Parents as Protectors

February 29, 2008

America is obsessed with medical autonomy. Everyone feels entitled to make decisions about their own health. While I agree everyone should have control over their own bodies, there is a gray area. Children. The current standard gives parents great range in what they can have done or what they can decide to withhold in terms of health care. Vaccines always come up as a hot topic. While the majority of parents adhere to the accepted standards of immunization there is a small, but vocal minority who objects to vaccination.

flu-vaccine.jpg

An advisory panel on Wednesday recommended all kids up to age 18 get the flu vaccine. Though the vaccine is already recommended for those 6 months to 5 years old, this new proposal is a huge expansion, affecting nearly 60 million kids. The expanded recommendation is an initiative by the CDC to protect the entire population. Children are one of the major sources of flu in the community. School aged children pick it up, pass it around, and then bring it home. Everyone has had the flu, and while it may have been terrible it was transient, so it is hard for people to take it seriously. But in reality, people die from the flu every year, children and the elderly are particularly susceptible. Vaccines, like all things, have risks. But they are very minimal and less severe than the flu. Obviously people with reactions to a previous flu vaccine, those with contraindicated disease state (GB syndrome), or certain allergies (for example eggs since the vaccine is grown in eggs) should not get the vaccine but in general it is a harmless vaccine.

With all the fear mongering of pseudo scientific studies (like the joke of a paper that tainted MMR by suggesting a correlation with autism), old world views of medicine, and popular misconceptions it can be tough for a parent to find the truth about a particular vaccine. So who really is better qualified to determine if your child needs a certain vaccine? The doctors that have years of training to understand the risks/benefits and wade through the abundance of misinformation or parents who may or may not be fully informed on the topic or who may be prejudiced by misinformation? To me the choice is obvious. I don’t want your 9 year old little Johnny vaccinated because I care if he gets sick, I want him vaccinated to protect the newborn he saw, the grandparent he hugged, the kid who’s toy he shared, and community he lives in.

When you decide to not vaccinate your child, you put everyone’s children at risk.

 


MMR Vaccine and Autism Questions

October 7, 2007

Many parents are asking if there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The questions are out there so I am going to try to help people find the answers.

Does or can the MMR vaccine cause autism?

The Answer: NO

Then why are we hearing about them together so much recently?

The Answer: The short answer is irresponsible journalism. The long answer includes multiple factors, the news loves to pick up stories that will draw big reactions, more people are speaking publically about their children’s autism, many parents of autistic children have a hard time comprehending how this happened to their child and try to think back to what happened near the onset of the disease, MMR vaccines are given at the same age that many children begin expressing symptoms, and the most recent thing to draw attention to this theory is a couple celebrity moms of autistic children have come forward in support. While I cannot understand the plight of a child with autism’s mother, I can understand their desire to blame something. The problem is this theory holds no scientific weight and gives mothers a scapegoat. The theory of a link between autism and MMR vaccination is widely held, the problem is it is held mainly by parents not doctors, and parents make better news stories.

Do some researchers believe there is a link?

A researcher Dr. Wakfield is the only person to suggest a link. So all this hoopla is over a paper he published in 1998. He believes that the vaccine leads to gut inflammation which leads to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies that might cause developmental disorders including autism. It was only based on 25 kids and large based on what their parents not doctors thought. Of the 12 researchers on his team, 10 have come forward to denounce the research.

Is there any proof of a link between autism and MMR vaccines?

Here is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s official explanation:

Autism is a developmental disorder. Children with autism usually have trouble communicating verbally and non-verbally and experience difficulty interacting socially. The media reported that there was a link between MMR and autism following the publication of a paper by Dr Wakefield, in The Lancet (a medical journal) in 1998.

Dr Wakefield’s theory was that the MMR vaccine might lead to gut inflammation, which decreases the amount of vitamins and nutrients that children can absorb. As a result, he suggested, this might cause developmental disorders such as autism. This theory was based on two studies involving 25 children. Dr Wakefield’s study was of poor quality because it included only vaccinated children and was based primarily on what parents could remember. Parents understandably are more likely to link changes in behaviour with memorable events like vaccination.

A number of much better designed studies, involving large numbers of both vaccinated and unvaccinated children, have tested this theory. These studies have concluded that there is no link between MMR vaccine and autism. The best study looked at autism and MMR vaccination in all children born in Denmark over a number of years. No link was found.

In March 2004, 10 of the 12 researchers who worked with Dr Wakefield published a retraction in the Lancet stating that “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”.12

Here are some links that I think will clarify even more for you the importance of MMR vaccination in children and the infeasibility of a link between the vaccine and autism.

            Quack Watch: A site the debunks medical myths in lay terms

Statistical Research in Japan: The rate of autism continues to rise after Japan stops giving the MMR vaccine and switches to administering each of the single dose vaccines separately (due to a problem with one of the components that they were fixing).

Global Research: This is a more technical explanation, it links out to papers from all around the world showing there is no link.

National Institute of Health: A counter point to the feeling “aren’t the diseases protected by MMR mild compared to the lifelong problem of autism”

Take Home Message?

There is no reason to believe there is any link between autism and the MMR vaccine. In countries where the rate of people getting the MMR vaccine has declined, autism rates have either stayed the same or increase, and the incident of mumps, measles and rubella have increased, particularly measles which can be fatal. The diseases have the potential to be eradicated worldwide if there is concerted effort and global immunization. But like all vaccines, allergies and immune problems can alter the effects (not to cause autism or any other developmental disorder). So you should always talk to your doctor for his or her opinion specifically related to your child’s medical health. Just remember no matter how emotionally convincing, you should be taking doctor’s not upset mother’s advice when it comes to your child’s health.


5 Commonly Misdiagnosed Disease

September 27, 2007

Just thought this was interesting. It is 5 of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases. Some seem understandably hard to detect while others seem hard to miss. It just goes to show why it is important to ask questions and take your health seriously. Being proactive about health is the best way to avoid misdiagnoses for you and your family. I know a lot of you out there have aging parents (myself included) and it is important to be there as they get older and doctors tend to push them aside. I worked in the geriatric portion of a hospital and saw it first hand, doctors sometimes make quick assumptions/decisions and don’t think it is worth their time to discuss it with the patient or the family in sufficient detail. It also points to the need for doctors to be more thorough when examining patients. The 5 specifically mentioned in the article are:

1. Aortic dissection

2. Cancer

3. Clogged arteries

4. Heart attack

5. Infection:

Check Out CNN for the full story