US measles epidemic hits 1123 cases – get the MMR vaccine – UPDATED

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services have reported that the ongoing measles epidemic has, as of 11 July 2019, has resulted in 1123 cases in 28 states. This an increase of 14 cases since the last report. This makes 2019 (which is just over 6 months old) the worst year for measles since 1992, when there were 963 cases for all 12 months. 

At this rate, we can expect well over 2000 measles cases for 2019, making it the worst year since the major measles epidemics of the late 1980s. 

In 2000, the CDC had stated that measles was eradicated in the USA. But as a result of fears and misinformation about the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, vaccination rates have dropped allowing measles to again attack children. Continue reading “US measles epidemic hits 1123 cases – get the MMR vaccine – UPDATED”

Maine vaccine exemptions – non-medical exceptions eliminated for schools

After extensive efforts from public health and the immunization coalition to revise Maine vaccine exemptions, and in the face of determined opposition, on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, the Maine Senate voted for a bill removing religious and personal belief exemptions to school vaccination requirements. The bill will now go to the Governor’s office, and Governor Janet Mills – whose administration already expressed support for the bill – is expected to sign it. 

The bill, LD 798, has been in the works for a while, over strong opposition from the resident anti-vaccine groups. It simply removes the language creating the non-medical exemptions, such as for religion and personal beliefs.

maine vaccine exemptions
Bar Harbor, Maine. Now protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Photo by Gibson Hurst™ on Unsplash

On the support side, the grassroots group Maine Families for Vaccines spoke in favor of the bill, and medical associations, including the Maine American Academy of Pediatricians, worked to explain it and support it. A previous bill, similar in language, passed through the Maine Legislature, but it was subsequently vetoed by the (then) governor

The new Maine vaccine exemptions bill went through the legislative process with some drama. After passing through the House, the Senate approved the bill, but – in an 18:17 vote – added back a religious exemption.

On returning the bill to the house, the House reaffirmed their commitment to the removal of both the personal belief and the religious exemptions – in procedural terms, it “insisted”, and sent the original bill back to the Senate to vote on it again. After negotiations, one of the Senators who supported adding the religious exemption back in reversed course, and the original bill – removing both the personal belief and the religious exemption – passed 18 to 17.

maine vaccine exemptions
Portland, Maine. Also protected by removing some of the Maine vaccine exemptions. Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

As mentioned above, the Governor is expected to sign it.

The price of the change appears to be somewhat weakening the controls on religious exemptions by preventing the Department of Health and Human Services from regulating them and allowing a nurse practitioner or physician assistant to grant them.

In addition, children with an individualized educational plan can continue to attend, as long as the parents – or the student, if over 18 – have consulted with a licensed physician about “the risks and benefits associated with the choice to immunize.”

Maine – whose exemption rate was high, and who has seen a large outbreak of pertussis in past years – thus joins California, West Virginia and Mississippi as states with no non-medical exemptions. It also provides the second legislative win for public health this season, after Washington passed a bill removing the personal belief exemption to the MMR vaccine.

Congratulations, Maine, and let us hope this step helps keep your children safe and serves as a model to more states.

Another myth – labeling GMO foods is not expensive

One of the goals of the anti-GMO gangs is to push labeling of food products that contain anything that is considered to be genetically modified. They have sought out laws for food labeling in various ways, including propositions and legislation.

Generally, these efforts have been a failure in the USA, except in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut, although each may be or has been subject to judicial review. And there is a strong possibility that these labeling laws will probably be found unconstitutional.

Even California, one of the most liberal states in the USA, rejected GMO labeling in a popular vote on Proposition 37 in 2012. Ironically, Proposition 37 received strong financial and person support from noted pseudoscience-pushing, anti-vaccination shill, Joe Mercola.

Even recently, Gary Hirshberg, one of the most loud-mouthed anti-GMO activists, repeated the myth  in an August 2015 op-ed: “adding a few words to the ingredient panel. . . would have no impact on the price of food.”

Given that there is little evidence that GMOs are dangerous, given that that there is a strong scientific consensus on the safety and usefulness of GMOs, and given that GMOs are an important technology for the future of humanity, it’s an odd argument that we need to label foods as to their GMO content.

Let me be clear. Food labeling is critical, and it must get better. Diabetics need accurate information about food content to adjust their diet and insulin use. Ironically, people with real gluten sensitivities (extremely rare) have benefited mightily from “gluten free” product labeling, which resulted from the myth of gluten sensitivities pushed by pseudoscience.

Given the scientific facts regarding the safety of GMOs, labeling is ridiculous.

Because the anti-GMO forces know they can’t win on the science, they have begun pushing labeling because they say that it does not add costs to food. Some of them claim that, in the USA, the cost of labeling is less than a penny a day.

Gary Hirshberg, one of the most loud-mouthed anti-GMO activists, repeated the myth  in an August 2015 op-ed: “adding a few words to the ingredient panel. . . would have no impact on the price of food.”

Even though the science says they are wrong, many ask “why not allow labeling, especially if it’s not that expensive.”

Because that claim – that labeling GMO foods is not expensive  – only accounts for the direct cost of labeling, not anything else. And it’s wrong, economically.

The anti-GMO gang exclusively focuses on only two points with regards to labeling – that the cost of changing the labels is small, and that consumer behavior probably won’t change. Most of their beliefs about costs are based on cherry picked studies (pdf), which are worth approximately nothing to a real scientific skeptic

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.

Continue reading “2013-14 vaccine uptake in the USA is still high”

Despite activities of vaccine refusers, nearly all kids immunized

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that most kindergartners in the United States received their recommended vaccines for measles and other diseases during the 2012-2013 school year. However, the CDC also mentioned concern about unvaccinated clusters of children that are at risk from vaccine preventable diseases, and may pose a health risk to the community at large.

Overall, 48 states and DC (as well as 8 US jurisdictions, including Guam, Puerto Rico and other territories) reported 2012-13 school vaccination coverage. Approximately 94.5% of kindergartners had received their complete MMR vaccinations, an insignificant drop from the 2011-12 level of 94.8%.  DTaP coverage was 95.1%, above Healthy People 2020 target of 95%. For the varicella vaccine, 93.8% of American kindergartners received both necessary doses.

Continue reading “Despite activities of vaccine refusers, nearly all kids immunized”