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Letter: Vaccines prevent far more problems than they create

Although I am a strong proponent of vaccine administration, I agree with vaccine opponents on two points. Vaccines (rarely) cause serious side effects; and motivated readers should make up their own minds about whether the benefits are worth the risks.

I urge readers to base their decision on rigorous science rather than newspaper ads. Anyone with internet access can do this. On Thanksgiving, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the most prestigious medical journal in the world, used big data to conclude that vaccination programs for children in the United States have prevented more than 100 million cases of serious contagious disease and 3 million to 4 million deaths since 1924. The data also demonstrate a clear resurgence of serious childhood diseases such as whooping cough when immunization rates drop. Although access to the Journal requires a subscription, the Nov. 29 issue of the New York Times offers an excellent summary of the article as well as a fascinating video at tinyurl.com/lqvcv2p.

In deciding whether these remarkable benefits are worth the risks, one might review an article in the Atlantic magazine that uses FDA data to estimate the rate of serious vaccine side effects at six per million doses administered. This article is available at tinyurl.com/7gpdyac.

Combining the data from these two articles suggests that vaccines prevent more than 2,000 serious diseases for every serious side effect they might cause. Concerned readers might ask: Given these odds, what is the best choice for my children and for myself?

Dr. JOEL C. BERMAN

Concord

(The writer is immediate past chief medical information officer at Concord Hospital.)

Legacy Comments1

It’s great to see support for informed consent. I too believe it is the right of every individual or parent to make up their own minds whether the benefits are worth the risks. Everyone should be making an informed decision when it comes to vaccination. And no one should be forced by state law or a government agency to submit to vaccination. This is a medical decision between an informed individual and their doctor. Government mandates are both unnecessary and inappropriate. It is time they were repealed. But I don’t agree with the doctor’s opinion that vaccines prevent more problems than they create. The risk for any one individual is really unknown. I’m familiar with the mathematical calculations and projections of disease prevention. Such calculations, however, are not scientific evidence of credit due to vaccines. Again we see another statement of misinformation about whooping cough (pertussis). There is no scientific basis for the claim that a reduction in vaccination for pertussis has any blame for recent outbreaks. In fact the science and evidence shows that the highly vaccinated population is at greater risk for whooping cough and could very well be contributory to these outbreaks. Those who are vaccinated are shown to be silent carriers of the disease by scientific research. So all those relatives who got vaccinated against pertussis to protect a family newborn baby may in fact unknowingly share the illness. On the other hand, an unvaccinated individual will show more obvious signs of illness and know enough to stay away. This separation of the sick from the healthy is one of the best methods for preventing disease spread. Yup. Please stay home when you are sick. And more damning evidence against the pertussis vaccine came over Thanksgiving. That week an entire school district in Ohio was shut down because of pertussis. It was the highly vaccinated students who were developing pertussis, not the adult staff in the schools and no one in the general public. Just what is it about repeated vaccination that appears to make adolescents most susceptible? Don’t you want to know? And with this trend continuing, is pushing additional vaccine doses really the best and safest policy? If you are looking for full information about disease and vaccines, I highly recommend the National Vaccine Information Center at www.nvic.org.

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