Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2012 will be a happy new year for my wife and me because Holly is pregnant with our first child. In August of this year, Holly’s parents will be blessed with their first grandchild and my parents with their sixth grandchild. We’re both excited to bring our baby into the world but, like other expectant parents, we also have concerns and fears. For me, some of the responsibilities that come with raising a child are frightening. I worry about my ability to be a good parent and make the right decisions. I am blessed to be married to an amazing woman whose values I share and whose judgment I trust.

For many parents, making decisions about immunizations can be frightening. Even parents who believe that vaccines protect their children from serious diseases also worry about the safety of vaccines. We hear conflicting stories in the news about side effects of vaccines. We hear from parents whose children had serious health problems after receiving a vaccine. We hear about new vaccines and wonder if they are really necessary and if our children are receiving too many immunizations. It can be hard to know what to believe and whom to trust.

Holly and I have decided to immunize our child following the schedule recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This is not a decision we’ve made lightly. After considering the benefits and risks of immunization, this is a decision that we have made confidently and without fear or hesitation.

I’ve been a registered nurse for 20 years, but I became interested in vaccines in 2000 while studying tropical medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans. After receiving a Diploma in Clinical Tropical Medicine and Traveler’s Health, I spent a year directing an immunization and public health education outreach program at a health center in rural Ethiopia. As you might imagine, it was hard work, but I loved it! Since then I completed my master’s degree at Tulane and am now working public health in the U.S.

As Holly and I prepare for parenthood, I want to hear from other parents and parents-to-be. I want to hear your concerns and questions about vaccines and your experiences with immunizing your child. If you have experiences with vaccine-preventable diseases, please share them. After our baby is born, we’ll talk about the immunizations that she or he will receive.

Seven months may seem like a long time to talk about immunizations for a child who hasn’t been born yet, but there’s a lot of ground to cover in that time. The risks of adverse events following immunization, the reasons why vaccines are recommended, how effective vaccines are at preventing disease, vaccine ingredients, vaccine safety testing, and, of course, vaccine-preventable diseases are all on the table and open for discussion.

First, let’s talk about vaccines that are recommended for mothers-to-be.


Benin, A. L., Wisler-Scher, D. J., Colson, E., Shapiro, E. D., & Holmboe, E. S. (2005). Qualitative analysis of mothers’ decision-making about vaccines for infants: the importance of trust. Pediatrics, 117(5), 1532-1541.

Freed, G. L., Clark, S. J., Butchart, A. T., Singer, D. C., & Davis, M. M. (2010). Parental vaccine safety concerns in 2009. Pediatrics, 125(4), 654-659.

Gust, D. A., Darling, N., Kennedy, A., & Schwartz, B. (2008). Parents with doubts about vaccines: which vaccines and reasons why. Pediatrics, 122(4), 718-725.

Kennedy, A., Basket, M., & Sheedy, K. (2011). Vaccine attitudes, concerns, and information sources reported by parents of young children: results from the 2009 HealthStyles survey. Pediatrics, 127(Supple. 1). S92-S99.

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