Vaccines: The New Celebrity Trend?

HollywoodUsually when we talk about celebrities and vaccines it’s not in the most positive light.  The recent past has been filled with a list of celebrities and media personalities who have stood behind the bad science and misinformation spread by the Andrew Wakefield’s of the world and have caused many people to doubt the safety and efficacy of vaccines.   Then there is a glimmer of hope as people like Amanda Peet have thrown their hat in the ring in support of vaccinations by partnering with the United Nation’s Shot@Life campaign to help educate the world about the importance of protecting ourselves, our families, and our communities through immunizations.  And as of this past Sunday evening there is another celebrity who has made a stand for vaccines.  She may not have meant to make her voice heard, but Kim Kardashian, thanks for the support!

So first of all, yes, I watch “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”  It’s my guilty pleasure.  Second, on Sunday night’s episode, the whole Kardashian clan received their Tdap vaccine to protect the newest member of the family from Pertussis (or Whooping Cough).  While some were hesitant, the doctor administering the vaccine explained the importance of vaccination.  This highly contagious illness can have devastating consequences, especially for infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated.  Whooping cough is typically spread by coughing or sneezing and many babies who are infected contract the illness from a parent, older sibling, or other caregiver.  Some people may not even know that they are spreading this potentially life threatening illness.  That is why it is so crucial that families and caregivers make sure they are protected and essentially “cocoon” (or protect the unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated child) against this vaccine-preventable disease.  My favorite part of this whole scene was when one of the Kardashian sisters said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to get the shot and the doctor alluded to the fact that Kim would not let people who were unvaccinated around her new baby.  My husband and I took this same stance last year as we were preparing to welcome our third baby.  No shot…no baby.

Love them or hate them, the Kardashian’s are known for drawing attention and setting trends. They play a huge role in social media, fashion, gossip columns, and television.  I have said it before and let me say it again: no one should base their medical decisions on the thoughts or beliefs of anyone other than a trained medical professional.  But the truth is, many people do listen to what celebrities have to say.  The power of persuasion that celebrities hold, right or wrong, is nothing to take lightly and I for one am happy to see vaccines portrayed in a positive light in the media for a change!  Let’s hope that vaccinating to protect those you love becomes the new norm in Hollywood and across the globe!

Flu Review

imageAnd so it begins…the beginning of flu season is upon us.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just released the national flu map and guess who has one of the highest rates of flu in the country…the great state of Texas!  So what does that mean? It means it’s is time to go and get your flu shot today!  Sure, the peak of flu season is typically seen between January and February, but flu season begins in October and can stretch all the way through late May. Why take a risk on contracting this preventable illness when when there is a simple, easy, and safe alternative?

So let’s start this season off right with a little thing I like to call the “Flu Review!”

  • WHO NEEDS A FLU SHOT? It is recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older receive a yearly flu vaccine. This is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious and potentially life-threatening disease.
  • WHAT SHOULD I DO TO PREPARE FOR THE FLU SEASON? Other than vaccination (the most important step) you can take everyday preventative steps.  Stay away from people who are sick, wash your hands to reduce the spread of germs, and if you are sick stay away from others!
  • WHERE CAN I GET A FLU SHOT?  You can stop by your local pharmacy, your doctors office, your local health department, clinics, and even many employers and some schools have begun offering the vaccine. Or you can check out the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to locate a provider near you!
  • IS THE FLU SHOT EFFECTIVE?  The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from season to season depending on at least two factors. The first being the “characteristics of the person being vaccinated.” For example, their age and health.  The second factor is related to the “match between the flu viruses and the flu vaccine designed to protect against the flu viruses from spreading in the community.” Regardless, vaccination is still the most effective way to combat the seasonal flu.

So in review,…Step 1: Go get your flu shot!  Step 2: be protected against the flu this season.  It’s that simple! Now go roll up your sleeve and protect yourself and those you love!

Who Is Responsible?

I am trying something a little different today. I’m giving you all a homework assignment for the weekend! Stick with me here…you may have noticed a link on our Facebook and Twitter pages yesterday to an article discussing potential liability for parents who choose not to vaccinate their children if their child subsequently  contracts and spreads a vaccine-preventable disease.  I personally find this to be a very thought provoking concept and would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as well.

I had a blog post all ready to go this morning but have decided to wait until Monday to post my opinion on the matter in order to give each of you the time to read this for yourself.  I have no doubt that this may be a controversial topic even among those of us who fully support vaccination but it’s an issue I find quite intriguing and would love to hear your thoughts!

Be sure to take a few minutes to read this article and check back on Monday to hear my view on the issue.

ClIck here to view the article.

Super Booster!

Logo_de_Super-BMany of my friends are beginning to take their children in for flu shots and leaving confused as to why they need to go back for a second shot in a month.  I have even had a few people express concern over giving their children a “double dose” of the vaccine. I assume if this is a common question among my group of friends there are others out there wondering the same thing.

To start, let’s make sure we all know the recommendations for our children’s flu vaccines.

  1. Has the child ever received an influenza vaccine?  If the answer is no (or I don’t know) then vaccine with two doses given at least 4 weeks apart.
  2. Has the child received 2 or more doses since July 1, 2010?  If the answer is no (or I don’t know) then vaccinate with two doses given at least 4 weeks apart.
  3. Is the child 9 years or older or is he/she younger than 9 but has documentation showing at least 2 prior vaccinations, at least one of which contained H1N1?  If yes then vaccinate with one dose.

Since 2006 the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that all children under the age of nine get two doses of the flu vaccine the first year they are vaccinated against the flu.  Why is this second dose needed?  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) many children younger than 9 years of age may not have truly suffered from influenza and a booster dose is necessary for their bodies to produce a protective immune response.   A second shot is basically a safety net to help adequately protect the child. While the first dose provides some protection, fully vaccinating with the second dose really is crucial.

If you are thinking about only giving your child the initial dose of the flu vaccine (assuming they fall into the recommended category for receiving the booster) it is important to remember that young children are at a higher risk of developing flu related complications.  These complications range in severity but can include pneumonia and bronchitis and have the potential to be life-threatening and can even result in death in some cases.  Taking your child in for a second flu shot (and probably a second round of tears) may not be on the top of your “Fun Things To Do” list, but it really is the best way to protect them from the flu this season. Lets help our children be as strong as possible…get them their “Super Booster” today!

Are You Aware?

texasAwareness is defined as “having knowledge or cognizance: aware of the difference between the two versions; watchful.” With that in mind it only seems fitting that on Texas Influenza Awareness Day I do my best to make sure we are fully aware of the importance of vaccinating against the flu. There are many people who continue to claim that the flu is nothing more than a “bad cold” that will pass on its own and that vaccination is just a waste of time. Others claim that the flu vaccine is inefficient and even go so far as to claim the vaccine is the reason they developed the flu in the past despite scientific evidence that validates the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. So let’s all take a moment to be knowledgeable about the flu and the importance of protecting ourselves and our communities.

Let’s start off by being AWARE of what you can do to prevent the flu. First and foremost, get your flu shot! The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. This is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. There are many different flu viruses and each year the vaccine is developed and designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause illness during flu season. Taking this important preventative step along with diligent hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are infected is the best way to prevent the spread of this virus.

What else should we be aware of? We need to be AWARE that the flu vaccine is effective! How well the flu vaccine works can range from one season the next but the biggest indicators of the vaccines effectiveness are the characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as age and health) and the similarity between the flu viruses and the flu vaccine. Receiving a flu shot decreases the risk of getting the flu plain and simple. In fact, recent studies show risk of flu illness is decreased by about 60% among the overall population of vaccinated individuals.

And finally let’s be AWARE that the flu is serious and can cause life-threatening complications. High-risk children and adults may develop complications such as, pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections. Pneumonia is the most common and most serious. For older adults and people with a chronic illness, pneumonia can be deadly. The best protection is vaccination.

So now that we are AWARE do your part. Get vaccinated and encourage those around you to do the same!