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Family Physicians Urge Parents to Talk Over Vaccinations

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Thursday, August 31, 2017   

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Back-to-school preparations require more than just pencils and backpacks. Doctors are reminding parents and caregivers to have a conversation about vaccinations before school bells ring.

Dr. Pamela Rockwell is the medical director of Dominos Farms Family Medicine and an immunization expert who sits on two vaccine advisory committees for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said she knows these can be difficult decisions for parents, and that's why it's important to have a close relationship with a health expert who can help sort fact from fiction.

"Discussion is always in order, and your family physician can point you toward some information if you need some data,” Rockwell said. “But having that ongoing, trustworthy relationship over years is key."

Some parents don't immunize children for religious reasons; others because of concerns about potential health problems associated with some vaccines.

Michigan law now requires parents to meet personally with health officials before opting out of vaccinating children for philosophical reasons. Along with the required school shots, topics to bring up with doctors include teen vaccinations for HPV, and seasonal flu vaccines.

As kids head back to the classrooms, Rockwell said it's important to remind them how to prevent the spread of common germs through hand washing and proper hygiene. She added that when it comes to vaccines, the volume of information online and on social media can be overwhelming.

"I think that people just are frightened and that's what has happened for about a generation and a half,” she said; “and we've become complacent, because we really haven't seen these vaccine-preventable diseases."

She cited the measles as an example of a highly contagious disease that once was common and that can have serious and even fatal consequences for young children - particularly those with weakened immune systems or who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.

"And it's for those kids who have medical contraindications, that we should all as a society be obligated to protect them, because if enough people are vaccinated around those that cannot get vaccinated, then they will be protected as well,” Rockwell said.

She said adults also have reasons to ask about vaccines, from tetanus shots to the shingles and pneumonia vaccines for those in their 60s and older. The nonprofit Immunization Action Coalition offers extensive information on vaccine risks.


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