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Miracle of immunization

Dr. Drew Werner

EAGLE COUNTY – Recently I asked if you were up to date. Perhaps the easier question would be are your kids up to date? As you have probably guessed, I don’t mean the latest baby gap wardrobe, or even whether they have a Razr swinging on their hip. Rather, have they received all their immunizations?Dear Doc: I’ve heard some immunizations cause brain damage and other health problems. My baby is due any time and I’m not sure what to do?- Worried in AvonDear Worried: There is nothing like a little controversy to spark a conversation, and few controversies for parents as emotional as the issue of immunizations. Thank goodness for instant replay. What I mean is that there are few things that we do that are closely monitored and studied as the health risks and benefits of immunizations. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA), the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) all are large-scale projects to monitor and track the safety of immunizations. They are our instant replay, so to speak. Like that same instant replay, they are objective reviews of recent events, in this case vaccine safety. Continuing the analogy, these projects remove emotionally laden misperceptions and allow us to look at the truth of vaccine side effects.In fact, immunizations may be the single most important medical achievement. There is little doubt of the millions of people that have benefited from them and countless lives saved. At the same time, nothing is perfect. Everything we do has risks. Receiving a vaccine is no different. The important consideration is how the pendulum swings. Which is more dangerous, the disease or preventing it? The facts speak for themselves.Before we had the polio vaccine, there were 38,000 cases of polio each year in the U.S., resulting in 21,000 cases of paralysis. Now polio has been virtually eliminated as a disease here by a vaccine with no serious adverse events. Pertussis or whooping cough was a devastating illness prior to widespread vaccination, causing illness in over 200,000 people yearly with over 8,000 deaths. Serious cases of pertussis have a 1 in 500 risk of seizure. The pertussis vaccine commonly administered as Tdap has decreased the incidence of pertussis by over 90 percent. While this vaccine has been implicated in serious neurological reactions, the risk of seizure or very high fever is less than 1 in 14,000 doses. Like every other vaccine, the benefits far outweigh the risks.Imagine if we no longer had HIV or AIDS because of a vaccine! It is important to recall how scary the diseases we have now conquered once were. Let us not become complacent and fall into the trap that those illnesses are no longer something to worry about. Instead, let’s keep winning our war and get our vaccines.Some interesting vaccine links:- http://www.cdc.gov/nip/vacsafe/concerns/side-effects.htm talks about vaccine safety and side effects- http://www.metrokc.gov/health/immunization/compare.htm discusses risks and benefits.- The Centers for Disease Control National Immunization Program site is http://www.cdc.gov/nip/default.htm.I would like to wrap up today with a very warm welcome to one of our valley’s newest citizens, Daniel Patrick Farrell. Daniel was born at Valley View Hospital on Feb. 23. Please join me in welcoming him and congratulating his proud parents, my partner Angela Ammon, M.D., and her husband, Mike Farrell.Remember your health is your responsibility. Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to editor@vaildaily.com or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado


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