Why We Talk About Immunizations

25 04 2014

There are so many ways to prevent infections, I sometimes wonder why we spend the vast majority of our time talking about immunizations.

Well, yesterday the CDC came out with data that are so astounding, all I could think when I listened was: That’s why!

The CDC looked back at children born between 1994 and 2013, and estimated that vaccination will prevent:

  • about 322 million illnesses
  • 21 million hospitalizations
  • and 732,000 deaths over the children’s lifetime

And, of less importance than a child’s life but good to know, the prevention of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths nets a savings of $295 billion in direct costs and $1.4 trillion in total societal costs. That ain’t hay, as my dad used to say.

I’m happily highlighting these numbers because it’s World Immunization Week, and because the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Thanks to the VFC, vaccines are provided at no cost to uninsured kids in our country.

20-year-infographicAbout 25 years ago, there was a big measles outbreak in the US. We saw approximately 55,000 cases of measles and more than 100 deaths. Come to find out, this outbreak was primarily due to uninsured children not being vaccinated.

Shortly after the outbreak, the VFC program was established with the hope that such an event would never be repeated.

We are currently seeing small outbreaks of measles cases in the US. Unlike 25 years ago, these outbreaks are primarily due to a small number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.

Measles was eliminated from the US in 2000, but not from the world. It’s estimated that 20 million people on this planet get measles each year, and 122,000 die from the disease. When unvaccinated individuals in this country travel to other countries, or interact with visitors from other lands, they are at risk for measles.

The symptoms of measles include the typical rash, fever, cough, runny nose, tiredness, red and watery eyes, and sometimes little white spots in the mouth. The symptoms stay for several days before gradually disappearing. However, complications are not uncommon. According to the CDC: About 30% of measles cases develop one or more complications, including:

  • Pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children.
  • Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result.
  • Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.

These complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old.

Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis. (This is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.) For every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.

In developing countries, where malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency are common, measles has been known to kill as many as one out of four people. It is the leading cause of blindness among African children.

I look at these statistics and I think: Oh yes, this is the other reason we spend so much time talking about immunizations.

If I may appropriate and paraphrase something I heard the other day: Mom and dad, choosing not to vaccinate or to delay vaccination of your children is like choosing to put them in their car seats only on Thursdays when the sun is shining.

Don’t be a part of that small minority of parents who are afraid to proactively protect their children. Call your child’s healthcare provider today and make sure he or she is current on all immunizations.

Oh, and happy World Immunization Week.

 

by Trish Parnell

(Thanks to Liz Szabo for the thing I heard the other day.)





One Day, on the Way to the Army

24 04 2014

Today is World Meningitis Day, and the start of World Immunization Week. Are you young and healthy? Stay that way! It’s Your Choice, so choose to get immunized and get on with what life has in store for you.

Abby Blanco-Wold was a young woman on her way to the Army when she was attacked by meningitis. This is Abby’s story, as written by her.

 

TWO DAYS TO GO

Two days to go, and I would have been gone, off to the ARMY . . . Tuesday at dawn.

Out to the gun range my dad and I went, I did really well, to our amazement!

I wanted to shoot a gun once before basic training, the old men that were there found it quite entertaining.

Abby before meningitis changed her life

I had this slight headache throughout the day—didn’t recognize the faint scent of death’s bouquet.

Later that night, out with friends one last time, I threw up by a building, but then I felt fine.

We went home anyway, but stopped for a treat. I didn’t even feel bad enough not to eat.

I awoke in the night, throwing up once again . . . except this time throwing up took forever to end.

So I went back to sleep, but when I arose, intense pain was all over, from my head to my toes.

We need to go now, something’s not right. Upon changing my shirt, came the real fright.

Fever, throwing up, aches and pains, purple spots. The familiarity is chilling. Meningitis, I thought!

To the hospital my friends and I immediately rushed. Oh my God, if it’s true, my family’s going to be crushed!

Meningitis it was, but I already knew. I deteriorate quickly—my feet are both blue.

My parents arrive, “Mom, I have to go pee,” but not a drop would come from my failing kidneys.

I said to the doctor, “I know I might die, but can I have some pain medicine so I don’t have to cry?”

So, here I am in this bed instead, more worried about being AWOL than being dead.

In a war against nature, my body will try to fight off these enemies, so that I don’t die.

In this ICU, my family will weep, counting the moments that I am asleep.

Many of my doctors will quickly be stunned, watching my body grow increasingly rotund.

One by one my organs start to shut down; my urine is now coming out blackish- brown.

Covered all over in dark purple spots, as my vessels are littered with millions of clots.

Soon I can no longer breathe on my own, and more IVs into my body are sewn.

A ventilator’s my new buddy, I guess. How much longer can my body handle this stress?

This struggle is one that I simply must win, but things are so bad, more family flies in.

My priest comes to the hospital to say a prayer. My parents and brother are so numb they just stare.

He gives me just one last sacrament, as my body revolts, to my detriment.

Are they right, my last rites? Will tonight be my forever goodnight?

Suddenly, my blood pressure drops so low and so fast, my heart almost stops.

I am so, so very tired of this fighting, but I won’t give up—sorry that it’s so frightening.

Today, things aren’t good, the attending can’t lie, twenty percent chance to live, and that’s high.

Both my insides and outsides are going crazy. Now I’m in a coma, and my adrenals are lazy.

My prognosis looks so terribly bleak. How strong will my family be? Or how weak?

Am I allowed to die? Will you all fall apart? Will you succumb to the pain of your breaking hearts?

A few days later, it comes, a faint beacon of light. Can a miracle save me from this morbid plight?

Slowly but surely from the ventilator I’m withdrawn, and most of my organs start to turn back on!

I lay in this bed, comatose still. Reality sets in, but survive, yes I will!

I hesitantly, emerge from my sleep to hallucinations, pain, a machine’s constant beep.

I wonder, what could have happened to me? I was out for two weeks—how could that be?

I’m hurriedly transported to a new room, but I cannot sit up or hold on to a spoon.

Surrounded by so many balloons, gifts, and flowers, and cards that I read for hours and hours.

Everyone is here rejoicing my life, while knowing my future holds plenty of strife.

Just lying here the pain is so bad, it seems unbearable for my mom and my dad.

My body’s covered with open wounds that need care. An open bed in pediatrics? I’ll be right there.

My first ambulance ride reveals my yellow streak, and I need lots of help, because I’m so weak.

In my new room, tons of doctors I meet, their topic of interest—my gangrenous feet.

I finally see them completely unwrapped, “please be careful, and don’t touch them,” I snapped.

After surgery I’m left with no toes, heels, or skin, so I stayed alive—but did I really win?

Two months with surgery every other day, please let my parents and my brother be ok.

Eventually the big decision day comes—bilateral below knee amputee? Now I’m one.

abby2

So my life goes on and prosthetics I wear, but my family will never get over the scare.

There in that room . . . I was just 22, but oh how through the experience I grew!

Meningitis information I soon eagerly sought. I discovered that there’s a vaccine—what a thought!

The knowledge of inner beauty did finally come, and I realize, somehow, the battle I won!

But in my head, I know some will die, and many families will forever cry.

And in my heart, I am in disbelief that a shot could have prevented all of this grief!





Invisible Threat

21 04 2014

One hundred trillion bacteria live on the surface of your body. And on mine.

We’re all teeming with germs so small, they’re invisible to our eyes.

For the most part, we coexist in peace and sometimes with mutual benefit. But, there are microbes lurking that bring pestilence with them.

They pose an invisible threat to me, to you, and possibly, to humankind.

A couple of years ago, a respected group of award-winning student filmmakers was asked to take a look at infectious diseases and the brouhaha erupting around vaccines. They declined, until they saw firsthand what happens to puppies when dog owners choose not to vaccinate against parvovirus.

The students then decided to investigate vaccines for humans, and the diseases vaccines prevent. They wanted to find out if there is cause for parents to refuse to vaccinate their children against potentially deadly diseases.

They wanted to answer the question: Are children safer vaccinated or unvaccinated?

Invisible Threat is the film that came out of their investigation. In 40 fast-moving minutes, this documentary drills into the science of disease transmission and the results of infection, and the safety and efficacy behind the design and manufacture of vaccines.

The students spoke with families, scientists, and experts who spilled onto the screen a thick soup of facts and fears, science and emotion.

At the end of their extensive research, the students were satisfied that they’d found the answer to their question. Children, and indeed all of us, are safer vaccinated.

This film is available for screenings. If you would like to show this film in your community, contact producer Lisa Posard: InvisibleThreatInfo@gmail.com

At some point in the near future, the film will be available for anyone to view online. We will let you know when that happens.

The student filmmakers are all a part of Carlsbad High School’s Broadcast Journalism Class (CHSTV), but CHSTV Films is an extracurricular program outside the class. Their teacher is Doug Green, who also directs the films.

Lisa Posard is an award-winning documentary producer and education advocate. She is a former President of the Board of The Carlsbad Educational Foundation, Chair of a successful $198 million school bond political campaign, and PTA President.

She now utilizes her advocacy background to give teens the opportunity to create peer-to-peer educational films. Her first film won international acclaim for teaching tolerance and anti-bullying by documenting teens discovering the lessons of the Holocaust as they interviewed survivors, visited concentration camp memorials, and spoke with German teens with Nazi grandparents. The Dachau Memorial Museum, National Holocaust Museum, ADL, and schools across the country have used the film with curriculum as an educational resource.

The second film documents hunger in the U.S. and was used for an advocacy campaign by Feeding America. That campaign blossomed into a national teen anti-hunger charity featured in PEOPLE Magazine. The film won numerous awards, was televised, and continues to be utilized by hunger organizations to spread awareness. Lisa is the mother of three teenagers. Her oldest daughter wrote Invisible Threat.

In recognition of the national launch of the Invisible Threat movement on May 1st, we are participating in a blog relay to raise awareness of this important issue.  Each day a different blogger will be discussing their personal perspective of the film as part of our 10-day countdown to a kick-off event with national legislators at the Capitol Visitors’ Center in Washington, DC.  Follow along to find out how you can join us in this movement, arrange for a local screening, and continue our fight against infectious diseases.

You have the ability to make a difference in our fight against infectious diseases.  Follow our Invisible Threat Blog Relay and find out how you can be a part of the movement.   Tomorrow’s post will be hosted by Shot of Prevention and will provide details about how you can help ensure your elected representative takes the time to see this important film on May 1st.    

 

by Trish Parnell





A Thoughtful Choice

17 04 2014

I remember lining up at school in the ‘60s to get vaccinated against smallpox and a few other diseases for which there were vaccines.

I also remember the years when my brothers and I took turns at getting measles, mumps and other diseases for which there were no vaccines.

In the end, we three were fortunate—no permanent harm from our maladies.

Fast-forward 30 years. My daughter was four months old when she was diagnosed with hepatitis B. She had not been vaccinated and subsequently developed a chronic infection.

It all sounds mundane when read as words on a screen. But in those early years, the heartache and anger I felt at having my daughter’s life so affected by something that was preventable . . . well, it was almost more than I could bear.

But again, we were fortunate. After years of infection, her body turned around and got control of the disease. Although we have bloodwork done every year to keep an eye on things, she has a good chance of living the rest of her life free of complications from this infection.

Over the years, I’ve met other parents whose children were affected by vaccine-preventable diseases. Some, like Kelly and Shannon, chose not to vaccinate their kids and ended up with horrible consequences. Kelly’s son Matthew was hospitalized for Hib and they came within a breath of losing him. Shannon did lose her daughter Abigale to pneumococcal disease, and almost lost her son. He recovered and was released from the hospital, at which time they had a funeral for their daughter.

Because of my job, I talk to and hear from many families with similar stories. Some children have died, some remain permanently affected, and some have managed to recover.

Also because of my job, I hear from parents who believe vaccines are not safe, and that natural infections are the safer choice. I understand and have experienced the emotions we as parents feel when something happens to our children. In a way, I was lucky. I knew exactly what caused my daughter’s problems. A simple test provided a definite diagnosis.

If we can’t identify the cause of our children’s pain or suffering, we feel like we can’t fix it and we can’t rest until we know the truth. When the cause can’t be found, we latch onto if onlys. What could we have done differently to keep our kids safe? If only we hadn’t taken her to grandpa’s when she didn’t feel good. If only we hadn’t vaccinated him on that particular day. If only. The problem is, the if onlys are guesses and no more reliable routes to the facts than playing Eenie Meenie Miney Mo.

The deeper I go into the world of infections and disease prevention, the more obvious it is to me that the only way to find the facts is to follow the science. Now granted, one study will pop up that refutes another, but I’ve learned that when multiple, replicable studies all reach the same conclusion, then I can safely say I’ve found the facts.

In our family, we vaccinate because for us, it is the thoughtful choice.

By Trish Parnell

Originally posted on Parents Who Protect





Our Children Are Worth Every Penny

4 04 2014

A life-changing event—one involving our children—will make any parent regret what they could have, or should have, done. I have firsthand experience of this.

I held my daughter Abigale in my arms while she died of one of our world’s biggest vaccine-preventable killers of children, pneumococcal disease.

Abigale was just shy of her 6th birthday.

My name is Shannon Duffy Peterson. I’m a parent of four children, a business owner, and, through PKIDs, an advocate for immunization.

My younger children are at home in Sleepy Eye, MN, and my oldest, Abigale, is up in heaven with her grandparents.

Abigale

Abigale

In 2001, my five-year-old daughter became a statistic when she died of a vaccine-preventable disease. Abigale became infected with pneumococcal bacteria during the 2001 influenza vaccine shortage. She was not vaccinated for either disease.

When our children were born, my husband, DuWayne, and I were adamant about vaccinating our children. We wanted our children to be protected against everything. We wanted healthy children.

At that time, we had a pediatrician who did not push vaccinations and did not recommend the most recent vaccines available. Consequently, my children did not have their chickenpox, flu, or pneumococcal vaccinations.

February 18, 2001, began as a normal Sunday; we took the children to Sunday school, went to church together, played throughout the day, danced with them to music, and then relaxed with them before bedtime by playing a board game.

Abigale said she suddenly wasn’t feeling well and had a headache. We had her lie down, took her temperature, it was 101.5, and gave her some Motrin.

She started to vomit up the medicine. We thought she had the flu. We thought this was strange because she’d had the same illness and a sinus infection two weeks earlier, but she was in kindergarten and we knew of the many germs the kids pass around.

We became alarmed when a rash developed all over her body that we had never seen before, but we suspected it to be a high fever rash. I called the emergency room and was told it was a flu going around with high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, and to just treat the fever alternately with Motrin and Tylenol and a tepid bath.

Abigale was tired and we put her to bed planning to check on her quite frequently but hoping she would sleep off the flu. Throughout the night we kept changing her bedding and bathing her to break the fever, even though she seemed pretty lethargic, and we ended up sleeping with her to comfort her.

We awoke later to her crying for “Mommy,” as she had fallen out of bed while attempting to make it to the potty. It was then, while cleaning her up, that my husband noticed the tremendous blotches on her skin and said, “This is not normal and we have to get her to the emergency room right away.”

We woke up our little boy, got them both in the truck, and drove as fast as we could the 21 miles to New Ulm. We called the hospital on the way to say we were coming and prayed for the best.

I sat in the back with the children, comforting Abigale. When she said to me, “Mommy I hurt so bad all over,” I assured her it was from the sickness and held her in my arms the best that I could while we were all buckled up. Those were the last words I would ever hear from my beautiful little girl. She died in my arms while we were driving.

When we arrived at the hospital they called a code blue and attempted for one hour to revive her. Her heart never started, and they were breathing for her.

She was pronounced dead at 7:20am Monday, February 19th. Our hearts broke that day as our son, Abigale’s little brother, witnessed all this and we had to tell him that his playmate, his bedtime companion, had died and there was nothing Mommy and Daddy or the doctors could do to save her.

Two hours after we arrived home from saying goodbye to our first born, our son started to experience some of the same symptoms as his sister, and I rushed him to the clinic. They got us in immediately and started running tests.

While we were waiting for results, Samuel, our son, started to vomit.

I couldn’t believe this was happening all over again and was holding him on the floor of the doctor’s office when our pediatrician came in with Abby’s preliminary autopsy results, stating that she’d had overwhelming sepsis caused by streptococcus pneumonia, congenital asplenia (absence of a spleen) and hemorrhagic adrenal glands. I thought I would lose both my children that day.

While my daughter’s death happened quite quickly and I wasn’t able to save her by rushing to the hospital, I was able to save my son by hospitalizing him directly after her death for two days, as he was extremely sick.

With hospitalization and medication he recovered enough to be released from the hospital in time to attend his sister’s funeral.

My world changed in those life-altering 3 days; I now understand the importance of vaccines and how children’s lives depend on them.

I am asking all parents to make sure all kids are kept healthy and to vaccinate children. If we do this, we will save lives. It is our responsibility, as parents and medical professionals, to protect our children, and to try to protect all children.

It is not ok, in my opinion, to reduce the number of pneumococcal conjugate doses children get based on cost, or on the fact that we have, thankfully, a full immunization schedule. We listened to our pediatrician, we didn’t vaccinate, and we lost our Abigale. We almost lost our son, Samuel.

I’m sure all of you follow the recommended vaccine schedule. If a primary dose of the pneumo vaccine is removed, it will save some dollars and mean one less vaccination for kids, but it will also mean more kids will die. More kids will be hospitalized. More kids will be in pain.

If you follow such a schedule and your child is hospitalized or if you should lose your child to this cost-saving measure, well, that would be unthinkable. It’s not an acceptable risk for your family, or mine, or anyone else’s.

Why would we ever choose to increase infection when we can decrease the number of cases through simple vaccination?

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

 

 

by Shannon Duffy Peterson

 

[The ACIP is discussing whether or not to recommend removing a primary dose of pneumococcal vaccine for children. This is Shannon’s testimony in response to that discussion.]