Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hannah Montana

A few months ago, it feels like years ago, I had the privilege of attending the Annual Leadership Forum of the AAP. For those of you unfamiliar with this, this is the yearly planning session where leaders from chapters, sections, and councils get together and come up with goals for the AAP Board of Directors to consider. (That is a very basic summary of what the ALF is; for more info, contact your chapter!) It was a fascinating and tiring few days. There were many resolutions, arguments, and, of course, lots of voting. Topics ranged from RSV prophylaxis to ATV regulations; some seemed nit-picky, others seemed very relevant.

One of the most important discussions, from my perspective, revolved around how the AAP is going to address the apparent increasing resistance to vaccines. Do we need a celebrity, like Hannah Montana (this was suggested by one of the participants), to help us with our cause? Or do we need to show parents scary videos of what the diseases are that we are protecting their kids against? More pamphlets? Less Oprah? How do we, as pediatricians on the front lines, tackle this issue?

When I was in residency, I took care of a teenager who died of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis from measles that he contracted when he was nine months old, most likely from an un-immunized person. This was one of the most heartbreaking deaths I dealt with during my training for many reasons, but mostly because it was potentially preventable. I also participated in the care of a little boy with disseminated HIB. In my practice, I use these examples when I talk to parents. I spend a lot of time discussing the fact that un-immunized children are a danger to others, not just themselves. Unfortunately, as we all know, some parents will simply not be swayed; I have them sign consent that they refuse vaccinations after receiving education and VIS sheets on each vaccine they refuse and re-visit the issue at the next visit.

What is the best approach for us as individuals and as an organization? I don't know. But I do know that I keep plugging away at the resistance I encounter, and I keep hoping that I can maybe get through to one family!

And, just as an aside, I found a funny story in The Onion about Hannah Montana, which I couldn't resist attaching just to lighten things up a bit!

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