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
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…
What value do vaccines have in your life?
Throughout July and August, Shot of Prevention is encouraging people to address this question. Today’s guest post, by clinical cardiologist Dharmaraj Karthikesan, provides a personal perspective from someone who is genuinely concerned about the health and well-being of people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children.
Here’s what Dr. Karthikesan has to say:
I’ve heard people say that deaths from preventable diseases are the will of God. Indeed all men must die, but not all have to die stupid. I believe ignorance is deadly. Sadly, it can also be contagious.
My issue resides with people who are opposed to vaccination and recently this issue became very personal.
See, I have a new nephew in the family. He lives in another country and so I only get to see him on Skype. However, his parents were considering a visit and I was really looking forward to seeing him. But due to the outbreak of diphtheria in Malaysia, where I live, I advised his parents to postpone their visit. See my nephew hasn’t completed his vaccination schedule and I feared for his health.
My fears are not unfounded. This is the reality we are living in; where our lives are dictated by the decision of others. And every decision not to vaccinate affects the health of others in our community and in our world.
As a doctor, I try to appeal to people’s sense and reason when they tell me that they have decided against vaccinating. Sometimes that communication fails and so I’ve decided to try to employ one other method.
Do you instinctively feel that your child is safe without vaccination?
Do you instinctively feel secure knowing that your child will recover regardless of the infectious disease that they may contract?
Do you instinctively feel impervious to all manner of infectious disease, even those which are airborne, just because you eat a certain diet or take certain homeopathic remedies?
If it is difficult to honestly answer these questions affirmatively, then I beg you to consider what I have to say.
Vaccines are safe.
I state the obvious first. I understand and empathize with those who feel that vaccines are dangerous and those who believe vaccines can be harmful or detrimental to health. Let’s assume that this is true. For a moment, let’s assume they are worse than death, or worse than the defects and disabilities they cause.
Let’s start with polio, which can cause disability and even suffocation if it involves the breathing muscles. Assuming your child recovers from polio, he may never run or play like a normal child. Are you prepared to accept that?
How about diphtheria, which affects your child’s breathing. In severe forms, it can affect the heart and nerves leading to death. Are you willing to take that chance?
Now how about pertussis, which is known to cause violent, uncontrollable coughing making it extremely difficult for a child to get air into their lungs. About half of babies who get pertussis need care in the hospital, and 1 out of 100 babies will die. Is this the kind of suffering you want for your child?
There are serious dangers with all vaccine preventable diseases. However, vaccines work to prevent infection by developing an immunity that imitates the infection. This imitation spares one from suffering with severe illness. Instead, vaccination allows the immune system to develop an arsenal of weapons in the form of’ ‘antibodies’. If your child should ever be exposed to these infections in the future, these antibodies will prevent the infection from spreading to your child by eliminating the threat early and preventing your child from getting sick. It’s quite simple actually. Once the body knows the ‘enemy’, it is better able to defeat it.
So the question that begs for an answer is this;
Do you want your child to be facing these diseases alone, or do you want a strong arsenal of vaccines helping to form a protective shield?
The choice is yours. But that’s the problem actually. Vaccines are a choice and people’s choices are sometimes influenced by inaccurate information.
Doctors don’t make money from selling vaccines.
Parents who have watched their child suffer from a vaccine preventable disease can often feel blindsided. Prior to their own personal experiences they’re usually unfamiliar with the dangers of these diseases. Sometimes they don’t realize that these diseases are a threat or that they continue to infect people around the country and the world. In cases of influenza and pertussis, we often see children who were unvaccinated because they were too young to start receiving these vaccines. In other cases, like those involving meningococcal serogroup B, parents were simply not aware of the need for, or the availability of, a certain vaccine. There are even times when parents who have lost a child to a vaccine preventable disease are surprised to learn that some people choose not to vaccinate, and in doing so contribute to disease outbreaks that put others at increased risk.
In the 25 years that Every Child By Two has spent trying to protect families from vaccine-preventable diseases, they’ve had the distinct honor of working with many parents who’ve lost a child to a preventable disease. These Parent Advocates want to prevent such a tragedy from happening again and in working with organizations like Every Child By Two, they’re able to use their personal stories to help educate the public about the need for vaccines.
Katie and Craig Van Tornhout are two such people who have turned a tragedy into a personal mission.
After five years and four miscarriages this young couple believed their prayers had been answered when they finally welcomed their precious daughter Callie into their lives. However, their joy quickly turned to sorrow on January 30, 2010, when Callie died of pertussis at only five weeks of age.
Callie was too young to have started her infant DTaP vaccination series, which begins at 2 months of age and helps protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. In the months that followed Callie’s death, the Van Tornhout’s learned a lot about the dangers of pertussis and the importance of adult Tdap vaccine. They learned that pertussis is especially deadly to infants and that
most infants who contract pertussis are typically exposed by an adult whose own pertussis immunity may have waned from the vaccine they received as a child. And they learned that Callie contracted pertussis in the very hospital she was born in.
In an effort to prevent other children from suffering the way Callie had, the Van Tornhout’s are now helping to educate others about the risk of pertussis. They not only encourage other parents to fully vaccinate their children, but they stress the importance of adult Tdap boosters, which are especially important for expectant mothers as well as the close family members and caregivers of young babies.
Over the past six years they have channeled their grief into something positive.
Last month marked the 310th birthday of Dr. Benjamin Franklin. While Dr. Franklin is well-known for his historic role as a founding father and diplomat, he was also an accomplished author, politician, scientist, inventor, and health care visionary who created a lasting legacy to American medicine and public health. His civic involvement included the creation of the first public hospital and his avid support for smallpox inoculation.
Each year, an individual who exhibits significant accomplishments in a field of Franklin’s interest is presented with the Benjamin Franklin Founders Award. This year, the chosen field of interest was public health and the honored recipient was none other than Every Child By Two Board Member, Dr. Paul A. Offit.
While Dr. Offit is clearly well deserving of this award, I believe he received this honor for more than just the obvious reasons.
Yes, Dr. Offit has a long list of significant professional accomplishments, to include the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s the co-inventor of the rotavirus that has the potential to save millions of lives around the world, and he gives generously of his time to speak and write about vaccines and vaccine safety. Frankly, he’s received more awards than I have time to write about, but that is not what I believe makes him so worthy of the Benjamin Franklin Founders Award.
He is most deserving of this award due to the many small, but significant ways in which he advocates for safe and healthy communities.
Dr. Offit is not only one of the coolest scientist I know, but he has also been an enormous help to me and many other parents who are interested in learning more about the science and sensibility of immunizations. His commitment to educate others on the need, benefit and importance of safe and effective immunizations goes well beyond what could be expected of such an accomplished scientist. In the six years since I’ve met Dr. Offit, there have been dozens of times when he has agreed to talk one-on-one with a parent who is confused and concerned about vaccinating their children. While I can’t imagine that he has the time, he always makes the time. Not only has he helped countless people understand the complexities of immunology, what he teaches others sends ripples of knowledge out into the public health community.
Dr. Offit reflects Dr. Franklin’s commitment to the improvement of civic life, both as an extraordinary scientist, and as tireless public health advocate, but also in his commitment to make our community a safer place for us all.
Today, I would like to respond to a request by the Vaccine Education Center, and ask us all to consider how we can #BeLikeBen. But not by becoming some big-time inventor or accomplished scientist. But rather, in finding ways to be a positive influence to the public health of our communities.
You don’t have to be employed in public health to be a public health advocate.
By suggesting vaccine recommendations in your casual conversations, you can help give people the information they need to make informed decisions. Of course, no one wants to be that person who only talks about one thing, even if it’s something as important as vaccines. But I’ve come to recognize that I have plenty of opportunities to discuss immunizations in ways that are entirely appropriate in my everyday conversations with others.
Here are 5 simple things you can do to support public health and immunizations:
1.) With Your Comments and Posts On Social Media
Social media is a place where we can share the important (and sometimes not-so-important) things that go on in our lives. It’s also a place where relationships are nurtured and important conversations can influence others.
When a friend talks about preparing their kid for college, show how much you care by making sure they are informed about the dangers of meningococcal disease and the importance of vaccines for young adults. When people are discussing the health of their elderly parents, be sure they know that shingles, pneumococcal and influenza vaccines can help protect them preventable illnesses. When someone announces that they are expecting, congratulate them and then help educate them about the Tdap and flu vaccine recommendations for pregnant women.
Of course, sharing posts from the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page will also help raise awareness about disease outbreaks, immunization policy changes and vaccine safety studies. Correcting vaccine misinformation you see on other people’s posts is another important way to help ensure vaccine confidence among your contacts.
2.) With Your Family At Holiday Functions
When my expectant cousin mentioned she wouldn’t be attending a family wedding because she was hesitant to travel with her newborn, she opened the door for an important health discussion. I explained how the flu and Tdap vaccines during pregnancy could help protect her and her newborn baby, and she was open to my suggestion that her husband, parents and others with close contact with her baby, be vaccinated in the weeks before she was due. When her mother insisted that she wouldn’t need any shots because she had been vaccinated as a child, I explained how immunity wanes and how an adult Tdap booster would be the best protection. By the end of the night, every family member knew that their vaccination status was critical in helping to protect her baby and every other baby they came in contact with.
3.) With Your Friends While Out to Dinner
While enjoying dinner with friends one night, the conversation turned to our children and their summer activities. One couple mentioned that their daughter was attending science camp and learning about infectious diseases. The conversation continued and I soon learned that one of the men had suffered with meningitis as a teenager, one of the women had a bone marrow transplant that prevented her from being vaccinated, and another couple was hesitant about the need for boys to get the HPV vaccine. When I mentioned that HPV-related throat and penile cancers could be transmitted to men in ways that they hadn’t thought of, they began asking questions. By the end of the night, parents were planning meningitis boosters for their college-bound kids and asking if it was too late to get the HPV vaccine series for their sons.
4.) With Your Neighbors At the Bus Stop
When a neighbor was complaining about her son’s asthma, I asked if he received a seasonal flu vaccine. Although his doctor recommended it, she explained that her husband didn’t trust government agencies that seemed to push the vaccine year after year, so they never got him vaccinated. After sharing statistics on the dangers of the flu and referring her to an abundance of scientific research on flu vaccine safety, she revisited her decision to get her son and all other family members vaccinated.
5.) With Your Vote On Election Day
In the upcoming elections, it’s important to consider supporting candidates at the local, state and national level who will stand up for public health issues. Many states are considering legislation that will help reduce the number of non-medical exemptions to school required vaccines. In order to get such bills passed at the state level, we need public servants who understand that every student in entitled to an education in a safe environment that is free from preventable diseases.
On the federal level, we need a Congress that will support the 317 Coalition, which advocates for federal appropriations to support our nation’s immunization infrastructure by adequately funding vaccine activities at the national, state and local levels. We also need a Congress that will commit the funds necessary to maintain much needed public health programs in our own country and abroad. After all, last year’s outbreaks of measles and Ebola have demonstrated how our nations’ public health is inevitably tied to various global health challenges and initiatives around the world.
We hope that the public service of both Dr. Franklin and Dr. Offit will inspire us all to #BeLikeBen and help make our communities a safer place for us all. I think you will find that sharing immunization information in everyday conversations is not as hard as you may think.
Please comment below to let us know how you are making an effort to #BeLikeBen day after day, with public health contributions that are big or small. And join us in using the hashtag #BeLikeBen on social media to share your ideas and contributions.
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…
We have a day for giving thanks.
We have two days for getting deals.
And on December 1st we have #GivingTuesday;
a day when people are encouraged to celebrate generosity and give back.
As Every Child By Two (ECBT) continues our annual partnership with the Giving Tuesday initiative, we wish to thank you for your generous support over the years and ask for your continued support this year as we broaden our organizational mission.
With less than five employees, Every Child By Two has always been a small nonprofit with a big mission. We pride ourselves in putting our combined expertise and our passion into every project we undertake because we know that our programs have the potential to save lives. Therefore, our gift – today and everyday – is one of health!
Since the organization’s inception in 1991, Every Child By Two has made enormous strides towards
- removing immunization delivery barriers
- reducing ethnic and racial disparities
- educating the public about the importance of timely immunizations and the safety of vaccines
- and supporting the development of sound public health policies
Thanks to your support, ECBT’s Vaccinate Your Baby initiative has exceeded our wildest expectations. Messaging from our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page, our Shot of Prevention blog and our @ShotofPrev and @EveryChildBy2 Twitter accounts continue to reach as many as 7 million people each year with scientifically-accurate news and information highlighting the importance of timely immunizations.
As we approach our 25 year anniversary in 2016, Every Child By Two is expanding our mission to help reduce the incidence of preventable diseases among people of all ages. Our new Vaccinate Your Family initiative, set to be revealed with the launch of a new website later this week, will focus on protecting people of all ages by promoting immunizations throughout the life span.
Our new site will include information on vaccines needed at each stage of life, to include vaccines for pregnant women, children, adolescents and adults. It will also provide details about the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases, answer questions about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and include personal stories from families who have been affected by deadly, but preventable infectious diseases.
This #GivingTuesday, Every Child By Two needs your support to ensure that this new Vaccinate Your Family program will make as big as an impact as our Vaccinate Your Baby campaign has. By making a tax deductible donation, you can help ensure that we continue to educate our communities about the importance of immunizations through the proliferation of credible vaccine resources.
Please visit our Every Child By Two donation page and consider a contribution that demonstrates the value of vaccines. Whether you can give $15, $50, $500, or more, your contribution this #GivingTuesday is critical to Every Child By Two’s newly expanded mission to save lives through timely vaccination.
We are truly grateful for your support and for all you do to ensure the health of our communities.