What do health care professionals have to say?
Vaccine schedules differ from country to country based on various reasons, but so do many aspects of health care. Carolyn, BSN, gave me the inside scoop on vaccine administration, hesitancy, and her experiences as a registered nurse in public health in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Public health nurses are highly knowledgeable and extensively trained when it comes to immunizations.
Most of Carolyn’s vaccine knowledge and experience comes from on-the-job training, as she didn’t study it extensively in school. Nurses outside of the public health department may not have to be as well versed in vaccination. Public health nurses are required to know the science behind vaccinating, as well have to be able to answer immunization-related questions.
The majority of vaccines in Saskatchewan are given out by public health nurses.
Nurses like Carolyn are responsible for making sure new mothers, as well as new fathers, in the maternity ward, are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
Public health nurses educate on the importance of the pertussis vaccine, for example, to protect the newborn from whooping cough.
They are also responsible for giving vaccinations to children, teens, and adults, as well as providing education about vaccines.
Public health nurses in Saskatchewan, Canada make reminder calls to parents with children who have fallen behind.
Carolyn is required to operate the clinics and keep track of children who have not made it in to get their recommended vaccines.
Unlike the US, the age-dependent recommended vaccine schedule parents are to follow is dependent upon the providence in which they live. Schedules may be different in some providences due to funding and disease rates.
Even with clinic reminders, many children are behind on their recommended vaccinations, especially in areas with transient populations.
Carolyn lives in a place they call “The Gateway to the North.” were a large part of the population moves in and out of the city from northern or surrounding communities. This can make it difficult to keep children up to date on scheduled vaccinations because records aren’t always efficiently found, or shared, between communities.
Why are children falling behind?
Carolyn explains that parents, who are not vaccinating their children, can be excuse-makers. Forgetting or not being able to find the time are common excuses.
Beyond making excuses, some parents like to pick and choose vaccines like they’re ordering off a menu, leaving their child to either fall behind or be unprotected.
And, just like in the US, Canada sees both vaccine-hesitant parents, as well as parents entirely unwilling to vaccinate.
The good news? Parents whose child hasn’t been fully vaccinated, for whatever reason, are sometimes open to discussion.
People are just looking for answers… It’s establishing the relationship with people so they’re trusting that the info you’re giving them is true.Carolyn
Carolyn understands that parents just want their children to be healthy. She wants that, as well.
All parents are sent home with educational materials, whether they choose to vaccinate or not.
If you don’t tell people everything, they get suspicious. Prior to vaccinating, we have to get informed consent. We have to tell people exactly what the diseases are, and what the side effects are. If they ask for a monograph, we give it to them. It’s surprising that people ask ‘you can give me (the monograph)?’
I think people are told to expect us withholding information. Sometimes you can scare people with all the new information, but it is better for people to be informed and ask questions.
Often minds are changed in the process, but it can take a really long time. People do want to do the best for their kids and are trying. Just that there are people out there who want to take advantage of vulnerable people, it can be frustrating–all the misinformation.Carolyn
Carolyn explains that misinformation makes the front-page news, and even when retracted, it never has the same effect.
Some parents are entirely unwilling to vaccinate.
There are many parents unwilling to vaccinate and unwilling to listen to health experts. Carolyn explains that people who come into the office and are reluctant to immunize their child will keep getting reminders at landmark checkups when their child is due for immunizations.
Carolyn says it’s interesting being in an office where she vaccinates against and treats the same vaccine-preventable diseases.
I see lots of things being on the communicable disease end. I’m often the one who has to make the phone calls to people who are sick or to family members who have loved ones who have died due to a vaccine-preventable illness.Carolyn
Carolyn, for example, may be contacting a parent of a child who had whooping cough and died, and on that same day, a parent will refuse the vaccine to prevent this terrible disease.
I want to ask people to have an open mind and to try to find the best sources they can and to think hard about what they’re doing and why. It still is a risk not to vaccinate. Your risk the full force of the disease versus the minimal side effects by not vaccinating.
Whether it is about wearing a helmet to prevent injury from biking, washing hands to prevent other illnesses…We have the medical technology (vaccines) to prevent specific diseases…We don’t see certain diseases anymore because these vaccines have been so effective. Maybe that’s why people don’t know what their risks really are.Carolyn
Carolyn’s approach has changed over the years from “this is how it is,” to realizing that parents have good intentions.
I want people to continue to be patient and spread the message of factual information. And just do their best. If people want to be left alone, then that’s what you do. You do have a choice, but choices come with different consequences.Carolyn
Social media has made it easy for people to voice their political views and issues with trust in the government. Federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) come up a lot with those questioning vaccines, so I wonder:
Have vaccination rates been falling due to lost trust in public health agencies?
To find out, I turned to Taylor Holroyd, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In Taylor’s dissertation, she is looking at trust in public health authorities, school immunization law, and how vaccine knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs can all impact vaccine decision-making and, subsequently, vaccine coverage.
She’s particularly interested, among many other aspects of vaccinations, in looking at how and whether people trust public health authorities, such as the CDC, US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state and local public health authorities.
Taylor wants to know whether people trust public health authorities differently than they trust healthcare providers or other parts of the government, and how that trust impacts whether they follow vaccine recommendations.
Widespread vaccination has been a huge public health success, but this success has been threatened to some extent by increasing vaccine hesitancy both in the US and in other countries.Taylor
Take a look around you, and you’ll find most people have some level of mistrust in something or someone. We all have the natural curiosity to seek answers, but sometimes we let fear take over and cloud our judgment.
When I talk with vaccine-hesitant parents, one thing that comes up often is mistrust in the pharmaceutical industry.
So, I sat down with a top-dog pharmacist to learn how to help remedy the concerns people have when it comes to “Big Pharma” and vaccinations.
Craig, Director of Pharmacy for a large metro hospital, has been a pharmacist for 40 years. Currently, he is the Director of Pharmacy in a large metro hospital in the northern United States. Craig has seen and heard it all, especially when it comes to trust in the pharmaceutical industry.
Trust issues when it comes to pharmaceuticals aren’t a new thing.
People have been questioning the intentions of the industry for decades. Recently, people have become more vocal in their concerns with Big Pharma, and in conversing with Craig, I’ve learned that the opioid epidemic contributes to this mistrust of healthcare.
Doctors urged to prescribe opioids for pain relief became the norm in the not-so-distant past, and due to the addictive nature of these drugs, people’s lives were altered and destroyed. It’s not surprising many weren’t happy over that, and naturally questioned the intentions of the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare providers in general.
Social media ran with the conspiracy theories that pharmaceutical companies were up to no good and looking to make a buck, and because these companies produce vaccines, they have taken the same bad rap. Consumers forwarding inaccurate information contributes to the propagation of incorrect information. Nothing spreads faster than fear-based or emotionally-charged information
Do we need to be concerned about the industry? Is “Big Pharma” out to get rich at all costs?
A pharmaceutical company is a for-profit business with an interest in generating profits for shareholders. At the same time, Pharma is highly regulated and they have little incentive to promote and sell products that will cause patient harm. Most of these companies are in business for the long term, so safety and credibility are critical for success.
They’re into risk-management. Like all companies, they want to minimize their risk while maximizing their profit.Craig
While opioids are a huge money-maker, vaccines are quite the opposite.
The revenue generated from vaccines in the big scheme of things is approximately 2% of their total revenue. New pharmaceuticals generate significantly more revenue and profit than vaccines, so there’s not a market-driven reason for them to push vaccines. In fact, the government is subsidizing quite a bit so that Pharma will produce more vaccines.Craig
Vaccines aren’t that profitable for pharmaceutical companies, but they keep producing them because they are effective and essential products. They also have a high safety record, well-tracked by the pharmaceutical industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
After a medication is developed and approved for distribution, its production and effects are continually inspected and evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adverse effects and safety. The FDA has no incentive to hide or diminish any information they receive concerning the safety or effectiveness of the products produced by Pharma.Craig
Although you may not believe so, pharmaceutical companies and the FDA are transparent.
From a business standpoint, there’s no reason not to disclose things. There’s more of an incentive for full disclosure because in covering something up, the liability could be huge and the negative press related to such activity could be devastating to the company and the FDA. The credibility for all is at stake and nobody wants to put their reputation at risk. They wouldn’t do that.
It’s not in a pharmaceutical company’s best interest to distribute a product that makes the patient (customer) sick. Vaccines have been around for decades. Adverse and unforeseen events are tracked and trended, and if they saw a problem, they would be analyzing the data to determine a cause in order to prevent patient harm.Craig
The bottom line?
“Big Pharma” isn’t the enemy. They’re publicly-traded companies with products that work—vaccines.
I have my own grandkids vaccinated because I know the benefits far outweigh the risks. Vaccines save lives and prevent preventable diseases and consequences that adversely affect people’s lives.Craig
*Disclaimer: I, The Vaccine Mom, don’t work for a pharmaceutical company, nor am I being paid to write this
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