2013-14 vaccine uptake in the USA is still high

voices-for-vaccinesDespite the continued social network misinformation about vaccine safety and/or effectiveness, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the median vaccination coverage, amongst children between the age of 19-35 months was 94.7% for 2 doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine; 95.0% for varying local requirements for diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine; and 93.3% for 2 doses of varicella vaccine among those states with a 2-dose requirement.

The median total exemption rate was 1.8%, a difficult number to truly analyze. The CDC reported many issues like some parents get an exemption even after their children are fully or partially vaccinated, some exemptions are used as a matter of convenience because the parents forgot to vaccinated, and some states don’t report exemptions. Moreover, the CDC data indicates up to 15% of exemptions are “medical,” meaning that a child cannot receive a vaccine as a result of an establish medical contraindication.

Although these numbers fall near the 95% vaccination rate goal establish by the CDC’s Health People 2020there is still a concern that clusters of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children exist in many states and areas. Those locations become susceptible to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Moreover, 26 states and DC failed to meet the 95% goal, so the disparity between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups remain large.

The research also shows that there have been no statistically significant changes in either vaccination or exemption rate from 2012-13. This is more statistical support that the antivaccination agenda is not gaining much traction across most of the USA.

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Why we vaccinate-shingles may increase risk of stroke

shingles-vaccineThis article, originally published on 2 January 2014 has been updated to include more information about studies regarding chickenpox in children and its effect on rate of shingles outbreaks.

Shingles, known medically as Herpes zoster (HZ), is caused by the Varicella zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox in children. After the chickenpox infection, VZV latently persists, without symptoms, in the basal ganglia including the trigeminal ganglion. For unknown reasons, VZV is reactivated from latency, and moves along sensory nerves to the endings in the skin, where it replicates causing the characteristic HZ rash, commonly called shingles.

There is no known cure for VZV, though it can be treated with antiviral medications. Although the infection presents with a rash, commonly fairly painful, it usually subsides within three to five weeks. Unfortunately, about one in five patients develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is often difficult to manage. Because VZV is never eliminated, after a shingles attack, VZV again becomes latent, to attack again sometime in the future. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate-shingles may increase risk of stroke”

Delaying measles vaccination may increase risk of seizures

keep-calm-get-shots-bigThere is an unscientific myth, pushed by some parts of the vaccine deniers (more accurate, vaccine delayers), that parents should delay vaccinations based on the unsupported belief that “too many vaccines” could overwhelm the child’s immune system. This belief is utterly unscientific and thoroughly debunked

That belief is unfounded, as Paul Offit summarized in Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?:

Current studies do not support the hypothesis that multiple vaccines overwhelm, weaken, or “use up” the immune system. On the contrary, young infants have an enormous capacity to respond to multiple vaccines, as well as to the many other challenges present in the environment. By providing protection against a number of bacterial and viral pathogens, vaccines prevent the “weakening” of the immune system and consequent secondary bacterial infections occasionally caused by natural infection.

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2-dose varicella vaccine regimen – decline of chickenpox

varicella vaccine

The varicella vaccine for chickenpox was introduced in the mid-1990’s in the USA and has been associated with substantial and statistically significant declines in incidence, hospitalizations and deaths attributable to chickenpox.

Despite the beliefs of vaccine refusers, who  have stated emphatically that chickenpox is not dangerous, the real complications from a varicella infection are numerous and serious:

  • dehydration
  • pneumonia
  • bleeding problems
  • infection or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
  • bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
  • blood stream infections (sepsis)
  • toxic shock syndrome
  • bone infections
  • joint infections

Let’s take a look at the facts – the varicella vaccine has actually lead to a significant reduction in the incidence of chickenpox in children.

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Vaccination coverage in US children,19-35 months–uptake still high

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported in the 2012 National Immunization Survey (NIS) that the majority of children, age 19-35 months, remained extremely high from 2008 through 2012, although there was a small, but statistically significant drop in uptake of some vaccines from 2011 to 2012. In addition, the CDC specified a substantial concern about clusters of unvaccinated children in widespread communities that are at risk from vaccine preventable diseases, and may pose a health risk to the community at large.

The study results were based upon a survey (cell and land-line phone calls with follow-up details from the health care provider) of about 16,000 children (an extremely large sampling for a survey). The data was then adjusted for racial/ethnic, income, and other population factors. Even though the CDC provided data from 2008-2012, the current method of polling was started in 2011, and only results from 2011 and 2012 are mathematically comparable.

vaccine-uptake-2013-2012

 

 

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Consequences of not vaccinating a child–Report 1

pox partyVaccine deniers love to say that many (and some say all) vaccine preventable diseases are not dangerous, so why even take a tiny risk of an adverse event with vaccines to prevent these innocuous, harmless diseases. The problem with that belief is that it is simply untrue.

The CDC reported last week about a previously healthy 15 year old girl in Ohio who died from a chickenpox (Varicella zoster virus), a disease that is generally prevented by the varicella vaccine. The adolescent girl was admitted to a hospital after three days of a rash consistent with chickenpox with the last day experiencing fever and shortness of breath. The young girls was started on antibiotics and antifungals, to treat any concurrent infections, but she died three weeks later. The girl was current (or close to current) on her other vaccinations, MMR, DTaP, and Hib, but lived in an area that with low uptake of varicella vaccinations. Because deaths from chickenpox are so rare (about 100 people die of chickenpox every year in the USA), but not unknown, the Ohio Department of Health undertook a thorough investigation and concluded that the girl died from chickenpox, and there were no other comorbidities, including leukemia (which might have suppressed her immune system).

The complications from chickenpox occur mostly in susceptible groups such as infants, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals. Some of the more serious complications are:

  • dehydration
  • pneumonia
  • bleeding problems
  • infection or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
  • bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
  • blood stream infections (sepsis)
  • toxic shock syndrome
  • bone infections
  • joint infections

It was very difficult to read the article. Most of the young girl’s organs failed, and she was in respiratory distress when she died. I cannot imagine being a parent watching what happened over three weeks while she was in the hospital. I can only imagine that the parents are beating themselves up over not having her vaccinated.

For those parents who are engaging in Pox Parties, where parents deliberately infect their children with flu, chickenpox and other vaccine-preventable diseases, understand that you might be putting your child at risk of dying. Please don’t do it.

Vaccines do save lives. 

Use the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

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West Virginia tough on vaccine exemptions

The state of West Virginia (WV) has one of the toughest child vaccination regulations in the United States, not allowing any religious exemptions to vaccinations required before attending school. Only Mississippi has regulations this strict for allowable exemptions. Of course, as I have written, religious exemptions have been abused by vaccine deniers by creating “fake” religions so that parents’ antivaccination beliefs will be recognized by the state. In fact, only medical exemptions are accepted by the state (pdf), and their standards on who can meet the medical exemption are quite tough.

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Debunking the “vaccines aren’t tested” myth

There are so many silly memes that have arisen from the anti-vaxxers, all of which have been thoroughly debunked. Everything from the well-worn (and worn-out) “vaccines cause autism” fable, quashed here, to the “these diseases aren’t dangerous”, which, of course, couldn’t be farther from the truth. One of the more annoying of the tales pushed by the vaccine denialists is that vaccines aren’t tested thoroughly before being used on unsuspecting infants. I do not know where this started, or why it started, but like much in the anti-vaccination world, it really doesn’t matter. It just passes from one person to another across google, and individuals with no research background hold this particular belief as if it were the Truth™. Continue reading “Debunking the “vaccines aren’t tested” myth”

Anti-vaccine lunatic proud to spread infection to unsuspecting children

That is a screen shot from a Facebook posting on July 14, 2012 where a mother describes how she took her child, infected with chickenpox (Varicella zoster), to a baseball game. And she bragged how she probably infected others (probably most were vaccinated, which indicates he level of understanding of immunizations). She was so proud of attempting to infect others with her son’s chickenpox that she had to tell everyone about it. The stupidity of her actions were beyond comprehension by me. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine lunatic proud to spread infection to unsuspecting children”

Parents put immunocompromised child at risk by not vaccinating sibling

Chickenpox, or Varicella zoster, is a common childhood disease that can result in fairly serious complications such as encephalitis, pneumonia, sepsis, hemorrhagic varicella, and death. Individuals at especially high risk from complications from varicella are immunocompromised, usually from some sort of immunodeficiency or immunosuppression (usually pharmaceutical treatments for cancers or autoimmune diseases). For immunocompromised individuals, it is important that any individuals around them should be vaccinated against common childhood diseases, whether chickenpox or other diseases (mumps, rubella, etc.), because the chances of transmitting these diseases is extremely high and the risk of complications are serious.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a 3 year old Minnesota girl, who was receiving immunosuppressive therapy for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, was admitted to a hospital after 2 days of a high fever of 102.7°F (39.3°C) and extensive rash, including in her mouth and throat. Neither she nor her younger sibling received the first dose of varicella vaccine (recommended at 12-15 months) because their parents refused the vaccinations as a result of personal beliefs. The child eventually recovered as a result of treatment with intravenous acyclovir (which has more serious potential side effects than the imagined ones for the vaccine). Continue reading “Parents put immunocompromised child at risk by not vaccinating sibling”