Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

To Vaccinate or Not, There is no Question

"It requires a new type of researcher. Eve Dube is unusual in being an anthropologist who studies behaviours of populations, and that is a new kind of expertise that we need to understand a phenomenon like this."
"That doesn't sound bad [8 of 10 children by age 2 receive required vaccines], but we would rather see 95 percent of them on schedule and up-to-date for things like the measles vaccine. Eighty percent isn't enough for optimal prevention of measles and some of the more frequent diseases of early childhood."
"The irony in all this is vaccines today are safer than we have ever been able to offer. It is curious that vaccine safety looms so large in people's hesitations."
David Scheifele, chair, Canadian Association for Immunization Research and Evaluation
Three generation family.
"At the moment we do not have the research we need to know how to effectively communicate with parents who believe something despite scientific evidence showing them that is clearly not the case."
"What is interesting is it tends to be parents who are more involved in their children's upbringing and health [resisting inoculations], which is paradoxical in some ways."
"There has not been a lot of study into these types of issues ... it is important that anthropologists are starting to look at it."
Seth Mnookin author The Panic Virus

Well then, there is hope yet when a researcher with the Quebec National Institute of Public Health, as well as a member of a World Health Organization group on vaccine hesitancy such as Eve Dube, an anthropologist, makes a study of population behaviours in an effort to more fully come to an understanding of the phenomenon whereby someone like the anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy's claims of the harm done to children by vaccinations resonates so deeply within the public ear.

The very success that Ms. McCarthy's efforts as well as others who hold the same erroneous opinions so stubbornly yet successfully persuade a wide public that they are right and that health science is wrong, is of huge concern to public health officials, who cast about for help wherever they can find it, to explain what motivates people to heed the medical cynics who put children in danger. This is a critical issue that absorbed researchers presenting papers at the Canadian Immunization Conference held in Ottawa last week.

Although more research is required to understand how widespread suspicion and rejection of childhood vaccinations has become, and how it impacts population protection against preventable illnesses, the phenomenon, is still evolving in Canada. The fact that medical science has debunked the suspicion and fear, and clearly demonstrated the harms done to children by avoiding vaccinations, resistance remains a problem.

Health science heavily relies on the effect of herd immunity; when sufficient numbers of children are immunized against a health hazard, it becomes far less likely that the disease will have the opportunity to spread; the larger the number of children immunized, the larger the number of children protected by default; including those children who for reasons of impaired health not lending themselves to the vaccination process, or those who for religious reasons opt out.

A since-discredited study linking the growing prevalence of autism with vaccinations, published and circulated by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, incited parents not to immunize their children against measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. That medical science rebuffed his theory and found huge discrepancies in his study methodology rendering it a complete fraud does not appear to have had an overall positive effect to balance the negative effect of parents believing that theory.

On the other hand, because the public health movement to vaccinate children against such childhood diseases has been as successful as it has, fewer parents now have had any experience either first- or second-hand with the diseases' onset and effects, either short- or long-range. Add to that a growing distance between the public and doctors and scientists, and communication and education about vaccines could use a boost.

Strangely enough, the larger proportion of parents refusing or delaying vaccinations for their children tend to come from among the better educated demographic, and those with greater wealth disposal. Dr. Mnookin is hopeful that the introduction of anthropology to the situation can only bring the matter forward, assisting health officials to understand how parents should be informed about vaccines.

Although there has been a move to have patients more assertive about their treatments, seeking greater information about outcomes and options, in this particular case of parents assenting to their children receiving needed childhood immunization, physicians are being encouraged to be more firmly direct in their clear recommendations of vaccines.

Research has seen when doctors take a collaborative view asking parents how they view vaccines, they are more likely to refuse. -- health information for the whole familyWhat is a vaccine?

When germs enter the body, the immune system recognizes them as foreign substances (antigens). The immune system then produces the right antibodies to fight the antigens.
Vaccines contain weakened or dead versions of the antigens that cause diseases. This means that the antigens cannot produce the signs or symptoms of the disease, but they do stimulate the immune system to create antibodies. These antibodies help protect you if you are exposed to the disease in the future.

Vaccines not only help keep your child healthy, they help all children by stamping out serious childhood diseases.

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are generally quite safe. The protection provided by vaccines far outweighs the very small risk of serious problems. Vaccines have made many serious childhood diseases rare today. Talk to your family doctor if you have any questions.

Do vaccines have side effects?

Some vaccines may cause mild temporary side effects such as fever, or soreness or a lump under the skin where the shot was given. Your family doctor will talk to you about possible side effects with certain vaccines.

When should my child be vaccinated?

Recommendations about when to have your child vaccinated change from time to time. You can get a copy of the most current child and adolescent vaccination schedules from an organization such as the American Academy of Family Physicians or the American Academy of Pediatrics, or you can ask your family doctor. Vaccinations usually start when your child is 2 months old and most are finished by the time he or she is 6 years old.

Are there any reasons my child should not be vaccinated?

In some special situations, children shouldn't be vaccinated. For example, some vaccines shouldn't be given to children who have certain types of cancer or certain diseases, or who are taking drugs that lower the body's ability to resist infection.
If your child has had a serious reaction to the first shot in a series of shots, your family doctor will probably talk with you about the pros and cons of giving him or her the rest of the shots in the series.

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about whether your child should receive a vaccine.

What is the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine (also called the influenza vaccine) is available by shot or by nasal spray. The flu shot contains dead viruses. The nasal-spray vaccine contains live but weakened viruses. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal-spray vaccine.
The flu vaccine is given at the beginning of the flu season, usually in October or November. The flu shot is safe for children 6 months of age and older. The nasal spray vaccine is safe for children 2 years of age and older. Because flu viruses change from year to year, it is very important for your child to get the vaccine each year so that he or she will be protected. Children are more likely to have complications from the flu.

What is the DTaP vaccine?

The DTaP vaccine is 3 vaccines in 1 shot. It protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. It's given as a series of 5 shots.
Diphtheria is a disease that attacks the throat and heart. It can lead to heart failure and death. Tetanus is also called "lockjaw." It can lead to severe muscle spasms and death. Pertussis (also called "whooping cough") causes severe coughing that makes it hard to breathe, eat and drink. It can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and death.

Having your child immunized when he or she is young (which means making sure he or she gets all of the DTaP shots) protects your child against these diseases for about 10 years. After this time, your child will need booster shots.

What is the Td vaccine?

The Td vaccine is used as a booster to the DTaP vaccine. It helps prevent tetanus and diphtheria. It's given when your child is 11 years old or older and every 10 years throughout life.

What is the rotavirus vaccine?

The rotavirus vaccine protects against rotavirus. There are two kinds of rotavirus vaccine, so your child will receive either a two-dose or a three-dose series, depending on what your doctor recommends. All doses should be given by no later than age 8 months and 0 days.  
Rotavirus is a virus that causes diarrhea, mostly in babies and young children. The diarrhea can be severe and cause dehydration. Rotavirus can also cause vomiting and fever in babies.
After rotavirus vaccination, call your family doctor if your child has stomach pain with severe crying (which may be brief), vomiting, blood in the stool, or is acting weak or very irritable, especially within the first 7 days after rotavirus vaccination. Contact your doctor if your child has any of these signs, even if it has been several weeks since the last dose of vaccine.

What is the IPV vaccine?

The IPV (inactivated poliovirus) vaccine helps prevent polio. It's given 4 times as a shot. It has replaced the older oral polio vaccine.
Polio can cause muscle pain and paralysis of one or both legs or arms. It may also paralyze the muscles used to breathe and swallow. It can lead to death.

What is the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine protects against the measles, mumps and rubella. It's given as 2 shots.
Measles causes fever, rash, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. It can also cause ear infections and pneumonia. Measles can also lead to more serious problems, such as brain swelling and even death.

Mumps causes fever, headache and painful swelling of one or both of the major saliva glands. Mumps can lead to meningitis (infection of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord) and, very rarely, to brain swelling. Rarely, it can cause the testicles of boys or men to swell, which can make them unable to have children.

Rubella is also called the German measles. It causes slight fever, a rash and swelling of the glands in the neck. Rubella can also cause brain swelling or a problem with bleeding.

If a pregnant woman catches rubella, it can cause her to lose her baby or have a baby who is blind or deaf, or has trouble learning.

Some people have suggested that the MMR vaccine causes autism. However, good research has shown that there is no link between autism and childhood vaccinations.

What is the Hib vaccine?

The Hib vaccine helps prevent Haemophilus influenza type b, a leading cause of serious illness in children. It can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and a severe throat infection that can cause choking. The Hib vaccine is given as a series of 3 or 4 shots.

What is the varicella vaccine?

The varicella vaccine helps prevent chickenpox. It is given to children once after they are 12 months old or to older children if they have never had chickenpox or been vaccinated. The varicella vaccine is given as a series of 2 shots.

What is the HBV vaccine?

The HBV vaccine helps prevent hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, an infection of the liver that can lead to liver cancer and death. The vaccine is given as a series of 3 or 4 shots. The HBV vaccine and Hib vaccine can also be given together in the same shot.

What is the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine?

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) protects against a type of bacteria that is a common cause of ear infections. This type of bacteria can also cause more serious illnesses, such as meningitis and bacteremia (infection in the blood stream). Infants and toddlers are given 4 doses of the vaccine. The vaccine may also be used in older children who are at risk for pneumococcal infection.

What is the meningococcal conjugate vaccine?

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) protects against 4 strains ("types") of bacterial meningitis caused by the bacteria N. meningitidis. Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. It is a serious illness that can cause high fever, headache, stiff neck and confusion. It can also cause more serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss or blindness.
Children should get the MCV4 vaccine at 11 to 12 years of age. Children older than 12 years of age who have not received the vaccine should receive it before starting high school.

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