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Do My Children Need the HPV Vaccine?

December 17, 2014 13 comments

This guest post was written by Denise Olson,  a mother of four who connected with The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI) in her efforts to learn more about the HPV vaccination.

Like all good moms, I want my kids to grow up safe and healthy. I want to make decisions that will benefit them right now, but I also need to think about things that could help them in the future. I feel like it’s a big job and a lot is depending on me. That is why I wanted to learn more about the HPV vaccine before my children were old enough to get it. I wanted to make an informed choice, and I had all kinds of questions.IMG_7492

What is HPV, anyway? Could a vaccine actually protect my children from cancer? Are there side effects? What about the scary rumors I heard on the internet? Why is the vaccine given at age 11? Are my kids really at risk for HPV, or is this unnecessary medicine?

I wrote this article to share the answers I found to my questions, and to hopefully convince other parents to think about how they can protect their own children, not only now, but in the future.

What is HPV anyway?

HPV stands for human papilloma virus.  HPV lives on soft mucous membranes and skin. Usually, it can be found on the genitals of an infected person, but it can also infect the anus, mouth and throat.

Some strains of HPV viruses cause genital warts, while others can cause tumors or cancers to grow. While there are many different types of HPV, there are several different HPV vaccines licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix) prevents the two HPV types, 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers. There is also a quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil) which prevents against four HPV types: HPV 16 and 18, as well as HPV 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts. The quadrivalent vaccine has also been shown to protect against cancers of the anus, vagina and vulva and is the only HPV vaccine licensed for use in males.  And just last week, the FDA approved a new HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) which will protect against nine different strains has the potential to prevent approximately 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers.

Can the HPV vaccine actually protect my child from cancer?

Yes! The vaccine protects against cancer IMG_6743by training the body to find and destroy viruses before they have a chance to cause the infections that lead to cancer.

The primary cancer the HPV vaccine is designed to protect against is cervical cancer, the same cancer that is checked for when women go in for a pap smear. However, because the vaccine stops dangerous HPV viruses anywhere in the body, it may help protect against some cancers of the penis, throat, mouth, and anus. This is one reason it is recommended for boys as well as for girls. (The other reason is to protect future partners from cervical cancer.) Read more…

Our Life Without Emily: Flu, Fear, Guilt and Regret

December 12, 2014 61 comments

By Joe Lastinger, Board Member, Families Fighting Flu

1525360_10151953693783780_1550060010_nMy daughter, Emily, should have started high school this year full of excitement and potential. Her teachers would ask her, “Are you Chris’s little sister?” or “Are you Andrew’s little sister?” In my head I imagine her earning high marks in advanced classes, joining student council, playing volleyball and basketball and having a great group of close friends. Now I realize that it might not have turned out that way. It’s quite possible that Emily would have entered high school at the peak of her teenage rebellion and might not even be on speaking terms with her mom and me. We will never know, because she died suddenly and tragically from influenza when she was only 3½-years-old.

Emily died from influenza in 2004. She died in our bed, in her pajamas, watching cartoons – just hours before we were scheduled to take her back to her pediatrician to have her looked at again.   Doctors have terms to describe how children like Emily can be so sick and not necessarily appear so…it’s called “compensation”. Children, we learned, can sometimes compensate for illness…until they can’t anymore.

If I had to describe how my wife and I thought about influenza – “the flu” – before Emily died from it, I would compare it to lice. I know that seems like a silly comparison, but chances are most parents at one time or another have had the unpleasant experience of dealing with lice. It’s a nuisance, cleaning hair, searching for nits, laundering, etc. You hope that the rest of the family doesn’t get it. You are kind of mad that it happened at all. It messes up your family’s busy schedule. You worry that other parents aren’t being diligent and will end up re-infecting your kids (well, at least we did). Maybe you wonder who started this whole mess to begin with.

But, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Influenza kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. every year. You don’t have to be old, sick or immune compromised. Influenza kills healthy adults and children (like Emily) every year. We’ve spent the last decade working to reduce the number of kids that die every year from the flu. Much of this work has been through Families Fighting Flu, a non-profit advocacy organization we played a small role in getting started, and some of it has been on our own through state and regional efforts in Texas.

The year 2015 will mark a decade that my wife and I have been working to reduce (eliminate, really) the number of childhood deaths attributed to influenza. Ten years without Emily in our lives. Ten years working to make sure that what happened to us doesn’t happen to other parents.  There have been successes (universal vaccine recommendations) and failures along the way (people still aren’t taking advantage of vaccinations that are widely available). Recently, I’ve been reflecting on what I have learned over that time and thought I would share a few insights. Read more…

Which Do People Fear More? The Flu or Flu Vaccine

October 16, 2014 199 comments

CDC Flu Ambassador Badge FINAL 2014-2015Yesterday was the day I had been anxiously anticipating for well over a month.  I took my kids to the local senior center to get our flu shots at the county flu vaccination clinic.

While most Americans are worrying themselves sick over Ebola, I’m more concerned about the greater risk of influenza.  See, I’m no stranger to the fact that thousands of people die from iFlunfluenza each year. In fact, I’ve already read about several flu deaths being reported this season, to include a person from South Carolina and a child from North Carolina in just the past week though these deaths won’t get the media attention Ebola does.  And while the flu may not be widespread in my local area at this particular moment, it’s just a matter of time.  The flu arrives every year like a tornado on the midwestern plains.  Sometimes you get a little bit of a warning, but regardless of whether you see it coming, it inevitably hits towns, schools and workplaces, hurting and even in some cases killing those who are not protected from its wrath.

Unfortunately, because I’ve had a child diagnosed with H1N1, met parents who have lost their children, know friends who have lost their neighbors, and have personally known a previously healthy individual who succumbed to influenza in his early 30s, I have a healthy fear of the flu (no pun intended).  Yet, it never ceases to amaze me that reasonable and otherwise intelligent people continue to reject flu vaccinations because they are swayed by unfounded myths or the sting of a needle.

Yesterday I realized that while my children understand the importance of flu vaccination, many adults around them still do not.

Here are a few of the surprising things I heard in just one hour of the day:   Read more…

NOVA Film “Vaccines-Calling the Shots” Opens the Door for Dialogue

September 11, 2014 310 comments

After viewing the PBS NOVA film “Vaccines – Calling the Shots”, I began wondering what the film’s impact would be.  I’ll admit that the film was very ambitious.  It addressed the science behind vaccines, why they work, how they work & even touched upon how people assess risk and decide whether to vaccinate or not.  All this in less than an hour.

Of course, no one should expect this film to be the one defining piece that will convince people to vaccinate.  Certainly it may reinforce the decision of those who already choose to vaccinate.  And it may give pause to those who would otherwise refrain from vaccinating.  But most importantly, this film is a valuable tool to help educate people about the science behind vaccines, inform the public about the importance of herd immunity and the dangers of not vaccinating, and open the door for civil dialogue about common vaccine safety concerns.

Looking back on the tweets I sent during the premiere, I realized that the film touched upon some of the most important immunization related issues I hear from parents day after day.   My goal now is to encourage as many people as possible to see this film (available online) and to use it as a way to encourage further conversation.

Of course, the film began with the usual caveats:

In the US more than 90% of parents vaccinate & most follow the recommended schedule.

Vaccine history may repeat itself. @PaulOffit explains “If you start to decrease vaccination rates you start to see the diseases reemerge.”

NOVAMeasles

 

In order to appreciate the value of vaccines, the film began by addressing the recent resurgence of diseases like pertussis (whooping cough) and measles.  It explained the infectious nature of these diseases, illustrated how epidemics are tracked and spread, and allowed viewers to see a tearful mother watching her infant child laying in a hospital bed and battling violent coughing fits brought on by an incurable disease known as pertussis. Read more…

Countdown to “Vaccines – Calling the Shots” on PBS

September 2, 2014 8 comments

PBSCallingTheShotsAnother great vaccine documentary is set to air this month.  That’s right!  Mark your calendars and set your DVRs!

Vaccines – Calling the Shots will premiere on PBS NOVA on Wednesday, September 10th. Due to anticipated coverage of President Obama’s address to the nation at 9pm (EST) and 8pm (CT), the film will air immediately following coverage of the President at approximately 9:20pm (EST) and 8:20 pm (CT).

 

Vaccines – Calling the Shots” is a special production which examines the science behind vaccinations and takes viewers around the world to track epidemics.   The film explains why diseases, which were largely eradicated a generation ago, are returning to the United States.  It also explores the risks and consequences of opting out of vaccines, and identifies parents who are wrestling with vaccine-related questions.

This brief preview provides a glimpse of what this new documentary is all about:

Help Generate Awareness About this New Documentary

Vaccine hesitancy and refusal is often rooted in the proliferation of immunization misinformation.  However, educational films like Vaccines- Calling the Shots” can help separate facts from fears.  Therefore, we ask for your support and participation in getting the word out about this film.  Not only will you be helping to combat misinformation, but you will help others to understand and appreciate the science behind immunizations.

Alert your friends, family and colleagues about the date and time of the upcoming premiere via social media.

Share this blog post, the 3-minute preview seen above, or the direct link to the PBS NOVA page to encourage others to discuss the value of vaccines and the science of immunization.  Ask them to mark their calendars for the preview and to participate in the conversations surrounding the premiere.   

Follow live tweets during the broadcast on September 10th and retweet them to your followers.

Featured experts from the film will be live tweeting.  These include:

  • Infectious disease expert, Dr. Paul Offit (@DrPaulOffit), leading pediatrician and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Alison Singer (@AlisonSinger), Co-Founder and President of the Autism Science Foundation( @AutismSciFounda), member of the national Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), chair of the International Society for Autism Research public relations committee, and mother of a child with autism
  • Writer, director, producer & co-executive producer, Sonya Pemberton (@pembertonfilms) who, as the Creative Director of Genepool Productions of Melbourne and Sydney, Australia spent  four years researching and producing an Australian version and now the American version of this film
  • NOVA series executive producer, Paula Apsell (@mamaNOVA)

In addition to these experts, everyone who has an interest in preventable diseases is invited to add to the commentary by live tweeting during the premier and including the hashtag #vaccinesNOVA.  We would even like to encourage people to promote the preview ahead of time via Twitter with these sample Tweets:

Examine immunization, track outbreaks & learn more about vaccinations w/ #vaccinesNOVA, Wed., Sept 10 at 9:20 EST on @PBShttp://to.pbs.org/YWNjcY

Why are diseases that were largely eradicated a generation ago returning? Find out w/ #vaccinesNOVA, Sept 10 at 9:20 EST http://to.pbs.org/1ryEAuw

If you would like an email reminder of the airing of this preview, be sure to sign up on the Vaccinate Your Baby “Get Involved” page here.

Follow @ShotofPrev on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ShotofPrev
Follow Vaccinate Your Baby on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/VaccinateYourBaby
Follow NOVA on Twitter: https://twitter.com/novapbs
Like NOVA on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline

Sharing Immunization Information in Everyday Conversations

August 28, 2014 3 comments

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 292 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…

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