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

May 21, 2015 2 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…

Why Early HPV Vaccination is Beneficial

April 29, 2015 100 comments

Since the human papillomavirus (HPV) is transmitted from one person to another through sexual activity, many parents question why the CDC recommends the vaccine be administered to boys and girls as young as 11 or 12 years of age.  HPV vaccination is critical if we are to prevent the 27,000 cases of anal, mouth/throat, penile, cervicalvaginal, or vulvar cancers that are diagnosed each year in the U.S.  However, since some parents have difficulty acknowledging that their teenage children may be engaging in activity that puts them at risk of HPV, they’re often reluctant to vaccinate at the recommended age.

If you’re a parent who is questioning whether your preteen child should get the HPV vaccine, it’s important to realize the benefits of vaccinating at an early age.  

 hpv-cancer-prevention

The vaccine works best prior to exposure to the HPV virus.

The fact is that almost all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives.  While most of these infections go undetected and may even clear up on their own, we know that one in four people in the U.S. are currently infected and that initial infection typically occurs in the teens or early 20s.

While most parents are hopeful that their teenagers will refrain from sexual activity until later in life, research tells us otherwise.  The data suggests that 5% of 12-year-olds, 10% of 13-year-olds and 20% of 14-year-olds are sexually active. And the likelihood of sex continues to escalate with each school grade level with 32% of 9th grade students to 62% of 12th grade students.  And since HPV can be transmitted through oral sex as well, it’s important to note that as many as 51% of 15-24 year-olds are having oral sex before they have their first sexual intercourse.

Since it’s entirely possible to get HPV the very first time that a person has sexual contact with another person, the question we must ask ourselves is why should we wait until a child is sexually active to offer vaccination? As we can see by the data, even a child as young as 12 years old can be at risk.  Even if a child should abstain from sex until marriage, there is no guarantee that their partner did the same, and they can still contract HPV that may one day lead to cancer.  However, if a child should complete the three dose series of HPV vaccination before they begin any type of sexual activity, then they’ll be better protected if they get exposed to the virus, at whatever age that may be.

The HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than it does in older teens and young women.

Read more…

Maine Public Health Professional Recognized as Immunization Champion

Every state needs a local source for parents to get immunization information they can trust.  In addition to state health departments, many states have immunization coalitions, immunization program managers and various public health professionals that help to ensure that parents get the vaccine information and access they need to keep their families healthy.  

Cassandra GranthamIn Maine for instance, public health advocates and policy makers understand that less than optimal vaccination rates are impacting the health of the state through disease outbreaks, missed school, hospitalizations and even, in some cases, death.  Unfortunately, the state of Maine has been ranked as having one of the highest rates of whooping cough infections and unvaccinated kindergartners in the nation.  However, through the work of dedicated public health professionals like Cassandra Grantham, the Maine Childhood Immunization Champion Award recipient,  the state is making great strides at addressing these concerns.

Cassandra was born and raised in Maine.  She loves her state and its people, and she is determined to help prevent the spread of disease in Maine communities.  As the parent of two children, Cassandra realizes that fellow Maine parents just want to do what’s best for their children.  That is why she has made it both a personal and professional priority to ensure that parents have access to scientifically accurate information about vaccines so that they can make well-informed immunization decisions for themselves and their children.

As Program Director of Child Health at MaineHealth, a not-for-profit healthcare system serving 11 of Maine’s 16 counties, as well as co-chair of the Maine Immunization Coalition, Cassandra has served as the backbone of the state’s immunization programs since 2010.

1240040_532110726862813_3266206_nOver the past few years she has launched several educational initiatives, such as the creation of the Vax Maine Kids website, the Vax Maine Kids Facebook page and the Vax Maine Kids blog which addresses a various childhood health topics ranging from safe sleep to immunizations.  She even launched the Kohl’s Vax Kids program, designed to increase immunization awareness among parents who are most likely to delay or skip their child’s vaccinations. Read more…

Every Child By Two Parent Advocate Receives Childhood Immunization Champion Award

April 20, 2015 2 comments

Each year I look over the list of Childhood Immunization Champion Award winners and I am truly inspired. 

During National Infant Immunization Week (April 18-25, 2015) the CDC and the CDC Foundation recognizes “Champions” from every state.  While the Champions are often public health professionals, doctors and nurses, being selected as a Champion isn’t just about doing your job.champ-award

Being a Champion requires an extraordinary effort.  It’s about going above and beyond.  And it’s about promoting childhood immunizations in a way that exemplifies a commitment to change, even in the face of adversity or resistance.

IN-TornhoutThis year I’m proud to say that I know a true Champion, and she is a parent advocate just like many of you.  The truth is that Katie Van Tornhout didn’t need a formal award to be considered a Champion in my eyes, but I’m thrilled to know that her passion and commitment are being recognized by people who devote their entire professional lives to promoting childhood immunizations.

callie_van_tornhoutI came to know Katie in a very unfortunate way.  After five years and four miscarriages, Katie and Craig Van Tornhout celebrated the birth of their daughter Callie in 2010.   Although their baby arrived a few weeks early, she was truly a miracle.  Despite the fact that they had barely left the house with Callie after her birth, their joy quickly turned to grief when a disease called pertussis, also known as whooping cough, claimed her life at just 38 days old.

It is in these challenging moments of adversity that we are often tested, and yet it was through the pain and sorrow of their loss that the Van Tornhouts – along with their angel Callie – have become forceful agents of change.  Since losing her daughter, Katie has been determined to spare other children from pertussis and prevent other parents from suffering a similar tragedy. Read more…

Time to Speak Out in Support of Strong School Vaccine Policies

April 14, 2015 327 comments

jyTzFXoGLast week California legislators were asked to cast a very important vote on a very critical matter – school vaccine exemptions.

California Senate Bill 277 would remove the Personal Belief Exemption (PBE) option from the school and child care enrollment requirements and require schools to publicly provide information about their immunization rates.  Last week the first hearing of the bill passed the Senate Health Committee in a 6-2 vote.  The bill now faces an Education Committee hearing on April 15th at 9am before potentially moving to a Senate floor vote.

But what happens to this bill doesn’t just pertain to parents in California. What happens in California is important to every parent across the country and here’s why…

Unlike Vegas, what happens in California doesn’t stay in California.  

Consider the ongoing measles outbreak that is linked to the Disneyland Resort.  What began as a single case of measles in a popular tourist location in Anaheim, California quickly spread to 7 states and into both Canada and Mexico.  While it’s fascinating to see the dynamics of how diseases spread, this situation illustrates how an outbreak of an infectious disease in one location can quickly spread across the country in a matter of weeks.

As the number of measles cases climbed, healthcare providers and public health professionals grew increasingly concerned.  And parents with infants too young to be immunized, and parents of children who are immunocompromised – like Jennifer Hibben-White and Dr. Tim Jacks – grew increasingly angry.  The result has been a surge in state bills aimed at tightening school vaccine exemption policies.

School vaccine policies are governed by the states. 

What parents may not realize, is that each state governs their own school vaccine requirements.  In fact, Every Child By Two was founded in 1991 by Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Former Fist Lady of Arkansas Betty Bumpers as a response to a U.S. measles epidemic which sickened more than 55,000 individuals, hospitalized over 11,000 and killed more than 120 people, including young children.  In response to this outbreak, the two co-founders traveled the entire nation to alert people about immunization concerns.  As a result, they’ve been credited with the passage of laws mandating school-age vaccination requirements in every state and the establishment of immunization coalitions that continue to operate in most states.

While every state allows for valid medical exemptions to vaccinations, states differ as to whether they will allow personal belief or religious exemptions (though very few religions actually oppose vaccines).ExImmunMap15

Additionally, the procedures by which a parent can obtain an exemption for their child also vary by state.  In most states, it can be as easy as a parent signing a piece of paper.  In fact, filing an exemption is often much easier than fulfilling the requirement of getting vaccinated.  Therefore, it’s presumed that exemptions rates may be on the rise partly because parents are becoming increasingly aware of just how easy they are to get.

Ultimately, the states are accountable for the number of school vaccination exemptions.  However, it’s the persistent efforts of vaccine critics that continually encourage parents to refuse vaccines that may be responsible.  In fact, there are various websites and forums that are known to assist parents in navigating exemption requirements.

So now, concerned about outbreaks of diseases like measles and whooping cough, and amidst evidence that the current  measles outbreak has been driven by those who refuse vaccines, state legislators are looking to address the matter through the introduction of new immunization related bills.  There are eight states (CA, MD, OK, VT, WA, NC, ME and RI) with bills that are trying to remove personal belief or religious exemptions.  There are four states (CT, NJ, NM and TX) looking to tighten the rules that apply to religious exemptions.  There are six states (CO, TX, IL, MN, PA, and OR)  trying to add some kind of educational component to current exemption policies.  There are plenty of other immunization related bills – estimated to be as many as 110 – under consideration so far this year.   Read more…

Efforts to Support Autism Awareness Often Derailed by Vaccine Critics

April 2, 2015 16 comments

autismdayThe fact is that I’m not autistic and I do not have an autistic child.  Therefore, I’m often reluctant to speak out on the subject of autism.  This is not because I don’t support the autism community – I most certainly do!  But because I don’t consider myself part of the inner circle of the autism community.

The way I see it, this inner circle is reserved for individuals with autism, as well as the family members, educators, therapists, researchers, and caregivers that support those living with autism.  And I would never want to presume to know what they need.  However, I listen intently to their calls for action, and hope to help them in overcoming their challenges by offering funds and support.

From my “outsider’s” point of view, autism awareness is about understanding, acceptance, inclusion, improved quality of life, and better support and resources for autistic individuals and those who assist them.  I believe every individual deserves the opportunity to lead a full, healthy and meaningful life.  But then again, who am I to define what constitutes a full, healthy and meaningful life?  When it comes to autism, I believe that research is critical in helping to understand how best to assist autistic individuals and their families, and not hinder or restrict them in any way.

vaxnoautism1When I investigate the extensive research that is being conducted on the subject of autism, it is truly awe-inspiring. There is so much we have learned, and yet, still so much to understand and discover.  Research is beginning to reveal various genetic factors that appear to contribute to autism.  We continue to learn about early interventions and successful treatments.  And we’ve spent an enormous amount of resources investigating a potential link between vaccines and autism.

To address concerns that maybe childhood vaccines were contributing to the rise in autism, multiple studies were conducted to look at children who received vaccines in comparison to those who didn’t, and in comparison to those who received them on a different or slower schedule.  There were even studies that looked into specific vaccines, such as the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR), as well as research into vaccine ingredients such as a preservative know as thimerosal.

The results of all these studies were clear and experts agree; there is no relation between vaccines and autism.  But despite the scientific evidence, suggestions that vaccines are a cause of autism continue to appear within comments on this blog, comments on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page, and on countless sites all over the internet.

Today, as I perused various social media platforms on World Autism Awareness Day, I noted the ways people were “talking” about autism, and I was saddened to see that some people who are speaking on behalf of the autism community are also actively encouraging vaccine refusal.

Unfortunately, this dialogue is more hurtful than helpful.  Unvaccinated children are suffering with preventable diseases and sometimes even spreading dangerous diseases to others.   To add insult to injury, one of the most well-known autism advocacy organizations in the U.S. (Autism Speaks) continues to send mixed messages about their position on the subject of vaccines and autism.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post that suggested that #AutismSpeaksTooLate on the subject of vaccines.

It’s no secret that Autism Speaks has continually made statements that seemingly perpetuate the idea of a vaccine/autism link. For instance, their Strategic Plan for Science, which outlines the group’s priorities for the years 2013 to 2017, also makes similar suggestions of a causal relationship by stating: Read more…

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