Friday Flu Facts: NFID Press Conference Highlights Important Data

September 19, 2014 2 comments

The National Foundation of Infectious Diseases (NFID) held a special press conference yesterday where expert panelists spoke frankly about the seriousness of influenza and the importance of annual flu vaccination as our best means of protection.  Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) led by example by getting his own influenza vaccination after revealing some interesting data points about last year’s flu vaccine coverage:

NFIDFreidenFluShotphotoOverall we continue to see an encouraging upward trend in flu vaccination coverage.  

  • In total, 46.2 percent of the entire U.S. population age 6 months and older was vaccinated during the 2013-14 season (which is up 1.2 percentage points from last year).
  • Coverage was highest among children younger than 5 years old (70.4 percent) and adults age 65 years and older (65 percent).
  • There was an increase in coverage among school-aged children, up 3 percentage points to 55.3 percent among children 5 to 17 years old.
  • Coverage among healthy 18 to 64 year-olds has yet to top 40 percent,and unfortunately this demographic was hit hardest last season resulting in the highest flu-related hospitalization rates this age group has seen since the 2009 pandemic.

Flu vaccination coverage in pregnant women has remained steady over the past two years at about 50 percent, which is a great increase over the less than 15 percent that were vaccinated prior to the 2009 pandemic year.  Read more…

Vaccination Coverage: Where We’re At and Where We’re Going

September 17, 2014 Comments off

With school back in full swing, it won’t be long before parents start seeing report cards.  While report cards may reflect a child’s performance on class tests and quizzes, grades alone can not determine if a child is working hard to reach their full potential.  When it comes to immunizations, yearly vaccination coverage data is often used in much the same way.  A report is made that estimates the previous year’s vaccination coverage, but the data needs to be put in perspective in order to be put to good use.

When it comes to vaccination coverage among young children in the US, the yearly National Immunization Survey is the ultimate benchmark.   Year after year data sets are compiled and used for ongoing analysis of vaccination levels, pointing to successes and shortfalls.  These reports help us to determine where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

This year’s 2013 “report card” for children 19-35 months of age was recently published in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on Friday, August 29, 2014.  It is entitled, “National, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Children Aged 19-35 Months – United States, 2013” and the survey highlights the following:CDCinfographicNIS2013

Where We’re At

The data collected suggests that vaccination coverage among children aged 19–35 months increased relative to the 2012 estimates for some vaccines (rotavirus, HepA and HepB birth dose) and remained stable for the others.  While less than 1% of children had not received any vaccination, it’s important to note that some communities remain at risk of disease outbreak due to pockets of unvaccinated children.  Some of the most concerning data presented has to do with the MMR vaccine which helps prevent measles, mumps and rubella.  The report states: Read more…

NOVA Film “Vaccines-Calling the Shots” Opens the Door for Dialogue

September 11, 2014 285 comments

After viewing the PBS NOVA film “Vaccines – Calling the Shots”, I began wondering what the film’s impact would be.  I’ll admit that the film was very ambitious.  It addressed the science behind vaccines, why they work, how they work & even touched upon how people assess risk and decide whether to vaccinate or not.  All this in less than an hour.

Of course, no one should expect this film to be the one defining piece that will convince people to vaccinate.  Certainly it may reinforce the decision of those who already choose to vaccinate.  And it may give pause to those who would otherwise refrain from vaccinating.  But most importantly, this film is a valuable tool to help educate people about the science behind vaccines, inform the public about the importance of herd immunity and the dangers of not vaccinating, and open the door for civil dialogue about common vaccine safety concerns.

Looking back on the tweets I sent during the premiere, I realized that the film touched upon some of the most important immunization related issues I hear from parents day after day.   My goal now is to encourage as many people as possible to see this film (available online) and to use it as a way to encourage further conversation.

Of course, the film began with the usual caveats:

In the US more than 90% of parents vaccinate & most follow the recommended schedule.

Vaccine history may repeat itself. @PaulOffit explains “If you start to decrease vaccination rates you start to see the diseases reemerge.”

NOVAMeasles

 

In order to appreciate the value of vaccines, the film began by addressing the recent resurgence of diseases like pertussis (whooping cough) and measles.  It explained the infectious nature of these diseases, illustrated how epidemics are tracked and spread, and allowed viewers to see a tearful mother watching her infant child laying in a hospital bed and battling violent coughing fits brought on by an incurable disease known as pertussis. Read more…

Countdown to “Vaccines – Calling the Shots” on PBS

September 2, 2014 7 comments

PBSCallingTheShotsAnother great vaccine documentary is set to air this month.  That’s right!  Mark your calendars and set your DVRs!

Vaccines – Calling the Shots will premiere on PBS NOVA on Wednesday, September 10th. Due to anticipated coverage of President Obama’s address to the nation at 9pm (EST) and 8pm (CT), the film will air immediately following coverage of the President at approximately 9:20pm (EST) and 8:20 pm (CT).

 

Vaccines – Calling the Shots” is a special production which examines the science behind vaccinations and takes viewers around the world to track epidemics.   The film explains why diseases, which were largely eradicated a generation ago, are returning to the United States.  It also explores the risks and consequences of opting out of vaccines, and identifies parents who are wrestling with vaccine-related questions.

This brief preview provides a glimpse of what this new documentary is all about:

Help Generate Awareness About this New Documentary

Vaccine hesitancy and refusal is often rooted in the proliferation of immunization misinformation.  However, educational films like Vaccines- Calling the Shots” can help separate facts from fears.  Therefore, we ask for your support and participation in getting the word out about this film.  Not only will you be helping to combat misinformation, but you will help others to understand and appreciate the science behind immunizations.

Alert your friends, family and colleagues about the date and time of the upcoming premiere via social media.

Share this blog post, the 3-minute preview seen above, or the direct link to the PBS NOVA page to encourage others to discuss the value of vaccines and the science of immunization.  Ask them to mark their calendars for the preview and to participate in the conversations surrounding the premiere.   

Follow live tweets during the broadcast on September 10th and retweet them to your followers.

Featured experts from the film will be live tweeting.  These include:

  • Infectious disease expert, Dr. Paul Offit (@DrPaulOffit), leading pediatrician and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Alison Singer (@AlisonSinger), Co-Founder and President of the Autism Science Foundation( @AutismSciFounda), member of the national Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), chair of the International Society for Autism Research public relations committee, and mother of a child with autism
  • Writer, director, producer & co-executive producer, Sonya Pemberton (@pembertonfilms) who, as the Creative Director of Genepool Productions of Melbourne and Sydney, Australia spent  four years researching and producing an Australian version and now the American version of this film
  • NOVA series executive producer, Paula Apsell (@mamaNOVA)

In addition to these experts, everyone who has an interest in preventable diseases is invited to add to the commentary by live tweeting during the premier and including the hashtag #vaccinesNOVA.  We would even like to encourage people to promote the preview ahead of time via Twitter with these sample Tweets:

Examine immunization, track outbreaks & learn more about vaccinations w/ #vaccinesNOVA, Wed., Sept 10 at 9:20 EST on @PBShttp://to.pbs.org/YWNjcY

Why are diseases that were largely eradicated a generation ago returning? Find out w/ #vaccinesNOVA, Sept 10 at 9:20 EST http://to.pbs.org/1ryEAuw

If you would like an email reminder of the airing of this preview, be sure to sign up on the Vaccinate Your Baby “Get Involved” page here.

Follow @ShotofPrev on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ShotofPrev
Follow Vaccinate Your Baby on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/VaccinateYourBaby
Follow NOVA on Twitter: https://twitter.com/novapbs
Like NOVA on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline

Sharing Immunization Information in Everyday Conversations

August 28, 2014 2 comments

This post was originally shared on the MOMunizations blog in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month. Throughout the month of August immunization advocates have been highlighting the value of vaccines across the lifespan.  This post was intended to encourage everyone to do the same.

As a parent who keeps up with the latest immunization news, I feel obligated to share information about vaccines and infectious diseases.  My efforts are not just limited to my contributions on the Shot of Prevention blog, but rather expand to include everyday encounters I have with friends and family.

Of course, no one wants to be that person who only talks about one thing, even if it’s something as important as vaccines.  But as a parent to five children, I have plenty of opportunities to discuss immunizations in ways that are entirely appropriate to my conversations with other parents.

And in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, I challenge you to do the same.

Don’t be hesitant to talk about vaccines.  In fact, consider it a necessity.  You’re not reluctant to tell others about the doctor you love or the delicious restaurant you found.  Why not be as generous with the information you have about vaccines?

Even if people aren’t well versed on the subject of vaccines, they still want to know how to protect themselves and their loves ones from dangerous illnesses.  We must remember that the overwhelming majority of people vaccinate.  They do not need to be convinced that vaccines are safe and effective.  However, they do sometimes need to be reminded.

By suggesting vaccine recommendations in your casual conversations, you can help give people the information they need to make informed decisions.  Why not tell them about the measles and pertussis outbreaks in their communities or explain the risk of rising exemption rates in your local schools?  There are so many ways to introduce the topic in your everyday conversations.  Consider these personal experiences of mine: Read more…

Invisible Threat Film Helps Teens Appreciate Science Behind Vaccines

NIAM14_CollegeAgeA child’s immunization status is largely determined by their parents.  However, as children mature into teens and young adults it’s important that they gain a personal appreciation for the value of vaccines.  If they’re going to be equipped to make their own informed immunization decisions – as adults and parents themselves one day – than we need to ensure they’re educated on the subject as teenagers.  High school science courses should be preparing them with a basic understanding of infectious diseases and immunology.  They should be learning how to identify reputable sources and conduct thorough research.  And they should be preparing to make their own health decisions by understand the risks of disease, the benefits of community immunity and the importance of immunizations throughout the life span.

theinvisible_threat_Promo_Facebook_avatar_450x450There is no better example of how capable young adults are in understanding the science behind immunizations than in the making of the captivating 40-minute documentary “Invisible Threat“.  The film, which was produced by a small group of award-winning students from chstvFILMS at Carlsbad High School in California, explores the science of vaccination.  The student filmmakers set out to understand the fears that have lead some parents to delay or decline vaccines, and in doing so they also explored the reasons behind the resurgence of preventable diseases in their community.

Funded by an unrestricted grant, they addressed this project as journalists, with the sole purpose to reveal the truth about vaccines – whatever that may be.  After extensive research and numerous interviews with families, physicians and various experts, they were shocked and convinced by what they discovered and they used their film to share that information with their peers.

Seventeen year old filmmaker Allie DeGour, who was going into her sophomore year when she started her journey with “Invisible Threat“, explains:

I have been a part of CHSTV for 3 years now and my contribution to this film was research and reporting. My experience throughout the making of this film was a complete roller coaster ride. Not only was it an insightful and educational journey, but it was also one that changed my thoughts on an array of subjects.

When I began working on this film, I had a strong disliking to vaccinations. The needles, the thought of the process, and the “pain” when you get one. Just thinking about it made me uncomfortable. Because of this, I was extremely stubborn about changing my views on shots and vaccinations. About a week into conducting research for this film, (yes, we all contributed long after-school hours to educate ourselves on this subject), my beliefs were foggy. I didn’t know what to believe anymore. Were vaccinations causing innocent little kids to get autism? Were they the cause of saddened parents around the world? This is what I was going to find out. 

I started asking my fellow filmmakers what their thoughts were on this. They had been conducting the same research so they were bound to have made their own conclusions, right? Wrong. They were just as confused as I was. This was when we realized this was something we had to really dig deep into. After months of researching, filming, and interviewing, we had all drawn our own conclusions on the subject. My personal conclusion is that vaccinations causing autism is a social controversy, not a scientific one. The scientific evidence was there to prove there was no connection between vaccines and autism and we interviewed a leading autism researcher in the film who explained it to us.

The experience of creating Invisible Threat has not only helped me become a much more educated student, but also an educated patient. No longer will I be terrified to go into an appointment with my doctor because of a shot or vaccination that I have to receive. Now that I know what it’s going to do in the long run, it’s worth it. 

Read more…

Check Vaccination Records Before Students Head Back to School

NIAM14_BackToSchoolThis month I’ve been consumed with back-to-school preparations.  With one child headed to college, two in high school, one in middle school and another in elementary school, our family preparations include everything from crayons to college course books.  In addition to purchasing school supplies, replacing worn out sneakers, and hunting for the perfect backpack, we’ve also had to fit in yearly physicals so that the kids can participate in school sports.  This has provided me with an opportunity to discuss my child’s immunization records with their doctor, but even if your child isn’t scheduled for a physical anytime soon, reviewing your child’s immunization records are an essential part of the back-to-school preparations.

Even the most diligent parent – who has every intention of vaccinating their child according to the CDC’s recommended schedule – may find that a shot was overlooked due to a missed appointment, previous illness or changes in the vaccine recommendations.

That is why comparing your child’s immunization record against the CDC’s recommended schedule (available here) is good idea. Here are a few steps you can take today:

1. Find out what is recommended by the CDC and required by your state.

First, it’s important to keep in mind that while the CDC provides a comprehensive list of recommended vaccines (accessible here), each state has their own immunization policies (detailed here).  It’s a good idea to discuss your state’s school immunization requirements with your child’s doctor, school and/or local health department.

2.  Take a look at your child’s own immunization records.

By reviewing your child’s records now, you could potentially avoid any last minute surprises on the first day of school. If your child needs a required vaccination it can usually be arranged by scheduling a visit with your child’s physician, or stopping in at the local pharmacy, health department or immunization clinic.

3.  Consider your child’s age and learn more about the specific recommended vaccines. 

When reviewing your child’s immunization records, it’s helpful to acquaint yourself with the specific vaccines that are most commonly required for enrollment in most elementary, middle and high schools across the country.

Before Starting Elementary School:

Read more…

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