Posts Tagged ‘ Ari Brown ’

Vaccine Safety Concerns: Will This Story Ever End?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

This guest post comes from our advisor Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, the co-author of several books including Baby 411, and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

This week, the respected Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report addressing the current childhood immunization schedule. After a thorough review of the scientific literature, the IOM found no major safety concerns with the recommended schedule. Specifically, they cited no relationship of vaccines to autism, attention deficit disorder, or learning disabilities.

Regardless of the landmark report, social media is busy chattering that the U.S. Vaccine Injury Compensation Program recently gave two children with autism monetary awards for their health conditions. As a pediatrician, does it change my opinion about vaccine safety? No. Let me explain why. (Warning: It’s kind of boring, but worth reading about!)

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor vaccines through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Anyone (doctors, patients’ families, lawyers) may submit a VAERS form if a health issue arises at anytime after vaccination. Obviously, these reports do not prove that a vaccine causes a particular illness. The CDC and FDA review each report to see if there is a pattern of illness after vaccination. VAERS data is available to the public here. Independent of the federal government, six U.S. academic medical centers also evaluate for vaccine side effects. Additionally, the Vaccine Safety Datalink, a database maintained by several managed care groups across the country, monitors potential vaccine safety issues. Bottom line: There are several mechanisms in place to ensure that immunizations are safe.

However, like any medication, no vaccine is 100 percent effective or 100 percent risk-free. Rare, serious reactions can occur with vaccination. And if it happens, it’s devastating. But we take this small risk for the tremendous benefit of protection to ourselves and to others. As such, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) in 1988 to compensate those who potentially suffered a vaccine reaction. Those specific disorders are here.

At VICP, lawyers reviews patients’ records and determine whether to award monetary compensation. Yes, you read that correctly—attorneys are making the call here—not doctors, scientists, or vaccinologists. While the decisions from the “vaccine court” do not prove anything scientifically, VICP acts compassionately and does a reasonable job.

Since 1988, 100 million American babies have been born (99 percent of whom have received vaccines) and millions of older children and adults have also been vaccinated. With this huge number of vaccinated Americans, there have been less than 15,000 VICP claims filed. VICP has awarded compensation to 20 percent of those claimants. About one-third of all claims sought compensation for autism, and most claims occurred during the height of vaccine safety concerns in 2002-2004. VICP reviewed these claims collectively and found no substantial evidence linking vaccines and autism to provide compensation.

So then: What’s the story with the kids with autism who received financial compensation? Well, the children’s medical records are not publicly available so it is impossible to know, but they did not receive the awards for autism.

With a severe flu season and twenty children who have died, it’s important to look at the big picture. Most people get shots and endure nothing more than a sore arm.

With the scrutiny given to vaccines, we would know if there was a significant problem. As a pediatrician and a mom, I vaccinated my own kids to protect them. I wouldn’t do anything differently for yours.

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Drown-Proof Your Child

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Last summer, one of our advisors, pediatrician Ari Brown, M.D., shared a very sad story with us: One of her patients, 4-year-old Colin, had drowned a few years earlier in a community pool in their hometown of Austin, Texas–with family and friends all around. Colin’s parents have since founded Colin’s Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about water safety and drowning prevention, and their work has provided swim lessons for children who need but can’t afford them, and educates the public about what it takes to prevent drowning.

Dr. Brown wrote about Colin, the organization, and everything we as parents should be doing to keep our children safe around the water in our August issue. Just as the issue arrived in our offices, tragedy struck a family in the town next to mine: Two brothers, ages 3 and 5, left their house, climbed their next-door-neighbor’s fence, and drowned in the neighbor’s pool.

This makes me think about a product called Safety Turtle. It’s a wristband (with a turtle’s face) that a young child wears whenever he’s not supposed to be around water. You have to lock it on your child (literally, with a key) so that it can’t come off. Should the wristband become immersed in water, an alarm on the wireless base unit sounds, and doesn’t stop until you reset it. Dr. Brown asked Jan Emler, the founder of a swim school in Austin, for her thoughts on a product like Safety Turtle. She said, “Since the majority of preschool drowning deaths occur in backyard pools, we are in favor of an alarm system that stays with the child. As long as supervising adults make certain the child is wearing the wristband and properly power the base station, this alarm system can be an effective weapon in the arsenal used to fight childhood drowning. It’s one more layer of protection–along with uninterrupted adult, visual supervision; formal swim lessons; and four-sided fencing.” Safety Turtle works best in fresh water, but there are ways to use it in salt water, explained here.

I can’t help but think of those two little boys, whose lives could have been saved if they’d been wearing something like this.

Safety Turtle, $280.

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