Anita Black is your average Canadian
mum. She has two kids, Jefferson who's four and two-year-old
Britney, a dog named Spike and a busy husband. She's
the matriarch of the clan and takes charge of almost
everything, including her kids' health. Mrs Black keeps
up to date on health information and often scans the
internet in the evening to keep on top of the news.
Recently, she's been reading up
on the alleged side effects of certain vaccines. Reports
linking the MMR vaccine to autism was enough to cast
a shadow of doubt over whether she should keep to the
immunization schedule or let her kids skip their routine
shots. Confused and undecided, she turned to her family
physician for the straight goods on childhood vaccines.
Many concerned and misinformed
parents like Mrs Black might show up at your office
with questions about their kids' vaccines. Here are
a few tips to help you assuage their fears and encourage
them to get their kids immunized.
SHOT OF CONFIDENCE
Better safe than sorry A recent
study published in the August 25 issue of the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the
drop in immunization following the MMR vaccine scare.
Although this may sound like a natural reaction, it's
not the safest one. "As health professionals we have
the legal and moral responsibility to advise parents
on how important vaccines really are," says Dr Danielle
Grenier, director of public affairs with the Canadian
Paediatric Society. After weighing the risks, many parents
are likely to opt not to vaccinate their kids, sometimes
without consulting their doctor. Give parents the basics
when they come in and tell them that by the time vaccines
get approval in Canada, they've likely been around for
at least 10 years and their safety is no longer in question.
important "What is hard for parents these days is
that the amount of vaccines have nearly doubled in the
last five years," says Dr Grenier. "Parents need to
know that routine immunizations are still very important."
Tell them that the old standard set of vaccines ? DTaP,
IPV, MMR ? have all but wiped out diphtheria, pertussis,
polio, measles, mumps and rubella in Canada. Also, clarify
some common misconceptions about these shots. Assure
parents that the MMR vaccine doesn't cause autism or
Crohn's disease; that the hepatitis B vaccine isn't
behind multiple sclerosis; that the pertussis shot doesn't
cause brain damage; and that vaccines don't lead to
sudden infant death syndrome.
New vaccines on the block
There are four new vaccines available and they're quite
an achievement, according to Dr Grenier. Explain to
parents that the two anti-meningitis vaccines ? pneumococcal
vaccine and meningococcal vaccine ? have helped bring
the number of cases down from 200 annually to only four.
The acellular vaccine for pertussis in adolescents also
marks a big step in preventive treatment. Stress to
parents that "if we protect the older children we then
protect the younger ones," says Dr Grenier. The fourth
vaccine is the annual flu shot that's particularly important
for children between six and 23 months of age who are
at higher risk of getting influenza.
A pox on chicken
pox parties "The belief out there is to have a chicken
pox party to get it over with," says Dr Grenier. But
parents rarely realize that their kids can get severe
complications from the infection. The disease can also
reactivate later in life in the form of shingles. Dr
Grenier suggests you tell parents that chicken pox isn't
a mild disease. According to her, in Canada there's
an average of 5.8 deaths due to chicken pox every year.
Chicken pox can cause serious inflammation that destroys
joints and even encephalitis. The vaccine doesn't prevent
all kids from catching it ? about 90% of individuals
are protected. Those that do contract it, however, suffer
only minor symptoms. New research also points to evidence
that the vaccine is a cost effective step in the right
direction. A study published in the September issue
of Pediatrics showed that since the vaccine was
introduced in the US in 1995, the healthcare system
has saved close to $100 million US due to fewer complications