How One Teen is Engaging Her Peers to Help Eliminate HPV Related Cancers

February 27, 2018 1 comment

By Allyson Rosenblum

What if you could save a life or prevent someone from the devastation of cancer simply be providing them with information, would you do it?  What if it was someone you knew or cared about, would you do it then? 

IMG_3767 6.17.55 PMMy name is Allyson and I am a 17 year-old high school student living in Southern California. Earlier this year, I set out to do something that I hope will make a difference in the lives of others. I would like to encourage teenagers who care about their health and the health of future generations to join me.

What I’m asking is fairly simple. I am requesting high school and college students to pass along valuable information about HPV infection and prevention to those they know and care about.  

I have personally seen HPV and cancer devastate the lives and dreams of people I love. Beginning in October of last year, I witnessed my mother’s difficult battle with cancer every day as she endured three surgeries and eight months of chemotherapy. Two months later, my cousin informed me that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer resulting from an HPV infection she acquired as a teenager. At just 35 years old, she has now had to accept the fact she will never be able to have biological children of her own. Seeing all this pain and needless suffering has moved me to take action.

I decided to start a social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram, which I called “Two Shots To Beat Cancer.”

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My goal is to enlist high school and college students throughout the U.S. to help in passing along information about the importance of early HPV vaccination to other high school and college students using various social media platforms.

Let me emphasize that this campaign is not about teen sex.  Rather, it’s about prevention of HPV prior to sexual activity. If people can avoid acquiring the strains of the HPV virus that are linked to cancer, they will be less likely to suffer with an HPV related cancer later in life or pass the virus on to others.  This is why the CDC recommends the HPV vaccine to 11-12 year olds. However, if a child did not get vaccinated in their pre-teens, it’s not too late. The vaccine is recommended up to age 26 for women and age 21 for men.

Unfortunately, most people my age do not want to talk about health related issues. We’re often uncomfortable talking about such topics, especially with adults, and reticent to share private information about ourselves. As such, many of us remain unaware of the dangers and prevalence of HPV, and questions and concerns often go unaddressed. However, it is precisely the lack of education and informed knowledge that allows the HPV epidemic to persist. By sharing timely and credible information among peers, I hope to empower my generation to take responsibility for their health and to help encourage better health practices among our peers.

I started this campaign in January and through the power of social media have already been able to get 1807 high school and college students to join me in all 50 states. With an average of 600 followers per student, that gives us the potential of reaching 1,084,200 students and counting!  However, I’m not content with that. I believe we can do far better! In fact, if high school and college students were aware that there are 14 million new people acquiring HPV in the U.S. each year and over 50% of them are teens and young adults who are just becoming sexually active, than I believe they may see their important role in this mission.

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I would encourage any high school or college student who cares about their own health, or the health of future generations, to find out more by visiting my website at TwoShotsToBeatCancer.org and joining the Two Shots To Beat Cancer Facebook Page and following our Two Shots To Beat Cancer Instagram account.

By joining me in this worthwhile endeavor, we can be the generation that puts an end to HPV related cancers. By posting to social media and sending letters to politicians, newspapers and school board administrators, we can make a difference and help to stop the spread of HPV. It takes little time, costs no money and by encouraging students to engage in important and life-changing conversations, we can save lives and prevent needless suffering.

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.   

Meningitis B and Your College Student: Preventing the Call

February 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Emily was a 19-year-old college student when she called home complaining of a headache. Thirty-six hours later, she passed away due to serogroup B meningococcal disease. Emily was able to donate six of her organs, together with bones and tissue, to save the lives of five others.

Emily’s mother, Alicia Stillman, who graduated from Arizona State University, returned to Arizona after founding The Emily Stillman Foundation to honor her late daughter’s life. She shared the story of how Emily contracted Meningitis B and her family decision to donate Emily’s organs. She also explained the work she is doing to help educate others about the availability of Meningitis B vaccines in the United States and to encourage organ donation. She spoke with Debbie McCune Davis, Director of The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI), who is leading the effort to increase awareness of the approved vaccine and who is working with Arizona Universities to promote the Off to College education campaign.

Together these two women share a message of hope, as they work to save lives and prevent serogroup B meningococcal disease by educating parents, students, educators and medical professionals across Arizona and the nation.

 

 

Alicia: I always felt I was living a blessed life. I enjoyed motherhood. I had three beautiful children, a wonderful husband, and a successful career. I believed I was doing everything right to raise healthy, independent children, as I sent each one off to college.

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Emily and the Stillman family after her high school graduation.

My middle daughter Emily had a fabulous first year away at a small liberal arts college in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2013, she was well into the second semester of her sophomore year when she called home one evening, complaining of a headache. Thinking it was from lack of sleep, I advised her to take some ibuprofen, and to touch base with me in the morning. Little did I know that was to be the last time I would ever hear my Emily’s voice.

The call the next morning wouldn’t come from my Emily, but rather from the Dean of the College. She told me my daughter had been admitted to the hospital during the night with Bacterial Meningitis, that she was very sick, and I needed to get there as soon as possible. I remember insisting that this was not possible because even at that time, I knew she had received “the meningitis shot”. In fact, I even remembered that before she left for college, she had received a meningitis booster. What I did not yet know at that time was that the vaccine she had received (MenACWY) only protected her against 4 of the 5 common serogroups of Meningococcal Disease. I had no idea that there was a strain she was not protected against because a vaccine for that strain was not even available in the United States at that time.

Less than 36 hours later I said goodbye to my baby. My beautiful girl that I had promised to always protect and take care of was gone. As I said goodbye to her on that cold February morning, I told her that I would be ok…and that I would figure this out.  I would make sure this could not happen to other people.

Debbie: Stories like Alicia’s weren’t preventable in the U.S. when Emily Stillman contracted and lost her life to Meningitis B, but they are today. In October of 2014 and January of 2015, the FDA approved licensing for two different vaccinations for Meningitis B. Soon after that, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that college age students should talk with their doctors about Meningitis B.

In Arizona, our Board of Regents (the governing board of our state university system) took quick action to recommend all incoming freshmen get the vaccine.  There had been outbreaks in the PAC 12 schools and Arizona wanted to promote healthy campuses. We, at TAPI, worked with the Universities, their Medical Directors and all of our professional medical organizations including Osteopaths, Pharmacists, Nurses, and Pediatricians to put forth a unified message and raise awareness.

Our Off to College flyer launched an awareness campaign for parents and college age students to make certain each has the benefit of protection from all strains of meningitis.

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Alicia: I live my promise to my Emily every single day with my work at The Emily Stillman Foundation. Before the vaccine was approved in the U.S., I discovered the vaccine was available in Canada. We took busloads of families across the Detroit/Windsor border into Canada to get the MenB vaccine. We met with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and many members of Congress to urge the fast tracking of the licensing process. I testified at the CDC and encouraged ACIP to grant a firm recommendation to protect our adolescents and young adults. I set up vaccination clinics locally to provide the vaccine before medical practices were willing to hear about it. I speak nationally, working with colleges, medical practices, and parents to raise awareness to this hideous disease, its symptoms, and the vaccinations now available to prevent it.

I won’t stop until the MenB vaccine is on the required list, and is available to all people.  Only then will my promise to my Emily be fulfilled. 

Debbie: Today, we at TAPI are taking it a step further…we don’t want kids to wait until they’ve moved into their dorms to receive their vaccination. 

We are working with high schools, parents groups, physicians, athletic departments and more to promote Vaccinate Before You Graduate here in Arizona.  We want this to become part of the college prep routine—take your college entrance exams, turn in your transcripts, apply for scholarships, choose your school, order your cap and gown and vaccinate!

 

As mothers, and as experts – one from a heart-breaking loss, and one as a professional who works tirelessly to prevent disease – we urge you to enjoy these moments with your child.  However, as you are giving them that final send off, smoothing the bedding on their dorm bunk, stocking snacks and toiletries, telling them to study hard and have fun (but not too much fun), asking them to be safe, be sure to also give them the tools to stay healthy.

Make sure they have their boosters, that they are up to date on all vaccination and be sure your health professional has given your child protection from all strains of meningitis, including Meningitis B. If your child has already started that journey and is off to college, check with the student health services at their school for information about vaccine availability on campus.

Do it for your child, do it for yourself and do it for Emily.


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Alicia Stillman lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan with her husband of 29 years, Michael. In addition to her angel daughter Emily, she has two live children – Karly, 25, and Zachary, 21. Alicia holds an MBA in Management Accounting, and is the Accounting Director for a multi-state Law Firm. She is the Co-Founder and Director of The Emily Stillman Foundation, founded in 2014 in memory of her late daughter Emily. The Foundation has a trifold mission to raise awareness for and encourage organ and tissue donation, to educate about Meningococcal Disease as well as all vaccine preventable diseases, and to advocate globally for all health and wellness issues. Most recently, Alicia partnered with Patti Wukovits to co-found the Meningitis B Action Project.  Alicia can be reached through the Foundation at emilystillmanfoundation@gmail.com.

 

McCune_Davis_16 - Member Photo.jpgDebbie McCune Davis has served as Director for The Arizona Partnership for Immunization, better known as TAPI, since February 1996. She was an elected member of the Arizona Legislature, serving from 1979 until 1994 and again from January 2003 until her retirement in January 2017, serving in both the House of Representatives and the Arizona State Senate. In her local community Debbie serves on numerous committees and task forces, working to improve the health status of women and children in Arizona. She has established a reputation for being a knowledgeable advocate for maternal and child health and childcare issues. In 2012 she was recognized for her advocacy by the Children’s Action Alliance in Phoenix and Every Child By Two in Washington, DC. Debbie also served on the Board of Directors of the American Immunization Registry Association and she volunteers her time as a member of the planning committee of the National Conference on Immunization and Health Coalitions. She is married to Glenn Davis and has a blended family of 5 children and 3 grandchildren. More information about TAPI may be found at www.whyimmunize.org.

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. 

Young Hockey Player’s Death A Flu Warning

January 22, 2018 2 comments

By Amy Pisani, Executive Director of Every Child By Two/Vaccinate Your Family

Each of us has a tipping point; the moment when a news story becomes personal, more impactful and perhaps spurs action.

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Every Child By Two Executive Director, Amy Pisani, with her son Nicholas, a fellow hockey player from CT.

After hearing of the tragic death of 10-year-old Nico Mallozzi, an ice hockey player from a neighboring town who died Sunday from complications related to flu, I immediately reached out to our hockey league president to ask him to urge our teams to implement the same flu protocol that Nico’s team is now doing: Stay home if you have symptoms of influenza, don’t share water bottles and shake hands post game with gloves on. Thursday evening our league distributed Nico Mallozzi # 7 memorial stickers for every player’s helmet.

According to friends and family writing online, Nico was a sweet, happy, healthy child from New Canaan, CT. He had traveled to upstate New York to cheer on his team during a hockey tournament in which he did not participate because he was feeling sick.  Nico was hospitalized on his way home and died the same day, reportedly from influenza and its complications.

As the executive director of Every Child By Two, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that all families are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, it saddens me to learn of yet another family suffering the devastating loss of a child. As a fellow hockey mom, this tragedy resonates deeply.  Anyone with a child on a team knows that hockey families are a tight group. From fall to early spring, we travel the region at all hours of the day and night in support of our children. We cherish our children’s teammates, who we watch grow up from wobbly “learn to skaters” to dedicated players who often commit five or six days a week to practice and playing games, building lifelong friendships.

Nico’s tragic death is a poignant reminder that children of any age, even those who are healthy and athletic, can be taken by flu in a heartbeat. 

Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns us that approximately 100 children will die from influenza every season. Sadly, as of last week, here in the U.S. there have already been 30 children who died from flu so far this season, and this number will continue to climb, as we are nowhere near the end of this outbreak. Unfortunately, these kinds of statistics don’t always resonate with the public and as a result, health advocates are challenged to find ways to spur families to take the time to vaccinate everyone 6 months and older against flu each and every year.

To make matters worse, there are mixed messages about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines and getting across the idea that some protection from the vaccine is better than none is often difficult. As with any infectious disease, community prevention is of paramount importance. Since no vaccine is 100 percent effective and not everyone is able to be vaccinated due to age or underlying medical conditions, we must provide a barrier around one another to keep diseases from taking the lives of children like Nico.

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It’s not too late to get a flu shot for yourself and your family.

While the peak of flu activity varies from year to year, it often occurs between December and February, and can last as long as until May. Although 12,000 to 56,000 people die each season, influenza vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of flu-associated death by 65 percent among healthy children and by 51 percent among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions. Other research indicates that adults benefit from repeated flu vaccination year after year. The study found flu vaccination was 74 percent effective in preventing intensive care unit admissions in older individuals and 70 percent effective in preventing deaths among older adults.

These statistics matter and they all say the same thing; protect your entire family from flu by getting vaccinated against this potentially deadly disease every year.

For more information on this year’s flu season, visit:

 


This editorial was originally published in the Hartford Courant.

 

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…