“Think Again,” When It Comes to Viral Hepatitis

Do you know which vaccine your baby received on the day he/she was born? Hepatitis B. The first dose is given to babies on their day of birth – so it must be pretty important, right? Right! But how much do you know about Hepatitis B…or the four other types for that matter? Monday is World Hepatitis Day, so we thought it would be appropriate to educate our readers about the dangers and prevention of this disease.

Let’s review the basics. There are five different types of hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D and E. All of these viruses cause short term, or acute infection. However the hepatitis B, C and D viruses can also cause long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis. Here are the “cliff’s notes” about each type of hepatitis:

Hepatitis A: the most acute virus of the three, it often presents like a stomach bug. While the hepatitis A vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunization schedule, many adults have not been vaccinated.

Hepatitis B: a very hearty virus, can live outside of the body for at least seven days (and on household objects like toothbrushes and razors), an infected mother can pass it to her baby at birth, and when kids are infected, it is much more dangerous than adults because they can develop a chronic infection that can lead to liver cancer. Many people are infected with hepatitis B virus and don’t have any symptoms, but they can still pass it on to other people. The virus is transmitted through blood or other body fluids. Vaccination is part of the routine childhood schedule and is also available for adults.

Hepatitis C: a virus that the body is unable to clear by itself, so infection typically becomes chronic. It is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact. There is no vaccination available.

Hepatitis D: found in individuals infected with Hepatitis B, this type is spread through contact with infected blood. There is currently no antiviral therapy or vaccination available.

Hepatitis E: spread through eating food or drinking water contaminated by the feces of an infected person. A vaccine exists but is not available in the United States.

So, you may be asking – how does this apply to me (and my child), and what can I do to protect my family from hepatitis? Well, first and foremost – you can make sure your family is vaccinated! This is the simplest and most powerful way to provide protection against Hepatitis A and B. The CDC recommends three doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine (given at birth, 2 months and between 6-18 months) and two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine (given six months apart starting at 12-23 months.) Adults can get them, too!

And finally, because it’s much more fun to watch finger-puppets sing about hepatitis prevention than read about it…

Most people have no idea how prevalent viral hepatitis is (one in 12 people around the world are living with chronic viral hepatitis), and often because there is a stigma attached to the virus, it is misunderstood. In reality, it is a risk to us all. Thankfully, Hepatitis A and B can be prevented thanks to vaccinations. If you think your family is safe without a vaccination, please think again.

To visit the “Wall of Stories” where those affected by hepatitis have shared their personal experiences, click here.

Measles – Recognizing the Signs

MeaslesTravelFlyerMy husband and I just returned from a phenomenal trip to Mexico celebrating one year of parenthood – we survived! As much as we missed our baby girl, it was so great to get away together. We returned feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. As we made our way through customs after landing in Houston, I began to notice how many nationalities surrounded us. At a large international airport (like the one here), it’s not unusual to see a great number of countries represented as everyone debarks their planes and enters the U.S.

The lines were long, and as we slowly snaked along, something caught my eye. It was two large signs displayed very prominently. One asked “Do you know how to recognize measles?” and the other read “Get vaccinated against measles.” Trying my best not to be obvious, I began casually looking around to see if any travelers around me had a suspicious rash on their neck. (Yikes!) Simultaneously, I felt relief wash over me – I was so happy that my daughter wasn’t with us. Even though she received her MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) a few weeks ago, I still wouldn’t want her to be exposed if someone in line had measles. As unlikely as that scenario probably was, the protective mother in me came out again.

Measles was not something I thought about much, until this past year. I thought it was a disease from the “olden days” that had pretty much been wiped out, thanks to vaccinations. But when my daughter was born, and I became hypersensitive to contagious diseases and germs, suddenly I began hearing about measles all the time. There would be a story on the evening news about an outbreak in Ohio, or a friend would post an article on Facebook about increased cases in California. Now, at least once a week, I hear something about the increasing problem of measles cases in our country. As I mentioned in this post, I counted down the days until Stella got her MMR vaccine, and felt so thankful to have easy access to it – sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live in a country where vaccines are readily available.

So, back to the signs at the airport. Do you know how to recognize measles? Symptoms generally begin about 7-14 days after a person is infected, and include:

• Blotchy rash
• Fever
• Cough
• Runny nose
• Red, watery eyes
• Feeling run down, achy
• Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth

Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a red or reddish-brown rash appears. The rash usually begins on a person’s face at the hairline and spreads downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’d like to see examples of the characteristic rash, you can find images of measles here.

If you think your child might have measles, please (for the sake of those too young or too sick to be vaccinated) CALL your provider’s office or the emergency room before you go to let them know you suspect measles, so that they may prepare for you, and prevent it from spreading to other patients. The measles virus is spread through respiratory droplets (coughing, sneezing, kisses, talking, etc.), and can live in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours after an infected indiPrintvidual has left the room. It is one of the most contagious diseases to affect humans — so contagious that 90% of people who come into contact with the infected person will also become infected, if they are not vaccinated.

Sadly, measles is still one of the leading causes of death among young children worldwide, even though we have a safe and cost-effective vaccine to fight it. The CDC recommends the first dose (of two) of MMR vaccine be given one year of age for children, but can be administered as early as six months if the child will be traveling abroad.

We’ve been successful at significantly reducing the number of cases of measles we see here in the U.S., but we’re not out of the woods yet. Parents, please don’t let your child be without immunity from this highly contagious, dangerous (but preventable!) disease.

The Actual Risks of Vaccines (It Turns Out There Aren’t Many)

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post on July 8, 2014.


These days, we hear a lot about the risks of vaccines. As a pediatrician, I talk to many parents who are very frightened about those risks — and some choose not to vaccinate because of their fear.

Some of the risks we hear about are real, but some of them aren’t.

I absolutely support the right of every parent to make what they feel is the best decision for their child. The vaccination decision, however, isn’t a purely personal one. When people don’t immunize, it can lead to more cases of vaccine-preventable diseases — many of which can be deadly, especially for the young, the old and those with health problems.

And when people make the decision not to vaccinate based on misinformation, well, that makes it so much worse.

No medical treatment is 100 percent safe for all people. Heck, nothing in this world is 100 percent safe for all people. Crossing the street, eating a piece of hard candy, riding in a car and swimming have all been known to turn out badly — and yet those aren’t controversial.

I know, getting vaccines is different than riding in a car. There are lots of reasons, but one is that vaccines feel, well, more optional than riding in a car. Also, the risks of riding in cars are clear and well-known, and we know what we can do to prevent them (like using a car seat, and driving carefully). But the risks of vaccines seem a whole lot murkier.

That’s why the recent report about the actual risks of vaccines is so helpful. Researchers looked at hundreds of studies about vaccines and used statistics to figure out the most common “adverse effects.” These are the risks we need to really think about, as opposed to the mild fever and muscle soreness that goes away quickly, or the one-in-a-million risks that nobody can predict.

While it’s certainly good to know what the one-in-a-million risks are, if you are going to truly worry about those you should pack your child in a bubble right now — because the risks of playdates, playgrounds, going to school and taking most medications (as well as eating most foods) are higher. In saying that, I don’t mean to sound disrespectful of parents who worry about the rare risks of vaccines. It’s just that as a doctor, it’s frustrating to me when people only look at vaccines that way, vaccines that could keep their child and others from getting sick, and don’t pick apart the risks of everything else in their child’s life. And the illnesses vaccines prevent have risks that are much higher than one in a million, an important point that often gets lost.

Here are the risks that researchers found:

  • MMR vaccine: febrile seizures (while scary, these don’t cause long-term effects), and severe reactions in those who are allergic to the vaccine.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine: allergic reactions in people who are “yeast-sensitive” (people should check with their doctors to see if it applies to them)
  • Hepatitis A vaccine: can cause a bruising-type rash (purpura) although usually mild and short-lived.
  • Polio vaccine: the researchers found one study that showed an increase risk of food allergy in newborns who got the shot (they didn’t find it in older babies or children who got it), but only if they had eczema and a family history of food allergies.
  • Influenza vaccine: vomiting and diarrhea (for a brief period of time), febrile seizures
  • Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13): can cause febrile seizures, especially if given with the flu shot.
  • Rotavirus: can cause intussception, a condition in which the intestine folds in on itself (while this can be dangerous, it can be fixed).
  • Meningococcal vaccine (Menactra): severe allergic reactions in people who are allergic to it.
  • Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine: can cause illness in children who have problems with their immune system (so they shouldn’t get it). It can also cause a much milder case of chicken pox in healthy children, and can cause purpura (that bruising rash again), usually mild and short-lived.

All of these are still rare — for example, intussception happens in between 1 and 5 out of every 100,000 children vaccinated. The risk of being allergic is very small too, which is good since it’s almost impossible to know about that risk ahead of time.

That’s it. They couldn’t find anything for the DTaP vaccine or the HIB vaccine. They couldn’t find any association with autism. And they couldn’t find any risk from giving a lot of vaccines at once; in fact, one study found that getting several vaccines may help protect children against leukemia.

Check out the report. Check out the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is where information about events that happen after vaccines is kept. Ask your doctor every single question you have. We in the medical profession aren’t trying to keep anything secret, truly — and we rather desperately don’t want children or anyone to be hurt, either by the vaccines or by vaccine-preventable diseases.

Please, make your decisions based on the best information possible. There’s just too much riding on it.

Claire McCarthy, MD, is a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital. An Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and a senior editor for Harvard Health Publications, she has been writing about health and parenting for magazines, newspapers, and the internet for more than 20 years. She and her husband are raising five children ranging in age from 23 to 8. She blogs for Thriving, the health and parenting blog of Children’s Hospital Boston, and for Boston.com as MD Mama; you can follow her on Twitter at @drClaire.

Vaccination Milestones

cupcakeIf you have children, you’ve probably heard the word “milestone” more than you ever did before you had them. Milestones mark each week and trimester of pregnancy. Milestones mark your child’s growth and development. Walking, talking, eating independently – all milestones in their wonderful little lives. My daughter reached a major milestone on Saturday. She turned one! It was a great weekend of celebrating (both her birthday, AND my husband and I surviving the first year) and it still surprises me how quickly time can fly when you’re having fun.

Yesterday we loaded up in the car for one more milestone – Stella’s “one year well-visit” and 12 month immunizations at her pediatrician’s office. We found a seat in the waiting room, and she was wonderfully oblivious to the shots that were coming. She loved watching the fish swim around in the aquarium, and giggled at the other kids around us. As the nurse brought us into our room, she bounced on her daddy’s lap and played with the paper on the table like a happy girl…until the nurse came in with the needles. Our happy girl turned into one big crocodile tear. Her immunizations included Hepatitis A, MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), and Varicella (Chicken Pox), and before we knew it, they were over. Those nurses are amazingly quick! Although shots are never fun for kids, and Stella is probably a little sore today, I celebrated this milestone. We’d made it to our 12 month immunizations without contracting measles, mumps or chicken pox in the process! The nurse mentioned that she might have a slight fever today. A little fever is far better than the alternative, and she is finally protected. With outbreaks of several vaccine-preventable diseases on the rise – like measles and whooping cough - I was counting down the days until she could get vaccinated. Now I am able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Many of the diseases we vaccinate against are still common in other parts of the world. Measles, for example, is still a leading cause of death in children under 5 worldwide. In fact, 14 people die every hour from measles around the world. This is despite the fact that we have a vaccine that’s not only effective at preventing measles but also very, very safe.

A recent article published yesterday in the journal Pediatrics reviewed the available research on the safety of the MMR and other vaccines and found that side effects (if any) are mild, and severe adverse events are exceedingly rare. What is “rare”? Well, according to the CDC, the odds of having a severe reaction to the MMR is 1 in 1 million. To put that into perspective, Stella has a greater chance of being struck by lightning than having a severe side effect. And with measles cropping up all over the country, the chance of her getting exposed to measles is greater than it has been in roughly 20 years. Knowing that, I have no doubt the benefits of getting her vaccinated far outweigh the risks.

As a parent, we track our child’s development week to week. Additionally, it is our responsibility to keep up with their immunization schedule, and vaccinate them on time. Vaccinating is one of the best birthday gifts I could give to my child. It gives her the opportunity to stay healthy and be protected from diseases that can easily be prevented.

You Can Do Something about Measles Outbreaks

This article was written by Karen Ernst and originally posted on Voices for Vaccines. In light of the recent measles outbreaks, we wanted to re-post this article for those looking to find out more about what is going on and what you can do to help.  

As of June 13, we have seen 477 measles cases in the United State this year.

Measles through June 13, 2014

The number of cases is astounding to anyone who pays attention to the news. Here’s what you need to know about measles, the current outbreak, and the MMR vaccine.

  1. 341 of those cases have been in Ohio. It was brought there by an unvaccinated Amish person who had traveled on a mission trip to the Philippines, where measles is running rampant. The mission worker brought the measles back to a largely unvaccinated Amish community, where it has spread for the last three months.
  2. The measles cases are occuring largely among unvaccinated people, 85% of whom refused vaccines (or had parents who refused to vaccinate them) for religious or philosophical reasons.
  3.  Measles is incredibly contagious. An infected person may begin by feeling unwell, with a bit of a fever and maybe a cough. Perhaps that person may go someplace public–maybe a pharmacy or a doctor’s office. 90% of those people who come in contact with him and are not immune to measles will contract the disease, and for two hours after he has left, any people who enter that place who are not immune will likely catch it. And they might pass it along before Patient Zero even realizes that his illness is measles. If our Patient Zero lived in an entirely measles-susceptible town, where no one had been vaccinated or had already lived through measles, he would infect fourteen people every day.
  4. The measles vaccine works. While we are seeing too many cases for the year 2014, keep in mind that before the vaccine was in use:
    • 3-4 million people in the US were infected with measles each year
    • 500 people lost their lives each year because of measles
    • 48,000 people were hospitalized each year
    • And as of 2000, the only cases of measles in the United States were brought in from abroad.
  5. Dr. Paul Offit points out that “we live in a global sea of measles.” We live in a world where measles is a regular occurance, not only in the Philipines, but also in the United Kingdom, France, Ethiopia, and too many other countries to list. Measles is still a scourge in the world,killing 14 people every hour in the year 2012. If we want to keep measles away from home, we have to vaccinate almost everyone at home. (And supporting global measles eradication is a good idea, too.)


For five points of information, I propose five solutions.

  1. Vaccinate your children, and make sure you have been vaccinated against measles. Being vaccinated is the purest form of advocacy since it strikes a blow against disease itself.
  2. Is your family vaccinated? Let others know! A comment made at the playground during a casual conversation makes vaccinating normal and discussing vaccines socially acceptable. (“Boy, these measles outbreaks are terrible. Glad we are all up-to-date on our vaccines!”) Post photos of your children on social media at their post-immunization ice cream stop (or however else you reward vaccination appointments well done). Whatever you do, just talk about it. Let’s make immunization part of polite conversation again.

To continue reading the full article, click here. 

Summer Camps and Immunizations

campfireThe Summer Solstice on June 21 marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but if you live in the south (like me), you know that summer has been in full swing for weeks now. Kids are out of school, families are flocking to swimming pools, and oh yeah – it’s really hot outside. For many families, summer also means it’s time to gear up for camp. Each camp has their own specifications for packing, but in addition to sleeping bags, bug spray and sunscreen, making sure your child is up to date on their vaccinations is a key part of your preparations for summer camp. It’s one of the easiest ways to keep your camper (and all the kids around them) healthy while they’re away.

Camps these days offer more activities than you could imagine. There’s water sports, indoor games, outdoor games, ropes courses… the list goes on and on. It’s a kid’s dream. But, no matter what your child is into, one thing is for sure at camp– all those kids in close proximity means infections could spread quickly.

Vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and pertussis still occur in many parts of the world – and now are even starting to make a comeback in North America, too. There have been more than 500 cases of measles reported so far this year in 20 states in the US – more than any other year since the disease was declared officially eliminated from the country in 2000 – and the majority of those infected had not been vaccinated.

Measles Cases the US from 1950-2001. Source: CDC.gov

Measles Cases the US from 1950-2001. Source: CDC.gov

Most Americans are fully vaccinated against the measles. But when an infected individual enters a community where pockets of people are not vaccinated, it can spread like wildfire. That’s because measles is one of the most infectious diseases known to mankind. In fact, the virus can live in the air or on surfaces for up to two hours after a contagious individual has left the room.

Thankfully, we have a highly effective vaccine to prevent the measles, but not everyone is eligible to get vaccinated because of age or medical conditions. And there are some individuals (about 1 percent) who are just simply unable to develop sufficient protection even after getting the vaccine. That is why it is so important that each camper (and their families!) be fully up to date with their vaccinations. The more people who are immune, the less likely it is that the disease will be able to circulate.

So ask your child’s pediatrician which vaccinations are recommended for you and your family. The following vaccinations (or boosters) may be recommended depending on your child’s medical history, camp destination, and age. Remember to get the vaccinations in advance, so your child’s body has time to build up immunity.

Pertussis (whooping cough)
Hepatitis A
Measles, Mumps, Rubella
Varicella (chickenpox)

If your child is off to camp this summer, I hope they have a wonderful time! Rest assured that you are doing your part to keep them protected by keeping their vaccinations current. For more information about specific vaccines and the diseases they prevent, visit the Resources page of Immunizeusa.org. Additionally, if someone in your family will be traveling abroad this summer, be sure to read about the travel vaccines they may need to stay protected.

Happy summer to you!

Immunization Heroes: Dr. Carol Baker

The Immunization Partnership asked some of the leading voices championing immunizations — the heroes in the fight against vaccine-preventable disease  – what set you down the path of immunization advocacy? What made you passionate? In short, what is your origin story? Throughout the next few months, we hope to showcase the responses.  

by Carol Baker, MD

When did you become passionate about vaccines? 

Dr. Carol Baker

Dr. Carol Baker

It’s impossible to recall the day, month or even year. The arduous but exciting years of medical training, spurred by the dream of curing, evolved into the realization that my efforts often failed to dispatch death and disability resulting from infections such as meningitis, measles, polio, pertussis, hepatitis B, and even diphtheria. Maybe the first flicker of desire to undo nature’s seemingly random infectious disease afflictions was during the summer after my first year in medical school. I was assigned the task of collecting blood samples from newborn infants with congenital rubella syndrome. Once equipped with this routine skill, I would ponder the rooms filled with purple spotted babies staring blindly through cataracts, sensing the pain in their parents seeing eyes. Or perhaps it was the healthy 14-year-old girl at Los Angeles County Hospital, shopping with friends a few hours before my futile attempts to restore the damage already done by meningococcal meningitis. Possibly even the rotation in a rehabilitation hospital filled with iron lungs as nurses laughed at my poor first attempts to place patients into the coffin-like but life-saving machines for children and adults with polio. In reality, it was probably the accumulation of medicine’s limitations that catapulted me into realizing that prevention trumped treatment.

As a newly minted physician, I loved babies with their clean slate, their joy at fixing and following on their mothers’ faces and promise of that first word, first step, first day of school and all the firsts of growing up. During my pediatric residency in Houston, ecstasy in the nursery was replaced by a new infectious disease, a sudden surge of meningitis cases in infants less than 3 months of age. And these babies had a new kind of meningitis later proven to be caused by group B Streptococcus (GBS), a previously unknown human pathogen, and still the most frequent cause of young infant meningitis. My grief over the death of 25% of these patients and agony in seeing the disabilities that lingered in up to half of the survivors led me to “enlighten” and launch a war. I did so by puzzle solving: publishing a case series describing the mode of infections and clues to early diagnosis. Then I flew to the “home” of streptococcal research, the Rockefeller Institute in New York, to learn more about GBS from the brilliant and generous Rebecca Lancefield (the “mother” of streptococci). What I really wanted though was to stop infection before it happened (prevention). This resulted in more training — this time at Harvard Medical School where I completed the first step in developing a GBS vaccine, defining the pieces of the bacteria that allowed disease in otherwise perfectly healthy babies. While scientifically successful, I was beyond naïve with my plan to prevent GBS infant disease by vaccinating pregnant women. Like Sisyphus each rock of achievement in this pursuit was pushed down by the scientifically senseless, theoretical concern for safety. The end of this 4-decade pursuit has finally come as my vaccine is finally in commercial development.

With the delay in my ambition for a GBS vaccine, I turned my efforts at doing everything in my power to help other newly developed and licensed vaccines be administered to future children, so that they would not be afflicted by vaccine-preventable diseases. I did so through my policy and advocacy work with the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, becoming its President in 2009, and most recently as Chairman of the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. My work will never be done, but I continue the fight to keep my old enemies (e.g., measles), something which could be defeated if recommended vaccines for children were not missed or avoided.

Dr. Carol Baker is a Professor, Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, where her research is focused on neonatal infections and vaccine-preventable diseases.

Finding your Voice as a Vaccinating Parent

megaphoneWhen asked whether or not you vaccinate your children – and why – what specifically do you say? I asked several of my “mom” friends this very question over the weekend, and I realized, although many of their answers were different, there was one common thread between them.

For parents of young children, choosing whether or not to vaccinate is a choice just like breastfeeding versus formula, or cloth diapers versus disposable. I have researched the pros and cons of most every decision I have made for my daughter, and I have found that there are very strong opinions on both sides of most any issue. Just visit a message board (for example) comparing working mothers to stay-at-home moms. The working moms feel very strongly about their decision to return to the office, and the stay-at-home moms are equally as vocal on the opposite end of the spectrum. When it comes to vaccinations, we as mothers must find our voices and take a stance in our beliefs.

So, the question posed to my mom friends was: “why did you choose to vaccinate your child?” Some of their responses are as follows:
“Because my son’s pediatrician recommended it, and I trust her medical background. She must know what’s best for my child.”
“Because I have heard that diseases like whooping cough and measles are making a comeback. My daughter is exposed to a lot of kids during the week, and you just don’t know who has gotten their shots. I refuse to let her walk around unprotected.”
“Because, although my kids are older and healthy, we know plenty of families with babies. We vaccinate to protect ourselves and those that haven’t had their shots yet.”

Even though each mom had a different approach to their answer, their sentiments were all the same. They wanted to protect their children, and keep them safe and healthy. That is probably something we all strive for, but how often do we speak about vaccinations in our circle of friends, or moms groups?

So many families have sadly been affected by vaccine-preventable diseases. (Read some of their stories here) I believe it is our duty, as mothers, to use our VOICES and advocate immunization, so that no child has to suffer from a disease that is easily preventable. Just simply knowing the facts and learning how to dispell myths using trusted resources may change someone’s mind and save a family from heartache. That – in itself – is worth it to me.

Visit the Resources page of Immunizeusa.org to educate yourself, and put your “voice” to work!

The Protector

Hello MOMmunization readers. In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, my husband is guest posting today. Enjoy!

Before I became a father last June, my life was – for the most part – carefree. Of course work was busy, and life brought ups and downs, but until my daughter arrived, the only parental duties I knew were feeding and walking my furry four-legged child, (my dog) Baxter. Everything changed in the best way possible when Stella arrived, and overnight I became a fierce protector of someone I just met.

This momentous event brought about a flood of feelings – pride, mixed with the weight of responsibility, and a newfound knowledge that I would do anything in the world to protect this tiny baby from harm. Because she was born 13 weeks early, Stella’s doctors were extremely concerned about the dangers that pertussis and flu (along with just germs in general) could present. Stella’s hospital stay would extend well into cold and flu season, and we didn’t want to take any chances. My wife and I required all family members and visitors that would come into contact with her to have their pertussis and flu shots, educating them on the importance of vaccinations to someone in her delicate state. My family joked that I was the “vaccine police” because I was a complete stickler about immunizations (along with thorough hand washing and house cleaning). Did we go overboard with this requirement? For some, maybe. For me, we were dealing with precious cargo, and were willing to do everything we could to prevent compromising her fragile immune system. It was the right choice for our family, and it paid off. Stella survived cold and flu season without even the slightest runny nose.

As Stella got older, and was ready for vaccines of her own, I was admittedly a little skeptical of all the vaccines on the recommended list. I drew somewhat of a (naïve) parallel between vaccines and antibiotics, which I believe can sometimes be overused. Stella was still so small and young – did she really need all of this medication in her body? However, after talking to our pediatrician and learning about the benefits of immunizations, I changed my tune. She walked us through the risks of forgoing immunizations and gave some realistic expectations about what could happen if we were go that route. I realized when it came to protecting my daughter, I wanted to do everything I possibly could (short of putting her inside a bubble) to keep her safe. And that definitely included vaccinations.

Although the past year with our daughter has been a rollercoaster ride, we have been blessed with a healthy little girl who will turn one this month. I think our doctors’ attention to detail, our crash course in “all things preemie,” and of course, the vaccinations administered to both Stella and our family, played a major part in her current success and overall health. I truly feel like a lucky man to be spending my first Father’s Day with a healthy, happy, beautiful daughter.

Immunization Heroes

superheroHero. What comes to mind when you hear this word? A muscled, caped-crusader? A masked vigilante? Maybe someone defeating the bad guy with a BAM! or a POW! But as the adage goes, not all heroes wear masks. And sometimes protecting the innocent has more to do with words said than punches thrown.

We at MOMmunizations wanted to highlight those we consider to be heroes in the world of vaccination by inviting them to share their story as part of our Immunization Heroes series.

Dr. Peter Hotez talked about his time as a young scientist in the laboratory, working hard to lay the groundwork for a future vaccine against hookworm. His path led him to become one of the foremost voices in the development of vaccines for neglected tropical diseases, and a global spokesperson for the promotion of vaccination.

Dorit Reiss shared her story of how stumbling across a comment on a blog set the course for her to become an advocate for science-based information regarding immunization online. And through her blog, she has become a voice for those affected by vaccine-preventable diseases.

Both have faced harsh criticism for being vocal about the need for (and science supporting) vaccination. But that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to use their voice to advocate on behalf of immunization.
And they’re not alone.

Healthcare professionals that ensure their patients receive the proper vaccines on time, and public health professionals working to make certain everyone has access to vaccination, are heroes, too. They are all working toward the same goal – improving the health of our communities and our kids.

As a parent with a child under one year of age, these heroes are invaluable. Spreading the truth about the benefits of immunizations (and the science behind them) saves lives, and protects those too young or too sick to be vaccinated.

Immunization heroes come in many different forms, and I am grateful for all of them. But the title doesn’t just apply to scientists and physicians. YOU, as a parent, can be an immunization hero simply by sharing your support of vaccination with your friends and family. In a world as noisy as ours, sometimes it’s easy to think our voices don’t matter. But yours can. As research has shown, the attitudes and beliefs regarding vaccines in parents’ social networks can play a key role in whether or not they decide to vaccinate their kids.

So speak up. You can show your support and enthusiasm for immunizations by participating in our Proud to Be Immunized project. And by directing your friends and family to trusted, science-based resources.

How do you promote immunization in your community? Let us know! Send a note to mommunizations@gmail.com, or comment below.