A 2011 study published in Pediatrics found that doctors are still the most trusted source of information on vaccines for parents. Granted, Pediatrics is a journal for doctors so that might seem a little biased. Nonetheless, we asked the local medical doctors who they trust for information. Turns out pediatricians, OB doctors, nurse practitioners and family practice MDs trust the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
We understand that parents also trust other non-traditional sources of safety information, such as stories by parents who believe that their child was harmed by a vaccine and stories by celebrities. Usually, these sources are anecdotal in nature or personal accounts rather than evidence-based scientific publications or large clinical studies. Anecdotal stories can be powerful on an emotional level but aren’t necessarily based on fact. The parent stories we included are to demonstrate that we can relate to how difficult the decision-making process regarding vaccines can be. But ultimately we chose to assume that as educated and conscientious parents, you will do your best to be informed about immunizing your child. We want to make that as easy as possible for you.
We also want to be transparent by saying we recognize that vaccines aren’t 100% risk free. However, the risk of serious harm from a vaccine is much smaller (almost nil) than the risk of harm from a disease.
Finally, it can be frustrating that access to complete scientific studies is often limited to customers able to pay for very expensive memberships; and it can be difficult to accurately interpret studies without a background in science. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Red Book Online is not available to the general public for free. The parent is then left sorting through the good, the bad and the ugly of the internet. We used PubMed and the Red Book because we have access through the pediatricians on our team. For those reasons, we have tried to make as much of that information available to you.
So, who do doctors trust?
“The mission of the American Academy of Pediatrics is to attain optimal physical, mental and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults. To accomplish this, AAP shall support the professional needs of its members.”
The local doctors who have volunteered many hours to the development of this website are all members of the AAP and some of the most compassionate and caring people around. We are very grateful to them.
Does the AAP get money from pharmaceutical companies?
Yes, and they should. Now hold on there, we’ve got more to say. Think of it as the top 1% giving to the lowest 1%; a reduction of inequity. Pharmaceutical companies don’t set the vaccine schedule, but they are required by the US government to respond to the demand for vaccines. That was part of deal when the government moved the liability of vaccines over to the Vaccine Injury Court. They don’t make hand-over-fist money on vaccines either; no, they make it on those drugs advertised on TV.
Given the scrutiny and increasing transparency that associations such as the AAP are under these days, they must be very careful how they use Big Pharma’s money. And that’s a good thing. Pharmaceutical companies do make contributions to the AAP at times, but those are normally for educational purposes and are regulated by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
Secondly, doctors do consult with pharmaceutical companies, and they should. Doctors are, after all, prescribing their products and are thus responsible for educating themselves about the risks and benefits of said products. But that doesn’t mean they are in Pharma’s pockets.
Finally, doctors don’t make money off of vaccines. That’s a fact. The current reimbursement system, cost of storing, short shelf life, time spent talking to parents about vaccines and sorting the vaccine schedule all contribute to most practices losing money on immunizations. There are a lot better ways for doctors and pharmaceutical companies to make money. (Perhaps a cure for baldness or cancer or HIV?) Most public clinics that offer vaccines don’t even charge patients or the insurance companies for the nurses’ time to talk to parents or give vaccines. Think about it: Wouldn’t a measles outbreak generate a lot more money for medical practices?
The CDC is one of our primary resources and we’d like to explain why. We think a lot of very smart people have joined forces in making the CDC vaccine recommendations. We also understand that increasing numbers of people in the US distrust the CDC and other federal government entities and feel these agencies are not necessarily operating in their best interest. Nonetheless the CDC is charged with monitoring the nation’s health, detecting and responding to new and emerging health threats, promoting healthy and safe behaviors, and putting science and advanced technology into action to prevent disease. The CDC also monitors reports of infectious disease and so is best able to identify emerging epidemics and respond. Who would fill this role if they did not? Finally, the CDC is accountable to both the US Congress and thus eventually to us.
And no, they don’t get it right 100% of the time. Asking any organization to be infallible is not realistic. But they do have a significant amount of brain power working toward disease eradication both here in the US and globally. Parents can take comfort in knowing that the recommendations put forth by the CDC (ACIP and the AAP) are the same, or at least similar, to the recommendations of the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, France’s Institut de Veille Sanitaire, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency and the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Red Book Online
This is our go-to manual for infectious diseases. The Red Book was developed by the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases to provide guidance on the manifestations, etiology, epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment of more than 200 common childhood conditions. Unfortunately, it is a pay-to-view site.
The NNii provides evidenced-based information to healthcare professionals, the media, and the public: basically everyone who needs to know the facts about vaccines and immunization. This is a service from Immunizations for Public Health (I4PH), a Texas-based nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing immunization information to those who need it. “Neither NNii nor its sponsoring corporation, I4PH, receive funding from either vaccine manufacturing companies or the Federal Government.”
We like the NNii because they give clear, concise information with lots of sources. What we don’t like is that they aren’t updated all that frequently.
The Pink Book – Epidemiology & Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (2012)
The Pink Book is produced by the CDC, is available to the public online and contains all you want to know about any vaccine-preventable disease. It is a favorite reference among physicians, epidemiologists, nurses and pharmacists.
Typical chapters include a description of the disease, pathogenesis, clinical features, laboratory diagnosis, medical management, epidemiology, risk factors, trends in the US, vaccine details, vaccination schedule and use, contraindications and precautions to vaccination, adverse reactions following vaccination, vaccine storage and handling, and references for publications. (We’ve been kind enough to summarize all that for you.)
CHOP has been in the business of children’s health for a really long time; since 1855 to be exact. Their Vaccine Education Center website contains a great deal of factual, well-written information. What we really like is that they addresses the current concerns parents have, such as the recommended schedule, autism and vaccine ingredients. They focus their education efforts on what parents want to know.
And researching vaccines can be fun, too. The History of Vaccines, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, is another website that is well written, engaging and educational. If you don’t look at any other website, look at this one.
This is also a fabulous site for kids researching diseases or vaccines. There are plenty of games and information for all levels.
PubMed is the site we refer to for peer reviewed journal articles and research papers.