. Christian Heesch states, “I would like to make it clear that I am not a pediatrician, nor am I an infectious disease specialist. I am, by training, an internist and cardiovascular specialist. Having said that, I have taken care of quite a few children with common childhood infections in situations where there was no specialist around. From that experience, I can tell you that these diseases can be devastating. Working in a rural hospital in West-Africa, in a region where measles vaccination had not been routinely available to many, I once attended to a woman in her 20s and her infant child. Both of them had measles: the mother died, and the child died – it was awful.”
“We need to consider that many infectious childhood diseases may not take a ‘routine’ and benign course, but can have severe complications which, in turn, can lead to permanent disability and death ”, Dr. Christian Heesch continued. “As an example, mumps can lead to meningitis or orchitis. Some childhood infections can be complicated by pneumonia or permanent nerve damage. The list of potential bad outcomes goes on and on. Fortunately, since the advent of routine childhood vaccination programs, millions of cases of needless suffering and many thousands of cases of death or permanent disability have likely been prevented.”
We asked Dr. Christian Heesch about the autism rumors: “There is absolutely no credible evidence at all to suggest that childhood vaccines cause autism”, Dr. Christian Heesch states categorically. “On rare occasions, autism happens to be diagnosed around the time a child just happened to have received a vaccination, for example one of the vaccinations of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination series. This is nothing but coincidence. MMR vaccinations are scheduled during childhood, and autism is often first diagnosed during childhood, completely unrelated to whether or not a child received any vaccinations.”
Dr. Christian Heesch told us: “As parents educate themselves about these issues using internet searches, it is important that they obtain their information from trustworthy sources of information. There is plenty of “evidence” for anything and everything on the web, including billions of pieces of misinformation. I recommend that concerned parents visit the website of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention that deals with vaccine related questions at www.cdc.gov/vaccines” General interest articles suggested by Dr. Christian Heesch also include www.mayoclinic.org/healthy.../infant-and-toddler-health/.../.. and www.wsj.com/.../the-return-of-the-vaccine-wars-..., both of which address the vaccine-autism myth.
Author: Robert Strong