We bring this up because we have a number of families in our practice who choose not to vaccinate because they don’t trust the medical establishment. They may not trust the researchers who do the studies, the corporations that produce the vaccines, and/or the government organizations that make the recommendations for or against vaccines.
In response, we have to acknowledge the imperfections of the current medical environment. We recognize that conflicts of interest exist and that research is sometimes funded by pharmaceutical corporations. We understand that these corporations want to sell more vaccines in order to make money. We see that many organizations seem to favor public health issues over those of individual families.
And we know that the medical establishment is sometimes wrong. We have been practicing long enough to see some of these mistakes, to see what was once gospel truth repudiated, replaced by a diametrically opposite opinion. An example of a literal 180-degree shift is the recommendation to have babies sleep on their backs. For years doctors told parents to let their young babies sleep on their tummies in order to protect them from reflux and aspiration. However, experts now believe that sleeping on the back is safer because studies show it decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 50 percent. Physicians now strongly encourage parents to put babies on their backs to sleep.
So medicine is not perfect. But we still believe in the process. We still believe in using good science and good-quality, unbiased studies to guide decisions. Maybe not one study or two studies, but if many independent studies point in the same direction, it suggests the truth is in that direction. Furthermore, we believe that most people are trying to do a good job, that they want to make effective vaccines, and that they don’t want to make mistakes.
And we believe in the public health organizations that make the vaccine recommendations. They are trying to protect children and keep them healthy. In the late 1990s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that a certain rotavirus vaccine be pulled from the market because it had an increased risk of a certain kind of bowel obstruction. The absolute increase in risk was low, but it was enough to recommend against the vaccine. This action reassured us that the CDC was not simply an automatic rubber stamp in favor of all vaccines.