On Fast Food and Silver Bullets

February 12th, 2013 posted by Deborah Mitchell

by Deborah Mitchell

When I sat down to write “What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Childhood Vaccinations ,” I vividly recalled how, when I was a small child, my mother had taken me to the local high school auditorium to stand in line with many other children to get my sugar cube laced with the polio vaccine. I must have also received a vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella, but I got the measles anyway. The chickenpox vaccine wasn’t available when I was young, so I dutifully got my red spots like so many of my friends. We all survived. During the early days of mass childhood vaccinations, few people questioned their safety. The government and doctors were shooting silver bullets, and millions of reluctant children were lined up by their parents to get theirs. The number of children who contracted measles, mumps, rubella, and polio declined dramatically. The iron lung virtually disappeared. Life was good. Or was it? And would it remain that way? I believe it is my obligation as a health and medical writer to shed light on the paths of information, to reveal research data in useful and relevant ways to readers. Sometimes those paths are easy to navigate; other times they are not. In the case of childhood vaccinations, when we are dealing with the welfare of children and questions about the integrity of health organizations, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and much of the medical community, I found that the roads we must travel to get the information needed to make informed decisions about vaccine safety are long, arduous, and ill-lit. Combine that fact with another: We’re busy, too busy much of the time to explore the many roads that intersect our lives. We typically read headlines, catch 30-second blurbs of news on the TV, stay “informed” with news briefs rattled off by radio personalities. We get our information like we want our food: fast and convenient. The problem is, like the fatty fast food served up at drive-through windows, it’s not digested well. Such fare may be okay once in a while, but as a steady diet, it doesn’t provide us with sustenance. And when the food, or information, you need is about something really important, as health issues often are, it’s time to choose your portions carefully and thoughtfully, chew slowly, and allow for digestion to take place. The vaccine story is not fast-food fare. It is a complex issue, wrought with controversy. While working on this book I discovered that I had to forget what I had been spoon-fed about vaccines and start anew. The journey was exciting but stressful, because some of what I learned–and I by no means uncovered it all–is disturbing. Writing this book reconfirmed in me the need for us to do what the bumper sticker says: “Question Authority.” We must not blindly accept as gospel what is served up to us. We have an obligation to ourselves…and to our children…to read, question, and question some more. Perhaps we won’t always find the whole truth, but we will be better informed, and thus armed, we can make better decisions.

Deborah Mitchell (1 Posts)

All rights reserved. Posted with permission from Time Warner Bookmark Copyright 2001

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