Category Archives: Influenza

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



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


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


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.


Ouch! Vaccination rates for older adults falling short


Vaccine SquareBy Phil Galewitz

Three out of four Americans older than 60 don’t get a shingles vaccine to protect themselves from the virus’ miseries: rashes over the face and body, stinging pain that can last for weeks or months and the threat of blindness.

Sometimes people must feel a pound of pain – someone else’s – to take a shot of prevention. Dr. Robert Wergin tells of one elderly patient with shingles who came to his Milford, Neb., office this summer. “I’m sorry, doc, I should have listened to your advice to get the shot,” the man said. A few weeks later, the man’s wife and brother, both in their 60s, visited Wergin, asking for the vaccine.

One in three seniors each year skips the flu vaccine.
Four in 10 seniors are not vaccinated for pneumonia.
Nearly half of seniors are not immunized for tetanus

“It’s amazing how once people see the disease up close, getting the vaccine suddenly raises up on their list of priorities,” said Wergin, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The shingles vaccine is not the only shot that public health officials are struggling to persuade older Americans to get. Continue reading


Washington state kindergarten vaccination rate below target goal


Boy gets shot vaccine injectionOnly 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.



Vashon parents try to get along despite deep divide over vaccination | The Seattle Times


Vashon island mapEvery 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.

Vashon parents try to get along despite deep divide over vaccination | The Seattle Times.


States with looser immunization laws have lower immunization rates


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.

Measles graphic 2

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.


Stateline logo Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Center on the States that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.


Measles outbreak sparks bid to strengthen California’s vaccine law


Boy gets shot vaccine injectionBy 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


A Guide To Handling Flu Season – WBUR

Flu virus - courtesy of NAIAD

Flu virus – courtesy of NAIAD

The flu season is upon us, and the Centers for Disease Control has announced that influenza has officially reached epidemic proportions across the U.S.

Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Boston Health Commission’s infectious disease bureau, joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to discuss the flu strain and how the Boston is coping.

Listen below to Barry’s full conversation with WBUR’s Bob Oakes.


Snohomish County offers free flu shot clinic for low-income and uninsured adults

Flu virus - courtesy of NAIAD

Flu virus – courtesy of NAIAD

Snohomish County will be offering a free flu vaccination clinics, Jan. 10 & 14

Vaccinations will be first come, first served and offered only to low-income and uninsured adults.

Uninsured and low-income adults can take advantage of two upcoming vaccination clinics for flu, whooping cough, and pneumonia in Everett, Wash.
Continue reading


Washington scores four out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing and responding to infectious disease outbreaks


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.
Total  4

 Read the full report here.