Category Archives: Vaccines

To combat disease, states make it harder to skip vaccines

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Vaccine SquareBy Sarah Breitenbach
Stateline

When Jennifer Stella’s two children were babies, she made sure they got all the usual vaccines.

But when one started having seizures and the other developed eczema after they’d gotten immunizations, the Vermont woman decided her kids would no longer get shots required to attend school.

Stella, a co-founder of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, is among a growing number of parents who are opting out of childhood vaccinations because they’re worried about their safety. Public health experts say the movement is leading to outbreaks of nearly eradicated dangerous diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, among clusters of unvaccinated kids.

All states require children to get vaccinated to attend school, and immunization rates across the nation remain high, with 92 percent of children between 19 months and 35 months getting the shots to protect against potentially deadly measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

But even a small number of unvaccinated people can undermine the immunity of the larger population, which is leading public health officials and vaccine advocates to push for changes.

Some want to educate parents about the risks of forgoing vaccines and fight what they say is misinformation about the risks posed by the vaccines.

Others have pushed lawmakers to eliminate exemptions from state vaccine requirements and sought to make it more difficult for families to qualify for the exemptions that remain. Continue reading

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Why are so few kids getting the HPV vaccine

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9400_loresBy Michael Ollove
Stateline

Ten years after the federal government approved the first vaccines to combat the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, nine years after those vaccines were recommended for all adolescent girls, and five years after they were recommended for all adolescent boys, less than half of girls and only a fifth of boys are getting immunized.

In 2014, only 40 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 have completed the three-vaccine course of HPV immunization. (And just 22 percent of boys.)

Despite state efforts to raise vaccination rates, public health officials say that for a variety of reasons, mainly wariness over the HPV’s association with sex, parents and especially doctors have not embraced the potentially life-saving vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2014, only 40 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 had completed the three-vaccine course of HPV immunization. (And just 22 percent of boys had done so.)

That’s well short of the 80 percent goal set in 2010 by the federal government in its Healthy People 2020 report, which established health objectives for the nation.

Even states that require HPV inoculation for school admission or mandate that schools teach students about the virus have fallen far short of the federal benchmark.

“We think the rates are dismally low and very alarming,” said Amy Pisani, executive director of Every Child by Two, a nonprofit that aims to reduce instances of vaccine-preventable illnesses. “We clamor and clamor for a vaccine to get rid of these terrible diseases and yet we aren’t implementing them.”

Some states fare significantly worse. In Tennessee, for example, the vaccination rate for girls was 20 percent — the lowest rate in the nation — and 14 percent for boys.

Even the best performing state, Rhode Island, one of only two states plus the District of Columbia that require HPV inoculation for school admission, has rates well below the national goal, with 54 percent of girls and 43 percent of boys receiving all three HPV vaccinations. Continue reading

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Pediatricians offer a ‘medical home’ for your child

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Pediatricians Know Children’s Medical History Well and Provide Comprehensive Care

McCabe_Liana_2014Guest column by Liana McCabe, MD
Contributing writer

As the mother of two young children and a pediatrician, I understand and appreciate how challenging it can be to coordinate health care for a child, especially for parents who also work outside the home or have other responsibilities. To make caring for children and their families easier, we strive to provide comprehensive pediatric services and have our office be your child’s ‘medical home.’

Your pediatrician can do it for you

Aided by an electronic medical record, which includes your child’s allergies, medical history and immunization records, a pediatrician is able to provide the most informed, safe and effective treatment options, unlike a clinic that may not be able to easily obtain your child’s personal health information.

Consistency is also key to proper health care

The importance of a long-term relationship with a pediatrician from the newborn years until adulthood – both for the patient and for the parent who is looking for guidance in navigating the sometimes challenging world of parenting – cannot be understated.

With every visit, phone call or secure email, the pediatrician is learning about your child’s health care needs, enabling the physician to make decisions with complete knowledge and information. This is why children’s health care is ideally delivered or coordinated through the child’s ‘medical home,’ the office of the primary-care pediatrician.

Pediatricians provide comprehensive care

Continue reading

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New chickenpox vaccine requirement for Washington high school students this fall

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All public and private high school students will be required to get two doses of the chickenpox vaccine before they enter school.

From Washington State Department of Health

Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!Parents of Washington high schoolers may be surprised to hear about a new chickenpox (varicella) vaccine requirement in the coming school year. In the 2016-17 school year, all public and private high school students will be required to get two doses of the chickenpox vaccine before they enter school.

Parents are encouraged to get their teens vaccinated soon to avoid a last minute rush before the start of school.

Parents are encouraged to get their teens vaccinated soon to avoid a last minute rush before the start of school.

People may consider chickenpox a routine and mild childhood illness; however, it is a very contagious disease that spreads quickly and causes an itchy rash, fever, and sometimes serious illness.

People infected with chickenpox are at risk for developing shingles, a painful skin rash, later in life. Chickenpox is transmitted through the air by coughing and sneezing or by touching chickenpox blisters. Continue reading

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Study Finds HPV Vaccine Has Lowered Number Of Women With Disease

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The HPV vaccine has lowered the number of women with HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cancer, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. NPR’s Audie Cornish talks to Dr. Joseph Bocchini from Louisiana State University to get his read on the results.

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US cancer centers urge HPV vaccination

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hpvSixty-nine top US cancer centers, including Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute, have issued a letter urging that adolescents, teens and young adults to be vaccinated against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus (HPV).

They write:

Approximately 79 million people in the United States are currently infected with a human papillomavirus (HPV) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 14 million new infections occur each year. Several types of high-risk HPV are responsible for the vast majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers.

The CDC also reports that each year in the U.S., 27,000 men and women are diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer, which amounts to a new case every 20 minutes. Even though many of these HPV-related cancers are preventable with a safe and effective vaccine, HPV vaccination rates across the U.S. remain low.

Together we, a group of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Centers, recognize these low rates of HPV vaccination as a serious public health threat. HPV vaccination represents a rare opportunity to prevent many cases of cancer that is tragically underused. As national leaders in cancer research and clinical care, we are compelled to jointly issue this call to action. Continue reading

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Flu season is here – there’s still time to protect you and your family

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Flu shot todayFrom Washington Department of Public Health

The holidays bring us together to share memories and good times with friends and family. Make sure, though, that you’re not also sharing illnesses like flu. Getting a flu shot is the best protection for everyone in the family and is widely available this season.

“During the holidays, it’s easy to spread germs when you’re in close contact with loved ones. It’s important to get all family members vaccinated against flu, so you can spend more healthy time together,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “Flu is a serious illness that is especially dangerous for older people, pregnant women, young children, and those with certain chronic medical conditions. You can spread the virus to others before you know you’re sick.”

Flu activity typically increases in the winter months when people spend more time indoors around each other. People who haven’t been vaccinated against flu still have time to get the vaccine before the season reaches its peak here in Washington. Information on flu activity in Washington can be tracked through Flu News (PDF), which is updated weekly.

National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 6-12 and a good time to encourage flu vaccination for people 6 months and older. Flu vaccine usually takes two weeks to be fully protective, so it’s important to get vaccinated now. Continue reading

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Flu season is here – vaccines are now available for all ages

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Influenza viruses

Influenza viruses

From Washington State Department of Health

Fall brings crisp mornings, colorful leaves, pumpkins on porches, and an unwelcome visitor: flu. Thankfully, flu vaccine has also arrived and is now widely available for everyone in the family for protection throughout the season.

“We’re seeing some flu cases in Washington,” says State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “Getting a flu shot every year is the best way to protect yourself and your family from this very serious illness. Medical providers and pharmacies in Washington have flu vaccines to protect you from this year’s flu strains. Anyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated.”

Data from the National Immunization Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show that flu vaccination rates in Washington are not where they should be. Only half of Washingtonians got vaccinated during the 2014-2015 flu season. Continue reading

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Parents in poor countries have worry about vaccines, too: If they can get them for their children

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Globe 125X125The Republican presidential debates have fueled another round of vaccine anxiety in the U.S. But in the world’s poorest countries, parents have a different set of concerns: They worry about getting their kids immunized quickly enough.

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If you’re 60 or over, you need the shingles vaccine

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 Don’t wait, vaccinate! Learn about shingles.By Kory B. Fowler, M.D.
Medical Director, Intermountain Region
Humana

Shingles is not fun.  In fact, it’s downright awful.  It starts with a tingling or burning sensation on the skin along one side of the body, followed by an extremely painful rash consisting of bumps, blisters or crusting. Hundreds of thousands of Americans 60 or over suffer from shingles each year, and the worst part is they don’t have to. Continue reading

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Vaccine rates leave many Washington toddlers at risk

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Alert IconFrom Washington State Department of Health

New immunization rates show many toddlers across the state aren’t getting vaccinated for certain diseases on time, if at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Immunization Survey.

The trend means more children are at risk of getting measles, whooping cough, or other preventable diseases.

The trend means more children are at risk of getting measles, whooping cough, or other preventable diseases.

The annual survey reports that children between 19 and 35 months of age weren’t any more protected against serious and potentially fatal diseases than the year before. About 67 percent of toddlers in 2014 were fully vaccinated by 3 years of age.

This overall rate is about 3 percent lower than 2013, but statistically the two rates are not significantly different.Washington’s immunization rates for 2014 did not improve for most recommended vaccines for young children.

The lone exception was the dose of hepatitis B vaccine given at birth. Coverage rates for the hepatitis B birth dose vaccine exceeded national coverage rates, increasing to almost 80 percent.

“The data show that we’re not protecting all of our kids as well as we should,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “We’re disappointed that our rates aren’t higher. When kids aren’t fully protected, it puts those kids and the wider community at risk of disease. The recent spike in measles cases and the ongoing whooping cough outbreak highlights the need for high vaccination rates.” Continue reading

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States look for more effective ways to encourage vaccinations

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Boy gets shot vaccine injectionBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

When kids start school this fall, it’s a sure bet that some won’t have had their recommended vaccines because their parents have claimed exemptions from school requirements for medical, religious or philosophical reasons.

Following the much publicized outbreak of measles that started in Disneyland in California in December, these exemptions have drawn increased scrutiny.

That outbreak, which eventually infected 147 people in seven states, was a wake-up call for many parents, who may not have realized how contagious or serious the disease can be, and for states as well, say public health officials.

“States are beginning to realize that they have effective measures to combat these outbreaks, and philosophical exemptions are eroding these protections and resulting in significant costs to states,” says Dr. Carrie Byington, professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Continue reading

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