Opinion

Seek accurate vaccine information

Parents have so many things to worry about these days when it comes to raising their children: education, childcare, social media, health, nutrition and the small task of ensuring they grow up into happy, well-adjusted, responsible adults. 

 

As a pediatrician born and raised in Fort Kent, I was excited to return back to Maine this year to start my career as a physician.  However, I have my own set of worries and fears when it comes to caring for Maine’s children. I’m worried about a pervasive and growing skepticism of science.  I worry about the spread of dangerous and inaccurate medical advice online, as highlighted in the recent death of a 4-year-old from influenza whose parent sought advice from non-medical professionals in the “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” Facebook group instead of following their doctor’s recommendations.  I’m worried and fearful of an outbreak occurring in one of our schools if our vaccination rates continue to decline. I worry about how our health system would respond in the face of an outbreak and whether we would be able to recognize and contain it quickly enough.  

The effectiveness of childhood vaccination programs means that younger physicians may have never diagnosed certain vaccine-preventable illnesses like measles or chickenpox.  I especially worry about those who can’t be vaccinated (including young infants, children with immunodeficiencies and patients undergoing cancer treatment) because of how perilous an outbreak could be for them.

Proponents of the referendum question are harnessing voters’ fears and worries to cast doubt upon one of the greatest public health advances of modern times.  Although many of these activists are well-intentioned, they too are operating out of fear and worry. They are spreading false and inaccurate information that would understandably make any worried or fearful parent hesitant about vaccines, which have been proven safe and effective following decades of scientific research and scrutiny.

If you have questions or concerns about vaccinations, please seek out a trusted and knowledgeable source of information: your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider.  Please join me and nearly 60 major health organizations in Maine on March 3 and vote no on 1 so we can all worry less about dangerous preventable diseases.

Joe Anderson, DO, FAAP

South Portland

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