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November 19, 2019

Skipping vaccines isn’t worth the risk: A "Q&A" with Kashif Hussain, MD, FAAP


Kashif Hussain MD, FAAP

Kashif Hussain MD, FAAP

Failure to vaccinate has been cited among reasons that diseases such as measles and mumps are making a comeback. In fact, from January to the beginning of September, 1,241 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 31 states, the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. In Pennsylvania, 14 cases were reported from January through early September.

With more than 170 patient care locations and approximately 1,500 employed physicians throughout central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland, WellSpan Health is here to help you and your family receive the care you need to stay healthy. Here, Kashif Hussain, MD, FAAP, of WellSpan Pediatric Medicine answers some of the common questions about vaccinations.

QUESTION. Why are vaccines important?
ANSWER. Vaccines provide immunity before we are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. It is always better to prevent a disease by getting a vaccination rather than treating that disease after you’ve become sick from it. Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of diseases and saved millions of lives.

QUESTION. What are the most common recommended vaccines for children and adolescents?
ANSWER. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, children and adolescents should receive hepatitis B; rotavirus; diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP); haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib); pneumococcal conjugate; inactivated polio virus; influenza; measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); varicella (chickenpox); meningococcal; human papillomavirus; and meningococcal B vaccines. Before leaving the hospital or birthing center, a baby should receive the first of three doses of the vaccine that protects against hepatitis B.

QUESTION. Why do people who get vaccinated against flu get the flu anyway?
ANSWER. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus that can’t transmit infection. There are several reasons why you may get sick after getting a flu shot: It takes about two weeks to develop immunity to influenza after you get the vaccine. If you get the flu within two weeks of getting the shot, you were probably exposed to the virus right before or right after you were vaccinated. The flu shot provides protection against only the specific strains of the flu that researchers believe will be causing illnesses for most people during that season. Unfortunately, this doesn’t provide coverage for all possible influenza strains, and the flu virus mutates and changes every year.

You might think you have the flu, but you may really have a similar illness that is caused by a virus other than influenza, such as the common cold, bronchitis or pneumonia.

QUESTION. Is there any credence to the claim that childhood immunizations cause or contribute to autism spectrum disorder?
ANSWER. No, there is no scientific evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism. The suggestion that the MMR vaccine might lead to autism had its origins in the United Kingdom. In 1998, an article published in a prestigious medical journal claimed that the measles virus in the MMR vaccine caused inflammatory bowel disease, allowing harmful proteins to enter the bloodstream and damage the brain, thus increasing the risk of autism. However, this finding could not be reproduced by other researchers, and it was later disclosed that the original research was funded by lawyers seeking evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers. Another vaccine ingredient that has been studied is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative. Research shows that thimerosal does not cause autism spectrum disorder. As a precaution, thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines between 1999 and 2001.

Explore how WellSpan specialists are providing leading-edge treatments for patients across central Pennsylvania — near where you live, work and play.  Visit WellSpan.org/PCP or call (800) 540-5905.

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