Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vaccines help keep children healthy

Editor's note : Maybe the good doctor needs to get some better information. He references safety studies that have been proven to unreliable at best.

Q & A: OU Physicians pediatrician Dr. Casey Hester

Published: July 27, 2009
The Oklahoman

Click here to read the article and comments on NewsOK.com

Many parents have questions about their child’s vaccinations. Dr. Casey Hester, a pediatrician with OU Physicians, answers some of the most common questions.

Q: Measles? Whooping cough? Haven’t we gotten rid of most of these diseases in this country?

Dr. Hester: Thanks to vaccines, most diseases prevented by vaccines are no longer common in this country. However, previously rare vaccine-preventable diseases like whooping cough, Hib (a bacteria that causes meningitis), and measles are all on the rise due to fewer children getting immunized. The only way to protect your child against these potentially devastating diseases is to vaccinate him or her.

Q: I heard that some vaccines can cause autism. Is this true?

Dr. Hester: No. Scientific studies and reviews have found no relationship between vaccines and autism. Groups of experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree that vaccines are not responsible for the number of children now recognized to have autism. In fact, in 2004 a long-disputed 1998 study that suggested a possible link between autism and the MMR vaccine was retracted. Autism is also not caused by combining certain vaccines, so there is no benefit to separating out individual vaccines. Separating out vaccines only causes your child to have more needle sticks, and potentially delays immunizations. Unfortunately, anecdotal (and occasionally frightening) stories of untoward vaccine effects persist on the Internet. Parents should be advised to share any concerns with their child’s pediatrician, who can then provide credible, scientific sources of information so that parents may make fully informed decisions about vaccinations.

Q: It seems like a lot of shots for my tiny baby! Is this safe? Can’t I just wait until my child goes to school to catch up on immunizations?

Dr. Hester: Numerous studies (and decades of effective vaccinations) have shown it is safe for even newborns to get immunized. In fact, many of the diseases vaccines protect against can be very dangerous to infants, and infants are more susceptible to many of these diseases than older children. Even if your child is not in day care, babies and toddlers can all be exposed to diseases from other individuals out in the general community (at restaurants or even at the grocery store), so it is best to stay on schedule.

Q: Why do kids who are healthy, active and eating well need to be immunized?

Dr. Hester: Vaccinations are intended to keep well children from getting sick. If you wait until your child gets sick with a particular illness, it will be too late for the vaccine against that illness to work.

Therefore, the best time to immunize kids is when they’re healthy. That being said, children can also be safely immunized when they have a common cold or other mild illnesses. If the pediatrician says it is okay, your child can still get vaccinated.

From Staff Reports

Oklahoma kids to get shot at swine flu vaccine

Published: July 24, 2009
The Oklahoman

Click here to see comments on NewsOK.com

Some Oklahoma children will get a swine flu vaccine before it is available to the public. If clinical trials go well, the vaccine could be available in limited supplies by mid to late fall, experts said.

Apr 27 Dr. Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist, talks about how swine flu is spread and what symptoms are associated with it.

But some officials fear the already fast-tracked studies may not be swift enough to curb the disease’s quick spread.

IPS Research in Oklahoma City is the first Oklahoma company to conduct the vaccination trials and will begin enrolling study patients Aug. 17, said IPS Research medical director Dr. Louise Thurman.

The trials will test the vaccine’s effectiveness and whether or not it has negative side effects in patients.

She anticipates about 200 children ages 3 to 8 will be able to enroll.

Patients accepted for the study will be administered a vaccine or placebo and are monitored through office visits and by phone. The study lasts 42 days and follow-up calls continue after that period.

Nationwide, 12,000 children will be given the vaccine for the trial, she said. The company should know today whether it will conduct adult trials, too.

"From a science standpoint, it should work,” Thurman said.

A race for a vaccine

"There is likelihood that we could have widespread disease in Oklahoma before we have a vaccine,” said Don Blose, chief of immunization services for the state Health Department.

He said the H1N1 strain spreads more quickly than other influenzas and more than half of the reported cases have been in children. Also, some antiviral drugs don’t work against the swine flu, he said.

This is why the studies are being allowed to progress more quickly than usual by the federal government.

According to Blose, the vaccine could be released in October or November. Those doses likely will go to at-risk and priority patients. He said federal health officials are working out those details and should have more information available in the coming weeks.

Blose said mass availability could come weeks or months later and as late as the first of the year if there are any delays.

Peak flu season is usually late fall, winter and early spring.

The vaccine probably will be administered in a two-dose series and will not supplant a seasonal flu vaccine, Blose said.

Likewise, a seasonal flu vaccine will not cover swine flu.

If the vaccines are not effective or if any problems are encountered in the production process, Blose said health officials will have to rely on backup plans: Washing hands, covering up coughs, avoiding crowds and ill persons staying at home.

But the best way, Blose said, is the vaccine.

The H1N1 virus has sickened about 200 people in Oklahoma and more than 40,000 nationwide.

It has resulted in 263 deaths, according to recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The World Health Organization in June designated H1N1 as a level six pandemic, meaning the infection is widespread in the population.

According to the CDC, children and most adults don’t have any existing resistance to the disease and this has allowed it to spread more quickly.

However, some people older than 60 appear to have some antibodies, or immune resistance, to the strain.