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
A brand-new study published in Pediatrics last month confirmed, yet again, that vaccines do not cause epilepsy, yet this myth continues to be talked about on social media, in blogs and amongst families and friends. Here is the truth about vaccines and fevers, seizures and epilepsy.
The first few years of a child’s life are a whirlwind of milestones and experiences both for the child and parents. It’s easy to get lost in all the activity. It’s also easy to assume that two things that happened close together are directly linked when they aren’t. That’s often the case with the presumed connection between epilepsy and vaccines. The fact is that children with epilepsy can experience their first seizures around the same time they are getting their first vaccinations, leading some parents to link the two. Many research studies have shown that this is just a coincidence, and childhood vaccinations do not cause epilepsy.
Here’s what you need to know…
Recently, a long-term study showed that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against this virus for at least eight years. Given that more than 14 million people get HPV each year, and 27,000 men and women are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers each year, it’s wonderful to know that ongoing studies continue to prove that this vaccine is safe and effective.
After sharing this information on our Vax Maine Kids Facebook page, a few parents had questions about the HPV vaccine. Since we want all parents to have correct information about how they can protect their children from HPV, we’ve given answers to some of the most common concerns below:
“I’m just curious what source people use to get the info that makes them think [the HPV vaccine] is safe, and so confident in that safety that they encourage others to vaccinate. I would be interested in looking into it.”
The facts: The HPV vaccine has been highly studied and proven safe.
- The HPV vaccine went through at least ten years of thorough safety testing before it was approved for the public by the FDA in 2006.
- Now on the market, the vaccine is constantly reviewed for safety and effectiveness, which is demonstrated by a wide range of very thorough scientific studies.
- From June 2006 through March 2014, the safety monitoring program that reviews vaccines after they are in use shows no new or odd patterns of adverse events to suggest an HPV vaccine safety concern.
- The CDC uses three systems to continually monitor and evaluate the safety of every vaccine that is on the childhood immunization schedule: the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), and the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network.
- Parents may be concerned when they hear stories about children having severe reactions to vaccines. VAERS allows people to report what they believe to be vaccine reactions, but it’s important to understand that the reports can be subjective and the system doesn’t require any supporting evidence when a claim is filed. While the data is used to help identify possible vaccine safety concerns and research adverse events, scientists and researchers understand that they can’t rely on the accuracy of VAERS data and it’s best if parents refrain from using VAERS reports to drive their healthcare decisions. While some deaths have been reported to VAERS, it’s important to know that after a medical investigation none of these deaths were found to be the result of an immunization.
- Over 100 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given over the past eight years and the vaccine has never been shown to have caused a serious injury or death. That’s right—one hundred million doses and not one serious injury or death.
“This vaccine causes sterilization to children.”
The facts: The HPV vaccine does not cause infertility, but treatments for cancers caused by HPV may.
- The rumor that the HPV vaccine can cause infertility comes from people not completely understanding a study of polysorbate 80, an ingredient used to keep the HPV vaccine effective and free of germs. The study, which was done on animals, exposed them to large amounts of polysorbate 80 over long periods of time. This is very unlike the brief, very tiny exposure children get when vaccinated against HPV. The levels of polysorbate 80 in the HPV vaccine are well documented, well tested and well below what is toxic to humans.
- Medical professionals know that the HPV vaccine is a safe way to protect your children’s fertility, by helping them avoid cancer treatment later in life. Treatment for cervical cancer caused by HPV can include chemotherapy, removing a woman’s uterus, and other serious medical procedures, which all may have negative consequences for future fertility.
“The reason I haven’t [chosen to vaccinate my child] is because the risks, for me, do not outweigh the benefits. The vaccine only covers a very, very small percentage of HPV.”
The facts: While there are many types of HPV, both of the available HPV vaccines protect against the two types that cause most HPV-related cancers. Recent studies show that the HPV vaccine has led to a 56% drop in HPV infection in the U.S.
- While neither of the two available HPV vaccines protects against all 150 strains, Gardasil protect against types 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, and types 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts. The other HPV vaccine, Cervarix, protects against types 16 and 18 only. In Maine, Gardasil is the HPV vaccine of choice for our state immunization program.
- Despite the fact that only 33% of children have had all three of the recommended doses, the percentage of HPV infections in American girls has dropped by more than half. Now imagine how many infections could be prevented if more children were vaccinated according to the recommended schedule.
“I received this vaccine a long time ago when it first came out and I’ve never had any side effects.”
“Got both my girls all 3 shots and I feel better knowing they are protected! Is very easy! Keep your kids safe!”
“My daughter had all 3 with no complications. I’m glad she’s protected.”
The facts: Vaccines safely protect our children from dangerous diseases.
At Vax Maine Kids, we know parents who choose not to vaccinate their children have been convinced it’s the best way to keep their children healthy. There’s a lot of false information about vaccines online and in the media, so it’s easy to see how well-meaning parents become anti-vaccine and why it can be hard to change their minds once they’ve committed to their choice. That said, a recent study shows that if we want parents to vaccinate their kids, we need to talk less about why refusing or delaying vaccines is wrong and more about the incredible benefits children get from timely vaccinations.
When you’re in the middle of an argument, it can be hard to see the other person’s point of view, especially if you’re arguing about something you really care about. And is there anything in the world a parent cares more about than the health and safety of their kids? Most Maine parents vaccinate their children, but Maine does have one of the highest percentages of unvaccinated kids in the nation. So chances are, you are friends with a parent who has chosen to skip or delay vaccines for their kids … and you know how hard it can be to to even begin a conversation about their choice, let alone try to convince them that vaccinations are safe and important for their kids.
In turns out that focusing on concerns about skipping vaccines may actually be part of the problem! According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, how we talk about vaccines makes a big difference in whether or not parents choose to vaccinate.
The study tested four different ways to encourage parents to vaccinate their child with the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) across four different focus groups. The study showed the most effective message was this:
The MMR vaccine protects your child from getting the diseases measles, mumps, or rubella or the complications caused by these diseases. After receiving this vaccine, your child will not miss school or activities due to these illnesses and will be able to play with friends during an outbreak.
What made this message different from the others?
- This message focuses on the positive.
- It’s personal.
- It focuses on the child’s total wellbeing.
When healthcare providers told the parents in the focus groups about the risks and benefits of the MMR vaccine, they did listen. But when healthcare providers told parents that getting their child vaccinated against MMR meant that he or she wouldn’t get sick, miss school or be kept from playing with friends during an outbreak, they listened more carefully. A positive message about the personal benefits of vaccines for them and their child helped them to understand why vaccinating their child according to the vaccine schedule was the right choice. These same parents were much more likely to keep their child on the recommended vaccination schedule.
This study reminds all of us that if we want Maine’s childhood vaccination rates to go up, we should be talking up the benefits of vaccines, not engaging in misguided conversations with those who are against vaccines. The good news is that with so many benefits to safe, effective, on-time vaccinations, you might not even know where to begin! So the next time someone asks you why you vaccinate your children, remember the study’s focus groups and highlight the positive role vaccines play in your child’s and family’s life and lifestyle!
Vax Maine Kids encourages all parents to protect their children with safe, effective vaccines. But there are some reasons why a small percentage of children can’t get vaccinated—they may be too young, they may be receiving chemotherapy, they may have weak immune systems, or they may be allergic to ingredients in vaccines or vaccine packaging. Which allergies prevent children from getting certain vaccines? Are there other ways to vaccinate children with these allergies? And how can we help kids with rare, severe allergies stay safe and protected against the diseases vaccines can prevent?
Bad reactions to vaccines are very, very rare, but when they do happen, an allergy is often the cause. Vax Maine Kids has compiled a quick reference guide for Maine parents on the most common allergies that can potentially cause a bad reaction to a vaccine: eggs, gelatin, antibiotics, yeast, and latex.
If your child has a known allergy that isn’t on this list and you’re still concerned, talk to your child’s doctor. Even children with severe allergies to eggs, peanuts, dairy, wheat, corn, soy, fish, and shellfish can and should be vaccinated safely against dangerous diseases. And that’s a good thing! Parents of children with severe allergies have so many things to worry about. Isn’t it great that dangerous, preventable diseases don’t have to be one of them?
- My child is allergic to eggs – can they still be vaccinated?
YES. If your child is allergic to eggs, they can still be vaccinated. The only childhood vaccine that currently contains egg proteins is the influenza vaccine. And, in recent years, scientists have lowered the amount of egg proteins in the flu shot so much that only people with really severe allergies to eggs need to avoid it. This year, a new, egg-free flu shot was created just for people with egg allergies! This is great news as influenza is still a dangerous (even deadly) illness and annual flu shots are a very important part of keeping children safe and healthy during flu season.
- My child is allergic to gelatin – can they still be vaccinated?
MAYBE. In this case, talk about vaccines with your child’s doctor. For kids with an allergy to gelatin, certain vaccines might cause an allergic reaction. This is very rare, but it can happen—there is a one in two million chance that certain vaccinations will aggravate a gelatin allergy. Gelatin is used in some vaccines as a stabilizer, and it is found in foods like Jell-O, Pop Tarts, marshmallows, and even in some frozen vegetables, yogurts, cream cheeses, and cereals. If your child needs to avoid these foods because of a gelatin allergy, they might need to avoid certain vaccines.The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has a great list of the vaccines that contain gelatin.
- My child is allergic to a type of antibiotics – can they still be vaccinated?
YES. Most vaccines contain no antibiotics at all! Small amounts of antibiotics are used in some vaccines to keep them from spoiling, but these antibiotics are not the type that can cause allergic reactions in people with antibiotic allergies. In fact, there are no known cases of antibiotics in vaccines causing an allergic reaction in a child. If your child has a known allergy to neomycin, polymyxin B, streptomycin, or gentamicin,check out the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s full list of antibiotics in vaccines and talk to your child’s doctor.
- My child has a yeast allergy – can they still be vaccinated?
YES. The trace amounts of baker’s yeast found in some vaccines have never been shown to trigger a reaction in children with yeast allergies. If your child has a yeast allergy and you are worried about a reaction to a vaccine, you can discuss this list of vaccines containing small amounts of yeast with your child’s doctor.
- My child has an allergy to latex, – can they still be vaccinated?
YES, UNLESS YOUR CHILD’S LATEX ALLERGY IS LIFE THREATENING. If your child has a known allergy to latex, their health care providers are already taking very careful precautions every time they see your child. Latex is used in the packaging of some vaccines, but never in the vaccine itself, so only a severe allergy to latex prevents a child from getting vaccinated. If your child has a known latex allergy, review the Centers for Disease Control’s list of vaccines with latex packaging with your child’s doctor and talk about safe ways to vaccinate your child.
Maine parents should rest easy knowing that most allergies won’t keep children from getting safe, effective vaccines on time. But if you or someone you know does have one of the very rare allergies that keep them from getting a vaccine, they may still be protected if enough people who can be vaccinated are vaccinated.
“Herd immunity” is a protection provided to those who are unvaccinated when enough people (usually more than 85% of a population) are vaccinated against a disease. Herd immunity reduces the likeliness that outbreaks of a disease happen. When there is herd immunity in a community, the youngest, weakest, and sickest people are safer and less likely to be exposed to diseases they can’t fight off. Herd immunity is just one of the many reasons why everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.
When you and your family get your shots, you’re not just keeping your family safe and healthy. You’re helping to keep all Maine families safe and healthy!
Celebrities who speak out against vaccines get a lot of attention, even though they are not scientists, nor doctors, nor public health professionals. In the wake of recent measles outbreaks, that attention has turned negative as the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases become more apparent. Now, at least one celebrity may have decided that all publicity isn’t good publicity after all. In a recent opinion piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jenny McCarthy, the most active and influential celebrity anti-vaxxer of them all, seems to be trying to deny her past comments against vaccines. Jenny asks, “What happened to critical thinking?” but when you take a critical look at Jenny McCarthy’s current claims about vaccines, they still don’t make any sense.
Like many parents of children with autism, former Playboy model and current co-host of The View, Jenny McCarthy was devastated by her son Evan’s autism diagnosis in 2005. That’s easy to understand—we know she wanted something, anything to blame for her son’s diagnosis. What we don’t understand is why she chose to blame vaccines despite all of the overwhelming scientific evidence showing there is no connection and never has been a connection between vaccines and autism.
That said, we have a couple of ideas about why she may be changing her tune: the attention she has received for her anti-vaccine statements may have helped her career in the past, keeping her in the headlines, but now, it’s hurting it. Jenny McCarthy’s ill-informed crusade against vaccines helped her career make a comeback, but this crusade may have also contributed to lower vaccination rates. Now that dangerous diseases like measles and whooping cough are making a comeback of their own, people are, with good reason, blaming her. That Jenny McCarthy would act like she was never anti-vax isn’t quite out of character—she used to be a comedic actress. But this act is getting old, and it isn’t very funny.
Jenny McCarthy’s still not telling the truth about her anti-vaccine statements. “For years, I have wrongly been branded as ‘anti-vaccine,’” she complains in her opinion piece. And, in a recent interview with Good Morning America, McCarthy states: “I think people should read exactly what I have said instead of reading headlines, and that’s why I wanted to write that piece. Everything that I have said and everything that I believe in is in that piece, so I hope people will go and refer to that so they know exactly what I’ve been saying.”
But no matter what she is trying to say now, she did blame vaccines:
- “Vaccines play the largest role [in causes of autism] right now and something needs to be done.” —Jenny McCarthy, 2008 interview with Larry King
- “I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe…We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins. If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f***ing measles.” —Jenny McCarthy, 2009 interview with Time magazine
And that’s just the first few Google hits! There are many, many more instances of Jenny McCarthy wrongfully placing blame on vaccines. Jenny McCarthy wrote five books claiming vaccines gave her son autism. She appeared on a number of news broadcasts and talk shows, from CNN, to Oprah, to Frontline, claiming that vaccines are filled with toxins, that the MMR vaccine causes autism, and that the recommended vaccination schedule is dangerous for kids.
Jenny McCarthy wasn’t “wrongly branded” about her attitudes towards vaccines! Everything Jenny McCarthy said about vaccines was wrong. There is no connection between vaccines and autism. There is no mercury in children’s vaccines. The ingredients in vaccines are proven to be safe for kids.
Jenny McCarthy may have changed her tune, but she’s still not telling the truth about vaccines.
- “I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit,” Jenny McCarthy writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
We know that vaccine programs are important and yes, parents do have the choice to modify their children’s vaccination schedule, but there are no benefits to delaying the vaccination schedule. There is no such thing as too many vaccines, too soon. Delaying safe and effective vaccines leaves children with developing immune systems unprotected from dangerous diseases.
Now that parents are getting a closer look at the harsh reality of measles, it turns out they don’t want to “stand in line for the measles” at all; they want to stand in line for the measles vaccine—and stand up for all the recommended vaccines.
Jenny McCarthy’s opinion piece may not show a real change in her unproven anti-vaccine beliefs, but it does show that the majority of parents know that vaccinating their children on time is safe and protects them over the long-term. These parents will no longer stand for Jenny McCarthy’s lies and fear mongering when it comes to vaccines. Just like the recent public outcry when Chili’s announced it would donate a percentage of its sales to an anti-vaccine autism group, it shows that standing up for what we believe in can change minds. Parents and healthcare professionals that stood up against anti-vaccination myths and propaganda convinced Chili’s to cancel its fundraiser. People telling Jenny the truth on Twitter, protests against hiring Jenny McCarthy on The View, and a lot of negative press may have convinced Jenny McCarthy she needed to change her tune.
By listening to our healthcare providers instead of celebrities and sharing real scientific facts and research with our friends, we can also change the minds of the people we know—and change the tone of the national debate.
When celebrities take up a cause, they can make a real difference, but they can also cause real problems. A few weeks ago, former MTV reality show star Kristin Cavallari became the latest celebrity to claim vaccines are not safe for kids. To say that vaccines aren’t safe is simply wrong, and in the middle of a measles outbreak, it’s also completely irresponsible. When it comes to the safety of our kids, who should Maine parents listen to?
A survey earlier this year showed that most parents trust their healthcare provider for honest information about vaccine safety. However, a whopping 24% put “some faith” in what celebrities had to say on vaccine safety. It’s not that hard to see why. Celebrities are attractive and entertaining, and it’s easy for parents to relate to how much they sincerely care about their kids. But anti-vaccination celebrities like Donald Trump and Kristin Cavallari are wrong about vaccines, and they are giving too many Maine parents the wrong information.
Here’s the truth: reality show stars are not reliable sources of health information. They aren’t scientists, doctors, nurses, healthcare providers, or public health officials. They haven’t done scientific research or gone to medical school (some might not even have gone to college or graduated high school)–they’re just famous. What celebrities say about vaccines gets attention just because they said it, not because it’s true.
So while we might listen when Donald Trump talks real estate, we’re not listening when Donald Trump talks about vaccines:
And while we might take style tips from Kristin Cavallari, we’re not taking her advice on our children’s health:
Kristin, we do know what we’re putting in our children’s bodies. The ingredients in vaccines are proven to be safe for kids and are proven to keep kids safe.
Vax Maine Kids believes Maine parents have a right to get information they can trust, and not just for entertainment. We want to know why anti-vaccine celebrities get so much attention when …
- … there are so many stars who are pro-vaccine.
Most parents vaccinate their children, and most stars support vaccines. In fact, the list of celebrities publicly supporting vaccinating children on the CDC-recommended schedule is pretty A-list! Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Garner, Keri Russell, Salma Hayek, Amanda Peet, and Bill Gates have all helped raise public awareness about the importance of protecting children from dangerous diseases with safe, effective, and on-time vaccinations.
The reality is, the real stars of childhood safety are healthcare providers, scientists, researchers, and public health officials. They know: vaccines are safe for kids.
- … all the evidence shows vaccines are safe and effective.
Anti-vaccine celebrities don’t have any evidence for their claims. There is no connection between vaccines and autism. There is no such thing as too many vaccines too soon. There is no mercury in children’s vaccines. The ingredients in vaccines are proven to be safe for kids.
The reality is that cold hard facts don’t get as much attention as controversial statements. TV shows, radio shows, newspapers, and blogs report on celebrities to raise ratings, not to raise awareness.
- … their message confuses parents and contributes to lower vaccination rates.
When confronted by a backlash to her comments on Twitter and on talk shows, Kristin Cavallari claimed she wasn’t trying to influence anyone. “I have my reasons, and u have yours [sic],” she tweeted. But in reality, we all have an important reason to vaccinate, and it’s called “herd immunity.”
If everyone who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated, dangerous diseases can’t take hold and spread in our communities. When we vaccinate our kids, we help protect all the infants and children too small to get vaccines. We help protect people in chemotherapy and those with weakened immunity who are too sick to get vaccines. Recent outbreaks of pertussis and measles are spreading because herd immunity is diminishing—and that is dangerous for kids.
Vax Maine Kids wants Maine parents to have information they can trust. Here’s our list of vaccine-savvy celebrities Maine parents should listen to! These health and safety stars know what they’re talking about, and they know vaccines are a safe, effective way to protect children from dangerous diseases:
- Your child’s healthcare provider
- The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The American Academy of Pediatrics
- The World Health Organization
FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Basing your decisions about your children’s health on real medical research and science, not what you see on TV.
Photo Credit: US Weekly
FACT: Vaccines do not cause autism.
Autism is a very hard diagnosis for doctors to make and an even harder diagnosis for parents to hear. Autism can devastate families, and let feelings overwhelm facts. Parents with autistic children have so many questions, and there is still so much about autism we don’t know.
We do know this: vaccines protect children from dangerous diseases without increasing their risk for autism.
Children do not begin to show signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) until they are six to eighteen months old. This is about the same age that children receive many of their recommended vaccines. Some Maine parents may have seen a medical study claiming this timing isn’t a coincidence. They might not know this study has been completely discredited, and many other scientific studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism.
- THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM
In 1998, a British physician named Andrew Wakefield published a study of 12 children in the medical journal Lancet. Wakefield claimed these children experienced developmental regression after they received their MMR vaccine. Wakefield did not find a scientific connection between MMR and autism, but he said the vaccine should stop being used anyway.
Andrew Wakefield’s study got a lot of press and it frightened a lot of parents. This study also had a lot of problems. The research did not stand up to scrutiny, and by 2004 it was clear that the study was a fraud. By 2009, London’s Sunday Times found evidence Wakefield had falsified his data and in 2010 the Lancet agreed, declaring the study false. In 2010 the British Medical Council revoked his medical license and found him guilty of 30 counts of professional misconduct. The British Medical Journal published a three-part investigative series reporting that Wakefield lied in his study as part of a scam to make a million dollars.
No other medical study anywhere in the world has ever found a link between vaccines and autism. Not one.
- THERE IS OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM
This fraudulent study did a tremendous amount of damage in a short period of time, but it did have one silver lining. It prompted many other scientists to study the connection between vaccines and autism. This avalanche of careful, thorough and ongoing scientific research all came to the same conclusion: there is no link between vaccines and autism.
When we say “no link”, we mean:
- There is no link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.
- There is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
- There is no link between too many vaccines too soon and autism.
(To see just how much recent research has been done proving that there is no connection between vaccines and autism, take a look at the Autism Science Foundation’s Read the Science page. Get ready to scroll – it’s a lot!)
Maine parents don’t need to worry that vaccinating their children on the recommended schedule will increase their risk of autism. We can stop wasting valuable research dollars and focus on finding the real causes of autism.
The truth is, we still don’t know what causes autism. We do know that it isn’t vaccines.
Vax Maine Kids and Kohl’s Vax Kids want Maine parents to keep their kids on the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule. Is your family up-to-date? Visit our Vaccine Schedules page to find out.
Photo Credit: by Beverly & Pack
FACT: The recommended vaccine schedule exists for a reason: it is safe and effective.
Maine parents are sometimes surprised by how many vaccines their baby’s healthcare provider recommends. After all, there are a lot more shots than when they were kids. Some parents become concerned that their babies might be given “too many vaccines, too soon.” As a result, they might decide to limit the number of shots their baby is given at a time or wait until their baby is older to vaccinate them.
The truth is “too many vaccines, too soon” is a myth. There is no medical benefit to delaying vaccines. The recommended schedule is designed to protect babies when they need it most. By delaying vaccines, parents put their babies at risk for diseases when they are at their most vulnerable for serious complications.
THE TRUTH ABOUT TOO MANY, TOO SOON:
- We give a lot of vaccines early on because young children are most at risk for getting vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccinating children at a very young age gives them the protection they need to fight off preventable diseases and keep them healthy. Babies’ immune systems are like an open book – ready to be filled with the knowledge needed to protect them for years to come. Vaccinating early gives babies life-long immunity without the risk of complications the diseases carry with them. Recent outbreaks of preventable diseases like pertussis and influenza have hospitalized and even killed young children in Maine. Healthcare providers want to vaccinate children as quickly as they can to help save lives.
The truth is that parents worried about “too soon” should be more worried about “too late.”
- We give so many vaccines so soon because we want to protect children from many diseases. Babies and children need certain vaccines at certain times. The recommended schedule gives vaccines when they are at highest risk for specific diseases and when vaccines work best to protect them. When a child is vaccinated according to the CDC-recommended schedule, he or she will have the chance to develop immunity to 14 dangerous diseases by the age of two! And yes, we mean dangerous–even an illness like chickenpox that parents might remember as “no big deal” can kill. And, this incredible level of protection comes from as little as 18 shots! Parents concerned about how many vaccines their children can get should be more worried about how many serious illnesses their children will be protected against.
The truth is that we all want to do as much as we can to keep our children safe.
- We give so many vaccines so soon because a child’s immune system is strong enough to handle it. From the moment babies leave the protected environment of the womb they are bombarded with bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. But even brand-new infants are ready to fight back! Babies immediately begin to make antibodies that keep them safe from bacteria and viruses that can cause harm. The bacteria and viruses (that have sickened and killed so many children in the past) we vaccinate against are the ones that can overwhelm a child’s immune system, not vaccines!
Vaccines do contain very small amounts of bacterial and viral proteins of the diseases they protect against. But they do not contain enough to make a child sick. Children’s immune systems protect them from trillions of bacteria and many different viruses every single day!
The truth is that babies and children are strong enough for the recommended vaccine schedule, and the recommended vaccine schedule will only make them stronger.
- We give so many vaccines so soon because study after study and test after test shows that the recommended schedule is safe and effective for children. Scientists, doctors, public health officials and researchers have spent many hours and lots of money studying the safety of vaccines. The vaccine schedule is reviewed every single year by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This group of experts evaluates the combination of vaccines, and reviews the latest science and research before approving the vaccination schedule. Keeping children safe and healthy is this group’s top priority. Parents who still have questions about how the vaccine schedule is reviewed can register to watch an ACIP meeting online.
The truth is that the recommended vaccine schedule is carefully studied and reviewed every year to ensure safety and efficacy.
Vax Maine Kids wants Maine parents to keep their kids on the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule. Is your family up-to-date? Visit our Vaccine Schedules page to find out.
Photo Credit: by gsloan
Pox parties—where the parents of a child with chickenpox (or varicella) invite other children to come over and catch the disease—still happen in Maine, especially in the Midcoast region. Maybe you’ve seen a pox party post on your local parenting message board, or a pox party group on Facebook, or maybe a friend or acquaintance has invited you and your children to a pox party. Not sure how to turn them down? Vax Maine Kids can help.
- “No thanks, that’s way too risky for our family. Did you know that even today, children die from chickenpox?”
Before the chickenpox vaccine was approved in 1995, about 150 children died from chickenpox every year, and many more were hospitalized. As parents, we often think of chickenpox as a childhood rite of passage and laugh about the itching, the spots, and the oatmeal baths, but we’re the lucky ones. Some kids with chickenpox develop pneumonia or brain infections. Some kids are hospitalized, and some don’t survive.
Children are more likely than teens and adults to develop complications from chickenpox. In the past, parents who lost a child to chickenpox knew there was nothing they could have done to prevent it. But today’s parents can prevent their child from catching chickenpox, and they should.
“No way, I’m pregnant! Did you know 1 out of 50 pregnant women who get chickenpox will have a child with a birth defect?”
If you or anyone your children spend time with is expecting a baby, you should know that complications from chickenpox can be passed from a mother to her unborn child. You should also know that chickenpox can cause miscarriages, especially in the first trimester.
“I’m sorry, someone in our family is in chemotherapy. I would never want to expose them to a potentially fatal disease.”
Chickenpox is highly contagious—that’s why chickenpox parties work so well at getting children sick. Parents might think they can control who they are exposing the virus to, but infected children are contagious for two full days before they show any symptoms other than a runny nose. If someone has a weakened immune system, chickenpox can kill them. Healthy kids are not immune from the consequences of chickenpox either – they can also get pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and other side effects of the disease!
“No, I don’t want my kids to have lifelong scars—or worse. Did you know that one in 20 kids with chickenpox will develop a serious skin infection?”
If you had chickenpox as a child, you probably remember your parents telling you not to scratch your scabs. They were worried about infections and scarring, and rightly so! Many of us have scars from chickenpox that will never go away. And we’re lucky—children with chickenpox can develop flesh-eating bacteria in their scabs that can disfigure or even kill them.
“You know, I think the whole idea of a pox party is kind of gross.”
In Midcoast Maine, a popular version of a pox party involves sucked-on lollipops. That’s right—used candy covered in germs. Parents with infected kids give them a lollipop. Then, they mail that same lollipop to other parents to share with their kids. Not only is it illegal to send contaminated substances through the U.S. Postal Service, but it’s also pretty darn gross.
“Are you kidding? We don’t want to miss that much work and school.”
Parents who opt out of the chickenpox vaccine may find their children forced to spend a lot of time out of school. Chickenpox itself lasts 10 – 14 days if you are lucky and have no complications. But Maine schools require that children who have not been vaccinated stay home from school if any cases of chickenpox are reported at the school. And unvaccinated kids can’t return to school until a full sixteen days from the last report of an outbreak. One Maine family made the local news because they had to keep their sons home for seven weeks! That’s a lot of wasted vacation time for parents and learning time for kids.
“No, thank you, our family is all vaccinated against chickenpox!”
At Vax Maine Kids, we want this to be the answer every Maine parent gives. Visit our Recommended Vaccines page and talk to your healthcare provider to make sure everyone in your family is protected at every age.
FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Keeping your children safe from a serious illness that all Maine parents need to take seriously.
TALK ABOUT … How lucky you are to be one of the first generations of parents to be able to protect your children from chickenpox with two doses of the safe, 99% effective chickenpox vaccine.
Photo credit: by Jay-W