Notes from the Doctors

Gun Violence – A Public Health Crisis in America

This piece was published on our website in the spring of 2018, shortly after the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. From The Medical Providers at Concord Pediatrics:

We at Concord Pediatrics are deeply saddened by the continued gun violence in our country, specifically within our nation’s schools. As a pediatric practice we stand committed to listening to children, adolescents and families. Our nation’s youth have clearly spoken and to them we say, “WE ARE LISTENING.” We are so inspired by the courageous students leading the movement for gun law reform.  We stand beside them.

At Concord Pediatrics we strive for open communication surrounding all issues of safety. Our most important goal as your healthcare providers is to maintain the health and safety of your children. Unfortunately, firearms continue to be the third leading cause of death for youth in the United States today. We feel obligated to inform you that a gun in the home triples the risk of homicide and increases the risk of suicide by five times. We have increasing concern regarding firearms being accessible to the children in our community. We believe that if a family does make a choice to keep firearms in their home, that there should be communication amongst us all regarding proper storage and safety precautions.

We join the American Academy of Pediatrics and so many of our nation’s youth in calling for the strongest-possible legislative and regulatory approaches to reduce the accessibility of guns to children and adolescents.  We support a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons, stronger background checks, solutions addressing firearm trafficking, and child access prevention laws that encourage safe firearm storage.  We support all efforts to bolster mental health services for adults and children, particularly for those exposed to violence or at risk to themselves and others. We also know that gun violence prevention research is essential to developing effective public health interventions to address gun violence.

Please visit the Parent & Child Resources section of our website for Behavioral and Mental Health resources in our community and Child Safety links for more information on gun violence prevention. Do not hesitate to speak with our providers if you have questions regarding the safety of your children at home or at school.  We remain committed to keeping our community a place where our children and families can thrive.

From Dr. Pat:

This article was written for the Opinion Columns section of the Concord Monitor by Dr. Pat Edwards.  It was published on 11/13/2014.

Why Children NEED to be vaccinated.

I either read or heard once that people are more likely to believe the fantastic or controversial than the well documented facts. I feel this is especially true about vaccinations for children and it's something I have been struggling with since I was a pediatric resident back in the 80's. Doctors spend countless hours explaining the hows and whys and fighting the myths about vaccination that continue to result in many children and adults being at risk to catch life threatening diseases.

We are a lucky generation because we didn't grow up with the threat of polio and seeing our loved ones live out the rest of their lives crippled or in an iron lung because they couldn't breathe after polio damaged their nerves. My own mother remembers being sent to camp in the summer ( she grew up in NY City) for the sole reason of protecting the children from the polio epidemics that plagued the city every summer. When the polio vaccine came out she signed me up for every opportunity to receive it at school and in the doctor's office ( I must have had 10). Whole families were quarantined when diphtheria spread through a town killing most people who came down with it. Tetanus was a real concern for people who worked the soil and was and still is for the most part an untreatable and fatal condition. Mumps can cause sterility in men. Smallpox killed and disrigured those who caught it and is now eradicated thanks to vaccination. Why would anyone want to expose their precious child to these deadly illnesses when there is a simple solution?

The answer is fear mongering. In 1998 an article appeared in The Lancet about a study done by Andrew Wakefield stating that he had proven that the MMR caused autism. The study was flawed from the start but was published and started the cycle of fear of immunization. What wasn't mentioned in the press was that Wakefield paid labs in California to give the results he wanted and that he only studied a handful of patients with a diagnosis of Autism and didn't compare them with any normal children. The article was retraced in 2004 and in 2010 Wakefield was convicted of professional misconduct and lost his medical license forever. Still people bring this study up on a regular basis in our office as a reason they don't want to vaccinate their children! Also a huge multicenter study looking at the charts of approximately 5000 children at children's medical centers in the US failed to be able to duplicate these results. And still books are written and things appear on the internet blaming Autism on the MMR vaccine.

While some have admitted that Wakefield's study was bogus a new controvery popped up about the number of vaccines causing health issues. Once again studies have shown that the number of vaccines is not harmful and that delaying vaccines just opens the opportunity for children to catch the diseases they protect against. One of the recent issues with this is the increasing outbreaks of Pertussis as parents under vaccinate and delay vaccinations in their children thereby putting our entire population at risk. This is especially concerning as Pertussis is often fatal to infants, again with no treatment other than putting a baby on a ventilator so they can breathe despite the continual coughing. Babies cough so much with Pertussis that they turn blue and can suffer respiratory arrest and death. And,as an aside, there is not mercury being used as a preservative in the infant vaccines, despite the fact that the harmful type of mercury was never in vaccines to begin with and was a safe and effective preservative.

Now for my pet peeve, so called experts who scare patients about vaccines and, even worse, tell people that vaccines aren't effective and that the body can heal itself and create it's own immunity. I will agree that one can become immune to Chicken pox, measles,rubella, mumps and HIB ( when you have reached the age of 5 or 6 not before), However there is NO natural immunity to polio, tetanus or pertussis. To get natural immunity to some of the others you must first catch the disease, hope you don't die form it, and then have immunity if you're lucky enough to survive. Certain people even take out ads at great expense to strike fear into the hearts of the public. Some pharmacies even carry books that spread the fear of vaccination.

Lastly I ask the question - if vaccines were dangerous, why would I, a pediatrician, have fully vaccinated my own children? I would never ask anyone to do something to their own child that I wouldn't think safe for mine!