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Sharing Immunization Information in Everyday Conversations

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…

Should I Take My Three-Week Old to the Family Reunion?

August 8, 2014 122 comments

DrZibnersToday 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 shotofprevention@gmail.com 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…

Protecting Your Baby From Disease Begins in Pregnancy

August 6, 2014 1 comment

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.

NIAM14_FBpost_BabyLooking 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.

Read more…

Asking Before They Play: How to Handle the Response

July 23, 2014 37 comments
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.

 

DrZibnersPart Three: Handling the Response

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…

Asking Before They Play: Are Your Child’s Friends Vaccinated?

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.  Today, she offers suggestions on how to pose the question to other parents. DrZibners

Part Two: Posing the Question

By Dr. Lara Zibners

As kids get older, they naturally start wanting to go play at other people’s homes. As parents, we should encourage this developing independence, shouldn’t we? Not to mention the few hours of freedom we can selfishly steal from the arrangement. Yet it’s a little scary, watching them walk into another house. Another environment. Another set of rules. How do you know it’s as safe as the one you’ve created in your own home?

The answer is that you can’t always be certain. The other parents might be more relaxed about some things, more uptight about others. I, for one, am fully aware that my “two ice cream bars each and that’s it, people!” is a bit liberal for many of our friends. Then again, the way I freak out, hysterically screeching when I see a latex balloons being brought into our home…perhaps others view that reaction as inappropriate. But from my standpoint, I’ve never cared for– let alone heard of– a child who was killed by an ice cream sandwich. The latex balloon? Right. Number one non-food related fatal choking hazard. The point is we all have our priorities when it comes to the safety of our kids.

Photo credit: M. Danys

Photo credit: M. Danys

As a parent, when you decide that it is a priority to limit your child’s contact with unvaccinated children, that’s absolutely within your right. Please know that you aren’t alone if you are nervous or worried about upsetting or offending another family by asking about vaccine status. But it’s important and simply has to be done.

But what do you actually do? How do you ask? Blurt it out? Casually drop a line into the conversation? Tell a hilarious story about the last time little Bobby went for his routine immunizations and watch the reaction? It can be awkward. Especially if you haven’t given it some thought.

But it’s something you really need to think about. It’s fine to decide in your mind that you don’t want unvaccinated children putting your own at risk. However, it’s another thing to put those feelings into words. As an example, the Ask campaign has done a great job of raising awareness about the dangers of unsecured guns in homes with children and encourages parents to inquire about the presence of firearms in the homes where their children play.  Why can’t vaccine status be a similar conversation we have with other parents? Read more…

Ask Before They Play To Keep Chickenpox, Pertussis and Measles Away

July 15, 2014 36 comments

Part One: Why Ask at All?

DrZibners

By Dr. Lara Zibners

 “Oh, you know, we never had baby gates, because, you know, of the controversy.”

This was the response I got from a mom at a playgroup after some random conversation about safety. Our house had a flight of stairs just off the living room that was 16 wooden steps ending directly onto a slab of stone. So we had baby gates at either end. The story was likely the one about me installing these gates and then calling the company to find out how to open them. They were that good. Anyway, it made perfect sense to me that small children + long staircase + stone floor = potential significant injury. Until that exact moment, I was unaware there was a “controversy.”

Yet, apparently this other mother had read something about boundaries and teaching children to respect the staircase from behind imaginary walls. Which would then in turn help them develop self-control. Whatever. To my mind, having your frontal lobe all bruised up after a flight down a staircase would also create long-lasting issues, so I went for the option with an immediate safety return.

If you look between the lines of this exchange, you can see that it’s not so different from finding out that this mother was a vaccine-refusing parent. Her philosophy about parenting was so incredibly different that mine, and her ideas seemed so far out there, that I had no answer for her. Just a smile and a nod. (And a snarky comment about traumatic brain injury—I couldn’t help myself.)

Is that really so different from mentioning your child’s flu shot appointment and being met with a response that implies (or flat out says) that the flu is not dangerous and actually good for building their natural immunity? Those of you who are convinced that immunization is the most effective way of protecting your children from a variety of preventable and life-threatening illnesses have already made peace with this decision. If, on the other hand, you’ve chosen to vaccinate but still have questions than I suggest you continue to hang around sites like this. The more you learn about the scientific evidence that supports immunizations, the more certain you will be in your decision.

FosterKidImageBut what do you do when you find out about parents who have made other decisions?  What do you do when you discover your child’s best friend is unvaccinated? Should you care? After all, is it any of your business?

Read more…

From Avoiding Vaccines to Getting A Child Caught Up: Where To Start?

people-217251_640We often receive personal inquiries about immunizations, especially on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page.  While people realize that it’s best to seek the advice of a licensed medical professional, and we always encourage them to do so, many parents also appreciate hearing from others who may have some relevant insight.  It helps to know that our parental concerns are reasonable and that others have successfully overcome the same obstacles that we are facing.

In the case of one particular family, their immunization questions center around a major shift in their philosophy.  They once actively avoided vaccinations, but have now decided to get their two young children caught up on the recommended vaccines.  However, they are overwhelmed by all the considerations this will require.

While there is a catch-up schedule designed to bring unvaccinated children up to date, they wonder if their plan should consider the fact that there are disease outbreaks in various parts of the country and they also have a new baby on the way.  Until their doctor is able to provide more specific guidance, they’ve reached out to our immunization community for words of wisdom, understanding and encouragement. Read more…

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