Category Archives: Vaccines & Preventable Diseases

 

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

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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

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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

Want a Better Vacation? Prevent Illness!

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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

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Posted on August 26th, 2015

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.

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By Lynne Tetreault, MD

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.

The Power of Vaccines

Childhood vaccines are important because they help prevent 14 serious and life-threatening diseases by the age of 2. I’ve heard people say that vaccine-preventable diseases are rare and that they aren’t very serious, but as a pediatrician, I can assure you that this simply isn’t true. Although we do see fewer cases of illness and death due to vaccine-preventable diseases than we have in the past (thanks to vaccines!), these diseases are still a threat. In 2014 there were 23 outbreaks of measles in the U.S. affecting 668 people from 27 states. This year, there have already been over 150 reported measles cases, most among people who were not vaccinated or who were unaware of their vaccination status. Outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) have also occurred in U.S. over the past few years, resulting in hundreds of infant deaths. In Maine, there have already been over 200 cases of pertussis this year, most in school-age children. Additionally, there were several reported outbreaks of chickenpox (varicella) in Maine schools at the beginning of the year. These are not mild diseases – they can be dangerous. For example, before the chickenpox vaccine, 100 kids (60 of whom were previously healthy kids) a year would die from chickenpox in this country – that’s 100 too many. Thankfully, I haven’t seen a patient die from strep meningitis in 17 years due to the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. If we stop vaccinating, or if the trend of rejecting the vaccine schedule continues, pediatricians like me will most certainly begin seeing more unnecessary illness, severe complications resulting in hospitalizations, and deaths again.

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Grown-Ups Need Shots, Too!

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Posted on August 19th, 2015

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week is dedicated to immunizations for adults, and though we usually focus on immunizations for children here at VaxMaineKids, we’d like to take a moment to remind you that “vaccines aren’t just for kids.” Older adults and adults with certain medical conditions or weakened immune systems are more at risk of illness, complications, and death from vaccine-preventable diseases. Healthy adults need vaccines too, to make sure they stay healthy. As we get older, immunity that we’ve acquired through previous vaccines may begin to wear off and we may need booster doses. Some vaccines are also recommended for travel or for specific jobs. And of course, when adults are vaccinated, the whole community benefits. To help us learn more about the vaccines that are recommended for adults, we are featuring a blog by Dr. Neil Korsen. You can also take this quiz (link to: http://www2.cdc.gov/nip/adultimmsched ) and talk with your healthcare provider to find out what immunizations you might need.

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This article also appeared on MaineHealth’s Learning Resource Center Blog which consistently shares reliable health information to the people of Maine in an effort to educate them about various health resources and services that are available throughout the state.

By Neil Korsen, MD
Medical Adviser, MaineHealth

Just because you are a grown-up, that doesn’t mean you are done having shots. August is Vaccination Awareness Month, a perfect time to be aware of what is recommended for you.

The following recommendations are for all adults. Some shots you only need to get once to catch up, and others are needed more than once, and should be a regular part of taking care of your health. There are special recommendations for people who have some health conditions – we will talk about those later.

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Protect Your Baby from Whooping Cough

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Posted on August 11th, 2015

By Dr. Erin Dawson-Chalat

Ishutterstock_115541380t’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week’s theme is “Protect yourself and pass protection on to your baby.” Although there are some vaccines that women shouldn’t get while they are pregnant, several vaccines are safe in pregnancy and are even recommended. Diseases like influenza and whooping cough can be very serious for infants, and getting the flu while you’re pregnant can lead to complications for you. Getting vaccinated against flu and whooping cough is one of the best ways to protect mom and baby. Of course, it’s also important to be sure you are up-to-date on other vaccines before becoming pregnant. To learn more about vaccines that you may need before, during, and after pregnancy, take a look at this chart.   Because whooping cough continues to cause outbreaks in Maine and nationally, our guest blogger, Dr. Erin Dawson-Chalat is here to help us spread the word about preventing additional cases in newborns.  

A newborn baby is exciting, and friends and family can’t wait to welcome the newest addition. It is such a special time for everyone, but it is important to remember that all those visitors can bring harmful germs with them. To keep your baby healthy, you should take every opportunity to protect them from diseases that can spread easily and quickly. That includes making sure that everyone who touches the baby washes their hands first and that those who are sick wait to visit until they are well. One of the most dangerous illnesses that a baby can get is whooping cough, or pertussis, which is easily spread from children and adults to infants through coughing and sneezing. Continue reading

Preteens and Teens: Ensure their Healthy Future with Vaccines

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Posted on August 6th, 2015

Adapted from the National Public Health Information Coalition

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month!  This week, August 2-8, the focus is on vaccines for preteens and teens.  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.

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What Vaccines do Preteen and Teens Need?
There are four vaccines recommended for all preteens at ages 11 to 12. Teens may also need a booster dose of one of the shots or get any shots they may have missed. You can use any health care visit, including sports or camp physicals, checkups or some sick visits, to get the shots your kids need. The vaccines recommended for preteen and teen girls and boys are:

  • Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against four types of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis – a serious infection around the brain and spinal cord – in teens and young adults.
  • HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer. HPV can cause future cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and cancers of the penis in men. In both women and men, HPV also causes mouth/throat (oropharyngeal) cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.
  • Tdap vaccine, which is a booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis (whooping cough) can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks. It can also be spread to babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and this disease can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly for babies.
  • Influenza (flu) vaccine, because even healthy kids can get the flu, and it can be serious. All kids, including your preteens and teens, should get the flu vaccine every year. Parents should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and to help protect their children.

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Back to School… Let’s Get Ready!

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Posted on July 1st, 2015

Sending Your Child Back to School
BacktoSchoolBlog-July12015From Kindergarten to preparing for college, the transition from home and summer vacation to full-time school can be overwhelming for any family. A doctor’s visit can help your family feel more prepared for the excitement and challenges that lay ahead.

With summer just starting you’re probably thinking there’s no need to schedule a doctor’s appointment for another month, but appointments fill up fast come August. Beat the rush by scheduling your child’s appointment now.

No matter what age your children are, Vax Maine Kids wants you to know that one of the best ways to ensure a healthy school year is to stay up-to-date on your child’s well-child visits and immunizations. Immunizations protect your child from serious preventable diseases and keep the people around you healthy, including peers, family, friends, and community members.

If you think your children are behind on their immunizations check out the Catch-Up Immunization Scheduler and discuss options with your healthcare provider. We have also included specific details and tips for each age group below. Continue reading