Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Vaccines and the Moral Dilemma

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is a moral dilemma for many.

A New Vaccine for Shingles

In October of this year, Children of God for Life announced that the long-awaited, morally produced shingles vaccine has received FDA approval for licensing in the US. Shingrix, made by Glaxo SmithKline pharmaceutical company, is produced using a yeast cell line. Previously, people had only one option for vaccination against shingles: Merck's Zostavax which uses aborted fetal cells.

"Until now, people wanting to have protection from shingles have had to either use Merck's aborted fetal version or abstain entirely," stated Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director at Children of God for Life.  "We are absolutely thrilled that GSK has finally given the US a moral option!"

Shingrix has also received FDA recommendation as the product of choice and is also recently approved for use in Canada. Clinical trials have proven Shingrix to be a superior product to Zostavax, making it a generally more attractive vaccination choice for the prevention of shingles. 
Shingrix is 97.2% effective in people over 50 years old and maintained 90% efficacy in those 70 years old and above. After four years, those vaccinated still maintained with 95% immunity, compared with Merck's Zostavax, which is only 38% effective in people over 70 and maintained only 40% duration of immunity after four years.

To Vaccinate Or Not to Vaccinate? The Dilemma for People of Faith

In a recent case that highlighted the difficulties of vaccination for people of faith, a young mom landed in jail for refusing to vaccinate her 9-year-old son with a vaccine produced from the cells of an aborted fetus. She and her husband were not in agreement in the decision, and after initially agreeing to a court order to have the child vaccinated, she couldn't go through with it. A judge ordered her to serve seven days in jail, and she served her time, effectively creating a criminal class of parents whose conscience is violated by the use of aborted babies to create products for human consumption.

Today all common childhood immunizations are created using aborted fetal cells. Parents wanting to get their child immunized against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, chickenpox, and Hepatitis A are faced with the choice of either using a version that is repugnant to their moral convictions, finding an ethical version for those that have one, or take the risk of leaving their child unprotected. 

All fifty states in the U.S. now require at least some vaccinations for school entry, and updated vaccinations or proof of acquired antibodies to disease are required for healthcare workers across the country.

It is hoped that the success of the new shingles vaccine will encourage the development of other new, morally acceptable alternatives to current vaccines. Since Zostavax is a weakened version of its chickenpox vaccine, it is hoped that Glaxo Smith-Kline will produce a new version of the chickenpox vaccine using a weakened version of its shingles vaccine.

Perhaps soon people like the mom from Michigan will no longer have to choose between violating her conscience or putting her child at risk and breaking the law to properly care for those they love.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Is Your Phone Making Someone Sick?

At a busy doctor's office recently, I got in line to check my son in for a routine visit. Instead of the old-school clipboard they used to update patient information, the receptionist handed me an electronic tablet. I took it reluctantly, scrolled through the prompts with the stylus, and confirmed the information on the display. I stood back in line and handed it in.

Then I went to the bathroom and thoroughly washed my hands.

Am I paranoid about getting sick? Yes, I am. As a caregiver to a son with high medical needs, I can't afford to be sick for even one day. Although we have grown children who help us a lot, I am the only one who does all the skilled nursing treatments required by my son's high-level spinal cord injury. And because we operate a certified nursing home to care for our son, regulations define who can come in to assist us.

Our son's fragile respiratory status, his father's commitment to watch him every night while he is on the ventilator to sleep, and our youngest daughter's struggle to juggle caregiving with a full-time job, makes the health of our household a vital concern.

A cold for others is an inconvenience. For us, it is a disaster.

According to a recent issue of RN Idaho, a magazine published by the American Nurses Association of Idaho for Idaho's nurses, my concerns about mobile devices are well-founded. In the article, "Mobile Bugs: Are Pathogens on Your Devices?" the authors assert that mobile devices are, indeed, potential reservoirs for pathogens.

Every year more than 90,000 people die in the United States from healthcare acquired infections, also known as HAIs. HAIs are infections acquired during a stay in a hospital. Researchers have found that up to 95% of phones in hospitals were colonized with bacteria, of which 5% were pathogenic. Some pretty nasty bugs were found on them, including MRSA, E. coli, Acinetobacter, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, and Pseudomonas. Viruses like rotavirus and adenovirus were also discovered.

The most disturbing news was that most healthcare providers reported that they didn't regularly clean their mobile devices. Although a direct connection between contaminated mobile devices and HAI's has not been established, it should be treated as a real possibility.

And even though research has concentrated on HAIs in a hospital setting, common sense would suggest that community settings - and especially ones in which sick people are concentrated - should be treated as potential infection pools, as well.

Prevention from infection can be as simple as regularly cleaning our own mobile devices at home and those we use on the job. It should, of course, become a habit to wash our hands before feeding or otherwise giving care to those in our charge. And we should speak up when we see a healthcare provider forget to wash up before providing care to us or a loved one.

Breaking the cycle of infection is an important way to keep ourselves and those we love healthy.

Callegos, Cara; Hong-Engelhard, Cindy; McDuffee, Veronica; Boeck, Caitlyn (2017, August, September, October). Mobile Bugs: Are Pathogens on Your Devices? RN Idaho, 5.