HPV vaccine and 20-somethings

Younger is better, but…

The HPV vaccine protects against the most common types of viruses that not only cause cervical cancer, but mouth and throat cancers, as well.

It’s most effective when given before a child becomes sexually active.

But what about all the 20-somethings out there who didn’t have access to this vaccine? After all, it’s only been available since 2006, and before 2011 it was only offered to girls.

Is there any benefit, especially for young men, to getting vaccinated in your twenties?

I found an interesting article written by a journalist who asked the same question—because … Continue reading

Parents – Don’t use FluMist this flu season

Kids need flu shots!

Pediatricians recommend all children over the age of 6 months get a yearly flu shot.

In previous years, a nasal spray version of the flu vaccine, FluMist, has been available to parents who wanted to avoid subjecting their children to another needle jab.

But for the last 3 years FluMist has not been nearly as effective as the standard flu shot. So for the 2016-2017 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) are recommending against FluMist for flu prevention.

For the 2016-2017 flu season, the Advisory Committee on

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Get your hepatitis A vaccination!

hepatitis aHepatitis A outbreaks

This morning I read about a hepatitis A outbreak in Virginia. The source is apparently contaminated strawberries used to make smoothies. So far, 40 people have become sick.

This outbreak follows on the heels of another in Hawaii, where 168 cases of the virus have been linked to frozen scallops.

Let these outbreaks be a reminder or an incentive to anyone NOT vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus—get vaccinated!

The hepatitis A virus attacks your liver and causes varying degrees of nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice. It rarely causes long-term liver damage or … Continue reading

Vaccines and immunization schedules

immunization schedulesKids and vaccines

It’s that time of year when the days shorten, stores advertise trendy back-to-school clothes, and parents scramble to make appointments with their kids’ pediatricians for sport physicals and immunizations.

At least, I hope they do.

I am a fervent believer in vaccinations, even though I live in the state (Washington) with–sadly–the highest “opt out” rate  in the country.

In 1998 a medical journal published a paper by (now debunked and disgraced) scientist Andrew Wakefield. He implied a link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism. Since then, many parents have feared vaccinating their … Continue reading

View Prevnar 13 ads with caution

prevnar 13Prevnar 13: As seen on TV

I was watching TV the other evening and, as usual, was forced to sit through multiple back-to-back prescription drug commercials.

One that caught my attention was for Prevnar 13, which is one of the pneumonia vaccines. (13 because it protects against 13 strains of streptococcus pneumonia.)

The commercial stated Prevnar 13 was for adults aged 50 and older.

That statement’s true, but needs some clarification.

Yes, Pfizer did get FDA approval a few years ago to market Prevnar 13 to adults over the age of 50. Previously, the vaccine was only used for … Continue reading

The HPV vaccine is working

This week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a report that shows since the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine was introduced in 2006, HPV infections

have dropped by 64% among females aged 14 to 19 years and by 34% among those aged 20 to 24 years.

That’s great news. HPV is responsible for most forms of cervical cancer, as well as an increasing number of rectal and oral cancers.

Related post: HPV and cancer

But we can do better.

The American Cancer Society reports that only about 40% of girls and 21% of boys have received the recommended 3 doses … Continue reading

New adult vaccination guidelines

The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have just released an updated vaccination schedule for adults.

I’ve included the schedule and accompanying information from the CDC’s website at the end of this post.

You can also print it out to take to your primary care provider.

Related post: Adults need vaccinations, too!

It’s color coded to make it easier to follow the recommendations, and I think it’s an improvement over last year’s chart.

A yellow row/column means the vaccine is recommended for everybody in that age group; purple indicates the vaccine is for … Continue reading

HPV and cancer

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.

Following the recommended guidelines for Pap smears is a good way to find and treat cervical cancer early, when it’s basically curable.

A Pap smear is one of the few screening tests for which there is good evidence that it’s effective, plus it’s relatively cheap and painless.

The American Cancer Society, The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all recommend the following:

  • No screening before age 21.
  • Screening every 3 years between ages 21-29 with Pap smear only, no HPV testing. (The rate of
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Traveling overseas? Get vaccinated!

In the dreary days of winter many people choose to travel overseas, especially to sunnier and warmer locations, such as Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

If you’re planning such a trip, take a moment to learn more about what health risks you might face in a particular country and if any vaccinations are recommended before you go. Some vaccines take several weeks to be most effective, so plan ahead.

Related story from Live Science: Many Americans don’t get recommended vaccines before travel

The most useful vaccine for everyone, I think, for is the Hepatitis A vaccine. … Continue reading

In favor of childhood vaccines

zuckerbergIt was a nice surprise to see a celebrity use the power of social media to speak in favor of getting children vaccinated.

Well, not so much speak as show. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, recently posted this cute photo of himself and his baby daughter at the pediatrician’s office. He simply wrote “time for vaccines”, but surely he realized that he was encouraging his millions of “friends” with kids to vaccinate, as well.

As you can imagine, he received both likes and dislikes for his post.

The Washington Continue reading

2015 National Influenza Vaccination Week

Every fall I post my recommendation that everyone get a flu shot.

In support of this week being National Influenza Vaccination Week (what, you haven’t heard?), here is a pretty cool animated video from NPR: Flu Attack! How A Virus Invades Your Body

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which sponsors Vaccination Week, offers these key points on their seasonal flu webpage:

  • CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against influenza disease.
  • CDC and its partners want
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NOVA: “Vaccines – Calling the Shots”

Last week PBS aired a NOVA special on vaccinations: Vaccines—Calling the Shots

Diseases that were largely eradicated in the United States a generation ago—including whooping cough, measles, mumps—are returning, in part because nervous parents are skipping their children’s shots. Vaccines – Calling the Shots, a new NOVA special, takes viewers around the world to track epidemics, explore the science behind vaccinations, and shed light on the risks of opting out.

 

Like most NOVA specials, it focuses on the science behind vaccinations: How were they developed? How effective are they? How safe are they? And—perhaps … Continue reading

Seasonal flu shots

It’s October and time for my annual reminder for everyone age 6 months and older to get a flu shot!

Flu season typically runs from November to March, but no one can predict with accuracy exactly when the first cases will start showing up or when the season will end—sometimes as early as October to as late as May. It’s unpredictable as well how severe the upcoming flu season will be, so just assume it will be a bad and early flu season and prepare accordingly.

In other words, get your flu shot now. And remember to always wash your Continue reading

The shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine

shingles herpes zosterA painful but common condition in older adults is shingles or herpes zoster. I’ve known several elderly people afflicted with this, and I will absolutely get the vaccine as soon as I turn 60!

The vaccine, Zostavax, is FDA-approved for ages 50 and up, but the Cleveland Clinic recently advised that it’s not cost effective for anyone under 60 to get immunized.

Why? Because Zostavax is too expensive. On average, it costs about $200, and that doesn’t include the cost for the office visit or vaccine administration that some clinics charge.

The vaccine is effective for 10-12 years, so … Continue reading

A physician explains why vaccinations are necessary

Because of the recent outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles, California passed a law this summer that will severely limit a parent’s ability to opt out of vaccinating their school-aged kids.

Good.

But I understand why some parents, especially those with infants and young children, might be fearful when they hear so many (untrue) horror stories about the safety of vaccinations.

One family practice doctor wrote an open letter to parents about vaccinations—why they are necessary and why it’s safer to vaccinate than not—and published it on the health blog KevinMD.

I thought it was very … Continue reading