Author Archives: Immunizations Team

The Importance of Being on Time: Why the Vaccine Schedule Benefits Young Children

Posted on August 14th, 2017

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week’s focus is on giving children “a healthy start” through immunization. Right from birth, children are at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases that can result in severe consequences. Thankfully, vaccines are available to help protect babies when they are most vulnerable and offer protection throughout childhood and into adulthood. Now, we have more protection than ever for young children, with immunizations against 14 serious diseases! These vaccines work best when given according to the recommended schedules for ages 0-6 years and 7-18 years. Our guest blogger, Dr. Lynne Tetreault, is here to share her perspective as a Maine pediatrician on this important topic.

By Lynne Tetreault, MD – Updated August 2017

Happy almost back to school time! Like many parents this time of year, you may be trying to squeeze in the last few days of summer while making sure that your kids have what they need for school. You may also be preparing to return to a normal daily routine. Helping children adjust to the school schedule can prepare them for a successful year. But the school schedule isn’t the only one to think about – the immunization schedule is another important tool to help children thrive. Even if you have children who are too young for school, now is a great time to check their immunization record to be sure they up-to-date on their vaccines and that they get their next vaccines on time.

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Preteens and Teens: Ensure their Healthy Future with Vaccines

Posted on August 14th, 2017

Adapted from the National Public Health Information Coalition – updated from August 2015

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! It can be easy to forget that adolescents need vaccines too, especially when they’re busy with activities and they have fewer visits to see their healthcare providers than babies and young children. But it’s important to be sure they are protected because they are at greater risk for serious and potentially life-threatening diseases like meningitis, septicemia (blood infection), and the cancers caused by HPV infection.  Plus, the protection provided by some of the childhood vaccines (such as the vaccine to protect against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria) begins to wear off, so preteens need a booster dose. Being vaccinated not only helps protect adolescents from getting these diseases; it also helps stop the spread of these diseases to others in their family, classroom and community. This is especially important to help protect babies too young to be fully vaccinated, people age 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer, heart disease or other health conditions. Continue reading

Is it a Cold, the Stomach Bug or Influenza? Know the Signs, Symptoms and Next Steps if Your Child Falls Ill this Flu Season

Posted on January 24th, 2017

Runny noses and stuffy noses. Coughing and sneezing. Upset tummies, sore throats, fevers and fatigue. The common cold, the stomach bug and influenza are three very different illnesses that often start out looking very much the same. If your child wakes up feeling unwell or is sent home from school with a cough, sore throat, fever or congestion, how can you tell if it’s just a bug that’s going around—or something more serious? Go through our checklist below and schedule a chat with your child’s healthcare provider!

Does my child have a cold or the flu?  The common cold and influenza are both caused by viruses and can look very much the same at first—and it’s so important to know the difference. Both viruses affect your child’s breathing system but colds usually clear up over time and very rarely cause complications. The flu is a bigger cause for concern (especially for children with chronic illnesses, infants and babies) and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Take a look at the symptom chart below to find the most likely culprit for your child’s illness:

Did your child get sick:   quickly slowly
Is your child’s fever:      high mild or nonexistant
Does your child have chills?   yes no
Are your child’s head and muscles: aching just fine
Is your child’s energy level:    exhausted a little tired
Is your child’s appetite:          gone normal


I think my child has a cold. What should I do?  There is no vaccine that can prevent the common cold and no medicine that can cure it. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter treatments to reduce fever or congestion, but children with colds need plenty of fluids and lots of rest to get back to feeling their best. (Asking your child’s doctor for antibiotics to treat a common cold can be harmful, not helpful.) A cold usually should run its course in three to ten days. To keep your child from spreading their cold to other members of the family or their friends, encourage frequent hand-washing, remind them to cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow, and keep them home until their symptoms clear up. Continue reading

The Signs of School Bullying and Cyberbullying and How to Stop It

Posted on November 30th, 2016

000007955194Many of us can remember a time when someone bullied us at school and how awful and alone it made us feel. Learning how to navigate daily social conflicts independently is an important part of growing up, and overcoming painful playground experiences can make us more confident, kind and empathetic. But when bullying doesn’t stop or goes too far the consequences for children and their families can be devastating. How can you tell if your child is being bullied or is bullying others? How can you best support him/her? And how can we make Maine schools and social media networks safer for all children?

Bullying is a Big Deal in Maine

As parents, we want our children to be accepted and appreciated by their peers. We also want our children to learn how to stand up for themselves and for others. Like many parents, we think that if our kids were really struggling socially—or were singling out another child at school—that  we would
know, and that we would know what to do about it. But would we?

Youth surveys tell us again and again that less than 40% of bullying incidents at school or on social media are reported to an adult. Kids and teens who are being bullied are often too scared, depressed or embarrassed to tell someone, or are actively pressured by peers to keep quiet. The more frequent and widespread the bullying the less likely the victim is to tell. And the longer bullying goes on, the more long-term damage it will do. Children and teens who are systematically bullied in their school  experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, anger and suicide. Children who bully can end up in court.

As parents and members of caring communities, we all must stop bullying whenever we see it and support all the kids involved.

Bullying and cyberbullying does happen in and around Maine schools. In fact, one 2015 study of the 43 states showed that Maine had the highest rate of cyberbullying in the country with approximately a quarter of all high school students reoporitng that they were bullied in some way online.  Cyberbullying is particularly challenging for schools to combat because it takes place off school grounds by email or text or on social networks parents and teachers may not have access to or authority over. To help educators and parents protect kids from bullying, Maine lawmakers passed An Act to Prevent Cyberbullying in Schools in 2012 and followed the law with a Model Policy for Bullying and Cyberbullying. This legislation is designed to make sure that all Maine students learn in safe, secure and peaceful environments, on campus and online. Continue reading

Coping with the Creepy-Crawlies: Lice, Scabies and Bedbugs

Posted on September 21st, 2016

18338340Kids come home from school with wonderful things—amazing artwork, challenging homework, new ideas and funny stories. Sometimes, though, kids bring home bugs. Not the germs and viruses we’re normally blogging about at Vax Maine Kids, but BUGS. If your family is dealing with head lice, scabies or bedbugs this school year, you’re not alone—and we’ve got some great advice on what you should do!

First of all, don’t panic. We know it’s hard. We’ve been there! But head lice, scabies and bedbugs are a common occurrence in Maine and around the U.S. A case of head lice doesn’t mean your children aren’t clean and an outbreak of bedbugs doesn’t mean your house is a mess. These creepy-crawlies are widespread and they spread very easily, especially among children in close quarters like daycares, classrooms and dormitories. Continue reading

The State of the ImmUnion in Maine: Tweens, Teens and Vaccines

Posted on August 15th, 2016

Maine has made great strides in stepping up the state’s vaccination rates for infants, babies and young children to at or above national levels. But when it comes to adolescents, we still have some catching up to do. At Vax Maine Kids, we’re working hard to make sure parents know how to protect their children from several serious illnesses that can strike during the teen years.


By Gabriel Civiello, MD in collaboration with VaxMaineKids

Healthcare providers all across Maine are celebrating the recent rebound in vaccination rates for our youngest children. In fact, our childhood immunization rates rank among the highest in the country. According to the 2014 National Immunization Survey, over 85% of Maine toddlers are up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations, and kindergarten non-medical exemption requests fell to 3.9% during the 2014-2015 school year.

The trends aren’t quite as positive for Maine’s preteens and teens, however. Nationwide, as children grow into their preteen and teen years under immunization becomes much more common—and Maine is no exception. In fact, Maine’s vaccination rates for the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine and the meningococcal vaccine are below the national average and the lowest in New England. Following the national trend, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine rates are at least half of the rates of the other adolescent vaccines. Continue reading

Six Tips for Setting Limits on Screen Time for Kids During the Summer

Posted on July 19th, 2016

iStock_000015419421XSmallSchool is out, schedules have loosened up, and parents and kids alike are turning to phones, tablets, gaming systems, TV and movies for summer entertainment. But the experts agree that too much time spent on digital devices can hold back a child’s development. So what can Maine parents do to balance screen time with real-world summertime adventures? Continue reading

Want a Better Vacation? Prevent Illness!

Posted on June 24th, 2016

Summer vacation begins at most Maine schools this week, college students are leaving campuses, and many families are packing up for fun family trips over the break. No matter where you plan to go, a little advance planning will help you return safe, healthy and happy. By preparing your family with necessary medications, immunizations, and other preventive techniques, you can help ensure that illness isn’t one of your souvenirs.

Traveling with kids is a wonderful way to expand their horizons while strengthening family relationships. Whether you are on a camping trip or a cruise ship, the time you spend together away from your daily routines can be magical and create treasured memories. Travel exposes us to new sights, traditions, people, ideas … and germs. Several cases of travel-associated infectious disease among Mainers are reported each year. Don’t let a preventable illness interrupt a fun family getaway! As soon as you decide on your travel plans, give your family doctor or travel clinic a call. Current immunizations, preventative medications, and other recommendations for your travel destination can keep your family travels on track.

Staying Healthy During Domestic Travel
If your family will be traveling within the U.S., you will want all your recommended routine vaccinations to be up-to-date. Places where large numbers of people from around the world congregate, such as airports, train stations, tourist attractions, water or theme parks, restaurants, hotels, and summer camps can increase the risk of exposure to many bacteria and viruses.

Although vaccines can help prevent infection from some of these germs, there are many for which vaccines are not available. In addition to timely vaccination, hand hygiene and food and water safety can help protect your family’s health. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention post some of the larger current disease outbreaks, most outbreaks are confined to individual cities or regions. You can check with the state or local health department at your travel destination about current risks, especially if someone in your family has underlying medical conditions.

Staying Healthy During International Travel
International travel is so exciting—and can require more advanced planning. In addition to all of the recommended routine vaccinations, the CDC may recommend additional protections based on each traveler, what you will be doing, and where you will be going. You can search recommendations based on your destination here and find current travel alerts here. Keep in mind that some countries require certain vaccines for entry. Be sure to carry your immunization records with your other important documents, like passports and plane tickets, in case you need medical attention during your travels. Continue reading

The ABCs of Hepatitis: A Primer for Maine Parents

Posted on May 27th, 2016

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and a good time to encourage Maine families to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B and for those at risk for hepatitis to get tested. That’s why we’re helping Maine parents study up on the different types of viral hepatitis (Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C), their causes and symptoms, and the available vaccines.

Hepatitis is a short- or long-term inflammation of the liver, a vital organ that helps us get nourishment from food, eliminates toxins and wastes from the body and keeps our blood clotting normally. Hepatitis is a very serious and life-threatening condition because if left untreated, it can cause the liver to fail or liver cancer to develop later in life.

Hepatitis can be caused by certain diseases, by heavy drinking, and by bacterial and viral infections. There are three main types of infectious viral hepatitis: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. If a patient with virial hepatitis is diagnosed within six months of getting infected, their illness is called acute hepatitis. If someone has hepatitis for longer than six months, they have chronic hepatitis.

All forms of hepatitis are serious and Maine parents should take them seriously. By getting all the available hepatitis vaccines on schedule and being screened if you are pregnant or at risk, you can keep your family healthy and hepatitis-free. Continue reading

The Power to Protect: A Maine Mother’s Story

Posted on April 20th, 2016

April 16th-23rd, 2016 is National Infant Immunization Week, the CDC’s national celebration of the safe, healthy start vaccines give babies. But you don’t need to have a baby (or even know a baby!) to do your part. When you are fully vaccinated, you help protect Maine’s little ones from dangerous, life-threatening diseases. And as one Maine mother’s story shows us, that’s a big deal.


Even when parents carefully follow the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule, they need help from their family, friends and neighbors to keep their children healthy. Infants can’t get all the vaccines they need immediately after birth. As their bodies grow, they rely on the immunity of the children and adults around them to keep infections away. When everyone who can get vaccinated is vaccinated, dangerous diseases can’t spread easily in our community. It’s powerful protection, and it’s called herd immunity. Like buffalo circling around their young when wolves are on the prowl, high herd immunity prevents outbreaks and keeps diseases like pertussis, influenza, measles and more away from small children.

When there are holes in that herd immunity, our most vulnerable community members can get hurt. Babies haven’t yet completed all the recommended doses of the critical DTaP vaccine. This means they are not fully vaccinated against pertussis, or whooping cough—a serious illness making a real recurrence in Maine. Pertussis is highly contagious, and because its early symptoms can mimic a cold, infected people spread it without knowing. Most infants acquire pertussis from a well meaning adult who is unaware that they have it. People like Luanne and her husband, first-time parents of an infant son living in southern Maine.

For more, see Scarborough physician Dr. Erin Dawson-Chalat’s guide, “How to Protect Your Child from Whooping Cough Continue reading