Every month for the last six months (It’s been 6 months already?! Goodness…) I’ve had to take the kids to the pediatrician to complete their vaccine shots (he only gives one shot per visit). Apparently the required vaccines are different from those that we had in Chapel Hill, so even if Sam is 4 and technically should be complete with her requirements, there are still a few that she needs now that we live here (ie – they were no longer optional). Her pediatrician explained that because of the different environmental and health concerns and risks, the required list of vaccines here in Manila is much longer than that of the US.
It never occurred to me that would be the case but it makes sense after all. And there are two layers to this realization: the first was that I’d always taken vaccination for granted; it was a given, there was no escaping it. The second and more important one, was that even if I knew it had to be done, I didn’t understand the what’s and the why’s or the how’s.
For as long as I can remember, we had to go to the pediatrician’s office to get pricked, no questions asked. When I was five, my mom took me for my shot. I held back the tears because I was promised a lollipop after, only to find out that the doctor gave my mom my lollipop because she passed out from seeing the needle. That was the only association I had with a vaccine shot. Eventually, I learned to let my mom wait outside and brave the pricks on my own so that I could claim my much deserved lollipop.
When I became a mom and had my girls, I didn’t question it either. The nurse at our pediatric office gave me a brochure: shots A, B, C and Z were needed at these well-visit milestones, and all I had to do was make sure we were there at the date and time specified. Cool. I trusted that our pedias knew best (and at least when it comes to vaccines, I really hope that they do!).
So everything would have been fine, except as I mentioned, Sam still lacked some crucial vaccine shots. And every time we’d tell her we had to go get them, she’d cry about it for days in anticipation. “Why mom?! I don’t want a pinch. I don’t need a pinch!” Oh great. The defiant dramatic toddler was not going to make it easy for me. Granted that she was being brought to these visits against her consent she did have every right to ask. I will admit while I didn’t know much about it, I was now pressured to learn and talk to her truthfully about it.
Thankfully, we are friends with Janice of Mommy Mundo, and she invited the SoMoms (and our kids!) to the launch of their disease awareness raising campaign, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline. The event was entitled PLAY, which stands for Protection, Love and Activities for Young Kids. True to its name and purpose the event was educational, yet fun as it brought awareness of some of the infectious diseases through play. It was a great way to enlighten parents on the seriousness of needing vaccines without much of the scare factor.
The moms (and dad) in attendance competed in teams to complete puzzles, answer trivia questions and go on a scavenger hunt. All the clues and questions were related to the diseases we learned about: IPD or Invasive Pneumoccocal Disease and Otitis Media (both of which can be prevented through vaccination). My team, the Pneumoniacs! won a few rounds (who knew we could be so competitive?). I guess that means we were really listening huh? 😉
Amidst all the fun and games, my nerdiness kicked into gear and I listened to Dr. Carmina Delos Reyes’ presentation. I was surprised and shocked at the same time with some of the facts that I picked up (and I will only name the ones that stood out to me):
- One child dies from pneumonia every 20 seconds;
- The Philippines ranks in the top ten countries globally for total number of pneumococcal diseases in children less than 5 years of age; and
- Pneumonia is the #1 cause of death amongst Filipino children.
My mind started racing because a few months back, Jamie was hospitalized for pneumonia. I was quick to check if she’d been vaccinated for it. Yes we were covered. Whew! I don’t even want to think of the horrors of what could have happened had we not gotten the vaccine (and to this day, I cannot believe that some parents would rather have vaccines administered even with these facts!). But as our pediatrician told me the other day (I will get to why we went to see him in a bit), Jamie’s case was very mild and thankfully we caught it at the beginning stages. She was “far from serious”, he said.
Related to IPD is Otitis Media (OM), which is an inflammation of the ear drum, or acutely an ear infection; and this was the reason we braved the rush hour traffic to get to our pediatrician. Jamie had a funky smell in her right ear and kept tugging at it. It didn’t seem like she was in pain, but I still thought to text our doctor anyway in the likelihood that it was the beginning of an ear infection. She had experienced several growing up and so I figured it wasn’t a far off possibility. I used the local term when I contacted him, luga (pronounced loo-gah), and immediately he freaked out and said we needed to see him. Her eardrum may be ruptured and that could result in hearing loss (which is the worst consequence of untreated OM).
Of course I panicked. Of course. And so while Jamie napped in preparation for our trip, I pulled out the PLAY presentation on Otitis Media and read it again. Apparently, 1 out of 2 Filipino children suffering from rhinitis also suffer from OM. It makes sense — as the inner ear workings are connected to the sinus parts of our body (and Jamie was experiencing some sniffles). Although I was reassured when I checked the girls’ charts and saw they’d already gotten the vaccines for it.
I confirmed twenty hours later (or so it felt like it) Jamie’s eardrum was fine, it wasn’t an ear infection (and she hadn’t gotten one since she completed the vaccines for it too!). It was a build up of mucous that got stuck somehow and could easily be cleared with ear drops for several days. I say it again – Whew!
While I am a panicky person when it comes to my children’s health, I think I can sleep much easier knowing that the girls are getting the vaccines they need to be able to operate in this polluted world on a normal basis. It does help to understand the what’s and the why’s and the how’s, and the positive consequences that come with vaccinating our kids. Instead of being a passive parent, I can engage our doctors more and ask the right questions. I also have a little bit more confidence behind the answers I give to Sam. I don’t go into specific details just yet (maybe when she’s older). But for now I tell her that the little pinches she gets are for her to be able to PLAY, without much worry.
Thank you Mommy Mundo and GlaxoSmithKline for an enlightening and fun afternoon! If you want to learn more about the campaign, visit http://www.mommymundo.com/vaccinate.