In the south, we’re used to bad news on national health reports. All the more reason to celebrate any good health news that comes our way. And here is some good news to celebrate: the latest national vaccine report shows that Louisiana is doing better than the national average on vaccination of teenagers. Congratulations, all you parents out there! You are helping to keep our kids healthy.
Louisiana has very few outbreaks of diseases, such measles and whooping cough. Our vaccine programs have been so good, that many of us have no idea of how bad these illnesses can be. We have not had family or friends suffer from very high fevers, lose their hearing or ability to walk, or in the worst cases, die from these illnesses. My mother lost one of her good friends in childhood to complications from polio. Most of us have no such memories and therefore tend to forget just how important vaccines are. So while we are doing good, we still have some room to do better, especially with the HPV vaccine.
Vaccines are very, very safe. We have strange saying in the health field: “Correlation does not equal causation.” What that means is just because you see some kind of connection between two things, it does not mean that one caused the other. Millions upon millions of people are vaccinated every year and sometimes, they feel side effects, such as a sore arm or headache, after. (We would actually be surprised if some of those people did not after getting a vaccine.) But just because some, a very small number in fact, feel this way, getting a vaccine does not mean the vaccine caused the illness. In fact, if the vaccine were the cause, we would expect to see it in the millions of people (mostly children) who are vaccinated each year and we just don’t. Think of it this way. Many, many people drink milk with their breakfast. Many, many people get sick each and every day. So it would be expected that some people will get sick right after drinking milk, even though the milk did not cause the sickness.
Let’s keep up the good work. Check with your doctor and with your child’s pediatrician. Make sure you are up to date. And encourage your friends to do the same!
Dr. Donna Williams, DrPH
Director, Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs