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Immunization Funding is an Investment in Public Health that Saves Lives and Dollars

February 26, 2018 Leave a comment

ba3f8b28-e868-42b5-b217-1d8da24ffbd8For the past two decades, every President has proposed a fiscal budget that has underfunded immunization programming. Fortunately, over the years, Congress has been steadfast in approving higher amounts. As we approach another crossroad in our fiscal planning, we must, once again, call upon Congress to properly fund critical prevention programs.  

In the following Op Ed published in The Hill, Every Child By Two Executive Director, Amy Pisani, makes the case that Congress should support the CDC’s Immunization Program to the fullest extent possible. In order to truly effect change, the program requires $1.03 billion. While it may seem like a hefty sum, the argument in favor of full funding is that an investment in public health will save lives as well as future expense. 

 

Undercutting the Immunization Program

Puts Both Lives and Dollars at Risk

 

By Amy Pisani, executive director of Every Child By Two, a nonprofit organization committed to reducing the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases in families and individuals.

 

Earlier this month, President Trump released his proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget. It notes an impressive achievement: For every $1 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spends on preventing fraud and abuse, the agency saves $5.

Whenever you can spend money to save money in government, it’s a no brainer for policymakers. Unfortunately, that rationale seems to have escaped the President on the issue of vaccination.

For every $1 we spend on childhood vaccines, we save $10.10, which is nearly double the savings of preventing fraud. The vaccines given to children born over the past two decades will result in a savings of $360 billion in direct and nearly $1.65 trillion in societal costs.

The benefits don’t end with children. The U.S. still spends nearly $26.5 billion annually treating adults over the age of 50 for just four diseases that could be prevented by vaccines: influenza, pertussis, pneumococcal disease and shingles.

The majority of these avoidable costs are borne by federal health insurance programs. Yet for the second year in a row, the President has proposed gutting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Immunization Program.

This is not just a discussion of dollars saved. It’s also a matter of lives saved. Over the past 23 years the Vaccines for Children program has prevented 381 million illnesses, 855,000 early deaths and 25 million hospitalizations, but we have much more work to do.

(Click here to read the full article on The Hill)

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For information pertaining to the preparedness of our nation, and for suggestions on what we can do as a nation to make our country stronger and more resilient in the face of emerging health threats, review Vaccinate Your Family’s second annual State of the ImmUnion report here.   

Congress Proposes Big Cuts to Prevention and Public Health Fund

February 6, 2018 1 comment
by Erica DeWald, Director of Advocacy, Every Child By Two

Congress is Proposing a $2.85B Cut to Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) over 10 Years

Congress is once again developing a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government from shutting down on Thursday, February 8. Every Child By Two (ECBT) is pleased to report that the proposed CR budget also includes critical funding for many public health programs including two years of funding for community health centers and the National Health Service Corps.

Unfortunately, it also includes a $2.85 billion cut over ten years to the nation’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF).

Here’s how it’s broken down (courtesy of Trust for America’s Health):

Fiscal Year Current Law Latest CR Net Cumulative Net
FY2018 $900M $900M 0 0
FY2019 $800M $900M +$100M +$100M
FY2020 $800M $1.0B +$200M +$300M
FY2021 $800M $1.0B +$200M +$500M
FY2022 $1.25B $1.1B -$150M +$350M
FY2023 $1.0B $1.1B +$100M +$450M
FY2024 $1.7B $1.1B -$600M -$150M
FY2025 $2.0B $1.1B -$900M -$1.05B
FY2026 $2.0B $1.1B -$900M -$1.95B
FY2027 $2.0B $1.1B -$900M -$2.85B
FY2028 $2.0B $0B -$2.0B -$4.85B

As we’ve shared in previous updates, the PPHF accounts for 53% of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Immunization Program budget. Any cut could mean serious reductions in our country’s and states’ abilities to:

  • Support the science that informs our national immunization policy.
  • Provide a safety net to uninsured, low-income adults by enabling vaccine purchases;
  • Monitor the safety of vaccines.
  • Educate healthcare providers.
  • Perform community outreach.
  • Conduct surveillance, laboratory testing and epidemiology in response to disease outbreaks.

With the U.S. continuously facing costly outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza, measles and pertussis (also known as whooping cough), now is not the time to weaken the backbone of our nation’s public health infrastructure.

We are watching these budget developments closely.

While it’s somewhat reassuring that Congress is replacing the money they cut from the PPHF to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in this CR, no cut is acceptable. On the positive side, this delay in finalizing the budget does give us time to shore up support among Congressional Members for the critical services funded by the PPHF.

We will continue to send you updates on immunization funding and will be sure to let you know if we need to begin reaching out to our Members of Congress.

Thank you as always for your support of immunizations!



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Every Child By Two/Vaccinate Your Family has prepared our second annual State of the ImmUnion report to examine how strong our defenses truly are against vaccine-preventable diseases and what we can do as public health advocates and legislators to make our country stronger and more resilient in the face of emerging health threats.

We hope this report will offer you insights into areas of improvement to strengthen our protection against dangerous, and potentially deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases.

The State of the ImmUnion: A Report on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the U.S.

February 1, 2018 Leave a comment

As we continue to reflect on the State of the Union this week, Every Child By Two’s Vaccinate Your Family program has prepared a special report that examines the State of the ImmUnion.

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At a time when legislators are examining ways to make our country stronger and more resilient, this report emphasizes the need to improve our defenses against emerging health threats by detailing ways in which we can protect our citizens from the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The statistics are staggering.  Vaccine preventable diseases are currently costing our economy billions of dollars, all while threatening the health of our citizens.  As an example, each year flu causes anywhere from 3,000-49,000 deaths in the U.S. and over $87 billion in direct and indirect costs to our economy.  And this is just the toll of one particular disease over the course of one year.  There are plenty of other vaccine preventable diseases that we can, and should, turn our attention to.  There are also many actions we can take as a nation to raise immunization rates and lower disease incidence, all while saving both lives and money.

So what is it that public health advocates and legislators can do?

In the second annual State of the ImmUnion report, Vaccinate Your Family details the challenges that lie ahead and offers specific ways in which legislators can support strong vaccine policies.

Immunization supporters across the country are encouraged to share this resource with legislators and call upon them to strengthen the State of the ImmUnion.

Simply send them an email or tag them in a tweet with a link to the report (http://vaccinateyourfamily.org/soti).

Here are some suggested messages you can use:

Preventable diseases cost the U.S. economy billions each year! Legislators (tag key state/federal legislators) can help reduce these costs by ensuring all citizens have access to life-saving and cost-saving #vaccines. Get the facts from Vaccinate Your Family in their 2018 #StateoftheImmUnion report. http://vaccinateyourfamily.org/soti #SOTI2018

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What should legislators be doing to make the #SOTU more resilient in the face of emerging health threats? Strengthen the #StateoftheImmUnion with suggestions found in Vaccinate Your Family’s #SOTI2018 report. http://vaccinateyourfamily.org/soti

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Disease outbreaks like seasonal flu cost money and lives. Find out how policymakers can help ensure a strong #StateoftheImmUnion in Vaccinate Your Family’s #SOTI2018 report. http://vaccinateyourfamily.org/soti

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Thank you for your continued support and stay tuned for updates on how Vaccinate Your Family’s State of the ImmUnion report can be used to advocate for strong immunization policies throughout the year. 

Is This Season’s Flu More Severe Than Usual or Just Highly Active?

January 13, 2018 10 comments

At this point in the flu season people often wonder if all the media hype is part of an orchestrated effort to panic people about flu, or if it is really signaling serious concern.

There are lots of flu stories in the news these days.  From reports of  74 Californian’s who’ve died from flu – five times the number seen at this point last year – to 13 school districts in TX closing due to the high number of flu cases among students, we’re left to wonder….

Is this year’s flu season more severe than usual or just highly active at the moment?

A recent CDC media briefing has helped clarify the following concerns regarding the latest flu activity in the U.S.: 

Right now, flu is widespread everywhere.  

One of the most notable differences between this season and others is in relation to the geographic spread of flu. This is the first time over the course of 13 years of surveillance data that the entire nation is experiencing widespread flu at the exact same time, as can be noted by the color of CDC’s flu surveillance map below.

FluWeeklyReportActivity is severe right now.

 

One of the ways the CDC tracks influenza activity is to record the number of lab confirmed cases of flu and hospitalizations by week. What they’ve noted is a very rapid increase in the number of people seeing their healthcare providers for flu diagnosis, along with a rapid rise in the numbers of people being hospitalized with lab confirmed flu. For instance, this week’s surveillance data indicates that there’s been 22.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the U.S., which is up considerably from the 13.7 number recorded last week.

So far this season, influenza A (H3N2), has been the most prevalent strain in circulation. Unfortunately, historically it is often the strain linked to more severe illness, especially among children and older individuals above the age of 65. Interestingly enough, the current flu surveillance observations seem to be in line with two more previous H3N2 dominant seasons; the 2014-2015 and 2012-2013 seasons.WHOPHL02_small

Additionally the hospitalizations so far this season seem to be in line with other H3N2 predominant seasons, with the highest rates among those over the age of 65, those between 50-64, and children under 5 years of age.

Flu can cause mild disease in some, but severe disease and death in others.

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Sadly, there have been as many as 30 pediatric deaths so far this season. While children are at great risk, there are plenty of reports of otherwise healthy adults who have been hospitalized or died from flu this season.

Peak season may have started early, but there are many more weeks to go.

Speaking to the media on behalf of the CDC on Friday, Dr.  Jernigan explained,

“If we look at the timing of the season, even if we have hit the top of the curve or the peak of the seasonal activity, it still means we have a lot more flu to go.”

He went on to suggest that there will likely be at least 11 to 13 more weeks of elevated influenza activity this season, before activity begins to subside. Even though it can take about two weeks for protection from vaccination to set in, Dr. Jernigan explained that we still have a lot of flu season to get through and that vaccination efforts should continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating.

While we are seeing a lot of H3N2 circulating now, we are also seeing H1N1 show up in states that have already had H3N2 activity. And we know that B viruses also tend to show up later in the season. Each of these strains are covered in the vaccine, so flu vaccination now can still help to prevent, or lessen the severity of flu throughout the remainder of the season.

Vaccination is our best defense.  

While flu vaccination is far from perfect, it remains our best defense. Not only can it help prevent flu, but it can also help lessen the severity of symptoms if a vaccinated person does end up getting infected.  This can reduce the chances of an individual being hospitalized or dying from flu.

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In fact, a recent study showed that influenza vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by 65% among healthy children and by 51% among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions. Another study indicated that many older adults benefit from repeated flu vaccination. When getting vaccinated in both the current and previous seasons, the study found flu vaccination was 74% effective in preventing ICU admissions in older individuals and 70% effective in preventing deaths among older adults.

Manufacturers are reporting that they’ve shipped more than 151 million doses of flu vaccine this season, so there shouldn’t be a problem finding a flu vaccine in your area.  Simply refer to the flu vaccine finder for assistance.

We won’t know preliminary flu vaccine effectiveness until February.  

Read more…

Free Online Course Explains Cells, Immunity and Vaccines

January 4, 2018 1 comment
by Rich Greenaway, Director of Program Operations and Special Projects, Every Child By Two

Often times, the concerns people have about vaccines can be addressed through a better understanding of science.  It begins with a more comprehensive explanation of how the cells in our body work, how viruses can infect us, how our bodies fight off infections, and how vaccines help in that process.

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Fortunately, you don’t have to devote your life to being a doctor or scientist to benefit from an improved understanding of immunology.  While many people strive to better educate themselves on these topics, the challenge is in finding educational resources that are not only accessible to the general public, but are also scientifically accurate and comprehensible for non-scientists.

Now Dr. Jonathan M. Gershoni, a Professor of Molecular Immunology and Virology at Tel Aviv University, has stepped in to help.  

After spending thirty years investigating the immune response towards viruses such as HIV, HCV and SARS CoV, Dr. Gershoni is now offering a free course entitled, Viruses & How to Beat Them: Cells, Immunity, Vaccines.

 

Designed for the general public, the course is offered at no charge, but can also be taken for continuing education credits for a small fee ($49).  The online lectures are offered in English in a video format that is easy to understand. Additional learning materials and a glossary of terms are also available for each section.

The entire course consists of seven lessons which are then subdivided into six to ten sub-lessons, each concluding with a quiz.  Although the course became available in December, new participants can view any of the lectures at their own pace.  Lesson 7 may be of particular interest since it deals specifically with vaccines and how they work.  While the time one invests in this course may vary, it is expected that the course can be completed by committing two to three hours per week over an eight-week period.

At a time when immunization misinformation remains prevalent on the internet, and continues to interfere with the public’s ability to recognize the value of vaccines as a primary means of disease prevention, this class and others from reputable individuals and organizations, can further our mission to ensure that everyone is making well-informed decisions regarding vaccines.

Consider the comments Dr. Jonathan M. Gershoni has received from various experts on what they think about vaccines:

We encourage you to register for the course, share your thoughts about the course if you are taking it, and encourage others to further educate themselves about immunology and virology by signing up today.  Simply click here to get started.

Most Popular Posts of 2017 Address Flu, Vaccine Safety, Disease Outbreaks and Maternal Vaccines

December 27, 2017 Leave a comment

As we look back at the success of the Shot of Prevention blog this past year, we’re especially grateful to our blog readers, contributors and subscribers.

Whether you’ve shared a post, shared your story, or shared your expertise, we recognize that our growth and success would not have been possible without your support. Thanks to you, our posts are helping people to make important immunization decisions for themselves and their families.

In these final days of 2017, we hope that you will revisit the top ten posts from the past year and share them with others in your social networks.  

1)  3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Son To Flu

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It’s been eight years since Serese Marotta of Families Fighting Flu lost her five-year-old son, Joseph, to the flu. She’s not the same person she was eight years ago. Today, she sees things through a different lens as a bereaved parent. Losing a child is devastating, but she feels a responsibility to pass on some of the lessons she’s learned through her personal tragedy, which she does in her article here.

 

2)  10 Things Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids Should Know

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In some cases, children who have suffered with a preventable disease were unvaccinated.  This could be the result of parents who did not have access to certain vaccines, parents who willfully refused a particular vaccine, or it could because they were too young to be fully vaccinated. After Riley Hughes passed away in the arms of his parents when he was just 32 days old, his parents made it their mission to educate people about the dangers of whooping cough, and promote the need for vaccination. In a plea to parents who still choose not to vaccinate, Riley’s mom posted the following list of “things to know” here.

 

3)  Even With All Our Modern Medicine I Watched My Sister Die From Flu

lizaLiza was healthy and only 49 years old when she contracted flu. She sought medical care early. She was cared for at a good hospital in a major city.  She had no other infections. And she was unvaccinated. To say that her death was a surprise to her brother is an understatement.  And yet her brother, Dr. Michael Northrop is a pediatric intensive care physician. His story traces the clinical course of Liza’s illness, and expresses the grief he felt as he helplessly watched his sister  succumbs to an illness that even modern medicine can’t always save us from. To read his story, click here.

 

4) Take It From This Mom, The Flu Is No Joke

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After her four-year old daughter is rushed to the emergency room, she writes a warning to others.  “The words just the flu need to be eradicated from our lexicon. Because this? This is the flu. There’s no ‘just’ about this. It was terrifying. It was the most helpless I’ve ever felt as a mommy. And it was potentially deadly.  All because I was too busy to get our flu shots.” Read the full story here.

 

5) Flu Vaccine Benefits Go Beyond Effectiveness of One Strain

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Amid speculation about how effective the flu vaccine will be this year, Dr. LJ Tan addresses some of the public’s most prominent concerns. He starts with a basic explanation of flu and flu vaccines, discusses the factors that play into vaccine effectiveness, and addresses rumors about this year’s flu vaccines. To gain a better understanding, read more here.

 

6) How My Sister Helped Save My Daughter From Whooping Cough

As a Medical Director responsible for Community Health and Prevention at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, Tamara Sheffield is a huge advocate for SOTI_Pertussis_FBimmunizations. She is especially appreciative of maternal immunizations, which she considers one of today’s most promising new preventive health strategies. But her reasons go beyond her professional understanding of how maternal flu and Tdap vaccines pass on protective antibodies to newborns. Her surprising story ends with a twist involving her own daughter who nearly died from whooping cough when she was just three weeks old. Read it here.

 

7) Multiple Vaccine Oversight Committees Ensure Our Public Safety

While 2017 brought a lot of uncertainty about health services in this country, Dr. Dorit Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of Law, explains 178_NFID_Vaccine_Safety_infograms_2_FINALwhy the public should remain confident in vaccine safety. In this post she reviews the specific ways in which vaccine safety is regulated in the U.S., and the oversight committees that monitor vaccines pre and post licensure. Her scrutiny explains that it would be hard to hide a problem if one existed, and that when problems do occur, they are quickly discovered and addressed. To learn more about vaccine safety oversight, read the full post here.

 

8) Why Should Vaccinated Individuals Worry About Measles Outbreaks

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With various measles outbreaks reported across the U.S. and the world in 2017, it’s important to understand why vaccinated individuals should be concerned. Many people mistakenly think that vaccinated individuals are not at risk during outbreaks. However, when it comes to infectious diseases like measles, one person’s decision not to vaccinate can negatively impact the health of others and this post explains how.

 

9) Five Things I’ve Learned About Vaccines Through 21 Years of Parenting

HowHerdImmunityWorksWe’ve all received plenty of unsolicited advice about how to care for our children. However, when making health decision for our families we should rely on evidence based research and credible information from reputable sources. In this post, I share five of the most important things I’ve learned about vaccines through my journey as a parent and immunization blogger. Spoiler alert: it begins with science and it ends with action.

 

10) Five Things Expectant Parents Need to Know About Vaccines in Pregnancy

SOTI-PregnancyCoverFBWhile well-meaning friends and family will provide a constant stream of advice on what to do and what to avoid while pregnant, all this information can be overwhelming. Expectant couples should rely on credible medical sources such as the CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the American College of Nurse Midwives. This blog post reviews the 5 things these trusted organizations say about the flu and Tdap vaccines routinely recommended during pregnancy. Learn more here.

 

We hope you have found our content to be engaging and informative.  We have exciting changes planned for Shot of Prevention in 2018 in hopes of engaging even more people in these important immunization conversations in the years to come.  

If you have suggestions for topics you would like us to address in 2018, or you would like to contribute a guest post for publication, please email shotofprevention@gmail.com.

Also, if you want to receive important immunization news and join in our online discussions, be sure to “Like” our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page, follow our @ShotofPrev Twitter feed and subscribe to Shot of Prevention by clicking the link on the top right of this page.

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

Vaccine Hesitancy Often Tied to Moral Foundations of Liberty and Purity

December 5, 2017 Leave a comment

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We often try to overcome vaccine hesitancy with education, hoping that the scientific evidence will be enough to change people’s minds.  The hope is that if we can just provide people with the facts about the dangers of diseases, and the benefits of vaccines, than they will be encouraged to vaccinate.  But research shows that it’s not that easy, and this may not even be the right approach.

Today, Washington Post reporter, Lena Sun, published an article that explains that vaccine hesitancy is not just an issue of education.  Recent behavioral research suggests that there is often a moral difference between people who accept vaccines and people who refuse them.  The point is that people don’t make decisions based solely on fact.  Rather, parents who are most reluctant to vaccinate appear to be strongly concerned with two powerful moral values that influence their attitudes and judgments: individual liberty and purity.

In this framework, liberty is associated with belief in personal responsibility, freedom, property rights and resistance to state involvement in citizens’ lives, while concerns about purity focus on boundaries and protection from contamination.

One new study out of Emory University, published recently in Nature Human Behaviour, used a social psychology theory known as Moral Foundations Theory to determine the underlying moral values most strongly associated with vaccine-hesitant parents. They assessed the parents’ level of vaccination hesitancy and explored how important different moral values were to them when deciding if something was right or wrong. Their findings correspond with the reasons many vaccine-hesitant parents give for delaying or refusing some vaccines.

Another group of researchers out of Loyola University in Chicago were able to validate these finding, but then went one step further.  They found that purity and liberty values also seem to influence the belief in false or misleading statements that often appear on websites that adamantly oppose vaccines.

In another study recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers at the University of Amsterdam and University of Kent explored science skepticism as it relates to various issues such as climate change, vaccination and genetic modification in food.  They determined that “religiosity”, as well as concerns about moral purity, were also a common predictor of vaccine skepticism.

The insight that we get from this type of behavioral research can certainly help us better understand those who are vaccine hesitant.  If we can take the moral foundation concerns and incorporate them into our messaging, we may be able to persuade parents that vaccines do fulfill their desire to maintain both liberty and purity.

As an example, to address the purity concerns, one suggested intervention may be to explain that vaccinating is a way of  boosting a child’s natural defenses against disease and keeping the child “pure of infections”.  Whereas a liberty-oriented message might suggest that vaccines can help parents to take personal control of a child’s health so that they are free to live a happy and healthy life.

While such messaging has yet to be tested, these studies, and others like this, are critical to helping us develop more effective communication, and should be a consideration for all of us who engage with vaccine hesitant parents in the doctor’s office, on the internet or at the playground.