Home > Expert Insights, In the News, Preventable Diseases, Science & Research > Applause For Claire McCarthy, M.D.

Applause For Claire McCarthy, M.D.

January has been a busy month here on Shot of Prevention.  We’ve had a parent speak out on the significance of HPV protection for her son, a pharmacuetical employee comment on how proud she is to help ensure the safety of vaccines, we’ve even had a nurse call out the non-vaccinating Patriot nurse for sharing misleading information on YouTube.  Of course, let’s not forget about the return of Andrew Wakefield and his plans to sue for libel. 

Which leads me to a great editorial that appeared this morning in The Huffington Post, entitled Unencumbered By Facts: What Upsets Me Most About the Anti-vaccine Movement.  In this article, who is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, explained why the appearance of Andrew Wakefield on Good Morning American had given her the chills.  (View it for yourself and you’ll see exactly what she is referring to.)

She explains that “My only crusade as a pediatrician is to keep my patients healthy — and vaccines are part of what I use to do just that.”  But she questions how doctors are supposed to help parents understand the enormous benefits and occasional risks of vaccines when “We stick to the facts. But people like Andrew Wakefield don’t.”

Dr. McCarthy does a great job of communicating her frustration and explaining the challenges the medical community has in countering the much publicized anti-vaccine rhetoric.  And while she speaks as one individual pediatrician, I would venture to guess that many others have echoed her views, but are, as she described, often “drowned out” by the headlines and airtime devoted to people like Andrew Wakefield.

She concludes her article by referring to what Wakefield says at the end of the Good Morning America interview;

 “Wakefield encouraged parents to get educated, and to read about immunizations. He even suggested the CDC website. He said, emphatically, that there are two sides to the story.  I couldn’t agree more. But just one of them is grounded in facts.”

I applaud Dr. McCarthy for speaking out and I encourage you to read her article.  Of course, you are encouraged to not just listen to her opinion, but to get the facts.  Vaccinations save lives!

  1. LK
    January 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Excuse me while I puke…

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  2. Lawrence
    January 18, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    A great article – and very well articulated. I wish more doctors would put their opinions out there.

    Like

  3. Krissy M.
    January 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    “My only crusade as a pediatrician is to keep my patients healthy — and vaccines are part of what I use to do just that.” Great quote.

    Like

  4. Loghome Mommy
    January 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I am a pediatric occupational therapist. I evaluated a child yesterday who at almost 3 does not talk. He makes little eye contact, and babbles & jabbers like a 1 year old. His parents report that he spoke more when he was 16 months old. I asked what happened. They said they didn’t know–but after he received DOUBLED vaccinations “to get him caught up”, he ran a fever for 2 weeks, visited the ER–where they were told it was a virus that had to run its course– but certainly not the extra vaccinations. The parents said they were concerned but were made to feel by their pediatrician that they had to get the vaccinations to date (NOTE: they do not). After the 2 weeks of illness, he no longer talked. It is a tragedy that this happened to a family bc a pediatrician so blinded by the absolute safety of vaccinations lost clinical judgment–one would not double the dose of penicillin or any other medication for “better protection”. I recognize vax serve a purpose. But that is no excuse to defend them like they don’t have the potential for harm. I think doctors would be better at keeping their patients healthy if they would education parents about nutrition and exercise than get rewarded financially by their State if they achieve so many needle sticks in a year.

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  5. January 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    How much is that compensation from their State for “so many needle sticks in a year”? I’d like to know. I’d like to get in on that action.

    By the way, comparing double vaccines to double penicillin makes it too easy to slap down your antivax sentiments. Too easy.

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  6. Lawrence
    January 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I really wish parents would view their pediatricians as “true partners” in the care of their children, instead of some afterthought, and also view the wellness visits as inconvenient schedulings, as opposed to great opportunities to ask questions, receive reasoned advice, and make sure that their children are getting the personalized care they deserve.

    As much as my wife and I query our doctor, the doctor asks a ton of questions as well. She has the best interests of our kids at heart and we trust her judgement, not to say that we also don’t do our research as well – but if you take everything in total, vaccines are safe, effective, and much, much better than the diseases they prevent.

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  7. Loghome Mommy
    January 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2006/07/funding-for-vaccination-program-significantly-imp.aspx re: money paid for vaccinations. They seem quite proud of how effective this motivation is.

    Also –I understand that penicillin and vaccinations are not equivalent. I also understand that doubling the amount of formaldehyde and aluminum (if not mercury) would be something to consider. I am not antivax–my children are vaccinated, but i have put a lot of effort to be informed (from sources in addition to my pediatrician) and decide which vaccines, and when. I feel quite comfortable collaborating with my pediatrician. What most parents want is a doctor who is God and is all-knowing. I’ve been in medicine long enough to know–it is a best guess based on what info is available. My best guess is that this current vaccination schedule is hurting our kids. I believe this bc i work with these kids.

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  8. Kelly
    January 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    The citation that Loghome Mommy has provided is related to providing free vaccines for those unable to afford them. It does not address her claim that doctors are financially rewarded by their State if they achieve a quota of vaccinations.

    I find it really depressing that people unable to comprehend a simply news story feel they are better educated and informed then professionals who have made a career in vaccine research.

    I’m also really tired of people that are against vaccines make up whatever they want, like Loghome Mommy has done, as justification for not vaccinating.

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  9. Chris Lee
    January 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    @Loghome Mommy – The source you provide says NOTHING doctors being rewarded “…financially by their State if they achieve so many needle sticks in a year.” In fact, according to Pediatrics, the offical journal of the America Academy of Pediatrics: “Physicians who provide vaccines to children and adolescents report dissatisfaction with reimbursement levels and increasing financial strain from immunizations.” and “Approximately half of the respondents reported that their practice had delayed the purchase of specific vaccines for financial reasons (49%)”.

    The claims and views some people have that vaccines are a considerable profit-source for doctors just doesn’t hold water.

    Also, as a pediatric OT, I would hope you know and appreciate the difference between anecdotal evidence (such as your “doubled vaccinations” story) and appropriate evidence to weigh when considered such important decisions, such as the health of a child.

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  10. Loghome Mommy
    January 19, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Chris and Kelly, you are both correct, that was not a very good source, nor was my comment about needle sticks done in a ped’s office relevant to this point–I was getting worked up and I apologize.

    That said, there is money that motivates the vaccine industry, and our medical system does not have a good check and balance between the money that is made verses those who decide what vaccinations should be given. That concerns me.

    What also concerns me is the one size fits all approach to vaccines. Pediatricians/family docs need to use their analytical thinking skills before a newborn is administered the 1st of 3 Heb B’s on day 2 of life. If there is no risk of exposure (no family with the disease, no day care, no prostituion, no history of drug abuse) perhaps that series of shots can be delayed. Or if there is genetic issues to consider, such as autoimmune disorders, allergies, asthma, or a sibling on the spectrum, perhaps the ped can recommend the shots be delayed till they are 6 months, or 2 years (those are some recommendations from other physicians who agree there are too many vaccines too soon after birth,)

    Chris, I wish there were great double blind studies with placebo and large sample sizes that I could use, but to my knowledge they don’t exist. If you know of them, please site them for me. Pub Med does not produce any. So I value anecdotal evidence. Case studies are valuable because they point us to factors to consider. For example, as Dr. McCarthy is encouraging, lets get some facts. In my scenario with the vaccinations that were caught up, before dismissing the possibility that the vaccines contributed to his high fever, lets ask some questions. Is high fever a possible side effect for vaccines? and is there a family history if immune-system dysfunction? Is there evidence of other children of similar age/size who when receiving that many shots, did they also respond with high fever? Dr. McCarthy reports that we have a system in place for tracking adverse reactions. That system doesn’t work if the families don’t know they can report, and the medical personnel refuse to do so.

    As I said above, medicine is not an exact science. Unfortunately that places a lot of pressure on parents to navigate the complex information if their pediatrician doesn’t do it for them. So parents, please do follow Dr. McCarthy’s advice. Find your facts.

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  11. Lawrence
    January 19, 2012 at 10:44 am

    The “one-size fits all” approach is a misnomer – sure, the schedule is there & recommended, but if parents don’t take the time to actual talk to their doctor, understand the process, the reasoning behind it, etc – then they have only themselves to blame. I’ve found the vast majority of pediatricians to be very receptive to parents with questions and are happy to work around any concerns that they have – and of course, if any of the vaccines might be contra-indicative, then that is taken into account. Just because the CDC put out the recommended schedule does not mean that changes aren’t made at the patient level.

    It is impossible for the CDC to put together something that will fit 100% of the people 100% of the time – and they also would never be able to account for the almost limitless patient variables that exist. That’s why the relationship between parents and pediatrician is the most important aspect, so everyone gets what they want, what they need, when they need it.

    Stop looking at this as a single monolithic conspiracy, because it isn’t – there are lots of moving parts, and the more involved parents can be to get a real understanding of why vaccines are important, what the risks are, etc, the better off all of us will be.

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  12. Chris
    January 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Loghome Mommy:

    That said, there is money that motivates the vaccine industry, and our medical system does not have a good check and balance between the money that is made verses those who decide what vaccinations should be given. That concerns me.

    Do you actually believe that the medical system gets more money by preventing diseases through vaccination than by treating people who are sick with those diseases?

    What is your evidence that the cost of giving each child two doses of an MMR vaccine is greater than treating the one out of a thousand cases of measles that require hospitalization? Before you try to answer, read Impact of Vaccines Universally Recommended for Children—United States, 1900-1998, and then tell us the financial impact of preventing measles with vaccination.

    Chris, I wish there were great double blind studies with placebo and large sample sizes that I could use, but to my knowledge they don’t exist.

    Actually, they do. They used to be conducted in places like Willowbrook. To read about them I suggest you look up the Belmont Report. And then come back and tell us how you would design a study that would not allow the placebo arm any harm (actually conform to the safety rules that use children as human subjects). And those who are advocating that study (SafeMinds, Generation Rescue, etc) should pony up the money to pay that kind of study. They should also take responsibility for any child harmed by a vaccine preventable disease.

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  13. Kelly
    January 19, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    “Find your facts.”

    That pretty much sums up Dr. McCarthy’s whole point. Anti-vaxers don’t like what the evidence says, so they find their own facts.

    Unfortunately, while you are entitled to your opinion, you are not entitled to your facts.

    Correct information on vaccines can be found on these websites. http://www.who.int/immunization_safety/safety_quality/approved_vaccine_safety_websites/en/

    You can confirm the recommendations by reading the primarily literature on PubMed.

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  14. dt
    January 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    LoghomeMom,
    What makes you think a double blind, placebo vax vs unvax study would be moral or ethical? Of course this could never be done today, since the unvaxed arm of the study would likely come down with all manner of serious but preventable disaeses.

    Unlike Wakefield, most researchers actually do comply with ethical standards and find needless experimentation on vulnerable kids abhorrent.

    Like

  15. Loghome Mommy
    January 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Again, i apologize, I was being sarcastic. My point is that such a study is NOT available, is not POSSIBLE. So case studies provide us places to look, to question, to consider.

    As I said before, i am not anti-vax, I am anti-the current cookie cutter excessive approach to immunization. I agree 100% absolutely with Lawrence that parents need to collaborate with their pediatrician. I am not like him in knowing many pediatricians who have the time or perhaps inclination to say much more than “vaccines are safe.” I work with the parents who are uneducated and poor and don’t know they maybe should or could have such a dialogue. I know our system is not perfect, and i keep coming back here for more insults from you bc IF one of them comes across these posts, I just want them to know they can tell a pediatrician “no” if the pediatrician fails to recognize their child may not benefit from the routine schedule.

    But the rest of you, I am not trying to change your mind. I know I won’t do that. I’m not as savvy as you and I don’t really like how insulting debates become. Rest assured my children are not affecting your herd immunity–they are immunized for school, when their bodies are bigger and stronger, against the diseases that I feel more comfortable with the risk/benefit. (So not for HepB, Varicella, or rotovirus, if you were wondering). I found Kenneth Bock, MD, Jaqcuelyn McCandless, MD, as Stephanie Cave, MD’s books very helpful in coming to my decisions, in addition to discussion with my pediatrician. I’m going to return to life away from blogs and let you guys live in yours. God’s speed.

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