Photo by: iStock

The Great Vaccination Debate

Photo by: iStock

Of all the hot-button parenting issues out there, vaccinations are one of the hottest. The pro-vax vs anti-vax debate rages on talk shows and on message boards, but most pediatricians are firmly in the pro-vaccination camp. Still, some doctors and parents are suspicious about the efficacy and safety of shots, so if you’re worried, you’re not alone. We talked to a few experts to find out more.

The Case for Vaccinations
First, an overview. The official vaccination schedule that pediatricians follow is prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is designed to protect against more than 15 diseases. The CDC recommends all children be vaccinated, with a few exceptions. Kids who have severe allergic reactions or have cancer or other illnesses that suppress the immune system are not recommended to receive some vaccinations.

“Vaccines have been studied extensively for both their effectiveness and their safety,” says Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “They are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Family Physicians, the World Health Organization and many other professional groups – all of which are dedicated to providing a safe environment for newborns and young children.”

Dr. Schaffner wants cautious parents to know that vaccines are scrutinized by the FDA, and their use and safety is constantly monitored. “Also consider that, by now, literally millions upon millions of doses of these vaccines have been given to newborns, children, adolescents and adults around the world,” he says. “Their track record of safety is impressive.”

The CDC’s recommended schedule requires lots of doctor’s visits, because most vaccines have to be given in multiple doses. “The vaccination schedule is carefully calibrated and synchronized in order to provide the best protection against the targeted diseases,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, infectious disease physician and Senior Associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It is important to follow the schedule to avoiding unnecessary periods of vulnerability.”

Both Dr. Adalja and Dr. Schaffner strongly support vaccinations. “I had no hesitation to see that my grandchildren were completely vaccinated according to the recommended schedule,” says Dr. Schaffner.

The Case Against Vaccinations
While most pediatricians recommend vaccinations in the strongest terms, some doctors — like Dr. Michael Carlston, a family practitioner who specializes in homeopathy and complementary medicine —advise parents use caution. “Although there are benefits to vaccinations, some of them don’t work very well, and some of the diseases we vaccinate for aren’t as serious as some of the other ones,” he says. He points to the whooping cough vaccine as an example of an ineffective vaccine. Researchers have found that its potency diminishes over time, contributing to multiple outbreaks in recent years.

Another reason parents might be nervous about following the immunization schedule? A theorized link between autism and vaccinations, due to the fact that some parents have said they noticed the first signs of autism soon after their children were vaccinated. However, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other major health organizations all agree that there is no link between the two.

Parents may also hesitate about vaccinations because some children experience side effects after getting their shots, including fussiness, fever and rashes. More serious side effects like seizures and allergic reactions are also possible — but they’re rare. “Vaccines, like all medications, have some amount of risk and have some expected side effects,” says Dr. Adalja. “On the whole, however, these side effects — which are usually mild — are outweighed by the tremendous benefit that vaccines offer.”

Kathryn Walsh is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and travel topics. Her work has appeared on,, and

Like This Article

Like Mamapedia

Learn From Moms Like You

Get answers, tips, deals, and amazing advice from other Moms.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us
Want to become a contributor?
Want to become a contributor?

If you'd like to contribute to the Wisdom of Moms on Mamapedia, please sign up here to learn more: Sign Up

Recent Voices Posts

See all