Answering Parents Concerns About Vaccinations

Childhood vaccinations are proven fighters against disease and yet some parents will challenge their physician on giving them to their children.  How can the doctor help the parent to understand that the vaccination really is in the best interest of the child? A new article, “The Clinician’s Guide to the Anti-Vaccinationists’ Galaxy”,that was recently published in the journal Human Immunology may provide some answers.

“Thousands of children are at increased risk because of under-vaccination, and outbreaks of highly transmissible diseases have occurred” says lead author Gregory Poland, M.D., Mayo Clinic vaccinologist. “Primary care physicians have less time than most to explain the scientific case for vaccination. This article gives them the background and tools to debunk some of the major myths.”

In the article, Mayo pediatrician Robert Jacobson, M.D. and Dr. Poland review the three immunity-related misconceptions that they say “fuel patient and parental concerns, questions and fears about vaccines.” The three most common myths are: babies’ systems aren’t ready for the number of vaccines given today; vaccines can cause autoimmune diseases; and natural immunity is safer and better.

[The Mayo Clinic has developed three YouTube videos in which Dr. Poland discredits each of these myths, which are listed at the end of this article.]

In Canada, physicians can assure parents that vaccines are very closely monitored, and there is an excellent system of active surveillance: the IMPACT system, that monitors adverse reactions. This is considered one of the best in the world. According to an article published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, “The IMPACT system is, in many ways, more advanced than similar systems designed to detect vaccine adverse events present in other countries.” (March-April 2006) However there still needs to be pre-emptive strategies that deal with vaccine risks.

There is potential harm to the parent-physician relationship if there is conflict over immunization, which could adversely affect the treatment of the child. When physicians have more information that they can share with the parents, these tensions can be alleviated and parents will better understand the benefits of vaccination for their children.

“Whatever strategy is used, the disagreement over vaccination should not influence future care of the child as, arguably, these are the children that would need to be followed particularly closely. Such an approach would also demonstrate physicians’ commitment to the care of these children that could eventually influence future immunization decisions.” (Canadian Journal of Public Health, March-April 2006)

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS)  has a website geared for parents called Caring for Kids. (  Doctors may find this a useful resource.

There is specific information about vaccines and vaccine safety.


It should be noted that the CPS allows material from this website to be reprinted and distributed as long as the following conditions are met (

  1. The material must be used solely for the purpose of education or advocacy.
  2. Caring for Kids must be clearly credited as the source of this information.
  3. Caring for Kids materials must not be altered in any way. You may not change or adapt the content in any way without the written consent of the Canadian Paediatric Society.
  4. The printer-friendly format located at the bottom of each document allows content to be printed and used as handouts. They must be distributed at no cost to the recipients.

Here are the links to the Mayo Clinic videos discussing the myths over childhood vaccinations.

Overloading child’s system

Risk of autoimmune disease :

Natural immunity is preferable :

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