A recent measles outbreak that has affected 21 people in and around the Fort Worth area is being blamed on a Texas megachurch, where pastors have been known to advocate against vaccines over fears that they may cause autism. And additional investigation revealed that a large majority of the people infected – which include a 4-month-old infant – had not been vaccinated against the virus.
I feel like this story demonstrates a major problem in the medical world: the growing battle between parents and pediatricians. It seems to me that more and more parents are starting to distrust what their doctors are telling them, which can lead to serious health consequences for both parents and children.
This problem is occurring for a number of reasons. First, parents are relying more on information they find on the Internet, and that information is sometimes not legitimate. Anyone with a computer can voice his or her opinions in public forums, and they often blog about personal experiences that may or may not be factual. Unfortunately, the reader doesn’t know how to legitimize the content, and that is why it’s very important for people to go to trusted websites to get medical information, whether you’re talking about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, or even Fox News Health, where we interview medical physicians and opinion makers that can analyze information in a useful way.
Secondly, I think there is a lot of distrust in the health care industry, especially when it comes to pharmaceutical companies, which have been vilified by a lot of folks. Many consumers see the health care industry as a for-profit operation that is not properly balancing the benefit-to-profit ratio it is expected to maintain, and they think these companies simply push drugs that are creating more harm than good. And yes, there are examples of medications that have been recalled after causing damage, but we have many systems in place to prevent that from happening as much as possible.
Finally, you have to look at the rising levels of autism, GI intolerances, asthma and allergies that children are experiencing. People are becoming increasingly worried that the unregulated toxins in many of our products – whether you’re talking about contaminated foods or disposable plastics – might be harming their children more than they think.
But this atmosphere of worry and misinformation creates an environment in which children may not be getting the medical protection they need – especially when it comes to vaccinations – and that’s going to create huge pockets of problems down the road. As with this measles outbreak in Texas, some of the infectious diseases we thought we had under control are going to start popping up again in significant numbers.
My advice to worried parents is to gain confidence in your physician. You should work with your physician in order to find the best game plan for your family. And if you don’t have a physician you can trust, then look around and find someone that makes you feel comfortable. We have to make the patient-doctor relationship a high priority once again.
Also, stay informed, but always double check the facts, especially if you read them online. But most of all, please remember that there are some essential vaccines that protect children, and you should always consider them as the first line of defense for keeping your children safe.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.