Don’t Hesitate to Vaccinate

hesitateI get it.  I really do.  We all just want to do what is best for our kids.  From the moment they are placed in our arms we feel this overwhelming need to protect them from heartache, pain, disease and illness.  This desire, combined with an ever abundant amount of misinformation and misunderstanding of vaccines has led many parents to become vaccine hesitant.  For some, hesitancy turns into refusal.  What’s ironic is that in an attempt to protect children from the “dangers” of vaccines (which have been scientifically proven to be false), some parents are actually putting their child, and those around them, at greater risk.

I am fortunate to take my children to a pediatrican whose office requires new patients/parents to agree to follow the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommended immunization schedule.  At our last visit I asked our doctor how the practice came to adopt this rule.  He told me it was actually very simple.  The doctors in the practice all came together and said it’s simply not fair for children who can’t be vaccinated (whether because of age or because of a medical condition) to be exposed to children who are not vaccinated and subsequently come into the office infecting the waiting room and those around them with anything from measles to chicken pox.  Our doctor made it clear that he is more than willing to discuss any and all vaccine concerns with parents, but at the end of the day, he feels that it is his responsibility to provide a safe environment for his patients.  Requiring parents to adhere to vaccine recommendations is one of the best ways for him to accomplish that goal.

I believe that vaccine hesitant parents truly have their children’s best interest at heart.  In today’s world we are always a click away from information (whether right or wrong) and that has undoubtedly made an impact on parent’s concerns surrounding vaccines. It’s important that we arm these parents with the RIGHT resources to help them make decisions about their children’s health.  Great places to start are, as I mentioned, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and of course, The Immunization Partnership!  It is important that we spread that message that while vaccinating your child may seem like a personal decision, it is a decision that affects everyone around you.  A great example of this is pertussis (or whooping cough).  Most of the severe cases of this disease occur in infants under the age of 6 months (before they are able to complete the 3 dose primary series of the DTap vaccine).  If an unvaccinated child contracts pertussis, that child could then infect a newborn or infant who simply hasn’t had the chance to get fully vaccinated.

I strongly encourage parents to do their research, but you need to make sure that you are looking for reliable resources with sound, scientifically proven information and not simply searching for what you want to hear to justify fears concerning vaccines. It is important to remember that the power to prevent disease is in our hands.  Take advantage of the of the protection vaccines offer and protect yourself, your children, and your community today!

Vaccination Now…Protection For The Future

HPVA few years after I graduated from college the FDA approved Gardasil, a vaccine to protect young girls and women against the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes most cervical cancers.  Gardasil was the first vaccine targeted specifically to prevent cancer, and was (and still is) an important advancement in women’s health.  Since that time a lot has changed.  In 2006 the vaccine was only approved for use in 9-to 26 year-old girls and women.  Today, we have another vaccine used to prevent HPV in women (Cervarix), and changes regarding who should be vaccinated.  These vaccines, given as a series of three shots over 6 months, are recommended for BOTH preteen girls (both Cervarix and Gardasil) and boys (Gardasil only) at age 11 or 12-years.  In addition, the vaccines are also recommended for teen boys and girls who did not receive the vaccine when they were younger up to age 26 in women and up to age 21 in men.

What hasn’t changed?  Parent’s concerns that vaccinating against this potentially deadly virus may cause a rise in sexual activity among vaccinated adolescents.  It’s really never made sense to me.  HPV is only one of many potential consequences that can come along with having sex.  Vaccination helps to protect against more than 20,000 HPV-associated cancers that occur each year in women and the approximately 12,000 HPV-associated cancers that occur each year in men.  So why would parents be concerned that vaccination would give their children a false sense of security that they are protected from unplanned pregnancies or a long list of sexually transmitted diseases?

Well, it’s time to put those concerns to rest. A new study from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center shows that “teen girls’ and young women’s beliefs regarding the HPV vaccine, whether accurate or inaccurate, are not linked to subsequent sexual behaviors over the six months after vaccination.”  Data demonstrated that vaccination did NOT lead to riskier sexual behaviors.  Hopefully this accurate, evidence –based information will help parents understand that vaccinating their preteens is the right choice.  Parents have the ability to protect their children early and potentially save them from a battle with cancer in the future.  Make sure your sons and daughters are protected against HPV.

In The Beginning

newbornmac1Five years ago today is where it all began for me.  It’s when I began to truly look beyond myself and think about how my decisions could affect someone else’s life.  Five years ago today, I welcomed my first child into this world.  What a day it was.  If I could go back and live it all over again I would do it in a heartbeat.  That day, at exactly 10:01AM I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of love, joy…and then a little bit of fear snuck in.  Holding my son for the first time I remember thinking “This is really it.  This is really my child.  This is my responsibility.” By the next day it was time to make one of my first parenting decisions.  Do I vaccinate this brand new, perfectly healthy baby?  I had watched the news.  I had been on the internet.  I knew all the stories about Andrew Wakefield’s study claiming a link between vaccines and autism.  After reading all of the websites out there I was scared.  I desperately wanted to make the right decision for my child, but I wasn’t sure what to believe.  After discussing my concerns with the pediatrician, my husband and I made the right choice and vaccinated our son against Hepatitis B (HepB).

From that point on, I still had my concerns.  I had friends encourage me to delay vaccines and “make it easier” on my baby.  I wondered if they were right.  Are we giving too many too soon?  What’s the harm in slowing down a vaccine here or there?  Again, I turned to our pediatrician with my questions and she was able to give me scientifically based information as to why I should follow the guidelines for vaccinations as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

As the years went by (all too fast I might add), I became more interested in learning more about vaccines.  I wanted to better understand why I was choosing to vaccinate my child beyond just saying “it’s what my doctor told me to do.”  I learned a lesson that hit too close to home in 2012 when my then 11-month-old daughter (who was mistakenly unvaccinated) contracted rotavirus and spent 4 days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Texas Children’s Hospital due to severe dehydration.  Since then I knew vaccines were more than important…they were necessary to keep us and our loved ones safe.

Mac5My life has changed in so many ways over the last 5 years.  I believe I have grown as a mother, a wife, and a friend.  During this time I have also gone from a parent who vaccinated just because my pediatrician recommended it to a passionate vaccine advocate.  Take the time to read through some of my other posts to educate yourself about the importance of vaccines and the invaluable medical contributions they have provided to the world since their creation.  Happy birthday to my special little guy…and thank you for opening my eyes to the power of my decisions in the lives of others.

Time For Change

CDC-Vaccine-NationIf you look back through history you will find that medicine and science are always changing.  This is something that we should all be thankful for!   As more scientific research is conducted and more amazing developments emerge it only makes sense that new recommendations regarding our health and well-being will come to light.  These scientific advancements also apply to vaccine recommendations.  Just last week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the new/updated 2014 vaccine recommendations.

I have no doubt that the possibility of a changing vaccine schedule is viewed unfavorably by some.  Many anti-vaccine advocates point to this natural scientific progression based on research and development critically; even citing that doctors and scientists simply do not have all the facts and are unable to provide enough information to ensure vaccine safety.  This could not be further from the truth.  In fact, scientists, doctors, and health officials are dedicated to understanding, monitoring and preventing diseases and it is this commitment to saving lives that allows us to all be as safe and healthy as possible through the use of vaccines.  New and innovative scientific approaches to medicine are constantly evolving

Here’s a look at the 2014 Childhood Immunization Schedule and the Adult Immunization Schedule.

Seems like a lot to understand right?  Well, I’m going to leave clarifications for the Childhood Immunization Schedule to the professionals.  The best way to make sure your child is up-to-date is to check with his/her doctor.

So what’s new for adults?  Per the CDCs footnotes:

 

  1. Influenza vaccine: There are several flu vaccines available—talk to your healthcare professional about which flu vaccine is right for you.
  2. Td/Tdap vaccine: Pregnant women are recommended to get Tdap vaccine with each pregnancy in the third trimester to increase protection for infants who are too young for vaccination, but at highest risk for severe illness and death from pertussis (whooping cough). People who have not had Tdap vaccine since age 11 should get a dose of Tdap followed by Td booster doses every 10 years.
  3. Varicella, HPV, MMR, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B vaccine: These vaccines are needed for adults who didn’t get these vaccines when they were children.
  4. HPV vaccine: There are two HPV vaccines, but only one, HPV (Gardasil®), should be given to men. Gay men or men who have sex with men who are 22 through 26 years old should get HPV vaccine if they haven’t already started or completed the series.
  5. Zoster vaccine: You should get the zoster vaccine even if you’ve had shingles before.
  6. MMR vaccine: If you were born in 1957 or after, and don’t have a record of being vaccinated or having had measles, mumps or rubella, talk to your healthcare professional about how many doses you may need.
  7. Pneumococcal vaccine: There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccines: PCV13 and PPSV23. Talk with your healthcare professional to find out if one or both pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for

Confused?  Don’t worry.  Make an appointment with your primary care physician to make sure you and your family are up-to-date on all your vaccines.  Vaccines are without a doubt one of the greatest public health success stories.  Keep vaccinating to protect yourself and those you love.