Tag: medical exemptions

Vaccines While Immunosuppressed

It seems to be a big surprise to many folks, but kids can get most vaccines when they are immunosuppressed. In fact, they sometimes get extra some extra vaccines, like Pneumovax, because the  “incidence or severity of some vaccine-preventable diseases is higher in persons with altered immunocompetence.”

They should also get all of their vaccines if they are around someone who is immunosuppressed.

Surprised?

Vaccines While Immunosuppressed

Which vaccines your kids can get while they are immunosuppressed is going to depend greatly on the reason why they are  immunosuppressed.

Are they getting chemotherapy?

Did they just get a stem cell transplant?

Were they born with a specific immunodeficiency, like X-linked agammaglobulinemia, selective IgA deficiency, severe combined immunodeficiency, or chronic granulomatous disease?

Whatever the reason, they likely won’t get a medical exemption to skip all of their vaccines.

“Killed vaccines will not cause infection in immunodeficient or any other children. The fear of increased community-acquired vaccine-preventable diseases should lead to adherence to and completion of recommended immunization schedules in the community to reinforce herd immunity, such that all vaccine-preventable diseases become exceedingly rare.”

Recommendations for live viral and bacterial vaccines in immunodeficient patients and their close contacts

In most cases, immunocompromised kids can get all inactivated vaccines. It is only live vaccines that could pose a problem. Even then, it depends on the specific immunodeficiency as to whether avoiding live vaccines is necessary.

For example, after chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, kids can usually get live vaccines.

Your doctors can review the latest guidelines to come up with a safe vaccination plan for your child with an immune system problem. If necessary, consultation with an infectious diseases or immunology specialist can also be helpful.

Don’t overlook other causes of possible immunosuppression when getting vaccinated, like taking daily oral steroids for more than two weeks, certain biologic immune modulators, or other medications like methotrexate, azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine.

“Limited evidence indicates that inactivated vaccines generally have the same safety profile in immunocompromised patients as in immunocompetent individuals. However, the magnitude, breadth, and persistence of the immune response to vaccination may be reduced or absent in immunocompromised persons.”

2013 IDSA Clinical Practice Guideline for Vaccination of the Immunocompromised Host

And keep in mind that just because they can and should get vaccinated, it doesn’t mean that their vaccines are going to work as well as in someone who isn’t immunocompromised.

That’s why herd immunity is so important for these kids.

Vaccines for Close Contacts of Immunocompromised People

What about people who come into contacts with kids and adults who are immunocompromised?

Can they get vaccines?

“Close contacts of patients with compromised immunity should not receive live oral poliovirus vaccine because they might shed the virus and infect a patient with compromised immunity. Close contacts can receive other standard vaccines because viral shedding is unlikely and these pose little risk of infection to a subject with compromised immunity.”

Recommendations for live viral and bacterial vaccines in immunodeficient patients and their close contacts

Yes, close contacts can get vaccinated, especially since we don’t use the oral polio vaccine in the United States anymore.

There are some exceptions for the smallpox vaccine, which few people get, and Flumist, but only in very specific situations, including a recent hematopoietic stem cell transplant.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, which includes the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System went out of their way to correct this anti-vaccine misinformation.
Johns Hopkins Medicine, which includes the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System went out of their way to correct this anti-vaccine misinformation.

Worried about shedding?

You should be worried about getting a vaccine-preventable disease and giving it to those around you with immune system problems. That’s the real risk!

This is the modern anti-vaccine movement - taking an immoral stand against vaccines and putting sick kids at risk for life-threatening disease.
This is the modern anti-vaccine movement – scaring parents and taking an immoral stand against vaccines and putting sick kids at risk for life-threatening disease.

And no, you are not being selfish to expect those around you to get vaccinated.

Vaccines are safe and necessary – for all of us.

More on Vaccines While Immunosuppressed

Vaccines After Cancer and Chemotherapy

Most people know that children being treated for cancer have a suppressed immune system and are at extra risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity.
Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity. (CC BY 2.0)

That’s one of the reasons that it is important for everyone to be vaccinated, so that herd immunity levels of protection can protect those who can’t get vaccines.

Vaccines After Cancer and Chemotherapy

But what happens after they complete their cancer treatments?

“The interval until immune reconstitution varies with the intensity and type of immunosuppressive therapy, radiation therapy, underlying disease, and other factors. Therefore, often it is not possible to make a definitive recommendation for an interval after cessation of immunosuppressive therapy when inactivated vaccines can be administered effectively or when live-virus vaccines can be administered safely and effectively.”

Red Book on Immunization in Immunocompromised Children

After they complete therapy for cancer, whether it is chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant, many children need to get extra vaccines.

In the UK, for example, 6 months after completing “standard antileukemia chemotherapy,” children get a booster dose of DTaP, IPV, Hib, MenC, and MMR.

Why just a single booster dose?

Because most kids can continue to get non-live vaccines on schedule while they are getting standard chemotherapy. They get a booster dose when they finish chemotherapy because those vaccine doses they got while receiving treatment might not be as effective as usual and typically don’t count as valid doses.

Of course, if they were missing any doses, then they might need extra doses to catch up too.

“Three months after cancer chemotherapy, patients should be vaccinated with inactivated vaccines and the live vaccines for varicella; measles, mumps, and rubella; and measles, mumps, and rubella-varicella according to the CDC annual schedule that is routinely indicated for immunocompetent persons.”

2013 IDSA Clinical Practice Guideline for Vaccination of the Immunocompromised Host

In contrast to those getting standard chemotherapy, if treatment involved a hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), then these children are essentially revaccinated:

  • beginning at 6 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of DTaP if they are less than 7-years-old vs a dose of Tdap and 2 doses of Td if they are already 7-years-old
  • beginning at 3-6 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of Prevnar
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of Hib
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of hepatitis B, followed by postvaccination anti-HBs titer testing
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of IPV
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 2 doses of a meningocococcal vaccine (if they are already 11 to 18 years old)
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of  HPV vaccine (if they are already 11 to 26 years old)
  • beginning at 12 months after the HSCT, one dose of the Pneumovax vaccine
  • beginning at 24 months after the HSCT, two doses of MMR
  • beginning at 24 months after the HSCT, two doses of the chicken pox vaccine
  • a yearly flu shot

Why not just check titers instead of repeating all of those vaccines?

“protective” concentrations or titers in this population may not be as valid as in healthy children, leaving open the question regarding what levels to use as the basis for revaccination. Furthermore, there are some vaccines for which no serological correlate of protection exists (e.g., pertussis) or for which, in routine practice, it is too difficult to have levels measured (e.g., polio).

Soonie R. Patel et al. on Revaccination of Children after Completion of Standard Chemotherapy for Acute Leukemia

In Canada, they used to check titers at 1, 3, and 5 years after the end of chemotherapy and just vaccinate when titers dropped, but they switched to giving all kids a booster dose, as it works better.

What will your child’s immunization look like after completing treatment for cancer?

Although the specific recommendations will come from your child’s treatment team, they will likely look something like the guidelines included here.

What to Know About Vaccines After Cancer and Chemotherapy

Kids often have to get revaccinated, or at least get booster doses of their vaccines, after completing treatment for cancer.

More on Vaccines After Cancer and Chemotherapy

What Are the Signs of MTHFR Mutations?

Are you scared to vaccinate and protect your baby because you think she has signs of  MTHFR mutations?

What Are the Signs of MTHFR Mutations?

For some reason, some parents get concerned about MTHFR if their baby has:

  • a stork bite on the back of her neck (nevus simplex or salmon patch) – get it? that’s where the stork carriers the baby to you
  • a stork bite on the eyelids or forehead, although many people call it an angel’s kiss in these locations
  • a sacral dimple
  • a tongue-tie
  • any facial dimples
  • a strawberry hemangioma
  • a prominent blue vein on the bridge of her nose – called a sugar bug, because practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine think that it is linked to a sensitivity to sugar

And they somehow think that this a reason to delay or skip their child’s vaccines.

It isn’t.

Not surprisingly, none of the websites who list so-called signs of MTHFR mutations provide any evidence for why they are considered to be signs.

What Are the Real Signs of MTHFR Mutations?

If you are worried about MTHFR mutations, you have likely been warned that they cause a lot of different problems.

In reality, it is only known that MTHFR mutations can cause homocystinuria, a rare disorder of methionine metabolism. So you might expect those who have this mutation to have signs and symptoms of homecystinuria, including long limbs, chest deformities, and scoliosis, similar to Marfan syndrome.

Fortunately, many states now include testing for homecystinuria on their newborn screen.

Where Did the Other MTHFR Indicators Come From?

Some people also think that some common MHTFR polymorphisms, or gene variants, may be weakly associated with cardiovascular disease, migraines, anacephaly, spina bifida, and cleft lip and palate.

But this doesn’t mean that MHTFR mutations caused the child to have spina bifida or cleft lip and palate.

“In general, the following genotypes currently appear unlikely to be of clinical significance: “thermolabile” variant c.665C→T heterozygote, c.1286A→C homozygote, or (c.665C→T); (c.1286A→C) compound heterozygote.”

Hickey et al. on ACMG Practice Guideline: lack of evidence for MTHFR polymorphism testing

These polymorphisms are very common and you are going to find them when you look for them.

More and more studies are now finding that they are not associated with any diseases or extra risk of disease. And any risk for neural tube defects in pregnancy can be eliminated by taking folate supplements, which is now recommended for all pregnant women anyway.

But you now should be able to see where their list of bogus signs of MTHFR mutations came from. If spina bifida is supposed to be associated with MTHFR polymorphisms, then why not sacral dimples? And if cleft lip and palate is supposed to be associated with MTHFR polymorphisms, then why not tongue-tie?

Neither a stork bite nor tongue-tie is a sign of a MTHFR mutation. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD
Neither a stork bite nor tongue-tie is a sign of MTHFR mutations. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

What about stork bites, hemangiomas, facial dimples, and the blue vein?

These are some of the most common things that pediatricians point out to parents during their first few appointments. New parents especially what to be reassured that all of these things, which can be very obvious, are eventually going to go away. And fortunately, they typically do – without treatment, although some hemangiomas do require treatment.

In fact, it is estimated that 30 to 50% of newborns have a stork bite. These dilated blood vessels typically go away without treatment. How many people have MHTFR polymorhisms? Yup, 30 to 50%. And no, that doesn’t mean that MHTFR polymorhisms cause stork bites.

Again, since MHTFR polymorhisms are common variants (not mutations that cause disease), you are going to find them associated with many other common conditions.

“Midline lumbosacral skin lesions (e.g., lipomas, dimples, dermal sinuses, tails, hemangiomas, hypertrichosis) are cutaneous markers of spinal dysraphism. A comprehensive review of 200 patients with spinal dysraphism found that 102 had a cutaneous sign. However, many children without spinal dysraphism also have these skin findings.”

McLaughlin et al. on Newborn Skin: Part II. Birthmarks

It is also very possible that folks are misunderstanding a recommendation about warnings for risks of occult spinal dysraphism. This occurs when there is incomplete fusion of the midline elements of the spine, but they are covered by skin, so unlike spina bifida, they are hard to detect. So we look for things like hemangiomas, hypertrichosis (hairy patches), nevus simplex (stork bite), and dimples, etc., as a sign that something might be wrong underneath the skin.

In general, if you have two or more of these skin lesions, a child’s risk for occult spinal dysraphism would be considered high, but, and this is important, the location of the skin lesions is what we look for. They would be over the midline lumbosacral area (the lower back). So an hemangioma on your child’s arm or chest wouldn’t be a risk. Neither would a stork bite on the nape of a baby’s neck or an angel kiss on their forehead.

But now you see the assumed link to MTHFR!

‘They’ think  that MTHFR mutations cause spina bifida, so they made the jump to all of these possible signs of occult spinal dysraphism being associated with MTHFR polymorpisms too, even when they aren’t actually signs of occult spinal dysraphism unless they are located on your baby’s lower back.

“MTHFR gene mutations can cause absolutely no symptoms at all. They can also cause severe irreversible health conditions such as Down’s syndrome. Research is still pending on which medical conditions are caused by, or at least partially attributed to, the MTHFR gene mutations. From the partial list I recently went through on Medline, these are the current symptoms, syndromes and medical conditions relating to the MTHFR gene mutations:”

Ben Lynch on MTHFR Mutations and the Conditions They Cause

A lot of what folks think they know about MTHFR mutations comes from Ben Lynch, who has a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (ND), recommends that folks get genetic testing, and then tells them all of the things that are wrong with them when the tests come back.

“Many of your health issues spring from a combination of overworked and underworked genes. These issues can often be resolved by supporting your genes—but you don’t know that.”

Ben Lynch on My Mission: Reach Your Genetic Potential

And even smarter mission would be to skip the genetic testing, especially if it includes MTHFR testing, and get your family vaccinated and protected.

What to Know About Signs of MTHFR Mutations

There are no signs of MTHFR mutations that you should be looking for that would indicate you should skip or delay any of your child’s vaccines.

More on Signs of MTHFR Mutations

When Parents Disagree About Vaccines

Parents likely aren’t going to agree on every single decision about their kids.

This is especially true when parents actually have different parenting styles.

Whether it is about discipline techniques, what time the kids should go to bed, or how much allowance they should get, disagreements are bound to come up at some point if both parents are actively involved in parenting.

What Does Your Significant Other Think About Vaccines?

What happens if you disagree about vaccines?

Do you even know what your SO thinks about vaccines?

  • Does your SO ever talk about a Big Pharma conspiracy?
  • Do they buy into the myths that vaccines are full of toxins or that they don’t even work?
  • Are they afraid that vaccines will damage your baby in some way?
  • Instead of going to the doctor when they are sick, do they instead grab some essential oils and head to their chiropractor, acupuncturist, and a naturopath?

Ideally, like most other parenting issues, you would have had a talk about vaccines way before you started planning a family and you would know what your significant other thinks.

Unfortunately, we often hear about disagreements about vaccines after a couple already has a baby.

In some cases, they not only have kids, but have already split up. Then, in addition to fighting about child support, visitation schedules, and who gets the house, you might have separated or divorced parents trying to convince a judge that only one of them should be allowed to make vaccination decisions.

That could mean that an unvaccinated child gets vaccinated over one parent’s objections or that a child stays unvaccinated, even though the other parent wants him to be vaccinated and protected.

When Parents Disagree About Vaccines

While it is hard to know the best thing to do in this situation, there is one thing that you absolutely shouldn’t do.

Don't get your child secretly vaccinated if your SO is opposed to vaccines.
Don’t get your child secretly vaccinated if your SO is opposed to vaccines.

Don’t vaccinate your child behind the other parent’s back.

Instead, help them understand that vaccines work and are safe and necessary.

What if they still don’t agree?

Ask what exactly they are worried about and make sure to get them answers for those specific concerns. It might also help to have them come to your next appointment and talk to your doctor.

Can you just agree to disagree about vaccines? I guess, as long as the one who didn’t get their way is going to agree to not be upset about it. If that’s the parent who wanted their child vaccinated, then that also means their is child is left at risk for getting a vaccine-preventable disease while they try to “hide in the herd.”

Can they just compromise?

While there is no benefit to skipping or delaying any vaccines over being fully vaccinated and protected, it is better than being unvaccinated. Hopefully, learning to compromise and lots of counseling can get you both to where you aren’t in a situation when a judge makes your vaccination decisions for you.

What to Know When Parents Disagree About Vaccines

It is best to know what your partner thinks about vaccines before you start planning on having kids.

More on When Parents Disagree About Vaccines

How Can the Unvaccinated Spread Diseases They Don’t Have?

Folks who are intentionally unvaccinated often have a hard time understanding why the rest of us might be a little leery of being around them.

That’s especially true if we have a new baby in the house, younger kids who aren’t fully vaccinated and protected, or anyone with a chronic medical condition who can’t be vaccinated.

Why? Of course, it is because we don’t want them to catch measles, pertussis, or other vaccine-preventable diseases.

“How can you spread a disease that you don’t even have?”

It’s true, you can’t spread a disease that you don’t have.

But infectious diseases don’t magically appear inside our bodies – we catch them from other people. And if you have skipped or delayed a vaccine, then you have a much higher chance of getting a vaccine-preventable disease than someone who is vaccinated and protected.

So, just avoid other people when you are sick, right?

“…the increased risk of disease in the pediatric population, in part because of increasing rates of vaccine refusal and in some circumstances more rapid loss of immunity, increases potential exposure of immunodeficient children.”

Medical Advisory Committee of the Immune Deficiency Foundation

That works great in theory, but since you are often contagious before you show signs and symptoms and know that you are sick, you can very easily spread a disease that you don’t even know that you have.

An infant hospitalized during a measles outbreak in the Philippines in which 110 people died.
Children with measles are contagious 4 days before through 4 days after their rash appears, but you often don’t recognize that it is measles until they get the rash! Photo by Jim Goodson, M.P.H.

There’s the trouble:

  1. being unvaccinated, you or your child are at higher risk to get sick
  2. when you get sick, you can be contagious several days before you have obvious symptoms
  3. you can spread the disease to others before you ever know that you are sick, or at least before you know that you have a vaccine preventable disease

This makes intentionally unvaccinated folks a risk to those who are too young to be vaccinated, are too young to be fully vaccinated, have a true medical exemption to getting vaccinated, or when their vaccine simply didn’t work.

measles-santa-clara-county
Folks with measles often expose a lot of other people because they don’t yet know that they have measles and aren’t showing signs and symptoms yet.

In fact, this is how most outbreaks start. Tragically, kids too young to be vaccinated get caught up in these outbreaks.

Keep in mind that these parents didn’t have a choice about getting them protected yet. Someone who decided to skip their own vaccines made that choice for them.

And remember that while you can’t spread a disease that you don’t even have, you can certainly spread a disease that you don’t realize that you have.

What to Know About The Unvaccinated Spreading Disease

If you aren’t going to get vaccinated or vaccinate your kids, understand the risks and responsibilities, so that you don’t spread a vaccine-preventable diseases to others that you might not even know that you have yet.

More on the Unvaccinated Spreading Disease

What Is Vaccine Choice?

Have you heard about the idea of vaccine choice?

The “right to choose” is being pushed by anti-vaccine groups in many states because they think that laws mandating kids to have vaccines to go to daycare, school, and college violates their parental rights and civil liberties.

“Their claim that vaccines are 100% safe and effective for all people all of the time is not based in science and is not supported by facts or evidence, making it more of a religious belief than an adequate basis for their mandate argument.”

Texans for Vaccine Choice

And of course, they use a lot of anti-vaccine talking points to try and scare parents into believing them. Vaccines are safe and they work, but no one says that they are 100% safe or that they are 100% effective.

What Is Vaccine Choice?

Right away, you should see another big problem with the vaccine choice movement.

No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated. Everyone has a choice. It’s just that some folks don’t like the consequences that come with that choice of not vaccinating their kids – having to home school their kids instead of going to a public or private school.

So basically, vaccine choice is just the anti-vaccine movement moving the goal posts yet again.

“If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f–king measles.”

Jenny McCarthy

Study after study showed that vaccines are not associated with autism and what did we get, measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.

What’s Missing In the Vaccine Choice Argument?

In addition to facts, one big thing that is missing from the vaccine choice argument is that by pushing the idea that unvaccinated kids should be allowed to skip or delay any or all vaccines without consequences, that takes away the choice for the rest of us who want to keep our kids protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Can’t we just vaccinate our kids?

Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity.
Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity. (CC BY 2.0)

We do!

But that doesn’t take away all of the risk if you don’t vaccinate your kids.

“…the increased risk of disease in the pediatric population, in part because of increasing rates of vaccine refusal and in some circumstances more rapid loss of immunity, increases potential exposure of immunodeficient children.”

Medical Advisory Committee of the Immune Deficiency Foundation

There are kids who are too young to be vaccinated or fully vaccinated, kids who can’t be vaccinated because of true medical vaccine exemptions, and folks whose vaccine didn’t work, after all, vaccines aren’t 100% effective.

The “choice” folks don’t talk about those things though.

Make an informed choice about vaccines before you think about leaving your child unvaccinated and unprotected.

What To Know About Vaccine Choice

Listen to anti-vaccine propaganda, skip or delay vaccines and leave your kids unprotected or do your research and understand that vaccines work and are safe and necessary and get them vaccinated and protected – that’s your vaccine choice.

More on Vaccine Choice

Vaccines and Hemophilia

Kids with hemophilia bleed.

The Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the National Hemophilia Foundation recommends "that patients with bleeding disorders continue to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ and CDC’s vaccine recommendation route and schedule for their age."
The Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the National Hemophilia Foundation recommends “that patients with bleeding disorders continue to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ and CDC’s vaccine recommendation route and schedule for their age.”

They bleed into their joints, into their skin (hematoma), and from their mouth and gums. They can bleed after surgery and even after getting their vaccinations.

Vaccines and Hemophilia

Having hemophilia is certainly not a contraindication to getting vaccinated though.

“Your child should get regular immunizations with necessary precautions to prevent bleeding from the injection sites.”

Hemophilia FAQs

There are some precautions that are recommended before giving vaccines to a child with hemophilia, including:

  • using a 23-gauge or smaller caliber fine-gauge needle – consider a 25- or 27-gauge needle
  • when possible, giving the vaccine SQ instead of IM – for example, although the IPV (polio), hepatitis A, and hepatitis B vaccines are usually given IM, studies have shown that they can be given SQ to kids with hemophilia
  • applying firm pressure, without rubbing, after the vaccine is given for at least two minutes and up to 5 to 10 minutes
  • giving acetaminophen for pain relief, if necessary, instead of ibuprofen
  • warning about the risk of a hematoma developing at the injection site

Most importantly, if the child with hemophilia is already getting routine prophylaxis to prevent bleeding, schedule their vaccines around the same time to decrease the risk of bleeding.

Your child’s hematologist will likely give you specific instructions to provide to your pediatrician regarding immunization precautions.

What to Know About Vaccines and Hemophilia

Kids with hemophilia should get all of their vaccines on schedule, but precautions should be taken to decrease the chance of bleeding after getting an immunization.

More About Vaccines and Hemophilia