Time and again I hear people on social media criticizing our immunization practices here in the United States. Often they make suggestions that vaccine recommendations are made arbitrarily and without careful consideration. Some even go so far as to suggest that vaccine recommendations are made for the sole purpose of lining the pockets of pharmaceutical companies.
My purpose in contributing to this blog has always been to inform people about immunizations and the various professionals and non-profit organizations working to ensure that timely immunizations are available to protect U.S. citizens from serious and often debilitating diseases. What I’ve learned is that many people fail to recognize the great efforts that are made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This committee consists of many dedicated immunization experts who are given the immense responsibility of providing external advice to the CDC and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Recently I read a detailed and fascinating MMWR report, written by Jean Clare Smith, MD, Alan R Hinman, MD, and Larry K. Pickering, MD, which summarizes the evolution of the ACIP over the past 50 years. I felt it was rather timely, given the fact that later this week the ACIP will meet once again, to discuss a variety of immunization related items. Read more…
Written by: Amanda Peet, Every Child By Two Vaccine Ambassador
Last summer I traveled to Kenya as part of a UN Foundation/Every Child By Two delegation to ensure access to vaccines throughout the globe. While there, our delegation traveled to a remote village to meet a little boy named Job Alphonse, who had recently contracted polio along with his sister and brother. Sadly, Job’s mother confided that she had not vaccinated her children at the guidance of her former spiritual leader. While three of her children had contracted polio, only Job’s case had caused permanent paralysis in his legs.
The community health nurses and UN staff explained that the family’s cases had galvanized Kenyans to conduct intense vaccination efforts to stop the spread of the disease in what was once a polio-free country.
It was heartwarming to meet families throughout the country who are truly grateful for the life-saving vaccines provided to their children, as well as the dedicated community volunteers who walk for miles to ensure that not one child is left without protection. Witnessing these efforts truly solidified my commitment to raising awareness of the need to support global vaccination efforts.
Today, the vast majority of the world is polio-free. Nearly 80 percent of all polio cases are concentrated in just one country: Pakistan. The two other remaining polio-endemic countries – Afghanistan and Nigeria – continue to show progress. Nigeria has decreased polio cases by 87 percent and Afghanistan has recorded fewer than 10 cases of this devastating disease.
Tonight I am proud to be taking part in Rotary’s World Polio Day Livestream Event at 6:30 PM CST. During the event, viewers will receive an update on the status of polio eradication, featuring Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, celebrity ambassadors, polio survivors and special guests.
Please join me tonight to learn how we can all take action to help eradicate this disease from the face of the earth!
This guest post has been written by Dr. Lara Zibners, in response to comments we’ve received on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page.
“How can I trust the vaccine recommendations that I get from my doctor? After all, isn’t she the one making money off all of these shots?”
Have you ever heard this concern or something like it? How many parents do you know who are leery of a doctor’s vaccine recommendations because they think the doctor is simply motivated by profits?
The idea that pediatricians are colluding in some giant immunization scam that is designed to fund their fancy vacation homes and expensive watches is a concern for some. But could it be true? Does your pediatrician look at your child, pinch those pudgy thighs and inject vaccines against life-threatening illnesses while dreaming of a new car? It’s a pretty disgusting thought, isn’t it? The idea that your child’s doctor could have a financial incentive to encourage vaccination is an upsetting one. One that would understandably get your panties in a twist, right?
Well, my friends, relax. You can unwind your knickers because it’s simply not true.
Now, let me start by telling you that this is not a discussion of physician salaries as a whole. (Although I will point out that pediatricians are the 2nd lowest ranking physicians by salary in the United States.) Or whether they deserve a salary that averages in the low six figures. (Even though that’s after the usual investment of 40,000 hours of training and $300,000 in expenses). We’re not going into those topics today but instead we’re going to focus on one specific question: do pediatricians make money from immunizations?
And the answer is “No.” Despite what some people think, vaccines aren’t the cash cow everyone seems to think they are.
It’s estimated that it takes 35 office visits and costs around $2500 to fully vaccinate a child through age 18. But providing immunizations goes beyond just providing the vaccine. There are plenty of additional costs. These include direct costs such as vaccine purchase, storage, staff time to handle, oversee and administer the vaccine, as well as indirect costs such as insurance against vaccine loss. Read more…
Yesterday was the day I had been anxiously anticipating for well over a month. I took my kids to the local senior center to get our flu shots at the county flu vaccination clinic.
While most Americans are worrying themselves sick over Ebola, I’m more concerned about the greater risk of influenza. See, I’m no stranger to the fact that thousands of people die from influenza each year. In fact, I’ve already read about several flu deaths being reported this season, to include a person from South Carolina and a child from North Carolina in just the past week though these deaths won’t get the media attention Ebola does. And while the flu may not be widespread in my local area at this particular moment, it’s just a matter of time. The flu arrives every year like a tornado on the midwestern plains. Sometimes you get a little bit of a warning, but regardless of whether you see it coming, it inevitably hits towns, schools and workplaces, hurting and even in some cases killing those who are not protected from its wrath.
Unfortunately, because I’ve had a child diagnosed with H1N1, met parents who have lost their children, know friends who have lost their neighbors, and have personally known a previously healthy individual who succumbed to influenza in his early 30s, I have a healthy fear of the flu (no pun intended). Yet, it never ceases to amaze me that reasonable and otherwise intelligent people continue to reject flu vaccinations because they are swayed by unfounded myths or the sting of a needle.
Yesterday I realized that while my children understand the importance of flu vaccination, many adults around them still do not.
Here are a few of the surprising things I heard in just one hour of the day: Read more…
The United States is currently experiencing a nationwide outbreak of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) associated with severe respiratory illness. From mid-August to October 6, 2014, there have been a confirmed total of 594 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia diagnosed with the infection and five of those patients have since died. While the role that EV-D68 infection played in four of these deaths is still being investigated at this time, the latest fatality of a four-year old boy from New Jersey is confirmed to have been associated with EV-D68. As more cases appear across the country, and more questions arise about the symptoms – or lack of symptoms in the latest fatal case – parents are understandably growing concerned. What is this unfamiliar virus that is threatening the health of their otherwise healthy children?
The truth is that there are more than 100 types of enteroviruses which are fairly common through the summer and fall in the United States. In general, a mix of enteroviruses circulates every year, and different types can be common in different years. It’s estimated that 10 to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the United States each year resulting in tens of thousands of hospitalizations.
But what has drawn the public’s attention is that EV-D68 is extremely prevalent of all the types and is causing severe respiratory illness. While the three strains of EV-D68 circulating this year are not new, and small numbers of EV-D68 have been reported regularly to the CDC since 1987, the number of confirmed EV-D68 infections this year is much greater than what has been reported in previous years.
It’s also important to realize that different enteroviruses can cause different illnesses, such as respiratory illness, febrile rash, and acute neurological diseases such as aseptic meningitis which results in swelling of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord, encephalitis which results in swelling of the brain, and acute myelitis and paralysis. While severe respiratory illness has been the most common result of EV-D68 infection, the CDC is aware of two published reports of children with neurologic illnesses in confirmed patients with EV-D68 infection. This, of course, is concerning and has resulted in frequent alerts and updates from the CDC in regard to the spread and symptoms of EV-D68. Read more…
Last night, as I sat in the airport waiting for to return home from the CDC’s National Immunization Conference in Atlanta, I caught a glimpse of CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden speaking at special press conference. The news that an air traveler from Liberia was the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States seemed to attract quite a bit of attention among passengers waiting at the gate. While it appeared that many people were listening to Dr. Frieden’s comments, I couldn’t determine if their blank stares were due to fear or disinterest.
Honestly, there has been so much media attention on the Ebola outbreak over the past few months that I’ve refrained from writing about it. But now, in response to yesterday’s announcement of Ebola in the US, I feel it’s important to try to diffuse some of the fear and misinformation surrounding Ebola. So, in my “glass is half-full” approach, I’d like to offer a few reassuring thoughts to consider.
The Reassuring News Read more…
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:
- 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…