Immunization Exemptions

“[A]s anti-vaccine activists continue to push more states to allow for easy philosophical exemptions one thing is clear, more and more children will suffer and occasionally die from vaccine preventable diseases” ~ Paul Offit, MD, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

There are currently, in most states, 3 ways to exempt your children from having immunizations:

1. medical: Medical exemptions are determined by a physician. These may occur when a child is allergic to some vaccine components or has an immune deficiency, such as occurs when being treated for cancer.

I completely agree that children who are allergic to the vaccine or those who are immuno-compromised should be exempt from certain vaccinations. These children will be protected from disease by the her immunity of  a population.

2. Religious: Religious exemptions are allowed when immunizations contradict the parent’s sincere religious beliefs.

I also agree that people should be allowed to exempt from sincere religious beliefs, but i think that these claims should be investigated to make sure 1. their religion is definitely against the practice of immunization and 2. If they are devout followers of said religion. This should not be a cop out for parents to just name a religion that is known to not vaccinate.

3. Philosophical: refer to other non-religious beliefs held by the parents who do not believe that their child should be immunized.

The one exemption i COMPLETELY disagree with is the philosophical one. Why do people get to decide this?! this decision puts not only their children at risk but can especially hurt those children who could not be vaccinated for medical reasons. In the past few years we have seen a decrease in vaccination whether it be to false information, wanting to save money, or not seeing these illnesses (due to the fact that immunization is preventing them).

People need to realize that if our herd immunity goes below 80% there is an extremely high chance that we will have a massive epidemic. Please talk to your friends about getting their information from CREDIBLE sources.

I think some parents have this misconception that the makers of vaccines, and the researchers behind vaccination are disconnected from the issue. Yet most of these people have families of their own, brothers and sisters, or nieces and nephews. They understand the science and how important immunizations are and this is one reason why they continue their work.


April 6, 2011 at 5:01 PM 6 comments

Traveling anytime soon?

“Travel within the U.S. or to other countries can be an opportunity for volunteerism or work, fun and relaxation, but also exposure to disease. Make sure you and your loved ones are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases that may be only a plane ride away.” ~CDC website

Here are some helpful hints from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to keep you and your friends and/or families safe while traveling:

Check Vaccination Records Before Travel

Vaccines are one of the most important tools you have for preventing certain diseases. If you travel to other countries, it is important to get vaccinated because some diseases that are not common in the United States still exist in other parts of the world. In addition, in the close confines of an airport or airplane, other travelers may unknowingly expose you to disease.

Before you travel, review your vaccination history. Check that you’ve had all recommended vaccines. And remember that a vaccine’s effectiveness may decrease over time. You may need boosters even if you had vaccines when you were younger.

Get the recommended vaccines before you travel. If you’re traveling outside the United States, you may need to see a travel medicine specialist. Ideally, set up a visit 4 to 6 weeks before your trip. Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body and some vaccines must be given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks. If it’s less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. You might still benefit from shots or medications and other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

If you’re a parent, double check your child’s vaccination records. Some vaccines are recommended at younger ages if children travel outside the United States. Talk to your child’s doctor about whether your child needs to get any early vaccines.

3 Types of Vaccines for Travelers

1. Routine Vaccinations

Routine vaccines (for example, measles and rubella) are necessary for protection from diseases that are still common in many parts of the world, even though they may rarely occur in the United States. Be sure you and your loved ones are up to date on these vaccines.

2. Recommended Vaccinations

Some vaccines are specifically recommended to protect travelers from illnesses present in other parts of the world and to prevent spreading infectious diseases across international borders. Which vaccines do you need? It depends on several factors including your destination, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year, your age, your health status, and your vaccination history.

You can see which vaccines are recommended for international travel on the CDC Travelers’ Health website. See the destinations page and look up the country or countries you will visit.

3. Required Vaccinations

The only vaccine currently required by International Health Regulations is yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.

When you travel, be aware of current travel notices and outbreaks. You might need vaccines that are not usually recommended or you might need to take other precautions.

Travel is a great way to see new things, have your mind opened to new ideas, vacation, and create strong relationships in international business, but its important to keep yourself safe and those back at home safe from the potential disease you could pick up!

March 31, 2011 at 1:31 AM 10 comments

A family Nightmare

This is a true story about a terrifying disease that could have been a lot worse. This story reminded me of why advocationg for immunization and supporting research of more vaccines:

Anna Lincoln, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician in Buda, Texas, and a mother of three. Her first-born son, Wiley, became dangerously ill with pneumococcal meningitis when he was a baby. “Wiley was about seven and a half months old and he was a happy, healthy baby. We were visiting my mother. It was around Christmastime, and he was happy, playing, and then, all of a sudden, really overnight, he got a fever. The next morning, he just looked very sick to me. I got very worried, and I took him to my sister’s pediatrician. Before I knew it, he was rushed off to the hospital and he had

Bacterial Meningitis


It was a bacteria called pneumococcal. People get pneumococcal meningitis just from close contact. What’s bad about it is the bacteria’s everywhere and you can get it very quickly. That’s what was so scary about Wiley’s illness is that I remember very distinctly the night before, he had his bath and he was crawling on the floor, happy and smiling, and by morning, he was very sick, and by late morning, he was intubated in the intensive care unit and nearly lost his life because the infection was that aggressive.

He was in a lot of danger for several days. He was unable to breathe on his own. He had a breathing machine. He was getting antibiotics and he had to have medicine to keep his heart pumping, and he even had an arrest in the hospital and had to be resuscitated the second or third day he was in the hospital, because his bacteria was hard to treat. The antibiotics weren’t able to do a good job very quickly, so it was very scary, but the antibiotics eventually worked and he got better.

He was sick in December of 1999. That’s when he was sick in the intensive care unit, and the vaccine for pneumococcal disease came out in February. And I remember in the hospital, my sister’s pediatrician came to check on us, and she had already heard about the vaccine. I was in medical school at the time, and didn’t know much about the vaccine, but she said this is why, right here, Wiley, this is why we need that vaccine so desperately.

Since the vaccine came out, I have never seen this infection in my private practice. I’ve seen it two or three times during residency, and a couple times during medical school, and that’s very different to a doctor who practiced medicine, you know, 15, 20 years ago, when taking care of kids with meningitis was part of being a doctor, and seeing the devastation that it could lead to.

We have to remind families that, although the diseases may seem low risk, they are not. We have to be diligent about continuing the immunization schedule, because it can easily creep back to how it was before the vaccines, which was a time when children could be smiling one night, like Wiley, and the next morning, be fighting for their life in the intensive care unit.

Today Wiley is great. He’s in fourth grade. He loves to read “Harry Potter” and “The Series of Unfortunate Events.” He loves those things, and he plays baseball, and I feel very blessed, because he, um, it could – could’ve been different.”

There are many of the stories, especially now that are heart wrenching. When kids develop disease that effects them for the rest of their lives when they could have been avoided by a simple vaccine, to me, is AWFUL. Don’t let this be your child. Learn about the benefits!

March 29, 2011 at 9:50 PM 6 comments

Vaccine Preventable Diseases: what are they?

“Convenience is not a reason to risk our children’s health, and countering misinformation requires a conversation with a trusted and informed health-care provider. This is a matter of protecting our most vulnerable citizens: our children” ~ Dr. Gary Goldbaum

Here is a list of the diseases currently in the United States which have vaccines to prevent them:

  • Anthrax
  • Cervical Cancer (Human Papillomavirus)
  • Diphtheria

    Polio, To see more pictures of the different diseases go to the top of the page and click on "Preventable disease images"

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Influenza (Flu)
  • Japanese encephalitis (JE)
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal
  • Monkeypox (There is NO monkeypox vaccine. The smallpox vaccine is used for this disease.)
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis
  • Pneumococcal
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
  • Smallpox
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Yellow Fever

Most of these diseases our foreign to the current generation. We don’t see these diseases prevalent in our society because of the success of immunization programs. Researchers have found this inability to identify with the diseases a false sense of security making parents more prone to opt out of vaccination.

CDC has a lot of information about each disease, the affects of the disease, and the vaccine to prevent that disease.

From a recent article in the Seattle Times ,regaurding a bill in congress in Washington state, about requiring parents to have a doctors note exempting their child from immunization for only medical reasons:

“Diseases are forgotten. That’s the kind of statement that drives public-health officials a little crazy. Parents should be more frightened of the disease than the immunization, said Dr. Maxine Hayes, state public-health officer. “I grew up with polio around,” she said. “I had people in my class who had polio. Polio was very scary.” Because immunization has been so successful, she said, some parents now are more scared of vaccines than the diseases, “because they don’t see the diseases.”

March 24, 2011 at 9:30 PM 10 comments

History of Immunization

This history of immunization dates  back the late 1700’s.

Benjamin Jetsy was an English farmer/dairyman who noticed that milkmaids did not get smallpox, but got a less harsh verson of the disease, cowpox.

This observation led rural physician Edward Jenner to experiment with innoculating his family with cowpox pus to see if the disease had a protective effect against smallpox. His experiments mark the first successful vaccinations in the world.

The invention of the microscope and other medical contributions helped immunization to push forward and become a huge force in public health and the health of our populations.

Smallpox has always been feared. A serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease, it was known to kill up to 30% of its victims and to leave numerous others pitted with scars for life.

Recently I was reading a biography on the life of General George Washington which explained his views on vaccination. In the Revolutionary war more men were dying of disease, mainly smallpox, than were even dying in the war. When Washington made the decision to innoculate his troops against small pox it is said that his decision probobly gave us our victory against Great Britian. If he had not chosen to protect his troops from this terrifying disease he would have lost the war strictly because  limited amounts of men healthy enough to fight. Who knew Vaccination was so important to the history of our country, right?

A more recent event in 1977 also has great significance to the history of immunization. The last case of smallpox was diagnosed in Somalia in 1977 after a global campaign to eradicate the disease. Since 1977,  there have been no known cases of smallpox and the only threat of this disease is through bio terrorism.

One of the ten great triumphs in public health is vaccination. We have these great men to thank for the prevention and control of some of the most terrifying diseases of the past two centuries.

The next global eradication public health professionals hope to see in the near future is polio.

March 21, 2011 at 7:43 PM 1 comment

International Adoption: Risks and Recommendations

In 1999, an outbreak of Tuberculosis occurred in a small town in North Dakota. The outbreak affected 56 people and was traced back to an internationally adopted child who had not received proper screening at arrival into the United States. Risk of transmission of an infectious disease to a member of a household can be reduced by taking precautions and having appropriate tests, screenings and vaccinations of the adoptive child done in a timely manner.

International adoption by families in the United States is continuously growing each year. This is a great thing for orphaned children who would otherwise not have a chance for success. Along with this brings some concerns for the families and communities that these children are coming into in relation to health and infectious disease. Some of the major concerns are falsified vaccine administration, incomplete records, and prevalence of highly infectious diseases. Children eligible for adoption often have health conditions that are common in developing countries. Most of these diseases are preventable and treatable, but some children have more serious diseases. These serious diseases include tuberculosis and HIV.  Children’s health can also be negatively affected by living in an institution . The U.S. Government has regulations and government entities have suggestions on how to handle children with exposure to these diseases.

Members of the family traveling to the adoptive child’s country of origin should be up to date with all immunizations recommended by the CDC for traveling to that country. More information can be found at the CDC website. An infectious disease consultant can also be very helpful with an adoptive child. The adoptive child should have a post arrival medical examination to test and screen for infectious diseases and other medical problems. A comprehensive assessment of the child’s health is important for identification and of needed interventions. If inadequate information on immunization is provided by the child’s home country, the child can be screened for antibodies or be given all vaccines to meet the ACIP guidelines for their age group. All members of the household of a new international adoptee should receive protection against measles, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Adults are advised to receive a polio booster. Also close neighbors, babysitters, day care workers should be notified and counseled to be up on vaccines, and boosters.

Providing a home and healthy environment is a great service to children who would otherwise not have a chance. The goal of this post is to show prospective parents the value of getting proper screenings and immunizations for their families and newly adopted child.

March 9, 2011 at 8:33 PM 3 comments

Immunization in the News

Today as I was skimming across the New York Times i came across this headline ” Justices Rule Against Lawsuit Over Vaccine Side Effects

In a 6-2 vote the Supreme Court ruled agaisnt  parents who sued the drug maker Wyeth in Pennsylvania state court because of the health problems they say their daughter, who is now 19, suffered from a vaccine she received in infancy.

The parents were not allowed to sue in state courts because Congress set up a special vaccine court to handle such claims, intending to provide compensation to injured children without driving drug manufacturers from the vaccine market. The idea, he said, was to create a no-fault system that spares the drug companies the costs of defending against parents’ lawsuits.

The article sates,“We recognize, however, that the Vaccine Act provides for full consideration of the liability issues through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Here the Vaccine Court concluded that the petitioners failed to prove their child’s condition was caused by vaccination.”

This is a major problem with lawsuits and claims against vaccine companies, there is no proof that vaccines cause illnesses parents claim came from the vaccines. As is the case with autism previously mentioned, parents need to realize that Vaccination does more good than harm, and there is a system set in place for those who do have adverse health effects due to vaccination. Everyone’s bodies react differently and vaccine manufacturers understand that it is not a 100% fool proof method, but parents need to realize it is more beneficial to immunize! Adverse health effects from a vaccine are much smaller of a chance than the adverse affects that come from getting a disease these vaccinations prevent.

The American Academy of Pediatrics representing more than 60,000 doctors, praised the decision. “Childhood vaccines are among the greatest medical breakthroughs of the last century,” said Dr. Marion Burton, the group’s president. “Today’s Supreme Court decision protects children by strengthening our national immunization system and ensuring that vaccines will continue to prevent the spread of infectious disease in this country.

February 22, 2011 at 8:48 PM 2 comments

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