To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate


To vaccinate or not to vaccinate… is the first column from guest columnist Stephen Maddox, MD. He’s a favorite person of ours and is offering up helpful advice for the hip-hop community.

In the office, I am often questioned about the necessity of vaccinations by patients and their families. Navigating this topic, especially with all the information available over the internet, combined with anecdotal stories from friends and families, can be quite difficult. To help you in your process, I thought I would share a few practical considerations for you as a parent, or a patient to keep in mind.

How dangerous is the infection my child is being vaccinated against?
When a disease has not been seen in the community for a while it can be easy to forget the horrible outcomes it can produce. Infections like measles, whooping cough, tetanus, bacterial meningitis, are some of the worst infections that could ever happen to your child. If you are reading a blog or source that downplays the severity of these type of illnesses, I would question the reliability of that source. Also with some of these infections there may not be an antibiotic to treat them, or there may be treatment but the infection can spread so fast that serious harm can be done before treatment is started.

Is the vaccine more dangerous than the illness being vaccinated for?
The data on safety of vaccines is readily available through your primary care provider or online through sites like the Center for Disease Control, but in the real world, people who question the safety of vaccines often question the safety data, that the government and pharmaceutical companies provide. I recommend to these patients that they look up complication rates associated with the infection itself and decide whether they are willing to risk those on their child.

Why not build natural immunity to these infections?
In an ideal world our immune systems would be strong enough to combat any infection we face, but the fact remains, even with the other technological advances in public health in the past century, there are infections which can still do serious damage to our bodies and vaccines remain the most effective way to help limit that from happening.

Why can’t I wait until my baby is older to give them vaccines?
Vaccine schedules are very complicated and at times overwhelming for parents to understand, but there are very logical reasons for the timing of vaccines. Most of the vaccines given in the first six months of life (diptheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumococcus, haemophilus type B,) are given to prevent infections that spread more quickly in infants than older children. So delaying them actually opens your child up to more risk.

If everyone else vaccinates their child, isn’t my child protected?
If you live in a community where the vaccination rate is high, it is true, an unvaccinated child is receiving some protection from being in that community. But, we live in an increasingly global world. The recent measles outbreak that started in Disney World is a perfect example of how quickly these infections can spread. Also there are communities across the country with low numbers of vaccinated children. Visiting one of these communities may put your child at risk.

In medicine, as in life, everything has a risk/benefit ratio associated with it I fully support the notion that vaccine benefits outweigh the risks. Ultimately the decision is in your hands as a parent/patient.

Additional resources

I recommend you research all materials available to you. here are some helpful resources for you to consider:

Parents’ Guide to Childhood Immunizations (
A Parents’ Guide to Kids’ Vaccines (
Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Policy (


  1. @Rufus you bring up a great point. And I agree, to an extent. I am not going to dispute the use of fetal cell lines in the creation of certain vaccines. I didn’t comment on it because I don’t have enough information on it yet. I’ve read various reports of this from anti-vaccine sources. Since I haven’t seen similar from the manufacturers or pro-vaccine sites I decided not to comment on it. As I get more info on it I am more than happy to make an opinion on it. With that said, I agree, it is an ethical consideration. In fact every decision we make has various ethical considerations to consider, and ultimately the question is what are we as individuals far removed from the incident responsible for? That’s a question beyond me, one which theologians have pondered for millenia. Many technological advances have been obtained by immoral means. Many societies have thrived and flourished due to immoral acts. (Take the US and slavery ) Do we apply the same rules across the board in our lives? Maybe we should. I don’t have an answer for that. But Back to vaccines, what is our alternative now that we have them? Is it more ethical to ban mmr and except the rise in infant /child morbidity and mortality that will ensue from measles? There is no effective antiviral medication to effectively treat measles that I am aware of. Would denying our children this vaccine at this point in time be ethical? That’s the current question to ponder. I do respect your stance though and trust me, I ponder these kind of topics all the time about every aspect of what I do as a pediatrician. God Bless!

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