Protect Those Who Can’t Get Vaccinated: A Holiday Season Guide


ChristmasThe holidays are coming up, and that means reconnecting with family and friends—and meeting new family members (newborns anyone?). Some of those loved ones might not be eligible for the Center for Disease Control’s full vaccination schedule: infants, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals are all encouraged to refrain from certain vaccinations. The same is true for individuals allergic to ingredients found in certain vaccinations.

If you can receive vaccinations, it’s vital you’re up to date on the CDC’s full schedule this holidays season. Missed all or most of your immunizations? Check out our guide to catching up. Just want to double check? Talk to a healthcare professional‚start by asking about these five shots.

Flu Shot
The CDC recommends everyone six months or older get a flu shot, and that’s never more important than during the holidays. Infants, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals are all at a greater risk for severe complications from the flu. Yes, those are the same groups that are likely to be ineligible for certain vaccines—be sure to get your shot before the turkey’s carved.

This vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and the CDC recommends it for everyone. Even if you were vaccinated as a child, you should receive at least one dose of Tdap after age 18 for pertussis, and then a tetanus booster every 10 years. Whooping cough can be fatal to infants, so make sure you’re protected before meeting your cousin’s new bundle of joy. You need to get Tdap even if you got whooping cough or the whooping cough vaccine as a child, because your immunity dwindles over time.

Grandma and grandpa, this one’s for you. The elderly and infants are the most vulnerable to Pneumococcal disease, which can lead to ear infections, pneumonia and meningitis. Your new granddaughter might not be able to get the shot yet, but you can; the CDC recommends the immunization for anyone 65 or older.

This is another disease that the elderly is at risk for. Shingles starts with a painful rash, often on the face or torso. The rash forms blisters that take weeks to fully clear up—the pain can stick around for months. Again, it’s the grandparents’ job to make sure everyone is protected.

The holidays aren’t just for family: There’s plenty of time for friends…and more than friends. Human Papilloma Virus is a sexually-transmitted virus that can cause cancers in both men and women. It’s best to get vaccinated at age 11-12, long before you’re even thinking about becoming sexually active, but you can get the vaccine up to age 26. If you’re under 26 and haven’t been vaccinated against HPV, ask your doctor about this vaccine ASAP. 

Separating Fact from Fiction: 4 Signs an Immunization Website Is Spreading Misinformation

As a parent, it’s natural to do your homework before getting your kids up to date on their vaccinations. The problem? With so many websites posting conflicting information, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Fortunately, it’s easy to decide which sites to trust if you know a few simple tricks. Here are four signs a website is spreading unreliable immunization information. GoogleSearch

1. It Links Vaccines to Autism
Do vaccines cause autism? It’s a common fear among parents, and a common claim on untrustworthy vaccination websites. But study after study has shown that there is simply no truth to this claim. If a website claims there is any link between vaccines and autism, look elsewhere for your facts.

2. It Misinterprets Science
Many untrustworthy vaccination sites do rely on credible, peer-reviewed studies for their information, but then they misinterpret the results to come to inaccurate conclusions. Unfortunately, if you’re not familiar with the study at hand, there’s no quick way to spot this. If something seems fishy (linking vaccines to autism, for example), do a little digging. Google the study and see what other publications have to say about it.

3. It Confuses Correlation and Causationautism_organic_foods
It’s understood in the scientific community that correlation does not imply causation—just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean one is causing the other. So while it’s true that vaccination rates and autism rates have risen at the same time, that does not prove that vaccines are causing autism or are linked in any way. There are many reasons for two things to correspond, but causal relationships are demonstrated through long-term and large-scale research and analysis, involving years, large numbers of people and many studies

4. It Offers Anecdotes as Proof
Personal stories of children claimed to be harmed by vaccinations can be powerful, engaging, and compelling. What they are not is scientific. Again, the safety of vaccinations has been shown repeatedly through large-scale controlled scientific studies. Vaccine reactions are monitored and studied very closely, and while it’s possible for severe allergic reactions to occur after vaccination, the odds of them happening are less than 1 in 1 million — so rare that it’s difficult to tell whether the vaccine is actually the cause. Stories of these reactions — while heartbreaking — are not the norm. Be particularly wary of stories with vague symptoms or a laundry-list of complaints claiming to be attributed to vaccination, as there likely is some other causal factors at play.

An easy way to know you are getting correct information? Read our roundups of trustworthy Facebook and Twitter accounts to follow, and start your research there.  

Over 60? Ask Your Doctor About These 4 Vaccines

As you get older, you need to pay closer attention to your health, and vaccinations are a vital part of that. Due to a weakening immune system and new developments in immunization, there are a host of vaccines the elderly should ask about. Talk to a healthcare professional to see what’s right for you. Make sure you ask about these four shots:

This vaccine protects against, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 18 get it at least once, followed by a tetanus-containing vaccine every 10 years. Even if you were vaccinated against whooping cough as a child, your immunity to the disease may have dwindled over time, leaving you unprotected. This vaccine is important because whooping cough can be very dangerous for small children and infants, and it is often transmitted to small kids from adults (ex. doting grandparents) who might not even know they’re infected. If there’s even a chance you’ll be around small kids, you’ll want to be up to date on this one. Note: not all tetanus vaccines contain the pertussis component, so be sure to specifically request the Tdap vaccine.

Flu Shot
The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months gets an annual flu shot. The virus mutates rapidly, plus the body’s resistance to the virus declines over time; an annual dose is essential. You need to stick to this now more than ever—for those over 65, the flu can result in hospitalization and even death. The flu kills an average of more than 23,000 people in the U.S. every year — most of them older adults — and thousands more are hospitalized. As you get older, your immune system needs a little extra help, so be sure to ask your healthcare provider about receiving a high dose flu vaccine, which has been shown to be more effective in those over 65.  

Due to a weakening immune system the elderly are more vulnerable to Pneumococcal disease. It’s an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and can result in several serious illnesses and conditions, including pneumonia and meningitis. Because it can lead to severe complications, and sometimes death, it’s nothing to take lightly. The vaccine is recommended for those 65 and older.

Shingles (Zoster)
Shingles starts with a painful rash, often on the face or torso. The rash forms blisters that take weeks to fully clear up, and the pain can stick around for months. The risk of shingles increases as you get older, so the CDC recommends everyone 60 or older gets immunized against this nasty disease.

8 Excuses for Skipping the HPV Vaccine—Debunked

The vaccine for the Human Papilloma (HPV) Virus is one of the most important—and perhaps most misunderstood—immunizations we have. The Center for Disease Control recommends that all adolescents get this vaccine at ages 11 to 12, but adherence rates are alarmingly low: infographics - statistics-hpvOnly 60 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys have received the first of three necessary doses by age 17.  Several misconceptions keep the rate so low; here are five excuses to skip the vaccine, and why they’re bunk.  

I’m Worried About the Safety and Side Effects of the Vaccine
As with any medical intervention, side effects are a possibility with the HPV vaccine, but studies have shown this vaccine is very, very safe. Side effects are almost always mild, and the most common side effects are minor symptoms like a sore arm. Despite what you might see on social media, no serious reactions have been scientifically linked to the vaccine. The HPV vaccine has been shown to be just as safe as other vaccines given during adolescence.

HPV Isn’t a Big Deal
While most cases do clear up on their own, some cases develop into cancer. The kicker: there’s no way to predict which cases will lead to cancer and which won’t. That’s why every case of HPV is a big deal.

My Doctor Didn’t Mention It, So It Can’t Be That Important
Unfortunately, many doctor’s aren’t recommending the HPV vaccine in a timely fashion—26 percent of them do not recommend it for girls by 11 or 12, and 39 percent don’t mention it to boys of the same age. A lot of docs say this is because they expect discussing the vaccine with parents to be uncomfortable (because it protects from an STD and is administered to preteens). Uncomfortable or not, it’s vital for you to get the shots; bring it up yourself if your doctor hasn’t already.

I’m a Guy
While most people have probably heard HPV can cause cervical cancer, it can also cause a number of cancers in men, including anal, penile and head and neck cancers. And while pap tests can help screen for early signs of cervical cancer, there is no screening options available for HPV-related cancers in men. That’s why vaccination is so critical. 

I’m Too Old
The CDC does recommend that everyone get their doses at 11 or 12—it’s most effective when administered well before sexual activity begins. But the shots are still recommended for young people who missed this window (up through age 21 for men and 26 for women). And if you are in a high-risk group (if you have multiple partners, or you’re a man who has sex with men), the shots are recommended through age 26.

I’m Not Sexually Active
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, but the vaccine is actually most effective when administered before someone is sexually active. That’s one of the reasons it’s recommended in early adolescence.  Rather than waiting until you’re sexually active, get it now. When you do become sexually active (including engaging in oral sex), you know you’ll be fully protected.

I’m Not in a High-Risk Category
It’s true, men who have sex with men and those with multiple partners have a greater risk of contracting HPV than the general population. But all it takes to expose yourself is sleeping with one infected person. In fact, the CDC estimates that about one in four people in the U.S. are currently infected and nearly all sexually active adults will get HPV at some point in their lives—it’s an incredibly common virus, and everyone needs to be protected.

I Use Condoms
As with any STD, condoms are an important HPV prevention tool, but they don’t offer full protection. While the virus can’t be spread through latex, it can infect portions of the genitals that condoms don’t cover. Safe sex is not enough to protect yourself from HPV.

Make Vaccines Fun, Not Scary: 5 Ways to Ease Children’s Vaccine Fears

As a parent, you’re doing your job and making sure your kid gets the Center for Disease Control’s full recommended vaccination schedule on time. The problem? Even though immunizations save lives, shots can be scary! By following these five steps, you can make sure your child’s vaccination experience is as smooth as possible.

1. Use Kid-Friendly Materials

There are a ton of resource that explain immunizations in ways kids will understand. We love this animated video that explains how vaccinations work. For younger kids, Every Child By Two has coloring book on its website. These materials will help kids understand why the shots are important, while connecting vaccines with fun activities and colorful characters.

2. Don’t Give Too Much Away

It might seem smart to warn kids that they have a shot coming up, but that will just stress them out more. If they know they have a doctors appointment, but don’t ask about shots, there’s no need for you to bring it up. If they ask, be honest, but vague: if you don’t know, say you don’t know. If the answer is yes, go on to step three.

3. Be Honest

Hopefully, your kids didn’t find out about the shot until the appointment. Either way, it’s important to tell them the truth about the doses. Tell them the shot will hurt, but just for a little bit, and that it’s to protect them. Remind them of the videos and coloring books. Tell them this is happening because you love them, not as a punishment. The shots they’ll get will help make them strong against diseases — like a super power! 

4. Distract Them

While the shot is being administered, give your kids something else to focus on. Hold their hand, or give them a new toy to play with. For older kids, you can tell them to imagine something fun (like a birthday party or playing a favorite game). If possible, play their favorite cartoon (on a TV, phone, or tablet) while the shot is being administered.

5. Play It Cool

It’s important to remember that, no matter what, your child might be scared of the shots — it’s only natural. We know it can be hard to see your child cry, but it’s your job to say calm as you getting emotional will only escalate the situation. After you’ve prepared the child and distracted them, it’s time to let the medical staff do their jobs. Be ready with a smiling face when it’s done, and know that you’re doing what’s best for your child.

6. Stick to the Schedule
As parents, it’s tempting to space out your children’s shots—after all, telling kids they have to receive four shots in one appointment sounds awfully intimidating. But it’s essential that you stick to the CDC schedule: It’s designed to offer your children the most protection possible. Plus, research shows that children experience the same amount of stress regardless of how many shots they’re receiving. In other words, one shot is every bit as scary as four; you might as well take the safest and most effective route.

Do you have any tips or tricks you use to help make getting shots easier for your child? Let us know in the comments!

Simple Ways to Create a Vaccine-Friendly Workplace

As a manager or business owner, you have a lot to take care of. Quarterly reviews? Check. Employee of the month? Chosen. Vaccines? Didn’t think you had to worry about that? It’s vital that everyone sticks to the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule, and you have a unique chance to make it easy and affordable for your employees to be up to date.  Here are three concrete steps you can take to make your workplace as vaccine friendly as you are.

Give Your Employees Information
Putting information in front of your employees is one of the simplest and most valuable ways you can help the cause. This CDC handout includes a quiz that reveals what vaccines someone might need; encourage employees to use it to start a conversation with a healthcare professional. You can also syndicate the CDC’s adult immunization schedule on your website—it’ll appear under the banner. The schedule will automatically update when the CDC changes; employees and customers will always see the latest info.

Check Your Insurance
Take a look at your employee insurance plan. Does it cover vaccines? Which ones? Are there copays? Consider upgrading to a plan that fully covers immunizations. You’ll cover your losses because your employees will take fewer sick days. If you choose not to update, make sure your employees know about the gap in coverage. You should also point them to affordable vaccination options—like pharmacies and clinics—in your community.

Don’t Forget the Flu Shot!
The influenza vaccine is one of the CDC’s least adhered to recommendations, and you’re in a prime position to change that. Make sure employees know what the options are for their annual dose: doctor’s offices offer them, pharmacies and clinics are great places to get the dose too.  Allowing employees to leave work to get the shot is a great way to increase coverage.  Even better? Host a flu shot clinic on site. It’ll actually save you money, as a dose at a clinic is cheaper than the doctor’s office, and it serves up maximum convenience to your employees. Call your local pharmacy to get more information about hosting a flu shot clinic. 

7 Excuses for Skipping the Flu Shot—Debunked

Molly pic

Planning to skip your flu shot?  The CDC recommends everyone six months or older get vaccinated at some point during flu season, yet only 42.2 percent of adults received their flu vaccination during the 2014-2015 season. Why? We can think of at least seven common excuses—and bust them all.

“I Never Get Sick!”
Well, there’s a first time for everything. Plus, flu shots protect other people, too. You could carry the virus without having symptoms and pass it on to someone else. If that person’s a young child or older adult, they could be in big trouble: both groups are at a higher risk for flu complications than the general population. So if you don’t do it for you, do it for grandma or your best friend’s new baby. 

“I’m Allergic to Eggs!”
Yes, the influenza vaccine is made using an egg-based manufacturing process that has been in existence for more than 70 years. However, new research indicates that it is safe for most people with egg allergies to receive the shot (though a physician should be present when you get it).  There are also new versions of the shot that use animal cells rather than eggs, removing the risk entirely.

“It Doesn’t Work!”
Because the flu virus mutated early in the season, the 2014 flu shot had just a 14 percent effectiveness rate. That has a lot of people saying the flu shot isn’t worth the trouble. But the shot is 50-60 percent effective most years, and reducing your risk of severe symptoms by more than half is nothing to scoff at. Plus, even when the vaccine doesn’t protect you fully, it can make symptoms less severe and increase herd immunity.

“I Got it Last Year!
Influenza is constantly mutating, and the shot is adjusted every year to protect against new strains of the virus. Plus, your body’s response to immunization lessens as time goes on. Therefore, an annual shot is essential.

“I’m Pregnant!”
Although pregnant women shouldn’t get their dose via the mist or spray, the inactivated flu shot is perfectly safe. Also, pregnant women are at a greater risk for complications from the flu, as are their unborn child. The dose is vital to protecting you and your baby.


“I Waited Too Long!”
Flu season starts in early October and usually peaks in January; because the vaccine takes two weeks to become fully effective it’s best to get the dose sooner rather than later. But outbreaks can happen as late as May, so missing your yearly dose early on is no reason to skip. Some protection is better than none.

“I’m Scared of Needles!”
If needles give you the creeps, you still have two options. The intradermal flu shot is injected into the skin; though it does have a needle, it’s much smaller than most vaccines—and it’s safe for anyone 18 to 64 years old. Still too much? The nasal spray vaccine has no needles at all, and it’s safe for anyone 2 to 49 years old.


Texas Vaccination Rates Drop Drastically: We Must Protect Our Children


By Lindy McGee, MD 

Texas received some startling news last month. Vaccination rates among Texas children aged 19 to 35 months old fell by an alarming 8.5 percent in 2014. This drop in adherence rates is not only concerning to pediatricians such as myself, but should concern every Texas resident. This is a serious wake-up call as these under-protected toddlers head off to kindergarten in the next two years.

The data surfaced in the 2014 National Immunization Survey, the Center for Disease Control’s annual assessment of immunization rates across the country. In 2013, 72.5 percent of children 19 to 35 months old had received their required vaccinations on time; in 2014, only 64 percent of children the same age had adhered to the CDC’s required dosage.

Rates vary by region, but have fallen across the board: Houston adherence sat at 70.4 percent, compared to 77.8 percent in 2013; and in Bexar County, rates fell from 70.6 to  66.4 percent.

What does this mean for Texas? It’s not good news, if outbreaks nationwide are any indication. The measles outbreak earlier this year at Disneyland infected 117 people. And tragically, in July the U.S. saw its first confirmed measles death since 2003, when a young Washington woman died of measles-triggered pneumonia. Physicians across Texas were on alert.

We need to eliminate gaps in our vaccine delivery system, ensure that parents and guardians are well-informed about vaccines, and make known the importance of adhering to the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule. Missed opportunities due to inconsistent utilization of immunization information technology, such as reminder recall systems, contributes to decreased immunization rates. Low Hepatitis A rates are likely pulling down the overall numbers—the vaccine requires two doses, six months apart, making it easy to miss subsequent appointments.

It is everyone’s responsibility—me, my colleagues, our patients’—to make sure these rates don’t continue to decline. We must better explain to parents how the vaccine schedule is structured and why it is important to keep all clinic appointments.We can help parents by following up with appointments and remind to stay on schedule‚especially for multi-dose treatments. It’s not only critically important to start the vaccine series but also to finish the series on time. A child is not fully protected against these deadly diseases until the series is complete.

The stakes are getting higher; lower childhood immunization rates coupled with disease resurgence leaves Texas vulnerable. We must work diligently together to protect Texas from significant consequences to the state’s public health.

Additional sources:


Behind on Your Vaccines? 4 Steps to Get Back on Track—Safely

Did you miss one, some, or all of the immunizations on the Center for Disease Control’s recommended vaccination schedule? It’s not too late. Follow these steps to get up to date in a safe, timely manner.

Determine What You’re Missing
The CDC has great resources to help you determine the vaccines you need. Use this chart or questionnaire to see what immunizations you should have. If possible, get access to your medical records to find out what doses you missed. If you don’t have access to medical records, try to remember what doses you have (but be sure to disclose this to a healthcare professional before you start a new regimen). A parent or guardian might help you track down these records, or confirm that you’re remembering correctly.  

Determine Your Risks
You may have a  health condition or demographic status that makes certain shots riskier for you than the general population. For example, those 65 and older should avoid the intradermal flu shot, while pregnant women should avoid many vaccines until after birth. It’s vital to  determine how your age, health, and lifestyle might put you at risk before getting vaccinated.

Talk to a Healthcare Professional
It’s a must to talk to a doctor, nurse, or other health professional before you begin your new vaccination regimen. Bring in your list of risk factors, missed shots, and any questions you have after doing your research. Together, the two of you can determine what shots you need and when you need them.

Get Vaccinated!
Congratulations, you’re ready to go! Ask the healthcare professional about the best places in your community to get the immunizations you need. Doctors’ offices, clinics, and pharmacies are great places to start. Worried about paying for all these doses? Check out our guide to paying for vaccines when you’re uninsured or underinsured.

Fascinating Vaccine Ted Talks to Watch Now (And Share With All Your Friends Later)

People are addicted to TED Talks, and it’s no wonder why: Industry experts of all stripes explain ideas that excite them in easy-to-understand terms—and inspire us all to try and change the world. There’s no easier way to learn the latest on any topic, including vaccinations. Start with these 4 talks to become a more informed, up-to-date immunization advocate.

Seth Berkely: The troubling reason why vaccines are made too late… if they’re made at all

Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, explains why there was no Ebola vaccine to help stop the recent outbreak—and what that can teach the immunization community. The crisis demonstrated many important points: how we should prepare for diseases, the danger of taking vaccines for granted, and how scientific findings about one disease (like the flu) can help inform immunizations for another (like Ebola). Finally, he points to the way forward in the fight against global disease.

Dr Adam Finn: How Vaccines Work 

Dr. Adam Finn explains what really makes vaccines work—not just individual immunity, but the herd immunity that is created when a whole community is protected. Using the history of whooping cough epidemics throughout the 20th century, he shows how herd immunity can eradicate diseases, and how those diseases can come roaring back when vaccinations rates fall. But, he says, there is hope. Just like humans can spread disease, we can spread ideas. This talk will help you spread the idea that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

Brude Aylward: How We’ll Stop Polio For Good 

The polio vaccine is one of the immunization community’s greatest success stories. Thanks to the immunization, the deadly disease is now completely eradicated in the U.S. But, that’s not the case everywhere, as Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, reminds us. While celebrating how much good the dose has done, he explains how much work is still left and lays out a plan to wipe out the disease for good.

Adam Grosser-A Mobile Fridge for Vaccines 

Vaccine access is taken for granted in the U.S, but many developing nations don’t have the infrastructure to make sure residents can receive these lifesaving  doses. One of the biggest obstacles: Vaccines need to be kept at a cold temperature, and many remote villages don’t have electricity needed to power refrigerators. Adam Grosser, general partner at Foundation Capital, has created a potential solution—a refrigerator that works without electricity.


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