I am writing this article in response to Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt’s op-ed in the October 26 issue of The Jewish Press, “Dying From Measles In 2018: The Anti-Vaccination Disgrace.”
I am sure Dr. Glatt’s essay came from his heart, and I know he is a very knowledgeable physician, specializing in infectious diseases. However, Dr. Glatt’s attitude and approach to people he calls “anti-vaxxers” is what gave rise to the anti-vaccination movement in the first place.
He, and others in the medical community, need to understand that “anti-vaxxers” are good people; they are caring, compassionate, and intelligent. Their approach comes from the heart – and incomplete knowledge. But when you tout all vaccines for all people, and claim there are no side effects, they know that can’t be true, so they don’t believe anything you tell them.
These people are genuinely worried that vaccines can harm their children – more so than the diseases they prevent. You need to acknowledge their fears and educate them truthfully.
Tell them that the government has a Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, so we would know if vaccines consistently were associated with bad side effects. Acknowledge that when the first Rotavirus vaccine was approved by the FDA and recommended for general use in infants, it took only about a year to find that there was an increased rate of intussusception (an intestinal blockage) in recipients, and it was taken off the market.
Acknowledge that the old DPT vaccine often led to febrile seizures, perhaps potentiated other seizure disorders, and had other serious side effects. Tell them the government compensates victims of serious vaccine side effects, and that those from the DPT vaccine top the list. Then explain that the new DPaT vaccine possesses almost none of these problems.
Educate them that the “P” of the vaccine protects against pertussis, or whooping cough, which although we have antibiotics to treat, needs to be caught early for medication to be effective. Let them know that immunity to pertussis is not lifelong, so adults who seem to have simple colds may actually have whooping cough, and pass it on to babies.
Acknowledge that the flu vaccine for the past few years has only been about 35 percent effective. And that the flu vaccine is different each year, so we don’t always know the side effects of any particular year’s vaccine until later in the fall. Offer to wait until later in the season before recommending the shot, so they can evaluate the efficacy and side effects better. Also, remind them that we can treat the flue with medication, but it needs to be started within 48 hours of symptoms showing.
Acknowledge that a study did, indeed, link the MMR vaccine to autism. Then educate them that the physician who authored that study admitted he made up the data, and lost his license to practice medicine. Teach them that when England stopped giving the MMR after that study was published, the rates of autism did not decrease at all.
Admit that even with two doses of vaccine, there isn’t 100 percent immunity. Then explain that that’s why we need 90 percent of people to be vaccinated – to prevent a measles epidemic and deaths.
Offer a blood test for immunity three months after the first MMR, and agree that if a child is immune, he/she won’t need a second shot. Then remind parents that we don’t have any antibiotics to treat measles, and that even if you recover from measles, you can get a degenerative neurological disease that leads to death 6-8 years later.
Surely Dr. Glatt agrees that an immunocompromised child cannot receive the MMR vaccine or any other live vaccine. The risks are too great. If a parent honestly believes a vaccine poses a greater risk than the disease it is designed to prevent, that parent has to refuse vaccinations for his or her child due to “v’nishmartem l’nafshoseichem, as Dr. Glatt wrote.
Over the past 30 years, I have had the pleasure and honor of taking care of many children whose parents had concerns about vaccinations. Dr. Glatt would lump them all into the disparaging category of “anti-vaxxers.” But every single one of my patients has had his or her measles vaccine.