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Directly Speaking
The Measles: I've Had Them, You and Your Kids Don't Want Them!

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President

It helps that I was born in 1953!  Back in first grade, 1959, there was no MMR vaccine.  There was no influenza vaccine and even the oral polio vaccine was 4 years away.  So it was fairly common to get the measles if you were a school age child.  In fact, I had the measles and mumps at the same time and when they subsided, I came down with chicken pox!  I missed over three weeks of first grade and my teacher and parents were considering holding me back for a second year.  But fortunately, my superior intellect  and a mother who was a teacher and a regular substitute at that time, made sure I did my homework and readings and I breezed through first grade in spite of all the time away.  

I wrote the title of this column assuming that most of our members are now younger than I am and a majority of you may have never had the measles.  And for those of you who haven’t, I hope your parents were pro-active and had you vaccinated for all the childhood diseases as the vaccines were developed.  Now as parents, I hope you’re doing the same thing for your kids. With your health care education, I assume you know that vaccines are safe, don’t cause autism or any other significant conditions, and should be administered on the CDC schedule for childhood illnesses.  And, if you’re approaching my age, you’re now engaged yourself with the CDC immunization schedule for adults!  I guess what goes around comes around!

There are now over 1000 confirmed cases of measles in the U.S. since we declared in the year 2000 that it was eradicated!  The outbreak has hit 28 states so far and the cases appear to be in areas with a high incidence of unvaccinated population.  No kidding!?  In fact, the New York State legislature just passed a bill revoking the religious exemption from immunizations and Governor Cuomo just signed  it. 
I have a friend or two who are “non-vaxers” as they have been called.  And yes, I have tried many times to provide them with information refuting their steadfast beliefs.  I have even blocked one Facebook friend’s posts from appearing on my page.  They are a stubborn bunch that for the most part don’t have a health care background, although the one I blocked is a registered nurse!  It’s hard to believe that health care workers can carry such unproven and unhealthy beliefs!

As pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy students, we should make it part of our job to educate all of our patients, family members and friends on the value of immunizations and herd immunity.  We need to provide the “non-vaxers” with solid factual information about vaccines and immunizations to try to turn the tide of those who will perpetuate the falsehoods of their thinking.  We even need to consider using guilt, if necessary - like some doctors have begun to do - when talking to those who refuse, by asking them how they will feel if they, or one of their children, give grandma or grandpa influenza that leads to pneumonia and death?  Or if they give Pertussis to their new born cousin with the same outcome?  It’s a strong and dramatic approach but maybe that’s what needs to take place?  God forbid that it actually happens to someone you know!

For over a year, the Collaborative Pharmaceutical Task Force has been discussing and debating pharmacy workload issues.  As part of the workload issues, community chain pharmacists feel that monthly quotas for administering immunizations required by their managers are unreasonable and I agree.  But every one of those pharmacists should be asking each of their patients if they have had the appropriate immunizations for their age and condition until that pharmacist knows that patient has.  Employers shouldn’t force pharmacists to immunize a specific number of patients a month, but society should expect that each pharmacist should encourage every patient they care for to be up to date on their personal immunizations.

I’ve had the measles, mumps, chicken pox and more because vaccines weren’t around yet, and believe me, you and your kids don’t want them!



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