We are over half-way through August--"vaccine awareness month" and you are probably tired of hearing me preach about the value of immunization.
This has been a rather eye-opening month for me, as through my Twitter activity I have come to know a number of health care providers, social media enthusiasts and educators who are all invested in improving the rate of vaccination in the population.
These are folks who see immunization as a way to improve population health and protect the health of our most vulnerable citizens--young infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. They are not necessarily doctors who prescribe immunizations. In fact, none of the "tweeps" I have been engaging with the most are pediatricians or family practitioners. They have NO ulterior motives for advocating in favor of immunizing children and adults.
I have come to understand that many parents and other adults have a major distrust of the medical profession when we urge or prescribe vaccines. Perhaps we do not do a good enough job of informing you of WHY we are planning to immunize your child, or WHY getting grandmother and dad immunized against pertussis (whooping cough) could save your newborn baby's life.
Communication is the key to all good medical care, especially what is called "anticipatory guidance" and the more I hear from parents, the more I recognize we are not doing a particularly good job of communcating around the subject of immunizations.
A couple of posts ago, I wrote a piece about one of my earliest and most beloved mentors, the late David H. Smith, MD. What may not have been clear from the title was the connection this piece has to immunizations.
In that post, I describe my personal involvement with vaccine development.
There was no fame, and certainly no fortune that came to me because of the work I did with others in the quest to eradicate the specific disease. But every day that goes by when I DO NOT see an infant or child in the hospital or ICU with invasive Hemophilus type b ( Hib) disease I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve society and make YOUR CHILD's life better.
Some folks (this is prevalent amongst the antivaxxer communities) believe that pharmaceutical companies make a fortune from immunizations and THAT is why they push docs to push them on our children. Have you ever wondered why you almost never see an advertisement for vaccines on the TV? You see ads for viagra and related drugs, for antidepressants (every new one is better than the one before) but the only vaccine ads you see on TV are those produced by non-profits or health departments and presented as public service announcements. Pharmaceutical companies would prefer to sell antibiotics and other drugs that you have to take daily. They really get very little compensation for vaccine development, and yet they have high liability and must do a lot of work to demonstrate safety and effectiveness of their vaccines.
Think about it.
We need your help.
What do you think is the BEST approach we could take to helping parents understand the issues involved in making the decision whether or not to have their children immunized, and the benefits of immunizing older adults against pertussis to help protect the youngest generation as well as themselves?
One suggestion is that we (Carilion Clinic Children's Hospital) could hold a series of regional "Town Halls" with families, so you could ask your vaccine questions of experts. Would this be effective? Would anyone come to such an offering? If this is useful, what other topics might be of interest for future events?
Please leave your comments or questions below. I value input from parents, health care workers, public health supporters, every day people and even anti-vaccine advocates. All of you. Feel free. Lets get the conversation going.
Here are some links to prior posts on immunizations (mostly regarding influenza) you might want to peruse: get your flu shot, another word on flu vaccines, another reason to get a flu shot. Also this CDC page has many links related to adult vaccine schedules you might want to explore.