Vaccines Revisited

05-09-2021Nurse's LetterShannon David, RN, NCSN

This past week, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization of its COVID vaccine in those 12-15 years of age (current authorization is for those over the age of 16). It is expected that EUA will be granted this week and the Pfizer vaccine could be available to your children within two weeks. In all aspects of healthcare, prior to administering treatment we seek “informed consent”. That means that the patient is given all the necessary information, based on sound scientific data and the clinical experience of medical professionals, to make a decision that is best for them.

The decision to vaccinate your child, or not, is one that requires informed consent. It is a decision that only you, the parent, can make. Talk with your child’s primary healthcare provider; he or she can help sort out the risk versus benefits of vaccination and share with you an aspect of clinical expertise that “Dr. Google” often lacks. Though the COVID vaccine is new, other vaccines are not. Please make certain your children remain up to date on their immunizations for vaccine preventable illnesses.

Two summers ago, a man by the name of Nick Springer was one of the speakers at a nursing conference I attended. When I first spotted Nick in the lobby, I recall thinking ‘he must be a war veteran’. Nick occupied a wheelchair and the partial amputation of all four of his limbs took my mind to injuries incurred on the battlefield. Come to find out, Nick, a Paralympic Gold Medalist (Wheelchair Rugby - Beijing 2008) had survived a different kind of battle. In 1999, at the age of 14, while at summer camp, he contracted meningococcal meningitis.

Meningitis is the medical term that denotes inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal refers to the specific bacteria that causes the infection. Though the symptoms of meningococcal infection can be subtle, its progress can be so rapid (within hours) that physicians are taught to begin treatment, immediately, with very strong antibiotics, if it is even suspected. Meningococcal disease occurs most often in children under the age of 1 and then peaks again among adolescents (CDC MC Disease). Even with early treatment, the mortality rate can be as high as 15% and those that do survive often have disabilities and lifelong complications. Immunization against this terrible disease was added to the recommended vaccination schedule in May 2005 and Nick Springer’s presence at that summer nursing conference was to raise meningitis vaccine awareness. The vaccine is widely available through primary care physicians, clinics, retail pharmacies, and health departments. It is recommended to be administered at the age of 10 and the vaccine is one that Arizona requires for school attendance. If your child has turned 10, or will during the summer months, please speak with your healthcare provider about the meningitis vaccine.

Sadly, on April 14, 2021, Nick Springer died at the age of 35. His contribution to public health did not. Each time I update a student’s vaccination record with their having received the meningococcal vaccine, I think of Nick Springer. (Read a tribute to Nick Springer here: Shot of Prevention: Nick Springer).

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!