Why You Have to Vaccinate

7 05 2012

In 2000, public health workers slapped high fives and declared measles eliminated in the U.S. This meant that the disease wasn’t being passed person-to-person in this country.

In 2011, we had 222 cases of measles in the U.S.—a 15-year high.

Most of the 222 infected individuals were either unvaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown.

How did this happen? The answer is, almost all of the infections were imported. They came from U.S. residents returning from trips outside the country, or from visitors from foreign lands. The travelers carried the germ and, in some cases, infected others once they arrived.

Almost half of these cases came from countries with easy access to vaccines; the WHO European Region. The rub is, there are some Europeans who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children, and the same is true in this country.

When a disease is floating around a community, it finds those who are unprotected and boom, we have disease outbreaks.

Most of the time, most of the diseases that are vaccine-preventable are not going to kill a child. They might not hospitalize him, or even make him feel really bad.

But, no one can say which disease will harm which child, and how much harm it will cause.

Kids do die from measles and chickenpox and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Or they don’t die and they only lose a limb, or their hearing, or they just need a liver transplant. Or any number of other health problems may occur that are still better than dying.

But like I said, no one can say how one child will be affected by one disease. So when I answer the phone here at PKIDs, and a parent on the other end asks if they really need to vaccinate their child against XYZ disease, I don’t have a problem telling them: you really do.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Vox efx





Hey Mom and Dad. Get Vaccinated!

12 04 2012

When I was 32 I got married, had braces put on my teeth, acquired my first pair of reading glasses, and erupted in pimples the size of which I’d not seen on any adolescent.

I was something to look at.

The pimples turned out to be chickenpox. On hearing the news, my shiny new husband smirked, explaining he’d been infected as a child; as if I was somehow lame to get such a disease at my age.

The source of my infection turned out to be my sweet, sick young nephew.

The varicella vaccine was not yet routinely recommended for kids at that time, so I couldn’t blame anyone for not vaccinating the boy. I did try, though.

All this is to say that adults get sick, and sometimes their infections are preventable. It’s now recommended that adults get vaccinated against chickenpox if they have never been infected. And there are a host of other vaccines available to us, although if you are like me, you rarely think about getting immunized against anything other than influenza. We think about the kids, and we worry about our parents, but for ourselves, no.

It’s time to think about us. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) revamped their adult vaccination website and it’s worth a look. On the site you’ll find specifics about the vaccines you may need and details about the diseases those vaccines prevent.

Healthcare professionals weren’t forgotten. There’s a toolkit of ready-to-use resources and listings of more such items, should they be needed.

Bonus: much of the site’s information is presented in English and Spanish.

Take a few minutes this week to email or call your healthcare provider. Find out which vaccines you need and then go in, get vaccinated. Vaccines don’t work 100% of the time on 100% of those who are vaccinated. If we as adults get vaccinated, we will stop many of the incidents of parent-to-child infection. So, if you don’t want to take time for yourselves, take time to get vaccinated for your family.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of sheknows.com





All Hallows Eve

31 10 2011

Behold, it is a dark and thunderous night (but please, no rain, or the toilet paper will be impossible to lob over the tree limbs).

It is—BOM BOM BOM  . . . All Hallows Eve. The night that invites superstition, just as the dawn invites the dew.

What superstitions have we, this 31st of October? Let’s share—

Parents in remote villages in India believe a measles infection indicates a visit from God, and to vaccinate would deprive their child of that visit. They also believe the vaccine will cause the number “666” to appear on their child’s body.

Spitting three times, or saying “pooh, pooh, pooh” after the birth of a healthy baby will, according to some, ward off the evil eye and protect the babe from demons.

Should you want to get back at the kid who stole your cupcake, surreptitiously rubbing a toad on his skin will cause an outbreak of warts (bwahahahahah).

Hordes of healthcare workers believe a full moon brings chaos and disruptive patients to the Emergency Department and that Fridays, particularly Friday the 13th, bring excessive trauma cases and even more chaos. And, should anyone suggest a shift is “quiet,” all of hell will actually break loose.

In parts of Ukraine, mothers will not bathe children infected with chickenpox until all lesions are crusted over, believing it not safe for the child.

A few baseball players believe peeing on their hands will toughen them up (the hands, not the guys). At least one NHL player repeatedly dunked his hockey stick in the toilet to break scoring slumps and another talked to the net posts to make them his friends, believing they would cause opponents’ pucks to bounce off the posts during games.

In Louisiana, a few years back, some believed that a nosebleed could be stopped by putting cobwebs up the nose, yellow paper under the top lip, or by crisscrossing two match sticks in one’s hair and sprinkling salt in the hair. Teething woes were fixed by tying an animal bone or alligator tooth to a string and hanging it around the neck, although garlic in a pouch would do in a pinch.

One can dive deep to find superstitions, or it’s as easy as asking relatives. Superstitions abound, and the magical thinking is practiced by a surprising number of Americans.

Just what do you believe, on this All Hallows Eve? Will you step on a crack, and risk breaking your mother’s back?

By Trish Parnell





You and the Shingles Vaccine

14 07 2011

Who should…and shouldn’t…get the shingles vaccine?

The virus that causes chickenpox, varicella zoster, doesn’t confine its activity to childhood. For reasons that remain unclear, it can re-emerge in older age as the rash called herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles. Just as you can get chickenpox only once, usually you also have shingles only once. But that “once” can translate into chronic, unbearable pain if a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia develops. This pain, a burning nerve pain severe enough to disrupt sleep, can last for years.

That’s why people who are eligible for the shingles vaccine should get one. But who are those people?

The short answer is, almost anyone age 60 and over. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved this vaccine only for this age group because researchers have no evidence yet that it’s effective in younger groups. It makes sense because one of the risk factors for developing shingles is . . . being over 60. Another risk factor is having had chickenpox before age 1.

The shingles vaccine is not, however, a substitute for the childhood vaccines against chickenpox.

Some people in the over-60 age group should not get the shingles vaccine. Avoid this vaccine if any of the following applies to you:

  • You’ve had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin. The vaccine contains other ingredients, so if you’re deathly allergic to something, check the ingredients list.
  • You’re taking drugs that suppress the immune system or have a disease that does, such as HIV, because this vaccine is a live-virus vaccine.
  • You have tuberculosis.
  • You are or might become pregnant, an unlikely possibility in the 60+ age group.
  • You are moderately to severely ill, including have a fever over 101.3 F. Wait to get the vaccine until you’re better.

Can you get this vaccine if you’ve already had the shingles? Sure, even though you’re not likely to get shingles again. You can also get this vaccine while receiving the influenza vaccine.

Like any vaccine or other medical intervention, the shingles vaccine can have side effects and carry risk. The most common side effects are pain and swelling at the injection site and headache. One large research study of the safety of the vaccine found no difference in rates of negative events between the vaccinated group and the group that received a placebo (a dummy injection). A substudy within that study, however, found a slightly higher rate of serious adverse events in the real vaccine group compared to placebo (1.9% vs. 1.3%). The data did not indicate that the events were vaccine-related.

The effectiveness of this vaccine depends on the outcome in question. Studies indicate that it reduces your risk of getting shingles by about 50%. If you do get shingles, the vaccine is linked to fewer days of pain during the outbreak and shorter periods of pain for people who go on to develop postherpetic neuralgia.

By Emily Willingham





Chickenpox Vaccine and Shingles – Two for the Price of One

20 12 2009

Kaiser Permanente completed a study that reviewed the health records of children who received the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine from 2002 to 2008. This study aimed to compare incidences of shingles in the vaccinated population compared to rates in the unvaccinated population.

Results found decreased rates of shingles in the vaccinated population. The study suggests that vaccinating children for chickenpox also reduces their chances of getting shingles, a secondary viral infection known as herpes zoster that typically results after primary infection with the varicella zoster virus.

Shingles is a very painful skin rash that develops from inactive varicella zoster virus that rests in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. When stress or immune changes in the patient cause the virus to become active, the painful skin rash appears along the nerve.

Anyone who’s had shingles can tell you that it’s something to be avoided at all costs. Do your kids a favor, protect them from chickenpox now, and (possibly) the pain of shingles later.

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