Take Action: Ask Governor Brown to Sign Bill To Protect School Children from Vaccine Preventable Diseases

June 29, 2015 3 comments

californialegislatureToday California lawmakers passed SB 277, a bill that will eliminate exemptions (other than for medical reasons) from mandated vaccinations for school children.  California will be the largest state to join ranks with West Virginia and Mississippi, who have declined non-medical exemptions from school vaccine mandates for many years.

The New York Times posted a map depicting the seriousness of the issue in California, where in some areas up to 20 percent of kindergartners are opted out of vaccines.  Details on the efforts of Californian’s in support of this bill are detailed in a recent SOP blog post.

Every Child By Two encourages readers to fax Governor Jerry Brown to urge his signature on the bill.  If you are not from California, please let the Governor know that you support his efforts and hope that your home state will follow California’s lead. Past bills of this nature have been watered down by the Governor, therefore it is important that he understand that the public is behind California in their efforts to protect school children.

The following letter was sent by Every Child By Two last week in anticipation of the vote.

ecbt_logowithcarterbumpers - Copy

June 26, 2015

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Fax: (916) 558-3160

Dear Governor Brown,

I write to you today on behalf of our organization which was founded nearly twenty-five years ago by Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Former First Lady of Arkansas Betty Bumpers to ensure the timely immunization of all children.  In the 1980’s these two ladies were instrumental in helping to pass the laws that exist in every state requiring school children to be fully vaccinated.  In 1991, after an outbreak of measles that took the lives of too many children, they founded Every Child By Two.

As you can imagine, we were very distressed to witness the most recent measles outbreak that began in California and rapidly spread to 131 people here in the U.S. and more in neighboring countries as exposed park goers returned to their homes, carrying the virus with them.  As of the end of May 2015 approximately 178 total cases of measles have been reported in seventeen U.S. states.  This latest measles outbreak provides yet another reminder of the importance of timely vaccinations as most of the individuals infected with measles were intentionally unvaccinated. Sadly, some of those who became infected were children under a year old and therefore too young to be vaccinated against measles. As you are aware, measles is considered the “canary in the coal mine” as it is highly contagious.  However we have far too many parents who come to ECBT after losing their children to diseases such as whooping cough, influenza and other deadly, but preventable diseases.

We are elated that the California legislature will pass SB277 into law, knowing that it will protect the lives of the school children of your state. As you know, for diseases such as measles, a 95% vaccination rate is required to protect the community. When in some areas up to 25% of parents are exempting their children from vaccines due to unfounded fears about safety, it leaves all school children vulnerable to dangerous diseases.

I can assure you that the majority of our 82,000 Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook followers are highly supportive of California’s efforts.   In fact, our messaging regarding these efforts has received more views and shares than any other posts in recent years.   We are encouraged that you will do the right thing by signing this critical bill.

Most Sincerely,

Amy Pisani, Executive Director

Every Child By Two

Cc: Dr. Richard Pan, CA State Senator

ACIP Passes “Permissive” Recommendation for MenB Vaccine for Young Adults

June 24, 2015 2 comments

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend MenB vaccine earlier today in order to protect young adults from the deadly “b” strain of meningitis.  The full recommendation wording is as follows,

“A serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine series may be administered to adolescents and young adults 16 through 23 years of age to provide short term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The preferred age for MenB vaccination is 16 through 18 years of age.”

Photo Credit: James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo Credit: James Gathany, Centers for Disease postControl and Prevention

Several hours of deliberation by the Committee followed by heartbreaking testimony from the National Meningitis Association, Meningitis Angels and several families devastated by the serogroup B strain of meningitis preceded the vote.

Members of the Committee felt that the data available currently regarding the short length of duration of protection with the vaccine, combined with the high cost burden of vaccinating the entire public for a disease that has a relatively low incidence rate, were some of the rationales for including the wording “may be vaccinated” in the recommendation.  This wording designates the recommendation as a “Category B or permissive recommendation”

Many who testified feared that a Category B recommendaton could cause confusion among providers and the public and would result in a lack of access if insurers failed to cover the costs of the vaccine.  The Committee was assured by the CDC that a Category B recommendation will result in the vaccine being covered by the Vaccines For Children Program and the Affordable Care Act.

Meningitis survivor Andy Marso pleaded with the Committee to consider fully recommending the vaccine in order to avoid confusion among providers and inequitable access for the public.   Andy contracted meningitis as a college student and racked up $2 million dollars in hospital bills within just the first year.  “That would buy a lot of vaccines,” he stated.

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“I need your help” he continued, “I want to make sure others don’t get meningitis because every time I hear of another person who contracts meningitis it strikes me in the chest.”  “I wonder what if I had done more? What if I had talked to more people? Maybe my warnings could have reached that person.  Maybe that person would have gotten vaccinated, or not shared that bacteria-ridden cup, or gotten to the hospital on time…I have a terrible responsibility now…and you can help free me by fully recommending the vaccine.”

As noted in a recent Shot of Prevention post, “the ACIP also recommends that adolescents receive the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) at ages 11-12, with a booster dose at age 16, to protect against the A, C, W and Y strains of meningococcal bacteria. Statistics show that nearly 80% of teens have received at least one dose of this vaccine, which is fairly remarkable considering the fact that the vaccine is recommended, but is not mandated for school or college in most states. However, it’s important that parents realize that the MCV4 vaccine does not prevent serogroup B meningococcal disease, which currently accounts for 1/3 of all U.S. cases of meningococcal disease and has been spreading through college campuses in recent years.”

One thing is certain, moving forward there will be a herculean task of educating the public and providers about the new recommendation.  Stay tuned for a more thorough post on the meeting in the coming days.

Legislators Must Hear From Public in Support of Strong Vaccine Policies

June 18, 2015 2 comments

2015 promises to be a big year for vaccine policy.  

got_public_healthBack in January and February the United States saw a rise in measles cases as a result of an outbreak that originated at the Disneyland amusement park in California.  As a result, parents, providers and public health professionals began raising concerns about the dangerous risks of disease, the misinformation that has been persuading people not to vaccinate, and the rising number of exemptions parents have been filing to allow their children to skip school mandated vaccines.  Soon state legislators were being encouraged to take the steps necessary to protect daycare and school aged children from vaccine preventable diseases with new, stronger immunization policies.

The request was pretty straightforward.

States need immunization policies that will help preserve and protect our public health, and every child deserves the right to attend school in an environment that is free from preventable diseases.   

The results have been both encouraging and exhausting.

Many states, such as Vermont, have since passed new legislation that will help boost school vaccination rates by either restricting philosophical exemptions, or requiring parents to discuss the risks of not vaccinating with a health care provider prior to getting an approved exemption.  Just last night, the New York State Assembly passed a bill 105-28 that will require seventh and twelfth graders to receive a meningococcal vaccine and now the bill will head to the governor’s desk.  And there are dozens of other states that are considering new policies.

When it comes to immunization policy, it takes an enormous coordination of effort to educate legislators on the issues and get a bill to become law.   

One state that has received a great deal of attention lately is California and Senate Bill 277.    If approved, SB277 would remove the personal belief exemption option from California’s school immunization statute.  The bill has already passed the Senate with a 25-10 vote in May, and cleared another impressive hurdle last week by winning a 12-6 vote in the Assembly Health Committee.  Despite the encouraging outcomes so far, supporters of the bill will tell you that the outcome is still uncertain.

The next challenge is a vote by the full Assembly, and then hopefully the bill will arrive on the Governor’s desk.   Read more…

Will We See Broader Recommendations for the MenB Vaccine?

June 10, 2015 3 comments

At an upcoming meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on June 24th, committee members will consider whether to recommend routine use of MenB vaccines in adolescents.

MeningococcalCurrently, the ACIP recommends that adolescents receive the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) at ages 11-12, with a booster dose at age 16, to protect against the A, C, W and Y strains of meningococcal bacteria.  Statistics show that nearly 80% of teens have received at least one dose of this vaccine, which is fairly remarkable considering the fact that the vaccine is recommended, but is not mandated for school or college in most states.  However, it’s important that parents realize that the MCV4 vaccine does not prevent serogroup B meningococcal disease, which currently accounts for 1/3 of all U.S. cases of meningococcal disease and has been spreading through college campuses in recent years.

Fortunately, two new vaccines to protect against meningococcal serogroup B were recently approved by the FDA. The Trumenba vaccine is developed by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and requires three doses, and the two-dose Bexsero vaccine was developed by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics (GSK acquired Novartis Vaccines in March 2015, excluding the Novartis influenza division). After these vaccines received FDA approval in late 2014, the ACIP recommended a meningococcal serogroup B vaccine (MenB) for certain high-risk groups at their next meeting in February 2015.

However, many people questioned why the recommendation wasn’t for a broader population.  If the ACIP recommends that all adolescents protect themselves with the MCV4 vaccine, why wouldn’t they also be suggesting parents protect their children from the dangers of serogroup B as well? Read more…

Had Olmsted Been Right About Measles Vaccine, He’d Still be Wrong

May 28, 2015 1 comment

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Like many other scientists and vaccine advocates, Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH strongly believes that if parents are to decide whether or not they should vaccinate their children, than they should base their decisions on scholarly articles that represent well-grounded, solid science.  However, as a retired epidemiologist, Dr. Harrison is committed to helping people make these important decisions by providing in-depth and expert analysis of articles which make false claims about the safety of vaccines.

In his fourth article in the Every Child By Two Expert Commentary series, Dr. Harrison exposes Age of Autism founder, owner and chief editor, Dan Olmsted, for dangerously misinforming people.  Dr. Harrison’s latest paper, Wrong About Measles, Cancer & Autism: A Review of Dan Olmsted’s Article “Weekly Wrap: Measles, Cancer, Autoimmunity, Autism”, critiques an article by Olmsted that claims measles vaccination is tied to a higher incidence of cancer.

Olmsted wrote an article called “Weekly Wrap: Measles, Cancer, Autoimmunity, Autism” which claimed that a recent study used a measles vaccine to treat multiple myeloma. He went on to speculate that measles may have had a preventative effect on cancer and that vaccinations led to increasing rates of cancer.  He even goes as far as to claim “wild-type measles . . . performs some unsuspected function in preventing the occurrence of cancer.”

In this fourth submission to the Every Child By Two Expert Commentary series, Dr. Harrison exposes the many deficiencies in Olmsted’s article, which appears to have based on two newspaper accounts of the research.  Dr. Harrison is quick to clarify that a measles vaccine was not used in the stated study.  Instead, a genetically engineered measles virus strain was designed to specifically target cancer cells.  Olmsted thereby fails to recognize that the measles virus had been modified and not the measles vaccine, which raises question as to whether he read and/or understood the study in the first place.  What’s unsettling is that both the newspaper articles that Olmsted references in his article are clear on that detail.

It is therefore not difficult for Dr. Harrison to conclude that Olmsted starts off with an inaccurate premise about the use of a measles vaccine in treating multiple myeloma.  However, even if he had been right about the use of a vaccine, he would have still been wrong about the implications he drew from it.  Read more…

Sport a Red Nose To Show Support For Children’s Health and Safety

May 21, 2015 3 comments

Laughter is powerful medicine.  It not only helps to heal our pain, but it brings joy to learning and make us more productive in our work.  And today, May 21st, 2015, it will also serve as inspiration for Red Nose Day.

rednose2Red Nose Day is an international campaign that raises money for children and young people living in poverty in the US and across the world.  

Tonight, in a special three-hour entertainment special on NBC, the United State’s inaugural Red Nose Day will leverage the popularity of high-profile celebrities and the power of mass media to help raise awareness of important children’s health issues.

The TV special will feature superstar actors, comedians and musicians, original sketch comedy, hilarious parodies and amazing musical performances to provide “Comic Relief” and encourage donations for worthy causes. While viewers are laughing and enjoying the entertainment, they’ll be introduced to some of the Red Nose Day charity partners that help children and young people in the U.S. and across the world in one of three ways:

  • By keeping them safe and reducing levels of violence, exploitation and abuse.
  • By educating them and improving access to good quality education and job training,
  • By making sure they’re healthy and have access to primary healthcare, clean water and sanitation.

GAVI_ALLIANCE_Logo-1.gifOne of the many organizations that will benefit from Red Nose Day is the GAVI Alliance.

GAVI is a highly effective international non-profit that helps provide children with access to life-saving vaccines that protect against killer diseases. Since 2000, GAVI has helped immunize 370 million children in more than 70 countries, saving more than 5.5 million lives. Read more…

Pertussis Vaccine in Pregnancy Key to Preventing Disease in Infants

Pregnant women should be vaccinated against pertussis during each pregnancy to best protect babies from infection.

PertussisThe Global Pertussis Initiative (GPI), an expert scientific forum charged with addressing the global burden of pertussis, announced this recommendation earlier this week.  However, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this suggestion.  The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) first recommended that women get a Tdap vaccine during pregnancy in October of 2011.  Then, in October of 2012, they updated the recommendation stating that women should get a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.

As the GPI decision explained in a recent Medscape article,

Vaccination of women with Tdap during pregnancy is expected to provide some protection to infants from pertussis until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves. Tdap given to pregnant women will stimulate the development of maternal antipertussis antibodies, which will pass through the placenta, likely providing the newborn with protection against pertussis in early life, and will protect the mother from pertussis around the time of delivery, making her less likely to become infected and transmit pertussis to her infant.   

While this excerpt may suggest the basis behind the GPI’s recommendation, the ACIP’s decision was further referenced in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published in February, 2012, which explained, Read more…

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