By: Alok Patel MD
Even if you don’t feel like reading this, print this out and share it with everyone and anyone: https://stchealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/11×8.5_Vaccine_SH-1.pdf
One noteworthy line is in the small print:
Permission to reprint is hereby given to anyone administering vaccines to children.
Millions of children get shots every year – for good reason – but not enough children understand why.
Children get over their needle phobia or get bribed, with candy, iPad time or an Elmo sticker, get their shots and move on with their busy lives. Somewhere in the process, parents may get a paper handout. Granted, this is isn’t 1994 so some parents get a website referral or glance at a fancy app to read up on the vaccine or preventable disease details.
The children get left in the dark, without the epidemiological gospel.
Here’s a recount of an actual patient encounter of mine:
In the hospital, a child who just received her flu vaccine dried her tears and asked me:
“Doctor Patel, how does this flu shot work?”
I explained it to my captive audience comprised of a six-year-old, her doll and her entertained parents. In the end, I called her a “vaccine superhero.”
She then asked for another shot. I commended her enthusiasm but offered her a sticker instead.
These scenarios happen and not every physician has the time to translate herd immunity and vaccine biology for children. I’m not even mentioning all the pharmacies and health centers that administer shots who definitely don’t have the bandwidth for personalized education.
Columnist and all-around bad ass, Dale Dauten, chatted with me about a vaccine handout he was envisioning. Granted, there are some incredible online resources, such as these amazing tools from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and articles about combatting needle phobia, such as this one from Seattle Mama Doc, but a paper handout is quick, easy to share, and can accomplish our educational task in minutes. Also, children like comics. This isn’t a novel concept.
Before I drafted my section, Dale filled me in on pre-interviews done with an adorable focus group – elementary school children.
Kids were asked about their experiences with shots and some not-surprising answers were recorded:
“I was scared. I had one tear. But that’s all.”
“I was crying and we went home and I was still crying.”
“I didn’t cry, but my baby brother cried.”
Memories of tears seemed to override any other facet of vaccinations.
For me, inspiration came from of another little girl’s comment:
“Our dogs get shots because if they don’t they’ll get heartworm and die.”
Granted, dogs fend off heartworm with preventative medications, not shots, but I still appreciate where this girl’s head is at – I’ll throw her a bone (pun intended).
Doggy’s heartworm is our measles, mumps, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, influenza, and more. Much like this little girls understanding of her dog’s health, all children deserve to know how they’re defending not only their own bodies but others, by getting vaccines.
In the end, every child who gets a shot is a defender of public health. Hence why we call them all vaccine superheroes.