As a pediatrician I’ve enjoyed the power that social media has given me in communicating information to my patients and my community. However, recently I have been dismayed by the number of articles and videos I see shared on social media involving vaccines and vaccine safety. Many of these are videos and articles that discuss half-truths and even made up information about vaccines.
As the founder of The Doctor Yum Project I spend a lot of my time helping families prevent illness with a whole food diet. But as solo practitioner I have also made the decision to prevent illness by providing vaccines to my patients. I am comfortable with this decision because my training and experience has provided me too many opportunities to witness the consequences of contracting a vaccine preventable illness. I have seen first-hand the devastation of pneumococcal meningitis, cervical cancer, dehydration from rotavirus, and pertussis, just to name a few. I have also heard the stories from my older colleagues of much worse times when other infectious diseases took even more lives before new vaccines were developed.
This decision to provide vaccines is not easy from a personal and financial standpoint. The upfront cost to stock vaccines is staggering, and is the single largest cost to my practice. The slim profit margin that insurance provides does not cover the staffing, administration, refrigeration and infrastructure needed to provide those vaccines. And yet, many of us physicians are still hanging in there, bearing the burden and doing what we can to protect our patients. To make things even worse, steady increase in social media postings has made this job seem insurmountable. It’s rare for me to meet young parents that don’t ask about “mercury” in vaccines or whether they can do a “delayed vaccine schedule.” This extra counseling is time-consuming, but entirely worth it in my opinion. I understand their trepidation, and so I have spent a lot of time compiling information from credible sources so families can make informed decisions. After reviewing this information and consulting with me, most of these families have been able to come up with a vaccine plan that is comfortable for them.
However, every day I see people posting information on social media that works against my efforts. I understand that families may have concerns about vaccines. I understand that parents may have hesitation and may want more answers so they can do their best to protect their children. But conversations about these concerns should, in my opinion, be kept PRIVATE. When people publically post pseudo-scientific articles and personal opinions about vaccinations, it can be very easy for other parents to get spooked. It is only because of herd immunity that children who are not vaccinated can be protected. This herd immunity is established by hard working physicians who make sure that most of the community is vaccinated. Parents who choose not to vaccinate are only putting their own children at risk by breaking down that herd immunity with the flood of vaccine hysteria on social media. This is happening slowly and steadily with every article and video posted. As a pediatrician I ask that all parents keep their decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate a PRIVATE conversation within their family and with their physicians, so that other parents can be open to the peer-reviewed articles, scientific data and professional experience that their own medical providers can offer them. Let other parents make their OWN informed decisions. It would certainly make physicians’ lives a little less complicated as we strive to protect our communities.