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11/23/15blog post

why I'm scared of what Justin Timberlake says

By: Dr. Patricia Abboud

“I’m not going to vaccinate my child!”

These are the scariest words for me to hear as a pediatrician. Wow! It never ceases to amaze me the misconstrued data that people believe regarding vaccinations. Science has advanced so far, yet there is this ‘false belief’ that children are being harmed by vaccines.

Unfortunately many people’s data sources are coming from celebrities instead of trusted medical sources. Celebrities tend to lead to trends…hair styles, fashion and now the latest is the choice NOT to vaccinate their children. For example a recent article just came out claiming that Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel will not vaccinate their son because they are afraid it will lead to complications!

Why is this trend happening?

Maybe because most of those that are having children grew up in a generation where diseases like polio, tetanus, even chicken pox are a thing of the past. I remember getting chicken pox and my mother cohorting my cousins and siblings together so that we could all get it ‘and be done with it.’ Some of us had a mild disease; others worse symptoms with blisters in our mouths, armpits and genitalia . It was part of growing up for my generation. My kids never had to experience it due to the vaccine in the late 1990s.

Every few months we hear of a different outbreak. Overseas in the Middle East since mid-2014 , they have been dealing with a polio outbreaks due to the contaminated water, food and sewage. This was one of the most contagious and feared diseases of the 20th Century that has paralyzed thousands of children. It was eradicated almost everywhere until the war in the region led to its reemergence.

We had one of the worst measles outbreak earlier this year in California with a total of 159 cases reported to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) from Jan 1-April 2 of 2015 linked to two Disney theme parks because of the parental choice not to vaccinate. One child’s illness leading to the rapid spread to multiple communities. This could have been prevented with a vaccine.

In recent weeks there have been advertisements on TV encouraging grandparents to get re-immunized for pertussis to protect their grandchildren from whooping cough. This illness is the most severe in infants less than 1 year of age, due to the response of their small airways to the inflammation and the very pronounced (take your breath away) cough. In my career, in 13 years of critical care medicine, I have seen three infants die from whooping cough (pertussis) and countless others hospitalized. In my opinion, three infants too many. For most of these children they are too young to have received full immunity as they haven’t received the entire series. They contract the disease from adults who get a very mild form of the illness. Expecting mothers are encouraged to get the immunization about a month or so before they deliver to decrease the risk of passing it on to their newborn.

Nothing is more distressing to watch than an infant struggling to breath like this mother in this video that recently went viral. The disease course is very prolonged from start to finish anywhere from six weeks up to 16 weeks. Sometimes there is no cough and only apnea ( cessation of breathing) that could occur in anytime day or night.

So what are parents to do?

Look to reliable sources for information. I like this handout which refers to the AAP, CDC and US department of health.

You are your child’s best advocate. Know the facts, ask questions and make informed decisions.