This post was originally shared on the MOMunizations blog in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month. Throughout the month of August immunization advocates have been highlighting the value of vaccines across the lifespan. This post was intended to encourage everyone to do the same.
As a parent who keeps up with the latest immunization news, I feel obligated to share information about vaccines and infectious diseases. My efforts are not just limited to my contributions on the Shot of Prevention blog, but rather expand to include everyday encounters I have with friends and family.
Of course, no one wants to be that person who only talks about one thing, even if it’s something as important as vaccines. But as a parent to five children, I have plenty of opportunities to discuss immunizations in ways that are entirely appropriate to my conversations with other parents.
And in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, I challenge you to do the same.
Don’t be hesitant to talk about vaccines. In fact, consider it a necessity. You’re not reluctant to tell others about the doctor you love or the delicious restaurant you found. Why not be as generous with the information you have about vaccines?
Even if people aren’t well versed on the subject of vaccines, they still want to know how to protect themselves and their loves ones from dangerous illnesses. We must remember that the overwhelming majority of people vaccinate. They do not need to be convinced that vaccines are safe and effective. However, they do sometimes need to be reminded.
By suggesting vaccine recommendations in your casual conversations, you can help give people the information they need to make informed decisions. Why not tell them about the measles and pertussis outbreaks in their communities or explain the risk of rising exemption rates in your local schools? There are so many ways to introduce the topic in your everyday conversations. Consider these personal experiences of mine: Read more…
A child’s immunization status is largely determined by their parents. However, as children mature into teens and young adults it’s important that they gain a personal appreciation for the value of vaccines. If they’re going to be equipped to make their own informed immunization decisions – as adults and parents themselves one day – than we need to ensure they’re educated on the subject as teenagers. High school science courses should be preparing them with a basic understanding of infectious diseases and immunology. They should be learning how to identify reputable sources and conduct thorough research. And they should be preparing to make their own health decisions by understand the risks of disease, the benefits of community immunity and the importance of immunizations throughout the life span.
There is no better example of how capable young adults are in understanding the science behind immunizations than in the making of the captivating 40-minute documentary “Invisible Threat“. The film, which was produced by a small group of award-winning students from chstvFILMS at Carlsbad High School in California, explores the science of vaccination. The student filmmakers set out to understand the fears that have lead some parents to delay or decline vaccines, and in doing so they also explored the reasons behind the resurgence of preventable diseases in their community.
Funded by an unrestricted grant, they addressed this project as journalists, with the sole purpose to reveal the truth about vaccines – whatever that may be. After extensive research and numerous interviews with families, physicians and various experts, they were shocked and convinced by what they discovered and they used their film to share that information with their peers.
Seventeen year old filmmaker Allie DeGour, who was going into her sophomore year when she started her journey with “Invisible Threat“, explains:
I have been a part of CHSTV for 3 years now and my contribution to this film was research and reporting. My experience throughout the making of this film was a complete roller coaster ride. Not only was it an insightful and educational journey, but it was also one that changed my thoughts on an array of subjects.
When I began working on this film, I had a strong disliking to vaccinations. The needles, the thought of the process, and the “pain” when you get one. Just thinking about it made me uncomfortable. Because of this, I was extremely stubborn about changing my views on shots and vaccinations. About a week into conducting research for this film, (yes, we all contributed long after-school hours to educate ourselves on this subject), my beliefs were foggy. I didn’t know what to believe anymore. Were vaccinations causing innocent little kids to get autism? Were they the cause of saddened parents around the world? This is what I was going to find out.
I started asking my fellow filmmakers what their thoughts were on this. They had been conducting the same research so they were bound to have made their own conclusions, right? Wrong. They were just as confused as I was. This was when we realized this was something we had to really dig deep into. After months of researching, filming, and interviewing, we had all drawn our own conclusions on the subject. My personal conclusion is that vaccinations causing autism is a social controversy, not a scientific one. The scientific evidence was there to prove there was no connection between vaccines and autism and we interviewed a leading autism researcher in the film who explained it to us.
The experience of creating Invisible Threat has not only helped me become a much more educated student, but also an educated patient. No longer will I be terrified to go into an appointment with my doctor because of a shot or vaccination that I have to receive. Now that I know what it’s going to do in the long run, it’s worth it.
This month I’ve been consumed with back-to-school preparations. With one child headed to college, two in high school, one in middle school and another in elementary school, our family preparations include everything from crayons to college course books. In addition to purchasing school supplies, replacing worn out sneakers, and hunting for the perfect backpack, we’ve also had to fit in yearly physicals so that the kids can participate in school sports. This has provided me with an opportunity to discuss my child’s immunization records with their doctor, but even if your child isn’t scheduled for a physical anytime soon, reviewing your child’s immunization records are an essential part of the back-to-school preparations.
Even the most diligent parent – who has every intention of vaccinating their child according to the CDC’s recommended schedule – may find that a shot was overlooked due to a missed appointment, previous illness or changes in the vaccine recommendations.
That is why comparing your child’s immunization record against the CDC’s recommended schedule (available here) is good idea. Here are a few steps you can take today:
1. Find out what is recommended by the CDC and required by your state.
First, it’s important to keep in mind that while the CDC provides a comprehensive list of recommended vaccines (accessible here), each state has their own immunization policies (detailed here). It’s a good idea to discuss your state’s school immunization requirements with your child’s doctor, school and/or local health department.
2. Take a look at your child’s own immunization records.
By reviewing your child’s records now, you could potentially avoid any last minute surprises on the first day of school. If your child needs a required vaccination it can usually be arranged by scheduling a visit with your child’s physician, or stopping in at the local pharmacy, health department or immunization clinic.
3. Consider your child’s age and learn more about the specific recommended vaccines.
When reviewing your child’s immunization records, it’s helpful to acquaint yourself with the specific vaccines that are most commonly required for enrollment in most elementary, middle and high schools across the country.
Before Starting Elementary School:
Today Dr. Lara Zibners addresses a concern that was raised on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page which addresses the difficult task parents face in protecting their newborn babies from vaccine preventable diseases before they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves. If you have a vaccine related concern that you would like to provide for discussion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message on our Facebook page.
I have a 3 week old son and I plan on vaccinating him appropriately. However my family is having a reunion next week and I want to go. I have been very strict about only having vaccinated visitors. Is it ok to go to this reunion when I can’t check to see if every person is vaccinated? There will be 20-40 people there. Also, my brother-in-law doesn’t vaccinate his kids and I haven’t let them or their kids meet my baby yet. Am I being crazy or should I stick to this? I just want to do what’s best for my baby.
Wow! You plan on getting out of the house with a 3-week old? That’s ambitious. I’m impressed. I’m also incredibly impressed with your concern about exposing your new little one to vaccine preventable illnesses. Not to mention how delicate and difficult the topic is when friends and family willingly don’t vaccinate and risk the health of their children and yours. It’s awkward, as I’ve already said.
But moving on from that, I think we need to have a real conversation about what vaccines can and can’t do. I am blatantly pro-immunization. I, along with the overwhelming majority of physicians and scientists, believe that vaccines truly are the greatest medical innovation of all time. They have saved more lives than any other medical advancement in history. Vaccines work, they are safe, and they save lives.
But let’s be honest. Vaccines don’t provide 100% immunity to every single individual vaccinated. That is why herd immunity is so very, very important. Read more…
Some may call me a bad mother because I can’t remember if my back labor was with the first or second child, or if my varicose veins sprung up with my third or fourth pregnancy, or exactly what time it was when my fifth child graced this earth. But one thing I will never forget is how much time and effort I put into researching labor and delivery with my first pregnancy.
Looking back, I felt confident that I was doing everything to ensure the best possible health of my child. I ate good foods, avoided caffeine, took my vitamins, and even wrote a birth plan that expressed my desire to have a natural and un-medicated labor. Despite all the precautionary steps I took, I knew that something unexpected may occur. There could be some kind of birth complications. The baby could be in a breech position, have the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, or be born with a birth defect. I knew the risks because I did my research, but I also did everything within my power to help ensure the health of our child.
The same goes for those first few weeks and months after our baby was born. Despite the precautions we took to keep each of our babies healthy, by limiting time outside of the home, washing hands, breastfeeding as long as possible and keeping sick siblings and family members away, there were never any guarantees. The fact remains that it can be extremely difficult to isolate our babies from infectious diseases that may be circulating in our communities, which is why my husband and I chose to immunization our children according to the recommended schedule.
What some parents don’t realize is that the childhood immunization schedule is designed to protect children from diseases at the times when they are most vulnerable. For instance, by administering the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth, we can actually reverse the effects of the virus if it was unknowingly passed from a pregnant mother to her child.
But there are two dangerous diseases that we can begin protecting babies against while they are still in the womb.
Influenza and pertussis.
In this first week of National Immunization Awareness Month – a week designated to babies and pregnant woman – it’s important to highlight that pregnant woman are advised to receive a Tdap booster vaccine with each pregnancy, as well as an annual influenza vaccine.
It’s common for people to question whether all the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are really necessary. Thanks to the success of our nation’s childhood immunization program, American children are offered protection from as many as 16 different diseases.
But are these diseases really that dangerous? If we rarely see these diseases in our communities, do we really need to be that concerned about them? And why do we still vaccinate for diseases we rarely see?
Unfortunately, it’s this line of questioning that providers often come up against when discussing vaccines in the examining room. If a parent fails to recognize the risks associated with these diseases, they may be more likely to forego life-saving vaccines. Health care professionals want parents to understand that these diseases are dangerous, sometimes deadly, and most definitely still exist. This is why Every Child By Two developed a new resource to help educate people about the dangers of diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.
In response to requests from healthcare providers and public health partners all across the country, Every Child By Two created a new online and interactive Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook. This easily accessible tool includes powerful statistics and impactful infographics that highlight the 16 different diseases we immunize against and the vaccines that are used to prevent them. The eBook may be downloaded, printed and distributed – either as a whole or as individual disease pages – so that it can be easily shared among the public via social media.
In support of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) which begins August 1st, Every Child By Two is encouraging everyone to help disseminate this new resource. Each week we will feature different disease infographics on the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page. We encourage you to “like” the page and share the images via your own Facebook status updates, Tweets, Instagram posts or blog posts.
As our nation continues to experience outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases such as measles and pertussis, we hope you will do your part to help Every Child By Two educate others on the dangers of these diseases and the importance of on-time immunization.
If you are part of an organization that would like to co-brand the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook for local dissemination, please contact Every Child By Two for details on how they would be willing to collaborate at email@example.com.
In the first part of this series, Ask Before They Play to Keep Chickenpox, Pertussis and Measles Away, Dr. Zibners explores why a parent might be concerned if their vaccinated child has unvaccinated playmates. In the second part, Are Your Child’s Friends Vaccinated, she provides tips on how to pose the question to others. In this final post she offers suggestions on how to respond when the answer isn’t exactly what you were hoping for.
By Dr. Lara Zibners
In parts one and two of this series, I’ve been equating a conversation about firearms in the home to one about immunization. Both can be awkward but both are very, very necessary. But suppose the answer isn’t the one you were hoping for.
You take a deep breath and spit it out: “Do you keep a loaded gun in the house?” If the answer is yes, there’s another conversation to be had: “Where are they kept? Are they secure? Where is the ammunition? I meant a revolver, not your staple gun!”
In the same way, you may want to open the conversational door about vaccines. What if the answer is
“Oh, no, we don’t vaccinate”
Do you panic? Jump to conclusions? Grab your child and run screaming?
No. Obviously not. My kids are numerous (3) and heavy (nearly 90 pounds combined). I can’t run anywhere. But besides that, it’s best not to start the conversation by assuming that every unvaccinated child has parents who are unwilling to vaccinate. If you find out that your child’s best friend hasn’t had his MMR vaccine, don’t turn away just yet. Take a deep breath and ask one simple question: Read more…