I can't be the only mom who heaved a giant sigh of relief after her kid's 4-year check-up with the pediatrician. Aside from the yearly flu shot, we were looking at no more vaccines for a good long while, and she was safe from all sorts of nasty diseases. And then the CDC had to go ahead and release a vaccination report today that makes me want to run straight into my daughter's first grade classroom, throw a surgical mask on her, and run out with her in my arms.
Turns out pediatricians' offices aren't necessarily storing vaccines correctly. So ... there goes all my faith that showing up at every well child visit was enough to keep my kid safe. How about yours?
The problem is, they put out this scary report, but they don't really give parents solid answers.
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So here's the skinny: when the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General reviewed 45 different healthcare offices back in 2010, they found as much as 76 percent of them were storing the vaccines at the wrong temperature -- either too high or too cold. Thirteen of those offices (about 29 percent) even had expired vaccines mixed in with the good stuff.
I should point out their sample size was pretty small. Just 45 offices. And the investigation focused specifically on clinicians in its special Vaccines for Children program, a project that provides funding to give low-income kids their shots for free.
We're not talking an epidemic here. Buuuuuuuuuut, they're using the data to warn all healthcare offices about proper storage because of what it means for kids.
Exposure to inappropriate temperatures can reduce vaccine potency and efficacy, increasing the risk that children are not provided with maximum protection against preventable diseases.
It's the nebulous words they use that freak me out here. "Risk." "Reduce." "Maximum."
If they could just tell us "yup, your vaccinated kid is really unvaccinated," we'd know exactly what to do. But it's a whole bunch of maybes and possibilities. And parents don't even know how many offices are screwing up. Is this report indicative of what most of them do? Or is it a drop in the bucket?
If there was an easier way to tell than, say, waiting around until the kid comes down with a case of measles that I thought she'd been protected from, maybe this would stress me out less. My original pediatrician retired, so I can't even go check out his office fridge to see if he keeps the temperature in line.
You can ask your pediatrician to do what's called a titer, a blood test to determine if they have antibodies in their system. But that means another needle being poked into your kid's arm. And we don't even know that OUR kid's vaccine was one of the bad ones.
So we just get to wait. And wonder. And worry. Which is pretty much why we took the kid in to get a vaccine in the first place!
Are you worried that your vaccinated kid could be at risk?
Image via Andres Rueda/Flickr