A Dialog on the Safety of Vaccines

By Kenneth Thomas, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Pediatrician

I received some critical feedback from someone on my recent blogs on immunization addressing myths vs truths, frequently asked questions, and  schedules. I appreciate the time this reader took to write, and I want to share both the comment and my response with you.

First the comment:

This is a disappointing example of how “experts” in medicine will say a lot while saying nothing at all. You promised to address parents’ objections to vaccines, yet really provided nothing in particular to assuage those concerns parents might have after witnessing friends or family members deal with the reality of a vaccine-damaged child. What would you say to the request of a parent for any long term studies to support the efficacy or safety of any vaccine combinations administered to infants and up today? The sad reality is that there really are not any studies done like this while the vaccine inserts themselves list the many reasons parents would be objectionable to their infant being injected with vaccines.

The documentary VaXXed chronicles the CDC’s own use of fraud and abuse of its power to perpetuate the idea that vaccines do not cause autism, when in its own MMR study it dramatically increased the rates of autism in African-American patients.

I would ask Dr. Thomas to take the time to read the vaccine inserts before imposing on others the idea that vaccines are safe, they simply are not safe for everyone. They never have been proven, in today’s schedule, to be safe or effective in preventing the illnesses they are purported to prevent.

When 1 in every 2 children is overweight, obese or struggles from some sort of learning disability I would say that everything being done in the name of keeping our children healthy is on the table for reconsideration and vaccines, because of all the toxic and foreign ingredients from heavy metals to adjuvants to foreign DNA, are a primary choice for elimination until proven, by sound science and not political theater, to be absolutely safe and effective.

immunizations (1)I’ll address each point:

If a parent asked me for long-term studies to support the safety or efficacy of vaccine combinations, I’d offer this website: http://www.immunize.org/journalarticles/conc_multi.asp.

It contains a list of long-term studies, specifically addressing multiple injections. This site is produced by the Immunization Action Coalition and provides solid scientific reference materials for parents and physicians.

One of the most compelling research studies (an analysis of 96,000 children) was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study specifically debunks any link between vaccines and autism.

You are correct about vaccine inserts containing information that many parents might find scary or objectionable. There’s a law (the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act) that specifies that all vaccines have Vaccine Information Statements that detail possible side effects and risks. All FDA-approved medicines are required to inform users of possible negative outcomes from taking the medication.

I am quite familiar with the Vaccine Information Statements and regularly give them to my patients.

While I have not seen the film “VaXXed,” I know it is a work of propaganda, not journalism or unbiased reporting. (For example, even the IMDb movie site labels the film a “fantasy, thriller,” not a documentary.) It represents the point of view of the director, who is the same author who initially instigated the now-debunked concept linking vaccines and autism and lost his medical license as a result of ethical violations and deliberately manipulating data – in other words, committing fraud in his research.

I stand by my position and I stand with the scientific data that demonstrates the efficacy, safety and benefits of childhood vaccinations. I stand with a majority of physicians, scientists and researchers united in support of the positive health benefits of vaccinations.

I also stand with you and share your concerns for keeping our children healthy, including addressing the factors that cause obesity and learning disorders. I’ll take that on in a follow-up post.

Meanwhile, thank you for your concerns. I look forward to continued engagement and working together to keep our children healthy.

Questions and comments are always welcome. Use the box below to respond, or call us for an appointment for your child at 816-923-5800.

Here’s Our Recommended Routine Vaccination Schedule for Children

immunizations (1)By Kenneth Thomas, MD – Chief Medical Officer, Pediatrician

Scheduling children for vaccinations can be challenging. The recommended schedule shows a list of diseases and dates for immunizations — six sets from 2 -18 months of age.

Plus more at age 4 years, to start school, and again at starting at age 11, all together providing protection against more than a dozen diseases.

Yes, it’s complicated. And important.

Let me explain. In a previous post, I answered some common questions about vaccines.

Vaccines work by stimulating the body to create defenses against disease-bearing bacteria or viruses. A vaccine contains a weakened version of the germ (or toxin they produce), or subunits (parts) of the germ to “imitate” an infection – just enough to prompt the body’s immune system to get to busy fighting off the infection. Once the body fights off this imitation infection, it can “remember” and fight off a real infection if it occurs.

Decades of research have developed the detailed schedules of recommended vaccines throughout a lifetime — the process assures that appropriate vaccines are given to children at the right ages, in the right sequence, and at the right intervals.

You see, the vaccines are carefully timed for maximum effectiveness. Some vaccines require multiple doses to achieve immunity or booster doses to maintain protection.

Here is our recommended routine vaccination schedule:

At Age …Receive a Vaccination to Prevent
Two months

(Primary Series)

•       Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis / Hepatitis B / Polio (Dose1)

•       Pneumococcal disease (Dose 1)

•       Haemophilus Influenza Type B (Dose 1 – we typically use a 3 dose series)

•       Rotavirus (Dose 1 – we typically use a 2 dose series)

Four months

(Primary Series)

•       Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis / Hepatitis B / Polio (Dose 2)

•       Pneumococcal disease (Dose 2)

•       Haemophilus Influenza Type B (Dose 2)

•       Rotavirus (Dose 2)

Six months

(Primary Series)

•       Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis / Hepatitis B / Polio (Dose 3)

•       Pneumococcal disease (Dose 3)

Nine months Catch up any as needed
12 months •       Measles, mumps, rubella (Dose 1)

•       Varicella (chickenpox) (Dose 1)

•       Hepatitis A (Dose 1)

Note: other vaccines may be given at this point to catch up or if an accelerated schedule is needed.

15 months


•       Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (Dose 4)

•       Pneumococcal disease (Dose 4)

•       Haemophilus Influenza Type B (Dose 3)

18 months •       Hepatitis A (Dose 2)
4 years


•       Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (Dose 5)

•       Polio (Dose 4)

•       Measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (Dose 2)

11 years •       Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis

•       Meningococcal disease (Dose 1 of 2)

•       Human Papilloma Virus (starting 3 dose series)

16 years •       Meningococcal disease (Dose 2)

Our recommended schedule complies with state immunization requirements for public schools and aligns with the latest guidance from the medical profession and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (You can learn more from the CDC website.)

Vaccines will help keep your children safe and healthy. Please bring your children for regular physical and Well-Child exams. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment.

Have other questions about vaccines? Leave your question in the comment box below or come visit the SHS pediatric clinic.

Vaccination Q&A: You’ve Got Questions. We’ve Got Answers.

immunizations (3)By Kenneth Thomas, MD – Chief Medical Officer, Pediatrician

In my experience in pediatrics, I know parents often have questions about childhood vaccinations. In this post, I will answer some of the most common questions I hear.

  • How do vaccines work? Vaccines greatly reduce the risk of infection by working with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. Vaccines work by stimulating the body to create defenses against disease-bearing bacteria or viruses. A vaccine contains a weakened version of the germ (or the toxin they produce), or parts of the germ, to “imitate” an infection — just enough to prompt the body’s immune system to get busy learning how to recognize and fight off the infection.

This type of infection does not cause illness, but it does cause the immune system to produce T-lymphocytes (White Blood Cells) and antibodies to respond to the infection. Sometimes, after getting a vaccine, the imitation infection can cause minor symptoms, such as fever. This is normal and expected as the body builds immunity. Once the imitation infection goes away, the body is left with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes, as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that disease in the future.

  • Can someone who’s been vaccinated still get the disease? It typically takes time for the immune system to develop an adequate level of protection after vaccination. So it is possible that a person who was infected with a disease just before or after vaccination could develop symptoms and catch the disease, because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but most come pretty close, and the vaccine may prevent the most severe complications of the disease such as hospitalizations or death.
  • Is the “natural” way better? This is a belief that it’s better to catch the real disease and let your body deal with it. This is a dangerous belief, as the fact is children can suffer from serious consequences or die from measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and other preventable diseases. Vaccines save lives.
  • Why are there so many childhood vaccinations? Decades of research have developed the detailed schedules of recommended vaccines throughout a lifetime. The vaccines are carefully timed for maximum effectiveness. Some vaccines require multiple doses to achieve immunity or booster doses to maintain protection. (I’ll talk more about this in my next post.).
  • Why do babies and young children need vaccines? In general, vaccines are recommended for members of the youngest age group at risk for experiencing the specific disease, for which efficacy and safety have been demonstrated. We try to protect children before they are likely to encounter the disease.
  • Are vaccines toxic? Unsafe? Untested? In the United States, vaccines are regulated and required to meet standards for safety and effectiveness before they are approved for use. This includes careful testing and controls in their development and production. The vaccines are safe and only a tiny fraction of people ever have a serious reaction to them. Take a look at The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine, an explanation of the vaccine development process, for more information.
  • Are these the same vaccines offered at big hospitals and specialty health centers? SHS vaccines are those approved and recommended by medical experts and the government. There is no differentiation in vaccines based on income, race, religion, gender or any other attribute.

Here at SHS, we know vaccines are safe. Vaccines are important protections against disease. It is our desire that the children of this community are as safe and healthy as possible. If you have other questions, let’s talk.

Let’s get our entire community healthy. Please bring your children for regular physical and Well-Child exams. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment.

Have other questions about vaccines? Leave your question in the comment box below or come visit the SHS pediatric clinic.

The Truth About Vaccines: What You Need to Know

immunizations (2)By Kenneth Thomas, MD – Chief Medical Officer, Pediatrician

Pediatricians often encounter parents who object to immunizations – often based on anecdotal information that vaccines are unsafe or fears that they will cause other health problems.

I want to address those objections with facts, confirm that the vaccines we offer have been tested extensively, and express our confidence in the practice of providing routine vaccinations.

There is always a risk of side effects after vaccination (as with any medication). The most common side effects are tenderness at the injection site and low-grade fever – these are considered a positive sign that the body is reacting to the vaccine. Severe reactions are possible but very rare.

Every Child by Two (ECBT), a non-profit organization that advocates for immunizations, expresses our confidence:

ECBT is confident in the safety of vaccines because of the elaborate systems in place to license safe vaccines and continually monitor their safety post-licensure. As vaccines are given to otherwise healthy people, they are held to the highest safety standards, requiring more rigorous testing than most medications. It can take 15 or more years and an average of $800 million dollars to thoroughly test a new vaccine before it is licensed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and made available to the public.”

Want to learn more about the process of developing, licensing and monitoring vaccines? Here is a link to an infographic created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), called The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine.

There are many excellent websites that have information about vaccine safety – here are some I share with patients:

During the past 50 years, immunization has saved more than a billion lives and prevented countless illnesses and disabilities in the United States. Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough, are still a threat. They continue to infect U.S. children, resulting in hospitalizations and deaths every year.

Here at SHS, we know vaccines are safe and important protections against disease. It is our desire that the children of this community are as safe and healthy as possible. If you have other questions, let’s talk.

Please bring your children for regular physical and Well-Child exams. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment.

Have other questions about vaccines? Leave your question in the comment box below or come visit the SHS pediatric clinic.

Back-to-School Health Fair: Join us Saturday, July 30th!

BTS Health FairPlan on joining us at Swope Health Services Back-to-School Health Fair, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at SHS’s Building C.

The fair, sponsored by Aetna Better Health of Missouri, features a blend of fun activities for school-age kids:

  • Music, from Hot 103 Jamz
  • Face painting
  • Hot dogs, while supplies last, and
  • Balloons and Balloon animals

SHS providers and associates will be on hand to offer back-to-school health screenings and, where possible, immunizations. (To participate, bring your ID and your child’s immunization records.)

Plus, while supplies last, kids can pick up a backpack full of school supplies. Donated by SHS associates, the backpacks contain pencils and pens, crayons, loose-leaf paper, pocket folders, notebooks and other items like glue sticks.

That’s not all! Courtesy of The Bike Shop (RevolveKC), we’ll have a drawing for refurbished bicycles. The Brain Injury Association is donating new bike helmets for kids, also part of the drawing.

The end of summer will be here before you know it! It’s never too early to start preparing for a healthy school year.  Join us!

If you can’t make it to the fair, why not make an appointment for a back-to-school check-up now? Call 816-923-5800 for an appointment.

Joy on Wheels: Bicycles Are Everywhere in Kansas City!

Have you noticed more bicycles on the streets lately?

Part of it might be from the new Kansas City B-Cycle bike rentals that are springing up around town in the Jazz District, Midtown, Downtown.

bicyclesIt might be a result of new biking lanes and trails, a program called Bike KC sponsored by Kansas City Public Works. Organizations like Bike Walk KC and Kansas City Metro Bicycle Club are promoting group rides and events, as well as safety training for all ages.

Big events, like the Tour de France and local fund-raising rides and triathlon contests, have contributed to an uptick in cycling’s popularity.

It’s all about the sense of joy and freedom that comes with riding a bicycle.

While riding is a great form of exercise and a fun and green way to get around, it comes with some responsibility at every age:

Tips for Bike Safety

  1. Make sure your bike is road ready — safe, tires correctly inflated, brakes in good order.
  2. Wear a helmet. No helmet, no riding.
  3. Follow traffic rules — ride with the traffic, use hand signals, obey all traffic signs and signals.
  4. Pay attention! Yield to cars.
  5. Wear bright clothes — make it easy for drivers to see you. What a great excuse to wear the cool neon colors!

Here are a few references with information about how to get your bike ready, how to make sure your helmet fits correctly, and traffic tips.

If you don’t have a bicycle and would like one, check out The Bike Shop by Revolve KC. This not-for-profit organization provides free online bike safety training, refurbishes old bikes, and helps everyone get a bicycle. They’re a great resource for answering questions about bikes and biking.

OK! Kickstand up — time to ride! We hope to see you out, and hope you’ll help share these tips to make sure all cyclists are safe.

Questions or comments are always welcome! Use the comment box below, come visit us or call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment.

Healthy Start Initiative Helps New and Expecting Mothers

KCHSI logoJohnea was about eight months pregnant with her second child when she learned about the Kansas City Healthy Start Initiative program at Swope Health Services.

Now, after seven months in the program, she feels like she has been adopted and embraced.

“It’s like I have an extended family,” she said. “The doors are always open. They are so caring and their arms are so wide!”

Healthy Start is a federal program, offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration department of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, to support healthy pregnancy and early childhood. The Kansas City Healthy Start Initiative operates at SHS and at Samuel Rodgers Health Center through the Mother & Child Health Coalition.

Kansas City Healthy Start supports eligible women from zip codes in Jackson (MO) and Wyandotte (KS) counties where infant mortality rates are higher than average. The free program helps pregnant women and women with children under the age of 2 get information and services they need to have a healthy pregnancy, raise a healthy family, and keep themselves healthy and strong.

In the program, each woman is assigned a community health worker, said Ahkeya Howard, SHS Lead Community Health Worker and a licensed clinical social worker.


The SHS Healthy Start team, from left, Community Health Workers Angela Hawkins, Ahkeya Howard, Tameka White and Treva Smith.

Each case worker provides a broad range of services to help the individual mother with her immediate needs, for example, attending medical appointments, signing up for health insurance, obtaining food, housing assistance or job training referrals.

To help strengthen family resilience, referral and resource information is also provided for the father of the baby and/or male significant other.

“Our goal when they get here is to make sure they are getting the best care possible and utilizing what is available to them,” said Ahkeya. “We take time to find the right resources.”

The support is also personal, Ahkeya notes. Regular discussions include topics like managing stress or depression, safe sleep practices, child development, breastfeeding, building strong relationships, and setting positive goals.

Says program participant, Johnea, “They always say ‘Let’s put you first — how are you today?’ It all starts with a strong foundation for me, the mother, both mentally and physically.”

Johnea and children

A participant in the Kansas City Healthy Start Initiative, Johnea holds Nevaeh, 2, and Jeremy, 6 mo., at a recent visit to SHS.

That means caring conversations about what’s going on at home, how the children are feeling, and what help might be needed. Johnea described the case workers and program team as mentors and coaches, mothers themselves who understand her feelings and always give support.

“We get a lot of hugs,” Johnea said.

Johnea received information on topics from breastfeeding to job openings. The program provides HappyBottoms diapers for her children, and has given her the opportunity to meet other women through events like a holiday dinner and story-time readings for children.

As a result of the program, Johnea hopes to return to school to finish her nursing degree and find a good job in health care. She’s also working on potty training her two-year-old daughter.

“I would recommend it to any woman. It is a family-oriented program that is beneficial all the way around,” Johnea said. “I love it.”

RESOURCES: Kansas City Healthy Start Initiative


Would you like more information about the Kansas City Healthy Start Initiative? Call SHS at 816-599-5790 and come visit with our Healthy Start team.

April 8th: Wear Blue Day to Support Child Abuse Prevention

April8April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

You can show your support for preventing child abuse by joining in on Wear Blue Day on April 8.

Wearing blue signals that you care about children and their safety.

In Kansas City, the Wear Blue Day is sponsored by the Child Abuse Roundtable, under the theme “Protect Our Future — Prevent Child Abuse.”

The roundtable is a collaboration of more than 30 community agencies that promote awareness of child abuse, and the prevention, training and treatment services available in the Kansas City area.

When you wear blue on April 8, make a point of telling everyone why you’re doing so:

  • Child abuse is preventable
  • We all have a responsibility to keep children safe

The Child Abuse Roundtable says: If you suspect a child is being harmed, reporting your suspicions may protect the child and get help for the family. Any concerned person can report suspicions of child abuse and neglect:

  • In Kansas, call 1.800.922.5330
  • In Missouri, call 1.800.392.3738

Individuals and organizations can sign a pledge to wear blue to show commitment to our shared responsibility to keep kids safe. Add your name to the list here.

Have a question or comment? We love hearing from you — either in the comment box below or come in to visit us: call 816-923-5800 for an appointment.


National Doctors’ Day: Thank a Provider Today!

National Doctors' DayMarch 30 is National Doctors’ Day, the annual celebration of physicians, their work and contributions to the community. It’s a day to say thank you to our physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants for all that they do for us. At Swope Health Services, we’re planning to recognize them with greeting cards and cookies.

We invite all patients to join us in thanking our physicians and providers for helping us live healthier lives.

If you’d like to share a message for our providers, you can do so in the comment box below or on our Facebook page.

The cards are fitting, since the first Doctors’ Day — March 30, 1933 — was celebrated by mailing greeting cards to physicians and their spouses and by putting flowers on the gravesites of deceased doctors. A red carnation is the symbol of Doctors’ Day.

providersKansas City-based Hallmark Cards provides a history of Doctor’s Day and offers greetings for the annual observation. Hallmark Cards reports that March 30 was selected as the date because it is the anniversary of the first use of general anesthetic in surgery.  Dr. Crawford Long of Jefferson, Georgia, used ether for the first time in 1842 to remove a tumor from a patient’s neck.

Doctors’ Day was officially made a national day of celebration in 1991 with a resolution signed by President George H.W. Bush. The resolution, in part, states:

Whereas society owes a debt of gratitude to physicians for the contributions of physicians in enlarging the reservoir of scientific knowledge, increasing the number of scientific tools, and expanding the ability of health professionals to use the knowledge and tools effectively in the never-ending fight against disease;

and Whereas society owes a debt of gratitude to physicians for the sympathy and compassion of physicians in ministering to the sick and in alleviating human suffering:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That March 30, 1991, is designated as ‘National Doctors Day.’

Providers share in our deepest joys and sorrows, providing guidance, care and empathy at all stages of life. Please join us celebrating our extraordinary physicians and providers today — and every day.

Thank you, providers!

Have you been touched by a doctor’s care? Please share your story with us here. If you haven’t seen a health care provider in a while, please take time to call us to schedule an appointment at 816-923-5800 — even a same-day walk-in visit.

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SHS Provider Day

Read Across America Celebration at SHS!

Dr. SeussOn Wednesday, March 2, Swope Health Services joined thousands of organizations in celebrating Read Across America Day.

Volunteers Ann Goodrich and Pam Bickel spent the morning in Pediatrics and WIC departments at SHS Central.

They sat one-on-one with children and quietly explored books, and at other times they read out loud to groups of kids. Children who participated selected stickers and took home a bag of books, donated via the Barnes & Noble holiday book drive.

Reading 1Sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA), this annual celebration of reading also marks the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. That’s why our volunteers wore “Cat in the Hat” costumes and frequently used favorite Dr. Seuss books for read-alongs.

Goodrich, who has been a Reach Out and Read volunteer for more than two years, said she knows from personal experience as a Kindergarten teacher how important it is to read to children.

Children need a vocabulary of about 5,000 words by the time they start Kindergarten, she said. Those without will feel left behind, and she noted it can be difficult to catch up.

“I always tell parents to share their words with their kids,” she said. “You have 80,000 to 100,000 words — just give some to your child.”

Goodrich says it doesn’t even matter what you read — it’s OK to read your Facebook feed or text messages.

“They need to hear your voice,” she said. “They need to hear words and sounds to learn.”

According to the NEA, children who are read to and who read for pleasure are significantly more successful in school than children who do not.

Reading 3Goodrich agrees, and frequently takes time with parents to coach them with reading tips. You can make reading interactive by pointing out what’s happening on the page and asking your child questions about the story. Help build your child’s vocabulary by talking about interesting words and objects.

“You should read to children from Day One,” she said. “Take 20 minutes a day and hold the child on your lap. It’s a confidence you are putting into your child.”

If you missed our Read Across America celebration, you can still learn about reading to your children. You can find a Reach Out and Read volunteer in the WIC department, typically every Thursday morning, reading to kids and meeting with parents.

Call to make an appointment, even for a same-day visit, at 816-923-5800. Do you have suggestions for reading with kids? Leave us a comment about your favorite books or ways you make reading fun.

Reading 2