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New IZ Programs: Fighting Polio, Global Health Meets Soccer!

7 Sep

The only human disease eradicated from the world is smallpox. We don’t see this deadly, disfiguring disease nowadays for two important reasons. First,  we had a vaccine that provided lifelong immunity against smallpox. The second, and probably most important reason, is that the whole world came together to vaccinate the population and end the spread of this disease. Today, the world is on the brink of eradicating another human disease – polio.

Polio has been gone from the US for a long time. Today we only see cases of polio in 4 countries around the world and a little over 1,600 cases of polio every year.  Our vaccination and public health campaigns have kept polio at bay – that should be enough, right? According to Bruce Aylward, the head of the WHO’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative, it’s not enough. Global travel means polio is just a plane ride away. In his TED talk about polio eradication, Aylward tells us how close we are to eradicating this disease and how we can accomplish this only if we all work together.

The Soccer Connection

Organizations across the globe are taking part in the eradication campaign. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation recently  collaborated with FC Barcelona on the More Than a Goal campaign.  The popularity of soccer throughout the world provides a new and innovative forum  to raise awareness  about  polio eradication and  the importance of vaccines. This blogger is very excited about this campaign as I am a HUGE soccer fan and FC Barcelona is my favorite team in La Liga.


Being Global Citizens

There are still polio survivors in the US who can tell us stories of how devastating polio can be. Because eradicating polio is a global effort, this helps to bring all of us closer together. Our actions here at home, like vaccinating our children against polio, are a step toward this goal.


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.

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?

Reasons to Immunize and the Balancing Act

27 Jul

Vaccine safety continues to be a source of worry for over half of American parents. What do they worry about? Take a look at this incredibly creative 2-minute video from the BYU College of Nursing entitled “Reasons to Immunize.”

The creators based their work on speaking with scores of parents who had questions or concerns about vaccinating their children. The messages are easy to grasp. When people say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” you might see this during the part where the risks of diseases are balanced against the common vaccine side-effects. You can’t put everything into a 2-minute video, but you can create an impression.

If you’re looking for more detail, the science journal Nature recently featured a story evaluating the real risks of vaccine safety. Even if you’re short on time, check out the image on page 3. It’s another great example of illustrating the relative risks and benefits of getting vaccinated. When it comes to weighing pros and cons, we owe it to ourselves to consider the very real risks of NOT getting vaccinated: getting a serious disease.

Part of the fear comes from the (incorrect) assumption that everyone is worried—so that becomes our new “normal.” That’s what’s great about the i choose campaign.  i choose gives a forum for regular people to show that they’re happy about their choice to vaccinate.  The balance of opinions online and in the media doesn’t always reflect the actual balance of attitudes out there.  And going back to the “reasons to Vaccinate” video, portraying a more accurate “balance” of information sure seems helpful. If you’ve yet to submit your own i choose poster, consider it as a fun summer project!

How do you weigh risks and choose facts over fear? Don’t be shy, share your thoughts! Until the next blog, enjoy a healthy and fun summer!

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Vaccines Save Lives

20 Jul

Vaccines save lives. We hear this all the time. But if you’re like us, seeing is believing.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently released this video, cleverly animated by the folks at Cognitive Media.  In case you haven’t heard, the Gates Foundation has taken up the cause of bringing vaccines to developing countries where preventable diseases are still rampant. It’s an amazing refresher on the roll vaccines play in giving so many children a chance at life free from disease most of us take for granted. Bill also talks about the work steps being done now to rid the world of polio.

To many of us, it may seem like these diseases are a million miles away. But if you think about it, with globalization and world travel, we’re pretty much just a plane ride a way. And some diseases just need enough older kids and adults without booster shots to make a comeback.  That’s been the case for California’s recent  surge in whooping cough, a preventable disease where 10 California babies died just last year and prompting a get-vaccinated campaign right here at home.

And that’s when the light bulb goes on: it isn’t just “those” children in other countries. Vaccines still help our children, our friends, and our loved ones lead lives free of diseases like polio and measles.

Share your thoughts about the Gates Foundation video. Was there something that stuck with you? We’d like to know.

Stay tuned for the next blog posting next week. In the meantime, enjoy a healthy and fun summer!