Should Pediatricians Discuss Vaccination Before A Baby’s Birth?

I have friends on both sides of the vaccination debate so the topic interests me greatly. With Maryland investigating a rare Measles outbreak, some public health officials are talking about how vaccination rates affect day-to-day lives.

Seth Mnookin at the Washington Post notes how 15 years ago, the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met to discuss the eradication of measles, one of the most infectious microbes known to human kind. Through widespread use of the measles vaccine, the microbe was no longer transmitted among the populations in the United States and Great Britain. The groups did worry about whether vaccination use would decline as fears of the disease declined, but they didn’t even discuss whether parents might be concerned about the vaccine itself.

In a fascinating article, he proposes an entirely different approach to vaccination.

A new study reported in this month’s Health Affairs finds more than three-quarters of parents have at least some concern about vaccines. The concerns raised range from the the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism to the child’s fear of pain.

Mnookin argues that new parents are far too exhausted to make good decisions in those first newborn and infant pediatrician visits. (Sometimes I cringe when I think of how much I sobbed as my oldest had her first shots.) So he says that doctors should talk shop before the baby is born, when they’re focused and planning and have time and energy:

”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.

I also have to share my own beef that these legalistic waivers they make you sign aren’t even that fully informative. I was shocked to learn — from a neighbor friend — that some vaccines had been developed using aborted fetuses. I asked our pediatrician about it and she confirmed it (although some of the information she gave me was a bit off). But I wonder sometimes how much information the average pediatrician and the average parent have on vaccines, how they’re developed and any reasonable ethical concerns one might have in using them.

But what do you think about the Mnookin plan? Would this help you make a more informed decision about whether and when to vaccinate?

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