Many parents may be concerned about bringing their child into the pediatrician office for annual visits or vaccines, but it’s important to know providers are implementing safety precautions to ensure your family’s well-being. Especially at a time when we’re dealing with a pandemic, it’s crucial our children, particularly infants and toddlers, are growing and developing normally and receiving necessary vaccines on time. Vaccines reduce the spread of infectious diseases and are considered the most successful and cost-effective method of preventing disease and death. Alarmingly, physicians at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital have seen a drastic drop in vaccination rates at their general pediatric clinics. This poses a real danger to an outbreak of diseases that have otherwise been under control, such as whooping cough and measles. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., is the medical director of the pediatric and adolescent medicine clinic. She explains why immunizations are so important by debunking some of the top vaccine myths.
MYTH 1: It is better to have the disease than be vaccinated.
Vaccine-preventable diseases can be extremely dangerous to both children and adults. They can be debilitating and deadly diseases, and children who show up in the emergency room with fever and no immunizations require a very different workup than a child who is fully immunized. Vaccinated children also help protect those who are most at risk, such as infants who have not reached the appropriate vaccine age and those with depressed immune systems (patients treated for cancer, for example).
MYTH 2: Vaccines have too many side effects and weaken the immune system
Vaccines are one of the most effective methods of fighting diseases and actually prime the immune system. Reactions to vaccines are typically minor, but could include fever or redness, swelling or soreness at the site where the shot was given. If your child presents with more serious symptoms, call your doctor. While a shot may cause minor pain for your child, it is nothing compared to the suffering of a potentially deadly disease.
MYTH 3: Vaccines cause autism
The most common reason parents refuse vaccines is a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield which suggested that the MMR vaccine led to autism in children. Many of the world’s major medical organizations have dismissed the study because of false data. Today’s latest research shows factors such as genetics, issues with the mother’s pregnancy and brain abnormalities are more likely to lead to autism – not immunizations.
MYTH 4: I believe in vaccines, but it’s safer to wait until my child is over 1 year of age.
This is an extremely dangerous practice as it leaves children susceptible to infections that would be otherwise preventable, such as whooping cough, which could led to infant death. It is imperative to follow the vaccine schedule developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is based upon scientific research. Children should receive recommended immunizations by age 2 to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases. For more information, visit: CDC.gov/Vaccines
For more pediatric healthcare news, visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/newsroom.
About Dr. Rachel Dawkins: Dr. Dawkins is medical director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinics in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Department of Pediatric Medicine, seeing patients as a pediatrician in St. Petersburg. She also is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Dr. Dawkins is active nationally with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Board of Pediatrics. Her research and teaching interests are in childhood resilience, advocacy, resident education and obesity.
She earned her medical degree at the University of Miami. She completed her residency at Louisiana State University, where she also completed a year as chief resident. As a faculty member at LSU, Dr. Dawkins spent six years as an associate program director for the pediatric residency program.