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Eye Advice for All Ages

11 Sep

by Jill R. Wells, M.D.

Hi Parents,

I am a comprehensive ophthalmologist and I would like to give a few tips and recommendations regarding your kids’ ocular health. While the American Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend routine eye exams by ophthalmologists for all children, vision screening evaluations are extremely important. Eye and vision evaluations begin in the newborn period and should continue at all pediatric visits. In addition, you can perform simple tests at home to help determine if your child has any significant vision loss.

In the newborn and infant stages, your pediatrician will focus on inspecting the anatomy of the eye, the pupil reaction, and most importantly, the “red reflex”. The red reflex is the reddish-orange color coming from the retina- the same concept as ‘red eye’ in photographs. If the reflex is white or dull compared to the other eye, this could indicate a number of eye diseases including cataract or even worse, cancer in the eye called retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is extremely rare with only about 300 new cases in the United States each year. I have seen quite a few cases of retinoblastoma because I work at a major referral center and parents will often say they noticed a “white discoloration” of the eye on a photograph. So remember to inspect photos of your kids’ eyes and if you see a white reflex make an appointment with an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.  Continue reading

David’s Story

1 Aug

Mother and advocate Olga Pasick shares the story of meningococcal disease’s impact on her family in this moving account originally posted on Two Peds in a Pod:

I wish I had known the importance of vaccination for meningococcal disease before it was too late for my son. Back in September of 2004, David was a happy, healthy 13 year old, who came down with flu-like symptoms one evening. He first felt cold, then spiked a high fever, and vomited throughout the night. In the morning we called the pediatrician to have him seen. Everything ached, and he needed help getting dressed. That’s when I noticed purplish spots on his chest and arms. I didn’t know how serious that symptom was. As soon as the doctors saw him, they knew he had meningococcal disease. He was rushed to the ER for a spinal tap and treatment. Unfortunately, the disease spread quickly and his organs failed. David died within 24 hours of first developing those flu-like symptoms from a potentially vaccine-preventable disease. Unbelievable… and heartbreaking.

Read the full blog post here.

CDC Public Meetings on Vaccine Schedule (A Personal Account)

14 Jul

By Lori Buher

The CDC is holding meetings throughout the country this summer to ask for public input about adding a recently approved meningococcal vaccine to the current recommended vaccination schedule for infants and toddlers.  We attended the meeting held in Seattle this week.  I was touched by the sincerity of the parents attending.  They want to protect their children, but many have doubts.  When our children were small, my husband and I did not question the childhood vaccination schedule.  We simply followed our pediatrician’s advice.  Today, some parents do not feel that same confidence in our medical professionals.   They have doubts; doubts that are fueled by the emotional debates going on throughout the country.

As the mother of a survivor of meningococcal disease, there is no question in my mind that the vaccine should be added to the schedule.  Carl was 14 when the disease attacked him.  The horrors he survived included amputations, months of painful skin graft surgeries, years of healing before he could begin to walk again.  Do I want every baby to be vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis, rare though it might be?  Of course I do.  I can’t imagine any parent of any child who has been a victim of meningococcal disease that does not believe in vaccination.  The challenge I saw clearly at the Seattle meeting is that many parents are afraid.  I stood up and told about our journey with this disease; others stood and shared their similar stories of grief.  Still others spoke out against vaccines, questioning their doctors’ advice and the CDC’s recommendation.  They are not convinced.

I respect their sincerity and their right to choose.  Yes, vaccination does carry some slight risk, but to deny our children the protection it provides is foolish.  Parents who have concerns should educate themselves, evaluate the benefits and risks and make the right decision:  vaccinate!


Lori Buher is a board member of the National Meningitis Association.  Find out more about NMA by visiting

My Thoughts As I Protect My Children

29 Jun

By Charlotte Moser

It’s that time of year—school’s out, summer’s here; it’s time for the kids’ annual physicals. In our family, yesterday was the day.  As we sat waiting for their names to be called, both of my kids showed traces of being apprehensive, but they knew what had to be done.  For my son, the most important parts were finding out how tall he is and getting the signature on his sports physical form. For my daughter, the most important part was simply getting done. For me, it was the vaccines that I knew were coming. My son was up-to-date, including having had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. But my daughter is eleven, so she was due for several vaccines—Tdap, meningococcus, and HPV.  Since one of my other hats involves understanding and explaining the science of vaccines, I knew how important yesterday was.  Pertussis outbreaks have been occurring throughout the country. HPV is typically transmitted later in the teenage years and meningococcus often occurs as kids become more social, sharing not only drinks on the sidelines, but bacteria and viruses that they may not have encountered previously.

As a mom, I would like to believe that even without a vaccine my children would not be affected by these diseases, but the reality is that we just don’t know who will be affected. Because of my job, I have probably talked to more families affected by vaccine-preventable diseases—either meeting them as members of important support groups who share their stories and give each other strength or simply in day-to-day conversations when I say what I do.  I’ve met moms whose children have died from meningococcus, Haemophilus influenzae type b, measles, chickenpox, pertussis, and influenza. I know people who have cancer caused by human papillomavirus, were hospitalized with rotavirus, recovered from shingles and survived polio. I’ve looked in their eyes and witnessed the depth of their pain, the strength of their passion, and the gravity of their concern as they work to spare others an experience they wish they too did not know.

Of course, sometimes when I say what I do, people become tense and don’t want to talk to me at all. I know they think that I am biased, and I guess I am. But not because I make a lot of money saying vaccines are important or because I am being told to say they are safe. I am biased because I have seen the ravages of these diseases. I have read the clinical descriptions and statistics; I’ve heard the sounds and the stories; I’ve seen the pictures. My fear is not that the vaccines will hurt my children, but that they won’t work. What if my child doesn’t respond to the vaccine? What if my child gets an infection that we can’t yet prevent with a vaccine? As moms, we can always find something to worry about—even those things which are statistically unlikely to happen or theoretical at best—but I have done the reading and asked the questions, and I can feel comfortable that I have done all that I can to protect my kids from the diseases that we are working to conquer. Now, I am waiting for vaccines to protect them from the wrong crowds, poor decisions, and any other bad thing that may happen to them. If only all parenting concerns were as easily fixed with a shot.

Charlotte Moser is the Assistant Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-author of “Vaccines and Your Child: Separating Fact from Fiction.”

What Are Parents (More) Afraid Of?

28 Jun

This post comes to us by way of the dynamic conversation-starting blog Shot of Prevention.  See an excerpt of blogger Christine Vara’s views below…

I don’t want to oversimplify the vaccine debate, but lately I’ve seen it come down to numbers. What are parents more afraid of? The diseases that the vaccines are meant to prevent, or the risk of injury from the vaccine?

The information parents receive when vaccinating their child provides details regarding the probability of injury unique to each specific vaccine. The numbers clearly illustrate – for each and every vaccine on the schedule – that the disease has a greater potential for harm than the vaccine. Quite frankly ,if they didn’t, the vaccine wouldn’t be approved for use. It’s just that simple.

While that may seem like a rational way to measure the pros vs. cons of vaccines, some parents still come to the conclusion that it is not worth vaccinating their children for fear of a vaccine injury.

Now, allow me to elaborate just a bit.

Read the full blog post here on Shot of Prevention.