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Most Popular Posts of 2017 Address Flu, Vaccine Safety, Disease Outbreaks and Maternal Vaccines

December 27, 2017 Leave a comment

As we look back at the success of the Shot of Prevention blog this past year, we’re especially grateful to our blog readers, contributors and subscribers.

Whether you’ve shared a post, shared your story, or shared your expertise, we recognize that our growth and success would not have been possible without your support. Thanks to you, our posts are helping people to make important immunization decisions for themselves and their families.

In these final days of 2017, we hope that you will revisit the top ten posts from the past year and share them with others in your social networks.  

1)  3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Son To Flu

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It’s been eight years since Serese Marotta of Families Fighting Flu lost her five-year-old son, Joseph, to the flu. She’s not the same person she was eight years ago. Today, she sees things through a different lens as a bereaved parent. Losing a child is devastating, but she feels a responsibility to pass on some of the lessons she’s learned through her personal tragedy, which she does in her article here.

 

2)  10 Things Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids Should Know

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In some cases, children who have suffered with a preventable disease were unvaccinated.  This could be the result of parents who did not have access to certain vaccines, parents who willfully refused a particular vaccine, or it could because they were too young to be fully vaccinated. After Riley Hughes passed away in the arms of his parents when he was just 32 days old, his parents made it their mission to educate people about the dangers of whooping cough, and promote the need for vaccination. In a plea to parents who still choose not to vaccinate, Riley’s mom posted the following list of “things to know” here.

 

3)  Even With All Our Modern Medicine I Watched My Sister Die From Flu

lizaLiza was healthy and only 49 years old when she contracted flu. She sought medical care early. She was cared for at a good hospital in a major city.  She had no other infections. And she was unvaccinated. To say that her death was a surprise to her brother is an understatement.  And yet her brother, Dr. Michael Northrop is a pediatric intensive care physician. His story traces the clinical course of Liza’s illness, and expresses the grief he felt as he helplessly watched his sister  succumbs to an illness that even modern medicine can’t always save us from. To read his story, click here.

 

4) Take It From This Mom, The Flu Is No Joke

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After her four-year old daughter is rushed to the emergency room, she writes a warning to others.  “The words just the flu need to be eradicated from our lexicon. Because this? This is the flu. There’s no ‘just’ about this. It was terrifying. It was the most helpless I’ve ever felt as a mommy. And it was potentially deadly.  All because I was too busy to get our flu shots.” Read the full story here.

 

5) Flu Vaccine Benefits Go Beyond Effectiveness of One Strain

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Amid speculation about how effective the flu vaccine will be this year, Dr. LJ Tan addresses some of the public’s most prominent concerns. He starts with a basic explanation of flu and flu vaccines, discusses the factors that play into vaccine effectiveness, and addresses rumors about this year’s flu vaccines. To gain a better understanding, read more here.

 

6) How My Sister Helped Save My Daughter From Whooping Cough

As a Medical Director responsible for Community Health and Prevention at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, Tamara Sheffield is a huge advocate for SOTI_Pertussis_FBimmunizations. She is especially appreciative of maternal immunizations, which she considers one of today’s most promising new preventive health strategies. But her reasons go beyond her professional understanding of how maternal flu and Tdap vaccines pass on protective antibodies to newborns. Her surprising story ends with a twist involving her own daughter who nearly died from whooping cough when she was just three weeks old. Read it here.

 

7) Multiple Vaccine Oversight Committees Ensure Our Public Safety

While 2017 brought a lot of uncertainty about health services in this country, Dr. Dorit Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of Law, explains 178_NFID_Vaccine_Safety_infograms_2_FINALwhy the public should remain confident in vaccine safety. In this post she reviews the specific ways in which vaccine safety is regulated in the U.S., and the oversight committees that monitor vaccines pre and post licensure. Her scrutiny explains that it would be hard to hide a problem if one existed, and that when problems do occur, they are quickly discovered and addressed. To learn more about vaccine safety oversight, read the full post here.

 

8) Why Should Vaccinated Individuals Worry About Measles Outbreaks

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With various measles outbreaks reported across the U.S. and the world in 2017, it’s important to understand why vaccinated individuals should be concerned. Many people mistakenly think that vaccinated individuals are not at risk during outbreaks. However, when it comes to infectious diseases like measles, one person’s decision not to vaccinate can negatively impact the health of others and this post explains how.

 

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

HowHerdImmunityWorksWe’ve all received plenty of unsolicited advice about how to care for our children. However, when making health decision for our families we should rely on evidence based research and credible information from reputable sources. In this post, I share five of the most important things I’ve learned about vaccines through my journey as a parent and immunization blogger. Spoiler alert: it begins with science and it ends with action.

 

10) Five Things Expectant Parents Need to Know About Vaccines in Pregnancy

SOTI-PregnancyCoverFBWhile well-meaning friends and family will provide a constant stream of advice on what to do and what to avoid while pregnant, all this information can be overwhelming. Expectant couples should rely on credible medical sources such as the CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the American College of Nurse Midwives. This blog post reviews the 5 things these trusted organizations say about the flu and Tdap vaccines routinely recommended during pregnancy. Learn more here.

 

We hope you have found our content to be engaging and informative.  We have exciting changes planned for Shot of Prevention in 2018 in hopes of engaging even more people in these important immunization conversations in the years to come.  

If you have suggestions for topics you would like us to address in 2018, or you would like to contribute a guest post for publication, please email shotofprevention@gmail.com.

Also, if you want to receive important immunization news and join in our online discussions, be sure to “Like” our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page, follow our @ShotofPrev Twitter feed and subscribe to Shot of Prevention by clicking the link on the top right of this page.

Thanks again for your continued support and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

Why Should Vaccinated Individuals Worry About Measles Outbreaks?

The United States is well on our way to a record year for measles cases.  So far in 2017, we’re on track to see more cases this year than last year.

In the state of Minnesota alone, where a Somali-American community was encouraged to refuse MMR vaccine during visits from Andrew Wakefield and other vaccine critics, a drop in vaccination rates has resulted in a dangerous measles outbreak.  So far, the Minnesota Department of Health has identified 66 total cases spread among four counties, with many cases involving the hospitalization of children.

SOTI-MeaslesCasesIG As the number of measles cases in MN is expected to climb, health departments across the U.S. are beginning to identify other measles cases as well.

For instance, the Maryland Department of Health is investigating a potential outbreak after a patients was admitted to Children’s National Medical Center in the District.  The patient had previously sought medical treatment at Prince George’s Hospital Center in MD, exposing countless people in that area as well.  Meanwhile, a teenaged tourist staying in a NJ hotel contracted measles, and now the New Jersey State Health Department fear other people may have been exposed before the patient was treated at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ.

With measles cases emerging across the U.S., and large-scale outbreaks of measles being reported by the World Health Organization in places like Romania and Italy, it’s important to ask if measles outbreaks should be a concern to those who are vaccinated.  

Aren’t vaccinated individuals protected during outbreaks?  And if so, why should we care if others remain unvaccinated?

When it comes to infectious diseases like measles, one person’s decision not to vaccinate can negatively impact the health of others.  There are plenty of unvaccinated individuals who rely on protection from the vaccinated, to include children under one year of age who are too young to be vaccinated for measles, individuals who have medical reasons that restrict them from being vaccinated, or people with compromised immune systems.  These individuals are all at great risk of contracting measles and suffering serious complications and the only protection they have comes from those who are vaccinated.

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In fact, in order to keep measles from spreading, about 92-95% of the population needs to be immune to the disease.  Unfortunately, in the case of measles, even small pockets of un-immunized individuals can threaten the herd immunity threshold.  This is exactly why we are seeing an outbreak in Minnesota.

What’s the big deal?  Is measles even that dangerous? Read more…

Measles Anywhere is a Result of Measles Everywhere

April 3, 2017 35 comments

Will we ever stop seeing cases of measles?

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

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

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

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

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

Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease.  

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

Disease elimination is not the same as disease eradication. 

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

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

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

Preventing Childhood Diseases Requires a Community Commitment

April 20, 2016 52 comments
This post is part of a blog relay sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recognition of National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW).  You can follow the conversation on social media using hashtag #NIIW and join the #VaxQA Twitter Chat Wednesday, April 20th at 4 p.m. ET

 

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Protecting kids from disease requires more than just getting them their recommended childhood vaccinations.  It requires the commitment of an entire community.  

Thanks to an abundance of evidence based research, we’re constantly learning new and improved ways to protect our children; from safer rear-facing car seats with five-point harnesses, to wearing bike helmets and recommending that babies sleep on their backs.  Thankfully, advancements in medical science have also led to safe and effective vaccines that can protect today’s children from as many as 14 potentially deadly diseases.

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This commitment to scientific research has provided us with the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history.   Today’s vaccines not only contain less antigens than they did years ago, but they have fewer side effects. There is even a system in place to continually evaluate vaccine safety and a process to update and improve vaccine recommendations as new information and science becomes available.

The impact of infant immunizations is monumental.  

20-year-infographicIt is estimated that vaccines administered to American children born between 1994-2013 will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths.  In looking at the incidence of specific diseases like measles, we can see how beneficial childhood vaccines have been.  For instance, before the U.S. measles vaccination program started in 1963, about 3–4 million people in the U.S. got measles each year.  In comparison, last year we had 189 cases and even that seemed like a lot.

While these successes are to be applauded, there’s still more that can be done to protect today’s children and future generations from dangerous diseases.

Timely childhood vaccinations are critical.

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The recommended childhood vaccination schedule is specifically designed to provide immunity at a time when infants and young children are at the greatest risk of contracting potentially life-threatening diseases.

Take Hepatitis B for example.  If a child contracts this disease before the age of one, there is a 90% probability that they will develop chronic symptoms later in life.  However, only 30% of children who contract hepatitis B between the ages of one and five will go on to develop these chronic issues.

This is one reason why the birth dose of the HepB vaccine is so important. Since the U.S. started routine HepB vaccination, new cases have declined by more than 80%, and mostly among children.

 

 

But vaccinating babies isn’t enough to ensure children will grow to be healthy adults.

Keeping children safe from preventable disease requires community immunity.

Because widespread vaccination programs have been so effective in preventing diseases in the U.S., many parents don’t realize that diseases like polio and diphtheria still exist.  Some don’t consider diseases like whooping cough, varicella or measles to be a serious threat to their children.  This miscalculation of risk can lead to vaccine complacency or refusal.

But the fact is that vaccine-preventable diseases are still circulating in the U.S. and around the world.  Even when diseases are rare in the U.S., they can still be commonly transmitted in many parts of the world and brought into the country by unvaccinated individuals, putting entire communities at risk.

This explains the recent resurgence of measles cases in the U.S. , despite measles having been declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.  Today’s outbreaks are often the result of unvaccinated individuals who contract the disease oversees and then return to the states where they spread it to others.  But unvaccinated individuals don’t just put themselves at risk; their choices impact the health of our communities as a whole. Read more…

It’s Time For Change.org

February 4, 2015 3 comments

schoolbusIn the midst of the current measles outbreak, now is the time for states to take action to prevent against further outbreaks and to protect children who attend licensed daycare and schools. Do you support protecting children against vaccine-preventable diseases?  Do you believe that vaccinating not only protects the individual, but also the community?

 If so, sign Every Child By Two’s petition on Change.org!

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Our petition calls for state governments to take two simple actions to support parents and the medical and public health communities: 1) Tighten laws for non medical exemptions to school vaccination mandates and 2) Release vaccination exemption rates for licensed daycare centers and public schools in every state.

We believe these steps will help protect children from needless illness.  If you agree, sign our petition today and share it with everyone you know who cares about their children’s and community’s health!    After attaining our signatory goal we hope that our partners will make use of this petition to reflects the public’s ongoing support for school vaccine mandates.

 Click here to view a detailed map of school vaccine mandate exemptions permitted in your state.

Giving MMR Vaccine Early To Protect Children Against Measles

January 27, 2015 33 comments

MeaslesAs the number of measles cases tied to the Disneyland outbreak continues to rise, parents are growing concerned about possible measles exposure in children who are not yet old enough to receive their first dose of MMR (measles, mumps rubella) vaccine.  The CDC recommendation is to administer the first dose of MMR between the ages of 12-15 months.  However, this recommendation leaves children under one year of age at risk, and so Abigail, like many other parents with young children, raised her concerns on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page by asking

Does anyone have information on giving the MMR vaccine early? My child is just 6 months old. We live in Southern California, a hotbed of the latest measles outbreak. We’re right in it…even our local grocery store was exposed. 

I’m a stay at home mom and he has no siblings, and at this point, we are not taking him to public areas often. But this outbreak is incredibly worrisome. I read that children who travel can be offered the MMR vaccine at 6 months. At what point should we consider it for our child? Any studies on early vaccination — risks, effectiveness, etc?

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Every Child By Two Scientific Advisory Board Member, Mary Beth Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP responds to Abigail’s question as follows:

Read more…

Disneyland Measles Outbreak: Should You Be Concerned?

January 22, 2015 329 comments

8QgmhZV.jpgMeasles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but every now and then we hear about an outbreak in this country. Typically it goes something like this:

An unvaccinated American travels to some place like Europe, Asia, the Pacific, or Africa where there are 20 million measles cases a year. They are exposed to the disease, arrive back in the states and begin exhibiting symptoms. Eventually they’re diagnosed with measles and public health officials work diligently to identify and isolate subsequent cases.  Within a few weeks the outbreak is contained and people go about their business like nothing ever happened.  

So why has there been such a fuss about the recent measles cases in Disneyland?

At first, news reports identified nine cases among visitors of the Southern California amusement park in December 2014. Eight  of the patients – ranging in age from 8 months to 21 years – had been vaccinated, and two were too young to have been vaccinated.

But then the outbreak appeared to be spreading to different states and lots of new cases. The latest report from the CA Department of Public Health confirms 59 cases of measles in CA since December 2014. Of the confirmed cases, 42 have been linked to an initial exposure in Disneyland and include five Disney employees.  Patients range in age from seven months to 70 years and the vaccination status is documented for 34 of the 59 cases. Of these 34, 28 were unvaccinated, one had received one dose and five had received two or more doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.  The CDC indicates that the measles cases we’ve seen so far in 2015 span six different states, largely due to the outbreak that originated at Disneyland.  As the outbreak spreads, we’re seeing evidence of secondary infections and secondary effects.  For instance, in an effort to contain the spread of measles in Orange County schools, public health officials are requiring some parents to keep their unvaccinated children home from school for 21 days after a fellow student was diagnosed with measles as part of the outbreak.

Now many people are wondering,”Is measles something I should be worried about?” 

Most vaccinated individuals aren’t very concerned.  After all, they were vaccinated against measles as children.  Doesn’t that make them immune to measles infection for the rest of their lives? Not exactly. 

And then there are those who have chosen not to get themselves or their children vaccinated.  They’re not all that concerned either.  After all, measles isn’t all that dangerous, right?  People don’t die from measles in this country, do they?  Besides, if they eat an organic diet and avoid toxins than their immune system should easily be able to fight off a measly measles infection. Right?

In order to determine whether we should be concerned, we need to starts with the facts. The truth is that measles presents a risk to everyone, even the vaccinated, and here’s why:

Read more…