HMG Health Matters: Childhood vaccines

HMG Health Matters

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- Childhood vaccines have come under fire. What was once a routine part of a well-child visit may be questioned, and sometimes refused.

Some parents are concerned with the safety of childhood vaccines, saying the shots have caused their children irreparable harm.

We went to the experts at Holston Medical Group to get their take on vaccines, and what they call the bad science behind the initial panic.

The first question asked to Holston Medical Group pediatrician Dr. Sarah Smiddy-Youssef — Do vaccines cause autism in children?  Her answer: “No. Definitively, no.” 

It’s a controversial topic Smiddy-Youssef says started with a study that tied the measles mumps rubella vaccine, or mmr, to an autism diagnosis.  That study was later discredited, and the study’s lead author punished.

Smiddy-Youssef says, “Since that time, the study has been totally discredited, he (the lead author) lost his medical license, and there have been dozens of studies looking at the Measles Mumps Rubell (MMR) vaccine in hundreds of thousands.  One of them had 500 thousand kids in it, that totally debunked the idea that there is a link between vaccines and autism. So, I think as a medical community, we can say with the utmost certainty there is no link between autism and vaccines.”

Smiddy-Youssef says the removal of Thimerasol in 1999 has helped alleviate some concerns, but she says some parents worry if their baby can handle the amount of vaccines at such a young age.  

“Assuming that they’re not born prematurely, they get a bunch of antibodies through the mom and that gives them some natural immunity, but that natural immunity only lasts a few months,” Smiddy-Youssef says.  “So people say, ‘why are you giving my tiny little baby all of these vaccines?’ Because they have some immunity from mom, and we want to replace that immunity with vaccines at two, four, and six months.  So, hopefully those antibody levels stay high and they don’t get sick.”

She adds healthy children who are vaccinated actually help those who cannot receive the vaccinations.

“There are children who are legitimately allergic to vaccines, and that’s a separate issue that we deal with,” Smiddy-Youssef says.  “But, that’s another reason we encourage healthy children to be vaccinated.  It helps our patients who cannot receive vaccinations because they are getting chemotherapy, or they’re allergic, to be protected if more of their peers are vaccinated and less of the disease is out there in the community.”

Smiddy-Youssef says the resurgence of a once-eliminated highly infectious disease shows the need to vaccinate.

“We’re lucky in the US, because we’ve had high vaccination rates, we have a lot of sanitation to which we don’t see that many diseases,” she says.  “But, if we don’t vaccinate we’ll see them again. (As we are right now with measles). Yes.”

Bottom line, Smiddy-Youssef says it’s okay for parents to have questions.  She says she and her fellow doctors are eager to address any concerns parents have about vaccinating their children and preventing serious illness.

“I think there’s a lot of people that just have questions they want to ask somebody about,” she says.  “If they’re safe, or ‘I heard this, can you tell me about this specific thing that I’ve heard.’  Then, we can address those questions and I think people feel better.  They know the reasoning behind it, and why we do it the way we do it.”

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has a schedule of vaccines for infants and children.

You can find more about immunization schedules on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website HERE.

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