Vaccine safety: How to ease a parent’s anxiety

A case of measles in Maryland has made authorities jittery about a possible outbreak. It’s also renewed concerns about parents who avoid giving their child the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The Maryland case, reported last week, involved a visitor to the state who unknowingly cavorted about town, to the grocery store, a ball game. State health officials are now trying to determine if the highly contagious viral illness has spread.


(Mike Hutmacher/AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle)

The better news from the study, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, is that the vast majority of parents do plan to have their children vaccinated.

Still, the anxiety lingers for far too many parents.

Journalist and author Seth Mnookin wrote a compelling argument in this weekend’s Post that doctors need to take a new approach to explain the importance of vaccines. He points out that the vast majority of new parents are too exhausted to process much information during newborn and infant well-visits.

I would add that some of us happen to be in possession of hormones that want to do nothing more than protect our babies from predators, be they wolves or very long needles.

Well visits are not the time to overload a parent with information, including a long litany of slim-to-none-chance side-effects, before asking him or her to sign a legalistic waiver.

Mnookin suggests in “A cure for vaccine panic” that doctors talk with parents before they have the baby. Talk to them while they are in that focused, planning mode, when they have the time and energy to peruse the research.

He concludes:

“There are logistical hurdles to setting up this type of system, including the fact that for the most part, the obstetricians who treat pregnant women are not trained in pediatric care. But squabbling over treatment turf instead of looking for new ways to tackle the problem is short-sighted.

As we’ve been discovering, the costs of getting vaccine education wrong are potentially enormous.”

What do you think? Would you have been better prepared if you had pre-natal vaccine counseling? Do you think this might help the general unease of many parents on this front?

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