As a mother and a nurse, I was vigilant in having both of my children up-to-date on all recommended vaccinations, including meningococcal vaccination. I was under the common misconception, as many parents are, that the meningococcal vaccine that my daughter received would fully protect her from meningococcal disease, when in fact, it didn’t protect her against meningitis B. The meningococcal vaccine (MCV4) only protects against four of the five common groups (ACWY), leaving adolescents and young adults vulnerable to meningitis B. Meningitis B is a type of bacterial meningitis, also known as meningococcal disease, which is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that can kill a healthy person within 24 hours.
When my daughter Kimberly Coffey died in 2012 from bacterial meningitis, a vaccine was not available to protect her. But since 2014, meningitis B vaccination has been available in the United States. Kimberly was a perfectly healthy 17-year-old high school senior, and I believe she would be alive today if meningitis B vaccination had been available to her.
I established The Kimberly Coffey Foundation in Kimberly’s honor to educate other parents and health care providers about meningitis B, also known as MenB.
It’s critical that parents know that MenB vaccination is now available, and that without requesting MenB vaccination in addition to the common meningococcal vaccine (MCV4), their child will not be fully protected against meningococcal disease and MenB.
The Kimberly Coffey Foundation has partnered with Pfizer on the National Meningococcal Disease Awareness Survey to gain a better understanding of parents’ knowledge of meningococcal disease and its available vaccines. This 2016 survey revealed that nearly 4 out of 5 parents didn’t know their child wasn’t fully immunized against the five common groups of meningococcal disease unless they had two meningococcal vaccines (MCV4 and MenB).
The bottom line is this – without adding MenB vaccination, we are going to lose more lives. There will continue to be more college outbreaks, especially since MenB has been responsible for several recent college outbreaks in the United States. According to data released by the CDC, MenB currently accounts for approximately 50% of meningococcal disease in the United States among persons aged 17-22 years old. MenB vaccination is available for individuals ages 10-25, and public health insurance and most private insurance plans provide coverage. However, your child’s provider may not mention it.
I want parents to have the knowledge to request MenB vaccination, in addition to the meningococcal vaccine, so that their children can potentially be fully protected against this devastating disease.
As a mother who lives every day with the heartache of not seeing my beautiful daughter live the full life she deserved, I know only too well how important MenB vaccination is. My daughter Kimberly’s life was one too many lost to this terrible disease.
I will be Kimberly’s voice as I continue to promote awareness of meningococcal disease, which includes MenB. I don’t ever want another parent to experience what I have. And more important, I don’t want another person to experience what Kimberly did when she battled for her life.
Kimberly contracted MenB two years too early—two years before the MenB vaccine was made available. She didn’t have the protection of the MenB vaccination, but your children can. Please protect your children – because YOU can.
For more information about meningitis B and the MenB vaccine, please visit the Kimberly Coffey Foundation at www.kimberlycoffeyfoundation.org.
Every Child By Two (host of the Shot of Prevention blog) welcomes guest blog posts on a variety of vaccine related issues. The views and opinions expressed in these guest posts do not necessarily represent the views of the Every Child By Two organization.
Every Child By Two’s State of the ImmUnion campaign is honoring National Immunization Awareness Month (#NIAM16) with a Blog Relay highlighting the importance of vaccines across the lifespan and across the nation.
In this fourth guest post, we learn how Maine has made great strides in stepping up the state’s vaccination rates for infants, babies and young children to at or above national levels. But when it comes to adolescents, Maine – like many other states – still has some catching up to do.
At Vax Maine Kids, they’re working hard to make sure parents know how to protect their childrenfrom several serious illnesses that can strike during the teen years.
This guest post by Franklin Health Pediatrics pediatrician, Dr. Gabe Civiello, highlights the importance of vaccines for preteens and teens and explains what Maine is doing to improve adolescent immunization rates.
By Gabriel Civiello, MD in collaboration with Vax Maine Kids
Healthcare providers all across Maine are celebrating the recent rebound in vaccination rates for our youngest children. In fact, our childhood immunization rates rank among the highest in the country. According to the 2014 National Immunization Survey, over 85% of Maine toddlers are up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations, and kindergarten non-medical exemption requests fell to 3.9% during the 2014-2015 school year.
The trends aren’t quite as positive for Maine’s preteens and teens, however. Nationwide, as children grow into their preteen and teen years, under immunization becomes much more common—and Maine is no exception. In fact, Maine’s vaccination rates for the meningococcal vaccine and the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine are below the national average and the lowest in New England. Following the national trend, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine rates in Maine are at least half of the rates of the other adolescent vaccines.
Why are immunization rates lower for Maine teens?
- Preteens and teens have lower attendance at well child visits. If they aren’t seeing their healthcare provider on a regular basis, they and their parents aren’t being reminded of the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule (and the importance of sticking to it). When teens see a provider solely for sick visits or emergencies, vaccinations may not come up in the discussion as often as they should.
- Critical vaccines for teens are not required for school attendance in Maine. Teens are allowed to attend school without getting the meningococcal vaccine and the HPV vaccine, and Maine is one of only three states that doesn’t require the Tdap vaccine. By leaving these vaccines out of school requirements, parents may get the impression that their children don’t need them.
- The HPV vaccine remains as poorly understood and under-utilized (by families and providers), in Maine as it is elsewhere in the country. We aren’t communicating the importance of safely vaccinating adolescents against the common cancers caused by the HPV virus before they become sexually active as well as we could.
There is good news for Maine teens in the NIS data, however. Our HPV vaccination rates are higher than the national average. This tells us that Maine parents and providers want to protect our children all the way into adulthood, and that HPV vaccine rates will likely improve with better communication about the vaccine.
Which diseases threaten Maine teens, and which vaccines can protect them?
There are four vaccines that are routinely recommended for all preteens between 11 and 12 years of age. Teens also need a booster dose of meningococcal vaccine at age 16, and teens may also need additional vaccines based on risk factors, travel, or if they missed previous doses. The vaccines routinely recommended for preteen and teen girls and boys are:
- Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against four types of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis – a serious infection around the brain and spinal cord – in teens and young adults. Two doses are needed for full protection.
- HPV vaccine, which protects against several types of HPV. HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in females and cancers of the penis in males. In both females and males, HPV infection can also lead to head/neck cancers, anal cancer and genital warts. Three doses are needed for full protection.
- Tdap vaccine, which is a booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis (whooping cough) can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks. Infants, for whom pertussis can be deadly, are often infected by an older sibling or adult. A Tdap vaccine is recommended between the ages of 11-12 (with boosters for tetanus and diphtheria (Td) needed every 10 years throughout adulthood).
- Flu vaccine, because even healthy kids can get influenza, and it can be serious. All preteens and teens, should get the flu vaccine every year.
What is Maine doing to raise awareness of and access to the immunizations Maine teens need?
Every Child By Two’s State of the ImmUnion campaign is honoring National Immunization Awareness Month (#NIAM16) with a Blog Relay highlighting the importance of vaccines across the lifespan.
In this third guest post, we hear about the importance of protecting babies and young children from vaccine-preventable diseases from the perspective of a statewide non-profit. The mission of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition is to mobilize diverse partners and families in an effort to advance children’s health through immunizations.
To celebrate the gift of vaccines and to remind parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others of the important role vaccines play in their little one’s early years, we’re highlighting the top 10 things parents should know about childhood immunizations.
1. Vaccines save lives.
Simply put, vaccines work! The World Health Organization estimates that vaccines save 2.5 million children’s lives every year. In fact, immunization is considered one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.
Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide, and we’re getting closer than ever to a polio-free world.
Here in Colorado, vaccination prevented more than 8,600 child hospitalizations in just one year!
2. Vaccines are safe.
Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored after they are licensed to ensure that they are safe. See The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine infographic to learn more about the vaccine testing and approval process.
Like any medication or medical intervention, vaccines can cause adverse reactions. The most common vaccine side effects are mild (e.g. a sore arm or mild fever). In many cases, the risk of a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine is 1 in one million. Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection, but this is minimal compared to the pain, trauma, and possible long-term complications of the diseases these vaccines prevent. The disease-protection benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the risk of possible side effects. Not vaccinating places children at risk for dangerous and potentially fatal vaccine-preventable illnesses.
3. Young children are especially vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and their complications.
Children under the age of five are most at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases and their complications. In 2014, 63.8 percent of children hospitalized with vaccine-preventable disease in Colorado were four years of age or younger. Unfortunately, in the same year over 25.7 percent of two-year-olds in Colorado had not received all recommended vaccines.
Child care facilities, preschool programs and schools are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs, and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments. Make sure you are sending your child to child care and school safe!
4. Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist.
Diseases like polio, measles, and mumps are not diseases of the past; vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in many parts of the world. However, most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like measles or rubella can have on a family or community, and the benefits of vaccination are often taken for granted. But the truth is they still exist.
For example, measles continues to be brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people in the U.S. (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur. While we have the ability to prevent these diseases from harming our most vulnerable, such as babies, the elderly and the immunocompromised, gaps in immunization coverage have allowed these diseases to sneak back into our daily lives. Last year’s measles outbreak was a perfect example of how quickly infectious diseases can spread when they reach groups of people who aren’t vaccinated.
Diseases know no boarders, and with an increasingly transient global society it is more important than ever to ensure our little ones are protected.
5. Vaccines also save money.
National Immunization Awareness Month is a reminder that we all need vaccines throughout our lives. This week we are focusing on the importance of vaccines during pregnancy. These vaccines help protect expectant mothers while also passing immunity to babies that can help protect them from disease before they are old enough to receive their own vaccines.
From the moment you found out you were pregnant, you started protecting your developing baby. You might have changed the way you eat, started taking a prenatal vitamin, or researching the kind of car seat you’ll buy. But did you know that one of the best ways to start protecting your developing baby against serious diseases is by making sure you get the whooping cough (Tdap) and flu vaccines while you are pregnant?
The vaccines you get during your pregnancy will provide your developing baby with some disease protection (immunity) that will last the first months of life after birth. By getting vaccinated during pregnancy, you can pass antibodies to your baby that may help protect against diseases. This early protection is critical for diseases like the flu and whooping cough because babies in the first several months of life are at the greatest risk of severe illness from these diseases. However, they are too young to be vaccinated themselves. Passing maternal antibodies on to them is the only way to help directly protect them.
In cases when doctors are able to determine who spread whooping cough to an infant, the mother was often the source. Once you have protection from the Tdap shot, you are less likely to give whooping cough to your newborn while caring for him or her.
When it comes to flu, even if you are generally healthy, changes in immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to have a severe case of the flu if you catch it. If you catch the flu when you are pregnant, you also have a higher chance of experiencing pregnancy complications, such as premature labor and delivery. Getting a flu shot will help protect you and your baby while you are pregnant.
You also can rest assured that these vaccines are very safe for you and your developing baby. Millions of pregnant women have safely received flu shots for many years, and the CDC continues to monitor safety data on flu vaccine in pregnant women.
The whooping cough vaccine also is very safe for you and your developing baby. Doctors and midwives who specialize in caring for pregnant women agree that the whooping cough vaccine is important to get during the third trimester of each pregnancy. Getting the vaccine during your pregnancy will not put you at increased risk for pregnancy complications.
You should get your whooping cough vaccine between your 27th and 36th week of pregnancy. You can get a flu shot during any trimester. You can get whooping cough and flu vaccines at the same time during your pregnancy or at different visits. If you are pregnant during the flu season, you should get a flu vaccine soon after vaccine is available.
If you want to learn more about pregnancy and vaccines, talk to you ob-gyn or midwife, and visit the pregnancy pages at Vaccinate Your Family and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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
Written by Every Child By Two intern, Linn H.
As students of public health, through our courses and fieldwork, we often have the opportunity to travel the globe and work with populations from all walks of life. However, with these great opportunities comes a great responsibility to protect others by protecting ourselves.
I’m not saying we all need to be like Spider-Man here, or that we’re heroes with great power. But I do think that knowing you could have done something to prevent a certain fate is an important lesson.
Take for example the recent case of a Washington Women who died as a consequence of contracting measles at a local medical facility. Since she was on medication that suppressed her immune system, this tragedy illustrates the importance of immunizing those that are healthy in order to provide a high level of community protection to those who are more susceptible to illness.
This case illustrates the fact that many individuals rely on healthy adults like myself to help prevent the spread of dangerous and even deadly diseases. Infants too young to be vaccinated, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious disease.
That’s why it’s important for adults to become educated on the recommended adult vaccines. If we fail to get routine vaccinations as an adult, we put those around us and ourselves at risk.
As adults, there is often this misconception that vaccines are just for children, but we never outgrow the need for immunizations.
Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, locations of travel, medical conditions and vaccines received in the past.
Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, the immunity that you received from some of the vaccines you were given can wear off. Vaccines not only prevent against illnesses that we’re susceptible to as adults, but they help protect others we come into contact with such as the very young, the very old, people with weakened immune systems, and those who cannot be vaccinated.
Some of the vaccines recommended for adults are highlighted on a spreadsheet here and include:
- Influenza (flu) vaccine each year to protect against seasonal flu. Flu vaccine reduces your risk of heart attacks or other flu related complications among people with pre-existing health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
- Tdap booster vaccine to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, and diphtheria, at least once every 10 years but more often if you are around young babies. In addition, pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.
- Other vaccines – such as shingles, pneumococcal, hepatitis, HPV – are dependent on one’s age, occupation, travel, health status, vaccination history, and other risk factors. For instance, Hepatitis B vaccine reduces your risk of liver cancer and HPV vaccine reduces your risk of cervical, penile, throat, anus and various other HPV-related cancers.