Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism

8 02 2017

Vaccines don’t cause autism.

I’ve been saying this for 20+ years. I’m not a scientist, and I don’t think any parent should embrace my statement based solely on my opinion.

My statement is based on the work of scientists who’ve studied vaccinated and non-vaccinated children in multiple countries, and they say: vaccines don’t cause autism.

It would be easier for researchers of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) if vaccines caused autism, but they don’t. After all, if vaccines did cause ASD, then researchers and research funding could all focus on vaccines.

But, vaccines don’t cause autism. In a way, it’s good to know that, because funders can save their money by not investing in yet more studies that will conclude that vaccines don’t cause autism.

And researchers can spend their time zeroing in on the (probably) many causes of ASD without spending a moment more on vaccines as a research subject.

If you are a parent of a baby or child about to be immunized, be prepared for the young one to have a sore arm, fever, swelling at the site of injection, or many other minor and short-term side effects of vaccination.

These are not fun for the child, and are worrisome for mom and dad, but you don’t have to worry about ASD as a side effect of vaccination because—

Vaccines don’t cause autism.

Please make an appointment with your child’s healthcare provider to discuss any questions you have about vaccines. You are the parent, and you should never feel that you can’t ask questions.

As you browse the Internet for information, I encourage you to follow the science, not the personal stories that sound scary. There are so many websites, blogs, bulletin boards, listservs, Facebook pages, tweets, and so on that say this and that, it’s hard not to be swayed by a good tale.

But this is your child, and you don’t want to guess. You want to know. Peer-reviewed studies help us determine what’s safe and what’s not safe for our child.

After 20+ years, this I know: vaccines don’t cause autism.

 

by Trish Parnell





Clean Those Hands!

11 08 2016

My older daughter started preschool when she was three.

That autumn, our lives changed — our healthy little family became a sick, exhausted mess.

Every three to four weeks for the next several years, at least one of us would be felled by some illness.

I remember commenting on it to the preschool director. She laughed and explained that it happened to every teacher and family new to preschool or daycare.

A perfectly healthy family or individual would, soon after their first exposure to school, dissolve into a puddle of sickly goo and stay that way for years.

It was due to the teeming mass of sneezing, coughing, nose-picking, walking petri dishes we called children, who cheerfully plastered germs on each other and on every surface in the building.

preschool

We were all immunized against the diseases for which there were vaccines. But, that didn’t account for those germs running free with nothing to stop them but a pair of clean hands.

We had to up our hand cleaning game, big time.

And here’s the thing about clean hands — one could almost say the conundrum of public health — when we use soap and water on our hands, we wash off most of the germs, but as soon as our clean hands touch an unsterilized surface (a.k.a. pretty much anything or anyone in the world outside of instruments in an operating room), germs hop right back on our hands.

The same is true with hand sanitizer. As soon as it’s dry and our hands touch a germy surface, we’re loaded for bear, as my grandma used to say.

One could ask, why bother to clean our hands?

It’s a fair question. The answer is simple — by cleaning our hands numerous times a day, we continually get rid of the hitchhiker germs.

If we add cleanliness to the habit of keeping our hands away from our eyes, nose, and mouth, then we have a good shot at avoiding lots and lots of infections.

Cleaning our hands frequently throughout the day is not a guarantee of good health, but not cleaning them is a sure way to spend a lot of time feeling lousy.

 

 

by Trish Parnell

Image courtesy Pixabay





New Year, New Immunization Schedule

18 02 2016

Immunizations are good for grams and gramps, moms and pops, and little ‘uns of all ages. But, wow it’s hard to keep up with who’s supposed to get what, and when they’re supposed to get it.

Every year about this time, the CDC puts out a revised immunization schedule. I’m not sure how many people wait on the edge of their seats for the schedule to come out. I think it’s one of those things that we should care about, that some of us actually do care about, but that’s not as exciting as waiting for the next Star Wars movie to come out.

Exciting or not, immunizations do help keep us healthy. They’re important! So, let’s briefly go over the changes for this year.

For all of us, the usual vaccines are on the schedule, plus there are a few vaccines that need particular attention.

In addition to the existing meningitis vaccines, there are currently two vaccines that protect against meningitis B. The ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) approved the recommendation that kids 10 years of age and older who are at higher risk for infection should get vaccinated against this strain of meningitis.

Young people ages 16-23 years who are not at higher risk for infection may get vaccinated, and should check with their providers to see about doing so.

We strongly encourage young people to protect themselves against meningitis B through immunization, unless their providers determine there are medical reasons not to do so.

There is a vaccine that protects against nine strains of the human papillomavirus. There are also vaccines available that protect against fewer strains of HPV, but we believe it’s important to protect kids as thoroughly as possible. We suggest you talk to your provider to see which HPV vaccine you or those you love should get. This vaccine is typically given between ages 11 and 12, but as with all vaccines, you can usually follow a catch-up schedule if you miss some immunizations.

There are more vaccines on the schedule. What you should get depends on many factors—check with your healthcare provider about what you need to stay up-to-date on your immunizations.

For a complete list of current recommendations, click here.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





Oh Yeah?!

4 05 2015

What has happened to civilized discourse?

Back in the day, most humans were capable of having a disagreement without it devolving into verbal fisticuffs.

Nowadays, if you’ve spent even a bit of time online, you’ve noticed that there are no more disagreements. There’s cutthroat carnage, violent eviscerations, and thoughtless thuggery, but no polite attempts to agree to disagree.

That’s right. Alliterations aside, it’s kinda wild out here.Disagreements

When I listen to people on opposing sides of an issue, like, oh, I don’t know, maybe vaccines, I usually hear the adult equivalent of, “Oh yeah? Well, your mama wears Army boots!” And I’m talking the truly nasty adult equivalent.

No one is persuaded to another’s point of view by inflammatory speech and vaguely (or specifically) threatening non sequiturs.

We have to listen to each other. And while we’re listening, we can’t be thinking of what we’re going to say when it’s our chance to speak. We simply need to listen. Then think. Then speak the way we prefer to be spoken to by others.

This is not Pollyannaish, this is practical.

Life is busy. If I’m going to spend time attempting to have a conversation with someone whose views on vaccination differ from mine, then I want to spend that time trying to convince them, not alienate them.

I am far from perfect and in no way an example of civilized discourse on a day-to-day basis. But, I’m trying. Maybe we can all try. See what happens.

 

 

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Elton Harding





What Is Meningitis, Anyway?

27 01 2015

At PKIDs, we help families affected by infectious diseases, and we work to educate ourselves and others about these diseases. Our goal is to prevent infections.

In 2015, we’re turning the spotlight on meningitis, or more accurately, meningococcal disease.

Meningitis is scary—and confusing. For instance, if I say that I have meningitis, it sounds like I’m saying I’m infected with a No More Meningitisgerm called meningitis. But, there is no germ called “meningitis.”

Adding to the confusion is the fact that we tend to use that term loosely for what should be called “meningococcal disease.”

Meningococcal disease causes meningitis, and it may also cause blood poisoning (septicemia).

WHAT IS MENINGITIS?

Our brains and spinal cords are protected by three layers of tissues, one on top of the other, along with a thin river of fluid that runs between the middle and bottom layers. That river, the cerebrospinal fluid, helps the tissues cushion the brain and spinal cord. It also brings in food and takes out trash from the brain.

These tissues that protect our brains and spinal cords are called membranes, or meninges. The whole setup reminds me of a hand in a baseball glove; the hand and wrist are the brain and spinal cord, and the layers of the glove are the meninges.

When I say that I have meningitis, I’m saying my meninges, those tissues layered over my brain and spinal cord, are swollen or inflamed.

This swelling usually causes symptoms that are typical and a tip-off that a person is suffering from meningitis. Those symptoms include fever, a stiff neck, and a severe headache.

There are other symptoms that may be happening, but those three are the most common.

Lots of things can cause meningitis, and they’re not all germs. But the cause of most concern is bacteria.

When certain bacteria, such as Neisseria meningitidis, cause meningitis, it’s called bacterial meningitis.

The bacteria can get into the bloodstream, cross the blood-brain barrier, and cause meningitis, as described above. They get into the river, the cerebrospinal fluid, and multiply like crazy, spitting out poison. The tissues react to the poison by becoming swollen and inflamed. If it gets bad enough, the swelling may cause seizures, or even brain damage.

WHAT IS BLOOD POISONING?

When bacteria such as Neisseria meningitidis get into the bloodstream, they can cause septicemia, or blood poisoning.

The poison released by the bacteria into the bloodstream makes the immune system wake up and start fighting. This war between the bacteria and the immune system can cause inflammation, or sepsis, which in turn can cause blood clots, and it may stop oxygen from getting to the organs. If this happens, the infected person may lose limbs, organs, and sometimes, his or her life. This can happen within hours of initial infection.

HOW TO PREVENT MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE

The bacteria that cause meningitis, and possibly septicemia, can spread in many ways, including through a kiss or a cough, a sneeze or a sip on a shared straw.

To avoid infection, we do the same things we do when we’re trying to avoid influenza.

  • Wash our hands.
  • Keep our hands off of our nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Don’t share items like food, forks, lipstick—anything that can transfer germs from another person’s mouth to our own.
  • Get immunized. There are several germs that cause meningococcal disease, and luckily, there are several vaccines to protect us. Ask your provider which vaccines are appropriate for your age and immunization history.
  • Keep our immune system strong by doing all those things we hear about: exercise, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Be responsible and cover our coughs and sneezes. We don’t want to spread infections that we may have.

There are certain groups that are at greater risk of becoming infected with meningococcal disease: those living in close quarters with large groups of people, such as youth campers, dorm residents, or military barrack inhabitants; individuals whose immune systems are compromised; travelers to regions where meningococcal disease is common; or people exposed to others who are currently infected and infectious.

The harm that can come from this infection is so great, it’s simply not worth the risk. We all need to get ourselves and our loved ones in to see our provider for vaccination against this truly horrible disease.

by Trish Parnell





Childhood Diseases Reaching Out to Adults

16 12 2014

Angelina Jolie has chickenpox, and a passel of NHL players suffers at home with mumps. What’s going on?

Adults are getting knocked sideways by childhood illnesses because (1) when they were children, they missed one or more recommended vaccines, (2) there were no vaccines for certain diseases when they were young, or (3) the protection they received as children from vaccines is waning.

It’s also possible that a vaccine simply didn’t work for this or that person. It happens.

I was already an adult when the chickenpox vaccine first became available. A couple of years prior to the release of that vaccine, my little nephew became infected. He was miserable, and as his parents were out of town, I was the go-to person.

I bathed him in cool water to help bring down his temperature (does that really work?). I cuddled with him, and generally took care of him until his parents came home.

A couple of weeks later, my face erupted in what I thought were spectacularly huge pimples. They flattered my shiny new adult braces and first-ever pair of glasses.

I could not understand why I was breaking out, and then I remembered. My nephew.

I called my mom to see if I’d had chickenpox as a kid, and you already know the answer.

Well, that was a long time ago, and I can happily report my nephew and I had complete recoveries.

All this is to say that diseases lurk. It doesn’t matter how old or young we are, if we’re not protected, we’re open to infection. And, diseases from our childhood pose just as much risk to us as adults.

It takes one phone call or email to the healthcare provider’s office. Ask about all vaccine-preventable diseases, and where you are in your level of protection.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





New Movement Spotlights The Value Of Vaccination

3 09 2014

Encouraging conversation through valueofvaccination.org

An ever-growing body of individuals and organizations has come together for the purpose of highlighting that which is well-known but seldom stated: vaccination adds value to our lives.

Building upon a groundswell of public support for vaccination, the Value of Vaccination movement is garnering attention to the benefits that vaccines bring to every community. The initiative features the sharing of personal stories, videos demonstrating the positive impacts of vaccination, and easy-to-understand guides to the science behind vaccines and the immune system.TVOV-1500

The movement is expanding beyond the website to include social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The goal is to encourage conversation at home, at work, and at school about the value of vaccination.

“The importance of dialogue around vaccines has become recognized globally,” said Heidi Larson, who leads the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “Conversations between health providers and the public, among individuals, families and communities, and between the public and policy-makers are key to building trust. This important value-centered movement appreciates the science, but puts people at the center. ”

A call has been put out to the public to provide ideas on how best to illustrate the value of vaccination to others. It’s hoped that through crowdsourcing, new and unexpected methods of communicating this critical dimension of public health will be discovered.

Value of Vaccination is a body of individuals and organizations working together to promote the fact that vaccines bring value to our lives, and the many ways in which that value is actualized. This program is supported by a host of volunteers, along with financial support from PKIDs, a nonprofit based in the US. For more information, visit www.valueofvaccination.org.





And The National Immunization Survey Says . . .

28 08 2014

In 1994, the CDC began collecting information about the vaccination of children ages 19—35 months. They did this through a survey called the National Immunization Survey (NIS), and they’re still doing it.

The information they collect gives us a good picture of how well-covered our little ones are by the vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

CDC does similar surveys on teens, adults, and also specifically, flu.

The results from the latest survey on children ages 19—35 months are:

  • Most parents are getting their kids vaccinated against preventable diseases.
  • We need to be more vigilant about protecting our two-year-olds through vaccination. They aren’t getting all the recommended doses.
  • Seventeen states had less than 90% coverage with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Communities need 95% coverage to keep measles under control. Even then, when there are groups of people not protected by the MMR vaccine, they’re at risk for measles.

Dr. Alan Hinman does a nice job of getting into the measles outbreak we’ve had this past year in his blog post on the Value of Vaccination website. Recommended reading!

To dive into all the details of the 2013 NIS, CDC’s MMWR provides the facts and figures.





NOVA: Vaccines – Calling The Shots

28 08 2014

Premieres Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 9PM/8c on PBS!

 

Press release from NOVA about this fascinating documentary:

Measles. Mumps. Whooping cough. Diseases that were largely eradicated in the United States a generation ago are returning.

Across America and around the globe, children are getting sick and dying from preventable diseases—in part, because some parents are choosing to skip their children’s shots. How and why do vaccines work? What are the biggest concerns and misconceptions, and what are the risks to the child and society when people decide to forego immunization? The award-winning science series NOVA helps viewers find the answers they need.

Misinformation about vaccines can spread quickly, creating confusion about the relative risks of vaccinating vs. not vaccinating. VACCINES–CALLING THE SHOTS is an important new film that encourages parents to ask questions and use the best available evidence to make decisions about how to protect their children.

This documentary travels the globe to provide the latest evidence and answers.  Featuring scientists, pediatricians, psychologists, anthropologists, and parents wrestling with vaccine-related questions, the hour-long film explores the history and science behind vaccinations, tracks outbreaks, and sheds light on the risks of opting out.  The film, produced for NOVA by Tangled Bank Studios in association with Genepool Productions, premieres Wednesday, September 10 at 9PM/8c on PBS (check local listings).

“Immunization plays a crucial role in our public health, yet there is a tremendous amount of apprehension and confusion around the topic,” said Paula S. Apsell, Senior Executive Producer for NOVA. “In VACCINES—CALLING THE SHOTS, NOVA dispels the myths and examines the latest science, engaging parents and viewers in a conversation with real answers about the best way to protect their families.”

“With the return of measles, whooping cough and other highly infectious diseases, we saw an opportunity to team up with NOVA to provide clarity for viewers about vaccination and what’s really at stake here for all of us,” said Michael Rosenfeld, Executive Producer for Tangled Bank Studios.

The vast majority of Americans—more than 90 percent—vaccinate their children, and most do it on the recommended schedule. Yet many people have questions about the safety of vaccines, and at least 10 percent of parents choose to delay or skip their children’s shots. The film illustrates how vaccines not only protect individuals, but also safeguard entire communities. The higher the overall vaccination rate is, the more protection for everyone.  For highly infectious diseases like measles, 95% of the community must be vaccinated to shield the larger population, a concept known as “herd immunity.” If the rate drops below that 95% threshold, even by just a few percentage points, this layer of protection can collapse, sometimes leading to the kinds of outbreaks reported in recent news headlines. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 566 confirmed cases in 2014, as of July 11. In 2012, there were nearly 50,000 cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and 20 deaths, in the U.S.

Highlighting real cases and placing them in historical context, VACCINES—CALLING THE SHOTS demonstrates just how fast diseases can spread—and how many people can fall sick—when a community’s immunity barrier breaks down. The film chronicles a 2013 measles outbreak in Brooklyn, New York, in which 58 people fell ill, including two pregnant women. Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, offers the physician’s perspective on the vulnerable immune systems of young children, the history of vaccines, and how diseases re-emerge when immunization rates decrease.

Some parents—including a number of new mothers interviewed in San Francisco—are concerned about the risk of adverse reactions from vaccination. The film acknowledges that there are very rare risks, but Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher, a psychologist and risk specialist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, puts those risks in perspective: You’d need about ten football stadiums, each with 100,000 people, to find a single serious allergic reaction to a vaccine.

NOVA viewers meet Alison Singer, President of the Autism Science Foundation, and her daughter Jodie, who has autism. Singer cites the overwhelming scientific evidence refuting a link between vaccines and autism and discusses the lingering effects of a long-discredited study on public perception. The film further explores autism with new science from Dr. Dan Geschwind that reveals its genetic causes. His team and others have pinpointed mutations that affect the wiring of the developing brain—compelling evidence that autism begins in the womb.

VACCINES—CALLING THE SHOTS also follows Dr. Amy Middleman, Adolescent Medicine Specialist at the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center as she consults with patients and their parents on the safety and effectiveness of the controversial HPV vaccine, which protects against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus.

We’ll be watching on 10 September!





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!