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…
By Amy Pisani, Executive Director of Every Child By Two
Dale Bumpers passed away on New Year’s Day, 2016. He will be remembered by many as a staunch advocate for civil rights, a defender of the constitution and one of the greatest orators in the history of the Senate. But for those of us who dedicate our lives to public health, he will be best known for the role he played in helping to save the lives of millions of children throughout the world.
For most parents in America today, having our children vaccinated has become a rite of passage. Nearly all insurance companies cover vaccines at no cost to families. For the economically disadvantaged, underinsured and uninsured, vaccines are free of charge, and finding a delivery site and/or provider is fairly simple.
In 1925, the birth year of Former Senator Dale Bumpers, this was hardly the case. Instead, families suffered the devastating effects of diseases including polio, measles, rubella and diphtheria, which regularly killed or maimed children. In the small town of Charleston, Arkansas, where Dale Bumpers was raised, childhood illnesses were the rite of passage and while vaccines would be licensed decades later, healthcare delivery remained fragmented until he and others took the lead years later.
While deadly diseases were fairly commonplace in the pre-vaccine era, a strategic battle to defeat them was brewing. This battle would have many heroes including the incredible scientists who develop vaccines and the dedicated public health workers who travel to the far corners of the earth delivering vaccines. Yet, there are two public servants whose names may not be as well-known as that of Jonas Salk, but who deserve a great deal of credit in the fight against communicable diseases. In a rural town of Charleston, Arkansas in 1949 a small town lawyer named Dale Bumpers married his high school sweetheart, Betty Flanagan Bumpers. This ‘dynamic duo’ would soon take reign and become public health heroes.
Back in the 1960s, as polio and measles vaccines were becoming available, the demand was high for a medicine that had the potential to save children from lifelong disability and death. As each new vaccine was developed and licensed, campaigns were established to vaccinate the children of the U.S., yet there was little to no organized method to ensure that all children were being offered protection from diseases that were devastating families in every town throughout America.
Betty Bumpers often reminisced about her childhood in Arkansas where she saw family after family lose loved ones to diseases including diphtheria. She credited her mother with her family’s good health. She understood the importance of good hygiene to stave off illnesses and insisted on hand washing. She also taught Betty the method of pouring boiled water over the dishes after they were cleaned. Later, as an art teacher in her public school system, Betty sadly recalled how many of her students fell ill from polio and diphtheria and how it had influenced her to make vaccinations her life’s work.
When Dale Bumpers became the Governor of Arkansas in 1970, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approached First Lady Betty Bumpers to request her participation in childhood immunization efforts. As a board member of the Arkansas Visiting Nurse association, Betty had a real understanding of the unmet needs of her community. She created a coalition of leaders from every organization and government entity that dealt with children’s health and wellbeing in Arkansas and made incredible strides raising the immunization rates of her home state.
During his four years in office, Governor Bumpers made significant strides in improving healthcare throughout Arkansas. He expanded enrollment in the state medical school, created loan-forgiveness programs for medical students who spent five years practicing in rural towns, established regional residency programs to distribute young doctors across underserved parts of the state and expanded prescription writing privileges to osteopaths statewide, all in an effort to ensure that healthcare was accessible to the entire state.
Following his 1975 election, Dale was elected to the U.S. Senate, and upon arriving in Washington made childhood immunization policies a priority throughout his 24 year career in Congress. Learning how to
galvanize political leaders and gaining insight into the inner workings of public and private healthcare at the state level had helped prepare the Bumpers for the national battle against preventable diseases and both Dale and Betty Bumpers were instrumental in shaping and fortifying the infrastructure of today’s national immunization program.
Thankfully, the U.S. no longer has a fragmented, underfunded system of vaccinating children. However, in 1976 the budget for immunization had been cut to $4.96 million from $6.2 million and the country was in the midst of a major measles outbreak. It was Dale Bumpers who took the reins and during the two decades he spent as a member of Congress and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he helped his colleagues understand the impact that congressional funding cuts had on disease prevention.
It was early in the Carter Administration when Betty Bumpers forged what would become a lifelong partnership with First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Read more…
Right now, we need the voice of constituents to help support our nation’s immunization infrastructure.
Every Child By Two, as one of the founding members of the 317 Coalition, has been actively engaged with other leaders in the immunization community in advocating for federal appropriations to support our nation’s immunization infrastructure. The focus of the 317 Coalition is to ensure that Congress adequately funds vaccine activities at the national, state and local levels.
However, as budgets continue to dwindle, legislators need to hear from constituents, like yourself, who agree that funding for vaccines is the most cost-effective health intervention known to mankind. That is why Every Child By Two is encouraging everyone to take action and contact your federal representatives in support of robust funding in the FY 2016 Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill for the CDC’s Section 317 Immunization program.
The majority of Section 317 program funds, over 75%, are used to support critical infrastructure functions such as vaccine effectiveness studies, disease surveillance, outbreak detection and response, vaccine coverage assessment, vaccine safety and provider education programming. A smaller portion supports vaccine purchases for adult immunization programs that help to achieve high vaccination coverage, reduce health disparities among various populations, and provide underserved populations with vaccines to protect them from disease. Quite simply, the mission of the coalition is to educate Members of Congress about the needs of the CDC immunization program, and not make or attempt to influence immunization policy.
Our nation was fortunate that the 317 program was funded at $611 million in FY 2015. Looking ahead, the House of Representatives has proposed to reduce funding of the program to $585.5 million in FY 2016, while the Senate maintains level funding at $611 million. If the program were to be funded at the House’s proposed funding level, the reduction in funding of over $25 million would most certainly harm the immunization infrastructure, as well as reduce adult vaccine purchase functions in every state.
Therefore, we strongly encourage you to alert your representatives about the importance of 317 funding, and urge them to support the Senate’s FY 2016 funding level of $611 million.
What you can do:
When it comes to budget cuts in this day and age, most everyone agrees we need them. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to hurt. And it doesn’t mean we all agree on what cuts are best to make.
Earlier this week, an article in Mother Jones highlighted the “scary consequences of slashing the CDC’s immunization funding.” When any organization’s budget is cut, there is bound to be a domino effect. Since the CDC supports many state and local immunization programs, it is anticipated that the cuts will cause a ripple effect throughout the nation.
The argument against the cuts is fairly straightforward. Public health programs supported by the CDC help ensure vaccine education and availability, which in turn help to prevent and contain infectious and often fatal diseases. Less funding could result in fewer vaccinations, more outbreaks that endanger public health, and ultimately impact the government’s ability to effectively respond to contain a disease when outbreaks do occur.
Take for instance recent measles concerns across the nation. Just last month news spread of an unvaccinated French consulate employee in Boston who spread measles to others and sparked several vaccination clinics. Then there was the New Mexico resident who returned from England with measles and exposed thousands of travelers in 3 different cities and airports. Most recently, there have been 9 reported measles cases in Minnesota, several tied to a Somali community who were intentionally unvaccinated due to concerns about vaccine safety. Sadly, 4 of the MN cases were vaccine refusers and 4 were children too young to be vaccinated.
In each of these instances, public health officials have had to devote costly resources to help contain this contagious, vaccine preventable disease. With budget cuts and lower vaccination rates, it’s understandable that these needs could very well increase, rather than decrease, in the coming years. While many of these recent measles cases started with patients who made a choice not to vaccinate, what will happen when people want to be vaccinated, but they are unable to make that choice? Currently, CDC funds help address concerns of vaccine affordability, accessibility and education among our nation’s growing poor population. But what will the future hold?
Right now, politicians are debating this question. But will pinching pennies today cost taxpayers more down the road? Given the recent immunization challenges we are facing, I wonder what your thoughts are. Are you concerned about cuts to immunization programs? How do you think they will impact you and your community?