The Vaccine Cheat Sheet

cheat sheetWith so many misconceptions about the safety and efficacy of vaccines it’s hard to always have the right answer on the tip of your tongue when the decision to vaccinate comes under attack.  Lucky for you a cheat is just a mouse click away! Here are a few common misconceptions about vaccines and what you can say to help spread the truth.

MISCONCEPTION 1: Natural immunity is much better than vaccines.

YOUR RESPONSE:  I know that natural infection can provide more complete immunity than vaccines, but there are major risks associated with acquiring a vaccine-preventable disease.  Did you know that a natural chicken pox infection can lead to pneumonia or that a natural mumps infection can lead to deafness?  Vaccines are the only way to help prevent these diseases and their serious complications from happening.

MISCONCEPTION 2:  Vaccines cause autism.

YOUR RESPONSE: Vaccines do not cause autism.  There have been numerous scientific studies conducted looking for a link between autism and vaccines, but no link has ever been found.  In fact, the study that started the controversy has actually been retracted.

MISCONCEPTION 3:  We give too many vaccines too soon.

YOUR RESPONSE: There is actually a good reason vaccines are given at specific times throughout a child’s life.  When children are very young they are at the greatest risk of complications from vaccine-preventable diseases.  If you wait to vaccinate your child, it may be too late to protect them from a list of potentially life threatening diseases.

MISCONCEPTION 4: You really should just pick the vaccines that are most important and skip/delay the rest.

YOUR RESPONSE: Skipping vaccines actually puts your child at risk of contracting potentially serious diseases that can otherwise be avoided.  And did you know that some children cannot receive certain vaccines because of medical issues?  Protecting yourself and your family is actually the only way to protect those children.  If immunization rates drop, vaccine-preventable diseases may once again become common in our communities.

MISCONCEPTION 5: I heard that vaccines can have dangerous side effects.

YOUR RESPONSE: It’s true that vaccines can cause side effects, but they are usually very minor—“low-grade fever, and soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site.” Rarely, a child may have a severe allergic reaction, but the truth is vaccines are far safer than the diseases they prevent.

And just remember, if you ever find yourself at a loss for words and simply don’t know the right answer, don’t worry.  There is one thing you can say that is always right: “You should talk to your/your child’s doctor about your concerns.” Or you can even encourage people to read the valuable and scientifically proven information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), or the World Health Organization (WHO).  Let’s all do our part to help dispel the myths and outright false information about vaccines!

Upcoming Event: Immunization Lunch & Learn

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Immunization Lunch & Learn
Practical Strategies for Improving HPV Vaccination Coverage

Wednesday, September 18, 2013  |  11:30am-1:00pm
in Houston, TX

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country, infecting nearly all adults at some point in their lives. While it is well known for causing cervical cancer, it’s also been linked to anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers. In fact, it’s estimated to be responsible for roughly 5 percent of all cancers worldwide. But despite having a safe and effective vaccine, only about 1/3 of adolescent girls in the U.S. have received all three doses, and only half have received at least one dose of the potentially life-saving vaccine. Coverage rates among young men are even lower.

We have a vaccine against cancer, but the majority of our teens and tweens aren’t getting it.

So what can we do? How can we encourage parents and adolescents to vaccinate against cancer-causing HPV?

Whether you are a health care provider or simply someone who is curious about HPV vaccination and would like to learn more, please join us Wednesday, September 18 for a FREE informative public forum as we discuss some Practical Strategies for Improving HPV Vaccination Coverage in your clinic and community.

Register Here or by copying and pasting this url into your browser: http://www.immunizeusa.org/en/cev/87

Lunch will be provided for all registered attendees.

Questions? Please contact the event coordinator, Robyn Correll Carlyle.

What Did She Say?

Crossing out Lies and writing Truth on a blackboard.I am not one who is typically at a loss for words, but after receiving an email linking to this blog I was in utter shock and disbelief.  This might be one of the most misguided and uneducated views on vaccines that I have seen in quite a while.  What’s truly sad is that the woman behind these words has the responsibility of raising 5 innocent children who will undoubtedly be left unprotected against a long list of potentially life-threatening diseases.

While I have no doubt that Ms. Gianelloni believes in the false information and bad science that she preaches, her words are dangerous.  She begins her blog by asking the question: “Would you rather…A week of illness with lifetime immunity or a lifetime of illness and temporary ‘immunity?’”  There is a huge problem with her line of questioning.  The answer is not as black and white as she believes.  She continues on saying that “everyone we know over the age of 50 survived measles.”  But what about all those who did not survive?  She fails to mention that as recently as 1980, prior to widespread measles vaccination, this highly contagious disease caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.  It’s also worth mentioning that approximately 158,000 people died globally from measles just two years ago in 2011.  Most victims of this disease were under the age of five.  Does this sound like a relatively harmless disease to you?

Another question she asks us to ponder: “Is measles dangerous.”  According to Ms. Gianelloni measles is only a “real” threat to malnourished children living in impoverished areas.  If that’s true then why have Tarrant County residents gladly decided to vaccinate their families following a recent measles outbreak linked to a church pastor’s anti-vaccine rhetoric?  Their willingness to vaccinate quite obviously has to do with the realization that measles is a serious threat.  Complications include pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain that can lead to convulsions and can cause deafness and mental retardation), miscarriage or premature births for pregnant women, and in rare cases a fatal degenerative disease of the central nervous system known as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE).  Correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked Tarrant County was not known to be an “impoverished area.”

Her anti-vaccine claims continue and fall right in line with the typical false statements concerning immunizations including the old and tired claims falsely linking vaccines and autism.  As a parent, an aunt, a sister, and a friend I encourage everyone to take the time to understand the importance of vaccinations.  I cannot stress enough the importance of staying up-to-date on vaccinations as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in an effort to protect yourself and your loved ones.  It truly can be a matter of life and death.  Let’s all stand behind and up for the science that proves the safety and necessity of vaccines!

Let’s Be The Not-So-Silent Majority Against McCarthy

TIP-Logo-for-docswebversionYou might have noticed that the public health community was in an uproar this summer. We were a little annoyed that ABC announced that Jenny McCarthy was joining the cast of The View.

And rightfully so. Ms. McCarthy has used her celebrity in the past to spread misinformation about vaccines and encourage parents to delay or forgo vaccinations altogether. Becoming a regular on the Emmy award-winning talk show not only gives Ms. McCarthy a national stage to share her noxious views, but it also lends her a sense of unfounded legitimacy. We’re worried she will convince some portion of the millions of viewers tuning in that vaccines are dangerous.

When in fact, vaccines save lives. The spurious claims offered by Ms. McCarthy in the past – that vaccines cause autism, that the current schedule overloads a child’s immune system, that the ingredients found in vaccines are somehow “toxic” – are just not true. A wide collection of sound, scientific investigations have shown time and time again that vaccines are both safe and effective.

Of course, this concern over what could happen is based on what Ms. McCarthy has said publicly in the past. As she doesn’t make her debut until September 9, we can only guess what she will say.

And that’s precisely what makes us nervous. If Ms. McCarthy does use her new platform to spread misinformation, it doesn’t matter how many studies we cite or Institute of Medicine reports we throw around, some parents will still have doubt. And when that doubt translates into a drop in immunization rates, we’ll see a rise in vaccine-preventable diseases. Children will be put at risk.

We’ve already seen it. Pockets of (largely unvaccinated) communities around the U.S. and Europe have seen measles outbreaks in areas where it had once been eliminated. Whooping cough rates are at a 60-year high. Not vaccinating endangers not only individuals but also those they care about. Not everyone can receive vaccines because of medical conditions or age. When you get vaccinated, it’s is not just about you; it’s about your family, your friends and your community.

When enough people in a community are immunized against a disease, that disease can’t spread. In turn, we can protect those who can’t protect themselves. It’s called herd immunity, and it’s a scientifically supported fact.

There’s a silent majority of us out there that know this. We know vaccines are safe. We know why they’re necessary. But when a friend or family member or celebrity says something along the lines of “vaccines cause autism” (when they don’t), we roll our eyes or ignore them.

We can’t do that anymore.

We need to speak out. If ABC wants to give Ms. McCarthy a megaphone, we need to pick up our own. We need to share the science, the evidence that supports vaccines and proves that they are safe and effective. We need to tell our friends, neighbors and coworkers where to find trusted, evidence-based information. And when someone expresses concern about the safety of vaccines, we need to address those fears with a combination of compassion and science.

We at The Immunization Partnership, with the help of our Physicians Advisory Council, will do our part to rapidly and publicly address misinformation spread by Ms. McCarthy and her ilk, but we can’t do it alone. We need your support.

People respond to Ms. McCarthy because she speaks with conviction. She’s clearly very passionate about what she believes, and is vocal about sharing her opinions – however untrue.

So let’s be passionate. Let’s be vocal.

Let’s be the not-so-silent majority.

 

Back In The Game

back in the gameAfter 4 months of trying to find a new normal while wrangling 3 kids, I’m back in the game!  I don’t know if I would say that I’m reenergized after my break but I’m certainly excited to start blogging again! It seems that I am destined to be involved in the ongoing battle to encourage and educate people to immunize themselves and their families.  When my youngest daughter hit the one month mark we decided to take the family out to eat in an open outdoor area but of course what would dinner out be without a little bit of drama.  Within a few minutes of arriving I noticed my son playing with another little boy who was covered with chickenpox.  You can only imagine my horror as I am sitting there with an unprotected newborn.  We quickly packed up and headed home.  Just a few weeks after that I attended a baby shower for my sister only to find out after the party that one of the ladies in attendance (who my daughter and I happened to be sitting next to) was suffering from shingles.  And just this week when I picked my older two up from school I found a note in their bags saying a student had a confirmed case of chickenpox.  All that to say, vaccine-preventable diseases are everywhere.  Just look at the latest headlines out of Dallas where the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric of a church pastor ultimately led to a measles outbreak among its church members.  As a third time new mom it is frustrating to know that I can do everything right and protect my child through vaccination, but because of her age she cannot yet receive every vaccine, leaving her vulnerable to measles, chickenpox, and a list of other potentially fatal diseases.

I know a lot of parents dread taking their children in for vaccinations, but I look forward to it!  In my mind it’s just one more thing I can do to protect my baby, as well as others, from unnecessary suffering and illness.  A few days ago my daughter received her 4 month immunizations and I was thrilled that her doctor offered to give me my flu shot at the same time.  Since my sweet girl is not eligible to receive a flu shot until she is 6 months old it is crucial that everyone in our family be immunized to decrease her risk of infection.

Again, I am so excited to be back, sharing my thoughts and experiences with all of you.  Be sure to check the blog this Monday, September 9 for a special edition and learn about a new project The Immunization Partnership is working on to help spread the truth about vaccines and put any false information to rest!