Vaccines

All Articles in the Category ‘Vaccines’

Online Interventions Improve Vaccination Rates

The flu season is upon us and I hate to be so prescriptive, but when it comes to avoiding influenza, I feel like I have to be. I get the flu vaccine each year as does my entire family — I think you should, too. I’m passionate about vaccines and have had the luxury of blogging and deploying vaccine science education to the world since I began the Seattle Mama Doc blog in 2009. I’ve been particularly vocal about the flu shot and have leveraged traditional, digital and social media tools ever since I began. I’ve used my blog, book, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and my podcast to share information about recommendations and rationale for why a flu shot makes sense for every infant over 6 months, child, teen, and adult. Of anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s this: building public insight into why this annual flu vaccine recommendation makes sense, is a marathon…it’s not a little sprint. Influenza can be a nasty virus with life-threatening and life-ending complications and it’s an ongoing obligation to ensure everyone in this country understands ways to decrease risk.

Data is on our side that online efforts in social media are worthwhile for spreading valuable research, expertise, and education. Every parent wants their child to stay healthy and live long into adulthood. Those who decline/defer vaccinations or don’t get the flu vaccine are clearly no different in that regard when compared to parents who do immunize with flu vaccine. But levels of trust and understanding for the science of safety in vaccinations between the groups may differ.

Thankfully, new research shows these online efforts by doctors like me may help families understand rationale for immunizations, especially if moms were educated even before the baby was born. A study published this morning in Pediatrics leaves those of us sharing information online validated in our efforts.

US Study Finds Blogs And Social Media Influence Infant Vaccine Status:

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10 Things To Know About 2017-2018 Flu Shots

The flu season is soon to be upon us and I hate to be so prescriptive but when it comes to influenza I feel like I have to be. I immunize my entire family and I think you should, too.

Hard to believe, but with our children going back to school and swapping snot around the classroom, it’s time to get fall flu immunizations on your radar. Last year during the 2016-17 season, more than 100 U.S. children died of the flu (influenza), and thousands more were hospitalized for severe illness or complications from the virus. Historically, more than 80% of children who died of influenza were not vaccinated. The flu shot is the best way to teach your own immune system to fight back if exposed to the virus. The flu vaccine “recipe” was changed this year (one different A strain compared with last year’s vaccine) to accommodate for predicted viral strains that will likely come and circulate around our neighborhoods.

The recommendations this year are the same as last year. Every child over 6 months of age should be immunized.

10 Things To Know About Flu Shots:

Here’s what you need to know based on my experience as a pediatrician, The Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics policies: Read full post »

Quick Video Q & A on Vaccinations

BBC invited me to discuss vaccinations and help answer some popular questions parents have about them. View this short Q&A video on BBC where I share the following answers to these common questions:

  • Can vaccines cause autism? We don’t know what causes all of autism spectrum disorders but we do know that vaccinations do not lead to the development of autism. More info worth reading here on Autism and Vaccinations from Autism Science Foundation — a non-profit working to support families with autism spectrum disorders and the research that helps guide and empower improved prevention and treatment.
  • Is it safer to space out vaccines? It isn’t safer to space out vaccines. Not a single study that finds a delayed schedule is safer than one spaced out. No data, for example, that an MMR shot is safer at age 3 than at age 1. Why wait while measles outbreaks do continue? Waiting only increases overall risk.
  • Should I be worried about the chemicals in vaccines? We know more about the safety of vaccines than we do about some of the foods we eat. The ingredients and rigor around the science of vaccines is tight. See recent post with info about ingredients or this info and Q&A on ingredients in vaccinations.
  • Isn’t it my personal choice? When you get your child vaccinated on schedule you’re not only protecting your child’s health, you’re protecting your community’s health. And your own family’s.

You can also view a BBC story on vaccination hesitancy or listen to a recording of its radio story where they discuss areas with higher levels of families delaying or opting out. As a reminder, in the US about 9 in 10 families do follow recommendations to get their children vaccinated on-time, keeping us all safer. Magic in medicine…

Vaccination Hesitancy: 4 Myths Explained

Vaccination hesitancy or concern about getting your child their shots isn’t new. But it has recently been gaining attention in the media. In February, Robert Kennedy Jr. offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who could turn up a study showing that it is safe to administer vaccines to children and pregnant women. Let me start by saying that there are countless studies and data in support of vaccination safety. So the offer and claim should be given/received over and over and over again.

I mean, COME ON.

However, with politicians using their platform to blast these fallacies and doubts about vaccination, I worry there is a new sense of unease growing among parents. This unease is causing pediatricians to worry about what’s to come in the coming years for families and their safety.

The below chart from the American Journal of Health Behavior and shared by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) depicting the various types of parents and their responses to vaccinations helps frame up who we are. Even with all of the hoopla in the media, studies have found only 16% of parents are fence-sitters or worriers about immunizations. That means there’s a lot of distortion in the voices that are being heard in these conversations, which is causing “health advocates” and others to question if they should continue moving forward with vaccinating their children.

It’s my job as a pediatrician to make sure you hear the other 84%. The following are four of the most common myths that cause parents to worry about vaccinations, and most importantly, why they shouldn’t worry as much with real data to back it up. Read full post »

New Data On Preventing The Flu And Whooping Cough

Many of us have probably experienced influenza (the flu) at some point. Sometimes we really know it, sometimes we don’t. Previous data has even found that in a typical influenza season (winter) as many as 10 to 40% of all children get exposed or actually get influenza in a given year.

Sometimes the infection from influenza is mild (“just a cold”) but sometimes it’s a horrific long-lasting-high-fever-achy-pneumonia-hospital-causing infection. Sometimes it’s worse. Hard to predict why we all don’t experience the same virus the same way each time we’re exposed.

Those under age 5 and those over 65 years of age are at highest risk from influenza. The reason: young children have an unexposed, immature immune system that doesn’t work as well fighting against influenza as a 12 year-old where as the elderly have a tired immune system that just doesn’t work as well as it did during young adulthood. Each year children die from the flu that could have been prevented. The flu vaccine isn’t perfect in protection, and this year it’s got about a 50% chance of totally protecting you — far better than 0% when you don’t get it at all!

New data out proves that flu vaccine helps prevent death in children. News any mom or parent or pediatrician wants to hear and share.

For infants and elders, the flu can be deadly. For new babies, pertussis (whooping cough) can be, too. The good news is that these illnesses are vaccine-preventable. This post is just a reminder of the power of vaccines to prevent pain and suffering and new data that continues to support our use of whooping cough shots during pregnancy for moms and babies and flu vaccines for children every year.

Two studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlight just this by establishing vaccine effectiveness for reducing death and serious infection. Take these as reminders of why we vaccinate our children and ourselves! Read full post »

Mumps! What To Know During An Outbreak

There is a mumps outbreak here in Washington State, as well as various other outbreaks across the nation. The CDC reports that mumps infections are currently at a 10-year high. This post is a quick update on the outbreak and why they occur, an explanation about the mumps virus, the infection and symptoms that are typical, and what parents should know now to avoid mumps.

Mumps Outbreaks In 2016

  • Numbers This Year: For the calendar year 2016 through early December, 46 states and the District of Columbia have reported a total of 4,528 mumps infections — well more than double the mumps cases reported in 2015 and creeping up in ways similar to 2006 when we had the last big mumps year. That outbreak was primarily housed in the midwest among college students.
  • Mumps In College Students: In general, we often hear more about outbreaks on college campuses in part because of students living in close quarters. Mumps is easily spread when those are in close contact who share cups, talk closely together and share respiratory droplets more readily. The intensity of these environments allows mumps to spread more rapidly and it’s also possible that during college some students have lost immunity from the vaccine they received as a child. In general college students are at higher risk because of how they relate. I love how CDC details the conditions, “certain behaviors that result in exchanging saliva, such as kissing or sharing utensils, cups, lipstick or cigarettes, might increase spread of the virus.”
  • Washington State Outbreak: As of 12/23/16 there have been 101 cases in King County (cases updated here by the Public Health Dept). In total, 32 cases are confirmed and 69 probable with additional cases under investigation. The majority of cases are in children under age 18. Some 65% of those cases are in people who are reported as up-to-date on Measles Mumps & Rubella (MMR) vaccine. This occurs in part because although the MMR vaccine works well, it still will leave some vulnerable to an infection if exposed. The MMR vaccine provides protection against mumps to about 88% of us after we get two shots, so it consequently leaves more than 1 in 10 of us vulnerable during outbreaks. We typically don’t know who is in that 12% so during outbreaks we make sure students are up-to-date in immunizations and those with suspicious symptoms are seen, diagnosed, and while infectious, they stay home.
  • Schools Send Children Home If No MMR Shots: The outbreak has been of big enough concern that The Auburn School District told more than 200 non-immunized students to stay home so they wouldn’t get the virus and go on to infect others. Public health officials sent letters to the students’ homes saying kids would only be allowed back once they had proof they’ve received the MMR vaccine. Otherwise, the students will be kept from school for at least 25 days after the last mumps case in the Auburn district.

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One Mom Shares Her Story: It’s Not Just the Flu

serese-families-fighting-fluThanks to Serese Marotta, Chief Operating Officer, Families Fighting Flu for sharing this vulnerable and truthful story about losing her son to influenza. Talk about gorgeous peer-to-peer health care. I hate that this story exists and yet I’m so thankful for Serese’s bravery in sharing it. May we all benefit from her experience and her wisdom ~ Dr. WSS

So often we hear “it’s just the flu”, but we need to take the flu seriously. How do I know this? Because my healthy, 5-year-old son, Joseph, lost his life to H1N1 flu in October 2009. I have always been pro-vaccination and Joseph and his sister received their annual flu vaccinations in September 2009, but H1N1 wasn’t in the vaccine that year. Sadly, the H1N1 vaccine didn’t become available in our community until two weeks after Joseph’s death.

Joseph’s Story

Joseph’s story began innocently enough. He was attending kindergarten in the fall of 2009 and threw up on the school bus. Later that day, Joseph continued to throw up and became increasingly lethargic. We called our pediatrician who suggested we take Joseph to the local urgent care. Upon arrival, they found Joseph’s blood oxygen level to be very low and immediately transported him to the local children’s hospital. The rapid flu test came back negative and Joseph was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia.

Several days into his hospital stay, the doctors informed us that Joseph’s culture was growing influenza, which was likely H1N1, but not to worry—it was “just the flu” and they’d start him on antiviral medications. Joseph’s condition over the next several days was relatively stable. Various specialists came and went; all of Joseph’s tests appeared normal and we were even discussing his discharge with the doctors. All of that changed on the ninth day of our hospital stay. Joseph’s blood pressure suddenly plummeted, and we were sent back to the ICU. The doctors couldn’t really figure out what was causing Joseph’s low blood pressure, but they didn’t seem overly alarmed. More testing went on throughout the night, while I tried to distract Joseph with cartoons and discussions about his Halloween costume.

The doctor came to me early on the morning of Oct. 18 to say she wanted to put Joseph on a ventilator because his heart and respiration rates were so high and his little body needed a rest. The doctor emphasized it was not a big deal, but Joseph would be unconscious while on the ventilator. I calmly called my husband, who was at home with our young daughter, and asked him to come to the hospital. Minutes later, while I was standing next to Joseph’s bed, he suddenly coded. The next scene was like something on a TV show—doctors and nurses rushing into Joseph’s room. I backed into the hallway so they could do their job, but honestly, I had no idea what was happening. As the minutes ticked away, I began to realize that something was seriously wrong. I continued to wait outside Joseph’s hospital room and finally, the attending doctor came to me, sobbing, and asked me to follow her into Joseph’s room because she needed me to talk to him. Looking back, I think she thought if modern medicine couldn’t save this child, perhaps the sound of his mother’s voice could. I entered Joseph’s room and held his hand as the doctors and nurses continued to work on him. Finally, the doctor turned to me and said “I’m so sorry.” My precious son lost his life to influenza that day, and my life was irrevocably changed as a result.

My story is not unique. I have met many parents who’ve lost a child to the flu or had a child suffer serious medical complications as a result of the flu. I want parents to understand how critically important it is for all children and their families to get their flu vaccinations each and every year. The flu vaccine is the best protection we have in our fight against influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone six months of age and older. I also want people to understand that getting an annual flu vaccination not only protects you and your family, but it also helps protect others in your community by limiting the potential for an outbreak. Read full post »

Vaccination Nation: How Healthy Is Your School?

aap-vax-mapFrom the moment we become parents, we work to keep our children’s environment safe. We child-proof our homes and make sure poisons and dangerous objects are secured wherever our kids spend time. But we aren’t always as diligent about making sure the community spaces where our children learn and play are protected from threats we can’t see, like infectious diseases.

Just this fall there was a vaccine-preventable disease reported in my son’s 2nd grade cohort. When he started kindergarten a couple years ago we were told the class was 100 percent up-to-date on immunizations, so I got done worrying about things like exposures to chicken pox, measles and mumps from his classmates. We know vaccines aren’t 100 percent protective, of course, but I took stock in knowing that his class of children was protected as best they could be.

So, when I heard about the case of chicken pox, it reminded me I needed to check back in. Read full post »

HPV Vaccine On Time: Only 2 Doses

hpv-2-doseWelcomed news out this fall about immunizations. If children and teens get their HPV vaccine on-time between the age of 11 and 14 years, they won’t need to do 3 doses as previously recommended. HPV vaccine given, starting at age 11, can be just 2 doses now, spaced 6 months apart! Celebration.

This new HPV shot recommendation from the CDC is based on research that has found when younger children are immunized, their immune response is greater at younger ages (age 11 versus age 16, for example). It’s also based on data on durability of the vaccine response — data has found teens immunized in the “tween” years continue to be protected years and years after the vaccine is given. So don’t wait to get teens immunized! In fact, waiting isn’t safer in any way, just leaves your child open to exposure for a longer period of time and the vaccine has the same side effects (most notably pain at the injection site!). Plus, you’re now reducing the amount of shots your child needs from 3 –> 2. Huge win!

The hope in this new recommendation is three-fold: more teens will get immunized on-time, they’ll be better protected from HPV infections and cancer risks early, and it will be easier to complete the entire series. Last year, for example, about half of boys ages 13 to 17 had gotten at least one of the recommended three doses, while about 63 percent of girls had gotten at least one dose, according to the CDC. However, not all teens finish the series and the new recommendation may help. In some areas only about 1/3 complete it.

HPV vaccine is an anti-cancer vaccine.

If your child has started the HPV series but not completed it, there is no reason to re-start the series — those shots still count. Just schedule a visit to finish what they started. If your child is between age 11 and 15 and there has been 6 months since their last HPV shot, under the new recs they will only need one more dose.
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Online Easy Access To Immunization Records

The digital health world recently took a step in the right direction when it comes to supporting access to your health care information. You can now be in charge of both your own and your family’s immunizations records in several states through a tool and online resource called MyIR (think “my immunization registry”). You can register yourself and your dependents and access to your official, consolidated immunization records on any device, any time. How great is that? No more calling your doctor’s office and asking them to fax your records over. Waiting for snail mail to deliver a copy is a thing of the past. For procrastinators with school paperwork, this is for YOU! With back to school rapidly approaching, now is the time to get your children up to date on their vaccines. And a great time for you to have unfettered access to the records.
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