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January 26th, 2009
01:29 PM ET

Parental concerns persist with childhood vaccines

By Andrea M. Kane
CNNhealth.com Producer

A small drama is unfolding in Minnesota. Five cases of Haemophilus influenzae type B (known as Hib) disease were documented in 2008 – the most since 1992. But this is more than just five individual tragedies. It’s tragedy times two – because a vaccine exists to prevent Hib disease, and it has been routinely given to children in this country as part of the standard vaccine schedule since 1991.

Hib is a serious bacterial infection that usually occurs in infants and children under 5. It can lead to meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord coverings); pneumonia; infection of the blood, joint, bones and covering of the heart; and severe swelling of the throat. Sometimes, it results in death. Before the vaccine, there were about 20,000 cases of Hib disease each year and Hib was responsible for up to 60 percent of all cases of meningitis (resulting in death 2 to 5 percent of the time, and producing lasting brain damage and deafness 15 to 30 percent of the time).

Part of the problem is that there has been a national shortage of the Hib vaccine since November 2007, and Minnesota has been particularly hard hit. The other part of the problem is that some of the parents did not immunize their children (admittedly, I have no knowledge of their motivation). According to Minnesota officials, three of the five cases - including the one death - occurred in unimmunized children (in the other cases, one child was too young to complete the four-dose series and the other child had an underlying condition).

I am a parent. I have two young girls, now 7 and 9. And, like every parent, I like to believe that I am doing the best I can to protect them. And for me, part of that is to make sure they are vaccinated.

But I’d be lying if I said that, when it came time to immunize them during their toddler years, I didn’t worry that they might  develop autism.

Stories suggesting a link between vaccines and autism are very pervasive  and proponents of the theory are vocal. But even though there is no scientifically sound research to support it, the speculation persists. Despite the emotion inherent in this debate, I am a medical writer who has read many studies finding no connection between autism and vaccines- including a recent one from California showing that the incidence of autism had actually gone up despite the removal of the mercury-based preservative thimerosal from most vaccines and an earlier study from Denmark.

Still, in the back of my mind, a little voice whispered, “What if one of my girls is genetically predisposed, and this is the environmental trigger…” Or “What if one of my girls receives one too many vaccines today, and it pushes her immune system over the edge.”

But all I had to do was take a look at my own mother, who has lived with the consequences of polio, a disease she contracted when she was 2 – way before the polio vaccine ever existed - and my resolve was hardened. Growing up, I heard stories (never from her) about how she spent months at a time in a body cast, and how my grandparents were at first heartbroken and then sought to shelter her from life’s daily insults. I know intimately the criss-cross of scars on her legs, the clippity-clop sound of her particular gait, and the swift hand-on-knee movement she makes to manually move her leg in and out of a car. And I can see where her quiet-but-unyielding determination, and her dignity in the face of adversity came from. And her ordeal is not over: she now gets to worry about post-polio syndrome.

I love my mother and I wouldn’t change anything about her but I would do anything - especially vaccinate my kids - to avoid my children having to go through anything like what she experienced and continues to go through. Vaccines were developed to spare our children pain, damage, disfigurement and death. It seems ridiculous not to avail myself of the tools I have been offered to protect them from diseases we know can and will hurt them.

Did you, will you vaccinate your children? Tell us why or why not.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


Filed under: Autism • Children's Health • Parenting • Vaccinations

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. STEPHANIE FLUHARTY

    I WILL SELECTIVELY VACCINATE. MY CHILD WILL ONLY RECEIVE THE VACCINES REQUIRE TO GO TO SCHOOL. I HAVE READ OF TO MANY INSTANCES WHERE CHILDREN CHANGED AFTER THE VACCINES AND YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM CAN BETTER FIGHT THEM OFF WITH OUT THE TOXINS FROM VACCINES.

    January 26, 2009 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Penny

    I did vaccinate my kids, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

    It is natural to see one thing happen, then another, and infer that they might be connected. Even easier to connect them retrospectively when there are celebrities insisting their children were hurt by vaccines, invariably conveyed with every ounce of dramatic certitude they can muster.

    But the science has spoken, and there simply is no indication that there is anything to worry about with vaccines. I don't know how anti-vaccine activists can live with the knowledge that their counterfactual claims have now, irrefutably, caused the death of a child.

    January 26, 2009 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Doctor Mike

    As a physician I didn't have the slightest reservation about vaccinating any of my children. I know the history of these preventable diseases and how devastating they can be. I also know the pharmacology and the science behind the vaccines. Every major study including a new one today from Italy show no link what so ever between vaccines and autism.

    The fears about "toxins" are unfounded. Most of these substances already exist in our bodies and some like formaldehyde are produced in our bodies on a daily basis in quantities far exceeding the minuscule amounts in vaccines.

    Delayed or selective vaccination also makes little sense. There is no evidence that the current vaccine schedule has any harmful effects. There is also no evidence that spreading out the vaccines is any safer and by delaying the vaccines children are being exposed to greater risk of preventable illness.

    Parents need to be careful about listening to stories from other parents that temporally link their child's illness to a vaccination. Autism seems to develop around 1-2 years in kids. Most children who get autism are not diagnosed "the week after they were vaccinated". Some kids will be diagnosed shortly after having received the vaccine and of course those are the ones everyone hears about. Its human nature but its a false link.

    The real danger to our kids is not vaccines, its bad decisions made by parents who are delaying or avoiding vaccines based on unfounded fears.

    January 26, 2009 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jay M. Lieberman

    I am a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases and the proud father of 6 month old twin girls. I understand the diseases that vaccines prevent and therefore it should be no surprise that my daughters are up-to-date with their immunizations. Vaccines do not cause autism, and there is no medical controversy about this. I urge parents to protect their children against serious and potentially life-theatening diseases by getting them vaccinated and vaccinated on time. What an incredible shame that young infants are still getting Hib meningitis today.

    January 26, 2009 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Amy Pisani

    Stephanie, please do not equate reading stories about children who have changed after receiving vaccines with scientifically sound research disproving the link between vaccines and autism or other disorders. There have been 18 massive studies conducted worldwide to determine if there is a link and all have unequivocally declared that there is no link. We as parents have enormous responsibility to keep our children safe from harm. I have in the course of my work met many families who have lost their children to vaccine preventable diseases and my heart breaks for them, their siblings and grandparents.

    Misinformation about vaccines is prevalent, especially on the internet and tv talk shows. It is critical that parents have access to valid studies so that they can make informed decisions. I urge you to visit our new website which we created for parents who are asking the critical questions we all want to know – what are the benefits of vaccines and what are the real risks? Our site is called http://www.vaccinateyourbaby.org

    Our non-profit was founded by Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter to ensure that every child is vaccinated by age two. Most Sincerely, Amy Pisani, Every Child by Two Executive Director and mother of two boys (one who was hospitalized with serious complications from the flu as an infant).

    January 26, 2009 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Amy Daniels

    I was concerned about vaccines with my son, since his Aunt has a 5-year old recently diagnosed with Ausburger's – and they suspect a MMR vaccine was the trigger. However, the risks of not vaccinating outweighed the unknown risks of vaccinating. From what I can tell from my reading, the link between autism and vaccines may or may not have been ethylmercury from a preservative Thimerisol. That preservative was taken out of most vaccines and the trend of increasing cases persisted. It is scary – but I think that the environment has more to do with autism than vaccines. I could be wrong.

    January 26, 2009 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mike

    Having your children vaccinated is the best thing you can do for them. As in the blog, polio, along with numerous other diseases, have nearly disappeared from diagnosis with advancements in both the understanding of the immune system and vaccination techniques. Choosing not to have your child vaccinated is like not buckling their seat belt when you take a long trip; they will most likely be safe, but it only takes one accident to determine how the rest of their life plays out. Like anything, there is a risk involved with vaccinations, but this risk is minimal compared to the risk that they will be exposed to a possibly life-threatening infection in their lifetime. And to Stephanie, vaccinations prime your body to fight off future infections, not hinder their ability by incorporating "toxins."

    January 26, 2009 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Skeptic

    I think it is a trajedy that these children died. I feel nothing but compassion and sympathy for their parents. I also have not fully vaccinated my 1 yr old daughter. I am fully in favor of the idea of vaccination, however I don't believe the current vaccine formulations to be safe. Phenol, formaldehyde, aluminum and, yes in some multidose flu vials, thimerosol: these are what we inject into our 2, 4, 6 month year old children. Why don't the pharmaceutical co's make vaccines with more benign ingredients. Another consideration, the loss of these children is tragic, but go to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System webpage and view the THOUSANDS of injuries allegedly related to appropriate vaccine use. Is it any wonder parents are scared?!

    January 26, 2009 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Athena

    I think the reason why parents fear their children getting autism is similar to what you have described about your mother suffering the lifelong effects of polio. I am not saying that vaccines cause autism, but that if people fear that there might be a connection, then their argument for not vaccinating is as reasonable as the argument given here for vaccinating.

    Now cutting through the noise of the media and politics is difficult. It is too easy to dismiss the idea of a connection between a vaccine and autism as the fears of people who don't know science, research, and what they are talking about, or who don't stand to reason and logic. The reason why this battle is going on unable to be quieted is because this assumption is wrong. It's easy to look at the other side and say that they just aren't listening to science instead of looking at why one's own arguments haven't been strong enough and admitting that there might be rational people out there.

    If I were going to try to disprove the idea of a connection between autism and vaccines, I would think that much more would have to be done to refute all the studies by such as Wakefield than what I have seen so far. I've heard all sorts of arguments such as the lab must have been contaminated or that the DNA with the measles vaccine virus sequence was probably human DNA. Well, okay, why should anyone believe the lab was contaminated if there's no published document proving that? And if it is human DNA, isn't that... um... highly unusual? Why does the thinking stop there? Do those arguments even have any evidence?

    When there is a large scale study showing the rates of autism diagnosed over childhood in children who have been vaccinated with different vaccines vs. no vaccines at all, then there will be a suitable argument. Not case-control studies, not studies on fewer than 1000 children, not studies using person-year risk valuations, not studies that only compare MMR vs. no MMR. Seriously, this shouldn't be so hard and shouldn't be taking so long. This is data that we should already have as we have plenty of large scale national studies that have regularly tracked child health and vaccination rates.

    January 26, 2009 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Danielle Romaguera

    Stephanie what you need to be aware of and what you do not hear or have the opportunity to read often is what can happen if your child is not vaccinated. My husband and I had a beautiful baby girl exactly six years ago this month. On February 13, 2003 our daughter, Gabrielle, was airlifted to a hospital with severe coughing fits where she would lose oxygen, turn blue in the face and pass out. No one was sure what she had, but after many tests, a surgery, and many machines it was determined that she had pertussis, whooping cough. After a month in the hospital and 13 days on life support my daughter lost her fight. In the course of the disease attacking her body, she had seizures, her organs shut down, she gained fluid in her tissues and became 8 times her normal size. Everyone said and still says the same thing, "whooping cough I thought that doesn't exist anymore". Well it does because parents are afraid to vaccinate their child. Unfortunately a child can not receive their pertussis vaccination until they are 2 months old. My daughter died 7 days shy of that date. Yes, we were told that if she would have survived she would have built up antibodies to the disease. But I would have to say this to you, after seeing my child choke, seize, leak fluid, body shutting down, and after having to sign the papers to both put my daughter on life support and take her off life support, I would say taking a chance like not vaccinating is too risky. I hope this helps you and provides some insight to the risks that are out there if you do no vaccinate. Now as an adult you can even get a booster for pertussis that helps keep adults from spreading this horrible disease to innocent babies. If these diseases did not exist anymore, and if it was true that your body could better fight these disease without vaccinations then two weeks ago on January 13, 2009 I would have been celebrating my daughter's 6th birthday with cake and ice cream at home instead of at the cemetery with a bouquet of flowers.

    January 26, 2009 at 23:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. erica c

    Being a working mother of 2, I can tell you that most daycares and schools will require you to stay on top of your vaccinations. That doesn't give you much choice to be selective, does it? Nevertheless, I think I would elect for the vaccinations. When I was a single mother with my oldest daughter we both experienced the Rota Virus when she was 6 months old. They stopped giving the vaccine b/c it was killing infants. (great reason to stop it, btw). We were on our death beds for 10 days strait. I don't have anyone close to me really, not even family. And her father wasn't one to help either. With my 104 fever, vomitting and diarrhea, I was scarcely equipped to take care of her alike symptoms.

    January 27, 2009 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Katie

    I will vaccinate my kids. They are safer that way. I can't even imagine how hard life is for mothers of autistic children but I would rather my child be autistic than dead of a preventable childhood disease. I was vaccinated against everything standard for the late 1970's/early 1980's and I'm fine as are millions of other Americans. I'll certainly change my mind if the CDC changes their position on the safety of vaccinations but for now I couldn't bear to lose my child to a disease that is generally considered eradicated.

    January 27, 2009 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Doug Attig

    What toxins are you talking about exactly? Do you know? Your immune system CAN fight off these diseases if you give it some antibodies (from vaccines) to kill the disease. If you don't, your child is susceptible to diseases that can and do kill. Your immune system is actually stronger with vaccine-induced antibodies than without them.

    Quit paying attention to junk science.

    Not vaccinating a child is plain and simple child neglect and should be prosecuted as such.

    January 27, 2009 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. John Crotty

    Hello Stephanie; I'm old enough to remember class visits to a girl in our 2nd grade class who was in an iron lung. I can also remember the panic in our mother's faces when summer came and the papers warned of the first polio outbreaks. I remember because they didn't want us to go outside. When some kids got "three-day measles" we went to school anyway because we didn't feel sick, not knowing that if we came into contact with a pregnant woman the damage that might do to her fetus. I got measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and had diphtheria. Today when you vaccinate your child, you help her and all the kids with whom she comes into contact. I understand your concern, but I trust the good doctors and scientists rather than sound bites on TV.

    January 27, 2009 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Frankie Milley

    I am so sorry this happened to these little ones. We must be stronger on education parents on this issue. Little children have no voice but I believe if they did they would choose vaccines over deadly diseases.
    We have to be that voice. The voice of truths and facts. Vaccines save lives.

    I am the mother of an only child, Ryan, who died from of meningococcal meningitis and the founder and executive director of a national organization, Meningitis Angels, http://www.meningitis-angels.org.

    Too many infants, teens, kids and young adults are left debilitated or die from this vaccine preventable disease.

    What is meningitis?
    Meningitis is a dangerous and sometimes fatal inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord that can leave survivors with serious life-long physical problems such as, organ failure, blindness, deafness, loss of limbs, severe seizures, brain damage and other disabilities.
    You should also understand meningococcemia and sepsis.

    Signs and Symptoms
    Do you know the early signs of meningitis and blood poisoning which could improve detection of the disease and save lives?
    Unrelenting fever, leg pain, cold hands and feet and abnormal skin color can develop within (12 hours) after infection long before the more classic signs of the illness such as a rash, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light and impaired consciousness, debilitation or death. Anyone can get meningitis especially infants, children and teens.

    What parents and students should know:
    According to ACIP/CDC children ages (11) years through college freshmen should be vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis. The current vaccines are approved for ages (2) years and older. However be informed, there are (5) sero-groups of the disease, all sero-groups are not covered. However the most common in the United States among adolescents and college students is sero-group C and Y, which are.

    Infants and toddlers should be vaccinated against pneumococcal and HIB meningitis.
    Those children in daycare and those of American Indian, Eskimo and African American heritage are at a higher risk for some forms of meningitis.

    There are no vaccines to prevent viral meningitis.
    .
    Frankie Milley, Meningitis Angels, Founder/National Director
    Meningitis Angels (Base) Texas

    January 27, 2009 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Ari Brown MD

    I would like to thank Ms Kane for sharing her personal experiences with a vaccine-preventable disease in a very public forum. Vaccines have become a victim of their own success. Few parents today have any personal experiences with the diseases that vaccines prevent. And, understandably, it makes them more concerned about the perceived risks of vaccines and less concerned about the actual diseases–because they do not seem real or a threat to their child.

    As Ms Kane points out, these diseases are real–and I am sure the families in Minnesota who have most recently experienced tragedy with invasive HIB disease will attest to that. My heart goes out to those families.

    My children were fully vaccinated, and continue to get their flu vaccine every year. No questions. No concerns. Period. And, I treat my children with the same care that I do my own patients–because my patients are my kids too. I wouldn't sleep at night if my kids weren't protected against these deadly diseases.

    January 27, 2009 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Monica

    Celebrities, armed with their high school diplomas, love to tell us what to do. But just because they get more publicity than doctors and scientists does not mean I will trust them. I am going to trust the experts. I am going to trust the people who went to medical school and studied science and health. I will let celebrities entertain me because that is their job, but just because they have theories on medical issues, such as vaccinations, I'm not going to follow their example and risk the health of my children. Of course I will get them vaccinated.

    January 27, 2009 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Doctor Mike

    Athena- There are plenty of very good studies and a mountain of evidence that vaccines are safe. The kind of double blind studies you are asking for ( One group gets vaccines and the other group gets none) will never be done because it is quite simply unethical. You can't ethically withhold vaccinations from one the control group because you would put them at grave risk.

    It disingenuous and self serving for the "antivaccine" groups to suggest that this type of study is the only way to prove that vaccines are safe. They know there is no ethical way to do such a study and therefor they can continue proclaiming ( falsely) that no one has proven vaccines are safe.

    Nothing in this world is 100% safe. Every choice you make involves risk. Get out of bed in the morning and you risk slipping and getting injured. Stay in bed and you risk bed sores. Get in your car and go to work and you risk getting in an accident. Don't get in the car and you risk losing your job and your home. From the moment you exited the womb ( and even before) you entered a world full of risk. Risk is NOT avoidable. The key is to be smart about the risks you take. Those who skip vaccines are not being smart about the risks they take.

    January 27, 2009 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Athena

    Doctor Mike – Actually I did not mention anything about double blind studies, and that is not what the "anti-vaccine" group is asking for. In this scenario, we can't have a perfectly designed study, as you say, that would be unethical. But there are enough people who are unvaccinated by choice to do a study. This isn't perfect, but then none of the study designs are. I think it is disingenuous to say that this kind of study can't be done. It is very simple and they are done all the time for other conditions. Having worked in survey research in a number of fields and clinical trials statistical analysis, I can't understand where your comment is coming from. This is part of the appalling problem, that people who don't even appear to know what double blind studies are are making arguments.

    January 28, 2009 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. kelli

    My daughter will be 3 in March and I stay cuurent on her vaccinations. I do worry every time she gets them. she has had reaction to the vaccines when she was small the MMR she had a rash from head to toe when I took her to the doctor she said some children get the rash that looks the measles but in a few days it was gone she never had in problems also after recieving them she also had fever and hard nots on her legs. But with alittle pain reliever and ice she never complained. All that being said i would vaccinate her every time it is needed. i would rather be safe than sorry

    January 28, 2009 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Doctor Mike

    Athena- The study you are now suggesting could be done and has, but since the two groups ( vaccinated and un-vaccinated) are self selected and not randomly selected as in a double blinded study, there would be serious flaws. Children who are not vaccinated are different from other children in a number of important ways. There is a much higher rate of home schooling among un-vaccinated children. This reduces their exposure to other kids and possibly to infectious organisms as well as other environmental exposures. Parents who home school their kids will most likely have opinions and practices about diet that differ from other families as well. There are dozens of things that may set these kids apart from other children because they weren't randomly assigned to the group they are in and these things may significantly skew the results.

    You are wrong that no studies like this have been done. Here is a link to just one of them for those who are interested.

    No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118735419/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    I suspect that even if a study was designed to the exact specifications of the anti-vaccine group they wouldn't be happy with it if the conclusions didn't support their point of view. Its been my experience that the anti vaccine groups are not interested in finding out the truth. Their fears about vaccines have become a religion and when you challenge their beliefs you're challenging their faith.

    January 28, 2009 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Penny

    Athena, you're ignoring the issue of confounding. People who refuse vaccines are likely to be different in other systematic ways that would make it impossible to determine whether any differences between them and the vaccinated group were due to the difference in vaccination status or the other differences. And I think we all know that no study will satisfy the people who have made up their mind that vaccines are of the devil.

    January 29, 2009 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. K Gush

    Athena, You mentioned research by Wakefield regarding detection of MMR vaccine DNA. You should know that no other labs in the world were able to replicate his data (a key concept in biomedical research) AND he himself retracted his own publication from Lancet after some of his post-docs admitted falsifying their results. Check out rates of autism in regions of the world where vaccines are not routinely given. Also check out mortality rates from measles virus in these places also.

    January 29, 2009 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Elle

    I have 4 children, one of whom has severe autism. I had all of them vaccinated (including MMR) according to the recommended schedule of vaccinations, and I'd do it again.

    I would urge all other parents to do the same. Yes, autism is an awful condition for your child to have, but it is NOT caused by vaccinations. In fact, complications of diseases like measles have been conclusively proven to include brain damage and death. It's not worth the risk to your child (and other people's children, like Danielle's daughter – Danielle, I'm sorry for your loss).

    Your child is far more likely to get one of these preventable diseases than they are to be diagnosed with autism. Is it worth taking the chance that they'll die, or have brain damage, or be left deaf, or any other of the many complications associated with measles, mumps and rubella? (At the special-needs school my son attends, there's a little boy who got measles and suffered extensive brain damage as a result of complications.)

    I would strongly recommend all parents to vaccinate their children. It's not worth the risk of doing anything else.

    January 31, 2009 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. sean brizendine

    wait until one of those anti-vaccination zealots has a child that comes down with polio, they will wish different believe me

    "sean in santa rosa"

    February 3, 2009 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Bryant I. (Ivy) Stiles

    Ms. Kane, you raised a very interesting delimna concerning vaccinations. I believe one of the root issues with vaccine for everything vs. the anti-vaccine/conspirator theory folks dates back to the great fears surrounding polio in the mid-20th century. As the American Experience (PBS) documentary 'The Polio Crusade' presented, and Dr. Davind Oshinsky presented in much greater detail in his book 'Polio: an American Story', the race for a vaccine threw most accepted scientific reason to the wind in order to prevent any more children from contracting this debilitating disease (as you experienced through your mother's struggles). The Salk vaccine proved to be successful in it's initial run, but one company of seven which contracted to produce the vaccine for the year following the initial study did so in an uncontrolled and unethical manner, resulting in the worst result possible – children were actually infected with the disease as a direct result of the vaccination. So, the anti-vaccine community has at least one viable example of a vaccine which did the unthinkable, and if it can happen once ..... And, on the other hand, although I share the view of the other respondents about childhood vaccinations, it is not accurate to believe that no adverse effects could result from any given vaccine, because there is at least one viable example where it did.
    On the topic of post polio syndrome, I would like to share with you the letter I wrote the producers of 'The Polio Crusade', because I, like your mom, had polio when I was 2, but once I'd learned to adapt to my new limitations, I experienced no noticeable adverse effects until 2008. Also, if you refer your mom to: http://www.post-polio.org/, your mom and you will see that Post Polio Health International is hosting its 10th International Conference at Warm Springs, GA, entitled "Living with Polio in the 21st Century." I would encourage your mother, and you, to come to this conference to learn more about her condition and possible ways to help her.
    "Thank you for reminding Americans about this disease. I agree with your premise that the promotion of polio as America's disease enemy #1 was accurate, and also that it was literally a crusade to conquer the disease. With the introduction of both Salk and Sabin's vaccines, polio was 'conquered'. However, I do not agree with the conclusion. Polio was not 'eradicated' in that those who still have the disease are still alive and suffering through the consequences. I appreciated your use of Dr. Becker to show that polio survivors are still here, but you neglected to mention that now, decades later, survivors are struggling with Post Polio Syndrome. I think a 30 second blurb about the fact that we still struggle with the consequences of a disease which will no longer infect another American would have at least let the viewers know that the disease still impacts lives.
    I had polio in November, 1961 – was misdiagnosed because I got the disease out of season, and recovered to a remarkable degree. I played soccer, basketball and ran track in high school was a Marine musician for 4 years before going to college. I started running marathons when I turned 42, participating in the Marine Corps Marathon in DC three times – 2002, '04 & '06 – in fact I tore a quad in '06 and had to stop at mile 19. In 2008 I began to struggle walking – was diagnosed with PPS in June, and now must use fore arm crutches and AFO braces to walk outside the house, and a scooter for any distance or to shop. And I'm still declining –
    Because of my experiences in the Marines I pay careful attention to the thing that most Americans loose interest in all too quickly – the wounded. Once an enemy is conquered Americans want to move on and don't want to be reminded of the cost of the 'war'. This has been true since the Korean War, and even though there was an outcry about the conditions at Walter Reed, it is now, once again, a barely remembered story. As the title of your show indicates, Americans viewed the polio vaccines as the end of the story, time to move on. But, just as the wounded of our wars struggle to rebuild their lives, those of us who survived polio and now have to learn to live with it again are forgotten. Please don't leave out the continuation of the story. Please find a way to remind people about the survivors and their struggle to continue as their bodies decline – sometimes, as in my case, at an alarmingly rapid pace.
    Again, I want to thank you for presenting this documentary. It was a treat to watch and easy to learn from – I hope many educators will use it in conjunction with various classes about modern American history (I was an educator until this academic year – Latin teacher as a matter of fact.)
    with Thanks
    Mr. B. Ivy Stiles"

    February 4, 2009 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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