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Pediatrician Says Vaccinations Needed

January 12, 2003

Re "Vaccine/Autism Issue Was Presented Fairly," letters, Dec. 22:

In a recent letter to the editor, I was dismissed as a "party-line hack" because I believe that vaccines are good for children. In reality, I am a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases, and I have seen too many children suffer and die from infections that could have been prevented through vaccination. So, yes, I am a strong proponent of immunizations.

The writer sarcastically implies that vaccines are not necessary to protect children against "such calamities as rubella or hepatitis B." He obviously does not understand these infections. In 1964, more than 20,000 infants died, suffered brain damage, had heart problems, or were born blind or deaf because their mothers were infected with the rubella virus during pregnancy. Rubella acquired during pregnancy was the leading cause of deafness in the U.S. This calamity does not occur anymore because the U.S. implemented a highly successful immunization program against rubella.

The writer thinks hepatitis B is a trivial infection? The hepatitis B virus has killed more people than AIDS, and millions of people have developed liver cancer as a result of hepatitis B infection. In the U.S., an estimated 1 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B, which means that they have a 1 in 4 chance of dying prematurely due to liver failure or liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine is the first "anti-cancer" vaccine.

The writer said that his son "developed autism after the MMR shot." That does not mean the vaccine caused the autism. The cause(s) of autism will be discovered through ongoing research. But research, such as the Danish study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has shown us that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Parents should understand vaccine safety issues, but our knowledge must be based upon science, not anecdote; proof, not theory.

Immunizations are one of the most important things we can do to keep our children healthy. Love your children, immunize them.

Jay M. Lieberman, M.D.

Chief, Pediatric Infectious

Diseases, Miller Children's

Hospital, Long Beach

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