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Posts Tagged ‘herd immunity’

Why Should Vaccinated Individuals Worry About Measles Outbreaks?

The United States is well on our way to a record year for measles cases.  So far in 2017, we’re on track to see more cases this year than last year.

In the state of Minnesota alone, where a Somali-American community was encouraged to refuse MMR vaccine during visits from Andrew Wakefield and other vaccine critics, a drop in vaccination rates has resulted in a dangerous measles outbreak.  So far, the Minnesota Department of Health has identified 66 total cases spread among four counties, with many cases involving the hospitalization of children.

SOTI-MeaslesCasesIG As the number of measles cases in MN is expected to climb, health departments across the U.S. are beginning to identify other measles cases as well.

For instance, the Maryland Department of Health is investigating a potential outbreak after a patients was admitted to Children’s National Medical Center in the District.  The patient had previously sought medical treatment at Prince George’s Hospital Center in MD, exposing countless people in that area as well.  Meanwhile, a teenaged tourist staying in a NJ hotel contracted measles, and now the New Jersey State Health Department fear other people may have been exposed before the patient was treated at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ.

With measles cases emerging across the U.S., and large-scale outbreaks of measles being reported by the World Health Organization in places like Romania and Italy, it’s important to ask if measles outbreaks should be a concern to those who are vaccinated.  

Aren’t vaccinated individuals protected during outbreaks?  And if so, why should we care if others remain unvaccinated?

When it comes to infectious diseases like measles, one person’s decision not to vaccinate can negatively impact the health of others.  There are plenty of unvaccinated individuals who rely on protection from the vaccinated, to include children under one year of age who are too young to be vaccinated for measles, individuals who have medical reasons that restrict them from being vaccinated, or people with compromised immune systems.  These individuals are all at great risk of contracting measles and suffering serious complications and the only protection they have comes from those who are vaccinated.

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In fact, in order to keep measles from spreading, about 92-95% of the population needs to be immune to the disease.  Unfortunately, in the case of measles, even small pockets of un-immunized individuals can threaten the herd immunity threshold.  This is exactly why we are seeing an outbreak in Minnesota.

What’s the big deal?  Is measles even that dangerous? Read more…

Five Things I’ve Learned About Vaccines Through 21 Years of Parenting

April 24, 2017 35 comments

niiw-blog-a-thon-badgeI gave birth to five children in the span of nine years. My oldest daughter will soon be 21.  My youngest, 12.  Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about childhood illnesses and infectious diseases.  Like most parents, I’ve received plenty of unsolicited advice about how to care for my children and how to keep them healthy.  However, when I make health decision for my children, I rely on evidence based research and credible information from reputable sources.

That is why I agreed to partner with Every Child By Two (ECBT) as the editor and primary contributor to this Shot of Prevention blog.  Seven years ago, when we started this blog, parents seeking vaccine information on the internet often encountered a web of lies, deception, misinformation and fear mongering. Today, Shot of Prevention is one of many blogs that provide parents with evidence based information to help them make informed immunization decisions for their families.

Today, in recognition of National Infant Immunization Week, I’m sharing five of the most important things I’ve learned about vaccines through my journey as a parent and immunization blogger and it begins with science and it ends with action.

1.) Don’t Let Your Emotions Cloud Your Scientific Judgment.

Visit any online parenting forum and there are fewer topics that can get as heated and emotional as vaccines.  The majority of these conversations illicit fear and sympathy, and you’ll often hear parents say that they had to trust their gut or rely on their parental instinct. While we can’t deny our emotions, when it comes to vaccines we must not let emotions cloud our scientific judgment. Instead, we must look to peer-reviewed research and sound science to make educated and informed immunization decisions for our children.

When we do that, we realize that vaccines are some of the most rigorously tested medical interventions available today. And they should be because they are administered to almost every healthy child born in the U.S.  The four different surveillance systems we have in the U.S. serve as back-up systems to ensure the ongoing safety of vaccines.

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While it’s true that no medical intervention comes without risk, the chances that your child will suffer a serious adverse reaction from a vaccine are documented to be less than one in a million.

When you compare that risk to the risk of injury or death from the diseases that we prevent, vaccines win the benefit/risk ratio hands down.  So, brush up on your science and take the time to understand how vaccines work.

Listen to immunization experts address some of the most frequently asked questions about vaccines in these Q&A videos available on our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page here and our YouTube channel here.  You can also check out these other resources to learn more:
Immunity and Vaccines Explained; video from PBS, NOVA 
How Vaccines Work; video embedded on Immunize For Good website 
Vaccines: Calling the Shots; Aired on PBS, NOVA 
Ensuring the Safety of Vaccines in the U.S.; PDF document from the CDC 
The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine; Infographic from the CDC 
Vaccine Ingredients Frequently Asked Questions; Healthy Children, AAP
Vaccine Education Center Website; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 

2.) Appreciate Vaccines For Their Life-Saving Quality.  

Thankfully, science is advancing and newer, safer vaccines are enabling us to prevent more needless suffering, hospitalizations & death. However, it’s not uncommon for parents to question why their child may need so many shots.

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Admittedly, the method of administering vaccines can be painful at times.  I’m beginning to think that the reason parents are concerned about the number of vaccines their children receive is because it’s even painful for parents to watch their child suffer from the discomfort of a needle. And worst yet, there are often multiple shots at each visit during those first two years of life.  If vaccines were administered orally, through an adhesive patch, or through a way that didn’t involve pain, I believe parents might not have nearly as much concern.

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things to accept as a parent is watching your child suffer from things you can’t prevent.  But the reality is that with vaccines, you are preventing something, even if you may never see that disease which you are preventing. The reality is that some brief discomfort, a few pricks of a needle and even a mild fever, swelling, rash or big crocodile tears are far better than suffering from any one of the 14 different diseases we can now safely prevent through childhood immunizations.

Since we are privileged to live in a country where we have such easy access to vaccines, parents don’t often see just how dangerous vaccine preventable diseases can be. And while we may not have ever seen polio in our lifetime, we must never forget the fear that parents experienced before a vaccine was available. Sadly, most parents in the U.S. probably don’t even realize that polio still exists in other countries and that globally, measles remains one of the top five killers of kids under the age of five.

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In fact, our country is currently battling yet another measles outbreak in Minnesota. This outbreak appears to be direct result of anti-vaccine advocates wrongfully convincing members of the Somali community not to vaccinate due to the dispelled myth that vaccines were linked to autism.  Now unvaccinated children are being hospitalized with measles and public health professionals are hard at work trying to contain the spread of this extremely infectious disease.

Perhaps if parents were to learn more about the dangers of the diseases that vaccines help to prevent, they may feel less anxious about the shots their child is recommended to receive.  Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.16.16 AM.png

To learn about the 14 different diseases that we can prevent with today’s childhood immunization center, check out our Every Child By Two’s Childhood Vaccine Preventable Disease eBook.

Read more…

10 Things You Need to Know About Vaccines for Children

August 17, 2016 22 comments

 

instagram_childrenWe are honoring National Immunization Awareness Month by highlighting the importance of vaccines across the lifespan.  

In this guest post, we hear about the importance of protecting babies and young children from vaccine-preventable diseases from the perspective of a statewide non-profit.  The mission of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition is to mobilize diverse partners and families in an effort to advance children’s health through immunizations.

By the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition

To celebrate the gift of vaccines and to remind parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others of the important role vaccines play in their little one’s early years, we’re highlighting the top 10 things parents should know about childhood immunizations.

1. Vaccines save lives.

COGuestBlogPost_20-year-infographicSimply put, vaccines work! The World Health Organization estimates that vaccines save 2.5 million children’s lives every year. In fact, immunization is considered one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide, and we’re getting closer than ever to a polio-free world.

Here in Colorado, vaccination prevented more than 8,600 child hospitalizations in just one year!

2. Vaccines are safe.

Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored after they are licensed to ensure that they are safe. See The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine infographic to learn more about the vaccine testing and approval process. 

Like any medication or medical intervention, vaccines can cause adverse reactions. The most common vaccine side effects are mild (e.g. a sore arm or mild fever). In many cases, the risk of a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine is 1 in one million. Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection, but this is minimal compared to the pain, trauma, and possible long-term complications of the diseases these vaccines prevent. The disease-protection benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the risk of possible side effects. Not vaccinating places children at risk for dangerous and potentially fatal vaccine-preventable illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended schedule is a safe and effective way to protect your child against 14 diseases by the age of two.

3. Young children are especially vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and their complications.

Children under the age of five are most at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases and their complications. In 2014, 63.8 percent of children hospitalized with vaccine-preventable disease in Colorado were four years of age or younger. Unfortunately, in the same year over 25.7 percent of two-year-olds in Colorado had not received all recommended vaccines.

Child care facilities, preschool programs and schools are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs, and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments. Make sure you are sending your child to child care and school safe!

4. Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist.

Diseases like polio, measles, and mumps are not diseases of the past; vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in many parts of the world. However, most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like measles or rubella can have on a family or community, and the benefits of vaccination are often taken for granted. But the truth is they still exist.

For example, measles continues to be brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people in the U.S. (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur. While we have the ability to prevent these diseases from harming our most vulnerable, such as babies, the elderly and the immunocompromised, gaps in immunization coverage have allowed these diseases to sneak back into our daily lives. Last year’s measles outbreak was a perfect example of how quickly infectious diseases can spread when they reach groups of people who aren’t vaccinated.

Diseases know no boarders, and with an increasingly transient global society it is more important than ever to ensure our little ones are protected.

5. Vaccines also save money.

Read more…

A Physician’s Plea to Those Who Don’t Vaccinate

July 14, 2016 14 comments

What value do vaccines have in your life?

Throughout July and August, Shot of Prevention is encouraging people to address this question.  Today’s guest post, by clinical cardiologist Dharmaraj Karthikesan, provides a personal perspective from someone who is genuinely concerned about the health and well-being of people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children.  

Photo Of RajHere’s what Dr. Karthikesan has to say:

I’ve heard people say that deaths from preventable diseases are the will of God.  Indeed all men must die, but not all have to die stupid.  I believe ignorance is deadly.  Sadly, it can also be contagious.

My issue resides with people who are opposed to vaccination and recently this issue became very personal. 

See, I have a new nephew in the family.  He lives in another country and so I only get to see him on Skype.  However, his parents were considering a visit and I was really looking forward to seeing him.   But due to the outbreak of diphtheria in Malaysia, where I live, I advised his parents to postpone their visit.  See my nephew hasn’t completed his vaccination schedule and I feared for his health.

My fears are not unfounded. This is the reality we are living in; where our lives are dictated by the decision of others. And every decision not to vaccinate affects the health of others in our community and in our world.

As a doctor, I try to appeal to people’s sense and reason when they tell me that they have decided against vaccinating.  Sometimes that communication fails and so I’ve decided to try to employ one other method.

Instinct.

I ask,

Do you instinctively feel that your child is safe without vaccination? 

Do you instinctively feel secure knowing that your child will recover regardless of the infectious disease that they may contract?

Do you instinctively feel impervious to all manner of infectious disease, even those which are airborne, just because you eat a certain diet or take certain homeopathic remedies?  

If it is difficult to honestly answer these questions affirmatively, then I beg you to consider what I have to say. 

Vaccines are safe.

I state the obvious first. I understand and empathize with those who feel that vaccines are dangerous and those who believe vaccines can be harmful or detrimental to health. Let’s assume that this is true. For a moment, let’s assume they are worse than death, or worse than the defects and disabilities they cause.

Let’s start with polio, which can cause disability and even suffocation if it involves the breathing muscles. Assuming your child recovers from polio, he may never run or play like a normal child. Are you prepared to accept that?

How about diphtheria, which affects your child’s breathing. In severe forms, it can affect the heart and nerves leading to death. Are you willing to take that chance? 

Now how about pertussis, which is known to cause violent, uncontrollable coughing making it extremely difficult for a child to get air into their lungs.  About half of babies who get pertussis need care in the hospital, and 1 out of 100 babies will die.  Is this the kind of suffering you want for your child?

There are serious dangers with all vaccine preventable diseases.  However, vaccines work to prevent infection by developing an immunity that imitates the infection.  This imitation spares one from suffering with severe illness.   Instead, vaccination allows the immune system to develop an arsenal of weapons in the form of’ ‘antibodies’. If your child should ever be exposed to these infections in the future, these antibodies will prevent the infection from spreading to your child by eliminating the threat early and preventing your child from getting sick. It’s quite simple actually.  Once the body knows the ‘enemy’, it is better able to defeat it.

So the question that begs for an answer is this;

Do you want your child to be facing these diseases alone, or do you want a strong arsenal of vaccines helping to form a protective shield?

The choice is yours.  But that’s the problem actually.  Vaccines are a choice and people’s choices are sometimes influenced by inaccurate information.

Doctors don’t make money from selling vaccines.

Read more…

Your Vaccination Status is a Matter of Life and Death to My Autistic Son

July 6, 2016 5 comments

This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben.  A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.

Like all parents, my child’s health is very important to me.  That’s why, even after getting an autism diagnosis for my son, I still believe in and advocate for vaccinations.

I don’t believe autism is caused by MMR or any other vaccinations.  

The allegations made by Andrew Wakefield, the man who tried to convince the world of an MMR vaccine-autism link, were based on falsified data, yet he continues to make his claim to try to frighten people throughout the world.  This article by Brian Deer systematically addresses Wakefield’s flawed theories and debunks the autism myth that Andrew Wakefield has perpetuated.vaxnoautism1

As if that weren’t enough, there have been countless studies that have investigated any possible link between vaccines and autism and no evidence can be found to support such a link.  (You can access the latest published research here, here and here.)

The science is clear, and yet there are many autism advocacy organizations that continue to install fear in parents who just want what’s best for their children.  

As this Newsweek article explains:

Despite the science, organizations involved in the anti-vaccine movement still hope to find some evidence that vaccines threaten children’s health. For example, the autism advocacy organization SafeMinds, —whose mission is to raise awareness about how certain environmental exposures may be linked to autism, recently funded research it hoped would prove vaccines cause autism in children. But this effort appears to have backfired for the organization—since the study they funded failed to show any link between autism and vaccines.”

Alycia Halladay, chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation, commends SafeMinds for financially supporting the study, but she worries that some autism advocates may be asking the wrong questions.

“I’m not saying that we need to stop funding research in the environment, because we know the environment does impact neurodevelopment,” she says.

However, Halladay explains that organizations that look to blame vaccines for causing autism are “playing whack-a-mole”.

“First, the proposed association was between the MMR vaccines and autism. Then that was disproven. Then it was the thimerosal components in vaccines; now that has been further disproven in a carefully designed animal model study that aimed to specifically examine that question. It has also been suggested that the association is because of vaccine timing, but that too has been disproven. The target always seems to be moving, and the expectation is that scientific resources will be diverted to address each new modification of this hypothesized link.”

While there may always be people who will believe there is a link between vaccines and autism, despite the science that proves otherwise, I’m writing today to explain another issue that has swayed my decision to support vaccines.

This issue is one of life and death for my son Ben.

I realize, very clearly, that without vaccinations my son would die. 

That is why I am a fan of modern medicine and the science that makes vaccines possible.  If Ben had been born a century sooner, he wouldn’t have survived his Hirschsprung’s disease.  Had he been born less than a half century sooner, he wouldn’t have survived leukemia.  As it is, we have come face to face with his mortality several times.  I see vaccinations along the same lines as chemotherapy – far from perfect, but with the help of the scientific method, getting better all the time.  Vaccines, and even chemotherapy in Ben’s case, are the best shot we have at giving our child a long, healthy life.

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Image courtesy of the Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes Facebook page.


For us, though, it goes a step further.  

Ben is also immunocompromised.  

That means that even fully vaccinated, he doesn’t have enough ability to fight off diseases.  He is that kid.  The kid who needs herd immunity.  He’s the reason our whole family gets flu shots and chicken pox vaccines.  He’s the kid who needed boosters for pneumococcal vaccines – because his body lost immunity to them.  Even though we do our best to protect him, he’s the kid that could get infected during a measles outbreak. And he is the kid whose body is weak and who is very likely to succumb to a disease like measles, which would inevitably hospitalize him or worse…cost him his life.

I wrote this piece after weeks of consideration.  I realize this could ruffle feathers.   So I ask…

If you don’t vaccinate, have you researched the diseases we vaccinate against as well as the side effects of vaccinations?   Have you seen what polio and diphtheria can do?  Do you realize that if measles encephalitis sets in that your child will be isolated in the Intensive Care Unit while you wait to find out if he or she is the lucky one who survives with brain damage?  And do you realize that, statistically speaking, the greatest risk in getting a vaccine for your child is driving your child to the doctor’s office?

I realize the rhetoric goes around and around, and that I’m about as likely to change your mind as you are likely to change mine.  But if there’s that tiny chance that you’re really considering all the facts, I’m hopeful that Ben’s face and plight would make a difference.  After all, I am his mother, and I must do everything I can to protect him and keep him healthy. I have to try.

I have a sad feeling that it will take a true epidemic to turn the tide. I just hope that my child will not end up as a casualty. He is not a statistic, nor would I ever want him to be one…he’s our precious child and we don’t want to lose him.

So please remember, your vaccination status could mean the life or death of a child like Ben.

Every Child By Two is collaborating with various immunization advocacy organizations to collect personal stories about the value of vaccines.  These stories will then be shared with state and federal legislators throughout National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) in August.  Help ensure that our government representatives know that our country, our communities, our students and our families deserve protection from vaccine preventable diseases.  Join the movement and speak out in favor of vaccines by sharing your story at the following link: bit.ly/28NoZCR.

White House Administration Video-Response to Opponents of Mandatory Vaccine Laws

Opponents of state-legislated school immunization requirements drafted a “We The People” petition in February, reaching the required number of signatures to trigger an official response from the Administration.  The petition was worded and advertised as follows:

“PROHIBIT ANY LAWS MANDATING THE FORCE AND REQUIREMENT OF VACCINATIONS OF ANY KIND – No human being should be FORCED to be vaccinated against their will and/or personal/religious beliefs. I petition against making vaccinations of any kind mandatory. This includes forcing children to be vaccinated to attend public schools, activities, and daycare centers. This also includes adults working in the public or private sector.”

This official White House We The People petition website pledges that

“the right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. We the People provides a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. We created We the People because we want to hear from you. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”

A petition must reach 100,000 signatures within thirty days of posting in order to meet the response qualification.   Vaccine opponents advertised the petition as an effort to “call for federal protection from forced vaccination” and received 132,304 signatures.
Every Child By Two could not be more pleased with the official response to this petition which includes a poignant video message from the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.  From the official We The People website:

The evidence about vaccines’ safety and benefits is both strong and consistent — but don’t just take our word for it. We reached out to the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy — the Nation’s Doctor — who wanted to respond to you personally on this issue.
Here’s what he had to say:

Read more…

Family’s Exposure to Measles Reveals Importance of Herd Immunity

February 9, 2015 115 comments

After being notified that he and his family were exposed to measles, Dr. Tim Jacks signed on to the family’s online CaringBridge journal to vent his frustration.  His 3 year old daughter Maggie is fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (blood cancer) and as a result has a compromised immune system.  His 10 month old son Eli received all his recommended vaccines, but is too young for his first dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. The children were with their mother at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital clinic when they were exposed to measles.  Frustrated and concerned, Dr. Jacks wrote a journal entry as though he was speaking directly to the person who was responsible for putting his family at risk. The next day, Kid Nurse reprinted the story and Dr. Jacks and his wife were soon being interviewed by various national news outlets, to include CNN, FoxNews as seen here:

Dr. Tim Jacks, DO, FAAP is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As an Every Child By Two Immunization Champion, he has given us permission to share his story here on Shot of Prevention, as well as on our Vaccinate Your Baby website.  Every Child By Two has also invited him to present  testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on The Reemergence of Vaccine-Preventable Disease: Exploring the Public Health Successes and Challenges at 10am on Tuesday, February 10, 2015.  

We hope that his personal experiences will help educate Congress about the plight of those who depend on herd immunity and the importance of protecting those who are most vulnerable to vaccine preventable diseases.

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To the parent of the unvaccinated child who exposed my family to measles:

I have a number of strong feelings surging through my body right now. Towards my family, I am feeling extra protective like a papa bear. Towards you, unvaccinating parent, I feel anger and frustration at your choices. Read more…