Callie Byrd, MD

National Infant Immunization Week: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate? Should it Even be a Question?

 

As a pediatrician I am asked many questions on a variety of topics, but the ones that come up most frequently are regarding vaccinations: Are vaccines safe? What are the side effects of vaccines? Do vaccines really work? Do vaccines cause autism? Should I vaccinate my child? These are all important questions that every parent should ask and I have decided to address them in my first column because vaccine continues to be a hot topic and extremely important!

Everyone wants to do what is best for their child, so it is understandable that as a parent you want all the information available before making a decision. The difficulty is figuring out what information to believe since there are so many different and opposing sources, especially with social media and the internet.Here is my opinion and links to additional resources that I hope will help you if you are undecided about whether or not to vaccinate your children.

Are vaccines safe and what are the side effects?
Vaccines are continuously monitored for safety and before they are available to the public they undergo years of extensive research which has again and again concluded that there is no causal relationship between vaccines and autism. Yes, vaccines have side effects, but you must weigh the common side effects against the effects of getting the disease. Fever, redness, soreness, fussiness, fatigue, and headache are the most common side effects and are usually short lasting. Serious problems after vaccines are extremely rare. Side effects can be slightly different for each type of vaccine so I encourage you to look them up on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov, and ask your doctor if you have additional questions.

Do vaccines really work?
Yes! Let’s use polio virus as an example. In the 1940s and early 1950s more than 35,000 cases of polio were reported in the United States. In 1965, 10 years after the polio vaccine was introduced,only 61 cases of paralytic polio were reported. If you have been watching the news lately you have learned about the polio outbreak in Somalia – most Somali children have not been immunized against the virus. Or take measles or pertussis, also known as whooping cough, as examples – the United States has seen recent outbreaks of these diseases in individuals who are not vaccinated.

Should I vaccinate my child?
My answer, based on years of training and work as a pediatrician is unequivocally yes. I understand that each family has different circumstances or beliefs that affect their decision on whether or not to vaccinate, and I think it’s important to get all of the facts in order to make an informed decision. For me, the bottom line is that it has been proven scientifically that vaccines save lives by preventing diseases and complications of diseases. For more information checkout the CDC website and the American Academy of Pediatrics website: www.aap.org.

Callie Byrd, MD is a pediatrician in VMC’s Covington Clinic South. She can be reached at 253.395.1960.

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Lung Cancer in Women: The Facts Will Take Your Breath Away

Guest column, submitted by Allison Moroni, Lung Health Manager at the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific

We recognize the pink ribbon for breast cancer and the red dress for women’s heart health. Yet lung cancer takes the lives of more than 150,000 people each year- more than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined- and in 1987 surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. In the past 35 years, lung cancer rates have increased a dramatic 116 percent in women. But there’s a good chance you can’t recall a ribbon or symbol for it.

The lung cancer five-year survival rate is a dismal 16.3 percent- considerably lower than many other leading cancers including breast (90 percent), colon (65.2 percent) and prostate (99.9 percent). Tragically, more than half of those with lung cancer die within one year of diagnosis, due to the cancer frequently being found in its most lethal end stages. Currently only 15 percent of lung cancer is detected in the early, more treatable stages, mainly because the disease presents few symptoms. If symptoms are present, they can include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
  • Hoarseness
  • Constant chest pain
  • Shortness of breath, or wheezing
  • Frequent lung infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Coughing up blood

Until recently there has been no widely accepted screening tool to detect lung cancer at an early stage. There is now growing consensus that an annual low-dose CT screening should be recommended for individuals at high risk for lung cancer, and the American Lung Association has created an online tool, found at LungCancerScreeningSavesLives.org, to help people determine if they meet the guidelines. Visitors answer simple yes/no questions that lead to a recommendation for a low-dose CT scan or not based on personal history and risk factors.  A high-risk candidate is a current or former smoker age 55-79 who smoked the equivalent of 30 pack years (a pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years) and has smoked within the past 15 years. If this screening were widely implemented, 3,000 to 4,000 lives could be saved every year.

Yet we can’t forget that lung cancer can strike in those who have never smoked and lead healthy and active lifestyles. Exposure to radon, a colorless and odorless gas that occurs naturally in soil and can enter buildings through cracks and gaps, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for around 20,000 deaths each year. Secondhand smoke and occupational respiratory hazards can also cause lung cancer. We encourage all women to contact their primary care physician if they find themselves short of breath in an activity that used to be easy, or have any of the symptoms listed above

If you are a lung cancer patient or survivor, or lost a loved one to lung cancer, and want to join the American Lung Association in their fight to get lung cancer the attention and research funding necessary to save more lives, contact Allison Moroni at amoroni@lungmtpacific.org or 206-512-3294.

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