Stories about: Vaccine controversy

Children don’t have time for the pain—of shots

Feeling "a little" pinch is a small price to pay for good healthcare. But we can do more to reduce the discomfort. (UNICEF Sverige/Flickr)

I remember distinctly both of my boys’ 4-month-old well visits. Mostly because of the shots: all four of them.

Neither boy was particularly happy about being poked that much (though the shiny Band-Aids afterward did help a little).

My wife and I would have loved to help ease the pain of the shots, but we didn’t have any idea how. Frankly, I don’t know that, in the moment, it crossed our minds that there was something we could do, and it wasn’t something we thought to ask our pediatrician about. I mean, it was just a little bit of pain, right?

The problem, though, is that those little bits of pain add up. “Millions of injections are given to children around the world every year,” says Neil Schechter, MD, a pain specialist in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Anesthesia Department. Schechter recently published an article in Pediatrics where he commented that while we’ve come a long way in the last 50 years in understanding and addressing pain in children—especially after surgery or due to chronic illness—pain in the pediatric office hasn’t received the same level of attention.

“The pain from shots and other minor procedures in a pediatrician’s office doesn’t have the same poignancy as pain in an inpatient setting,” he says, “but it is still pain. And if we want to encourage patients’ and families’ cooperation and participation in routine healthcare, we want to keep pain to a minimum.”

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Leaving health to luck?

Claire McCarthy, MD

Avoiding the chickenpox vaccine has been in the news recently, with the story of a company offering lollipops licked by kids with chickenpox as a way to give your child the illness. Some parents, apparently, would rather use those lollipops, or take their child to a chickenpox party to play with infected kids, than give their child the vaccine.

It got me thinking about my mother and her quest to give me chickenpox when I was a child.  She would have drawn the line at the lollipops (which is a ludicrous idea—not only is it incredibly unlikely to work, but who knows what other germs were in that kid’s mouth), but she would have taken me to the parties in a heartbeat. She did her own version: she took me to play with neighborhood kids when they got chickenpox.

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Measles: What Parents Need to Know

The MMR vaccine is the most efficient protection against measles

For years, measles has been rare in the United States, thanks to immunization.  But recently, that has changed.  This year we’ve seen lots of outbreaks, mostly started by unimmunized people going to or coming from countries that have lots of measles—and then giving the infection to unimmunized people here.  In Massachusetts we have had 24 cases of measles this year—19 since May!

What is measles?

Measles, also called rubeola, is a very contagious respiratory illness.

What causes it?

Measles is caused by a virus.  It is spread through the air when people with the illness cough, sneeze, or simply breathe near someone else.  It lives in the mucus of infected people, so if an infected person has mucus on their hands (from touching their mouth or nose) and touches something (like a doorknob), they can leave the virus behind for others to catch.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, sore throat, rash, red eyes, cough, and body aches.  Sometimes people with measles get white spots in their mouth called Koplik spots.  The spots in the mouth and rash usually start a few days after the illness has begun, so at the beginning it can be hard to tell measles from the common cold or flu.

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With autism, vaccines aren't the problem, misinformation is

The news that Dr. Andrew Wakefield appears to have invented some of the information in his famous 1998 study linking the MMR vaccine and autism is shocking. But it’s old news that the study was not a good study. A year ago, The Lancet retracted it. And even before that, nobody had been able to replicate it, and many studies contradicted it.

Yet some people still want to believe the study. This is really frustrating to me.

I’m not frustrated because people want to believe Dr. Wakefield’s idea. We don’t know what causes autism. Hopefully we will soon, but until then any idea is open for discussion and investigation. What frustrates me is that even before these revelations, it was clear that the study was flawed. The study isn’t good science; it doesn’t show anything, let alone prove anything. Nevertheless, people have made decisions about immunizing their children based on it. That is really frustrating, especially when there is so much good science to show that vaccines don’t cause autism—and do save lives.

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