I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Vaccines, Every 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.
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.
Take 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
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.
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!
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.
The 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.
Learn 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.)
Every 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!
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.
Fake news is nothing new to vaccine advocates.
For years we’ve been countering vaccine misinformation from a large number of sites such as Mercola, Natural News, Age of Autism and dozens of others. They each have their own way of claiming that vaccine risks outweigh their benefits, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence from experts around the world that says otherwise.
Despite the fact that these sites fail to provide evidence to back up their false claims, the misinformation they routinely publish is widely circulated on social media and it’s likely that their efforts can contribute to the doubts that some Americans have about the safety and efficacy of today’s vaccines.
This is why day after day, and year after year, countless organizations like Every Child By Two, work hard to provide the public with evidence-based information about vaccines through informative websites like Vaccinate Your Family, and social media accounts like the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page and @ShotofPrev Twitter account.
But this week, fake vaccine news has entered an entirely new realm and it is rather concerning.
Yesterday I woke to such headlines as, ‘Trump Orders CDC to Remove all Vaccination Related Information from Website’ and ‘President Trump Signed an Executive Order Banning Childhood Vaccinations for 90 Days’.
These, and other outrageous stories that are circulating on the internet, signal a new level of hysteria that is dangerous for us all.
While it is comforting to know that these articles were irresponsibly inaccurate, I’m still left questioning the motives and intent behind these headlines. What were the the authors’ and publishers’ hoping to achieve? Read more…
Make purchases throughout the year with AmazonSmile and Every Child By Two could receive .5% of the price of your eligible purchases as a charitable donation to help in their mission to educate people about vaccines.
AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you may already know, with the same products, the same prices, and the same service.
The only difference is that when you first visit AmazonSmile, you’ll make a few clicks to designate Every Child By Two as your charitable organization of choice. From that point on, every purchase – whether it’s holiday gifts or household necessities – will result in automatic donations to Every Child By Two, at no added cost to you!
It may seem like pennies to you, but last year, Every Child By Two embarked on an ambitious mission and every penny helped.
They started the new year by launching the Vaccinate Your Family website and Facebook page to help educate people about the importance of vaccines throughout the life span, and they’ve made great strides in reaching new audiences with timely news and evidence based information. In fact, for nearly 25 years, Every Child by Two has been a credible resource for reliable, science-based information about vaccines and their safety.
Every Child By Two is committed to improving vaccination rates at all ages, but they need your continued support.
All the donations they receive help fund their ongoing efforts to educate the public about the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases and the critical importance of following the recommended immunization schedule. They also provide critical support for the development of educational programs, as well as strong immunization policies aimed at protecting families from vaccine-preventable diseases.
They have accomplished so much, but there is still much to be done.
Nationwide adult vaccination rates remain dismally low, and only about half of pregnant women are getting the recommended vaccines that can help pass immunity on to their unborn children. There are still many preteens and teens that are not fully protected from meningococcal and HPV. And people of all ages continue to suffer and die from vaccine preventable diseases.
But you can help by designating Every Child By Two to receive a charitable donation when you make purchases through the AmazonSmile program.
For more information on how you can make a direct donation via debit, credit card or PayPal, click here.
To learn more about how your donations will support Every Child By Two and their efforts to protect people from vaccine-preventable diseases, click here.
In recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month (#NIAM16), Every Child By Two’s #StateofTheImmUnion campaign will highlight the importance of vaccines throughout the lifespan. We are excited to present the first in a series of guest posts from colleagues throughout the nation who will provide their perspective on the topic of the week for #NIAM16.
The following post focusing on adult vaccines was written by Anna Dragsbaek, President and CEO of The Immunization Partnership, a Texas-based non-profit organization dedicated to the eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases through education, advocacy for science-based immunization policy and the support of immunization best practices.
During this week of National Immunization Awareness Month, it’s a good time to reflect on how we are doing as a state and as a nation with vaccinating our communities, including adults. And while Texas is the best state in the union for a number of reasons, when it comes to vaccinating our adults, we have some work to do.
Bigger isn’t always better.
Fewer than half of Texas adults got the flu vaccine last season — far short of the Healthy People 2020 objective of 70 percent. Why is this? Some of it has to do with the things that are bigger — but that we wish weren’t. Take, for instance, the percentage of people whose access to vaccinations might be limited by their lack of health insurance. According to the Texas Medical Association, one in four adults in Texas don’t have medical insurance; nationwide, the number is one in six, the CDC reports.
The Adult Safety Net Program is designed to help uninsured adults gain access to vaccines by providing low-cost immunization — and it does help. Many adults are able to access to vaccines who otherwise wouldn’t be able to because of this program. But it can only do so much. And all too often adults live in areas where they don’t have access to an Adult Safety Net provider, don’t qualify for the program themselves, or area providers don’t offer all the vaccines recommended by the CDC.
And even those with insurance can find it difficult to gain access to vaccination for other reasons.
Texas has the largest rural population in the country — a fact that becomes abundantly apparent on the roughly 11-hour drive from Houston to El Paso. The entire state takes up more than 260,000 square miles. To put that into perspective, that’s nearly the square footage of neighboring states New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana combined. With so much ground to cover, many in the state have to travel long distances to see a healthcare provider. And because not all providers participate in the Adult Safety Net Program, the distance that uninsured Texans must drive can be significantly longer — even though these tend to be the people who can least afford the time and gas for a long drive.
But perhaps most importantly, many adults — especially young adults —simply don’t know that immunizations are recommended not just during childhood or when you’re in school, but also from age 19 on.
That could be, in part, due to the infrequency with which adults seek preventative care from their health home. Primary care providers (PCP) are often the chief health educators for families of all ages, and if adults aren’t seeing their PCPs (because of lack of insurance or access issues), they might not be getting information on what vaccines they might need and why.
But if anyone is up for a challenge, it’s Texans.
This spring we traveled across the state of Texas to talk with more than 700 healthcare providers, public health officials and vaccine advocates about what they experience on the ground as they work to protect our communities. And one thing is abundantly clear: Texans protect Texans. There are a lot of hard-working people throughout this great state who are committed to doing what they can to improve immunization rates across the lifespan and protect our communities from needless suffering as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Community health workers are putting together health fairs to offer free flu vaccines for adults in Houston. Coalitions are working together in West Texas, the Panhandle and the Rio Grande Valley to educate and vaccinate adults in their communities. And stakeholders are working with the Texas state government in Austin to expand the vaccines available to uninsured adults and improve the statewide immunization registry to promote adult participation.
Things look like they’re getting better.
During the 2010-2011 flu season, about 40 percent of Texas adults were vaccinated against flu. In 2014-2015? That number was 45 percent. Sure, the progress is slow. And to move the needle even further, we’ll have to come together as a state to educate the adult population and push for laws and policies that could help improve access and uptake.
If there’s one thing we can be bigger — and better — at, it’s working together for better health for adults and families. But we’re Texans afterall. We don’t shy away from a challenge.
Find out more about the great works of Texas’ Immunization Partnership by visiting www.immunizeUSA.org/blog
Join us next week as we present a guest blog from a physician colleague from California on the #NIAM16 topic of Pregnancy
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.
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.
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.