Our nation has a vaccination debate with very little scientific clarity

So when it comes to vaccines, we’re pretty divided right now — and it isn’t for lack of debate. But we’re also not learning very much. We’re learning more stories about exactly who isn’t a fan of the vaccine schedule and why, but we’re not learning about any real ideas, policy or potential solutions.

And the more people are asked about vaccinations, the more we’re hearing about old scientific controversies and sides with mothers and doctors.

We’re writing stories about trust between parents and doctors, we’re writing about how chemicals in nonprescription drugs, etc., are dangerous to babies and we’re even asking our readers to weigh in — all topics we know to be important, but they aren’t really important when it comes to how we should improve our vaccines.

Still, we don’t have to go so far as asking readers to join the fight on our side.

Last summer, I started a petition in support of a key pillar of science that I’ve always been passionate about: being armed with the most up-to-date information available. I wanted my friends, our supporters, to be armed with the most up-to-date information we can provide so that they could help make better decisions on when to vaccinate, to take preventative measures against vaccine-preventable diseases and to assist with our efforts to protect against infections that carry the risk of death or permanent disability.

So, I’m writing an op-ed today, in an effort to pull the rank on parents and professionals who continue to push for scientific evidence instead of following science, and to help readers make their own informed decisions and inform their views.

Should we be having vaccines? What does this really mean for my future children?

From my perspective, there is too much at stake in this debate and the facts clearly support the ideal of vaccination. It’s the evidence that is the issue. Yet those like Dr. Benjamin Friedman, who wrote in the most recent issue of Pediatrics that “CDC authorities, using a once-familiar recipe of anecdotes and questionable hypotheses, have repeated the same failed approach to vaccine safety for more than 50 years,” are stoking unfounded fears and creating confusion.

Here’s an important thing to remember: The laws in this country and most of the world that define “vaccination” do not define exactly when vaccines are needed or when they are appropriate. Many people are worried about whether they should get their children vaccinated because they question whether the pro-vaccine government has misrepresented the scientific and health facts.


The truth of the matter is this: We all want our kids to be protected against vaccines. That’s what the conversation should be about. My son and the future of my country depend on it.

I’ve always been a strong believer in the right to be uninformed. But until someone stands up for scientific research and quality information, it doesn’t seem fair to others whose lives are at stake if we don’t get this right. So I’m calling on anyone who wants my support to stand up and show they know what they’re talking about, no matter what they believe.

This is the time to take on a cause everyone should want — for your child and your country’s future.

Dr. Erin O’Toole is an obstetrician/gynecologist at Loyola University Health System in Chicago and a mother of two.

Leave a Comment