Know the facts . . .
Only 83% of kindergarten students in Washington state arrive in the fall up-to-date on their immunizations, the Washington State Department of Health report.
This is well below the target goal of 95%, the level that is usually sufficient to halt the spread of infectious diseases such as measles through a community. None of the individual vaccines required for school meet this goal.
The low vaccination rate is of particular concern in light of recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, diseases which can be prevented with timely vaccination, health officials said.
About one in twenty, 4.5%, Washington state kindergarten students opted out of vaccinations due to medical, personal, or religious reasons. Washington has historically had high exemption rates for kindergarteners. Although exemption rates have come down since they peaked in 2008, but the improvement has leveled-off for the past few years.
In Washington, all recommended vaccines are available at no cost for kids through age 18 from health care providers across the state.
Although providers may charge an office visit fee and an administration fee for the vaccine, a family that can’t afford to pay can ask their regular provider to waive the administration fee.
For help finding a health care provider or an immunization clinic, call your local health agency, visit the ParentHelp123 resource finder, or call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.
Before you travel internationally, ensure that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines, as well as travel vaccines.
More and more Americans are travelling internationally each year. Today more than a third of Americans have a passport. It is important to remember that some types of international travel, especially to developing countries and rural areas, have higher health risks.
These risks depend on a number of things including:
- Where you are traveling
- Your activities while traveling
- Your current health status
- Your vaccination history
Measles and International Travel
Each year, unvaccinated people get measles while in other countries and bring it to the United States. This has sometimes led to outbreaks. The majority of measles cases brought into the U.S. come from U.S. residents. When we can identify vaccine status, almost all are unvaccinated.
Vaccination is the best protection against measles. Before leaving for trips abroad, make sure you and your family are protected against measles. Plan ahead and check with your doctor to see if you and your family need MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.
U.S. spending on prescription medicines jumped 13 percent to $374 billion in 2014, the biggest percentage increase since 2001, as demand surged for expensive new breakthrough hepatitis C treatments, a report released on Tuesday showed.
Demand for newer cancer and multiple sclerosis treatments, price increases on branded medicines, particularly insulin products for diabetes, and the entry of few new generic versions of big-selling drugs also contributed to the double-digit spending rise in 2014, the report by IMS Health Holdings Inc found.
By Charles Ornstein
This story was co-published with the Washington Post.
Medicare spent $4.5 billion last year on new, pricey medications that cure the liver disease hepatitis C 2014 more than 15 times what it spent the year before on older treatments for the disease, previously undisclosed federal data shows.
The extraordinary outlays for these breakthrough drugs, which can cost $1,000 a day or more, will be borne largely by federal taxpayers, who pay for most of Medicare’s prescription drug program.
The most-discussed of the new drugs, Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, accounted for more than $3 billion of the spending.
The spending dwarfs the approximately $286 million that the program, known as Part D, spent on earlier-generation hepatitis C drugs in 2013, said Sean Cavanugh, director of Medicare and deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The most-discussed of the new drugs, Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, accounted for more than $3 billion of the spending. Spending on another drug, Harvoni, hit $670 million even though it only came on the market only in October. Bills for a third drug, Olysio, often taken in conjunction with Sovaldi, reached $821 million.
Medicare also spent $157 million on older hepatitis C drugs in 2014, bringing the total spending for the category to more than $4.7 billion.
The spending surge is unlike anything Part D has seen. The nine-year-old program has benefited in recent years from a slowdown in prescription drug costs as several blockbusters, including the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor and the blood thinner Plavix, have lost patent protection and have faced competition from generics. Continue reading
The state Department of Health has placed restrictions on shellfish harvesting for part of Portage Bay in Whatcom County due to high levels of bacteria.
Water tests show that at certain times, the shellfish area is affected by polluted runoff from the Nooksack River.
Portage Bay usually has good water quality, but during specific times of the year the Nooksack River carries higher levels of bacteria into the shellfish harvesting area.
As a result, state health officials have changed the classification of nearly 500 of the 1,300 commercial shellfish harvesting acres in the bay from “approved” to “conditionally approved.”
Harvesting in the conditionally approved area will be closed each year from April through June and again from October through December. Continue reading
Every few years, stories appear about Vashon Island and its high percentage of unvaccinated kids. It happened again a few weeks ago in the wake of reports of measles outbreaks nationwide. Then the temporary publicity fades and this island of 11,000 goes back to the same old, same old. Which is: a deep divide between the pro and con camps that in most other ways are so much alike. Except that this time it got pretty vitriolic.
Doctors hail many of these therapies as breakthroughs, since they can conquer or control diseases that were once almost untreatable.
But they can cost more than $80,000 for a single course of treatment and bury patients in debt, even those with insurance.
Patient advocates expect the problem to worsen as insurance coverage shrinks and use of specialty treatments grows.
By Eyob Mazengia, PhD, RS, Food Protection Program
Public Health – Seattle & King County
When I started as a food inspector, I was assigned to the International District. And I liked it. It was almost like walking into a new culture, a new era.
What fascinated me was that as a public health worker, I had permission to walk into people’s personal spaces. I liked the smells, the sounds of their languages, their wall hangings and the way things looked.
It was a privilege, really, to be allowed into their personal spaces. Going on food inspections in the I.D., it was like walking into 3-4 different countries every day, without traveling outside the neighborhood.
Over the years, I established good relationships with the restaurant establishments. They were no longer just restaurant operators—they were mothers, fathers, grown kids. They’re not just businesses—there’s a family behind every door, people who had often gone through difficult times to be here.
And as I got to know them, I could recognize the sacrifices they made to give their children better opportunities in the U.S., and what they left behind. Even those born and raised here, you could recognize the sacrifices they were making. Continue reading
By Christine Vestal
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory this month about an ongoing measles outbreak, with more than 102 cases in 14 states so far. The highly contagious disease can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and death.
By 2000, measles had been nearly wiped out in the U.S., with fewer than 60 cases per year – most connected with foreign travel. Public health officials declared victory, the result of effective state-based immunization campaigns requiring kids to be vaccinated before they enter public schools.
Since then, however, the number of cases has risen along with the number of parents who have received religious or philosophical exceptions to state rules. In 2014, there were at least 23 outbreaks and more than 600 cases.
The federal government’s goal is to immunize at least 90 percent of all children before they enter school to keep measles and other childhood diseases at bay. Although the national average immunization rate (91.1 percent) exceeds that number, several states fall below it.
“To have pockets where community immunity is below 90 percent is worrisome as they will be the ones most vulnerable to a case of measles exploding into an outbreak,” said Litjen (L.J) Tan, chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition, which advocates for higher levels of immunization.
State immunization rates vary widely, with generally lower rates of inoculation occurring in states that make it relatively easy to get an exception. Lawmakers in California, Oregon, and Washington state are trying to tighten their laws to allow fewer nonmedical exemptions.
Laws allowing religious exemptions have been around longer than those allowing philosophical or “personal belief” exemptions, said Joy Wilson, of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In many but not all states, philosophical exemptions are easier to get than religious exemptions, which typically require parents to cite and explain the religious doctrine in question. Overall, states with philosophical exemptions have 2.5 times the rate of opt-outs than states with only religious exemptions.
By Jenny Gold
State lawmakers in California introduced legislation Wednesday that would require children to be fully vaccinated before going to school, a response to a measles outbreak that started in Southern California and has reached 107 cases in 14 states.
California is one of 19 states that allows parents to enroll their children in school unvaccinated through a “personal belief exemption” to public health laws. The outbreak of measles that began in December in Anaheim’s Disneyland amusement park has spread more quickly in communities where many parents claim the exemption.
State Sens. Dr. Richard Pan and Ben Allen have proposed eliminating the personal belief exemption altogether in California.
“Every year that goes by we are adding to the number of unvaccinated people and so that’s putting everyone at greater risk,” said Pan, who is also a pediatrician. “We shouldn’t have to wait until someone sickens and dies to act.”
The exemption isn’t new — it’s been around since the 1960s. But the number of parents taking the exemption went way up in the past decade. In some schools in California, more than half of children have an exemption.
If their law passes, all of those children would be required to get fully vaccinated in order to go to school. Pan says the most parents in the state would support that. Continue reading
From Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Washington scored only four out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing, detecting, diagnosing and responding to outbreaks, like Ebola, Enterovirus and antibiotic-resistant Superbugs.
Some key Washington findings include:
|No.||Indicator||Washington||Number of States Receiving Points|
|A “Y” means the state received a point for that indicator|
|1||Public Health Funding: Increased or maintained level of funding for public health services from FY 2012-13 to FY 2013-14.||N||28|
|2||Preparing for Emerging Threats: State scored equal to or higher than the national average on the Incident & Information Management domain of the National Health Security Preparedness Index.||Y||27 + D.C.|
|3||Vaccinations: Met the Healthy People 2020 target of 90 percent of children ages 19-35 months receiving recommended ≥3 doses of HBV vaccine.||N||35 + D.C.|
|4||Vaccinations: Vaccinated at least half of their population (ages 6 months and older) for the seasonal flu for fall 2013 to spring 2014.||N||14|
|5||Climate Change: State currently has completed climate change adaption plans – including the impact on human health.||Y||15|
|6||Healthcare-acquired Infections: State performed better than the national standardized infection ratio (SIR) for central line-associated bloodstream infections.||N||16|
|7||Healthcare-acquired Infections: Between 2011 and 2012, state reduced the number of central line-associated blood stream infections.||N||10|
|8||Preparing for Emerging Threats: From July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, public health lab reports conducting an exercise or utilizing a real event to evaluate the time for sentinel clinical laboratories to acknowledge receipt of an urgent message from laboratory.||N||47 + D.C.|
|9||HIV/AIDS: State requires reporting of all CD4 and HIV viral load data to their state HIV surveillance program.||Y||37 + D.C.|
|10||Food Safety: State met the national performance target of testing 90 percent of reported Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 cases within four days.||Y||38 + D.C.|
Read the full report here.
A community conversation sponsored by the Northwest Biomedical Research Association
Are Vaccinations ‘Everybody’s Business?’
Discussion of the locally-made documentary, “Everybody’s Business,” by Laura Green, which examines the small, tight-knit community of Vashon Island that has become a reluctant poster child for the growing debate around childhood vaccinations. This portrait of an island community digs beneath the surface to investigate the tensions between individual choices and collective responsibilities.
Tuesday night’s conversation will be facilitated by Dr. Doug Opel, Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
December 9, 2014
From 5:45pm to 7:45pm
415 Westlake Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98109