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Posts tagged ‘Why Vaccinate’

Guest Mom Andrea: I’ve Read All the Research and I Vaccinate

This is a guest post by Andrea Clement-Johnson who lives with her husband and three children, Breanne, 12, Hayley, 9, and Caleb, 7, in Wellington, CO. She is the Health Education Supervisor at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment in Fort Collins, CO.  The whole family loves music, hiking, sports and animals, including our two yellow labs Jackson and Archie.

When I was a child, my cousin, Nadine, died in our home while she was visiting us. She was only two. Later we found out she had died from complications of Haemophilus influenzae, type B (Hib). Years later, I learned that a vaccine had been developed for Hib and could have saved her life.

Though I did not really understand vaccination at that point, I remember being struck that my cousin’s death could have been prevented if she had received a vaccine.

After college, I happily entered the health education field.  I got married and had two beautiful daughters. We were so happy when our son, Caleb, joined us and became the icing on the cake. However, it was quickly evident that Caleb was different from my girls. I noticed that he tantrumed very early and he was always difficult to soothe. However, I dismissed the differences as unique qualities of my son.

As a toddler, the communication and behavioral differences became more pronounced. I took Caleb to his pediatrician and insisted that I needed someone to tell me what was happening. Once Caleb was fully evaluated by a team of experts, we received the official diagnosis of autism.

I immersed myself in reading everything I could about autism. One of the first websites I stumbled upon indicated that vaccines were a “likely culprit” contributing to the high rates of autism. I was initially surprised. I had remembered hearing other moms talk about a fear of poisons being injected into their children. I remember thinking at the time that this was silly, recalling my cousin’s tragic death. I had no idea how pervasive the autism and vaccine debate was or how much this would impact my life.

I started looking at more information about autism and vaccination.  I read stories that parents shared about their typically developing children who, following immunization, were diagnosed with autism. This was perplexing. I didn’t want to doubt any parent of a child with autism. I investigated thimerosal, schedules, and I even learned how immunizations worked.

I read all the research, listened to the concerns from parents who are looking for an answer. Through my research, I began to see there was no evidence to support vaccines causing autism or any other childhood developmental disorder.

I understand that because of the complexities surrounding autism, and the variety in onset and degree of severity, it’s difficult to accept unknowns. I learned that my thoughts, though based on extensive research and good intentions as a mom, are not always enough to sway those people who see things differently, but I continue to make my feelings known about vaccination. I’ve come to learn that if I don’t convince a parent to see things “my” way, so be it. At least I may encourage those parents still weighing their options to consider talking to their provider or to learn more before delaying or avoiding immunizing their children. Through my experiences as a parent of a child with autism and a health educator, I feel I can confidently say that I have looked at the issue through both lenses. I strongly support immunization as one of the best choices a parent can make for their children.

I became so impressed with immunization that I eventually took a position as a manager with the Wyoming Immunization Section. My appreciation for and belief of timely, appropriate immunization across the lifespan has continued. I’m so fortunate to continue working in immunization in my current position in Larimer County as a Health Education Supervisor.

Like most parents of a child with special needs, I often take a path that has many uncertainties, which can create fears. One thing I don’t fear is that vaccination causes autism. The fears I have related to immunization are fears that choosing a delayed schedule or choosing not to immunize could cause a child to become infected with a preventable illness, causing unnecessary suffering or death for them and other vulnerable individuals.

Although autism would not have been the path I would have chosen for Caleb, he has been my greatest lesson about truly meaning it when you say you only want for your child to happy and to have a place in the world.  My son makes regular, fabulous progress and he is a beautiful, loving, wonderful child who is still the icing on my cake!

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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?

The Risk of the Intentional Unvaccinated

I was able to celebrate a friend’s coming baby at a shower this past weekend. The parents knew they are having a girl in May, so how were the gifts? Cute…cuter…and cutest! So much pink and brown! Such cute outfits! Such tiny shoes and pretty accessories!

As the mom-to-be opened gifts the conversation turned towards child rearing. The group of women ranged in age from late 20s to grandmothers (about to be great grandmothers), it became clear that, there was a wide-range of gifts but also a wide range of opinions on vaccines.

The younger crowd gave diaper wipe warmers, a stylish breastfeeding Boppy that matched the nursery decor, designer diaper bags that could go from the playground during the day to The MET at night! These were the women who questioned the need for vaccines

What diseases? Haven’t we eradicated them all?

Childhood diseases are a thing of the past, they’ve moved on to more contemporary diseases like AIDS and breast cancer.

The older crowd gave gifts such a delicate hand-knitted dresses, beautifully hand-stitched quilts (no machine stitching for these diehards), and a homemade diaper wipe holder made from what appeared to be a place mat. Born before the routine childhood series was available, these women have seen the ravages polio and diphtheria. They recall classmates paralyzed by polio, months spent in iron lungs, metal leg braces, and babies who coughed themselves to death before their third birthday. When they vaccinated their children, it was a modern medical wonder. It is their hope that their grandchildren would choose to vaccinate, too.

But sometimes children are not getting the vaccines they need to protect them from these nasty diseases. Some parents would rather “risk” the disease. That makes me uneasy for their child and angry because of the risk to all other children. Their “risk” isn’t limited to just their child or even to just their family. We ALL take that risk and here’s why.

When community vaccination levels fall below the recommended effective coverage levels of 90% , it leaves an opening for disease. Think we’ve eradicated disease? Think again. Check out this new report from the Journal of Pediatrics that profiles the case of a 7-year-old whose parents intentionally didn’t vaccinate him. The boy went to Europe and contracted measles, and when he returned to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed 839 people.

Measles are highly contagious spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. Eleven unvaccinated children contracted the disease and an infant too young to be vaccinated was hospitalized. Public Health officials quarantined another 48 infants in order to prevent further spread and infection.

No virus is more contagious than measles. “If a measles-infected person walks into a room with 10 uninfected people,” said Dr. David Sugerman of the CDC in a recent NPR interview, “nine of them will get infected.” Moreover, anyone who goes into that room within the next two hours after the infected person has left is likely to get measles, too
Measles outbreaks like this one due to “intentionally unvaccinated” children are widespread.

From January through July 2008, CDC received reports of 131 measles cases from 15 states and the District of Columbia—the highest year-to-date number since 1996. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown. Many of these individuals were children whose parents chose not to have them vaccinated. Fifteen of the patients, including four infants, were hospitalized.

During the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver two different measles virus strains were brought from travelers from Asia and the city continues to try to contain a measles outbreak. Those infected were two Canadians and an American. As a result, 16 people in a large family who are unvaccinated have contracted the disease.

What blows my mind is that this family didn’t decline vaccines based upon allergies, medical reasons or religious belief but because a close family friend who was anti-vaccines convinced them not to get vaccinated!? Here was a pocket of vulnerability which gave the disease an opportunity to spread.

While it appears that measles is a forgotten disease by the young mothers I met this weekend, it infects about 23,000,000 people and kills about 500,000 people each year around the world. Measles can cause a pregnant woman to miscarry or give birth prematurely. About 1 out of 10 children with measles also get an ear infection, and up to 1 out of 20 get pneumonia. About 1 out of 1,000 get encephalitis, and 1 or 2 out of 1,000 die.

There will always be some children and adults who can never be vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated in time. Unvaccinated children also pose a threat to children with legitimate medical exemptions who cannot be immunized because of health complications. These are often our most fragile children including those battling leukemia, cancer or HIV. Even children with allergies to certain vaccine ingredients, like eggs, have to go unprotected.

Guest Dad Josh: Vaccination, Against All Odds

Welcome our first guest Dad post! Thank you to Josh for lending his voice to this issue and being one awesome father.

Josh Tyson lives in Denver with his wife, Nicole, and their sons, Elias and Arius. He chronicles the media they (cautiously) share with their boys at thekidsarewatching.com and is a member of New Age Dad, the nation’s premier rock band of dads, toddlers, babies and dogs. Josh is a regular contributor to the New York Times’ Motherlode blog and is currently working on some children’s books.

My wife and I have always been skeptical of the classic American approach to well being. We don’t pop pain tablets when we have headaches and when we have colds we drink heaps of herbal tea in lieu of narcotic syrups. I sincerely doubt that either of us will ever experiment with antidepressants and putting one of our kids on something like Ritalin is out of the question.

Nicole pushed both of our boys into this world without meds and started breastfeeding them right away. We didn’t have them circumcised and weren’t thrilled about subjecting them to a battery of needles in the first few years of their lives.
In the months leading up to the birth of our first, the hasty conspiracy theorist in me was tempted to write off vaccination as another shortsighted way for Big Medicine to line their pockets, but the more research we did, the more confident we became that vaccination was the best choice for our family.

Nicole has a cousin with severe autism, so the concerns posed by famous people and concerned parents out of the limelight were not taken lightly. In the end, however, we decided that there wasn’t significant evidence to link vaccines to autism and that the risks of not vaccinating were far greater than the minimal risks posed by the catalog of recommended vaccines.

We also took into account that we want to travel with our boys, and there are plenty of global destinations we are interested in where diseases like polio haven’t been totally eradicated. Then there was the issue of civic duty. A big part of the reason that vaccines have been so effective in keeping the populace here free of nasty things like measles and mumps is that the vast majority of us are vaccinated against them.

What sealed the deal for us was the fact that every doctor we talked to had vaccinated their kids, or planned to when they had them. Out skepticism of certain elements of western medicine has always been taken with a grain of salt—namely that we aren’t doctors and what we know about the inner-workings of human body is scant compared with somebody who has trudged through eight years of medical school.

So while we’ll continue to keep our medicine cabinets bare, we’ll do so with extra piece of mind.