I had the good fortune of running into Joel Safier, M.D. the other day.  Joel is retired now, but for over 30 years, he provided pediatric care to so many children in the south hills of Pittsburgh.  One of Pediatric Alliance’s founding doctors, Joel took me under his wing and, in 1990, fresh out of residency at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, gave me the professional opportunity of a lifetime.

In practice together until his retirement, Joel was the one who taught me the art of communicating with my patients and their parents.  Our families simply trusted Joel.  So it was a little dismaying to him when a new generation of parents came along and refused his sound and persuasive advice to immunize their children completely and without delay.  He understood the science.  In fact, he contributed to the science by promoting vaccine research studies in our offices for many years.  (All three of my own children participated in such studies.)  He had common sense on his side:  a pediatric resident himself at CHP in the 1960’s, he saw first-hand the devastating consequences of polio, bacterial meningitis, measles, congenital rubella, and so much more.  I remember before he retired, Joel said:  “Even though chickenpox is mild for most, why would a parent want their child to be sick with that, when there is a simple and safe vaccine to prevent it?.” Why indeed.  In this day and age of MRSA bacterial skin infections, I really do wonder what parents who refuse chickenpox vaccine (Varivax) are thinking.

Joel Safier has that natural ability to communicate with people.  When I saw him last week, he told me about a terrific article in Parade Magazine (October 7, 2012 issue) about vaccines and thought that posting it on The PediaBlog would be helpful to a lot of young families out there.  Very well written, concise, and complete, Seth Mnookin dives right in:

Over the past several years, the U.S. has seen outbreaks of not only Hib meningitis but also of other once prevalent childhood scourges like measles. A major cause, say experts, is the growing clusters of parents who are delaying or refusing standard vaccinations. But when parents choose not to vaccinate, they’re not simply putting their own kids at risk; they’re also unwittingly jeopardizing newborns, pregnant women, the elderly, and people like Julieanna with preexisting conditions. Those populations are increasingly vulnerable as diseases that we thought had been contained start to return, in larger numbers each year.

Why do pediatricians like Dr. Safier feel so strongly about vaccinating children?  Mnookin quotes Austin, Texas pediatrician Ari Brown, M.D.:

“Pediatricians have no hidden agenda; our agenda is to protect kids,” she says. “We’ve been there with incredibly sick children, and when you see that, you want to do everything you can to stop it.”

It really is that simple.

Tomorrow we will explore some myths regarding vaccines.

Read Seth Mnookin’s excellent article: