Vaccinations: Making an Informed Choice Community Education Thesis

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Vaccinations: Making an Informed Choice

Community Education Program

Since the 1700s, doctors and medical practitioners have explored the use of vaccines in preventing contagious diseases. Currently, vaccinations have become a staple of modern medicine, and they exist in many forms -- preventing diseases from mumps to Human Papillomavirus. While some have become major proponents of vaccinations, the concept still brings controversy. Primarily speaking out against childhood vaccination, many have become opponents of the practice, suggesting the side effects of the procedure nullify its intentions. While these controversies have always existed, a proposed link between Autism and vaccines have thrown the issue into the spot light. For this reason, parents who would have allowed their children to become vaccinated are questioning the procedure, and seeking relevant, comprehensive, and unbiased information about the issue. In order to best address these parents' curiosity spurned by concern about their children's welfare, a public health education program addressing the issue must be implemented. This program, which will seek educate concerned parents and community members about both sides of the issue, is both relevant and necessary so that parents may make an informed decision about their children's welfare.

History of Vaccinations and Controversy Including Literature Review

Throughout history and even pre-history, a contagious disease reeked havoc on the world without regard to time or civilization. From Egypt to North America, the disease, smallpox, wiped out significant portions of people groups. From the late 17th century into the 18th century, therefore, Dr. Edward Jenner attempted to find a medical solution to the problem. That solution was a vaccination. Jenner observed that those who had the disease seemed to be unable to contract it again. The doctor tested this theory by injecting a young boy with a small amount of cowpox and exposing the child to the disease once again. When he did not contract the disease, Jenner published his results and the history of vaccinations has begun and the smallpox disease had reached its conclusion; a little more than two hundred years later the disease was extinct ("Smallpox Vaccine" 2007).

Four centuries later, vaccinations are common practice in the United States, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for children on a rigid schedule. Like a car seat protects children from the unlikely event of an automobile accident, vaccines protect children from acquiring a variety of contagious diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control ("Life Cycle of an Immunization Program" n.d.). Regardless of the recommendations, many parents still question the validity and safety of vaccinations based on studies that suggest the adverse side-effects of vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes that vaccines carry with them the risk of adverse effects, maintaining that there is no way to predict how an individual would react to each vaccination. For this reason the CDC recommends that people make an informed decision about vaccinations before choosing to have their children vaccinated ("Vaccine Safety and Adverse Events 2007).

While the risks associated with vaccination have been studied and acknowledged for quite some time, recent concerns involving vaccinations and chronic diseases such as Autism and Diabetes have arisen. Studies regarding the links between these conditions have been primarily inconclusive, some even suggesting that the links do not exist. For example, a 2001 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that no significant link between vaccinations and diabetes existed (DeStefano et al.). Similarly, a 2002 population-based study of the link between Autism and Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccinations suggested that no link between Autism and these vaccinations exists (Madsen et al.). Regardless of these studies, however, many parents have had individual experiences that convince them that a link between vaccinations and chronic dieases -- especially Autism exist. The widespread information about this controversy on the Internet in addition discussions on such widely viewed television programs as the Oprah Show and the opinions of celebrities like Jenna McCarthy, who have written books about the subject, have increased the public's apprehension of vaccinations as potential culprits for Autism. Furthermore, parents have become increasingly aware of the large effect Autism has on United Sates' children. With statistics suggesting that the disease whose cause is unknown affects one in 150 children born, about one million Americans, parents are rightly concerned ("What is Autism: Facts and Stats").

While the CDC has acknowledged that adverse effects are occasionally associated with vaccinations, little scientific information about vaccinations' connection with chronic diseases like Autism is available. What studies exist have simply confirmed this lack of information, while suggesting the possibility that no link exists. Regardless of academic studies, however, the general public in the United States has become concerned about this issue, primarily because of its popularity with celebrities and on television talk shows. For this reason, holding a discussion to answer the public's concerns will be well received. Needing information about the topic, parents will be appreciative of this public health program aimed toward education about vaccinations.

Program Implementation and Target Audience

Aimed primarily toward parents, but open to the general public, the community education program will take the form of eight separate sessions lasting about an hour each and held in a public form that encourages openness and conformability for most members of the community, such as a library or a local YMCA. Each session will follow a set schedule, addressing a pre-approved subtopic each week so that, in the absence of discussion, those who attend the program will still have experienced educational lecture. The atmosphere of the sessions, however, will remain open, allowing for questions and discussion from those who attend the program. Presenting at the sessions will be both proponents and opponents of vaccination, including medical personnel such as pediatricians and nurse practitioners, researchers and scientists, and natural healers. Additionally, presenters will include parents or guardians with positive and negative first-had experiences with vaccinations. Overall, the program will consist of seven individual or panel presenters with a culminating session involving all presenters in an open discussion.

Because many of the presenters will veterans of academic circles who are quite informed about the topic, program organizers will launch an initiative to meet with each presenter before the program's launch. The topic of the meeting will discuss presentation style, both keeping the audience engaged and using layman's terms when presenting and answering questions. The initial meeting will also discuss the importance of answering questions, encouraging the presenters to be open in their presentations, taking questions and asking them of the audience members.

In addition to session-based discussion, the program will be supplemented with a home learning program in order to facilitate questions and discussion. This audio-visual supplement will include mp3s of lectures about Autism and/or the risks of vaccinations delivered at institutions of higher learning and conferences throughout the nation. Program participants will be given these lecture series, as well as a reading guide, that enables them to write their own questions regarding the topic in reaction to the lectures. In addition to the lectures, participants will be provided with links to web site that discuss the issue, in addition to guides for exploring and reflecting upon these sites as well.

By holding this public community education program involving expert and community presenters, both parents and those interested parties in the community will learn more about vaccinations and their risks and benefits. By hearing from the comprehensive group of speakers invited to the conference, community members will be better informed to make an educated decision about vaccinations and the children that they care for. Similarly, by participating in the supplemental home learning program, the public will be encouraged to reflect privately on their own decisions and concerns about vaccinations. By combining both public discussion and private refection, parents will be able to make informed decisions regarding vaccinations.

Evaluation

Because the program's objectives are an increased information for parents contemplating vaccination so that they may make an informed decision about the topic, the program's evaluation will be qualitative. Evaluation forms will ask participants to rank their knowledge of vaccinations and its adverse effects before the program with their knowledge after the program in addition to their level of comfort in making the decision to vaccinate or to refrain before the program and after. Based on these numbers, program organizers can decide whether or not the program was successful increasing parents' information about vaccinations, Autism, and other adverse effects.

Appendix

Public Health Program Evaluation Form

Please circle the number that best reflects your familiarity with vaccines and their adverse effects before attending the program, with five being very familiar and one being no familiarity.

Please circle the number that best reflects your familiarity with vaccines and their adverse effects after attending the program, with five being very familiar and one being no familiarity.

Please circle the number that best reflects your confidence in making the decision to vaccinate your children before the program, with five being very comfortable and one being very uncomfortable.

Please circle the number that best reflects your confidence in making… [END OF PREVIEW]

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