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Health Officials Urge Families to Get Vaccinated

Terry Prather, The Ledger Independent

While the national outbreak of measles has not reached Kentucky, parents are being urged by local health care workers to make sure their children are vaccinated against a variety of childhood diseases.

Mason County Health Department Director of Immunizations Tracy Kielman said 644 cases of measles were reported in the United States in 2014, with the majority in California. No case has been reported in Kentucky, but the health department has received calls from parents regarding information on the measles, mumps, rubella vaccination.

"It's kind of an on-demand request," Kielman said. "When pertussis (whooping cough) hit, we had calls from people requesting the vaccination or wanting to make sure they have already had it. Now, we're getting the same calls for measles."

Kielman said some people have come into the office to have the shot, while others wanted to make sure they have had it in the past.

"We can check to see if a person has had the vaccine," Kielman said. "Some people want to know if they have it and others tell us to just give them the shot. If they have had the vaccine in the past, it won't hurt to get it again."

Mason County Health Department Director Allison Adams said the MMR vaccination is required for school-age children entering kindergarten, with the exception of families with medical or religious exemptions.

"We don't ask for proof of religious reasons," Adams said. "They let their provider know and the certificate is signed saying the parent had a religious reason. However, that's not something we've seen in our area very often. But, what people don't realize is how the vaccination works in the system."

Adams said when a person comes in contact with an illness, if they have already been vaccinated, their body realizes it has seen the illness before and is better equipped to fight off the infection.

"It gives a better protection," she said. "There are some side effects possible with the vaccinations, of course, like low-grade fever, soreness around the arm and maybe headaches, but it's nothing more than what prescription medications could cause. Say you have a bad cough and you have medications that will make you drowsy. Would you rather be drowsy or have that horrible cough? The benefits of the vaccinations far out weigh the possible side effects."

Director of Nursing Vicki Morgan said there is a schedule of recommended vaccinations for children.

"Children are recommended to have one dose of the hepatitis B vaccination at birth, which is not required, but is recommended," Morgan said. Children are recommended to have the second dose between one and four months and a third dose between six and 19 months of age.

The rotavirus is required for children at two months and four months. At two months, four months, six months, between 15 and 18 months and between four and six years of age, children should have the diphtheria, tetanus and acelluer vaccination.

The haemophilius influenza and pnuemococcal conjugate vaccines are recommended at two months, four months, six months and between 12 to 18 months.

The inactivated  poliovirus is recommended at two months, four months, between six and 19 months and between four to six years of age.

The MMR and the Varicella vaccinations are recommended between 12 to 15 months and again between four to six years of age.

The hepatitis A vaccination is recommended between 12 months and two years of age. The human papillomavirus vaccination is recommended between nine to 26 years of age for both male and females.

Adams said while some parents have concerns with vaccinations, especially the MMR, she recommends all parents have their children vaccinated.

"Just last week, we had a family come in and refuse their vaccinations," Morgan said. "Their oldest child has autism and the mother blames the MMR vaccine for it."

Kielman said it concerns her when a parent opts out of the vaccinations due to concerns over links to autism.

"Dr. Andrew Wakefield's report finding vaccinations linked to autism has been recalled," Kielman said. "The report was completely falsified. He had only 12 patients in his study and it was proven to be falsified data. There is absolutely no data proving vaccinations are responsible for autism."

Adams said when 90 percent of people in an area are vaccinated, the health community considers that a hard immunity.

"When we have at least 90 percent vaccination, we are considered to have a decent amount of protection from these illnesses," Adams said. "In Kentucky, our students are over that 90 percent."

Two local day care providers in Maysville said the schedule of vaccinations are required for children entering.

Highland Christian School's Daycare is open to children between the ages of infant and six during day hours and up to the age of 14 in after school hours.

"Unless the parents have a medical or religious reason for not vaccinating their children, we are required to have, on file, a copy of all children's most up-to-date vaccinations," Daycare Administrator Fonda Childers said.

Director of the The Little Hands Daycare in Maysville also said there is an exemption from vaccinations for children with medical reasons, but they have yet to have a child with a religious reason.

"That's something we would have to discuss if it came up," Director Sarah Sheldon said. "We have to keep a file of records and what vaccinations the children have had, but we've never come across anyone with a religious reason for not vaccinating. If that happened, we would have to talk with our board and come to a conclusion together."

Some parents are divided when it comes to vaccinating children.

Terry Srinivasan, a nurse practitioner, said her family is in favor of delaying some vaccinations.

"We do not promote no vaccinations," she said. "We do, however, favor delaying certain vaccinations. Not all vaccinations are appropriate for infants and young children."

Srinivasan said the vaccines she takes issue with are the hepatitis and the Gardisil vaccines.

"I don't understand why a newborn infant needs a hepatitis vaccination," she said. "And the other vaccination is recommended for children going into sixth grade. Giving that vaccination to those children is like saying we expect them to have multiple partners or to be active at a very early age. I just don't see the need for certain vaccinations until children are older."

Kielman said the HPV vaccine is not required, but it is recommended to protect children.

"We're not giving them permission, we're giving them protection," she said.

When Srinivasan, who has a child with autism, was asked how she felt about the belief that some parents have about vaccinations being linked to autism, she was unsure.

"I will say this," she said. "It would be hard to find a parent with an autistic child who won't believe that there could be some link. It doesn't make sense that a perfectly healthy child would suddenly begin to regress."

Srinivasan said while working as a home care nurse, she took care of a girl who had a terrible reaction to the MMR vaccine.

"She was 16 years old and had gone into a vegetative state," Srinivasan said. "She had lost all functions of her body. It was a result of the MMR vaccine she had at 18 months of age. I watched a personal experience with a horrible side effect of an unnecessary vaccine."

Holly Gregor, formerly of Maysville, said she used to have reserves about vaccinating her children, but as she began her own research, she decided to have them all vaccinated.

"I was concerned about some of the things I heard about vaccinations," Gregor said. "But, I've had all my vaccinations and I've never experienced anything bad. They've kept me healthy, so I've made sure both my sons had their vaccinations."

Gregor said she made sure her sons had the pertussis vaccination after her youngest son contracted it.

"He had whooping cough," she said. "I decided then to get that vaccination for my children, as well."

May's Lick farmer Danny Collins agreed with Gregor, saying he has his 4-year-old daughter vaccinated anytime the pediatrician recommends it.

"I vaccinate my cattle, I will vaccinated my daughter. She's the most important thing to me and I want her safe and healthy," Collins said.

Collins said he has never understood the hesitation to vaccinate children.

"Germs are all around us," he said. "Why anyone would want their children to go through the pain of contracting a preventable illness, I'll never understand."

The Ledger Independent is online at: http://www.maysville-online.com