Archive | August, 2011

New IZ Programs: States’ Patchwork of School Vaccine Requirements

31 Aug

Medical science marches on. That’s why vaccine requirements change. A national body, known as ACIP, makes recommendations based on the latest science.  State governments also enact laws to protect the public’s health. Case in point:  California’s new Tdap law for 7th-12th graders. But we also know that other vaccines, like meningococcal, are recommended for preteens and teens, but not required. What gives?

Lone Star State Adopts New Meningococcal Vaccine Requirement

It turns out, every state sets its own school requirements.  So, while a hand-full of vaccines are recommended for adolescents, whether you can get into school without them varies by state and by school.

Setting a new standard, Texas passed  the first state law (honoring a teen meningitis survivor Jamie Schanbaum) to require that every college student get the meningococcal vaccine. No vaccination, no classes! But most states don’t have this across-the-board requirement. Check out this video featuring college students’ attitudes about meningitis. It raises the question:  Will those at-risk feel compelled on their own to get vaccinated? Maybe or maybe not.

Still in Discussion: Meningococcal Vaccine for infants

Currently, meningococcal vaccine is only recommended starting at age 11. Is the disease a threat to younger children? There certainly are tragic cases.

This summer, the CDC embarked on an unprecedented period of public comment to ask parents directly what they think about vaccinating younger children against bacterial meningitis. It’s the first time the CDC is putting weight on public opinion as well as the science when it comes to making a new vaccine recommendation.

Our democratic society often gives us predicaments. Do we continue to mandate vaccines for the greater good based on scientific expertise, or should we open this up for public debate? While those with strong feelings may not have medical expertise, some do have devastating personal experiences to draw on.  Tyler’s story and Jessica’s story are just two examples of families who saw how bacterial meningitis ravaged their young children.  And, perhaps they, like Jamie Schanbaum of Texas, will add to the weight of the science.

What do you think? Should we leave science to the experts to make recommendations? Should anyone be able to comment on public health laws? Do we wait for states to amend their vaccination laws one at a time or is there a better way? Voice your thoughts.

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NIAM – Community Immunity

17 Aug

We’re using the month of August (National Immunization Awareness Month) to learn more about immunizations. And this isn’t just about babies anymore. These days, vaccines apply to pretty much all of us.  For example, this year, older kids going into 7-12th grades need a Tdap booster shot before school starts. Vaccinations protect us from getting sick. And they protect the people around us by preventing the spread of disease. This is called herd immunity, or what we like to call it – community immunity.

How community immunity works

Let’s walk through this graphic about community immunity from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Picture this: an outbreak of measles, a very contagious disease, hits your community. You haven’t gotten vaccinated against measles; that means you’re not immune.

If only a few people are immunized in your community, the population a much higher chance of getting sick (including you!).  However, if a high percentage of your community is vaccinated against measles, then you and your loved ones have a lower chance of getting infected.

A high vaccination rate forms a protective barrier against those that do not have disease immunity (like newborns) or people who cannot be vaccinated (like those allergic to certain vaccines). This barrier helps prevent widespread disease outbreaks. So, if measles happened to hit community #3, the virus would have a hard time spreading to the vulnerable few.

The History of Vaccines website, a project from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, also has a wonderful animation that helps visualize how community immunity works.  The website has a ton of information about vaccines, including the history of vaccines and how vaccines are made. This blogger also admits to being a fan of playing their online game Illsville: Fight the Disease .

Do We Have a Responsibility?

When numbers of unvaccinated people increases, community immunity decreases— and disease spreads.  We’re seeing  this now in Europe, with high cases of measles throughout the continent. We’ve also experienced it here at home with California’s ongoing whooping cough outbreak.

Community immunity is a gift we can give our communities, our families, and ourselves.  Does community immunity matter to you? We’d love to know!

NIAM – Shots for the College Bound

10 Aug

Is your child heading off to college? Are you heading off to college? If so, congratulations! College is a time for learning and growth, from gaining knowledge in a chosen field to realizing that all-nighters are the worst way to study for a first midterm. You’re probably already thinking about what needs to be done before the fall semester starts. Let’s help you check off one thing on the list: immunizations that can protect freshmen from several infectious diseases, before they even step a foot into the dorms.

Immunizations for California Schools

Not sure where to start? Check out the California Department of Public Health’s college and university Immunization website. This offers current recommendations and screening requirements for CA schools with student housing. Remember, adult children up to age 26 are now covered under their parent’s health insurance and recommended immunizations should be available without any copayment.

While school entry requirements vary, recommended immunizations for students entering CA colleges and universities may include:

Rules vary from one campus to another. Currently, California laws and executive orders require proof of immunity against measles and rubella for the California State University (CSU) system. Both CSU and the University of California (UC) require proof of the completed Hepatitis B vaccination series for all students up to age 18.

If you’ve never heard about meningococcal disease (commonly known as meningitis), this is an important one since college freshmen in dorms are at higher risk. Meningococcal meningitis is an infection that can escalate in a matter of hours from a rash to fever, coma, limb amputations, and death. This cautionary tale told by a college student who survived  the disease is deeply moving.

Bound for an out-of-state college?  Immunization requirements vary by school and state. Check your college’s welcome package to see what’s required. You can also check out the CDC’s website on vaccines and immunizations recommended for college students and young adults.

Preparing for college is big step towards independence for so many young adults. Get the shots out of the way so your main focus can be on choosing a major—or, for parents, on how to redecorate your new spare bedroom.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

1 Aug

August marks the time when parents and students alike are starting to think about back to school activities (whether we like it or not).  August is also National immunization Awareness Month (NIAM)! So, for the month of August, the i Choose blog will have posts related to immunizations for going back to school.

Back-to-School Immunizations is the focus in California

An apple for teacher, a history notebook—and now….a new vaccination!  This year, California has a brand new pertussis booster shot requirement for all 7th-12th graders.  To help get the word out, the California Department of Public Health, immunization coalitions, and local health departments are focusing their efforts for the month on back-to-school immunizations.  The main message this year?  Back to school also means a Tdap booster shot!

Batter up; Giants Help with Tdap Pitch!

Topping off the week, the San Francisco Immunization Coalition is conducting a special press event on August 2nd with the world-champion San Francisco Giants!  Word on the street is that Superintendent Tom Torlkason will join Giants players to alert parents (and baseball fans) across California that students need to get their Tdap shots to be ready for school.

Learn More, Get Up-to-Date Facts

Last year, California declared a whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic. This year, the disease numbers are still high, with nearly 2,000 cases from January to this past July.

A Fresno family whose son had whooping cough last year are featured in this new video PSA.  To keep up with all the latest new about the new  law and  school immunizations, check out  CDPH’s Shots for School website.

It’s going to be an exciting month. If you have a child going back to school, have you gotten their Tdap booster shot take care of? Are you: prepared? Confused? or just waiting until you get around to it? What’s your experience been like so far?