A Doctor, A Television Show Host, and A Musician Walk Into A Television Studio…

A bit of advice, if you hear any form of the words “I’m not a doctor, but….” come out of someone’s mouth just turn around and walk away.  Better yet…run!  I think we all have a friend or familyBad Advice member who believes their personal experiences with illness or medication has awarded them a medical degree (or at least the knowledge to dole out medical advice), but for goodness sakes ignore it or at the very least confirm the information with an ACTUAL physician!  Who prompted this little rant? Piers Morgan, Dr. Oz, and Dwight Yoakam that’s who.  Seems like an odd combination of people so let me take a step back and explain.

On a recent episode of CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, Morgan received his “first ever flu shot;” live on-air, from Dr. Mehmet Oz.  Sounds great right?  Dr. Oz even had some notable words of wisdom for viewers explaining that the flu shot is “one of those smart things” and that vaccination is “beneficial with very low side effects.  We’ve got 130 million of these little vials out there to help people with.  Let’s take advantage of it.”  While prepping for his vaccine, Morgan asked a question that many people are concerned about.  He asked Dr. Oz to clarify the all too common belief that flu vaccination can actually cause the very illness it aims to prevent.  Dr. Oz clearly explained, “You cannot get the flu from the flu shot because the material is actually dead virus.”  Morgan and Dr. Oz then both reiterated that the notion of the flu actually causing illness is nothing more than a myth.

Great message and factual information aimed at helping prevent the spread of a vaccine-preventable disease.  So what’s the problem?  An issue arose when Morgan fell ill with flu-like symptoms ten days after receiving his vaccine.  Shortly after, singer Dwight Yoakam was the featured guest on Morgan’s show.  Almost immediately the two began discussing the host’s illness and even attributing it to his vaccination just days prior to its onset.  Things went from bad to worse when Morgan asked Yoakam what he should do about his sore throat.  The advice: “Don’t ever take a flu shot again.”  Unfortunately, Morgan apparently believes the myth (which has been dispelled by everyone from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)).  He replied by saying “We’re both doing the math, so I mean, we both saw him put that thing in my arm and within 10 days I’m struck down.”  Yoakam’s retort: “I’m not a medical advisor.  Get your vaccines if you…I don’t believe in them.”  Sounds like solid medical advice from a competent reliable medical professional, right?

What started out as a fantastic public platform to promote the safety, efficacy, and overall importance of vaccination against the flu quickly spiraled into the very misinformation it was intended to dispel.  Before making any medical decisions or taking any solicited (or unsolicited) advice relating to your health and safety talk to a doctor who can provide you with scientifically proven information.  It’s important to stick to what you know.  Maybe next time Dwight will focus on his music and Piers will provide commentary on issues he actually knows something about instead of contributing to misinformation that can be potentially fatal for those left unprotected.  Talk to your doctor today if you have concerns about any vaccination and remember it’s never too late to protect yourself from the flu!

Breastfeeding Can’t Replace Immunizations

Breastfeeding is not only a natural and beneficial source of nutrition, but also a newborn’s first line of defense against a multitude of illnesses and diseases.  That being said, it is also important breastfeeding blogto acknowledge the importance of combining the naturally immune boosting power of breast milk with the life-saving power of vaccinations.  And to do that I’m calling in an expert!  Please join me in welcoming Dr. Melanie Mouzoon to MOMmunizations!  Dr. Mouzoon is a board certified pediatrician with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic and serves as Managing Physician for Immunization Practices and Foreign Travel.  Read on to find out why breastfeeding simply cannot replace immunizations.


Protecting your baby from infection starts well before she is born.  Women’s bodies have a marvelous system in place – women carry a child whose tissue is distinct from her own, but the placenta effectively protects the infant from being rejected by mom in most cases.  Pregnant women also have a reduction in overall immune system functioning as a protection to the infant– one reason why pregnant women are more vulnerable to influenza and other infections.

The placenta doesn’t simply defend the baby, however.  It also allows mom’s IgG, small protein antibodies, to pass to the infant.  IgG antibodies are specific to a wide variety of infections that mom has had in the past, as well as to the vaccinations she has had. Passage of IgG immunity to the infant gives some protection against these infections for about six months.  This type of protection stays mostly within the bloodstream of the infant, and works by flagging germs to be removed by the white blood cells and the spleen.

Breastfeeding contributes a different antibody, IgA, to protect the infant.  IgA antibodies coat the respiratory tree and the digestive system to prevent invasion of foreign proteins, many related to infection.

It may seem that the infant will be well-protected with the transfer of immunity from mom, but we know that this protection is inadequate in unvaccinated babies.  Prior to the development of immunization, throughout human history, mothers have given immune protection to their infants before birth and by breastfeeding –yet infant mortality from infections such as bacterial meningitis remained high well into the modern era.  In fact, most children who died from infection, died in infancy. HIB infection has always been common in children under the age of six, for example, but HIB remained the cause of many thousands of cases of meningitis, epiglottitis, pneumonia and skin infections and deaths until HIB vaccine was developed in the 1980s. Despite the fact that most women would have had HIB infection as children, they did not pass sufficient immunity to their infants to prevent serious illness and death, and good hygiene and general health of the community was also not sufficient to protect these unfortunate children.

Immunity to many infections (and vaccines) wanes over time. We know that pertussis (whooping cough) immunity from infection and vaccines is not durable, and that infants in the first few months of life are at the highest risk of infection and of death.  This risk declines dramatically after one dose of DPT vaccine and is nearly eliminated after three doses, though boosters are needed to maintain protection.  A new measure recently recommended to try to increase the protection mothers are able to pass to their infants is immunization of mom with pertussis vaccine (Tdap) in the last trimester of pregnancy.  It is believed that this will prevent whooping cough in infants before they are able to receive their first shots. We already have evidence that influenza vaccine given to mom protects her newborn.

In sum, do your best for your baby’s health.  Breastfeeding provides the best start, but be sure to back up that protection with all of the protection that immunization provides – starting with Hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and continuing with timely administration of all childhood vaccines.

Satisfaction Guaranteed?

Overheard at my last doctor’s appointment: “Well apparently getting my kids their flu shots was a total waste of time.  They are both sick.  It really makes me wonder if any of these shots the doctor says we need actually do anything.”  You should have seen how fast my head whipped around when I heard that!  I have read a great deal of blogs and articles lately that discuss the “ineffectiveness” of the flu vaccine, some even citing “good hygiene” as the most effective method of preventing the spread of the virus.  While I do advocate for good hand washing that is certainly not enough.  In terms of the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) openly states that “this season’s vaccine so far is reducing the risk of having to go to the doctor for guaranteed_stampinfluenza by about 60% for vaccinated people.”  By no means do they, or any other medical professional, claim that you get 100% satisfaction guarantee if you receive your annual flu vaccine.   Never have, never will.  So why vaccinate against the flu?  Even with the vaccines “moderate effectiveness” vaccinated individuals have been shown to have a reduction in “flu-related illness, antibiotic use, time lost from work, hospitalizations, and death.”

But enough about the flu; we have be inundated (and rightfully so) with this year’s flu stats, why you should receive your vaccine, where to go to get it, and on and on.  What I really want to talk about is the comment I heard today.  It’s disturbing.  Immunizations are the “cornerstone of preventative health.” Dare I even say the most “successful public health program of the 20thcentury?”  If we want to prevent (and hopefully eradicate) a long list of vaccine-preventable diseases we have to continue to vaccinate.  For all the skeptics who doubt the power of immunization think about this.  What happened to all the cases of smallpox; a disease that once claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 children per year?  It was completely eradicated in 1977 thanks to the smallpox vaccine.   Why don’t we hear about iron lungs and paralytic polio anymore?  That’s because this disease, which claimed approximately 1,900 lives in a matter of 3 years, was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1991.  I think it’s safe to say that the little bottles of Purell we carry on our key chains are not the reason for its absence in our community.  Vaccines are the reason we don’t shut down swimming pools to prevent the spread of polio.  It’s true that there are a few cases where children don’t respond to a vaccine, but depending on which study is being cited, “childhood vaccines are 85% to 98% effective.”  When you consider the rate of infection of some of these illnesses prior to the availability of vaccines those numbers are beyond remarkable.

Whether we are talking about the flu, chickenpox, meningitis, or any of the other vaccine-preventable diseases, immunization is to thank for the reduction in numbers and severity.  If you think people panicked during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, just imagine the fear that would ensue if we added a list of now preventable diseases that once claimed the lives of thousands each year.  Vaccines are the most safe and effective way to protect ourselves and those around us from vaccine-preventable diseases.  Taking the time to get vaccinated is never a waste of time.  And don’t forget that in a world without vaccines, satisfaction would never be guaranteed!

The Facebook Flu

I don’t typically run to my friend’s status updates on Facebook for the latest on vaccine trends, but I have noticed something in the past few weeks that I find disturbing. I keep reading update after Facebook Fluupdate stating “I have the flu,” which is usually followed up by a post that reads “Now my kids have the flu!” The flu is here and it is most definitely leaving its mark! To bring it a little closer to home, as we entered the month of December (2012), Texas was one of five states reporting high levels of flu activity. By the end of the month, it was estimated that 12 percent of the state’s doctor visits were for flu-like symptoms. Our very own Harris County hospitals beat out the state average with an estimated 18 percent. That number is well beyond what we saw during last year’s flu season.

So why does it seem as though more people have the flu this year than last year? There are actually a few reasons. First, flu season started earlier than normal, beginning the first week of December instead of the typical January or sometimes even February start times. It only makes sense, if flu season starts early, there are going to be a larger number of people who contract the illness. Another reason? There are new strains of the flu circulating this year that were not present last year. This is why it’s so crucial to be vaccinated EVERY year. This year, Influenza A (H3N2) has been the most commonly diagnosed strain and unfortunately, flu seasons dominated by this particular strain are more severe and result in a higher number of hospitalizations and deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This flu season alone the CDC has reported 22,048 cases of the flu (from September 30, 2012 through December 31, 2012) while only 849 cases were reported in that same time frame in 2011. That is 26 times more cases than just one year ago! Just today the CDC released its updated weekly influenza surveillance report from the first week of January and tragically, 20 children have now lost their lives because of the flu. And yes, I know that there is still a possibility of infection of an influenza virus despite being vaccinated, but don’t forget, the severity of the illness is typically milder in those who have been vaccinated than in those who have not.

But please remember it is not too late to get vaccinated! Don’t waste another day tempting fate. Go out and get your flu shot and talk to your family and friends as well. As this year’s flu season continues, I expect to see more status updates about the flu. I’m just hoping those updates are saying “I just got my flu shot” instead of “I’m stuck at home with the flu!”

Join The Resolution!

New YearsWith a new year comes new goals.  Whether professional or personal, everyone seems to have a list of things they hope to accomplish over the next 12 months.  It’s hard to ignore the people all around us who will begin going to the gym, giving up cigarettes, or even attempting to set and follow a budget!  But let’s be honest, before long your favorite treadmill at the gym will once again be empty as the responsibilities and stresses of everyday life begin to slowly push away the importance of the goals that were set on January 1st.  I have attempted to make and keep resolutions in the past but nothing ever seems to last the whole year.  I have the best of intentions but I get bored, busy or just too tired of trying to incorporate a major lifestyle change.  However, this year I’m trying something new.  Instead of making a list for myself I have made a list for others.   That’s right, my new year’s resolution is actually a goal for all of you!  Over the next year I want my friends, family, and all of you to continue, or begin, to educate yourselves and others on the importance of vaccinations.  Sounds like an easy out for me right?  Not exactly.  To help all of you accomplish your goal I have to put in a little work myself.  My husband and I started our mission a little early by explaining to our families the importance of receiving their annual flu vaccines not only for their protection, but also to protect those around them.  By continuing to blog about this globally important issue I hope to make a positive impact on the fight to make our communities and our world a safer place one shot at a time.  I also hope to dispel scientifically disproven rumors surrounding the association between vaccines and autism.

Why is this my goal?  Without stating the obvious, vaccinations save lives.  Plain and simple.  The research has been done, the results are in.  Vaccines are the safest and most effective way to keep communities free of diseases that are capable of causing life-long disabilities or even death for their victims.  My family has personally witnessed the frightening effects of a vaccine-preventable disease and as we welcome our third child into the world this spring, I cannot think of a better gift for her than to help spread this important message.

So what can you do to help me accomplish my goal?  How are you going to educate yourself and others about an issue that affects all of us?  Let me hear from you!  Tell me what you are doing to spread the message that vaccines save lives and let’s try to make the world a safer place one shot at a time!  Happy New Year!