What?! A doctor speaking out against pro-vaccination? No I haven’t switched to the other side but a recent headline caught my eye due to its potential to create a social crisis.
Imagine you have just had a baby and friends of yours who you know have not vaccinated her children want to come by for a visit. (see link) Do you freak out and deny them entry as Kristin Bell would suggest or do you ask a few questions (more delicately than “do your children have measles” and allow the visit to happen?
It seemed like a good opportunity to calm people’s nerves by reminding them of why it is that your Pediatrician will not offer the MMR vaccine prior to the age of 1 year. If you have been vaccinated as a child then you generally will have lifelong immunity to measles. The Centre For Disease Control claims that the immunity is 95% after one dose and virtually 100% after the booster dose to measles, mumps and rubella. If the vaccine though is so effective why not give it before a year to protect your vulnerable infant? The answer lies in the natural immunity that is passed from mother to fetus in the form of IgG antibodies that cross the placenta. These antibodies offer protection to the fetus and then newborn and may circulate in the infants bloodstream until 1 year of age. In essence your infant is protected from measles by virtue of your parents being sensible and vaccinating you when you were a child. The benefits of breastfeeding by passing on further antibody protection are additive (see link)!
So before anyone accuses me of being careless let me restate that I would not expose my own child under a year of age to a child that was suspected of having measles but I often worry about the effect of one celebrity sharing information such as this and the social isolation that may ensue for those parents who choose for whatever reason not to immunize. Let us also not forget that there are legitimate reasons for not immunizing your children and should these children be ostracized?
What are the medical indications for not immunizing a child?
The list is quite long but can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/vac-admin/contraindications-vacc.htm