This is part of a three-part series delving into the issue of vaccination and the debate surrounding it. Find the rest of the series here.
By Briana Vannozzi
“At the end of the day vaccines prevent disease. That’s all that they do and that’s the end of the story,” said Summit Medical Group Pediatrician Dr. David Levine.
It’s the call being heard around the nation — from doctors, from health experts, from moms. In the wake of the measles outbreak — 88 confirmed cases and growing — the debate to vaccinate has pulled up a chair at many kitchen tables. With more resources than ever feeding parental decisions, doctors have found their role increasingly crucial.
“The very first thing I tell them is not to Google anything because Doctor Google is not your friend,” said Levine.
Claims that vaccines are linked to autism or other autoimmune diseases reached a peak around 2006, after big name celebrities came out with books and articles discrediting the medications.
“A lot more parents were coming in worried about it. They were refusing the MMR vaccination because of that, but over the years that has started to die down,” Levine said.
“People want answers. They want somewhere or something to pinpoint it onto and until they get that I don’t know if that notion will really ever go away,” said Lauren Fernandez.
Mom of two, Fernandez is having her children fully immunized.
“I think it’s important that people are getting their information from the right sources and not necessarily from the hearsay,” Fernandez said.
But says articles, both pop-culture and scientific, can cause a parent to question the safety. State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan said, “There have been many, many studies that have been convened and looked at by the Institute of Medicine, by the American Academy of Pediatrics that basically again always point toward the evidence showing that these vaccines are safe and effective.”
Not everyone is convinced.
“When I was younger, you know 25, 30 years ago, we got a lot less vaccinations than we do now and now we see an increase in kids’ allergies,” said mother Kristen Russell.
“More and more vaccinations are continually being added to the schedule and no studies have been done to see how all these vaccines react with each other, how they may affect the efficacy of each vaccine,” said Sue Collins.
As the co-founder of New Jersey’s Coalition for Vaccination Choice, Collins says it’s important parents are presented with all sides.
“For me it definitely was just part of our lifestyle,” Collins.
In New Jersey vaccination rates are high, above 90 percent. Dr. Levine says with so many competing sources for information, it’s hard to convince parents once they’ve made up their mind either way.
“Now everybody nowadays thinks that they’re a doctor and that they know best, but the truth of the matter is even though I’m a mom, I’m not a doctor so you know you have to be able to trust, trust that other people know what they’re doing,” Fernandez said.