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Briarcliff Doctor Says Vaccines Are Safe, Helpful

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Though anecdotes persist that vaccines can cause some symptoms of illness, Dr. Harish Moorjani strongly believes vaccines do no harm and can only help in preventing illness.

"I've given the flu shot to almost 2,000 people in my practice per year and I have never seen a reaction," said Moorjani, who is one of five infectious disease doctors at Hudson Infectious Diseases Associates on Woodside Avenue.

When the flu shot was first created over ten years ago, it did cause nasal congestion, sore throat and runny eyes in some people due to a part of the killed flu virus stimulating an inflammatory reaction, Moorjani said.

However, that problem has been taken care of in recent years with vaccines containing only half of the killed flu virus, which does not cause an inflammatory reaction.

"The problem is that all these beliefs get formed initially and they get perpetuated over time," Moorjani said. "I would say don't worry about the side effects of vaccination unless it is a live vaccine. If it's live, read a little more about it and talk to the doctor more to decide if the benefit outweighs the risk. Otherwise, if it's a not a live vaccine, do it with your eyes closed."

Vaccines, responsible for the control of such infectious scourges as polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), prevent diseases in people who receive them, as well as those who come into contact with unvaccinated people.

Vaccines contain the same antigens, or parts of antigens, that cause diseases, but antigens in vaccines are either killed or greatly weakened so that when they are injected into the human body they are not strong enough to produce symptoms of the disease. They are, however, strong enough for the immune system to produce antibodies against them.

Vaccinated children develop immunities without suffering from the actual diseases the vaccines prevent, so it seems there would be no reason not to vaccinate. Some parents, however, believe there are links between the vaccine preservative, thimerosal, and autism, despite scientific studies conducted by major health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization that have failed to show any causal link between the two.

Despite the debunking of the original claim of a link between vaccines and autism - the study that supposedly found the link was exposed as a fraud in 2010; the medical journal in which it was published retracted it, and the doctor who conducted it had his license to practice revoked - parents' fears linger. (http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/01/24/prl20124.htm)

In fact, there have been recent stirrings of some preventable diseases making comebacks with deadly outcomes. Earlier this year California endured the largest whooping cough outbreak in 65 years, sickening almost 9,500 people and killing 10 infants. And so far this year, there have been more cases of measles in the United States than any year since 1996. Forty percent of people who contract the disease need to be hospitalized.

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