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I Talked to My Doctor, Not a Talk Show Host

Five years ago, when it was time for our son to start getting his vaccines, my husband and I were terrified that our son would develop autism from his shots. At the time, the debate had reached a tipping point, and parents and doctors alike were on edge. It felt like there was a wealth of information, but it was hard to tell what/if any of that information was accurate. So we did what we thought was a sufficient amount of research to come to the conclusion that we felt vaccinating our children was the safe and responsible thing to do.

But now, the national conversation is back on. There’s a whole new era of McCarthyism, Jenny McCarthyism. Newspapers, magazines and blogs are filled with stories on the subject of immunizations and children. McCarthy's new platform on ABC's The View has us all talking about the autism/vaccine issue yet again. And despite study after study debunking any correlation between autism and vaccinations, some parents are still unwilling to trust what the medical community has been saying for years—it’s safe to vaccinate your children.

RELATED: Jenny McCarthy Just Ruined The View

So, who’s right? Maybe Jenny McCarthy, the mother of an autistic son, knows something I don’t. How do we as parents know which source to trust? Who can tell us the truth about immunizations and our kids?

Well, to me it seems simple. If I want to know about cars, I’ll ask a mechanic. If I want to know how to cook, I’ll ask a chef. If I want to know if vaccinations are safe for my kids, I’m not asking a talk show host—I’m asking a pediatrician. So that’s what I did.

I talked with Dr. Scott Cohen, a renowned pediatrician in Los Angeles. Not only did he write Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby's First Year (which has a whole section discussing some of the misconceptions associated with vaccines), he’s also got young kids of his own. Finding out the truth about vaccines isn't just science for Dr. Cohen, it's personal.

As the founder of a busy Los Angeles medical practice, Dr. Cohen is met with anxiety-ridden parents all the time, each wanting to know if it’s safe to immunize their children. Dr. Cohen explains, “As a parent I understand the fears surrounding vaccines, but there is currently no scientific evidence linking vaccines with autism."

Don’t trust a celebrity unless that celebrity has a Dr. at the beginning of her name.

But I’ve also heard that giving kids too many shots at once lowers their immune system, making them susceptible to infection and disease. “Vaccines do the exact opposite,” Dr. Cohen stated, "They strengthen the immune system. They do this by introducing antigens (foreign substances), which prompt the production of antibodies, which in turn cause an immune response. Consequently, when the body sees those antigens in the future, in the form of an illness such as measles—it can protect itself."

I asked about the preservative Thimerosal, since I heard it was a mercury derivative and that causes autism. Dr. Cohen explained, "Even though no link was found between Thimerosal and autism, as of 2001 Thimerosal was no longer added to vaccines because it was deemed an unnecessary preservative."

So it seems vaccinations can cause a fever, which can even last up to a few days. Immunizations can make your kiddo a little grumpy for a day, probably not more. And yes it hurts to get a shot, but it probably hurts mom more than the little one. And what if you choose not to vaccinate your kids? Well, you're banking on everyone else vaccinating or risking an outbreak of deadly diseases like measles, mumps and rubella.

So what’s the most accurate way to find out what’s best for your kids? Do your research. Ask your doctor. But for goodness sake, don’t trust a celebrity unless that celebrity has a Dr. at the beginning of her name.

RELATED: Another "View" on Jenny McCarthy

VACCINATION QUICK NOTES:

Vaccinations DO:

  • Cause a fever
  • Boost the immune system
  • Hurt, a little
  • Contain safe levels of aluminum
  • Prevent deadly diseases

Vaccinations DON’T:

  • Cause autism
  • Lower the immune system
  • Hurt more than mumps or measles will
  • Contain dangerous levels of mercury
  • Protect parents from misinformation
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