Outbreaks Remind Us of Dangers of Disease and Benefits of Vaccines

January 30, 2015 Leave a comment

Rafiki, the wise old mandrill in Disney’s Lion King movie, made a profound statement that is extremely relevant to the current U.S. measles outbreak that began in Disneyland in December, 2014:

the_lion_king_quote_by_angelicsweetheart-d5z38zo

Yes, the past can hurt.  Infectious diseases have a history of being dangerous and deadly.

All you have to do is look at history to see how many millions of lives have been lost, or how many people have been permanently disabled, by infectious diseases. It’s no small number.  And, there’s a long list of diseases that we can now prevent that have been leading killers in the past.  Today, vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide.  Vaccines given to infants and young children in the U.S. over the past two decades will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.  While it’s hard to see what doesn’t occur, the fact remains that vaccines save lives and prevent suffering.

Some people will choose to run from the past.  They’re called vaccine refusers.

No matter how much scientific evidence there is to prove vaccines are responsible for the incredible reduction of disease worldwide, there will always be some people who will run from the truth.  They either debate it, or simply ignore it.  These are the people who purposely refuse vaccines.  Sometimes they focus their efforts on trying to pin every possible ailment known to man (from SIDS, asthma, allergies, autism, etc.) on vaccines.  Other times they focus on the risk associated with vaccines.  In the case of the MMR vaccine, they prefer to focus on the less than a one in one million chance of a serious adverse reaction rather than the fact that one or two of every 1,000 children who have measles will likely die.  What is particularly frustrating is their tendency to ignore the present reality as well as the past.   In cases when the scientific community has investigated their concerns, they ignore the findings because they fail to support their previously held beliefs.

Most people have learned from the past, but remain at risk from those who haven’t.  

Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of people vaccinate.  These are the people who actively try to protect themselves, their families, and others in their community, by contributing to the benefits of herd immunity and trying to reduce the transmission of vaccine preventable diseases.  Unfortunately, the minority can sometimes jeopardize the herd.

Take the Van Tornhout family for instance.  Today mark’s the fifth anniversary of their daughter Callie’s death.  Callie was exposed to pertussis before she was old enough to begin her DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccination series.  Her story was featured on CNN last week, as an example of how concerning the current measles outbreak is.  Unfortunately, there are many children under the age of one who are too young to receive the regularly scheduled MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine who are at increased risk of complications of measles as a direct result of this outbreak.

Katie and Craig Van Tornhout with their newborn daughter Callie

Katie and Craig Van Tornhout lost their newborn daughter Callie to pertussis.  She was only 38 days old and too young to be vaccinated.

Sadly, the Van Tornhout’s can’t run from the past.  Every day without their daughter Callie is a reminder of why they must continue to educate people on the importance of vaccines.

Stories like Callie’s are shared repeatedly.  On the national news.  On various social media sites.  On websites and blogs.  And even around the family dinner table.  We share these stories so people will realize that these diseases still pose a threat to our children, especially those too young to be fully vaccinated.  Unfortunately, some people remain conflicted about the lessons of the past.  On the one hand, they consider vaccinating to protect themselves and their children from these preventable diseases because they hear stories about children like Callie.  But on the other hand, they’re frightened by prolific misinformation that reinforces their suspicions that vaccines may be harmful.  For fear of making the wrong decision, they fail to make the responsible decision to vaccinate, which then results in a decision which jeopardizes the health of everyone else in their communities.

Today, in honor of Callie’s fifth angel-versary, I urge everyone to do what you can to help ensure no other child dies as a result of a vaccine preventable disease.  Don’t be reluctant to engage in a conversation about vaccines with friends or family.  Don’t refrain from sharing scientifically accurate vaccine information on social media.  Don’t be afraid to ask a non-vaccinator what their objections are.  And please don’t let the past repeat itself.  Sign up to receive notifications from Every Child By Two so you can stay informed of relevant immunization news, now and into the future.  

Timehop Brings Back Pertussis Memories Too Painful to Forget

January 28, 2015 1 comment

When the Timehop app was introduced to Facebook not everyone was thrilled.  While most people loved being reminded of photos and updates shared on Facebook in years past, others complained that there were some events they would prefer not to be reminded of;  the loss of a job, the details of a difficult divorce, or the pain of losing someone we love.

PertussisAlmost three years ago, shortly after Jonathan and Kathryn lost their infant son Brady to pertussis, they reached out to Every Child By Two and expressed an interest in advocating for pertussis vaccinations.  They hoped that by sharing their son’s story they could help educate people on the dangers of pertussis and the importance of vaccination, especially in preventing exposure among children, like Brady, who are too young to be vaccinated themselves.

Being tasked to help them write their story was a challenge.  How could I ever hope to do it justice?

Then it occurred to me… Kathryn had been recording Brady’s story all along as she continuously updated her friends and family of his condition on Facebook.  I read her posts and could immediately empathize with the emotional roller coaster they were on.  The hope.  The fear.  The unimaginable sorrow of watching their beautiful baby suffer, and ultimately lose his life as a result of a preventable disease.  

Brady’s story was originally shared here on Shot of Prevention.  We then worked to also get it posted to a site called Shot By Shot, which serves as a virtual library of personal stories of vaccine preventable diseases.  From there, Brady’s story went viral.

Today we honor all our Every Child By Two parent advocates who continue to help us raise pertussis vaccine awareness.  This day not only marks Brady’s third angel-versary,  but also the fifth angel-versary of Carter Dube, and later this week the fifth angel-versary of Callie Van Tornhout.

While Timehop may be reminding you of a fun winter outing, a delicious dinner shared among friends, or an exciting new promotion, Brady’s mom Kathryn has been using Timehop with Facebook to remind us of how precious life is.  Brady may not be here with us physically, but his battle was not entirely lost.  Brady continues to fight today, as his family and friends share his story, in hopes that no more children are lost to pertussis.

💕 my bubba it was the calm before the storm 

󾬏 my bubba it was the calm before the storm 󾍄

Ugh I hate this disease!! No family should have to endure this pain vaccination is so important

Ugh I hate this disease!! No family should have to endure this pain 󾍄 vaccination is so important

Kathryn Riffenburg

18 hrs · Timehop · 

Our life turned upside down. I remember the ambulance ride and the rushing of the doctors when we reached Boston. We felt like we were dropped in the middle of a tornado everything happening so fast. We entered Boston with our son and left without him. I will also stand by what I advocate. Vaccines are important and save lives. Too many like Brady die because someone chooses not to vaccinate, and he was too young to receive his vaccines.

 — feeling heartbroken.

Our life turned upside down. I remember the ambulance ride and the rushing of the doctors when we reached Boston. We felt like we were dropped in the middle of a tornado everything happening so fast. We entered Boston with our son and left without him. I will also stand by what I advocate vaccines are important and save lives. Too many like Brady die because someone chooses not to vaccinate, and he was too young to receive his vaccines.

Kathryn Riffenburg

6 hrs · Timehop · 

This was my last update of Brady’s health. It was the worst pain to endure. Kissing your baby on the forehead and saying goodbye for the last time is something a parent should never have to do. These communicable diseases are nothing to take lightly. They take babies from there parents, siblings and families. The best line of protection we as parents can give to your own baby as well as other babies like Brady, is vaccination. Another parent should not be planning their child’s funeral because of these diseases. Or anything for that matter. Please light a candle for our bubba and tell his story to at least one other person today 💕

 — feeling emotional.

This was my last update of Brady's health. It was the worst pain to endure.  Kissing your baby on the forehead and saying goodbye for the last time is something a parent should never have to do.  These communicable diseases are nothing to take lightly. They take babies from there parents, siblings and families. The best line of protection we as parents can give to your own baby as well as other babies like Brady, is vaccination. Another parent should not be planning their child's funeral because of these diseases. Or anything for that matter. Please light a candle for our bubba and tell his story to at least one other person today 󾬏

We thank Kathryn for allowing us to share her personal posts, and we continue to thank all the strong and courageous parents who continue to share their personal sorrows in a public way in hopes of a better tomorrow.

Giving MMR Vaccine Early To Protect Children Against Measles

January 27, 2015 9 comments

MeaslesAs the number of measles cases tied to the Disneyland outbreak continues to rise, parents are growing concerned about possible measles exposure in children who are not yet old enough to receive their first dose of MMR (measles, mumps rubella) vaccine.  The CDC recommendation is to administer the first dose of MMR between the ages of 12-15 months.  However, this recommendation leaves children under one year of age at risk, and so Abigail, like many other parents with young children, raised her concerns on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page by asking

Does anyone have information on giving the MMR vaccine early? My child is just 6 months old. We live in Southern California, a hotbed of the latest measles outbreak. We’re right in it…even our local grocery store was exposed. 

I’m a stay at home mom and he has no siblings, and at this point, we are not taking him to public areas often. But this outbreak is incredibly worrisome. I read that children who travel can be offered the MMR vaccine at 6 months. At what point should we consider it for our child? Any studies on early vaccination — risks, effectiveness, etc?

mary_beth_koslap_petracob

Every Child By Two Scientific Advisory Board Member, Mary Beth Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP responds to Abigail’s question as follows:

Read more…

Disneyland Measles Outbreak: Should You Be Concerned?

January 22, 2015 160 comments

8QgmhZV.jpgMeasles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but every now and then we hear about an outbreak in this country. Typically it goes something like this:

An unvaccinated American travels to some place like Europe, Asia, the Pacific, or Africa where there are 20 million measles cases a year. They are exposed to the disease, arrive back in the states and begin exhibiting symptoms. Eventually they’re diagnosed with measles and public health officials work diligently to identify and isolate subsequent cases.  Within a few weeks the outbreak is contained and people go about their business like nothing ever happened.  

So why has there been such a fuss about the recent measles cases in Disneyland?

At first, news reports identified nine cases among visitors of the Southern California amusement park in December 2014. Eight  of the patients – ranging in age from 8 months to 21 years – had been vaccinated, and two were too young to have been vaccinated.

But then the outbreak appeared to be spreading to different states and lots of new cases. The latest report from the CA Department of Public Health confirms 59 cases of measles in CA since December 2014. Of the confirmed cases, 42 have been linked to an initial exposure in Disneyland and include five Disney employees.  Patients range in age from seven months to 70 years and the vaccination status is documented for 34 of the 59 cases. Of these 34, 28 were unvaccinated, one had received one dose and five had received two or more doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.  The CDC indicates that the measles cases we’ve seen so far in 2015 span six different states, largely due to the outbreak that originated at Disneyland.  As the outbreak spreads, we’re seeing evidence of secondary infections and secondary effects.  For instance, in an effort to contain the spread of measles in Orange County schools, public health officials are requiring some parents to keep their unvaccinated children home from school for 21 days after a fellow student was diagnosed with measles as part of the outbreak.

Now many people are wondering,”Is measles something I should be worried about?” 

Most vaccinated individuals aren’t very concerned.  After all, they were vaccinated against measles as children.  Doesn’t that make them immune to measles infection for the rest of their lives? Not exactly. 

And then there are those who have chosen not to get themselves or their children vaccinated.  They’re not all that concerned either.  After all, measles isn’t all that dangerous, right?  People don’t die from measles in this country, do they?  Besides, if they eat an organic diet and avoid toxins than their immune system should easily be able to fight off a measly measles infection. Right?

In order to determine whether we should be concerned, we need to starts with the facts. The truth is that measles presents a risk to everyone, even the vaccinated, and here’s why:

Read more…

Dr. Harrison Explains Why Teresa Conrick of Age of Autism is Wrong About Genetic Research and Autism

January 7, 2015 1 comment

journalsEvery Child By Two is pleased to launch the third article in their Expert Commentary series that will be permanently housed on the Every Child By Two website and referenced here on Shot of Prevention. This series features guest writer Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a retired epidemiologist who volunteers his time to provide in-depth and expert analysis of articles which ultimately make false claims about the safety of vaccines.

Today we will feature Dr. Harrison’s latest paper, Wrong About Genetic Research & Autism: Teresa Conrick’s “Dear America, You Are Being Bamboozled” which critiques the poor scholarship and science displayed by Teresa Conrick in an article she wrote as the contributing editor to Age of Autism.

According to Dr. Harrison, Conrick’s post on Age of Autism on July 23, 2014,Dear America, You Are Being Bamboozled Again About Autism and Genes, should raise a number of red flags regarding her scholarship, basic understanding of science, common sense, and perhaps, even her ethics. Conrick’s article claims that a recent study, looking at genetics and autism, published in the journal Nature Genetics, by Gaugler et al. titled “Most Genetic Risk for Autism Resides Within Common Variation,” reflects an “onslaught of studies and articles to try and persuade [people] that AUTISM is a genetic ONLY disorder,” and that the study denies the role of any environmental or toxic exposure.

Dr. Harrison reviews the Conrick article in great depth, explaining the many deficiencies in her review of the Gaugler et al. study.  He even questions whether Conrick read the full study, or if she simply drafted her commentary off the press release that accompanied the study. In this most recent exposé by Dr. Harrison, he adeptly explains how Conrick’s contradictory statements illustrate her lack of understanding of the complex science of and relationship between environment and genetics.

Click here to begin reading Dr. Harrison’s latest expert commentary,

Wrong About Genetic Research & Autism: Teresa Conrick’s “Dear America, You Are Being Bamboozled”.

Check out Dr. Harrison’s previous articles as well, to include;

You can read Dr. Harrison’s complete bio and mission statement here:

Dr. Harrison’s Biography and Mission Statement

Be sure to subscribe to Shot of Prevention to receive future updates when Dr. Harrison publishes future articles to the Every Child By Two Expert Commentary series.

Shot of Prevention’s Year in Review: Most Popular Posts from 2014

December 31, 2014 4 comments

As we prepare for the challenges of 2015, we want to thank everyone who has contributed to our success in 2014.  Once again, the past year has been one of tremendous growth.  We’ve seen a record number of views and shares on a variety of Shot of Prevention blog posts, and we’re especially grateful to our blog contributors and many new subscribers.

In looking back over our efforts from this past year,  we would like to share a list of some of our most popular blog posts from 2014.  We hope that you will revisit these posts and share them with others so that we can continue to engage more people in these important immunization discussions.

1. Our Life Without Emily: Flu, Fear, Guilt and Regret

Emily Lastinger This blog post was written by Joe Lastinger, Board Member of Families Fighting Flu, who lost his young daughter Emily to flu.  He explains that guilt and regret are often the hidden forces behind a lot of the good that is done in the world.  And he explains the guilt and regret that he feels in his failure to adequately protect his daughter from influenza. To here more about Emily’s story, click here.

2. Mother’s Facebook Updates Detail Son’s Tragic Death

BradyAndJonInfants don’t get begin getting immunized against pertussis until they are two months old.  Prior to that, they remain vulnerable to this highly contagious disease at a time when they’re most fragile. In this post, Kathy shares the story of her son Brady’s battle with pertussis in the same way that she did with her closest friends and family; through her Facebook status updates.  This small glimpse into one family’s heartbreak reminds us of how fragile a young life can be, and highlights how important adult pertussis boosters are in preventing pertussis in infants. Read the story for yourself here.

3. Infant Dies at 38 Days But Her Story Tries To Save Lives

Families_callie_van_tornhout

After five years and four miscarriages, Katie and Craig Van Tornhout celebrated the birth of their miracle baby, Callie.  But their joy quickly turned to grief when Callie contracted pertussis and lost her life at just 38 days old. This story, which you can read here, talks about Callie’s struggle, but also highlights the important work the Van Tornhout’s have done to try to save the lives of other children by advocating for adult Tdap boosters in their community and across the country.

4. Measles Outbreaks Are Concerning, Even to the Vaccinated

measles-cases-616px

The U.S. is experiencing a record number of measles cases, with 610 cases in 24 states so far this year. This is the highest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000. This may also explain why our fourth most popular blog post of the year was one that explained why measles outbreaks are concerning even to the vaccinated.  To find out why everyone should be concerned about measles outbreaks, read the blog post here.

5. The Cost of Vaccine Misinformation

Image courtesy of the Refutations to Anti-Vaccine MemesDr. Dorit Reiss, is a Professor of Law, at the University of California Hastings College of Law.  She  has contributed several guest posts throughout the year, utilizing her legal expertise to examine the social policies of immunization.  This particular post, which ranked as our fifth most popular blog post of the year, highlights the cost of vaccine misinformation.  In this post, Dr. Reiss explores who may be liable when harm occurs as a result of a parent’s decision not to vaccinate – a decision often based on misinformation from a third-party. Read the details of Dr. Reiss’ explanations here.

If you have suggestions for topics you would like us to address in 2015, or you would like to contribute a guest post for publication, please feel free to let us know by commenting below or emailing us at shotofprevention@gmail.com.  

If you want to ensure you don’t miss any of our new posts in 2015, simply subscribe to Shot of Prevention by clicking the link at the top right of this page.  You can also “Like” our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page to receive updates on important immunization news and join in on group discussions.   

Thanks again for your continued support and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

The Year in Review: Top 5 News Stories of 2014

December 26, 2014 2 comments

Christine Vara:

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases is dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the causes, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. Today, we would like to feature one of their recent blog posts that highlight some of the top immunization related news stories of 2014.

Originally posted on NFID News:

about-ebola

2014 featured much activity in the world of infectious diseases–from the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, to increasing vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks here in the US.

Featured below are the top 5 infectious diseases stories of the year, according to NFID. While the list is by no means exhaustive, it highlights several significant developments in infectious disease prevention and the ongoing importance of vaccination.

1. Ebola

The Ebola virus was arguably the biggest story of 2014, capturing the attention of the media and the public at large.  The outbreak began in West Africa at the beginning of the year and has been described as unprecedented in its speed and geographic spread. Time magazine named the Ebola Fighters as Person of the Year, in praise of their efforts as healthcare professionals (HCPs) on the frontline of the crisis, while caring for sick patients at great risk to their own personal health. Additionally, due to the global impact of the outbreak, there has been an increase in…

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