Your Doctor is the Best Source of Information About Kids and Vaccines
April 20, 2021
There is nothing more exciting -- or more intimidating -- than discovering you are going to be a parent.
The weight of responsibility that rests on the word ‘parent’ is difficult to comprehend until you are faced with it. There are so many questions to answer and decisions to be made. What type of birth am I going to have? Will I breast feed or bottle feed? Where will the baby sleep in those early weeks? and Will I vaccinate my baby?
One thing we can agree on: The vast majority of parents really want to do what is best for their child. But what is best? Who picks what is best? These can be difficult questions to answer.
New parents and parents-to-be naturally turn to their trusted friends and family and perhaps to medical providers they already know and trust. But increasingly, parents turn to the internet for answers.
And the internet is full of useful and helpful information -- not just what experts say and recommend, but also what other people do and what works for them. Every parent understands the reassurance of finding a blog from another parent about how difficult handling a colicky baby is! It helps to know that other people are going through the same difficult things we are experiencing.
But while the internet can be helpful, it can also be harmful. One of the most basic lessons that we so often forget of the internet is that anyone can say anything they want without it having to be true. You cannot always trust what you read on the internet. This is especially true around such fraught topics as whether to vaccinate your child.
Myths Breed Unfounded Fears
While vaccine hesitancy has existed since vaccines were invented, it has only been in the internet age that the idea of vaccinating your child has become so extremely controversial. The myths and lies being spread about vaccines on the internet are legion and it can be difficult for someone with little or no science training to parse out truth from lie. And some of the lies being spread about vaccines on the internet sound so scary that it is no wonder parents become fearful of vaccines.
For many parents, turning to their pediatrician, who they are entrusting as a partner in the complicated business of raising healthy children, is the most obvious next step. Hearing that vaccines are safe and effective directly from someone trained expressly in the medical care of children provides the reassurance that many parents need to move forward with vaccinating their children.
Unfortunately, for some parent-pediatrician relationships, the misinformation on the internet is too compelling and creates a lack of trust for the parent, making it hard to continue getting care from the same pediatrician.
There are a lot of theories on the best ways to combat the spread of misinformation on the internet, but the most fundamental and basic thing we can all continue to do is to simply restate the facts.
Vaccines are extremely safe, extremely effective and extremely well-studied. There are very, very, very few reasons why the vast majority of children cannot get all the recommended vaccines on the recommended schedule.
You are the expert on your child and your pediatrician is the expert on the medical care of children. Working together, you can reach the goal of raising healthy, happy children.
Amy Edwards, MD, is a pediatric infectious disease specialist and Associate Medical Director, Pediatric Infection Control, at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
Initial research suggests that fewer children than adults develop fever, cough, or shortness of breath or need hospitalization with COVID-19. However, severe illness has been reported in children with COVID-19 -- most often in infants younger than a year old. Learn more about the impact of coronavirus in children and young adults.