How to be informed about vaccinations |

How to be informed about vaccinations

As a parent, I know we want our children to be safe. Certain safety measures are designed to help keep children safe, such as child safety seats, seat belts and toddler gates. However, some parents may overlook one critical component to keep children healthy and safe, vaccinations. Current vaccinations are the most effective and safest they have been in history and have saved millions of lives from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines are ensured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and monitored by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a national vaccine safety surveillance program. Side effects from vaccines vary, but the most common are discomfort, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are rare. The CDC estimates .00001 percent of all vaccinations have a serious side-effect. Considering the pain and suffering caused from acquiring these preventable diseases, for most people the benefits of vaccines outweigh side effects or getting the disease. Families, healthcare professionals, and public health officials must work together to protect our community. Adults must also keep up on their vaccinations. Vaccinations help preserve the health of our community, especially individuals who cannot be vaccinated, including children who are too young or those who can't receive certain vaccines for medical reasons, and the small portion of people who don't respond to a particular vaccine. Vaccines work by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies to fight antigens or disease, without being infected with the disease. In other words, vaccination protects us against a disease without getting the disease. Each day, we are exposed to hundreds of viruses and antigens. Miraculously, the human body can tolerate a large amount of immunologic stimuli without causing illness. Vaccinations have greatly improved our overall health. Because of the Polio vaccine, the U.S. has had no new Polio cases since 1979. However, Polio still exists in under-vaccinated countries such as Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Though preventable, it is a crippling and potentially deadly disease with no cure. Worldwide, cases have fallen from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to 407 in 2013. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, I believe vaccinations are the safest way to protect ourselves and our community from devastating diseases. An immunization schedule works effectively with a child's immune system at specific ages and frequency. The CDC, FDA, and VAERS evaluate the immunization schedule yearly based on the most current information. Contact your primary care provider for what is currently recommended for you and your child. Contact: Molly Hucklebridge (530) 543-5617. For disease specific information and vaccination schedule, visit the following sites: American Academy of Pediatrics: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Network for Immunization Information: Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System: Michelle Feeney, MSN, FNP is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Barton Pediatrics, 775-589-8946 and Stateline Urgent Care & Family Practice, 775-589-8900. To establish a primary care physician, contact Barton Pediatrics or visit

The truth about immunization: countering the myths

School is starting soon, and many parents and caregivers are making sure that their children’s immunizations are up-to-date. Vaccinating kids is good parenting and good medicine. It’s often said that universal vaccination against major childhood illnesses is one of the crowning public health achievements of our time. Immunization not only protects the person who gets the vaccine. It also interrupts the transmission of contagious diseases, so that everyone benefits. Many killer diseases that were once common fixtures in childhood have nearly vanished in the United States because parents and caregivers take the time to immunize their kids. Millions of us are alive, and living without disability, because safe and effective vaccines given in childhood are protecting our community 24/7 against age-old epidemic diseases. But despite the success of vaccination in the conquest of disease, misconceptions about immunization persist. A small but vocal number of people opposed to immunization have planted seeds of doubt in the minds of some parents with misleading statements and outright falsehoods. Let’s examine three common myths about immunization and set the record straight: — Myth #1. Vaccines don’t work. Most people who get diseases covered by vaccines were vaccinated. Sure enough, when outbreaks of highly contagious diseases like measles and mumps occur, investigations show that most cases crop up in vaccinated people. This doesn’t mean that vaccines aren’t highly effective. This apparent paradox has a simple explanation: No vaccine is 100 percent effective. When many thousands of people receive a vaccine, a few will not develop immunity for reasons related to the individual. In a country like ours where the vast majority of people are immunized, these “vaccine failures” will actually outnumber the people who skip immunization altogether. Let’s say a highly contagious infection is introduced in a school with 1000 kids, of whom 995 were properly immunized with a vaccine that is 99 percent effective. The five kids who weren’t vaccinated will get the disease, but so will 10 kids who were vaccinated. So two-thirds of the kids in this outbreak (10 out of 15) were actually vaccinated. What you don’t hear is that 985 kids at this school escaped infection altogether because they were immunized. — Myth #2. Vaccines aren’t safe. They cause many harmful side effects. Among the billions of people who have received vaccines in recent decades, adverse effects following immunization have inevitably been reported. Sometimes these reports have resulted in the withdrawal of a vaccine from routine use, until a safer alternative is developed. But don’t be misled. The vaccines we use today are all very safe. Most adverse reactions are minor and temporary, such as a mild fever or a sore arm. Serious side effects are extremely rare, on the order of one case in several thousand or even a million doses. The risk of serious harm from vaccination is so small that it cannot be measured exactly, but it is thousands of times lower than the risk of serious harm from the disease itself. Of course, any serious injury due to a vaccine is one too many, but the benefits of vaccination in preventing injuries and deaths greatly outweigh the very slight risks. In a related concern, some parents fear that giving a child multiple injections in a single visit could be harmful and might even overwhelm the immune system. The recommended schedule of childhood immunizations now includes vaccines that protect against 15 common infections, and many parents cringe at the sight of their children becoming human pin cushions. Rest assured. The simultaneous administration of several vaccines at a single visit is tested for safety and effectiveness before medical authorities approve the recommended vaccine schedule. Our children are exposed to hundreds or thousands of foreign particles every day that stimulate the immune system. The added stimulus from multiple vaccines is well within the capacity of a healthy child’s immune system to respond safely. — Myth #3. There is no need for vaccination, because these diseases have been eliminated from the United States. Here immunization opponents turn vaccination success against itself. It’s true that some unvaccinated kids can get away with no disease, thanks to the collective immunity of the majority whose parents do vaccinate. But that’s a dangerous game. Today’s vaccine-preventable infections have not been eradicated worldwide, and all of these diseases could rapidly reassert themselves here if we let down our guard. It took only a few years for whooping cough to stage a deadly comeback in the United Kingdom and Japan in the 1970s, when immunization was halted in reaction to fears about vaccine safety. — The bottom line: The vaccines recommended for children today are effective, safe and very much needed. Also needed is clear and emphatic guidance for parents and caregivers on the real risks and benefits of vaccinating their kids. When all the facts are known, I believe parents will make the right choice. – Jason Eberhart-Phillips, M.D., is health officer for El Dorado County

Ask Hopeful Henry: Vaccinations your puppy needs

Dear Hopeful Henry: When should I get my puppy vaccinated and what types of vaccinations are required? Thanks. — Jacob Jacob: The importance of getting the correct vaccinations at the appropriate time is crucial to your dog's health and well-being. The age that puppies can be immunized effectively is determined by the amount of antibodies the puppy receives from his mother. High levels of maternal antibodies present in the puppies' bloodstream will block the effectiveness of a vaccine. When the maternal antibodies drop to a low enough level in the puppy, immunizations by a commercial vaccine will work. Most veterinarians prefer to vaccinate puppies with a combination vaccine at six weeks initially, with boosters given every three weeks until the puppy is about 16 weeks old. This schedule may not be right for every puppy. Some "high risk" puppies may need a more intense and aggressive vaccination program. Some puppies may need additional vaccinations against parvovirus after 15 weeks of age. It is best to work with your veterinarian on a vaccination protocol that suits your puppies' individual needs. As far as what type of vaccines you should be providing your puppy the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents' Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines has recommended that the core vaccines for dogs include distemper, canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis and respiratory disease), canine parvovirus-2 and rabies. Noncore vaccines include leptospirosis, cononavirus, canine parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica (both are causes of 'kennel cough), and Borrelia burgdorferi (causes Lyme Disease). Consult with your veterinarian to select the proper vaccines for your puppy. When to get your dogs their booster vaccination? According to the AVMA and AAHA, dogs at low risk of disease exposure may not need to be boostered yearly for most diseases, however a booster is always recommended for parvovirus. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog. Remember, recommendations vary depending on the age, breed, and health status of the dog, the potential of the dog to be exposed to the disease, the type of vaccine, whether the dog is used for breeding, and the geographical area where the dog lives or may visit. A lot of people don't understand what they are getting the vaccinations for so here is a short description of the common illnesses we vaccinate for. Canine distemper is a paramyxovirus, which appears very similar to the paramyxovirus causing human measles. Canine distemper virus in the dog can affect a wide range of organs including the skin, brain, eyes, intestinal and respiratory tracts. The virus is transmitted through the air through coughing by infected animals and also through body secretions such as urine. Dogs of any age can be affected, however, most are puppies less than 6 months of age. Canine hepatitis is a disease of the liver and other body organs caused by canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1). The virus is found worldwide and is spread by body fluids including nasal discharge and urine. Recovered patients can shed the virus for up to nine months in the urine. The primary mode of transmission is by direct contact with an infected dog. Contaminated runs, cages, dishes, hands, boots, etc., can also serve as a source of transmission. Rabies is one of the most well known of all the viruses. Fortunately, through active vaccination and eradication programs, there were only 3 reported cases of human rabies in the United States in 2006, although 45,000 people were exposed and required post-exposure vaccination and antibody injections. In other parts of the world, however, human cases and deaths from rabies are much higher. Around the world 1 person dies from rabies every 10 minutes. — Hopeful Henry Submit your questions or letters via email to or by mail to P.O. Box PET, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Visit the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA on Facebook at You can also become a Facebook friend of Hopeful Henry at

More than 1 in 10 parents skip, delay kids’ shots

CHICAGO (AP) – By age 6, children should have vaccinations against 14 diseases, in at least two dozen separate doses, the U.S. government advises. More than 1 in 10 parents reject that, refusing some shots or delaying others mainly because of safety concerns, a national survey found. Worries about vaccine safety were common even among parents whose kids were fully vaccinated: 1 in 5 among that group said they think delaying shots is safer than the recommended schedule. The results suggest that more than 2 million infants and young children may not be fully protected against preventable diseases, including some that can be deadly or disabling. The nationally representative online survey of roughly 750 parents of kids age 6 and younger was done last year and results were released online Monday in the journal Pediatrics. They are in line with a larger federal survey released last month, showing that at least 1 in 10 toddlers and preschoolers lagged on vaccines that included chickenpox and the measles-mumps-rubella combination shots. That survey, also for 2010, included more than 17,000 households. The Pediatrics survey follows other recent news raising concerns among infectious disease specialists, including a study showing the whooping cough vaccine seems to lose much of its effectiveness after just three years – faster than doctors have thought – perhaps contributing to recent major outbreaks, most notably in California. Also, data reported in September show that a record number of kindergartners’ parents in California last year used a personal belief exemption to avoid vaccination requirements. Kandace O’Neill is a Lakeville, Minn., mom whose views are shared by many parents who don’t follow federal vaccine advice. Her 5-year-old son has had no vaccinations since he turned 1, and her 7-month-old daughter has received none of the recommended shots. “I have to make sure that my child is healthy, and I do not want to put medications in my child that I think are going to harm them,” said O’Neill, who was not involved in the survey appearing in Pediatrics. O’Neill said she’s not an extreme anti-vaccine zealot. She just thinks that parents – not doctors or schools – should make medical decisions for their children. Study author Dr. Amanda Dempsey, a pediatrician and researcher at the University of Michigan, said vaccine skepticism is fueled by erroneous information online and media reports that sensationalize misconceptions. These include the persistent belief among some parents about an autism-vaccine link despite scientific evidence to the contrary and the debunking of one of the most publicized studies that first fueled vaccine fears years ago. Some parents also dismiss the severity of vaccine-preventable diseases because they’ve never seen a child seriously ill with those illnesses. But vaccine-preventable diseases including flu and whooping cough can be deadly, especially in infants, said Dr. Buddy Creech, associate director of Vanderbilt University’s Vaccine Research Program. Creech has two school-aged children who are fully vaccinated and a newborn he said will be given all the recommended vaccinations. “From being someone in the trenches seeing children die every year from influenza and its complications … I would not do a single thing to risk the health of my kids,” he said. Creech has served on advisory boards for vaccine makers and has accepted their research money. Dempsey, the survey’s lead author, has been a paid adviser to Merck on issues regarding a vaccine for older children but said that company made no contributions to the survey research. Knowledge Networks conducted the survey, which had an error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points. Dr. Larry Pickering, an infectious disease specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the new survey is important and well done, and indicates that doctors need to do a better job of communicating vaccine information to patients. Pickering said he supports the idea of parents being actively involved in medical care for their children, but cautioned: “If they’re going to do that, they need to be fully informed about the risks and benefits of vaccines and need to obtain the information from a valid source.” The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians are among groups that provide online vaccine information based on medical research.

Flu vaccinations now available

Flu is a misunderstood disease. Commonly associated with upset stomach and vomiting, influenza seldom causes either. Fever, cough, chills, sore throat, headache and muscle aches are symptoms caused by influenza – “the flu.” A healthy person usually recovers from the sickness in two or three days, but for high risk people, the disease can be fatal. “Individuals over the age of 65 and those who are seriously ill can die from flu, or they’re hospitalized,” said Allyson Tabor, El Dorado County Public Health Department nurse epidemiologist. “The rest of us just stay home for a couple of days.” High risk people include those with heart, lung or kidney disease, asthma, metabolic disease such as diabetes, and anemia or other blood disorders. Anyone with weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids or cancer treatments using X-rays or drugs are considered high-risk. More than 200,000 people die each year of influenza, but the disease can be prevented through vaccination. Though it usually holds its own flu shot clinic, due to a shortage of vaccine, the health department will work with the Community Flu Shot Program, in conjunction with Barton Memorial Hospital. “We’re working with Barton this year,” Tabor said. “For the past few months, we’ve been told there is a shortage of vaccine. We’ll still have our own clinics but not as early as usual.” Because the viruses that cause influenza change so often, the vaccine is updated every year, replacing at least one vaccine virus. Out of three major flu viruses included in this year’s vaccine, one did not grow fast enough, slowing production. “There isn’t any reason to panic,” Tabor said. “The shortage is due to a slow-growing flu organism. Eventually (the health department) will get the vaccine. We’re just about a month behind. Barton has already received theirs so they’re going to go ahead and start their clinics.” High risk patients will be given the vaccine first. Low risk people are asked to wait to get the shot until new shipments come in. “When we get the rest of the vaccine we’ll do the lower risk people,” Tabor said. “We want people to restrain themselves and leave these clinics for high-risk people. Low-risk individuals can get vaccinated in about a month, so we’ll look forward to doing that in November. We anticipate there’s going to be enough for everybody, but it’s just going to be a month later. We just want to get the high-risk people vaccinated first.” Tabor recommends all people over the age of 50 get vaccinated when the new shipment comes in. BREAKOUT: The Barton Memorial Hospital Flu Team’s mobile unit will give flu vaccinations Oct. 17 at the following locations and times: n The Attic at 980 Lodi Ave. from 8 to 11 a.m. n The Senior Center at 3050 Lake Tahoe Blvd. from noon to 2 p.m. n Tahoe Bowl at 1030 Fremont Ave. from 3 to 5 p.m. For information, call Barton’s HealthCare Hotline at (530) 542-3000, ext. 3380 or contact Allyson Tabor at the El Dorado County Public Health Department at (530) 573-3155.

Swine flu vaccination clinic today

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – Children ages 2 to 9 may receive free vaccinations against the H1N1 flu today from at 4 p.m. at the Bijou School 3501 Spruce Avenue in South Lake Tahoe. The clinic will last until 8 p.m. or until vaccinations run out. This is the first H1N1 vaccination Barton Health in Lake Tahoe Unified School District and El Dorado County has held this year. This vaccine will be an intranasal vaccine, which means that children with the following health conditions will not be allowed to receive this version of the H1N1 vaccine: asthma, allergies to eggs, diabetes, seizures, and diseases of the heart, lung, kidney, nerve, muscle, liver or blood. Children receiving this vaccine for the first time will need to receive a second vaccine at a second clinic date. Additional clinic dates will be announced as additional vaccine arrives.

IZ Xtreme offers free vaccinations to pre-teens

Parents want to do the best thing for their kids, and for most that means giving their children the full set of recommended vaccines. So when most parents hear that a new group of vaccines has been recommended for pre-teens by medical groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they want their kids to be protected. Here’s the problem: The new vaccines are expensive, they are sometimes hard to find, and until now they required a trip to a doctor’s office. Not surprisingly, vaccine uptake among pre-teens has been disappointing throughout America. In El Dorado County that’s about to change, thanks to a campaign we call “IZ Xtreme.” Soon every sixth and seventh-grader attending public school in El Dorado County will be able to receive the full menu of recommended pre-teen vaccines – together with the new nasal spray vaccine for the flu – in school, during school hours, at no cost to their families. That’s right. The vaccines will be given away at school at no cost. Parents need only fill out a brief registration form that will arrive by mail soon and return it in a postage-paid envelope by Sept. 21. Nurses from the school district and the county’s Public Health Department will take it from there. Participation in IZ Xtreme is completely voluntary. Parents can elect for their children to receive some, all or none of the vaccines included in the program. But no child will be vaccinated without signed parental consent. In all, up to 5,000 kids are expected to participate, including more than 600 in South Lake Tahoe. In addition to the flu vaccine, the vaccines included in IZ Xtreme will protect pre-teens against such diseases as meningitis, whooping cough and certain strains of the human papillomavirus that account for 70 percent of cervical cancers. The IZ Xtreme campaign is the most ambitious vaccination program ever attempted in El Dorado County. More than 40 staff members from the Public Health Department are committed to the project, together with many others from the county’s school districts and the wider community. I’m often asked how we can do this. We can do it because we can get the vaccines – worth about $1.6 million for all of El Dorado County’s pre-teens – at no cost from the federal Vaccines for Children program. Another reason we can do it is the unusually strong dedication of public health nurses, school nurses and others in this county to the health and well-being of children and adolescents. A better question might be: How could we not do it? These vaccines have a proven record of effectiveness and safety. They will protect these young people and the community at large from serious infections well into the future. This campaign may be the single best way we can invest available funds in the health of our young people. Parents of pre-teens have enough to do without having to worry about their kids getting sick with any of the potentially serious diseases that can now be prevented with vaccines. Our goal is for the parents of every eligible child to see IZ Xtreme for what it is: a great opportunity to do something wonderful for our kids. For more information about IZ Xtreme, contact your local school nurse or check out the IZ Xtreme Web site at: – Jason Eberhart-Phillips, M.D., is the El Dorado County health officer. He can be reached at

Deadline extended for vaccine program

The deadline to register for IZ Xtreme – a program that provides free vaccines to sixth and seventh graders at their schools – has been extended until Friday. Nurses from the El Dorado County Public Health Department, who launched the campaign with local school districts, sent home informational packets two weeks ago to parents of more than 5,000 children. All vaccines offered at no cost through IZ Xtreme are recommended for students 11-12 year olds by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They include new vaccines that protect against meningitis, whooping cough and human papillomavirus. The nasal spray vaccine against this year’s strains of the flu will also be provided. According to County Immunization Coordinator Cathy Dunbar, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer and is targeted for middle school-aged girls, is drawing the biggest response from parents so far. “Parents often don’t know that the HPV immunization requires three doses to be effective and is quite expensive at the doctor’s office,” Dunbar said. Participation in IZ Xtreme is voluntary, but written parent permission is required. Parents of pre-teens can choose to have their children receive all, some or no vaccines. Vaccines offered through IZ Xtreme protect against six serious infectious diseases: meningococcal disease, pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, tetanus, human papillomavirus infection and influenza. For more information, see or call (530) 621-6112 or (530) 573-3157.

Low-cost flu clinics available

The El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency, Public Health Division is conducting low-cost community flu vaccination clinics. The seasonal influenza vaccine will be available in nasal mist and flu shot forms at the clinics. "Everyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu vaccine each year for the best protection against the flu," said Lynnan Svensson, Supervising Public Health Nurse with the Public Health Division. "It is especially important to vaccinate high-risk individuals, such as children younger than 5, people 65 years and older, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease. Also, it is critical for health care workers and those people taking care of these high-risk people to be immunized." In addition to the flu vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine (which protects against pneumonia) will also be available at the flu clinics for those who medically qualify. The cost per vaccine is $10, but no one will be denied service because of inability to pay; cash or check accepted. Parents should bring their child's immunization records. Updated information on the community flu clinics will be posted to and on the County Flu Hotline at (530) 621-6188.

Flu shot doing a poor job of protecting elderly

ATLANTA – It turns out this year’s flu shot is doing a startlingly dismal job of protecting senior citizens, the most vulnerable age group. The vaccine is proving only 9 percent effective in people 65 and older against the harsh strain of the flu that is predominant this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Health officials are baffled as to why this is so. But the findings help explain why so many older people have been hospitalized with the flu this year. Despite the findings, the CDC stood by its recommendation that everyone over 6 months get flu shots, the elderly included, because some protection is better than none, and because those who are vaccinated and still get sick may suffer less severe symptoms. “Year in and year out, the vaccine is the best protection we have,” said CDC flu expert Dr. Joseph Bresee. Overall, across the age groups studied, the vaccine’s effectiveness was found to be a moderate 56 percent, which means those who got a shot have a 56 percent lower chance of winding up at the doctor with the flu. That is somewhat worse than what has been seen in other years. For those 65 and older, the vaccine was only 27 percent effective against the three strains it is designed to protect against, the worst level in about a decade. It did a particularly poor job against the tough strain that is causing more than three-quarters of the illnesses this year. It is well known that flu vaccine tends to protect younger people better than older ones. Elderly people have weaker immune systems that don’t respond as well to flu shots, and they are more vulnerable to the illness and its complications, including pneumonia. But health officials said they don’t know why this year’s vaccine did so poorly in that age group. One theory, as yet unproven, is that older people’s immune systems were accustomed to strains from the last two years and had more trouble switching gears to handle this year’s different, harsh strain. The preliminary data for senior citizens is less than definitive. It is based on fewer than 300 people scattered among five states. But it will no doubt surprise many people that the effectiveness is that low, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota infectious-disease expert who has tried to draw attention to the need for a more effective flu vaccine. Among infectious diseases, flu is considered one of the nation’s leading killers. On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC. This flu season started in early December, a month earlier than usual, and peaked by the end of year. Hospitalization rates for people 65 and older have been some of the highest in a decade, at 146 per 100,000 people. Flu viruses tend to mutate more quickly than others, so a new vaccine is formulated each year to target the strains expected to be the major threats. CDC officials have said that in formulating this year’s vaccine, scientists accurately anticipated the strains that are circulating this season. Because of the guesswork involved, scientists tend to set a lower bar for flu vaccine. While childhood vaccines against diseases like measles are expected to be 90 or 95 percent effective, a flu vaccine that’s 60 to 70 percent effective in the U.S. is considered pretty good. By that standard, this year’s vaccine is OK. For senior citizens, a flu vaccine is considered pretty good if it’s in the 30 to 40 percent range, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a University of Michigan flu expert. A high-dose version of the flu shot was recently made available for those 65 and older, but the new study was too small to show whether that has made a difference. The CDC estimates are based on about 2,700 people who got sick in December and January. The researchers traced back to see who had gotten shots and who hadn’t. An earlier, smaller study put the vaccine’s overall effectiveness at 62 percent, but other factors that might have influenced that figure weren’t taken into account. The CDC’s Bresee said there is a danger in providing preliminary results because it may result in people doubting – or skipping – flu shots. But the figures were released to warn older people who got shots that they may still get sick and shouldn’t ignore any serious flu-like symptoms, he said.