And The National Immunization Survey Says . . .

28 08 2014

In 1994, the CDC began collecting information about the vaccination of children ages 19—35 months. They did this through a survey called the National Immunization Survey (NIS), and they’re still doing it.

The information they collect gives us a good picture of how well-covered our little ones are by the vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

CDC does similar surveys on teens, adults, and also specifically, flu.

The results from the latest survey on children ages 19—35 months are:

  • Most parents are getting their kids vaccinated against preventable diseases.
  • We need to be more vigilant about protecting our two-year-olds through vaccination. They aren’t getting all the recommended doses.
  • Seventeen states had less than 90% coverage with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Communities need 95% coverage to keep measles under control. Even then, when there are groups of people not protected by the MMR vaccine, they’re at risk for measles.

Dr. Alan Hinman does a nice job of getting into the measles outbreak we’ve had this past year in his blog post on the Value of Vaccination website. Recommended reading!

To dive into all the details of the 2013 NIS, CDC’s MMWR provides the facts and figures.





Why We Talk About Immunizations

25 04 2014

There are so many ways to prevent infections, I sometimes wonder why we spend the vast majority of our time talking about immunizations.

Well, yesterday the CDC came out with data that are so astounding, all I could think when I listened was: That’s why!

The CDC looked back at children born between 1994 and 2013, and estimated that vaccination will prevent:

  • about 322 million illnesses
  • 21 million hospitalizations
  • and 732,000 deaths over the children’s lifetime

And, of less importance than a child’s life but good to know, the prevention of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths nets a savings of $295 billion in direct costs and $1.4 trillion in total societal costs. That ain’t hay, as my dad used to say.

I’m happily highlighting these numbers because it’s World Immunization Week, and because the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Thanks to the VFC, vaccines are provided at no cost to uninsured kids in our country.

20-year-infographicAbout 25 years ago, there was a big measles outbreak in the US. We saw approximately 55,000 cases of measles and more than 100 deaths. Come to find out, this outbreak was primarily due to uninsured children not being vaccinated.

Shortly after the outbreak, the VFC program was established with the hope that such an event would never be repeated.

We are currently seeing small outbreaks of measles cases in the US. Unlike 25 years ago, these outbreaks are primarily due to a small number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.

Measles was eliminated from the US in 2000, but not from the world. It’s estimated that 20 million people on this planet get measles each year, and 122,000 die from the disease. When unvaccinated individuals in this country travel to other countries, or interact with visitors from other lands, they are at risk for measles.

The symptoms of measles include the typical rash, fever, cough, runny nose, tiredness, red and watery eyes, and sometimes little white spots in the mouth. The symptoms stay for several days before gradually disappearing. However, complications are not uncommon. According to the CDC: About 30% of measles cases develop one or more complications, including:

  • Pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children.
  • Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result.
  • Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.

These complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old.

Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis. (This is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.) For every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.

In developing countries, where malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency are common, measles has been known to kill as many as one out of four people. It is the leading cause of blindness among African children.

I look at these statistics and I think: Oh yes, this is the other reason we spend so much time talking about immunizations.

If I may appropriate and paraphrase something I heard the other day: Mom and dad, choosing not to vaccinate or to delay vaccination of your children is like choosing to put them in their car seats only on Thursdays when the sun is shining.

Don’t be a part of that small minority of parents who are afraid to proactively protect their children. Call your child’s healthcare provider today and make sure he or she is current on all immunizations.

Oh, and happy World Immunization Week.

 

by Trish Parnell

(Thanks to Liz Szabo for the thing I heard the other day.)





A Thoughtful Choice

17 04 2014

I remember lining up at school in the ‘60s to get vaccinated against smallpox and a few other diseases for which there were vaccines.

I also remember the years when my brothers and I took turns at getting measles, mumps and other diseases for which there were no vaccines.

In the end, we three were fortunate—no permanent harm from our maladies.

Fast-forward 30 years. My daughter was four months old when she was diagnosed with hepatitis B. She had not been vaccinated and subsequently developed a chronic infection.

It all sounds mundane when read as words on a screen. But in those early years, the heartache and anger I felt at having my daughter’s life so affected by something that was preventable . . . well, it was almost more than I could bear.

But again, we were fortunate. After years of infection, her body turned around and got control of the disease. Although we have bloodwork done every year to keep an eye on things, she has a good chance of living the rest of her life free of complications from this infection.

Over the years, I’ve met other parents whose children were affected by vaccine-preventable diseases. Some, like Kelly and Shannon, chose not to vaccinate their kids and ended up with horrible consequences. Kelly’s son Matthew was hospitalized for Hib and they came within a breath of losing him. Shannon did lose her daughter Abigale to pneumococcal disease, and almost lost her son. He recovered and was released from the hospital, at which time they had a funeral for their daughter.

Because of my job, I talk to and hear from many families with similar stories. Some children have died, some remain permanently affected, and some have managed to recover.

Also because of my job, I hear from parents who believe vaccines are not safe, and that natural infections are the safer choice. I understand and have experienced the emotions we as parents feel when something happens to our children. In a way, I was lucky. I knew exactly what caused my daughter’s problems. A simple test provided a definite diagnosis.

If we can’t identify the cause of our children’s pain or suffering, we feel like we can’t fix it and we can’t rest until we know the truth. When the cause can’t be found, we latch onto if onlys. What could we have done differently to keep our kids safe? If only we hadn’t taken her to grandpa’s when she didn’t feel good. If only we hadn’t vaccinated him on that particular day. If only. The problem is, the if onlys are guesses and no more reliable routes to the facts than playing Eenie Meenie Miney Mo.

The deeper I go into the world of infections and disease prevention, the more obvious it is to me that the only way to find the facts is to follow the science. Now granted, one study will pop up that refutes another, but I’ve learned that when multiple, replicable studies all reach the same conclusion, then I can safely say I’ve found the facts.

In our family, we vaccinate because for us, it is the thoughtful choice.

By Trish Parnell

Originally posted on Parents Who Protect





Flu – You Have a Choice

20 03 2014

Kristi was a beautiful, intelligent elementary school teacher, and my only sibling. She was healthy, and ran or walked several miles many times a week.

She was active in the community, supporting anything for children. And she made sure her own two children were given lots of experiences by visiting zoos and national parks, camping, playing sports, and doing lots of other activities.

She was always on the go somewhere to do something.

She encouraged all of us to spend time with family, and to put aside our daily chores so that we wouldn’t miss out on opportunities to make memories.

She was an avid photographer and literally had thousands of photos stored on memory cards.

Sisters

Sisters

She was always the one to pick up on someone being left out, and took time to show them kindness and love. Kristi developed many strong relationships because of this positive attitude. She was very strong-willed, fighting for what she believed was the right thing in life.

My sister was someone special.

Since Kristi taught first grade, she was frequently exposed to colds and illnesses. Even though she was healthy, on December 12th, 2013, she began to develop symptoms of influenza. She had a headache, extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and a hacking cough.

She went to her physician, who prescribed Tamiflu® and told her to take some over-the-counter flu relief medications.

She made a choice to not purchase the Tamiflu because, even with insurance, the cost was $65, and she had Christmas presents left to buy. Kristi didn’t want anyone to do without a precious gift, particularly her children.

The next two days she began to worsen, to the point she couldn’t get out of bed to get herself fluids. Friends came by to help her and brought her Gatorade®. My mother took her chicken noodle broth, and she was able to get out of bed on Sunday, December 15th.

She still complained of a headache, but drank lots of fluids to try to build up her strength. Kristi’s fever continued, and she started noticing some chest pain Sunday evening while in the shower. Once out, she said it went away. Urgent care had already closed, so she told us she would return to her doctor’s office on Monday morning just to make sure she wasn’t developing any complications.

My mother asked her if she had gotten a flu vaccine this year and she said, “No, but I will definitely get one next year!” She was so scared of needles that she opted to not get a vaccine, thinking lots of people get the flu and suffer through it a few days and get better.

She was not this lucky.

On December 16th, at 1:13pm, only four days into her illness, I got a call from my dad saying an ambulance had been called to her house and it didn’t sound good.

Hearing those words from my dad, who was an EMT, made me know it was serious. As I rushed to the hospital, I picked up my mom from her work and tried to reassure her to stay calm. I tried to prepare Mom for Kristi maybe being on a ventilator or unconscious, just in case.

As we approached the hospital ER doors, my father came out with tears rolling down his cheeks, and my mother instantly knew without him speaking. She desperately asked, “She didn’t make it?” He quietly shook his head. And as I stood there clinging to my parents as they mourned the death of their child I thought of my mother’s words I had so quickly brushed off, “People die from the flu, Sharon.”

As a registered nurse, I have taken care of many patients with influenza and they have recovered. I brushed it off when my mom had been worrying over the weekend because my sister was healthy! She was active. She was an adult with no complications.

Kristi was so healthy, she gave my dad a kidney 10 years ago. At her regular check-ups, her physician always said things looked great and she was doing well.

Healthy adults don’t die from the flu!

She was a fighter, she was so strong-willed. People like that don’t succumb to the flu.

But, I was wrong. Healthy adults and children die every year from the flu because they do not get vaccinated—the number one way to prevent infection.

Losing a sister, and having to see my parents mourn the loss of their first-born, was the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life.

Seeing the pain in their eyes, the thousands of tears shed, was crushing to me. I not only lost my sister but had to watch my parents’ pain, knowing I could not fix this.

But one thing I know is it could have been prevented. It only takes a minute. The pain of a needle doesn’t compare to the pain of watching your family suffer through grief, trust me! Influenza can be prevented with a simple vaccine taken yearly.

It’s your choice. Please make the decision to vaccinate yourself against this deadly illness.

by Sharon Hicks





Baby Armor

6 03 2014

And now, a timely reminder from CDC:PSA-superbaby

It’s easy for parents to think of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles or whooping cough as issues of the past, but we know that most of these diseases still persist around the world.

Just last year a higher than normal number of measles cases were reported in the U.S., including an outbreak of 58 cases in New York City that was the largest reported outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1996.

Making sure children get all of their vaccines is the most important thing parents can do to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases before their second birthday. And CDC has created a series of print PSAs encouraging just that (including an adorable  super baby version).

CDC also has immunization schedules available for all ages and a handy scheduling tool that allows you to enter your child’s birth date and print out a custom copy of his or her personal immunization schedule.

As winter begins to fade and a new spring season starts creeping up, don’t forget to schedule your pediatrician’s visits and discuss vaccinations with your doctor. Let’s give our little super heroes the best protection we can.





I’m Immunized! (Pass it on!)

12 11 2013

At PKIDs, we have seen the awful reality of children affected by preventable disease: horrible illnesses, hospitalizations, chronic infections, and sometimes death. C

We share our stories with the hope that others will learn from them and get their families fully vaccinated to protect themselves and the ones they love.

In the same way that we are intimately familiar with the harm that comes from not vaccinating, we are also joyously aware of what happens when a family is fully vaccinated.

We want families to understand that getting vaccinated isn’t just about avoiding the horrors of disease. It’s also about experiencing the happiness of health.

Our I’m Immunized! campaign is a visual depiction of immunized people living happy, energetic lives.

We invite you, as immunization advocates, to share these images through your social media platforms, and to use them in your organizations’ educational outreach.

Immunization advocates at PKIDs share their families’ personal stories of illness and loss with the hope that those who hear the stories will be motivated to protect themselves and their loved ones through vaccination.

We humans are certainly motivated by empathy for others and a feeling of vulnerability for ourselves and those we love.

We are also motivated by positive messages that make us aspire to attain positive goals.

Both approaches may be effective, as noted by Angela Y. Lee and Jennifer L. Aaker in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: “A positive frame that promotes something desirable is more effective than a negative frame that laments the absence of something desirable. At the same time, a negative frame that threatens the onset of something undesirable is more effective than a positive frame that promises the absence of something undesirable—a concept known as ‘regulatory fit’.”

RRAs parents, we at PKIDs share the realities of vaccine preventable infections with those who question the need for protection by immunization. We also propose to share the benefits of a vaccinated life.

Staying healthy is good. When you’re healthy, you can play and party and easily tackle life’s challenges. Vaccinating is a beneficial choice because it makes one’s life healthier and therefore happier. Adding that messaging through the I’m Immunized! campaign to our current communications mix is just what we all need to help spotlight the positive aspects of vaccination.

We encourage you to send us pictures (pkids@pkids.org) of family members of various ages who have been immunized. We’re looking for good, impactful photography. We will format them and add them to the growing library of images depicting the positive that comes through immunization.

Or, upload your pictures to your social media platform of choice (Google+, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and use the hashtag #I’mImmunized! or, #We’reImmunized! if there’s more than one of you in the photo.

We’d love to hear or see how you’re using these images to promote immunization. Share with us directly at pkids@pkids.org, or in the comment section below.

Thanks!





Universal Immunization Symbol

5 11 2013

immunize_rgb_fullcolorGood news! The universal immunization symbol is ready and available for use by all immunization advocates.

It is designed for all immunization organizations and advocates to display as a way to show solidarity in their awareness of and support for immunization.

The concept is that, just as a pink ribbon is associated with breast cancer, and a puzzle piece with autism, so this image is the recognized symbol of immunization. Organizations are encouraged to work together and use this symbol as a statement of broad support of immunization.

It is a reflection of all of our voices and is a solid addition to each organization’s individual image library. The symbol does not replace organizational or campaign logos, but is rather a symbol to be used when we wish to collectively present a united front in support of immunization.

The symbol’s use is limited only by our imaginations. It’s envisioned that the image will be used on anything from Web sites, brochures and other print materials, to T-shirts, pins, and social media sites.

In the spring of 2013, immunization coalitions around the country voiced a desire for a universal symbol. Putting thought into action, a small group representing the coalitions worked together to identify several potential designs.  These designs were put forward, and through a public vote, this symbol was chosen.

The umbrella, representing protection of the community, tells the story of the power of immunizations. The symbol, in several formats, is housed on Google Docs, and is available to all immunization advocates as a free download.

In addition to the logo in full color, black, or white, there is also a Style Guide and Read Me guide on how to download and use the symbol: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B07MTd0yDhmyY05hTFFFRElITTg&usp=sharing

For questions, please contact one of the following:

 

Joanne C. Sullivan, RN, BSN

Pennsylvania Immunization Coalition

joanne.sullivan@immunizepa.org

 

Lynn Bozof

National Meningitis Association

lynn.nma@gmail.com

 

Litjen (L.J) Tan, MS, PhD

Immunization Action Coalition

lj.tan@immunize.org

 

Trish Parnell

PKIDs

pkids@pkids.org