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Vaccines are not a perfect cure-all. Bob Wittler admits it. He adds that nothing in medicine is a 100 percent certainty.
But Wittler, a professor in the pediatrics department at the Kansas University School of Medicine - Wichita, believes the benefit-to-risk ratio for vaccines is "huge."
"Parents of children certainly need to be aware of the benefits and the potential risks of vaccines. Nothing we do in medicine is neither 100 percent effective nor 100 percent safe," Wittler said. "By and large, immunizations are very safe and very effective, and one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the last 100 years."
August marks National Immunization Awareness Month. Wittler said some parents may think diseases have disappeared. However, he points to a recent case he had not seen in years - chicken pox.
"Certainly, immunizations have often been a victim of their own success. So many individuals feel they never see that disease, so we don't have to immunize our children against it," Wittler said. "There are possibilities of diseases recurring or becoming more prevalent, or being reintroduced into the community, because they do occur in different parts of this country and different parts of the world."
Wittler added that whooping cough has seen resurgence, as well. He warns that people around babies should be especially conscious of the infection.
With more vaccines also come concerns over how much is too much.
"The number of vaccines has certainly increased, and sometimes parents feel like that number overwhelms their (child's) immune system," Wittler said. "But vaccines have become much more refined over time.
"So you actually look at what the immune system sees, it's not necessarily more now than it was back in the 60s when people were getting a smallpox vaccine and a different form of pertussis vaccine."
Wittler warns parents about information gathered on the Internet. He said some websites are opposed to vaccines, but cautions most are based on opinions, not research-based content. He advises parents to visit www.cdc.gov for more information about vaccines.