Jeffrey A. Hirschfield, MD CPI
03 Dec 2016
As a pediatrician I teach students and colleagues to be effective communicators. The confidence in your message to parents about vaccine safety leaves a lasting impression. What parents read about online about vaccines heavily impacts their current views and shapes their decisions. I rarely get through an entire prenatal visit without being asked by parents what my thoughts are on vaccines and are the vaccines safe.
I inquire from parents about their personal feelings, experiences, or apprehensions about vaccines when asked to help. I address questions using examples throughout my professional career revealing how vaccine safety should not and rarely ever results in an ER visit. In over 20 years of administering tens of thousands of childhood doses I can confidently say that I have not had a single serious adverse event case. Your parent vaccine discussions covering potential short-lived side effects will empower your parents.
I provide information on how pediatric practices dramatically changed as a result of effective vaccination programs. My past and current experiences allow me to speak about 3 children I saw die as a young pediatric resident in the late 1990’s. These horrific memories of childhood death and families torn apart impacted me immensely. Just several years later in 2000, we saw the launch of Prevnar, a vaccine against Strep pneumoniae meningitis contributing to its near complete eradication in childhood. As a private practice pediatrician for nearly 20 years, we can say it is exceedingly rare to see pneumococcal meningitis happening in children and science paved the way.
I discuss some brief information about the construct of the vaccines illustrating vaccine purity and improvements in safety. As a result of scientific discovery resulting in improved formulations we see few safety issues. For example, I speak about numbers showing how the combined vaccines administered in the 1970’s contained 30,000 unique “immune stimulating proteins” in comparison to <300 now. Forty years later and with few added vaccines and boosters in the current childhood vaccine schedule they are much safer.
Parents trust and respect their pediatricians if their pediatricians listen to them and their children. I am confident that my families walk away from discussions learning more about themselves and from them I learn to be a better physician and teacher. All of us deserve to be satisfied healthcare consumers and each one of us hopefully makes a prudent decision to listen and educate. Assisting families toward making informed decisions is critical for healthy physician-patient interactions.