Yesterday 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 influenza 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…
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.”
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…
Another 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:
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
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.
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…
Part One: Why Ask at All?
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.
Since I first began contributing to Shot of Prevention I’ve had many opportunities to realize that people who support immunizations are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. Everyone from healthcare providers to public health professionals, and immunization coalition members to epidemiologists all commit themselves to educating others about the importance of timely immunizations. They also play a key role in refuting the misinformation and negative accusations that continuously cause people to question the value and safety of vaccines.
When we look at immunization education challenges, there is no doubt that some of the most prevalent misconceptions about vaccines are the result of the work of one man – Andrew Wakefield. Many people would agree that Andrew Wakefield’s “callous disregard” for scientific integrity has had ripple effects on immunization rates and disease outbreaks. Not only have his professional dealings been questionable and heavily criticized, Wakefield has also been stripped of his medical license. Yet, as an author of a book entitled Callous Disregard, Wakefield continues to promote his misguided agenda in an effort to defend himself and persuade others to question the benefits of vaccines.
Fortunately, organizations like Every Child By Two, work hard to dispel the myths that he has helped create. And fortunately, Every Child By Two has the support of many devoted immunization advocates – people like Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH. As a retired epidemiologist he has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. After reading Callous Disregard, he felt compelled to refute each and every point that Andrew Wakefield attempted to make about vaccine safety and his article was ultimately published in a peer-reviewed online open-source medical journal.
He explains: Read more…