This is a guest post, written by Alicia Stillman, Director of the Emily Stillman Foundation. One of the missions of the Foundation is to raise awareness of meningococcal disease and the various vaccines that are now available to prevent it.
February 2, 2013 my life changed forever. I was told my beautiful and healthy nineteen year old daughter no longer had any brain activity, and that she would die. Those words will forever haunt me. There is no preparation, no training, and no practice for what was to come. The loss of a child is like none other. It is the wrong order. When you lose a child, a piece of you dies as well.
On January 31, 2013 my middle daughter Emily called home from college, and mentioned she had a headache. I thought she was possibly coming down with the flu. She thought it may be from lack of sleep. We decided she would take Motrin and go to bed. Several hours later she woke up to increased pain and was taken to the hospital where she was treated for a migraine. It was not until hours later that the medical professionals realized they may be looking at meningococcal disease, and performed a lumbar puncture to confirm.
The entire two hour drive to the hospital I begged the medical professionals to double check the results. Since I knew my daughter had been vaccinated against meningitis, I did not believe it was possible for her to have that disease. I feared that something else would go untreated, and I wanted them to heal her.
When I arrived at the hospital, Emily was already unconscious as they prepared her for a craniotomy to relieve the swelling in her brain. When the nurse took me to see her, she asked if I wanted them to call clergy. That was the first time I actually realized the seriousness of this disease. I did not understand how this could be happening. My daughter only had a headache. She was vaccinated.
Within 30 hours from the onset of her headache, my daughter was brain dead. Her life was over. We decided Emily would want to be an organ donor. She was able to save five lives with six organs, and countless others with her bones and tissue. She was a hero.
As I said goodbye to my sweet daughter in that hospital bed, I made her a promise. Read more…
How is it that three families, who’ve never actually met one another, find themselves sharing words of consolation and encouragement at the same time each year?
How is it that these three families are forever bonded by their children, and the courage and compassion they have to share their stories?
Carter, Callie and Brady were just infants when they had to say goodbye. But during this week, back in 2010 and 2012, three babies lost their fight to pertussis, (more commonly known as whooping cough) and their families were forever changed.
In 2008, Every Child By Two (ECBT) launched a program called Vaccinate Your Baby, which was inspired in large part by the Romaguera family, who had contacted the organization several years earlier after having lost their baby Gabrielle to pertussis.
In the days and months following the death of Carter, Callie and Brady, the Dube, Van Tornhout and Alcaide families also reached out to Every Child By Two in hopes that they could turn their personal tragedies into a public health mission.
Today, as Every Child By Two Parent Advocates, their commitment to pertussis prevention has undoubtedly helped bring about many positive and live-saving changes. They have not only raised awareness of the importance of adult Tdap boosters, but their efforts have helped alter the way in which the public is advised to protect newborns from pertussis.
Prior to the death of their children, none of these families were educated on the need for adult Tdap boosters. They’ve since devoted a great amount of time to sharing their stories; in media interviews, in state legislative chambers, on podiums at public health conferences, and in blogs and Facebook posts shared widely on social media.
New Recommendations Are Helping in the Fight Against Pertussis
Today, leading professional organizations such as the AAP, the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), all recommend that pregnant women receive Tdap boosters in the third trimester of each pregnancy. This not only helps to protect the expectant mom from contracting pertussis and passing it onto their newborn, it also provides passive immunity to the unborn baby. This practice helps protect infants before they begin receiving their own pertussis immunizations through a series of five DTaP vaccine doses that begin at two months of age.
Before the DTaP shot was routinely administered to infants, about 8,000 people in the United States died each year from whooping cough. However, thanks to greater immunization coverage and greater public awareness, this number has dropped to fewer than 20 deaths per year. Unfortunately, because the bacteria is still widely circulating in our communities and not everyone is adequately protected, whooping cough still makes people very sick. In 2014, as many as 30,000 people were diagnosed with pertussis and each year many are still hospitalized. The real danger is among children under 12 month of age. About half of these infants who get whooping cough are hospitalized, and tragically approximately 1 out of 100 infants who are hospitalized will die. So how can we better protect these babies?
Research Continues to Guide Vaccine Recommendations
Research indicates that family members are often the source of infection among infants, and most family members are passing on the infection without ever realizing they have pertussis themselves. In one recent study, approximately 85% of infants with pertussis got if from a member of their immediate or extended family. This is why Tdap boosters are now recommended for all family members and caregivers who spend time around babies. In fact, families members should get their Tdap booster at least two weeks prior to the expected arrival of the baby, since it’s estimated that it takes that long to acquire immunity after getting the vaccine.
Most recently, the efforts and experiences of our Every Child By Two Parent Advocates have even helped inspire the expansion of the Vaccinate Your Baby program to the Vaccinate Your Family program. When people of all ages are up-to-date on their recommended vaccines, they’re less likely to pass illness on to our vulnerable infant population.
We encourage everyone to visit the adult section of the Vaccinate Your Family website, where there are several resources that specifically help educate older individuals about the need for adult Tdap boosters, to include materials for grandparents who want to help protect their young grandbabies.
Please familiarize yourself with this Grandparent Toolkit and share these materials among your friends, family and colleagues.
Every Child By Two stands with our Parent Advocates in our mission to ensure that no family should ever have to endure what they’ve been through. This week, as we mark the anniversary of the passing of Carter, Callie and Brady, may we each share this video and the many resources on the Vaccinate Your Family website in an effort to educate the public about pertussis prevention.
Every Child By Two is pleased to launch another article in their Expert Commentary series with links to in-depth articles available on the Every Child By Two website. This series features guest writer Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a retired epidemiologist who has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Dr. Harrison 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, Debunking Antivaccinationist John Stone and the CDC “Whistleblower”: A Review of John Stone’s “DeStefano Rides Again: GSK Rotavirus Vaccine Study Loses 80% Of Cases And 18 Deaths”
by Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH
I’ve written several articles for Every Child By Two. Each of them shows clearly the poor scholarship, deficient science, and often lack of common sense contained in articles written by antivaccinationists. The bottom line is they don’t know what they are talking about. If people are to decide on whether to vaccinate their children or not, it should be based on scholarly, well-grounded science, and reflect basic common sense, not claims made by people who are deficient in these.
John Stone is the UK editor for the online blog, Age of Autism. In a recent article, Stone writes:
Frank DeStefano, the CDC’s Director of Immunization Safety and the lead author at the centre of CDC whistleblower William Thompson’s allegations about destroying MMR/autism data, is involved in another case of apparently hiding data, this time involving intussusception and death, in a newly published paper concerning the safety of GSK’s rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix.
Last month, Representative Posey revealed to Congress that Thompson told Dr Brian Hooker in a taped telephone conversation regarding the DeStefano MMR paper that:
Sometime soon after the meeting, we decided to exclude reporting any race effects, the co-authors scheduled a meeting to destroy documents related to the study. The remaining four coauthors all met and brought a big garbage can into the meeting room and reviewed and went through all the hard copy documents that we had thought we should discard and put them in a huge garbage can.
The new CDC based study of GSK’s Rotarix vaccine by Haber et al., of which DeStefano is senior author and therefore responsible for research integrity, admits a small association with the serious condition of intussusception (an intestinal obstruction secondary to the inversion of one portion of the intestine within another). The paper states that from February 2008 to December 2014 the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) “received 108 confirmed insusceptible reports after RV1” (Rotarix). However, a careful review of the database reveals no less than 565 cases for the period. The paper claims to have excluded only 4 reports as unconfirmed (making a total of only 112). (Stone, 2015a; reposted 2015b)
In an Addendum posted a day after the reposting of his article, Stone writes:
I took this article down for 24 hours to consider the points made by “n davis” and “n davis is correct”. I had overlooked the fact that the paper selects US cases only – that there are only a trickle of cases from the US against a relative flood from abroad – and this is basis of massive selection bias, particularly in relation to deaths. It also shows that the US reporting system while always vastly inadequate is wilting. Pharmaceutical companies are required by law to forward reports from abroad where they come to their attention: there is nothing in n davis’s claim that these reports were unavailable to DeStefano – anyone interested in the safety of the vaccine to US children or any other would have considered all of the reports. (Stone 2015c)
By Amy Pisani, Executive Director of Every Child By Two
Dale Bumpers passed away on New Year’s Day, 2016. He will be remembered by many as a staunch advocate for civil rights, a defender of the constitution and one of the greatest orators in the history of the Senate. But for those of us who dedicate our lives to public health, he will be best known for the role he played in helping to save the lives of millions of children throughout the world.
For most parents in America today, having our children vaccinated has become a rite of passage. Nearly all insurance companies cover vaccines at no cost to families. For the economically disadvantaged, underinsured and uninsured, vaccines are free of charge, and finding a delivery site and/or provider is fairly simple.
In 1925, the birth year of Former Senator Dale Bumpers, this was hardly the case. Instead, families suffered the devastating effects of diseases including polio, measles, rubella and diphtheria, which regularly killed or maimed children. In the small town of Charleston, Arkansas, where Dale Bumpers was raised, childhood illnesses were the rite of passage and while vaccines would be licensed decades later, healthcare delivery remained fragmented until he and others took the lead years later.
While deadly diseases were fairly commonplace in the pre-vaccine era, a strategic battle to defeat them was brewing. This battle would have many heroes including the incredible scientists who develop vaccines and the dedicated public health workers who travel to the far corners of the earth delivering vaccines. Yet, there are two public servants whose names may not be as well-known as that of Jonas Salk, but who deserve a great deal of credit in the fight against communicable diseases. In a rural town of Charleston, Arkansas in 1949 a small town lawyer named Dale Bumpers married his high school sweetheart, Betty Flanagan Bumpers. This ‘dynamic duo’ would soon take reign and become public health heroes.
Back in the 1960s, as polio and measles vaccines were becoming available, the demand was high for a medicine that had the potential to save children from lifelong disability and death. As each new vaccine was developed and licensed, campaigns were established to vaccinate the children of the U.S., yet there was little to no organized method to ensure that all children were being offered protection from diseases that were devastating families in every town throughout America.
Betty Bumpers often reminisced about her childhood in Arkansas where she saw family after family lose loved ones to diseases including diphtheria. She credited her mother with her family’s good health. She understood the importance of good hygiene to stave off illnesses and insisted on hand washing. She also taught Betty the method of pouring boiled water over the dishes after they were cleaned. Later, as an art teacher in her public school system, Betty sadly recalled how many of her students fell ill from polio and diphtheria and how it had influenced her to make vaccinations her life’s work.
When Dale Bumpers became the Governor of Arkansas in 1970, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approached First Lady Betty Bumpers to request her participation in childhood immunization efforts. As a board member of the Arkansas Visiting Nurse association, Betty had a real understanding of the unmet needs of her community. She created a coalition of leaders from every organization and government entity that dealt with children’s health and wellbeing in Arkansas and made incredible strides raising the immunization rates of her home state.
During his four years in office, Governor Bumpers made significant strides in improving healthcare throughout Arkansas. He expanded enrollment in the state medical school, created loan-forgiveness programs for medical students who spent five years practicing in rural towns, established regional residency programs to distribute young doctors across underserved parts of the state and expanded prescription writing privileges to osteopaths statewide, all in an effort to ensure that healthcare was accessible to the entire state.
Following his 1975 election, Dale was elected to the U.S. Senate, and upon arriving in Washington made childhood immunization policies a priority throughout his 24 year career in Congress. Learning how to
galvanize political leaders and gaining insight into the inner workings of public and private healthcare at the state level had helped prepare the Bumpers for the national battle against preventable diseases and both Dale and Betty Bumpers were instrumental in shaping and fortifying the infrastructure of today’s national immunization program.
Thankfully, the U.S. no longer has a fragmented, underfunded system of vaccinating children. However, in 1976 the budget for immunization had been cut to $4.96 million from $6.2 million and the country was in the midst of a major measles outbreak. It was Dale Bumpers who took the reins and during the two decades he spent as a member of Congress and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he helped his colleagues understand the impact that congressional funding cuts had on disease prevention.
It was early in the Carter Administration when Betty Bumpers forged what would become a lifelong partnership with First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Read more…
As we prepare for the challenges of 2016, we want to thank everyone for a successful 2015. 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 2015. 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.
As the number of measles cases tied to the Disneyland outbreak continued to rise this year, parents grew 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. We had many parents with young children raising their concerns on our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page and asking if they could give the vaccine earlier than recommended. In this post, Every Child By Two Scientific Advisory Board Member, Mary Beth Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP provides some insight as to the vaccine recommendations and how parents can help to protect their young children from measles. To learn more, read the article here.
Rebecca’s five-year old daughter Scarlet was one of the 147 children who would die from flu in the 2014-2015 season. Prior to Scarlet’s death, Rebecca thought the flu was no big deal. She didn’t realize that the flu could be dangerous to people of all ages; even those who are otherwise healthy. In this post, Rebecca shares the struggles she has had in facing life without her daughter. She also explains that while Scarlet will always be one of the many faces of the flu, her goal now is to prevent others from suffering the same tragedy that her family has. To hear more about Rebecca’s mission to fight flu, read Scarlet’s story here.
As a pediatrician, Rebecca Bakke MD, FAAP is often asked what she thinks about delaying vaccines, trying an alternate vaccine schedule or forgoing them all together. In this post she shares a very personal experience in which she unknowingly infected her own daughter Claire with pertussis. The coughing started when Claire was just five weeks old and after is was confirmed that Claire had pertussis, Rebecca grew terrified. As a pediatrician, she knew that infants with pertussis are at great risk for complications. She also knew that antibiotic treatment for pertussis only prevents the spread of the disease, but that no medication can alter the disease course after the coughing starts. To read Dr. Bakke’s personal account of pertussis, read the complete story here.
Despite the fact that measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, we saw a significant outbreak in the United States in 2015. As the outbreak spread, 2015 saw 189 people suffer with measles in 24 states. People began wondering, “Is measles something I should be worried about?” In order to determine whether we should be concerned, this post addressed the facts about the disease, the vaccines we use to help prevent it, and the way in which measles is spread among various communities and across the nation. The truth is that measles presents a risk to everyone, even the vaccinated. To learn why, read the post here.
Dr. Tim Jacks has a three-year-old daughter Maggie who is fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (blood cancer) and as a result has a compromised immune system. At the time this article was published, he also had 10 month old son Eli who had received all his recommended vaccines, but was too young for his first dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Unfortunately, Dr. Jacks’ family was exposed to measles at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital clinic. Frustrated and concerned, he responded by writing an open letter “To the parent of the unvaccinated child who exposed my family to measles.” As the measles outbreak continued to spread throughout the nation, he presented testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on The Reemergence of Vaccine-Preventable Disease: Exploring the Public Health Successes and Challenges . To read more about his efforts to educate Congress about the plight of those who depend on herd immunity and the importance of protecting those who are most vulnerable to vaccine preventable diseases, check out his guest post here.
If you have suggestions for topics you would like us to address in 2016, 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 email@example.com.
If you want to ensure you don’t miss any of our new posts in 2016, simply subscribe to Shot of Prevention by clicking the link at the top right of this page. You can also “Like” our Vaccinate Your Family 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!