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Posts Tagged ‘immunization policy’

Help Stop Devastating Cuts to Immunization Infrastructure

July 20, 2017 18 comments

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The House is moving forward on budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) and has suggested a $50 million cut to immunization funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This could mean serious reductions in our country’s and states’ abilities to:

  • Support the science that informs our national immunization policy;
  • Provide a safety net to uninsured, low-income adults by enabling vaccine purchases;
  • Monitor the safety of vaccines;
  • Educate healthcare providers;
  • Perform community outreach; and
  • Conduct surveillance, laboratory testing and epidemiology in response to disease outbreaks.
With the U.S. currently facing costly outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and pertussis (also known as whooping cough), now is not the time to weaken the backbone of our nation’s public health infrastructure.
We are not asking for a funding increase, we are simply asking that Congress not reduce current levels of immunization funding.
States have already had to make tough decisions because of a $4 million cut in funds in the 2017 budget.

Please call your Representative today and tell him or her:

“Please reject the proposed $50 million cut to the CDC Immunization Program and maintain level funding for FY18. A funding reduction would have serious consequences for communities across the country at a time when outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles are on the rise.”

SOTI-Report_Cover.pngYou can also reference Every Child By Two’s State of the ImmUnion report to examine how strong our defenses truly are against vaccine-preventable diseases and what we can do, as public health advocates and legislators, to make our ImmUnion stronger and more resilient in the face of emerging health threats. You may even want to share this report with your Representative since it highlights the successes of vaccines, the economic and societal savings incurred from vaccines, challenges facing the public health system and key areas that we need to focus on to achieve optimal protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Please use Who Is My Representative? to quickly find your Member of Congress in the House.

Thank you for your continued support of immunizations and their critical role in protecting our health!

A Tribute to Senator Dale Bumpers; Staunch Advocate for Public Health

January 5, 2016 7 comments
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.

PD_0030 (2)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
Freed_7947_0110galvanize 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.

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It was early in the Carter Administration when Betty Bumpers forged what would become a lifelong partnership with First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Read more…

The Invisible Threat Is Coming to Our Nation’s Capitol

April 22, 2014 10 comments

Written By Amy Pisani, Executive Director, Every Child By Two

theinvisible_threat_Promo_Button_300x50On May 1st the Invisible Threat will be coming to Washington, D.C……

 

The Invisible Threat film focuses on understanding the science of vaccinations and the misperceptions leading parents to delay or decline life-saving immunizations. This 40-minute independent documentary, produced by award-winning high school student filmmakers, has earned praise from more than 50 organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and Every Child By Two, calling the documentary “powerful,”fast-paced,”  “well-balanced,” andimpeccably produced.”

 

 

On May 1st at 10am, Every Child By Two and the Immunization Coalition of Washington, DC will host a special event which will serve as the official nationwide launch of the Invisible Threat movement.  Since it is critically important for our elected officials to get the strong message that the public expects sensible, science-driven legislation when it comes to vaccines, we’ve invited them as our special guests.  Now we are counting on you (and your friends, family and colleagues) to call, or email, your members of Congress this week to further encourage their attendance at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

By flooding their offices with calls and emails between now and May 1st we can make it clear that pro-vaccine constituents have a voice, and that we stand firm against vaccine misinformation that is resulting in weakened public health policies, watered-down school vaccination requirements and the resurgence of deadly diseases!

Please take a moment to contact the key legislators on our invitation list to ask them to attend the Invisible Threat film screening and expert panel on May 1 at 10 a.m.  Let them know that this event is important to you because deadly vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, meningitis, pertussis and influenza continue to threaten your community.  Explain that this student-film aims to uncover the truth about the anti-vaccination groups who seek to dismantle the progress made to combat deadly diseases that used to take the lives of millions of people each year.  Make it clear that as a constituent it is very important to you that your member attend this event so that they can be better prepared to help protect your community from ongoing disease outbreaks that threaten the lives of your family.

The May 1st congressional event will begin with an airing of the film followed by Q&A panel with leading immunization experts, including:

  • Amy Pisani, Executive Director, Every Child By Two
  • Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia/Co-inventor of the Rotavirus vaccine
  • Dr. Melinda Wharton, Director, Immunization Services Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases/CDC
  • Frankie Milley, Executive Director, Meningitis Angels
  • Lisa Posard, Producer, Invisible Threat

RSVPs are required as seating is limited –please inquire with info@ecbt.org if you wish to attend.

For more information on ways that you can become involved with the Invisible Threat movement click here.  You can also “like” the Invisible Threat Facebook page,  follow them on Twitter @InvisThreat and join the filmmakers on an Invisible Threat Twitter chat, Wednesday, April 30th, from 7-8pm, ET.  Follow #InvisibleThreat and help get the word out that the threat is out there and vaccines are our greatest defense.

 

ACIP Updates and Reasons to Dismiss Vaccine Conspiracy Theories

February 28, 2014 8 comments

While the majority of people support immunizations and recognize their value in reducing the incidence of disease around the world, there are a handful of people who cling to the preposterous idea that some big vaccine conspiracy exists that will lead the “sheeple” to their doom.  They claim conspirators include doctors, scientists, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies.  However, by familiarizing ourselves with the reporting structure of immunization related agencies, and the way in which vaccine recommendations and policies are developed and disseminated (as outlined in the image below) it’s easy to see the value of our current policies and procedures and dismiss these conspiracy claims.

One important part of the puzzle is the work of The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).  Having recently returned from the latest ACIP meeting, I can honestly say that the committee is an impressive group of medical and public health experts who are committed to making decisions that are in the best interest of the American public.   Not only do they develop recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States, their role is to also ensure that the recommended vaccines remain safe and effective.

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Development and dissemination of vaccine recommendations and policies.

The ACIP consists of 15 voting members, fourteen of which have expertise in vaccinology, immunology, pediatrics, internal medicine, nursing, family medicine, virology, public health, infectious diseases, and/or preventive medicine, and one additional member who provides perspectives on the social and community aspects of vaccination as the community representative.  In addition to these 15 members, ACIP also includes 8 ex officio members who represent various federal agencies each responsible for immunization programs in the United States, and 30 non-voting representatives of liaison organizations that bring related immunization expertise.  Remarkably, this committee was first established 50 years ago and is still an integral part of immunization policy today.

It’s important to note that all those who serve on the committee do so voluntarily and their applications are heavily screened to ensure there is no conflict of interest in regards to vaccine-related activities.  In addition to the three yearly meetings that are held, ACIP members also participate in “working groups” which study a specific topic and specialize in providing data and safety information in regards to that topic. The work these subcommittees do is critical to sharing the latest scientific information that then helps members make appropriate immunization recommendations.

For instance, this week’s meeting included the following agenda items and outcomes:

1.) Influenza Read more…

The Affordable Care Act and Its Impact on Immunizations

October 1, 2013 9 comments

The past 24 hours has been a whirlwind of uncertainty and stress for many Americans.  Friends on Facebook and Twitter have been expressing their collective displeasure with our Congressional leaders following the announcement that the government would be shut down due to a lapse in appropriations for fiscal year 2014.  The news has been sharing lists of government services that are no longer available.  And my inbox has been flooded with emails from furloughed employees explaining their absence.

capitolNo matter what your opinions are regarding the Affordable Care Act, and the Congress’s inability to resolve their differences, it’s important that we consider how these political developments will impact the immunization efforts in this country.    One of the most pressing concerns in the fight against preventable diseases has been to ensure that adults and children aren’t missing immunizations due to cost concerns.  While most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines, each provider has different policies and copayments and people who remain uninsured or underinsured are often under immunized.

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program, created in the early 90’s, is intended to provide immunizations to children whose parents or guardians are unable to afford them.   Known as section 1928 of the Social Security Act, the VFC program ensures that vaccines which are recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) are available at no cost to eligible children, age 18 and younger.  Each year the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approves the funding amounts needed for the VFC vaccine purchases and the funds are then allocated through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) then utilizes the funds to purchase vaccines at a federal discount and distribute them to state health departments and local public health agencies.  These agencies then distribute the vaccines at no charge to private physicians’ offices and public health clinics that are registered as VFC providers.

While the VFC program helps ensure that children are fully vaccinated, the only program that currently applies to adults is intended for Medicare beneficiaries who are 65 years of age and older.  This demographic currently qualifies for a Medicare payment that covers part, or all, of the cost associated with influenza (flu), pneumococcal (pneumonia) and hepatitis B vaccines.

Since today begins the open enrollment period for all new health plans offered through the Affordable Care Act, we can see that the new plans will go one step further in offering no-cost immunizations.  All new health plans will now be required to cover ACIP recommended vaccines for adults and children of all ages, without charging a deductible, copayment or coinsurance.  These vaccines, to include a seasonal flu vaccine, will be provided at no cost as long as they are administered by an “in-network” provider. Read more…

Get Involved to Ensure Strong Immunization Policies

January 16, 2013 40 comments

It’s a new year and legislators around the country are preparing legislation that affects all of us.

Have you joined our advocacy list yet?

ecbt_logo_color (72dpi)By signing up on Vaccinate Your Baby’s “Get Involved” page, you will receive timely alerts from Every Child By Two on a variety of immunization related issues. Whether it is to share the results of a significant safety study, connect you with journalists who want to hear your perspective, inform you of new immunization recommendations, or address specific legislation, Every Child By Two is a critical resource that is poised to provide you with vital updates.

Here are just a few examples of immunization related actions that are currently being discussed and debated all across the country:

 • A new state Senator in South Dakota, Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, is planning to introduce legislation in early 2013 which will make it easier for parents to opt out of vaccination requirements for religious reasons. (You can read some recent news coverage at ArgusLeader and UPI.)
• Arizona state lawmakers Senator Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) and Representative Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale) have recently drafted bills that will no longer require vaccinations as a licensing condition to be a foster parent in the state. (This has been covered recently by the Associated Press.) Currently, parents who do not vaccinate their own children are barred from adopting or fostering kids in Arizona’s child-welfare system, but there is pressure from some to change this.
• In Oregon, where school immunization exemption rates are high, there is discussion regarding support for a modification of the current exemption policies. Similar to laws passed in the past few years in Washington and California, Oregon is looking to require education on the dangers of vaccine preventable diseases prior to exemption.
• On a national level, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) just released a detailed report that evaluates the safety of the childhood immunization schedule.

By adding your name to the growing advocacy list, Every Child By Two will keep you informed about national and state specific policy issues that affect the health and well-being of your children and your community. They will even suggest specific ways in which you can support timely immunizations.

Together, we can ensure that we do everything possible to protect our children and our communities from vaccine preventable diseases. Don’t delay, join the growing list of advocates by signing up today.

The Impact of Personal Belief Exemption Policies

October 9, 2012 15 comments

The topic of school vaccine exemptions is heavily debated.  A person may be in favor of vaccinating their own child, yet not feel it’s necessary to impose strong school vaccination policies on others. Some parents who choose to delay or selectively vaccinate their children may be concerned that personal belief exemptions will be eliminated.  Other parents with medically fragile children – who either can’t be immunized for medical reasons, or who are at high risk of complications from preventable diseases – tend to feel it is unfair for a purposely unvaccinated child to endanger the health of others by attending public school.

All you have to do is read the (almost) 200 comments that have appeared on the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page last week when this topic was brought up for discussion and you’ll immediately see just how passionate people are about school exemption policies.

But how do the policymakers weigh in? 

Interestingly, this question is explored in a recent Nature article entitled “US states make opting out of vaccinations harder.  Legislative efforts aim to tackle rising incidence of disease.”  The article, written by Tara Haelle, explains how states are seeing an increase in preventable diseases, and details how some states are making a more concentrated effort to toughen the laws that govern school immunization policies as a way to help reduce the number of unimmunized students.

The article is quick to clarify that

“The issue is not a partisan one: bills have sponsors in both parties.” 

The author provides specific examples of the growing exemption rates in three specific states which have recently attempted to modify their policies.

“In Washington, 6% of children entering kindergarten in 2010–11 had an exemption; in Vermont, the figure was 6.2%, compared with the US average of 1.5%. In California, exemptions rates rose by 25% between 2008 and 2010.”

The article goes on to explain,

“These figures are alarming policy-makers, who fear that vaccination rates may fall below the threshold where even unvaccinated people are protected.”

Haelle further defines these legislative changes as an attempt by policy makers to address what she calls the “Path of Least Resistance” .    Michele Roberts, communications manager for the Washington Department of Public Health, elaborated on that idea when she was quoted as saying,

“One of the instigators for our laws was the thought that many parents were exempting for convenience.  It was easier to sign the exemption form than to track down records or to get your kid to an appointment.”

Public health departments, like those in WA and CA, are supporting policy changes based on studies that have shown that the existence of personal-belief exemptions, and the ease of getting them, is directly linked to reduced vaccination rates and a growing incidence of disease.

Coincidently, another article in Parade magazine this week, entitled “Why So Many Parents Are Delaying or Skipping Vaccines” , further explains the concerns that these new policies are hoping to address.  The author, Seth Mnookin, who also wrote The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, begins by highlighting a personal story provided by Brendalee Metcalf, one of Every Child By Two’s first parent immunization advocates.

Sadly, Brendalee’s daughter Julieanna was one of five children in Minnesota who contracted Hib along with three children who had either skipped or delayed the Hib vaccine and a child who was too young to have been fully immunized.  Though Julieanna was vaccinated, it was later determined that she had a rare immune deficiency that made the Hib vaccine ineffective in her. Mnookin highlights this story as an example of what can happen when parents choose not to vaccinate and explains,

“They are not simply putting their own kids at risk; they’re also unwittingly jeopardizing newborns, pregnant women, the elderly, and people like Julieanna with preexisting conditions. Those populations are increasingly vulnerable as diseases that we thought had been contained start to return, in larger numbers each year.”

He also provides details about vaccine refusal, stating that

“…while only about 2 percent of parents refuse all immunizations, more than 1 in 10 skip some vaccines or delay the age at which they’re given. Increasingly, these parents tend to be clustered together, creating communities where vaccination rates may have dropped below the levels needed to keep infectious diseases at bay.”

He then addresses one of the biggest concerns.

“One place where herd immunity can quickly be compromised is schools. Currently, at least 19 states allow parents to opt out of childhood inoculations for “philosophical” reasons (nearly every state allows a religious exemption, and all allow medical exemptions), and more and more families are doing so. In 2010 the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the number of area parents who exempted their kindergartener from vaccines had quadrupled since 1990. In 2010, California schools experienced the highest rate of vaccine noncompliance in more than 30 years.”

The Parade article offers a complete discussion of vaccine delay and refusal, and effectively demonstrates how these seemingly isolated parental decisions can truly impact us as a society.

Meanwhile, a small but vocal anti-immunization contingency continues to argue that their rights are being restricted.  However, it’s important that we recognize that their rights remain and only the process by which they have to file for these exemptions has been changed.  New policies, like those in WA. still allow for personal belief  exemptions, but the law now requires parents to discuss immunization benefits with a health care provider before allowing for an immunization exemption, and it appears to be impacted the “path of least resistance”.  The overall exemption rates in the state have already dropped from 6% in 2010-2011 to 4.5% of Kindergartener’s in just one year.  Now we just need to wait to see if similar statistics will be seen in states such as CA, where similar changes were made to the personal belief exemption policies just last month.

As more states consider changes in their school vaccination exemption policies, we will continue to keep our readers updated on how these policies are being received by parents and being supported by public health departments and state legislatures.