Doctor’s Tip: Immunizations: Seeing is believing
Dr. Bill Flood is a pediatrician who joined Glenwood Medical Associates in 1974, where he worked as a pediatrician for several years, after which he opened his own office in Glenwood. He was well-liked by the kids he treated and their parents, and was well-respected by his colleagues. Following his practice here, he lived and worked in Saipan for several years, and then on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Over the years he has also worked in American Samoa, Haiti and Africa. He and his wife recently retired to their home in Glenwood. At my request, Dr. Flood was kind enough to write the following guest column.
— Greg Feinsinger, M.D.
We often want to see for ourselves and not believe what someone else tells us. While this is a good sentiment, there are times it may not work.
How many doctors and patients have ever seen a case of tetanus, seen an infant’s entire body stiff as a board, unable to breathe, die from tetanus? Or someone deformed, blind or deaf from rubella?
How many have diagnosed a case of polio, or seen someone drag themselves down a dirt path on their knees because their legs were paralyzed by polio?
I have seen all of these, and I believe. I believe in the power of immunizations.
The public, you, is rightfully skeptical of all the advice you get from so many different sources. Is a glass of red wine good, or bad? Is taking zinc helpful, or harmful? What about all the tests that doctors recommend? PSA for men? Breast self-examination for women? Vitamins? No vitamins? Which vitamins? It is hard to know who to listen to, what to do.
But there is one standout recommendation that works — immunizations. Seeing is believing.
Tetanus is no longer seen in American nurseries. The cases I saw were in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. Tetanus is still there — a life-robbing disease.
Polio is all but eliminated in the West. When I was growing up, before we had a vaccine, parents lived in fear every summer when epidemics occurred. We were not allowed to go the swimming pool, or drink from water fountains, because no one understood how polio was spread. My best friend spent weeks in an iron lung. Even as surviving adults, those who had polio now suffer a painful and weakening condition called “post-polio syndrome.” But for those who received the polio vaccine, this is all history. Polio is all but gone from our part of the world.
And measles? Measles is a viral infection, and children typically receive an immunization at age 1 and a booster when they are older. I had measles and remember having to stay in a dark room, my eyes draining and painful, feverish, coughing. I recovered, but others are left with blindness, deafness, even death. Measles is not harmless, or gone.
Immunizations work in two important ways. First, when you receive an immunization your body responds just like it would if you had an infection. You produce protective antibodies. You may need a booster later to keep this protection, but as long as your level is high enough, you are safe. The second way immunizations work is by protecting those around you. If everyone in your classroom has been immunized and is protected from measles, then even if one person exposes your class to measles, it still will not spread because everyone, or almost everyone, is immune. This is “herd immunity.” But if half of the class is not immune, did not have the vaccine, then that same exposure can spread to all the unimmunized children, and from them to their unimmunized friends and family. This is how an epidemic begins.
So if you don’t immunize, you are not only putting your child at risk, but others who could be exposed to an infection carried by your child. We owe it to our children, and to each other, to stop these crippling and deadly diseases. And we can.
You don’t have to see these horrible diseases to believe. Please immunize your children.
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