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Posts Tagged ‘immunizations’

Day By Day, Shot By Shot

April 25, 2011 12 comments

Every Easter season I imagine how devastating it would be to watch your child suffer and die.  While I sat in church yesterday, blessed to be among my family and thankful to the Lord for sacrificing his only son, I couldn’t help but admire a young couple sitting in front of me with a tiny baby boy.  He couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old, nestling into his mother’s chest and grinning in his sleep.  He was absolutely precious, as every new life is.

As I sat admiring this baby, I couldn’t keep my mind from wondering what would become of this child.  I began to think about my experiences with Shot of Prevention over the past year and I prayed he would remain safe and healthy.

The truth is, before I began immersing myself in the world of immunization advocacy, I thought that most of the diseases we immunized against were non-existent thanks to the success of vaccines.  I didn’t really think these diseases were still claiming the lives of children, and I only knew one person who had died from a vaccine preventable disease, and it wasn’t a child.

Sadly, I didn’t really consider the risk of disease among children too young to be vaccinated.  I didn’t realize that there are people who can’t be vaccinated.  And I didn’t fully understand the impact of those who choose not to vaccinate.  What’s even worse is that I didn’t know how many people still suffer and die from vaccine preventable diseases.

Day by day, as I continue to learn more about the benefits of immunizations, I also hear more heart-wrenching stories about children – born happy and healthy, like the child I admired in church – who have suffered or died from vaccine preventable diseases.   These real-life stories, told by survivors, family members, friends and even health care providers, have the power to touch us, educate us and move us toward action.

Now, thanks to ShotbyShot.org, there is a unique storybank of videos and written accounts from people who have been touched by vaccine-preventable diseases. From whooping cough, to meningitis, to the chicken pox and the flu, these stories remind us that vaccine preventable diseases are still impacting people in our own communities and causing a huge amount of suffering and death.

Today, in honor of National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), we are launching a new feature in which we will highlight different stories as seen on Shot By Shot.  You can also make an impact by sharing these stories with friends and family and encouraging them to do the same.  Additionally, if you have had a personal experience with a vaccine preventable disease yourself, we urge you to consider submitting a story of your own.  We don’t want others to suffer the way you may have and personal accounts are a powerful and effective way for us to educate others about the importance of prevention and the value of vaccination.    For our first video feature, we have chosen to highlight one family’s story of pertussis, which not only illustrates the importance of childhood immunizations, but explains the concept of cocooning infants by keeping adults up to date with their booster shots.  By spreading this message we hope to protect the gift of life, which is definitely something to be grateful for.

Do You Believe in Vaccines? (Part III: Experience)

December 23, 2010 92 comments

This article was written by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP and originally posted on her Seattle Mama Doc blog on Dec. 3, 2010 .  As a board-certified, practicing pediatrician, blogger, freelance writer, and mother to two young boys, Dr. Swanson elicited responses from many prominent doctors to the question “Do You Believe in Vaccines?”.  In an effort to help our Shot of Prevention readers to gain further insight into the value of vaccines, as witnessed by those working in the field of medicine, she has graciously granted us permission to reprint the entire three part series.  

Helping families make decisions about their child’s health takes training, expertise, and experience. The training is standardized (medical school, residency, fellowship), and the expertise confirmed by passing board examinations and maintaining yearly CME (continuing med education). But the experience piece is ultimately unique for each physician. With each day in clinical care, patients teach, instruct, and shape how we understand wellness and illness. Through individual experiences with patients, physicians ultimately become who they are in the exam room. In medicine, despite the huge push to standardization everything from centralized phone calls to how much (or little) time we get with patients, individual doctors will fortunately remain unique. As patients, we still get to enjoy our physicians as people helping us through illness and injury.

This week has been intense. Wednesday, I spent the morning as a patient in the care of my incredible doctor. (I’m fine). She’s entirely instructive for me as a patient and as a physician; her bedside manner astounds. I believe she’s just very good at her job, partly because she’s uniquely experienced. I believe her experience being a nurse for many years before becoming a doctor really colors how she provides care–she gets it.

The week has also been intense because of this series. I’ve been thinking about immunizations, reading comments here on the blog, writing, and witnessing my patients’ responses. I’ve received many e-mails. Yesterday, I was at clinic for over 10 hours and like most days, immunizations were a huge part of my day. But I said things I’ve never said before…True synergy between my clinical self (doctor) and my writer self (Mama Doc), this experience is shaping who I am, in and out of the exam room.

Of course, experiences in clinical care (and living on planet earth) shapes how all pediatricians discuss and listen to families when discussing immunizations. Here’s the final segment in my series on asking pediatricians if they “believe” in vaccines. The 20 or so pediatricians who responded, talked about their experiences in representing vaccines. Additional comments are included in part 1 (emotion) and part 2 (evidence).

Experience:

Dr Kronman, a pediatrician and infectious disease fellow:

We don’t see these diseases anymore. I work at a premier tertiary/quarternary care facility for children. I have seen children die of influenza (seasonal, H1N1), pneumococcus, meningococcus, the late sequelae of measles, pertussis; I have seen Hib meningitis, tetanus, severe debilitating outcomes with varicella, cervical cancer caused by HPV, and severe rotavirus. This list goes on. But most people haven’t seen these things anymore. People don’t have to panic about their children in the summer becoming permanently paralyzed from polio, because we don’t see it anymore. And the reason? Vaccines. 

To read the remainder of this post, click here.  You will be redirected to Dr. Swanson’s original piece.  Feel free to include your comments on Seattle Mama Doc, or here on Shot of Prevention. 

Dr. Swanson’s background includes a degree in psychology from Kenyon College, two years teaching middle-school bilingual science and math in Oakland, Calif., with Teach For America, an MD and MBE (Master’s in Bioethics) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and a pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Swanson maintains a busy pediatric practice and writes Seattle Mama Doc, the first pediatrician-authored blog for a major children’s hospital.

Do You Believe in Vaccines: (Part II: Evidence)

December 17, 2010 1 comment

This article was written by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP and originally posted on her Seattle Mama Doc blog on Dec. 1, 2010 .  As a board-certified, practicing pediatrician, blogger, freelance writer, and mother to two young boys, Dr. Swanson elicited responses from many prominent doctors to the question “Do You Believe in Vaccines?”.  In an effort to help our Shot of Prevention readers to gain further insight into the value of vaccines, as witnessed by those working in the field of medicine, she has graciously granted us permission to reprint the entire three part series.  

I asked a group of 33 pediatricians what they would say to the question, “Do you believe in vaccines?” while standing in line for coffee. I asked for their help in thinking about an effective, 2 minute answer.

This is part 2 in a series. For detailed information behind the why, read part I (emotional responses) or watch the video explaining how this came to be. As I said, I’m not a believer in scripts. I’m not attempting to suggest there is one, 2 minute segment for every family that will help. Part of the reason I started this blog was that in practice, I realized when I told families what I knew and learned in training, they listened. When I told them what I did for my own children and how I felt, they made decisions. Telling my story seemed essential.

(This is going to sound familiar) I don’t want to increase the divide between those parents who are worried or skeptical of the possible harms of immunization, and those parents, doctors, and experts and who believe in the benefits. Rather, I want to regain our similarities.

Today I’ve included responses from pediatricians that mentioned things that I experienced as “evidenced.” But rather than talk to you about numbers, causality, rates of autism, and the absence of thimerisol in all childhood vaccines (except multi-dose flu shots), these comments focus on the evidence that helps physicians discuss immunizations with families. There was a paucity of numbers in the responses from these physicians.

Dr Gayle Smith (@MDPartner), a general pediatrician in Richmond, VA says it best:

I’d say how much I wished pediatricians were better ‘rock stars’ with our message of prevention so we could be more effective in the media limelight.  I’d speak my own willingness to touch the hearts of the families I care for, to carry the bag of fear and worry for them, perhaps lessening their load a bit.

To read the remainder of this post, click here.  You will be redirected to Dr. Swanson’s original piece.  Feel free to include your comments on Seattle Mama Doc, or here on Shot of Prevention. 

Dr. Swanson’s background includes a degree in psychology from Kenyon College, two years teaching middle-school bilingual science and math in Oakland, Calif., with Teach For America, an MD and MBE (Master’s in Bioethics) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and a pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Swanson maintains a busy pediatric practice and writes Seattle Mama Doc, the first pediatrician-authored blog for a major children’s hospital.

Do You Believe in Vaccines? (Part I: Emotion)

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

This article was written by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP and originally posted on the Seattle Mama Doc blog on Nov. 29, 2010 .  As a board-certified, practicing pediatrician, blogger, freelance writer, and mother to two young boys, Dr. Swanson elicited responses from many prominent doctors to the question “Do You Believe in Vaccines?”.  In an effort to help our Shot of Prevention readers to gain further insight into the value of vaccines, as witnessed by those working in the field of medicine, she has graciously granted us permission to reprint the entire 3 part series, beginning with today’s post – Part I: Emotion.

I wrote 33 pediatricians an e-mail asking what they would say, while in line for coffee, to the parent of a newborn when asked if they “believed in vaccines.” I wrote the e-mail not as a gimmick or a way to frame the issue of vaccine hesitancy, but because this happened to me. Rather, this happens to me. Often. When a new father asked me this question while carrying his newborn baby 2 weeks ago, I told him what I thought. I then ruminated about my response for 24+ hours and wrote a group of colleagues. How do we talk with parents we don’t know, outside of the exam room, to help them understand why we feel so strongly about protecting children with vaccines?

I’m not a believer in scripts. I’m not attempting to suggest there is one, 2 minute segment for every family that will help. I wanted to hear what these expert pediatricians would say to get a sense of their collective insight. I wanted you to see it, as well. I want to be really good at my job as a pediatrician when helping families understand the science, the evidence, and the emotion behind raising healthy kids and preventing illness with vaccines.

But I also really want families to understand why pediatricians work so hard to vaccinate children. I don’t want to increase the divide between those parents who are worried or skeptical of the possible harms of immunization, and those parents, doctors, and experts and who believe in the benefits. Rather, I want to regain our similarities.

We are all so similar.

We all want to do what is right for our children. That’s why everyone is so nuts about this. Simply stated, we all care immensely.

This was confirmed when I wrote docs from all parts of the US.

I got over 20 responses.

I’ve arranged these pediatricians’ thoughts based on how I experienced their comments:

  • Emotional
  • Evidenced
  • Experienced

These thoughts are not mutually exclusive; you’ll hear evidence in the emotional comments, experience in the evidenced ones, and emotion in the experienced ones. Today’s post includes responses that felt emotional.

As I said in the video, it isn’t just parents who are emotional about vaccines. Read the comments to that post and you’ll see—some 30+ comments, mostly written by pediatricians, full of energy, data, and emotion. Pediatricians (and scientists/public health experts) are ultimately responsible for improving the way families understand immunizations. So this is weighty.

Emotional:

Most of these doctors wrote me about listening more than about talking. But here’s some of what they said:

To read the remainder of this post, click here.  You will be redirected to Dr. Swanson’s original piece.  Feel free to include your comments on Seattle Mama Doc, or here on Shot of Prevention. 

Dr. Swanson’s background includes a degree in psychology from Kenyon College, two years teaching middle-school bilingual science and math in Oakland, Calif., with Teach For America, an MD and MBE (Master’s in Bioethics) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and a pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Swanson maintains a busy pediatric practice and writes Seattle Mama Doc, the first pediatrician-authored blog for a major children’s hospital. She is on the Board of Advisors for Parents Magazine and contributes to the publication regularly. She is also an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and remains active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. By using both social and traditional media outlets, she illustrates how a growing community of healthcare providers and patients can help bring science to the forefront. 

The Minority Rules the Herd

December 3, 2010 21 comments

By Christine Vara

“What?” you say.  “Minority rules?” 

“How can that be?”

Living in the suburbs of DC I’m constantly reminded about the power of the majority.  In these post-election days, references to the majority and the minority are intended to declare political influence within our government.  People accept that the majority rules because we live in a democracy and that is how it was intended.     

However, this may be why many vaccine advocates grow frustrated with the anti-vaccination sentiment.  People who favor vaccinations are clearly the majority in regards to numbers.  More people vaccinate than don’t – plain and simple.  History shows that immunizations have been effective at significantly reducing the prevalence of vaccine preventable diseases.  Yet, what concerns many vaccine advocates is that the actions of a small percentage of people – a definite minority percentage of the population – can adversely threaten public health.    

Take for instance the concept of herd immunity.  It is based on a delicate balance of numbers.  If the number of people immune to a disease (by means of vaccination or other natural immunity) can be sustained at a high enough percentage of the population, than it severely incapacitates that disease and the ability for it to flourish and spread throughout a community.  Interestingly enough, this “magic” number can differ according to the contagious nature of the various diseases.  Typically, for most diseases, it falls somewhere in the neighborhood of an 80-90% vaccination rate in order to provide protection to the “herd”.  

Fortunately, in most areas of this country, public health efforts have been able to maintain vaccination rates that fall within these percentages.  However, this is not the case in every area and for every disease.  (Take for instance reports of low vaccination rates in areas of CA.)  Read more…

Shot of Great Media Coverage Promotes Good Health

November 5, 2010 41 comments

More positive exposure (pardon the pun) on immunizations and vaccinations appeared in a special insert in today’s LA Times.  The insert, which features a compilation of various articles, is a great boost to vaccine advocates, eager to educate the public on the importance of vaccinations.    

Every Child By Two celebrity spokesperson, Amanda Peet, appears on the cover and defends the importance of vaccination with her featured story.   Other articles highlight everything from recommendations for the seasonal flu shot and concern over the current whooping cough epidemic, to information about immunizations for travelers and how vaccines have shaped modern public health.

STAYING SAFE. Luke receives his flu vaccine on the one year anniversary of his illness.

And you won’t want to miss another great inspirational story that highlights Every Child By Two spokesperson, Luke Duvall.  The detailed account of Luke’s battle with H1N1 comes to life through this compelling story and his determination to spread the message about the importance of immunization against the flu really hits hard. 

Be sure to check out the full details of this insert here and share it with your friends and family.

From Infants to Elderly: Immunizations Span a Lifetime

August 3, 2010 1 comment

By Christine Vara

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) and the intent is to issue a rally cry not only to vaccine advocates, but to the public in general.  The goal is to increase awareness about immunizations across the life span; from infants to the elderly.  Of course, with parents enrolling children in school, students entering college, and healthcare workers preparing for the upcoming flu season, August is the perfect time to be mindful of vaccinations. 

To commemorate National Immunization Awareness Month, Shot of Prevention will be asking our supporters to take some initiative.  We are encouraging you to:

(1)    Be more proactive about sharing vaccine related news, such as the articles posted on, or recommended by, Shot of Prevention.  You can even follow us on Twitter at ShotofPrev. 

(2)    Talk with your doctor and pediatrician to inquire about vaccines and/or boosters you should be getting to protect yourself and others. 

(3)    Suggest your friends visit the Vaccinate Your Baby website to learn more about vaccine safety and effectiveness.

(4)    Encourage others to friend the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page so that they will be part of the online vaccine dialogue. 

Shot of Prevention will be working in conjunction with Every Child By Two to sponsor several events on the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page this month.  There will be recognition and prizes awarded and we would like to encourage you to help others and get involved.   Let us know how you plan to use NIAM to help the cause.  Share with us in the comment section below.