Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Positive Spin on Vaccines

Negative stories about vaccines dominate the news, as activist groups continue to spread misinformation. But, vaccines are important to our health and safety, and many are speaking out about their positive effects.

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon joined the Sounds of Pertussis campaign with the March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur. The campaign is a national education program educating adults about the importance of getting an adult Tdap (tetanus, diptheria and acellular pertussis) vaccination. The booster vaccine prevents adults from contracting pertussis and passing it along to unvaccinated infants, who will receive the vaccine at two months of age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported there were more than 41,000 cases and 18 deaths reported in 2012 for pertussis, the largest outbreak in fifty years.

“Eighty percent of the time…these young infants are getting it from family members so it’s really about prevention (efforts),” Gordon states. “Prior to the baby being born, family members, when they come to the hospital, when they come to the home to visit, you know they need to make sure they’re protected.”

Gordon is not the only person speaking in favor of vaccines.  Jeanne Sager wrote an impassioned blog post for The Stir about the importance of vaccines. She asks parents to also consider all of the diseases that vaccines prevent, rather than just focusing on vaccine safety.

Sager references Amy Parker’s story on Voices for Vaccines. Parker grew up un-vaccinated in a “health nut” family. Parker states:

As healthy as my lifestyle seemed, I contracted measles, mumps, rubella, a type of viral meningitis, scarlatina, whooping cough, yearly tonsillitis, and chickenpox, some of which are vaccine preventable. In my twenties I got precancerous HPV and spent 6 months of my life wondering how I was going to tell my two children under the age of 7 that mummy might have cancer before it was safely removed...

If you’ve never had these illnesses you don’t know how awful they are -- I do. Pain, discomfort, the inability to breathe or to eat or to swallow, fever and nightmares, itching all over your body so much that you can’t stand lying on bed sheets, losing so much weight you can’t walk properly, diarrhea that leaves you lying prostrate on the bathroom floor, the unpaid time off work for parents (and if you’re self employed that means NO INCOME), the quarantine, missing school, missing parties, the worry, the sleepless nights, the sweat, the tears and the blood, the midnight visits to A and E, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room on your own because no one will sit near you because they’re rightfully scared of those spots all over your kid's face.

Dr. Daniel Gilstrap of Durham, North Carolina notes that, “The list of vaccines for adults has expanded quite a lot in the last few years. Not only that, the knowledge of the safety of these vaccines has increased.”

Vaccination efforts have enabled entire generations to grow up without knowledge of the severity of
polio, measles, whooping cough, and others. Gilstrap and other physicians are working to educate people on the importance of vaccines because they don’t know how bad the diseases can be.

Finally, Lisa Murakami wrote a blog post last September, Vaccination: A Layperson’s Perspective. Her post generated 482 comments and tackles all of the vaccination myths.  Her husband is a medical resident at Dana Farber.

She notes, “That means, he has 14.5 years of grueling medical training that I don’t have. And – conservatively estimated – 28,160 hours. My father has infinitely more; he’s seen tens of thousands of patients over the course of his forty-year career as a pediatrician. Clearly, I can’t run a Google search on a complex medical topic and eventually cobble together a better answer on it than these two can.”

Murakami concludes by noting that she can’t link to many of the sources she used when debunking vaccine myths because you have to pay for a subscription to major medical journals and other legitimate scientific sources. She has subscriptions to these sources, but the average person does not. The best information on vaccines isn’t available by Googling the Internet, however the worst information is available.

Those with questions about vaccines should consult their pediatrician. The Internet and other sources is not a substitute for years of medical training, and the diseases are much worse than the vaccines.

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