Lecture to dispel vaccination myths
A vaccine expert is to discuss the myths and realities of vaccination at a public forum next week.
Kristen Feemster, the director of research for the Vaccine Education Centre at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said she hoped her talk would help people make better decisions about vaccination.
She added: “There is a lot of misinformation out there and it is really important that parents get accurate information.”
Dr Feemster, who is also medical director of the Philadelphia Department of Health with responsibility for immunisation programmes and acute communicable disease, said to tackle reluctance to vaccinate, it was important to know what the concerns were and to be able to give accurate information to help build trust and confidence.
She added: “I hope to be able to do that during our visit.”
Dr Feemster was invited to Bermuda by the Department of Health.
She said parents were often concerned about the safety of vaccines, lacked trust or thought vaccines were not needed because the diseases they protected against were not a threat.
Dr Feemster advised that parents with concerns or questions should always speak to their doctors.
She explained that with a lot of vaccine-preventable diseases almost unknown in many countries, people did not see the need for immunisation.
She said: “We don’t see the benefits as much because we don’t see the diseases as before.”
But she warned that a failure to immunise children, diseases that had been held in check could make a comeback.
She pointed out that measles had been eliminated in the United States, but had returned among unvaccinated people.
Dr Feemster said: “It’s important to remember that vaccines are really important as a prevention tool.
“They protect you, they protect your child from getting very sick, and they protect the community.”
She added there were short-term effects such as redness, soreness and fever when children were vaccinated, but that there was no evidence to link conditions such as autism to vaccination.
Dr Feemster said vaccines had a proven safety record and that they were used to protect children.
She added that some children could die of complications from diseases such as measles, although most recovered.
Dr Feemster said: “We are lucky that we don’t see these deaths because we have had successful vaccination. To maintain that, we have to ensure that people are vaccinated.”
Dr Feemster said people who may have missed vaccines could still get them on a “catch-up schedule.”
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, warned last month that the country ran the risk of the reintroduction of measles after almost 30 years.
Ms Wilson said the number of young children receiving the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was below the 95 per cent global target — which left the island vulnerable to outbreaks of disease.
Statistics showed only 87 per cent of children at had received the first dose of the MMR vaccine at 15 months old.
Ms Wilson said: “I implore all young parents in particular to follow the footsteps of your parents and grandparents, who welcomed preventive measures and made Bermuda free from diseases.”
• The forum will be held at the St Paul AME Centennial Hall in Hamilton tomorrow at 5.30pm