An ex-health reporter admits she doesn’t vaccinate

Dear Bruce,

Hello, I am a parent, and in light of the terrible case with Robert Sears and Annette Lusignan and therefore you have a great deal of credibility on this issue. I will be cautiously opening up to you about this article. I am disappointed in your blog response to the Lusignan/Sears case but am satisfied that you are taking it seriously. I saw the bit about that protecting the rights of the parents to withhold their children and am thankful to your blog for bringing that to the public. I will try to be as respectful as possible. I have never personally handled the vaccination and would prefer to have someone else do that.

I am concerned by your continuing to undermine the government and health departments. Many jurisdictions do have vaccination laws. As you yourself say in your post, Oregon only allows exemptions if there is “compelling medical or scientific evidence” that vaccinations are harmful. This suggests parents who do want their children to be immune to certain diseases will no longer be allowed. Of course there are those who will not have their children vaccinated for any reason. I will not defend those who do not want to vaccinate. But at the same time, our schools are crowded. I have one nephew who is in 7th grade who has special needs. Do you think when she gets sick, her family, myself included, will be sent home? Because that is not the case. Now we live in a world where you get shamed for not vaccinating. Do you really think we will wait for a measles outbreak to happen and be sending kids home in droves? You may think measles is not serious. Please read up on it. People who had it as kids have dreadful diseases such as seizures, swelling of their brain and strokes.

Please keep in mind that your title of “Doctor” implies your expertise and expertise in medical issues. I know you wrote about breastfeeding, but I am also trying to recall seeing you on the other side of the issue as a doctor. I am a mother of two with 24-year-old and a 22-year-old. If I vaccinate my girls for an illness for which vaccines don’t prevent an increase of disease, there will not be another parent who decides she wants to vaccinate. What you mean by that is why our family has been vaccinating. For other parents, a choice to vaccinate or not is not enough. The question is, “what are my rights if I don’t want to vaccinate.” The government and health departments offer a choice. You now proclaim your belief that there will be a lot of “individual versus public good.” It seems to me that this belief goes back to the 2012 anti-vaxer debate. What is the goal that would be served by vaccines in a world without them? You are saying vaccinations will give us more disease. You sound like your mistake for opining on the debate. I understand that some parents have religious beliefs and beliefs about the risks of vaccines. As a doctor, I hear some of this and take them to the hospital. I explain to them that they cannot refuse vaccines for any reason, but they can decline it based on other beliefs. I had a mother die of polio and most of her family lives in Europe. I feel that if she knew the vaccines prevented a group of terrible diseases such as polio, they may choose not to have one. But her children are safe. There is no one in the world that would help protect them if they did not take the risk.

I know you have written about vaccines before. Could we review your thoughts on this? I mean, there are those who say vaccines should only be recommended for certain age groups and/or not for some. Your “evidence-based” opinions do not address these concerns. I know you support vaccinations for the child, not the parents. But can you review what the science says about vaccines and what facts are available to be made. My husband and I will have vaccines today for our 22-month-old and 20-month-old. We would like you to read the studies and give an opinion based on that. Do you have the information we will need? Thank you.

Sincerely,

Susan K. Kirkman, M.D.

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