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Posts Tagged ‘community immunity’

With School Vaccine Exemptions on the Rise, What Can Be Done to Protect Our Students?

June 12, 2018 1 comment

Today, PloS Medicine published a study that examined the increase we are seeing across the country in philosophical exemptions to school vaccine requirements, also known as personal belief exemptions.

According to the authors, 12 of the 18 states that allow philosophical exemptions have seen an increase in parents choosing to exempt their children from one or more vaccines. As a result, several metropolitan areas are at risk of an outbreak of disease, such as measles, similar to the one we saw originate at Disneyland in Anaheim, California three years ago.

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The Washington Post notes that the study “characterized many rural counties, as well as urban areas, as ‘hotspots’ because their high exemption rates put them at risk for epidemics of measles, whooping cough and other pediatric infectious diseases.

Amy Pisani, Executive Director of Every Child By Two/Vaccinate Your Family, expressed concern about what is known as the “community protection threshold” by stating, 

“It’s alarming to see the rise in exemption rates across this country, putting communities at greater risk. Parents need to understand that timely vaccines are critical to protecting children’s health and should be at the top of the family’s to-do list.”

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While the study reveals some interesting data points, there’s little information as to why it appears that parents are increasingly claiming exemptions for their children.

In most states, the school vaccine exemptions tend to be elevated in a handful of communities, as opposed to a general rise in exemptions throughout the state.  It appears that more research needs to be done to better inform public health policymakers regarding the underlying reasons parents are exempting their children from school required vaccines.

In the meantime, some of the states with the highest levels of exemptions have passed legislation to make nonmedical exemptions more difficult to obtain. For example:

  • In Washington state, a law was passed that required parents to have their exemption form signed by a health care provider.
  • In Oregon, parents have the option of watching an online module on the dangers of not vaccinating or getting a form signed by a health care provider.

While both states saw an immediate and encouraging reduction in the number of exemptions claimed, it appears that these policies have not been effective over time and exemptions are once again on the rise.

Tightening laws and policies clearly does not keep those parents who are intent on seeking exemptions from obtaining them. But how about eliminating nonmedical exemptions?

After the 2014-2015 measles outbreak in California, the state legislature decided to eliminate all nonmedical exemptions. Again, one year after the law was passed exemption rates fell dramatically and, most importantly, vaccination rates rose well above community immunity thresholds, thus better protecting communities against disease outbreaks.

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But what will the future hold?  Will parents who have philosophical reasons to avoid vaccines for their children find ways to obtain medical exemptions?

Initial data suggests that may be the case. According to an article in JAMA, the California medical exemption rate reflected a three-fold increase following the introduction of the law, from 0.17% to 0.51%. According to the article’s authors,

“Some vaccine-hesitant parents may have successfully located physicians willing to exercise the broader discretion provided by SB 277 for granting [medical exemptions]…If true, this practice would be inconsistent with the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics to reserve [medical exemptions] for children having contraindications.”

In the coming years, public health partners may have a better sense of whether eliminating nonmedical exemptions can sustainably increase vaccination rates and protect our communities against dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases. We will also be looking to additional studies to learn how many parents are choosing exemptions because they have true personal objections to vaccinations, or because they don’t view vaccination as a priority among their long back-to-school lists.

In the meantime, it’s important to help state legislators and the public understand what has been tried to-date and what are the most promising policy paths forward. 

Here are some ways that you can be informed and help to inform others:

  • Consider sharing Vaccinate Your Family’s fact sheet on the impacts of exemption legislation with your local lawmakers to remind them of their role in strengthening our defenses against vaccine-preventable disease.
  • Check out Vaccinate Your Family’s 2018 State of the ImmUnion report to learn more about federal policies that aim to protect our families and communities from dangerous diseases.
  • Help ensure children are better informed about how diseases develop and how vaccines work with the immune system by sharing specially designed science curricula from The Vaccine Maker’s Project with school nurses and science teachers at your local elementary, middle or high schools.
  • Find out more about the vaccination rates in your state and community by contacting your local schools, public health department or reviewing the latest CDC vaccination coverage reports.
  • Stay informed about the latest immunization news and research by following Vaccinate Your Family’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, subscribing to this Shot of Prevention blog and sharing the information we discuss on these channels with your social contacts.

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Together we can work to ensure that students get the protections they deserve in their schools and communities.

Five Important Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child

April 23, 2018 2 comments

Every parent wants to do what’s best for their children. However, when parents are bombarded by conflicting messages, it can be a struggle to try to determine what is best.  Every decision – from the type of car seat to purchase, to how to soothe a fussy child – elicits a variety of opinions.  But when it comes to protecting our children from dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases, parents should rely on evidence based information from trusted sources.  

In honor of National Infant Immunization Week 2018, we’ve outlined some of the top reasons experts give for immunizing for your child, along with trusted sources where parents can get more information:

 

1.) The diseases we can prevent through immunization are dangerous and sometimes deadly.  

The 14 different diseases that we can now prevent through vaccination had once injured or killed thousands of children in the U.S. each year. Today, we may hardly ever see these diseases, but the fact remains that these diseases still exist and can be extremely dangerous, especially to children.

Take polio as an example. Polio was once America’s most feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country.  Thanks to vaccination, the U.S. has been polio-free since 1979.  But small pockets of polio still exist in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the threat to your child may just be a plane ride away.  (Read Judith’s polio story.)

There are lots of other vaccine preventable diseases that we see more frequently here in the U.S., such as flu, measles and pertussis.  So far during the flu season, over 150 children have died from flu.  And in the past few years, we’ve seen a resurgence of measles.  Back in 2014, there was an outbreak involving 667 cases of measles in 27 states. Another large multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California occured in 2015 involved 147 people. And more recently, an outbreak in MN resulted in the hospitalizations of a dozen children.

Learn more about the 14 different diseases we can prevent through vaccination with this interactive eBook which includes a description of each disease, its symptoms and an explanation of how the disease can be prevented through immunization. 

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2.) Vaccines are safe and effective. 

Vaccines today are the safest they’ve ever been. Of course, parents are bound to hear stories from people on the internet claiming that their children were injured by vaccines.  Since it is extremely difficult to validate these stories, parents should rely on evidence based information when making conclusions about the safety of vaccines.

It is important to acknowledge that vaccines do come with a risk of side effects. However, since vaccines are administered to almost every child in the U.S., they undergo an enormous amount of safety surveillance and scrutiny by scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals.  The most common vaccine side effects are minor and include redness or swelling at the site of the shot, which is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and risk of injury and death from the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, can happen, but are extremely rare.

Considering the dangers of the diseases we are trying to prevent, the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the minimal risk of side effects.

This video, as well as others available on our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page, address some of the most common safety questions parents have about vaccines.  

 

3.) Childhood vaccines contribute to the community immunity that helps keep everyone free from disease.  

Some vaccines are not administered until a child is 2, 6 or 12 months of age.  Some vaccines even require multiple doses before a child receives optimal immunity.  Prior to being fully vaccinated, these infants remain vulnerable to diseases that can be particularly dangerous for infants.   Read more…

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

April 24, 2017 35 comments

niiw-blog-a-thon-badgeI gave birth to five children in the span of nine years. My oldest daughter will soon be 21.  My youngest, 12.  Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about childhood illnesses and infectious diseases.  Like most parents, I’ve received plenty of unsolicited advice about how to care for my children and how to keep them healthy.  However, when I make health decision for my children, I rely on evidence based research and credible information from reputable sources.

That is why I agreed to partner with Every Child By Two (ECBT) as the editor and primary contributor to this Shot of Prevention blog.  Seven years ago, when we started this blog, parents seeking vaccine information on the internet often encountered a web of lies, deception, misinformation and fear mongering. Today, Shot of Prevention is one of many blogs that provide parents with evidence based information to help them make informed immunization decisions for their families.

Today, in recognition of National Infant Immunization Week, I’m sharing five of the most important things I’ve learned about vaccines through my journey as a parent and immunization blogger and it begins with science and it ends with action.

1.) Don’t Let Your Emotions Cloud Your Scientific Judgment.

Visit any online parenting forum and there are fewer topics that can get as heated and emotional as vaccines.  The majority of these conversations illicit fear and sympathy, and you’ll often hear parents say that they had to trust their gut or rely on their parental instinct. While we can’t deny our emotions, when it comes to vaccines we must not let emotions cloud our scientific judgment. Instead, we must look to peer-reviewed research and sound science to make educated and informed immunization decisions for our children.

When we do that, we realize that vaccines are some of the most rigorously tested medical interventions available today. And they should be because they are administered to almost every healthy child born in the U.S.  The four different surveillance systems we have in the U.S. serve as back-up systems to ensure the ongoing safety of vaccines.

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While it’s true that no medical intervention comes without risk, the chances that your child will suffer a serious adverse reaction from a vaccine are documented to be less than one in a million.

When you compare that risk to the risk of injury or death from the diseases that we prevent, vaccines win the benefit/risk ratio hands down.  So, brush up on your science and take the time to understand how vaccines work.

Listen to immunization experts address some of the most frequently asked questions about vaccines in these Q&A videos available on our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page here and our YouTube channel here.  You can also check out these other resources to learn more:
Immunity and Vaccines Explained; video from PBS, NOVA 
How Vaccines Work; video embedded on Immunize For Good website 
Vaccines: Calling the Shots; Aired on PBS, NOVA 
Ensuring the Safety of Vaccines in the U.S.; PDF document from the CDC 
The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine; Infographic from the CDC 
Vaccine Ingredients Frequently Asked Questions; Healthy Children, AAP
Vaccine Education Center Website; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 

2.) Appreciate Vaccines For Their Life-Saving Quality.  

Thankfully, science is advancing and newer, safer vaccines are enabling us to prevent more needless suffering, hospitalizations & death. However, it’s not uncommon for parents to question why their child may need so many shots.

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Admittedly, the method of administering vaccines can be painful at times.  I’m beginning to think that the reason parents are concerned about the number of vaccines their children receive is because it’s even painful for parents to watch their child suffer from the discomfort of a needle. And worst yet, there are often multiple shots at each visit during those first two years of life.  If vaccines were administered orally, through an adhesive patch, or through a way that didn’t involve pain, I believe parents might not have nearly as much concern.

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things to accept as a parent is watching your child suffer from things you can’t prevent.  But the reality is that with vaccines, you are preventing something, even if you may never see that disease which you are preventing. The reality is that some brief discomfort, a few pricks of a needle and even a mild fever, swelling, rash or big crocodile tears are far better than suffering from any one of the 14 different diseases we can now safely prevent through childhood immunizations.

Since we are privileged to live in a country where we have such easy access to vaccines, parents don’t often see just how dangerous vaccine preventable diseases can be. And while we may not have ever seen polio in our lifetime, we must never forget the fear that parents experienced before a vaccine was available. Sadly, most parents in the U.S. probably don’t even realize that polio still exists in other countries and that globally, measles remains one of the top five killers of kids under the age of five.

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In fact, our country is currently battling yet another measles outbreak in Minnesota. This outbreak appears to be direct result of anti-vaccine advocates wrongfully convincing members of the Somali community not to vaccinate due to the dispelled myth that vaccines were linked to autism.  Now unvaccinated children are being hospitalized with measles and public health professionals are hard at work trying to contain the spread of this extremely infectious disease.

Perhaps if parents were to learn more about the dangers of the diseases that vaccines help to prevent, they may feel less anxious about the shots their child is recommended to receive.  Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.16.16 AM.png

To learn about the 14 different diseases that we can prevent with today’s childhood immunization center, check out our Every Child By Two’s Childhood Vaccine Preventable Disease eBook.

Read more…

Your Vaccination Status is a Matter of Life and Death to My Autistic Son

July 6, 2016 5 comments

This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben.  A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.

Like all parents, my child’s health is very important to me.  That’s why, even after getting an autism diagnosis for my son, I still believe in and advocate for vaccinations.

I don’t believe autism is caused by MMR or any other vaccinations.  

The allegations made by Andrew Wakefield, the man who tried to convince the world of an MMR vaccine-autism link, were based on falsified data, yet he continues to make his claim to try to frighten people throughout the world.  This article by Brian Deer systematically addresses Wakefield’s flawed theories and debunks the autism myth that Andrew Wakefield has perpetuated.vaxnoautism1

As if that weren’t enough, there have been countless studies that have investigated any possible link between vaccines and autism and no evidence can be found to support such a link.  (You can access the latest published research here, here and here.)

The science is clear, and yet there are many autism advocacy organizations that continue to install fear in parents who just want what’s best for their children.  

As this Newsweek article explains:

Despite the science, organizations involved in the anti-vaccine movement still hope to find some evidence that vaccines threaten children’s health. For example, the autism advocacy organization SafeMinds, —whose mission is to raise awareness about how certain environmental exposures may be linked to autism, recently funded research it hoped would prove vaccines cause autism in children. But this effort appears to have backfired for the organization—since the study they funded failed to show any link between autism and vaccines.”

Alycia Halladay, chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation, commends SafeMinds for financially supporting the study, but she worries that some autism advocates may be asking the wrong questions.

“I’m not saying that we need to stop funding research in the environment, because we know the environment does impact neurodevelopment,” she says.

However, Halladay explains that organizations that look to blame vaccines for causing autism are “playing whack-a-mole”.

“First, the proposed association was between the MMR vaccines and autism. Then that was disproven. Then it was the thimerosal components in vaccines; now that has been further disproven in a carefully designed animal model study that aimed to specifically examine that question. It has also been suggested that the association is because of vaccine timing, but that too has been disproven. The target always seems to be moving, and the expectation is that scientific resources will be diverted to address each new modification of this hypothesized link.”

While there may always be people who will believe there is a link between vaccines and autism, despite the science that proves otherwise, I’m writing today to explain another issue that has swayed my decision to support vaccines.

This issue is one of life and death for my son Ben.

I realize, very clearly, that without vaccinations my son would die. 

That is why I am a fan of modern medicine and the science that makes vaccines possible.  If Ben had been born a century sooner, he wouldn’t have survived his Hirschsprung’s disease.  Had he been born less than a half century sooner, he wouldn’t have survived leukemia.  As it is, we have come face to face with his mortality several times.  I see vaccinations along the same lines as chemotherapy – far from perfect, but with the help of the scientific method, getting better all the time.  Vaccines, and even chemotherapy in Ben’s case, are the best shot we have at giving our child a long, healthy life.

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Image courtesy of the Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes Facebook page.


For us, though, it goes a step further.  

Ben is also immunocompromised.  

That means that even fully vaccinated, he doesn’t have enough ability to fight off diseases.  He is that kid.  The kid who needs herd immunity.  He’s the reason our whole family gets flu shots and chicken pox vaccines.  He’s the kid who needed boosters for pneumococcal vaccines – because his body lost immunity to them.  Even though we do our best to protect him, he’s the kid that could get infected during a measles outbreak. And he is the kid whose body is weak and who is very likely to succumb to a disease like measles, which would inevitably hospitalize him or worse…cost him his life.

I wrote this piece after weeks of consideration.  I realize this could ruffle feathers.   So I ask…

If you don’t vaccinate, have you researched the diseases we vaccinate against as well as the side effects of vaccinations?   Have you seen what polio and diphtheria can do?  Do you realize that if measles encephalitis sets in that your child will be isolated in the Intensive Care Unit while you wait to find out if he or she is the lucky one who survives with brain damage?  And do you realize that, statistically speaking, the greatest risk in getting a vaccine for your child is driving your child to the doctor’s office?

I realize the rhetoric goes around and around, and that I’m about as likely to change your mind as you are likely to change mine.  But if there’s that tiny chance that you’re really considering all the facts, I’m hopeful that Ben’s face and plight would make a difference.  After all, I am his mother, and I must do everything I can to protect him and keep him healthy. I have to try.

I have a sad feeling that it will take a true epidemic to turn the tide. I just hope that my child will not end up as a casualty. He is not a statistic, nor would I ever want him to be one…he’s our precious child and we don’t want to lose him.

So please remember, your vaccination status could mean the life or death of a child like Ben.

Every Child By Two is collaborating with various immunization advocacy organizations to collect personal stories about the value of vaccines.  These stories will then be shared with state and federal legislators throughout National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) in August.  Help ensure that our government representatives know that our country, our communities, our students and our families deserve protection from vaccine preventable diseases.  Join the movement and speak out in favor of vaccines by sharing your story at the following link: bit.ly/28NoZCR.

We’re Healthier Today Thanks to the Vaccines of Yesterday

August 27, 2015 12 comments

“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”

We often take the medical marvel of vaccines for granted. When we stop to evaluate public health, we tend to focus on the need for improvement.  On the topic of vaccines and disease prevention, we often emphasize the morbidity and mortality of disease as well as the percentage of unvaccinated individuals.  Rarely do we take time to appreciate the number of illnesses that are avoided and the overwhelming number of people who are vaccinated.

Unfortunately, being successful and effective in public health is not easily apparent because the prevention of disease is difficult to witness. That’s why, as we conclude National Immunization Awareness Month, I want to acknowledge the impact vaccines have had on our health in 2015 and throughout the course of history.   Let’s applaud the fact that vaccines have reduced, and in some cases eliminated, diseases that had commonly killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. Stop and imagine all the deaths and illnesses that have been prevented thanks to wide-spread vaccination of just these three diseases:

Smallpox

 Young girl in Bangladesh was infected with smallpox in 1973. Photo Credit: CDC/James Hicks

Young girl in Bangladesh  with smallpox in 1973. Photo Credit: CDC/J. Hicks

Smallpox was a serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease caused by a virus called the variola virus. The disease caused small pus-filled blisters that appeared on the face and body of an infected person.

The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans a year during the end of the 18th century, and was responsible for a third of all cases of blindness.Of all those infected, 20–60 percent—and over 80 percent of infected children—died from the disease.

Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300–500 million deaths during the 20th century.

As recently as 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 15 million people contracted the disease and that two million died in that year alone.

Fortunately, we no longer have to get smallpox shots because smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide.

That’s right! No more disease means no more shots! Read more…

The SHOTS Book: A Little Brother’s Superhero Tale

July 17, 2015 2 comments

Ethan Cartoon PortraitMy name is Ethan, I am 14 years old, and the author of The Shots Book; A Little Brother’s Superhero Tale.  My big sister is the student filmmaker who wrote the documentary, Invisible Threat; a peer-to-peer film that explores the science of vaccines and outbreaks. While she was making the film I was due to get a shot for school and she wanted to document my experience. Yes, I was the Guinea Pig in the documentary.  Actually, once I learned about herd immunity, I wanted to get my shot and do my part to protect my community including my soon to be baby cousins who were about to born. That’s why I was so surprised that herd immunity wasn’t in my science textbook and this inspired me to write my own book for children getting shots.

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The Shots Book is an illustrated children’s book and everything I wish I had known when I was getting my kindergarten shots. My book explains why we get vaccines to protect our health and the health of others in our community who can’t be vaccinated. It’s my story about how I learned about herd immunity and how my puppy and I became community immunity superheroes. Just like Invisible Threat my book is a peer to peer educational resource, because sometimes it takes a kid to explain something to a kid.

My book is dedicated to children who can’t be immunized and because many of them are stuck in the hospital for long periods of time and I want them to know they have a friend who cares.

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I’m donating a book to a children’s hospital for every book purchased.

Now that I know real children who had transplants or fought cancer and medically can’t be vaccinated, I understand how critically import herd immunity is.I’m putting together some ideas on my website to help promote community immunity from a kid’s perspective that I think is missing. While getting a shot isn’t fun, it’s a whole lot better when we understand why our parents are taking us to the doctor to get vaccinated. The “to keep you healthy” line just doesn’t cut it.

13Kids should be celebrated when we get our immunizations and get a treat, because we are protecting our own health while protecting our communities and that is what superheroes do.

My goal is to raise awareness about community immunity and get herd immunity added to our science textbooks.

PrintI hope that you will join the movement by using the hashtag #IamTheHerd, showing that you are vaccinated to help protect those who rely on herd immunity to keep them safe.  

To buy the book and allow me to donate a book to a children’s hospital, go to http://theshotsbook.com/.

Sincerely, Ethan Posard – Ethan@TheShotsBook.com
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Summer May Be Over But Billboard Sightings Continue

September 6, 2012 5 comments

This past summer I spent a great deal of time in the car with the children, exploring different cities and seeing new sights.  When we travel to new areas, we seem to be a bit more observant and so it’s interesting to see what catches our attention….like the changing landscape, the interesting bumper stickers and the passing billboards.

Like many of you, our family was hoping to spot some of the Vaccinate Your Baby billboards that are scattered across the nation.  During the past few months, it has been wonderful to hear the excitement from our readers who recognized these important immunization reminders near their home or workplace, or while traveling on vacation.

Brenda was the first to respond to our contest.  She saw the Not Vaccinated?  No Kisses! billboard on I-75 in northern Florida.

Jessie wrote us about a billboard on 168S at the Hanbury Rd exit in Chesapeake VA.

Laura and Vivian both saw billboards in Austin, Texas – the Get the Facts billboard at Dessau Rd/Hwy 685 and another along Hwy 183.

There have been several sightings in CA.  Pam spotted one near Oak Park, CA right near her son’s pediatrician at UC Davis Hospital, and Catherine informed us of one on Hwy 160 near Sacramento just before Richards Blvd., and then another at Auburn & Greenback.

Katie spotted one on 65N just outside of Lafayette, IN while Bethany, Kathleen and Kayla all contacted us about various billboards in South Bend, IN.

Kayla explained, Read more…