Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's Time to Talk Vaccines: What Parents Need to Know

"Vaccines: Calling the Shots" will air on PBS Sept. 10 (9 p.m. ET/8 CT).
When CC was in her second year of preschool, we got a letter home saying that a child in her school (which was preschool-8th grade) had been sent home with whooping cough.

Whooping cough. It was scary.

I immediately went home, looked up symptoms for the ailment and held my breath that CC wouldn't catch it, too. She had been vaccinated against it, but she was only 4 years old -- still so young.

What was also troubling for me was the fact that whooping cough was making something of a comeback after being basically eradicated a generation ago. That's because a lot of parents were opting out of vaccines for their children.

Many were nervous that vaccines were causing issues such as autism or giving kids the very disease they were supposed to be preventing. Many wanted their kids to catch diseases such as chicken pox naturally. (I'm sure you've heard of the chicken pox parties.)

CC's pediatrician was having none of it. The autism connection had since been debunked as sketchy science, and CC's doctor wanted parents to be educated on just how important vaccines are -- individually and collectively.

"Vaccines: Calling the Shots," airing September 10 at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on PBS' Nova, is tackling all of the thorny questions that modern parents are asking about vaccines.

Talking to doctors, including pediatricians and infectious disease experts, NOVA producers ask questions and dispel myths about vaccines.

They take on the myth that vaccines cause autism. They explain why "herd immunity" is so important. They also acknowledge that there are risks, albeit rare ones.

Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher, a psychologist and risk specialist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, says in the show that you'd need 10 football stadiums, each with 100,000 people, to find a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine.

The good news is that more than 90 percent of parents are vaccinating their children. But when it comes to preventable diseases such as measles, 95 percent of the community must be protected against the disease to shield the larger population, according to doctors.

The key word is "preventable." One statistic that really got my attention was that 500 years ago 1 in 3 children died before the age of 5.

We've come so far when it comes to medicine -- eradicating such deadly diseases as smallpox and polio. Why would we want to take steps backward, bringing preventable diseases back into the general population?

After all, our kids' still-developing immune systems are at stake.


Lisa Horowitz said...

I might change this "The autism connection had since been debunked BY sketchy science," to this "The autism connection had since been debunked AS sketchy science," for clarity.

L.A. Story said...

Thanks, Lisa! Fixed! On my wish list for this blog: a copy editor. :)


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