Letters to the Editor

Voice of the People - June 12, 2008

Doctors recommend childhood vaccinations

A more appropriate headline above Mary Jo Balasco's recent article regarding childhood vaccinations would have been, "All York County pediatricians agree: Children should be vaccinated according to current recommendations." Every local pediatrician agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics that vaccines are the most significant contribution to healthcare in our lifetime. Ms. Balasco had to travel out of the county to find a provider who condoned failure to vaccinate according to current guidelines.

Because universal immunization has been so effective in reducing childhood infectious illnesses, pediatricians have been able to focus more of their time in recent decades on developmental disabilities. Many children in previous generations who were considered "mentally retarded" may well have met the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder, but health care providers were so occupied with saving the lives of the many children suffering from measles, meningitis, polio or whooping cough that not as much time or research was put into precisely identifying developmental disabilities. Now the diagnosis "mental retardation" is not considered specific enough, and clinicians are looking for the underlying problem -- whether that is a metabolic or genetic abnormality or an autism spectrum disorder. Yes, there has been an increase in the diagnosis of autism, but it is probably more related to better recognition than to an increased incidence of the disorder.

Dr. Anthony Castiglia, a family practitioner in Mooresville, N.C., was quoted as saying, "The most important thing is to have a good immune system and do it naturally, not to do it with vaccines." It is certainly likely that an unvaccinated child who "naturally" got polio and ended up paralyzed and in an iron lung for life would be unlikely to get polio again. An unvaccinated pregnant mother who contracts rubella during pregnancy is extremely likely to give birth to a mentally retarded and deaf child, but it is true that her "good immune system" would fight off the rubella the next time around. It is absolutely clear that children who naturally get pneumococcal and H. Flu. meningitis might (or might not) "recover" with only cerebral palsy, seizures and deafness, but raise your hand if you want to see your child "naturally" fight those illnesses.

Vaccinating your child may be the single most important health-promoting intervention you perform as a parent or caregiver. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are taking advantage of responsible parents who do vaccinate. Thankfully, such an attitude is not condoned by pediatricians in York County, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Practice or the Autism Society of America.

Susan Start, M.D.

Martha Edwards, M.D.

Rock Hill

McKown was railroaded

As a citizen of South Carolina, I find it appalling that the state would spend so much time and resources pursuing a case against an elected official that was as flimsy as the one recently against York County Coroner Doug McKown. It seemed to me to be a case of someone having a personal vendetta against the coroner, and they went to whatever means necessary to fabricate evidence against him and then somehow talked the state attorney general into charging him.

In the past, when I read about someone being caught by an "undercover drug informant," I assumed this was an undercover law enforcement officer. How disappointing it was for me to learn that this euphemistic title is actually given to a drug dealer who has worked a deal with law enforcement to get out of trouble in exchange for saying whatever they are told to say. Charges were brought against a man based on the testimony of drug users and dealers, whose freedom depended on them saying whatever the prosecuter told them to say, against a man who was never actually seen doing anything wrong, overheard doing anything wrong or personally in possession of anything wrong.

It's frightening that this could actually happen to someone in this country. This whole case played out like a bad movie of the week, and I am embarrassed for the people of York County that they were represented in this way by their law enforcement officials. It reminded me of one of those old movies from the 1970s where the evil, bullying sheriff of some small southern town is tormenting some well meaning local do-gooder.

Cynthia Gross