Questions for Greg Poland

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Learn more about my research This month, Greg Poland is here to answer your questions about vaccines.
read some answers

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What do you say to people who think vaccines are unsafe, cause things like Autism, or do not think they need them?

posted on Tue, 05/04/2010 - 3:54pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Fear drives poor decision-making and this is never more true than with vaccines. The data are clear and unambiguous - vaccines are safe and effective. However no vaccine is 100% safe (no man-made thing is), and no vaccine is 100% effective. That is why we use data to make decisions and not fear or emotion - in this case, the judgment that the risk of serious side effects from a vaccine is very, very rare; while the risk from infectious diseases (depending upon which one we are talking about), high. In addition, deciding to not get a vaccine not only puts you at risk, but also those you live with, go to school with, work with, and interact with.
Lastly, there is no evidence whatsoever that the licensed vaccines in the US cause autism. This has been shown in multiple scientific research studies, and most recently, decided in a court of law.

posted on Thu, 05/20/2010 - 3:31pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

how does the h1n1 vaccination help your body fight the virus? Why do you need two rounds of the vaccination versus having only one?

posted on Fri, 05/07/2010 - 1:00pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Just to be clear, only younger children need 2 doses of H1N1 vaccine. Persons older than 11 years of age only need one dose. The vaccine is made of 2 components split off the real virus. This fools your body into thinking it is seeing the real virus, instead of just the harmless pieces of it contained in the vaccine. Your body then makes antibodies against these pieces, producing a state of immunity that protects you should you later encounter the real virus.

posted on Thu, 05/20/2010 - 3:23pm
Ashlyn's picture
Ashlyn says:

Is there a shot for chicken pox? what is it called? Are there any vaccines for animals?

posted on Fri, 05/07/2010 - 1:19pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Yes, there is a vaccine against chickenpox that all healthy children are advised to receive. It takes 2 doses to become immune. It is called "Varivax".

There are many vaccines for animals, with different vaccines for pet animals versus agricultural animals.

posted on Thu, 05/20/2010 - 3:32pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Was the malaria more deadly along time ago than it is now? Are there vaccines for it?

posted on Sat, 05/08/2010 - 4:08pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

You've asked an important question. Malaria causes considerable morbidity (sickness) and mortality (deaths) throughout the developing world. There is no currently licensed vaccine, but a tremendous amount of work is ongoing to create a malaria vaccine. Researchers hoep that within the next decade we might see a successful malaria vaccine.

posted on Thu, 05/20/2010 - 3:27pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Why do you give the polio vaccine if that just keeps the disease alive?

posted on Sun, 05/09/2010 - 5:22pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

In the US and Europe, only the inactivated (killed) form of polio viruses are used as vaccines. This produces immunity that prevents infection with live polio viruses.

In the past, live, but weakened, polio viruses were used. In some cases, this allowed the virus to live and be transmitted to others - sometimes for prolonged time periods. Developed countries stopped using oral polio vaccine because of the small risk (about 1 in 2-4 million) of developing polio as a result of the vaccine.

posted on Thu, 05/20/2010 - 3:29pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

dear greg,
why does a tetanus shot make you sore for a long time after you get it?

posted on Fri, 05/14/2010 - 10:08am
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

The major reason for temporary soreness after the tetanus shot is that it contains a chemical called an adjuvant. In the case of tetanus-containing vaccines that adjuvant is made from aluminum. This serves the function of having the vaccine stay localized in your arm long enough for immune cells to detect it and then produce protective antibodies against it. In addition, the tetanus toxoid can also cause arm soreness. On the plus side, the soreness is evidence of a great immune response and protection from the vaccine!

posted on Fri, 06/18/2010 - 11:05am
Johhhhhhhhhhhhhhn's picture
Johhhhhhhhhhhhhhn says:

how do you know if you should take a vaccine and if it will give you side effects? would you recomend getting the h1n1 vaccine?

posted on Fri, 05/14/2010 - 2:00pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Experts, Public Health agencies, and professional medical socieites all work together to make careful and well-considered vaccine recommendations for the public. You can check what vaccines are meant for you based on your age and any medical conditions you have by looking at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's immunization guidelines on their website. Go to www.cdc.gov and go from there!

And yes, I would definitely recommned H1N1 vaccine! In the first 2 waves of infection, almost 2 million years of life were lost in the US this past year.

posted on Fri, 06/18/2010 - 11:08am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

is the H1N1 going to be a monovalent vaccine again this year or combined with the seasonal flu vaccine?

posted on Thu, 05/20/2010 - 11:29am
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

For the 2010-2011 season, both for the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the seasonal vaccine will contain the H1N1 vaccine strain. Therefore only one type of vaccine will be produced - no need to get separate vaccines this year!

posted on Fri, 06/18/2010 - 11:09am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Can you get vaccinated for something you already have? If not then why?

posted on Mon, 05/24/2010 - 10:03am
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

It depends upon what which disease. For example, if you definitely had chickenpox, it is unnecessary to get chickenpox vaccine. However, if you got infected with HPV or the pneumococcus bacteria for example, we would still recommend the HPV and pneumococcal vaccines, respectively, to protect you against the other strains of those organisms contained in those multi-strain vaccines.

posted on Fri, 06/18/2010 - 11:11am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Will there be a vaccine to cure cancer?

posted on Fri, 05/28/2010 - 2:14pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

One can only hope! Right now there are no vaccines available to cure cancer. However there are two vaccines that are routinely given that prevent cancer. These are the HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine (which prevents cervical and probably penile cancer), and the HBV [hepatitis B] vaccine (which prevents liver cancer due to chronic hepatitis B infection).

posted on Fri, 06/18/2010 - 11:13am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is the percent of people who get sick from the vaccine?

posted on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 3:59pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

It depends upon which vaccine you are talking about. For most vaccines, a moderate proportion of those receiving vaccine may have short-lived and temorary side effects such as arm soreness or low grade fever can result. Occassionally for live viral vaccines transient rashes can occur. Very rarely (about 1 case for every 1-2 million doses of the vaccine given) more serious, and occassionally life-threatening, side effects can occur. Fortunatley these bad reactions are extremely rare!

posted on Fri, 06/18/2010 - 11:17am
Ralph's picture
Ralph says:

What is the most unvaccinated disease still around today? What are we not doing a good job of vaccinating for?

posted on Thu, 06/10/2010 - 3:39pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

If you mean diseases for which we already have a vaccine, the list would include shingles, human papillomavirus (HPV), and influenza. The first two make this list primarily because they are newer vaccines and many people are still unaware of them. Influenza makes the list because too few people get the vaccine even though it has been around since the 1940's! Not sure to answer the second question - optimal health would mean that every person would receive every vaccine that they were eligible to receive - such is not the case, and sadly, many Americans remain under-immunized. As one example, for 2009-2010, 2 million years of life were lost in the US due to H1N1 - yet a safe and effective vaccine was available!

posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:01pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Do you think that being overly vaccinated will make us (as a species) more susceptible to newer diseases?

posted on Fri, 06/11/2010 - 10:28am
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

There is no evidence to support such a hypothesis. Rather, what we can say is that the control of infectious diseases through improved sanitation and vaccines has led to a doubling of the lifespan in the US since 1900. Immunologically your body does not distinguish between an actual infection and a vaccine designed to mimic that infection. The alternative to no vaccine would be infection - and that does demonstrably shorten lives!

posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:04pm
m. r. w.'s picture
m. r. w. says:

How necessary are recommended vaccines for international travellers? Is there a way to prioritize? Should immuno-compromised individuals that are unable to be vaccinated for overseas travel abstain from travelling? Is there a risk of transporting disease back to your home country from abroad, regardless of vaccination status?

posted on Sun, 06/20/2010 - 4:31pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Excellent questions and the answers depend upon where you are traveling and the individual clinical situation. But, in general it is wise to receive all the vaccines recommended for a given geographic region. For some live viral vaccines (i.e. yellow fever), immunocompromised persons cannot safely receive the vaccine. While it adds to the risk to not be vaccinated, other protective measures can be done to help reduce the risk in such cases. I would highly recommend that you visit a travel medicine clinic in your area at least 1-2 months before traveling to be sure you are well-protected and receive good advice to safe guard your health.

posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:07pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

is it possible for smallpox to come back.

posted on Wed, 06/23/2010 - 4:08pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Since there are no other natural resevoirs for disease other than humans, smallpox per se could not return UNLESS it was somehow released from a laboratory working with the virus, or used criminally or in a bioterrorist scenario. In such a case emergency vaccination programs would need to be carried out quickly to protect the public. By the way, 2010 is the 30th anniversary of the worldwide eradication of smallpox - a feat made possible only because of the near universal use of the vaccine leading up to the 1970's.

posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:10pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

are the vacines you inhale through your nose as effective as shot vaccines?????

posted on Sun, 06/27/2010 - 1:36pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Only one nasal spray vaccine is licensed in the US - for influenza. For younger children and adults the evidence to date indicates that these vaccines may actually be "better" vaccines in the years where there is a mismatch between the strains in the vaccine and the strains that are circulating. Also important is that the vaccine produces immunity and antibody at the local site where infection occurs (the nose and respiratory system), further enhancing its effectiveness. For less clear reasons the vaccine is not effective (and hence not licensed for use) in older adults (over the age of 49).

posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:13pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i had a chicken pox shot when i was young,but have never had a booster shot what are my chances of getting chicken pox again?

posted on Mon, 06/28/2010 - 1:59pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

A small proportion of children who only received one dose of chickenpox vaccine can develop infection (though it is generally less severe) if they are exposed later in life. For this reason it is recommended that all persons who are eligible receive 2 doses of vaccine. That second dose can be given anytime as long as it is at least one month from the first dose.

posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:15pm
ssaavvaannnnnnnnaaaaaaahhhhhh's picture
ssaavvaannnnnnnnaaaaaaahhhhhh says:

how did h1n1 begin? i mean what would cause this, i have heard rummors of it being started by pigs, is that true? this may be a stupid question but i am just curious.

posted on Mon, 06/28/2010 - 2:05pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

It actually is a GREAT question and scientists have been puzzling over the answer. It appears that what happened is that genes from influenza viruses infecting birds, humans, and pigs intermingled, producing a new "mutant" strain which we call H1N1 virus. Pigs have special receptors for the influenza virus that mimic both human and bird receptors, allowing them to be "co-infected" with several strains of virus - thus allowing the mixing of genetic material to take place. - and new strains such as influenza A/California/H1N1 to develop.

posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:19pm
Alison's picture
Alison says:

How many test runs does it take to complete a vaccine? How are you completely positive that it works?

posted on Thu, 07/01/2010 - 11:35am
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Very good question. Vaccines are first developed in the laboratory. If it looks like it induces immunity, it is usually first tested in one or several different animal species to be sure it is safe and protective when the animals are challenged with the disease the vaccine is designed to prevent. If it passes that test, in the US, it is studied in 10-50 or so humans (phase 1 testing) for safety, determining the right dose, and the ability to induce antibody. The next phase is phase II, where hundreds of people receive the vaccine; and dose, safety, and immune response are confirmed. Next comes phase III testing where tens of thousands of people (for the shingles vaccine 40,000 people were tested - 20,000 getting vaccine and 20,000 getting a placebo) are tested for safety and efficacy. If it passes all those tests, then the data are examined by the FDA and committees of independent experts. If they agree that the vaccine is safe and effective, it would be licensed. Once licensed, the manufacturer has to continue to do tests and monitor for any unsuspected side effects (phase IV testing) in the hundreds of thousands to millions of people who receive it. Whew - a lot of testing all designed to maximize the safety of any vaccine we get in the US!

posted on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:26pm
Question Card's picture
Question Card says:

Why do we get so many vaccines when we are babies?

posted on Mon, 08/09/2010 - 4:31pm
Dr. Greg Poland's picture
Dr. Greg Poland says:

Now days babies and children get a number of vaccines to protect them against diseases against which they do not have immunity. Giving them vaccines keeps them safe and healthy. For example, pertussis is causing an epidemic of disease in California and elsewhere right now. 9 children have died as a result, most of them under 6 months of age - a highly susceptible age. So giving them and the people around them vaccines against pertussis protects them from getting pertussis and spreading it to others. The same story is true of chickenpox, measles, influenza, hepatitis B, and many other diseases.

posted on Fri, 09/17/2010 - 2:59pm
McKenzie Grace's picture
McKenzie Grace says:

If you are pefectly healthy and you dont get sick very often,do you still have to get a vaccination each year? My cousin and I dont get flu vaccinations each year and we have NEVER gotten the flu........

posted on Tue, 10/19/2010 - 12:55pm
msk's picture
msk says:

How does vaccine research get funded?

posted on Sun, 10/31/2010 - 11:17am
cool cat's picture
cool cat says:

why do we need to get shots in diferent places of our body?

posted on Fri, 12/03/2010 - 12:24pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What are the Dangers of live polio vaccine?

posted on Thu, 12/23/2010 - 4:23pm
Joe Jonas's picture
Joe Jonas says:

Dear Greg Poland,
why do some vaccines make you sick? i recently had a flu shot, and you know what? i got a cold! a cold!!!!

Joseph Jonas

posted on Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:35pm
Andie and Milly's picture
Andie and Milly says:

There are many potential benefits from vaccines, but what are some of the detriments stemming from this cure?

posted on Tue, 12/28/2010 - 4:36pm
Shannon an d eelsie's picture
Shannon an d eelsie says:

I have several friends who are very vocally anti-vaccine or pro-delayed scheduling of vaccines. We feel very strongly that vaccination is important. How important would you say it is to argue the point with these families when I don't feel there is much chance that their minds will be changed? (essentially for them to change their minds is to admit they have endangered their children)
How would you approach the topic?

Thanks

posted on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 2:14pm