Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Nearly half of U.S. children receive recommended vaccines on a delayed schedule, a new report conducted by Kaiser Permanente has found. Further, researchers say that the rising number of children who skip the vaccines altogether could reintroduce some long-eliminated diseases back into the mainstream. More from Reuters:
“What we’re worried about is if (undervaccination) becomes more and more common, is it possible this places children at an increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases?” said study leader Jason Glanz, with Kaiser Permanente Colorado in Denver.
“It’s possible that some of these diseases that we worked so hard to eliminate (could) come back.”
Glanz and his colleagues analyzed data from eight managed care organizations, including immunization records for about 323,000 children.
During the study period, the number of children who were late on at least one vaccine – including their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) shots – rose from 42 percent to more than 54 percent.
Babies born towards the end of the study were late on their vaccines for more days, on average, than those born earlier.
“When that happens, it can create this critical mass of susceptible individuals,” said Saad Omer, from the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, who wasn’t involved in the new study.
Just over one in eight children went undervaccinated due to parents’ choices. For the rest, it wasn’t clear why they were late getting their shots. Some could have bounced in and out of insurance coverage, Glanz suggested, or were sick during their well-child visits, so doctors postponed vaccines.
The report comes on the heels of new data from the Institute of Medicine saying that the recommended infant vaccine schedule is safe for children.
Image: Baby vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 18th, 2013
During a dangerous flu season, health experts are emphasizing that the vaccine is safe–and important–for pregnant women. The Associated Press reports on a new Norwegian study that confirms the vaccine’s safety during pregnancy:
A large study offers reassuring news for pregnant women: It’s safe to get a flu shot.
The research found no evidence that the vaccine increases the risk of losing a fetus, and may prevent some deaths. Getting the flu while pregnant makes fetal death more likely, the Norwegian research showed.
The flu vaccine has long been considered safe for pregnant women and their fetuses. U.S. health officials began recommending flu shots for them more than five decades ago, following a higher death rate in pregnant women during a flu pandemic in the late 1950s.
But the study is perhaps the largest look at the safety and value of flu vaccination during pregnancy, experts say.
“This is the kind of information we need to provide our patients when discussing that flu vaccine is important for everyone, particularly for pregnant women,” said Dr. Geeta Swamy, a researcher who studies vaccines and pregnant women at Duke University Medical Center.
For more, read What Pregnant Women Need to Know About the Flu on Parents.com.
Image: Pregnant woman getting shot, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 17th, 2013
The crowded schedule of vaccines recommended for babies, sometimes requiring five shots in a single doctor’s visit, is safe, a new report from the Institute of Medicine has found. The report, researchers say, should comfort parents who worry that the repeat shots could overload babies’ fragile immune systems. More from MSNBC.com:
“Our committee found no evidence that the childhood immunization schedule is not safe,” Ada Sue Hinshaw, Ph.D, dean of the graduate school of nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and chair of the committee, told reporters in a conference call.
The Institute, one of the independent National Academies of Science, was asked to look at studies involving not the vaccines themselves, which have been shown numerous times to be safe, but at the schedule for their delivery.
Babies are vaccinated against diphtheria and tetanus, whooping cough and measles, chickenpox and bugs that cause meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhea. Some shots have to be given multiple times over a period of months to fully protect a child, and the schedule is based on when a child becomes vulnerable to infections, as well as when their immune system is developed enough to respond the vaccines.
“A number of concerned parents say the schedule is too ‘crowded’ and have requested flexibility, such as delaying one or more immunizations or having fewer shots per visit,” the committee says in its report.
“Some parents have rejected the vaccines outright, arguing that the potential harm of their child suffering a side effect from the vaccine outweighs the well-documented benefits of immunizations preventing serious disease. Other parents delay or decline immunizations due to worries that family history, the child’s premature birth, or an underlying medical condition may make them more vulnerable to complications. Some simply distrust the federal government’s decisions about the safety and benefits of childhood immunizations.”
And delaying or refusing vaccination can cause harm — not only to the children who are not fully vaccinated, but to those around them, the committee noted. “States with policies that make it easy to exempt children from immunizations were associated with a 90 percent higher incidence of whooping cough in 2011,” the report says.
Image: Baby getting vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 14th, 2012
Anne Geddes, the photographer who is famous for her images of adorable babies, is speaking out for Shot@Life, an organization working to make vaccines available to women worldwide. Without the vaccines, Geddes says, babies are left vulnerable to preventable diseases including measles, pneumonia, diarrhea or polio. “After giving birth,” Geddes writes in an editorial on CNN.com, “we as women become members of the vast sisterhood of mothers — a universal oneness; a shared experience to which we can all relate.” She continues:
Ultimately Shot@Life aims to help save the lives of the 1.5 million children under the age of 5 who die every year from diseases that are entirely preventable by vaccines.
Please don’t be overwhelmed by these statistics — within your heart just imagine one child and one mother.
It is very difficult for any parent in a developed country to comprehend that $20 can save the life of a child. Put yourself in another mother’s shoes. If someone were to say to you, “I can save the life of your child for $20,” what would your response be?
Image: Anne Geddes postage stamp, via rook76 / Shutterstock.com.
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Thursday, February 16th, 2012
A growing number of pediatricians are refusing to treat families who choose not to vaccinate their children, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics don’t recommend that doctors “fire” families who opt out of vaccines. Instead they encourage pediatricians to bring the topic up at multiple visits but continue to work with families. Yet research shows that it’s increasingly common for practices to push these patients out.
From the Wall Street Journal:
In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year, some 30% of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21% reported discharging families for the same reason.
By comparison, in 2001 and 2006 about 6% of physicians said they “routinely” stopped working with families due to parents’ continued vaccine refusal and 16% “sometimes” dismissed them, according to surveys conducted then by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Many pediatricians see administering vaccines as one of their main duties in keeping children healthy, and say it’s difficult to work with families when parents and doctors don’t see eye-to-eye on this key issue.
Pediatrician Allan LaReaux of Kalamazoo, Mich., stopped treating non-vaccinating families in 2010, in part because he worries that children who have not been immunized could make others in the waiting room sick. From the Journal:
“You feel badly about losing a nice family from the practice,” [said] Dr. LaReau, but families who refused to vaccinate their kids were told that “this is going to be a difficult relationship without this core part of pediatrics.” Some families chose to go elsewhere while others agreed to have their kids inoculated.
Pamela Felice, an Atlanta mom whose family was dismissed by their pediatrician for refusing vaccines says it’s been difficult to find another doctor. One of her children has gastrointestinal problems and regressed development that she believes is related to immunizations. At least four practices have denied them a first appointment when Felice explains her opposition to vaccines.
What do you think? Do doctors have a responsibility to treat patients even if they refuse vaccines?
Image: Doctor, baby and mom via Shutterstock.
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