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Thoughts on Childhood Immunizations
from Rachel Busse MD, Laura Hawley MD, Stephen Roszell MD and Megan Ward APRN

We unqualifiedly support the Center for Disease Control's schedule of childhood immunizations.  We know of no other intervention in modern medicine that has had as significant a global impact as universal immunization. We say this as members of our community, as health care providers, and as public health advocates.  We say this also as parents, and we have all immunized our children.  In doing so, we have reduced their risk for infections, and decreased the pool of disease around us. 


Here in the Highlands, we are lucky to treat the most open, intelligent and questioning people one could hope to find.  And we suspect our patients have a disproportionately low rate of immunization.  It is our inclination to respect your autonomy; and we see ourselves as sources of information, rather than figures of authority. 

Here are the truths regarding vaccination and infectious diseases as we see them:

  • Serious infectious diseases have existed for millennia, causing widespread illness and death. 
  • These illnesses still exist, and regularly arise in any population with a significant number of non-immunizers.
  • Vaccinations are not perfect: immunity can wane over time, and some who get shots don’t develop long-term immunity in the first place. 
  • Nonetheless, immunizations work as long as most members of a community receive them.  So there would be an argument for universal immunization even if there was a risk to the individual child. 
  • But we are not aware of any harm that ever came to a patient we immunized.  And there is no data that links vaccines to autism.  Though all medical treatments have a risk of side-effects, the safety of the vaccines is far superior to the risks from the illnesses they prevent. 
  • The decision not to immunize is only possible because the majority have had their shots. 

Voluntary public immunization is a social contract, something we do to protect others as much as ourselves.  The American Academy of Family Practice, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control all unqualifiedly urge us as providers, and you as parents, to immunize our children.


The dozen-odd diseases on the CDC schedule were selected based on many factors:

  • The cost and risk of immunizations vs. that of the disease we are fighting.
    We no longer universally vaccinate against Small Pox: the disease exists now only in labs, while the vaccine itself can cause harmful reactions.  On the other hand we immunize against Chicken Pox, which, while not terribly dangerous to kids, represents great danger to pregnant women and their unborn.
  • The timing of exposure and age of greatest risk from illnesses.
    Hepatitis B is first a threat to the unlucky few who are exposed in their mother’s womb.  So we begin shots at birth.  Cervical cancer and meningitis represent a risk in teens and early adulthood, and are saved until our second decade so that immunity will be strongest when most needed.
  • The number of exposures the immune system requires to develop immunity.
    Influenza mutates every year, and we must annually vaccinate a large number of people to slow its passage each winter.  Polio requires 4 shots over as many years to produce life-long immunity, and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis need multiple initial doses and a booster each decade of our lives.
  • The number of visits we can reasonably expect of parents for shots.
    The immunizations a child receives at 2 months of age would take 8 visits if spread out one per week.

This complex arithmetic is carried out in health departments and universities, not by multi-national pharmaceutical companies.  The physicians, public health PhDs and laboratory scientists who annually update the CDC’s recommendations base their decisions on population statistics, microbiology and immunology, and research beyond anything we as family practitioners in the community are capable of undertaking.  So we put our trust in the Centers for Disease Control.  Theirs is the only schedule of immunizations we can recommend to you.

We are happy to provide vaccines at Norton Highlands for parents who choose to receive the schedule of immunizations recommended by the CDC.  Below is an example of the schedule that we aim for in our office:


We also respect that others are interested in ‘alternate immunization schedules’, which we can discuss as we work together to take good care of your kids.  We also care for non-immunizers in our practice, hoping good rapport will lead them to reassess vaccination.  We do ask that under- and non-immunized patients take extra precautions when visiting our office for acute illnesses to help avoid the spread of serious infection. 

Nonetheless, we STRONGLY encourage ALL parents to commit to an immunization schedule which brings them up to date with CDC recommendations and Jefferson County Public Schools requirements by the start of first grade.


Immunization Resources:

National Network for Immunization Information (NNii):


Vaccine Education Center of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:


Voices for Vaccines (VFV):


Parents’ Guide to Childhood Immunization: a CDC publication
A thorough guide, answering any question you might have about vaccination.


This American Life: Chicago Public Radio
Episode 370: Ruining It for the Rest of Us, originally aired 12.19.2008; Act One. Shots in the Dark  Measles cases are higher in the U.S. than they've been in a decade, mostly because more and more nervous parents are refusing to vaccinate their kids.  Contributing Editor Susan Burton tells the story of what happened recently in San Diego, when an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned home from a trip to Switzerland, bringing with him the measles.  By the end of the ordeal, 11 other children caught the disease, and more than 60 kids had to be quarantined.  (21 minutes)


Immunization Overview: the New York Times
A collection of 30 years worth of New York Times articles on the topic.


The Centers for Disease Control has much more information regarding vaccination at: