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Vaccinations Are the Focus of the Week

Mark Silber

Last updated: October 28, 2016 3:00 pm

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The week of April 25 has been declared Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA). The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) use this week to reach out to populations that don’t have regular access to good health care services.

Vaccination Week is a perfect time to celebrate the power of vaccines and clear up any lingering confusion about how vaccines work and people should be vaccinated. 1

Vaccination has been in the news recently — stimulated by the measles outbreak connected to Disneyland — and that has reignited a national conversation about the merits of being vaccinated. Here are some facts:

  • Vaccines help your body resist disease. They give your immune system a boost that prevents disease outright or reduces the severity of the infection.
  • A vaccine is a weakened version of the actual disease. By giving your body a weakened pathogen (disease-causing virus or bacteria), your body builds up antibodies it can use to fight the actual disease pathogens.
  • Vaccines do not make you sick. Despite much discussion in the media about vaccines leading to autism, there is no connection. In fact, the scientific study that ignited the controversy was shown to be not credible.

These facts apply to the majority of the population. There are in fact some people who need to be especially careful about receiving vaccines: pregnant women.

Vaccines and Pregnancy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if possible, women should get up-to-date on their vaccinations before becoming pregnant. But not all vaccinations are for the mother herself — some are given to protect the unborn baby — and those must be administered during pregnancy.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is an example of a disease against which a mother must be vaccinated in the third trimester of pregnancy to protect her baby from contracting the disease in the first few months after being born, before the infant can be vaccinated. A mother must be vaccinated each time she becomes pregnant.

Babies cannot receive the whooping cough vaccine until they are two months old. A baby that gets whooping cough may stop breathing and could die from the disease, so mothers are given a pertussis vaccine known as Tdap during pregnancy to pass on temporary immunity to their unborn children. 2

Pregnancy and Antidepressants

Antidepressants can help people cope with depression, a debilitating condition that affects nearly 15 million Americans. 3 Many women use these medications and may have questions about their safety if they are trying to conceive or if they are pregnant.

For certain antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Paxil and Zoloft, the FDA has issued an advisory regarding dangerous side effects that could affect the health of a baby, raising the risk of a baby being born with a severe and debilitating heart and lung condition. 4

Antidepressants like Paxil and Zoloft are already associated with a range of side effects that can affect mother, baby or both. There are active lawsuits against both drugs.

So what’s a woman to do? Consult your doctor before starting or stopping any prescription medication. Ask your doctor about the safety of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take if you are attempting to conceive or know you are pregnant.

  1. http://www.paho.org/vwa/ 

  2. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/rec-vac/pregnant.html 

  3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/antidepressants/art-20046420 

  4. http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics