In the 19th and first half of the 20th century, infectious diseases killed many. In fact, in the 1918 influenza pandemic, 2 million people around the world succumbed to this virus. The discovery of Penicillin yielded a great weapon in our fight against the early demise of peoples from these infections. However, they failed to address the problem of deadly viruses.
The next great weapon in our infectious disease arsenal appeared with the discovery and development of vaccines. By 1977, smallpox was eradicated around the world. In a like vein, polio was wiped out of the Western Hemisphere by the year 2000. Measles and Pertussis were considered nearly eradicated in the Western Hemisphere as well up until the last few years. Science and history clearly give rise to evidence that the eradication of these diseases was the direct result of these vaccination campaigns.
Why are we seeing a resurgence of nearly eradicated infections?
A big reason is that parents are taking advantage of vaccine exemptions and choosing not to vaccinate their children. Not only do they put their own children at risk, but others, especially immune-compromised children. In fact, many doctors no longer accept unvaccinated children as patients for this very reason. We do not want our more susceptible patients to fall victim to these diseases while sitting in our waiting rooms. According to a survey of doctors on SERMO, the largest social network exclusive to physicians, 79% of doctors feel that unvaccinated kids should not be allowed to attend public schools.
“…79% of doctors feel that unvaccinated kids should not be allowed to attend public schools.”
Many of those who do not vaccinate their children do so because they have fallen victim to pseudoscience and false beliefs. They have unwarranted fears on the safety of vaccines. Yet, science bears out the safety, and they have stood the test of time. Many cite concerns about autism from the MMR vaccines. Yet, this myth has been debunked by scientific studies and rejected by the scientific communities across the globe.
Since I have been spreading the truth about vaccines and their safety, I have been attacked by many anti-vaxxers. I have been accused of burning babies’ brains with vaccines, wanting to harm children for profit, not knowing anything, and much more. Those who support not vaccinating their children cannot produce any science to support their stance, so some of them resort to insults. Some of them produce studies that are non-scientific, and many of them are selling products for profit, such as nanosilver, as a cure for these diseases.
Perhaps, the most harmful aspect of this struggle are the celebrities and famous doctors who share this wrong science. When you have a famous person who many idolize saying their child has autism because of vaccines, it is hard to convince patients otherwise in the exam room. The doctors who spout these false facts should be ashamed for rejecting established medical knowledge and putting the life of innocent children in harm’s way.
While the debate continues, I stand on established science. For me, vaccines are not a belief system as it seems it has become for many, but rather a life-saving weapon in our fight to save children’s lives. As long as science proves the test of time, I will continue to wage this battle, despite anyone’s words to me. If I save one child from a preventable disease, I have done my job. Will you join in this battle to educate the public on the true safety of vaccines?
Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.