Today the Centers for Disease Control issues a vaccination schedule explaining that all children should get the same shots at the same time. That should alarm doctors. They’re supposed to give their patients individual care tailored to their needs. Our children deserve that.
But by taking medical decisions away from doctors, the government has made doctors less responsive to parents. As Michelle Cottle wrote in TIME on Feb. 27, her pediatrician “treated me and my husband with the sort of arrogance and unresponsiveness that, upon consulting with other moms, I’m discovering is not uncommon in parent-ped relationships.”
What is all too common is scare tactics. “Just remember that pertussis, polio, rubella, diphtheria and their friends have caused a lot more disease and suffering than autism,” my correspondent wrote. Maybe, maybe not. At its height in the ’40s and ’50s, one out of every 5,000 people contracted polio. Today the CDC says as many as one in 166 children have an autism spectrum disorder.
Sadly, we’re getting closer to Dr. Offit’s 10,000 shots at once. The government’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices declared on Feb. 21 that every child should be vaccinated against rotavirus, a disease so rare that many people haven’t even heard of it. Rotavirus does kill about 50 children each year, but more than twice that many die while simply walking or riding bikes on roads.
The CDC’s Umesh Parashar says the vaccine seems safe, but “it’s something we’ll continue to look at and hopefully confirm absence of risk.” Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Shouldn’t the vaccine be safe before we give it to newborns?
The government says children should get rotavirus doses at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months (along with the 4 or 5 vaccines they’re already getting at those times), and unfortunately pediatricians are likely to fall into lockstep with that schedule. Oh, and apropos of nothing, Dr. Paul Offit holds a patent for this rotavirus vaccine and stands to make money off its use.
The answer isn’t “let’s not vaccinate,” it’s “let’s not vaccinate against every disease all at once.” We can still give shots, but let’s give only the shots that are really needed, spread them out over time and tailor the vaccination schedule to the patient. That, doctor, is simply common sense.