Measles Anywhere is a Result of Measles Everywhere

April 3, 2017 35 comments

Will we ever stop seeing cases of measles?

Last week, officials confirmed the first case of measles in Michigan this year. That may not sound significant.  It’s only one case in one state, but it’s actually one of 21 cases of measles reported across 7 different states so far this year.

17757243_10210140079997364_6840572758006483074_n-1Last week we also heard the World Health Organization warn of measles outbreaks across Europe.  This image, published in an article from The Sun in the UK, illustrates how widespread the outbreaks have been.  There are currently 14 countries seeing endemic transmission of measles, to include such countries as France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and the Ukraine.  Maybe not the countries you were expecting.  And maybe some countries you plan to visit.

Although measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and even eliminated from all of the Americas in 2016, measles still kills an estimated 115,000 children per year all across the globe – that’s 314 measles related child deaths each day.  Clearly, measles remains a signifiant global health concern.

And it’s not just measles deaths we worry about.  Measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis – a swelling of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or intellectually disabled.  For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.

When we consider the impact of measles worldwide, we begin to understand why every case is relevant and in someway related, and here’s why:Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 6.56.10 PM

Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease.  

When one person has measles, 90 percent of the people they come into close contact with will become infected, if they are not already immune. The virus can linger in the air for up to two hours after an infected  person has coughed or sneezed.  If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.  This means you don’t even have to have contact with the contagious person to become infected. That is why one a case of measles can easily be spread to others.

Disease elimination is not the same as disease eradication. 

Measles elimination is defined as the absence of continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area.  Measles is no longer endemic in the United States, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still see measles cases.  The cases we see here begin with transmission elsewhere.  Sometimes cases originate with  U.S. citizens who unknowingly contract measles while traveling abroad and then became sick and spread the virus upon returning home.  Other times, travelers from other countries arrive in the U.S. while contagious.  In both instances, these individuals can spread measles to anyone they come in contact with who isn’t already immune.  In recent years, this has caused several widespread outbreaks of measles in the U.S.

There are still many people in this world who are not vaccinated against measles.

It’s estimated that in 2010 about 85% of the global population has received at least one dose of measles vaccine.  While that may sound good, it’s still not good enough to stop the spread of measles.  Because measles is extremely contagious, the immunity threshold – which is the percentage of individuals who need immunity in order to prevent a disease from spreading – is as high as 95%.  Sadly, as of 2014, only about 63% of countries have an immunization rate that is above 90% and even 90% isn’t good enough.   Read more…

March Madness Requires Both Shots To Defeat Meningococcal Disease

This guest post was provided by the National Meningitis Foundation (NMA) and first appeared on their Parents Who Protect blog.  

 

As our obsession with basketball’s March Madness has progressed to the Final Four, our efforts to encourage “both shots” in the fight against meningococcal disease remain at center court.

While March is a time when basketball steals the headlines, it’s also a time when meningococcal disease steals our children.  In fact, while meningococcal disease can strike at any time of year, the number of cases peaks in the winter and early spring. Unfortunately, for many National Meningitis Association (NMA) members, such as the member of Moms on Meningitis (M.O.M.) and Together Educating About Meningitis (T.E.A.M), March is a time when we remember those we lost to meningococcal disease.

And there have been plenty of others who never got their “shot” at life.  

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The higher incidence of meningococcal disease in March can be seen in the headlines of the last few years.

In March 2014, a Drexel University student died after visiting Princeton University, which was nearing the end of an outbreak that impacted eight students. In 2015, the University of Oregon was battling an outbreak of meningococcal disease with two additional cases appearing in March. In 2016, students at both Penn State and Rutgers University were hospitalized with meningococcal disease in March. This year there were cases on three college campuses by mid-March: Wake Forest UniversityOld Dominion University, and Oregon State University. There has also been an outbreak, at an elementary school in Virginia.

To rise to the challenge of this other recurring “March Madness”, we must increase our efforts to raise awareness of meningococcal disease and its prevention.

There are two kinds of vaccines that students need to be protected from meningococcal disease, the MenACWY vaccine and the MenB vaccine.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meningococcal vaccination against serogroups A, C, W and Y for all children at 11-12 with a booster at age 16 (MenACWY).
  • CDC recommends permissive use of meningococcal vaccination against serogroup B at ages 16-23, with a preferred age of 16 to 18 years (MenB). (Click here for more information.)

It’s important that students remain vigilant and be able to recognize the symptoms of meningococcal  disease including headache, fever, stiff neck, and a purplish rash, so that you can promptly seek medical attention.

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This March, let’s get on the ball and take “both shots” to prevent the other March Madness.

The National Meningitis Association is a nonprofit organization founded by parents whose children have died or live with permanent disabilities from meningococcal disease.  Their mission is to educate people about meningococcal disease and its prevention.  To stay informed about meningococcal disease and how to prevent it, follow The National Meningitis Association on Facebook and Twitter and be sure to subscribe to their Parents Who Protect blog.

 

 

Federal & State Legislators are Listening: Time To Advocate For the Value of Vaccines

March 23, 2017 11 comments

There has clearly been a political awakening in this country and people are once again motivated to make their voices heard in regard to political policies.  When it comes to protecting our nation’s health and maintaining our personal freedoms, there are plenty of differences in opinion.

In a recent VaxTalk podcast hosted by Voices for VaccinesEvery Child By Two Board Member Sarah Depres and Immunize Texas member Jinny Su, discuss the potential impact proposed federal and state policies could have on the health of our nation and our local communities.  More importantly, they explain how everyday citizens are being encouraged to actively engage with their legislators on these issues. 

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Federal Policies and Their Impact on the Prevention of Disease

To start, Ms. Depres explains how the American Healthcare Act and the President’s proposed budget may impact the availability, accessibility and affordability of immunization services across the country. While these policies are still evolving, she comments that the proposed plans suggest significant budget cuts will be made to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  These two federal agencies are currently responsible for the majority of federal immunization programs and vaccine oversight.  A reduction in their operating budgets will likely have a significant and fairly immediate impact on things such as vaccine safety and oversight, disease surveillance, outbreak response, scientific evaluation of effective immunization practices and research that helps us to understand what interventions work to improve vaccination rates across the U.S..

While some may argue that we can save money by streamlining budgets and consolidating programs, there is a larger concern that must be addressed and it has to do with state level immunization programs.  The fact is that the collective work of these agencies has a direct impact on individual state efforts to provide good immunization services to the public. Not only do states benefit from the large-scale research and oversight that the federal government conducts on vaccines, but a large portion of these federal funds trickle down to assist states in their specific efforts to prevent outbreaks that can easily cross state lines.  As Ms. Depres explains, infectious diseases have no borders and it is therefore unrealistic and, quite frankly, unacceptable, to put the bulk of responsibility on the states when they are not in the same position that the federal government is to fund large scale programs that we know benefit the country and its citizens as a whole.

SOTI-VPDCostIGTake the state of Nevada as an example.  Nevada continues to rank at the bottom of the list for public health spending with just $4.10 per capita and they also happen to be a state with some of the lowest immunization rates in the U.S. In comparison, Idaho, their neighbor to the northeast, spends as much as $94.70 per capita. When The Affordable Care Act was established, it included the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) to sustain and expand preventive health measures and save the country money typically spend on illness and disease.  Fortunately, this fund has supplemented Nevada’s budget with more than $31 million since the fund’s inception, and has had a direct impact on the programs being developed to ensure vaccine access across the state.  Unfortunately, with the repeal of the ACA, the PPHF funds are at risk of being eliminated, and Nevada will likely suffer major public health setbacks as a result.

A Surge in State Specific Immunization Related Bills

Read more…

Autism Expert Agrees: It’s Time to Shift the Focus Off of Vaccines

March 15, 2017 217 comments

ASFAs the Chief Science Officer at the Autism Science Foundation, and an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Rutgers University, Alycia Halladay, PhD, is concerned about the distraction that vaccines have become in the world of autism research.

Almost a decade ago, a small and now discredited study on vaccines and autism helped Andrew Wakefield gain worldwide notoriety and opened the flood gates of worry for parents around the world.  Parents had long since relied on vaccines to protect their children from dangerous preventable diseases, but as these diseases became less apparent, vaccine safety was thrown into question along with a concern over the rising rates of autism.

Today, most people recognize that there is no credible evidence of any link between vaccines and autism.  And yet, the vaccine-autism myth continues to be a topic of concern among parents and the focus of much of mainstream media.

Could it be that the vaccine-autism myth is so intrinsically woven into today’s social narrative that we just can’t let it go? 

In an article written for STAT news, Dr. Hallady eloquently refutes the vaccine-autism myth and goes a crucial step further by offering readers a glimpse of the promising research on the true causes of autism. She also expresses deep concern that because the media continues to keep the vaccine-autism conversation alive, the public is missing out on important scientific discoveries that are being made in the world of autism research.

She explains:

During the last year or so, there has been a steady drumbeat of media coverage about autism and vaccines. Politicians, celebrities, the presidential election, film festivals, and mythical conspiracies all contributed to mainstream news and media story lines on the false link between vaccines and autism. Many of them had nothing to do with real science, nor were they the result of research findings that helped families.

But during the same period, a dozen new scientific findings were published on legitimate environmental factors, including toxic chemicals, maternal infection during pregnancy, and chronic stress. These rarely made headlines, with the media spotlight remaining on the myth. Yet knowledge and understanding of these real environmental factors could lead to actual therapies or ways to prevent the debilitating symptoms of autism.

Dr. Halladay’s article clarifies the often misunderstood concern about autism and “environmental factors”.  She explains the difference between a “risk” and a “cause” and states that as of today, no single environmental factor has met the criteria for being a cause of autism.  However, the latest scientific discoveries do suggest that “environmental factors appear to work together, or interact with genes, to lead to autism”.  Below are few examples of the environmental factors she notes as having been linked to autism:

Exposure to these factors elevates a child’s risk of developing autism anywhere between two and four times. An exhaustive review of these factors was just published in the Annual Review of Public Health.

vaxnoautism1Of course, no discussion of vaccines and autism would be complete without exploring the issue of mercury.  Dr. Halladay laments the ongoing claims that mercury in vaccines may be the culprit for the increase in autism, particularly since ethyl mercury (also known as thimerosal) has not only been removed from nearly all childhood vaccines, but has also been exonerated as a potential cause based on an abundance of scientific evidence.

Dr. Halladay concludes her piece with a passionate plea.  As someone who has dedicated her life to studying autism, she wants the media and the public to move on from the vaccine-autism conversation so that we can focus on real autism research:

Researchers and advocacy organizations have moved on from the vaccine-autism story line to focus on issues that truly affect families, such as understanding the real causes of autism, finding ways to diagnose it earlier, developing more effective treatments, and offering better access to those treatments. With every minute wasted talking about the autism-vaccine myth and every dollar spent on researching this dead end, we are losing ground and failing families who deserve real answers on the causes of autism and more help for their loved ones.

It is our hope that her message will be echoed by researchers, advocacy organizations and the general public, and that our readers will recognize the value of sharing this article with legislators and the media in order to educate them on their role in helping to change the narrative.

We are at a pivotal moment in time.  It would be foolish and wasteful to spend precious resources rehashing a myth that we can confidently put behind us.  Now is the time to focus on the real scientific discoveries that will lead to determinants of environmental risk factors for autism and beneficial treatments for families impacted by autism.  As advocates for children, it is incumbent upon all of us to support the science that will lead to better health for all children.  

 

The 60/40 Factor and This Year’s Flu Season: It’s Not Over Yet

March 10, 2017 4 comments

It’s March, and while we may be anxious for the arrival of spring, what we’ve seen instead is a whole lot of people sick with flu.  Surveillance data shows that while the flu may have peaked in some areas of the country, flu activity remains elevated throughout most of the U.S.  Since flu season typically extends into April and May, now is the time to remain vigilant and get vaccinated if that is still something you haven’t managed to do.

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Flu surveillance reports indicate that the flu strains that make up this year’s vaccine are a good match to those circulating across the U.S.  The most dominant strain has been the influenza A (H3N2) strain, and the estimated effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing illness caused by that strain has been 43%. However, we’re also seeing cases of influenza B virus, and the vaccine’s estimated effectiveness against that strain is 73%. This amounts to an overall vaccine protection of about 48%.

While some may question, “Why get a flu shot if it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu?”, the answer is simple. 48% protection is much better than none.

When a vaccinated individual is exposed to flu, they are about half as likely to have to go to the doctor, be hospitalized or even die from the flu as compared to their unvaccinated counterpart.

Sure, the flu vaccine isn’t perfect.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting.  

Consider the fact that most everyone wears a seat belt when driving in a car, and yet they’ve only been shown to reduce vehicular injury and death by about 50%.  So if you wouldn’t drive your car without wearing a seatbelt, why would you want to skip a flu shot?

Another reason people often use to explain why they haven’t gotten a flu vaccine is because they’ve never had the flu and they don’t consider it to be dangerous.

The 60/40 factor tells us otherwise.

40:  This is the number of children who’ve died from the flu so far this season.  

While no parent every imagines that their child will die from a preventable disease, we know that 40 children across the nation have died from flu so far this season. And sadly, the season is not over yet.  (Update: as of March 13th the number of pediatric deaths has risen to 48). Most years the average is closer to 100 pediatric flu deaths and as high as 49,000 flu-related deaths among adults.

Since pediatric flu deaths must be reported, as flu112315opposed to adult flu deaths, we tend to see news reports throughout the flu season, such as these: 

While we may never know the specifics of each case, what we do know is that the flu is completely unpredictable.  From season to season, we don’t always know exactly which strain will be most prevalent, which will be most dangerous, and who will suffer, be hospitalized or even die as a result of the flu.

The 60/40 factor in regards to pediatric flu deaths: In a previous season, 60% of pediatric deaths occurred among children who were in a high risk category, while 40% had no chronic health problems.

Read more…

Special Report on the State of the ImmUnion Sent to Congress

February 28, 2017 Leave a comment

How strong are the country’s defenses against vaccine-preventable diseases and how well are U.S. citizens protected?   What we can do to make our “ImmUnion” stronger and more resilient in the face of emerging health threats?

Every Child By Two (ECBT) has shared a special report on the State of Our Nation’s “ImmUnion” with members of congress to highlight the power of vaccines and suggest areas of action to fortify the health of our nation.  While the medical community has the ability to protect Americans of all ages from deadly infectious diseases, public health workers continue to battle disease outbreaks across the nation that threaten the health and wellbeing of our citizens.  Many Americans continue to lack access to life-saving vaccines that can protect themselves, their families and their communities from preventable diseases, while others fail to realize that vaccines are available to protect them from many different life-threatening diseases.

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This comprehensive 2017 State of the ImmUnion Report highlights the successes of vaccines, the economic and societal savings incurred from vaccines, challenges facing the public health system, and key areas we must focus on to achieve optimal protection for all Americans.

ECBT is hopeful that this report will not only help congressional leaders learn more about the vaccination rates in their home states, but that it will also help public health advocates prioritizing the benefits of immunizations in the years ahead.

ECBT is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure this message reaches every level of state and federal government – from the local public health department, to the President of the United States. But we need your help!

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You are an important part of the equation.  Join us in helping to make sure that immunizations remain a public health priority by taking these simple steps:

1.  Support critical public health funding.

Having an adequate public health budget ensures that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the states and the territories are all prepared to:

  • respond to existing and emerging vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks,
  • conduct community outreach,
  • educate providers and the public
  • maintain immunization registries, and
  • provide vaccine services to the community.

soti-vpdcostfbThe report highlights the success of vaccines and discusses the economic and societal saving that occur as a result of a well-vaccinated population.

Unfortunately, federal vaccine appropriations have not met the levels requested in annual justification reports from the CDC, and state appropriations are nearly non-existent. This has resulted in a loss of personnel and the disbanding of several highly effective statewide coalitions which had supported immunization efforts for decades.

Additionally, if and when the Affordable Care Act is repealed, nearly $600 million in funds that currently support the CDC and state immunization activities may be eliminated. You can learn more about the critical funding issues  here, and if you want to ensure legislators reallocate these funds, take a moment to add your name to Every Child By Two’s Vaccine Funding Support Statement here

2.  Support the science behind vaccines and the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule.

The public must be continually reassured that the timing of vaccines is carefully considered prior to CDC recommendation, and that vaccine safety is heavily monitored with pre and post licensure procedures. There are many disproven myths about the safety of vaccines and we need immunization champions who are well-informed and ready to respond to concerns with evidence-based responses. This report includes specific resources that can be helpful in addressing vaccine safety and policy concerns and even provides links to state specific immunization rates.

3.  Join your local immunization coalition to see how you can work to advance the State of the ImmUnion in your local area.  

soti-measlescasesfbLearn more about the vaccination rates in your state, and the impact vaccine-preventable diseases are having there, by accessing the resources cited in the State of the ImmUnion report, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics’ interactive map and the CDC’s VaxView.  If you want to connect with other immunization advocates in  your state, simply send an email to us at info@ecbt.org and we can help connect you with your local immunization coalition.

4.  Communicate directly with your state and federal legislators to encourage them to support a strong State of the ImmUnion. 

Whether you call, email or Tweet your state and federal legislators, grab their attention by including any of the informative graphics from this special report.  Simply include a link to the PDF report of the 2017 State of the ImmUnion along with some of the images we’ve compiled in our  State of the ImmUnion social media toolkit and you’ll be helping to get the message out.  (And don’t forget to tag @ShotofPrev in your tweets so we can help amplify your message.)

vyf-ecbt-logo-rgb-copyEvery Child By Two’s Vaccinate Your Family campaign is an initiative aimed at raising awareness of the critical importance of vaccines across the lifespan.  We are encouraged by the actions of so many devoted immunization champions all across the nation, and we hope you will join our efforts to ensure a strong “State of the ImmUnion”.  Be sure to subscribe to our Shot of Prevention blog, like our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter at @ShotofPrev to continue to receive updates on how you can join us as a voice for positive change!   

 

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Founded in 1991 by Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Former First Lady of Arkansas Betty Bumpers, Every Child By Two works to protect families and individuals from vaccine-preventable diseases by raising awareness of the critical need for timely immunizations for people of all ages, increasing the public’s understanding of the bene ts of vaccines, increasing con dence in the safety of vaccines, ensuring that all families have access to life-saving vaccines, and advocating for policies that support timely vaccination. Learn more at ecbt.org.

Read more…

John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Wrong About Everything

February 23, 2017 2 comments
JoelHarrisonEvery Child By Two is pleased to launch another article in their Expert Commentary series featuring 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. Today we will feature Dr. Harrison’s latest paper, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything.


by Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

John Stone is listed as the UK Editor for Age of Autism, a daily web newspaper. He is author of numerous articles posted on Age of Autism as well as an active writer of comments, not only to Age of Autism articles; but to articles on other websites, including this blog I have written a number of commentaries on John Stone and his antivaccinationist views, but after seeing Stone’s article “Paul Offit’s 10,000 Vaccines and the Milgram Experiment, ” now being posted for the fourth time, I just had to get out my pen and pad once more.

In his article, Stone discusses four topics:

  1. Using the Milgram Experiment as an explanation for why doctor’s vaccinate
  2. Profits made on the manufacture and sale of vaccines
  3. Paul Offit’s oft out-of-context quoted by antivaccinationists “10,000 vaccines”
  4. The Cutter Incident

In my paper, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything, I show that not one of his claims has any validity; but, rather, clearly display many of the flaws in Stone’s thinking as well as other antivaccinationists, including: poor scholarship, a deficient understanding of scientific thinking and methodology, deficient knowledge of immunology, microbiology, and epidemiology, deficient understanding of basic economics, the illogic of false analogies, as well as a lack of common sense, plus a blatant hypocrisy.

Stone’s knowledge of the Milgram Experiments appears to be based only on one article he found in a popular magazine and on a movie clip. Based on his writings on the Milgram Experiments, it does not appear that he even bothered to read the original articles, and isn’t aware that it wasn’t the Milgram Experiment; but Experiments. If he had accessed the original articles, he would have found the study procedures and results to be quite different from the description in Psychology Today. Different enough to make him guilty of the False Analogy Fallacy, a logical fallacy that occurs when applying facts from one situation to a substantially different situation, precluding the ability to draw a logical conclusion (Rational Wiki. “False analogy”)

Stone repeats the antivaccinationists’ trope of 10,000 vaccines, ignoring context and a clear display of lack of common sense. As an analogy, imagine a 15 – 20 minute lecture or 2,500 word article about research into potentially almost limitless energy. The last sentence states: “Our research indicates we could theoretically put 10,000 gallons of gasoline in your car tank.” The average gas tank holds probably up to 25 gallons. Given Stone’s lack of common sense, I assume he would take the 10,000 gallons literally. Most rational people would understand, even without context, that the 10,000 gallons did not refer to actual gallons of gasoline but to the energy/mileage equivalent. The physical impossibility of giving 10,000 vaccines at once to an infant or anyone together with the exponential leap from the current 17 vaccines, there not even being remotely so many microbes that vaccines would ever be developed for, says it all.

He continues to display faulty reasoning, actually a display of hypocrisy, when attacking the profit motive behind vaccines. He and other antivaccinationists seem to have NO problem with the purveyors of complementary and alternative medicines making profits, so it seems that the making of profits is only unacceptable when selling something Stone and other antivaccinationists disagree with. Of course doctors get paid for giving vaccinations. Should they give them for free? As a further display of his ignorance, Stone doesn’t seem to be aware that the profit margin for vaccines pales in comparison to other pharmaceuticals and that the amount doctors make on administering vaccines is, at best, marginal. In fact, some doctors take a loss on vaccinations.

Finally, Stone goes back 60 years in time to the Cutter Incident where approximately 200 people, mainly children, were paralyzed from an inadequately killed vaccine and thousands more exposed. Stone is either unaware of or intentionally ignores that this incident led to ever-increasing safety regulations and surveillance of vaccines. If one were to use Stone’s approach to medicine, since many beneficial medicines and interventions had problems years ago, much of modern medicine would be rejected. In fact, historically, one can find problems with much of modern technology. Is Stone’s approach even rational? And, again, Age of Autism chooses to repost Stone’s article as an example of “The Best of Age of Autism.”

And there you have John Stone and the Best of Age of Autism in a NUTshell!

Read Dr. Harrison’s full article, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything, click here.  

Please note: The opinions in this article reflect the views of the author who is not an employee of Every Child By Two and do not necessarily reflect the views of Every Child By Two.  Dr. Harrison volunteers his time to provide in-depth, well-researched analysis of articles which ultimately make false claims about the safety of vaccines.  His articles are summarized here on Shot of Prevention with links to the full response on the Every Child By Two website.