Vaccinate Against Pneumonia – Please!

10 11 2011

I’m a pediatrician, an infectious disease pediatrician at that.  We’re supposed to know what to do when a baby has pneumonia—apparently that’s not always true.  I’ve treated hundreds of such cases, but this time was different.

When it’s your own infant, none of that experience matters.  Jack looked at me with what seemed like panic in his eyes.  Coughing, crying, breathing fast, sleeping in fits and spurts.  Babies aren’t supposed to breath that fast.  He lay beside me in bed. It was the day before Christmas and I just kept telling myself that we’d be better soon—apparently that’s not true either.

We both had influenza, I’m sure of that.  If you’ve had it, you’ll know what I mean. I felt like hell, exhausted, muscle aches, every time I coughed it felt like sandpaper scraping over my trachea.  But since I’m an infectious disease doc, of course we were vaccinated! Well, apparently that wasn’t true this year.  I had every intention of getting that done weeks earlier, but life got in the way.

The middle of the night always makes things worse, or at least things seem worse.  So, we became ‘that family,’ calling our neighbors in the middle of the night to care for our two-year-old while we drove to the hospital with Jack.  So many times I was that doctor we were about to meet in the emergency room, scratching my head wondering, “Why did they wait the whole day at home and decide to finally come in at 2:00 in the morning?”

Well, now I knew.  Sometimes it doesn’t get better.  He had pneumonia on the chest x-ray and needed antibiotics.

Every day, of every year, millions of children get pneumonia and struggle to breath; more than a million of them don’t get the treatment they need and die.  Every day of every year, something unimaginable to the mothers we are happens to mothers we don’t know—over 90% of them living in poor countries in Africa and Asia—their child dies in front of their eyes from pneumonia.  It’s senseless.  It’s inhuman.

Vaccines against the biggest pneumonia-causing bacteria, Hib and pneumococcus, along with other simple strategies, can prevent these deaths.  So, this year on World Pneumonia Day, look at your kids and remember to get them vaccinated, remember to get yourself vaccinated, and remember that not every mother is so lucky . . . yet.

The GAVI Alliance is helping give those mothers the same opportunity for their kids, faster than ever before for any vaccine.  At a time when the world seems to be more complicated than ever, this seems like a pretty sensible thing to do.

By Dr. Kate O’Brien, pediatrician, epidemiologist, Deputy Director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA,
Winner of the 2011 US Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers





Teens, Vaccines, and Media

26 07 2010

How do I communicate with teens? This question hounds most providers as well as parents and teachers. Thanks to excellent research by the Kaiser Family Foundation and PEW Research Center, we know some of the answer lies in the latest media trends and technologies.

But what about health information? Most parents have to walk the line between gatekeeping and educating their teens about their own health and wellness. Nowhere is this juggle more apparent than in the realm of teens and vaccines.

According to CDC, teens 18 and under need Tdap, meningococcal, seasonal flu, and HPV vaccines, as well as to stay current with other childhood vaccines.

In 2008, CDC launched a pre-teen vaccine campaign, impressing on caregivers the importance of vaccinations for this age group as well. The host of recommended vaccines protect against diseases such as whooping cough, HPV, meningitis, pneumonia, and others.

Reaching Our Teens

Communicating the importance of vaccinations to teens isn’t just a matter of laying out the facts. Programs like GetVaxed, PKIDs teen and young adult site, attempt to reach adolescents using colorful, short, pithy health messages with extra punch and color.

Translating health messages, pithy or not, into action is a science that interests many, especially given the evolution of information-sharing with the onset of online and mobile technologies.  In a subsection of the Internet and American Life Report, Pew Research Center tracks the way teens use technology to communicate and get information.

As teens increasingly turn to texting as their preferred method of communication, parents and health providers would be wise to consider ways to text out health and prevention messages.

According to Pew, using texts to educate teens about STD prevention can be effective, though no data exists currently that addresses text immunization messages.

Given the importance of teen and pre-teen vaccination, it’s clear that parents and immunization educators would benefit from more outreach efforts targeting the favored language of teens (texts, Facebook, and the mobile Web).

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 Year Olds concludes that in the past few years TV as a messaging medium has largely been replaced by the Internet and mobile technology.

Parents and providers are still the trusted purveyors of immunization information for teens, but we need to adapt how we share that information with them to ensure receipt.

 





World Pneumonia Day

28 10 2009

World Pneumonia Day logoMore young children die from pneumonia each year than from any other single cause—including war, famine, or any other disease.

How did this happen?  It’s preventable and treatable. How did we get to where we are today while allowing this to continue?

We lose a child to pneumonia every 15 seconds, a total of 2 million children a year.  That’s unacceptable.

We know how to fight back against pneumonia, but we just aren’t doing it. Children’s lives can be saved by increasing vaccination, antibiotic treatment, and breastfeeding and by practicing thorough, frequent handwashing and reducing indoor air pollution

November 2nd is the first annual World Pneumonia Day. A global coalition has formed to take on this killer. It is our hope that, if we all pitch in, we’ll swiftly work ourselves out of a job.

 Save the breath and the life of a child. Please join us.

  • Visit the World Pneumonia Day website for more information.
  • Join the cause on Facebook to spread the word about this disease. Ask your friends to do the same.
  • Contact your elected officials, make sure they know the facts about pneumonia, and encourage them to take action.
  • Donate funds to provide vaccines or to train community health workers to reach families in need who are too far from clinics.

Do one of these things, or do them all. Do something and save a child.



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