Patients frequently ask me for advice on newborn care. “Who should I pick as my child’s pediatrician?” “What type of breast pump is best?” “Disposable or cloth diapers?”
I’m also asked about more controversial topics like breast versus bottle, circumcision, and co-sleeping. My aim in these discussions is to point out that decisions such as these are often very personal and are best made by parents based on what works for them as a couple and a family.
There is one other question that I am frequently asked. “Should I vaccinate my child?” On this one I do not debate and I do not hesitate when I answer, “Yes. Absolutely.”
Friends and patients who know me more personally often question my stance on vaccines, “But you have a child with autism — how can you believe in vaccines?” For me the answer is simple, vaccines do not cause autism.
This unfortunate and widely believed myth was started in 1998, when now-discredited physician Andrew Wakefield published a study linking the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) to autism in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet.
Not only was this study based on weak data, but it was found that Wakefield manipulated his findings. The Lancet retracted his paper, and Wakefield lost his medical license. No other study has ever been able to replicate his supposed findings or find any correlation between vaccines and autism.
Unfortunately, outspoken celebrities like Jenny McCarthy propagated the anti-vaccine movement, and there exists a contingent of parents who continue to reject science and refuse to vaccinate their children. Now the United States is facing a measles outbreak.
Thanks to the anti-vaccine movement, a disease that was, in 2000, declared eliminated in the U.S., is now spreading throughout the country. We are losing “herd immunity”, which is the result of vaccinating the majority of a population against a disease. The “herd” of vaccinated people will prevent the disease from spreading to those who are too young or unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.
A few months ago all anyone could talk about was the Ebola virus and how to protect this country from an epidemic, but this only distracted from a more pressing and truly widespread public health issue. Diseases such as measles and whooping cough — once considered eradicated — are making a comeback. Why? Because a growing number of people choose to follow a movement based in fear mongering.
Ignorance and unwillingness to accept hard science puts others at risk — those who have no choice like babies too young to receive vaccines, those who are allergic, and those who are too medically fragile or immunosuppressed.
If science is not to be trusted, history has proven that vaccines do work to eradicate deadly diseases. Vaccines have been proven safe and effective — a lifesaving jewel of preventative medicine.
As a midwife and as an autism mom, I refuse to let patients believe that vaccination is a choice that deserves any sort of pondering. Everyone who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated.
Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.