Q. My friends are telling me not to vaccinate my children because they may cause autism. Is this true? Can vaccines make my children sick?

A. We are privileged to live in an age where vaccine-preventable deaths are rare. Phenomenal reductions in illness have been achieved in the last 50 years, including a 99% reduction in hemophilus influenzae (formerly the leading cause of meningitis in children under 5), a 99% reduction in measles, a 100% reduction in polio, and a 100% reduction in congenital rubella. Prior to these reductions, it was common to see children devastated by these illnesses. The fall out of the success of vaccinations, however, is that the natural illness is rarely seen, so parents are unaware of how critically ill their child can become without them. To compound the difficulty, there was an article in The Lancet journal a number of years ago written by English doctor Andrew Wakefield that associated the MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccine with autism. This has produced persistent fear in parents, although it was subsequently proved to be untrue by numerous studies conducted in this country. In fact, falsified data led to the revoking of Wakefield’s medical license, the removal of his co-investigators’ names from the paper, and the removal of the article from the journal altogether. Other parental concerns regarding vaccinations have included “overwhelming the immunity.” This is ironic, because vaccines are highly purified and have a limited number of antigens (particles that cause a child’s immune system to react). Additionally, a prevailing opinion in allergy literature is that children are experiencing more allergic disease today because they are not exposed to enough antigens.

Marian May, M.D.

Highland Pediatrics

Beacon Health Physicians

4519 Hixson Pike

Hixson, TN 37343

(423) 877-4591