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Posts tagged ‘Vaccine Safety’

Why Vaccination Is One of the Best Choices You Can Make As a Parent

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Herd Immunity: We’re all in this together!

I love the community I live in. I choose Colorado because of the mountains, the four seasons of outdoor fun, the friendly people and fresh air. I raise kids, work and volunteer in my community. I feel a sense of responsibility to the people in my community.

Whether attending a school board meeting, joining in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, attending worship on Sundays or going to the club for a workout, I am aware of my community what it gives me and my family and how we give back. I look around at the playgrounds, kids clubs, schools, church nurseries, sports complexes and bike trails and think “I’m glad I live here and can be a part of it.” These people are my family, friends, and neighbors, it’s my herd. Being a member of a herd has it privileges and responsibilities.

One of these responsibilities is to help protect the herd’s safety. I can do this by choosing to vaccinate my children. My children have a strong immune system; they have no allergies to medications or vaccine ingredients, and appear to respond well to vaccines. By protecting them with vaccines, I protect others in my herd that are too young to get vaccines , have severe allergies to vaccine ingredients, have a medical condition that prevents them from getting vaccinated, or that small number of kids who are unable to build immunity even when they get vaccinated.

A child who cannot get immunity through vaccines relies on us to protect them. They rely on the herd to protect them! If my child is immune to measles, she can’t infect a child who is too young to vaccinate. But if my daughter never got the vaccine, she can not only get measles herself, she can spread it to others who are not immune. She could spread measles to my medically fragile nephew or to my colleague’s premature daughter with compromised respiratory system and asthmatic complications or to my neighbor’s new born who at five weeks won’t be eligible for his first set of shots for three more weeks! My herd is vulnerable.

Herd immunity only works well when those who can do vaccinate! It has been proven time and again that once healthy people choose to stop vaccinating disease rates go up.

Although vaccines have been very successful in preventing disease, we have not eliminated these nasty illnesses. Without the protection of a highly immunized population, disease will begin to rise. Risk remains.

Think about your community, who needs protecting? What choices can you make to ensure protection?

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Getting the Chickenpoxs is Not Cool, Trendy or Fun

My six-year-old daughter was invited to a friend’s birthday party recently. It was an ambitious party plan of going to a performance at our local children’s theater. I think the mom probably deserves a medal for herding 10 bubbling kindergarteners.

A week before the party the hosting mom called to ask if my daughter had been vaccinated for chickenpox. I said “yes” and asked why. She told me that another child’s mother called and said that her son had been exposed to the chickenpox and wanted other children who plan to attend the party to know this.

What scared me about this was that the boy’s mom wasn’t calling to see if it was okay if he still go to the party, but instead she was calling only to inform others that her son would possibly be infectious.

In retelling this story to my husband he pointed out that the mom was being responsible by calling to let people know about the situation. The more I thought about it, if I were the hosting mom, would have taken a different path.

If this had happened to me, I would have gently told the mom that her son should not attend the party because he had the potential of infecting other children. I would gently and kindly remind her that we were going to a theater with the potential of interacting with 400 other children and adults that he could infect. I’d set-up a play date for a few weeks in the future (past the infectious period) and have my child celebrate with him at a separate time. It would be a hard conversation, but something I know is the right thing to do.

Sometimes parents don’t fully understand the potential of the diseases we protect against. Some parents don’t see the bigger picture. They often don’t see that their actions have bigger implications of spreading disease to healthy kids or even vulnerable populations like pregnant moms.

I think parents are too complacent about chickenpox. Lots of parents think it’s a minor disease and even a “rite of passage” for kids to be sick for a week. For most children who get the disease it is mild but for about 1 in 10 unvaccinated children who get the disease will have a complication from chickenpox serious enough to visit a health-care provider. Chickenpox is highly contagious and dangerous for kids and pregnant women. We cannot predict who will have a mild case of the disease, who may end up hospitalized or who could end up with a deadly case.

We know the vaccine is effective. Did you see the January 2010 Kaiser Permanente study about the risks of skipping the chickenpox vaccine? Children who are not vaccinated against chickenpox are NINE times more likely to get the disease. By not vaccinating you are placing your child at a greater risk for disease.

It scares me but chickenpox parties are back. Chickenpox parties are when an infected child’s family invites their friends over to be exposed to the disease. This was a very common practice before we had the very safe and effective chickenpox vaccine. Today, some parents still want their children to be naturally exposed to the disease. Some mothers think they are doing a favor by exposing my child. I say “No thank you!”

The idea of a pox party freaks me out. It seems very strange that you would intentionally infect your child with a disease. It’s like “Hey I have mono! Wanna make out? Or here’s my used Kleenex in case you wanted my sinus infection!” Sharing a hug or toys on a playground is one thing…intentionally sharing your infectious disease is quite another. It is irresponsible.

What about you? What’s your RSVP status on pox parties? Is your kiddo going to the party?

What Do You Think About the Flu?

A Guest Post by Katie Kern, mom of two elementary school kids and a healthcare communications expert for the Colorado Immunization Program

Wow, what a year. H1N1, or swine flu, raised its ugly oinking head and made many of us parents pretty scared.

It seems so long ago that world health officials declared the 2009 H1N1 flu a pandemic and many parents worried about what was on the horizon.

Beginning last summer, we saw camps closing and kids being sent home after flu outbreaks. Then as school started, we saw the number of H1N1 cases rise forcing some schools to close.

We taught our kids (and ourselves) the great art of washing hands, sneezing into our sleeves and using hand sanitizer like it was going out of style.

Many of us rushed to get our seasonal flu vaccinations and then waited, not so patiently, for manufacturers to get their H1N1 vaccines to the public. Then when H1N1 vaccine finally arrived we waited again to let those at highest risk get their vaccinations first.

Despite having a vaccine and our public health’s quick response, in Colorado we lost 12 children due to the H1N1 flu virus or complications from it. I can’t even imagine the anger and heartache those families must feel, losing a child to the flu?!  Try for a moment to fathom that anguish and it’s easier to understand why health officials have been so concerned about this novel virus called H1N1 that hits our young people with such intensity.

I know many parents, myself included, are relieved that the number of flu cases has dropped off and we’re not seeing major outbreaks anymore. We certainly hope the worst is over but realize, as the flu experts remind us, we likely haven’t seen the last of 2009 H1N1 or seasonal flu. The “traditional” flu season can last through April.

NOW is the time to get the second shot for children under age 9, and get you vaccinated too. There is plenty of supply and it’s often as easy as going to your doctor’s office or local pharmacy.

We can also feel reassured knowing that the vaccine is safe. The CDC says between 70 and 90 million Americans got the H1N1 vaccine and we know there have been few big problems or side effects. Just this month, researchers in California and the Centers for Disease Control released a study that found one in every 10,000 Californians who contracted H1N1 died. This is in stark contrast to the 13 million Californians who were vaccinated for H1N1 and only three people died (and those deaths were due to other health-related causes).

Right now, experts in the healthcare field are looking back to gauge the lessons learned about this very different flu season. We hope you’ll help us by taking this short survey for the Colorado Immunization Program at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GBNG36G

The surveys are anonymous. If you like, at the end you can enter to win a $250 gift certificate for the wonderful Tall Grass Spa and Salon in Evergreen for sharing what you think about the flu.

We sure hope we won’t experience another flu season like this one again, but your feedback will help public health officials in Colorado learn what worked and what needs to be worked on to protect our community if a similar challenge arises.