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It’s Safe to Follow the Vaccine Schedule for Babies

An increasing number of parents are concerned about vaccinating their children, questioning doctors about the necessity and safety of following the immunization schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, decades of studies have demonstrated that vaccines are safe and that administering vaccines according to CDC guidelines is critical for building immunity in young bodies, experts told Live Science.

Parents worried about vaccines tend to ask similar questions, said Dr. Robert Jacobson, a physician in pediatric and adolescent medicine with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. They want to know if it’s more painful to get three or four shots at once, if the baby’s immune system can tolerate multiple vaccines, and what might happen if the vaccines are delayed. 

“Other issues are distrust in the health system [and] the government,” said Heidi Larson, an anthropologist with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, which studies people’s views on immunization. 

These fears may prompt parents to eliminate or delay vaccinations, but such a course can jeopardize an infant’s health and raise their risk of contracting a preventable and potentially life-threatening disease, according to the CDC. 

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Is it really more painful for babies to get multiple shots in one visit? No — on the contrary, studies have found that infants experience more pain when distressing medical procedures are spread out over several days, compared to when multiple procedures are performed on the same day, Jacobson said. 

In newborns exposed to multiple heel lances — blood collection through puncture — over the course of several days, the drawn-out, painful interventions heightened anxiety and anticipation of pain, researchers reported in 2002 in the journal JAMA.Those babies “learned to anticipate pain and exhibited more intense pain responses” during procedures than infants who did not receive repeated jabs.  

As for multiple vaccines, the recommended combinations do not overwhelm, weaken or “use up” babies’ immune systems, as some parents fear; in fact, the multiple shots ultimately strengthen a baby’s natural resistance to pathogens, researchers reported in 2002 in a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

“Young infants have an enormous capacity to respond to multiple vaccines, as well as to the many other challenges present in the environment,” the scientists wrote in the 2002 Pediatrics study. “By providing protection against a number of bacterial and viral pathogens, vaccines prevent the ‘weakening’ of the immune system and [the] consequent secondary bacterial infections occasionally caused by natural infection.”

A race against time

As for putting off scheduled immunizations, waiting to give vaccines may actually be dangerous to a baby’s health.

Such delays can be risky because children need a given vaccine before their first encounter with the disease, Jacobson said. “If this schedule is designed as a race against time to protect the child before they’re exposed, the delayed schedule actually increase[s] the chance the child will get the illness before they get the vaccine,” he said.

Adding time between doses could mean some vaccines are given too close in time to other scheduled vaccines, so the child’s immune system may not respond to either vaccine and will instead ignore them completely. This could cancel out the effectiveness of both immunizations, leaving the child vulnerable to illness.

When vaccinating babies and young children, timing is critical, Jacobson said. For example, a baby may get some immunity against the flu from its mother; a flu vaccine won’t work until that protection fades. Other vaccines, such as the inoculation for rotavirus, cannot be given after a child reaches a certain age. Infants get two or three doses of rotavirus vaccine, but after babies reach 8 months old, these vaccines carry an increased risk of a condition called intussusception, when one segment of the intestine “telescopes” inside another segment, potentially leading to an obstruction.

What’s more, when parents opt for a delayed vaccination schedule, they rarely follow it. In children born in Portland, Oregon, between 2003 and 2009, only about 1% of parents who postponed their children’s vaccines actually followed the altered schedule, according to a study published in 2012 in the journal Pediatrics. 

“It’s hard work bringing your children in repeatedly to doctors’ visits,” Jacobson said. “Everything from scheduling to parking makes it even more complicated, and your children’s own lives and your own lives get in the way.”

Through my eyes: Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS)

There is a new condition that is affecting marijuana users at a growing rate, and it’s called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS).

We had never heard of marijuana causing nausea or vomiting and were only familiar with its various health benefits.

CHS causes abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, and the vomiting can result in dehydration.

This dehydration can lead to a type of kidney failure that experts refer to as cannabinoid hyperemesis acute renal failure, and in severe cases, it can even result in death. The reason why I know so much about this is that it happened to my son.

My first introduction to CHS was in April 2018, when my 17-year-old son Brian was diagnosed at an emergency room (ER) in Indianapolis.

Brian had been living with his father at the time, and he called me because he had been vomiting for 3 days. When I went to pick him up to take him to the ER, we had to stop about five times on the way so that he could vomit.

He began to complain of numbness and tingling in his face during the ride, which led me to become more concerned. We arrived at the ER, and while registering, he continued to vomit. He was finding it difficult to speak, and his muscles became contracted. For a moment, I thought that he was having a seizure or a stroke.

While I was moving my car, the staff took Brian to a room, which they directed me to on my return. When I arrived, there were three nurses and a doctor in the room already. Brian had an oxygen mask on, they were putting an IV in each arm, and they had already taken blood to send to the lab.

The doctor said that the muscle contraction was due to an anxiety attack and that Brian was severely dehydrated. Another doctor asked Brian if he smoked marijuana, and he said that he did. She was the one who made the diagnosis of CHS.

The team gave Brian both Haldol and Phenergan, which helped his vomiting improve. The blood work results came back, showing that his kidneys were failing and that all of his levels were out of the normal range. As a result, the doctor decided to admit Brian to the hospital so that they could continue to monitor his blood work.

His levels slowly improved overnight, and he was released after 24 hours. Brian agreed to quit smoking until he was able to see a gastroenterologist, which was scheduled for 45 days after his release.

CHS diagnosis

We had never heard of marijuana causing nausea or vomiting and were only familiar with its various health benefits, so we did not believe that CHS was what Brian had.

He was not a daily smoker, and he had been smoking on and off for about 3 years before he developed symptoms. Brian was also experiencing symptoms even after he had quit smoking, which caused us to doubt the diagnosis further.

However, the gastroenterologist agreed with the CHS diagnosis and ordered more blood work. In the meantime, Brian began using marijuana again, and for several weeks, he did not have any symptoms at all.

In October 2018, Brian began vomiting again, and I decided to take him to the ER. I told the doctors about the CHS diagnosis, and tests revealed that his kidneys were shutting down once more.

The doctor decided that Brian needed to be at a children’s hospital to receive specialized care. They agreed with the CHS diagnosis and ordered monitoring of his levels, which improved with the rehydration again.

Brian went back on his depression medication, and the doctor recommended counseling. There is a history of depression in our family, and Brian had developed it during preadolescence.

The team released Brian and told us to follow up with his pediatrician as necessary. How marijuana affects the bodyLearn more about the effects of marijuana on the body.Read now

Recurring symptoms

A couple of weeks later, Brian was restless during the night and complained about the acid reflux that he’d had since infancy.

I asked if he had taken his medication, and he said yes, so we both went back to bed. Brian woke up at about 11 a.m. the next morning and came into my room to lie on my bed. He began vomiting in the afternoon, so I called his pediatrician, who told me that they would send a prescription over to the pharmacy for his vomiting.

I went to the pharmacy, and when I received his prescription, I realized that it was for the same medication that he was currently taking for the vomiting.

I called the doctor when I got home and cried to them because I felt like I was slowly watching my son die.

He had lost more than 40 lb in a matter of months. The doctor was clueless as to what to do to help Brian quit smoking and suggested that we could try a stress center. They also decided to send a suppository to the pharmacy for the vomiting.

While waiting for the prescription, in between cooking dinner and watching my grandson, I was taking care of Brian when he said to me, “Mom, I’m going to quit smoking. I can’t do this anymore.”

He vomited several times. He then grabbed his back and began to complain that it was hurting.

I immediately thought about his kidneys and called 911. I told them all of his information and history, and as we were waiting for the emergency medical technicians (EMTs), Brian said, “Mom, I can’t breathe.”

I walked to the side of the bed, asking what he meant, and he repeated, “I can’t breathe.”

I turned him over and saw that he had stopped breathing, so I began CPR. I yelled for my daughter’s boyfriend, who went to get our neighbor — a Navy veteran — to help. He took over the CPR and believed that he felt a pulse.

The paramedics arrived shortly after. They tried to occupy me by asking me questions, and I gave them all the information I could.

I kept trying to go into the room while they were working on him, but they wouldn’t let me. Then, an EMT came out and said that it wasn’t looking good.

I begged them to please save my baby.

I’m not sure if I called my family or if someone else did, but during this time, my sister had shown up. I remember begging and pleading with God not to take my baby and to take me instead.

After about 30 minutes, the EMT came out and told me my son was gone. Brian’s father arrived a short time later, and I had to tell him that our son was dead.

There were several people in and out of the house during this time, including police, firefighters, EMTs, and detectives. In the state of Indiana, if anyone under the age of 18 dies, the death requires investigation as a homicide.

The next week was a blur as we tried to make funeral arrangements and find the necessary money. We were fortunate enough to find a church that paid $1,500 toward Brian’s funeral arrangements, and with what we had from family, we were able to have a funeral.

Brian was cremated so that he could be home with his family.

An autopsy took place, and we waited for the results. I would call every day to see whether the results were in, but for months, I heard nothing. Finally, on March 6, 2019 — my birthday — I was able to pick up the autopsy report. The official cause of death was dehydration due to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.

Brian’s legacy

I hope that Brian can continue to make an impact even in death.

At this point, I started my journey into CHS awareness. I joined a CHS Facebook group and created CHS Awareness in Brian’s memory. I contacted the news channel RTV6 Indianapolis and was interviewed on the station.

Through the creation of the Facebook page and the news coverage that I received, I have been able to reach many people. I have also heard stories of others who had CHS symptoms.

The emotional and physical toll of CHS has been devastating to some, as many sufferers were misdiagnosed and made many visits to the emergency room as a result. The financial and emotional effects of this are very stressful.

Marijuana has many benefits for those who don’t have CHS. Some people use it in low dosages to reduce depression, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it can help relieve nausea and vomiting that occur due to chemotherapy. It may calm the muscle spasms that multiple sclerosis can cause, and some claim that it reduces seizures.

There is also a belief that marijuana may help in opioid addiction recovery, and researchers are publishing new studies all the time, highlighting many other potential benefits.

Yet CHS is a very real condition, and while it may only affect a small percentage of people, it can be deadly. It is my mission to raise awareness of CHS in the hope that others do not have to endure the same fate as Brian.

Losing Brian has been the most traumatic event in our lives. He was such a positive person and always gave his friends good advice. He was a loving son whom I never thought I would have, and he was a best friend to his sisters.

I want Brian’s death not to be in vain, and I hope that he can continue to make an impact even in death.

International Space Station

The International Space Station is an orbiting laboratory and construction site that synthesizes the scientific expertise of 16 nations to maintain a permanent human outpost in space.

While floating some 240 miles (390 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, the space station has hosted a rotating international crew since November 2000.

Astronauts and supplies are ferried by the U.S. space shuttles and the Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. Astronauts who reach the facility aboard one of these missions typically live and work in orbit for about six months.

Simply by spending time in orbit, astronauts reveal much more about how humans can live and work in space. Crews have learned the difficulties of diet, in a world in which their sense of taste is decreased, and of getting a good night’s sleep while secured to a non-floating object.

But the crew is also occupied with a full suite of scientific experiments, the ongoing improvement and construction of the station, and a rigorous regime of physical training. Astronauts must exercise for two hours each day to counteract the detrimental effects of low gravity on the body’s skeleton and circulatory system.

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Ongoing Construction

The station has been under construction since November of 1998. In that year the first piece of its structure, the Zarya Control Module, was launched into orbit with a Russian Proton rocket. In 2008, the two-billion-dollar science lab Columbus was added to the station, increasing the structure to eight rooms.

The floating facility’s design features a series of cylinder modules attached to a larger truss of a dozen segments. The Zarya Module is mainly used for storage and external fuel tanks, while the Zvezda Service Module houses the crew’s living quarters and the station’s many life-supporting systems. The space station is powered by solar panels and cooled by loops that radiate heat away from the modules. The station’s Destiny laboratory functions as a unique floating facility for tests of materials, technologies, and much more. The Columbus lab was designed to house experiments in life sciences, fluid physics, and other fields.

Docking ports allow the station to be visited by a growing variety of spacecraft, and the Quest Airlock enables access for the frequent spacewalks essential to the facility’s continuing construction.

Canadarm2 is another important feature of the space station. This Canadian-built apparatus is a large, remote-controlled space arm that functions as a crane and can be utilized for a wide variety of tasks.

The International Space Station may be completed by the end of this decade. When construction is finished, six crew members will be able to live and work in a space larger than a typical five-bedroom house.

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