Vaccines Are Good Things

Safety and importance of vaccines take center stage in addressing parent vaccination fears

(RxWiki News) Two Missouri pediatricians are on a mission: help doctors respond to parents' fears about vaccinations while pointing out the importance of the potentially life-saving shots.

The two pediatricians, Dr. Ken Haller and Dr. Anthony Scalzo, from St. Louis co-authored an article aimed at helping their colleagues explain the science of vaccines to their patients.

"Vaccinate your child. It's safe and important."

They also hope to give fellow doctors tools for clarifying the confusing mixed messages from the media that sometimes lead parents to skip or delay some or all their children's vaccines.

Their article, "I've Heard Some Things That Scare Me: Responding With Empathy to Parents' Fears of Vaccinations," appeared in the January/February 2012 issue of Missouri Medicine, the Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association.

"We want to encourage pediatricians to go beyond the science around vaccines - which is unequivocally on our side - and express our own fears about the clear and present danger that these diseases present to babies and young children," Haller said.

He said doctors have not always been effective at addressing parents' concerns because they make assumptions about parents' knowledge or motives.

Many doctors simply dismiss parents' fears instead of acknowledging that it's sensible and appropriate for parents to have concerns about their children's health and safety, according to Haller.

He adds that taking their fears more seriously and answering them more appropriately will build trust between the parents and the pediatricians that may make the parents less likely to trust anti-vaccine advocates instead.

"Parents and physicians want the same thing - to keep children safe and healthy," Haller said. "But we can only do that if our fears are based in reality."

Despite fears about the safety of various routine vaccinations provided to children, dozens of peer-reviewed studies have found vaccines to be remarkably safe.

While severe adverse events can and do occur following a vaccination, they are extremely rare and usually not life-threatening, according to these studies and a series of extensive, non-industry-funded reports published by the Institute of Medicine over the past decade.

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Review Date: 
February 4, 2012