All posts by Cynthia Callaghan

Making a COVID -19 vaccine at warp speed (Dr. Offit Webinar)

Registration open! Dr. Offit will discuss “Making a COVID-19 vaccine at warp speed”
Registration is now open for the next “Current Issues in Vaccines” webinar:
• Topic: Making a COVID-19 vaccine at warp speed
• Speaker: Dr. Paul Offit, Director, Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
• Date and time: Sept. 23, 2020, from noon to 1 p.m. ET
Free continuing education credits (CME, CEU, CPE) will be available, and the archived event will be posted a few days after the webinar.

“Current Issues in Vaccines” webinars are supported by the Thomas F. McNair Scott Endowed Research and Lectureship Fund and co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy at Wilkes University.

Find out more or register today.
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Flu, Pneumonia Vaccines Tied to Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

— Older adults vaccinated against pneumonia have nearly 40% less Alzheimer’s risk later in life

by Judy George, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today July 27, 2020

Flu and pneumonia vaccinations were linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, research from the virtual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) suggested.

People who were vaccinated against pneumonia when they were ages 65 to 75 years had nearly 40% less risk of Alzheimer’s disease depending on their genetic profile, reported Svetlana Ukraintseva, PhD, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues.

And having at least one influenza vaccination was associated with a 17% reduction in Alzheimer’s prevalence, an analysis by Albert Amran, a medical student at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and colleagues showed.

“The fact that very different pathogens — viral, bacterial, fungal — have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease suggests a possibility that a compromised host immunity may play role in Alzheimer’s through increased overall brain’s vulnerability to microbes,” Ukraintseva said.

“Some vaccines show beneficial off-target effects on health that span beyond the protection against specific disease,” she told MedPage Today. “This could be because they may improve immunity on a broad scale.”

In their report, Ukraintseva and colleagues looked at links between Alzheimer’s and pneumococcal vaccination, with and without an accompanying seasonal flu shot, in 5,146 participants, ages 65 and older, from the Cardiovascular Health Study. “We decided to take into account a strong genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease — G allele of rs2075650 [in the TOMM40 gene] — linked to NECTIN2 gene, which is involved in blood-brain barrier permeability and vulnerability to infection,” she said.

Being vaccinated against pneumonia between ages 65 and 75 was tied to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s afterwards (OR 0.70, P <0.04), after adjusting for covariates that included sex, race, birth cohort, education, smoking, and rs2075650. A larger reduction in Alzheimer's risk (OR 0.62, P <0.04) emerged in people vaccinated against pneumonia who were non-carriers of the rs2075650 G allele. "This means that adult vaccination against pneumonia may reduce Alzheimer's risk depending on individual genotype, which supports personalized prevention of Alzheimer's disease," Ukraintseva noted. Total count of pneumonia and flu vaccinations between ages 65 and 75 also correlated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's later in life (OR 0.88, P <0.01), but this effect was not seen for flu shots alone. Relationships between flu vaccination and Alzheimer's disease appeared in other research presented at AAIC. In an observational study, Amran and colleagues evaluated a propensity-matched set of 9,066 vaccinated and unvaccinated people, ages 60 and older, with Alzheimer's disease ICD9 codes, culled from the Cerner Health Fact EHR dataset. In this group, having one documented flu vaccination was associated with a lower prevalence of Alzheimer's (OR 0.83, P<0.0001), compared with not receiving the vaccine. Frequency of flu shots also was associated with reduced Alzheimer's onset (OR 0.87, P=0.0342). Links between flu vaccination and Alzheimer's were strongest for people who had their first vaccine at a younger age: those who received their first documented flu shot at age 60 benefitted more than those who received their first shot at age 70. "Getting a flu shot is an example of a healthy behavior," noted Dallas Anderson, PhD, MPH, of the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Maryland, who wasn't involved with either study. "There may be health effects beyond preventing the flu. For example, there has been some research looking at reduced risk for stroke and stroke hospitalization. It makes sense to also look at reduced risk for dementia," he said in an interview with MedPage Today. "Observational studies can never show definitively that getting flu shots will prevent Alzheimer's disease or dementia. The evidence will be suggestive at best," Anderson continued. "Is it the flu shot itself that's important? Or is it key differences between those who opt for flu shots and those who don't? Studies need to account for those differences." Besides these limitations, the research was constrained by the underlying data: clinical codes may reflect other dementia, not just Alzheimer's disease. In both studies, unmeasured variables may have influenced results. Judy George covers neurology and neuroscience news for MedPage Today, writing about brain aging, Alzheimer’s, dementia, MS, rare diseases, epilepsy, autism, headache, stroke, Parkinson’s, ALS, concussion, CTE, sleep, pain, and more. Follow Disclosures Ukraintseva and co-authors disclosed support from the National Institute on Aging. Amran and co-authors disclosed support from the NIH, the Christopher Sarofim Family Professorship, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, and the University of Texas STARS program. Primary Source Alzheimer's Association International Conference Source Reference: Ukraintseva S, et al "Repurposing of existing vaccines for personalized prevention of Alzheimer's disease: Vaccination against pneumonia may reduce AD risk depending on genotype" AAIC 2020. Secondary Source Alzheimer's Association International Conference Source Reference: Amran, A et al "Influenza vaccination is associated with a reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease" AAIC 2020. Comment

Dr. Danzinger, New York Times Op-Ed

A Coronavirus Vaccine Won’t Work if People Don’t Take It
We need to start convincing skeptics now.

By Phoebe Danziger
Dr. Danziger is a pediatrician.

July 9, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

Credit…Dado Ruvic/Reuters
If a vaccine for coronavirus is developed tomorrow, will you take it?

Many people won’t. According to recent polls, half to three-quarters of Americans intend to get the vaccine if one becomes available — woefully short of what we’ll need to protect our communities.

As a pediatrician, I meet with all kinds of parents who have concerns about vaccines generally; many have told me they won’t trust a coronavirus vaccine, and that they and their children won’t take it, at least in the short term. They question the safety of a vaccine developed on an accelerated timeline, and in the shadows of political pressure — a concern that has also been raised by staunchly pro-science, pro-vaccine experts. A few families even buy into the conspiracy theory that microchips will be implanted into the vaccine.

As repeated measles outbreaks demonstrate, we haven’t done a great job addressing people’s concerns about vaccines. And if we don’t learn from our failed response to them, a coronavirus vaccine program will be doomed.

The anti-vaccine movement was once linked primarily to wealthy white parents. Nowadays these views are expressed both by liberal parents, who align with “natural” health and parenting identities, and conservative parents, who emphasize their distrust of government and the importance of individual liberty.

Race matters, too: For some families of color, the sordid history of unethical experimentation on vulnerable communities makes them reluctant to vaccinate.

So far, the public health response has mainly focused on persuading people to accept vaccines through education and effective communication. But such an approach has proved to be largely unsuccessful. We need new strategies.

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First, we must build a coalition of community leaders, public figures and other influential individuals to help combat disinformation and focus on the ethical importance of immunization. Many people rely on their doctors for medical advice, but others turn to religious leaders, media personalities and alternative health providers like chiropractors and naturopaths.

Though most religious institutions do not discourage or prohibit immunization, some religious belief often fuels vaccine opposition. Pastors, rabbis and imams could play an important role in clarifying a religion’s position on immunization, not only against coronavirus, but also against influenza and other diseases that vaccines prevent.

We also need to engage community leaders and public figures who can help mediate national and community discussions about the values, moral principles and identity concerns about vaccination and ensure that the most vulnerable groups get priority and protection when it comes to distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.

Second, marketing matters. Parents from across the political and cultural spectrum tell me that they simply do not trust the information made available about vaccine manufacturing and ingredients. We should explore ideas such as offering “green vaccines” — manufactured using transparent processes and ingredients — that vaccine-hesitant Americans may be more likely to accept.

Let me be clear: Our current vaccines are safe. But they can’t be effective if people are not willing to take them. We should consider what kind of vaccine Americans would be willing to accept, and what type of information would bolster trust.

A “green vaccine” should be designed that uses adjuvants (which increase a person’s immune response) and preservatives that don’t bring up scary search results about antifreeze and mercury poisoning. It should be made in a factory in a city or town that can be easily identified. And it should come with accessible information about development, testing and monitoring, rather than an inscrutable insert with a list of side effects unrelated to the vaccine. These measures are not a scientific necessity, but they may be a social one.

Finally, we must turn our attention to the factors that have made government distrust such a potent factor in vaccine skepticism, and keep it there. In times of social unrest, people often turn to group identity and affiliation, and vaccines have become a powerful vehicle through which such affiliations are expressed. But the prevailing approach to vaccine hesitancy and opposition fails to reflect that.

One of the things I value most about being a pediatrician is being allowed a glimpse into the lives of so many different types of families. Regardless of parents’ economic, political or racial background, one thing is usually the same: their dedication to their children’s health and well-being.

That’s a useful starting point when I counsel families about vaccines. I can ask about their experiences and their values, draw diagrams about the immune system and talk through clinical trials and scientific studies. I can work on building strong relationships and try to illuminate the ways in which vaccination aligns with their goals of keeping their children safe and healthy.

But what about the concerns of a single African-American mother of three who lives below the poverty line and experiences chronic disenfranchisement; of a young couple who have found meaning and support through an online “natural parenting” community; or of a father of five guided strongly by religious faith, whose pastor considers vaccines as interfering with God’s perfect design?

These concerns are difficult to address solely within the walls of an exam room, yet it is social conditions like income inequality, educational disparities, racism and gender discrimination that have created a cultural climate in which vaccines represent so much more than simply immunization against infectious disease.

We can’t simply assume that if a coronavirus vaccine is developed, Americans will accept it. Sufficiently widespread vaccination will be possible only if the values and goals of a vaccine program are discussed explicitly, transparently and early, and if that discussion includes the full range of voices that have been telling us for years that trust in the American institutions and systems responsible for vaccines is broken.

Phoebe Danziger, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan, writes about medicine, ethics and culture, and is a co-founder of Health Insight Lab.

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NY Times article highlights the effect of COVID 19 on childhood vaccination

Vaccine Rates Drop Dangerously as Parents Avoid Doctor’s Visits

Afraid of Covid-19, parents are postponing well-child checkups, including shots, putting millions of children at risk of exposure to preventable deadly diseases.

Carson Sheffield, 18 months old, was attended to by Dr. Mona Doss of Boston Medical Center, as Priscilla Stout, left, prepared a vaccine for him. The pediatric ambulatory department began sending mobile vaccination units into city neighborhoods last week.

Carson Sheffield, 18 months old, was attended to by Dr. Mona Doss of Boston Medical Center, as Priscilla Stout, left, prepared a vaccine for him. The pediatric ambulatory department began sending mobile vaccination units into city neighborhoods last week.Credit…David Degner for The New York Times

By Jan Hoffman

April 23, 2020
As parents around the country cancel well-child checkups to avoid coronavirus exposure, public health experts fear they are inadvertently sowing the seeds of another health crisis. Immunizations are dropping at a dangerous rate, putting millions of children at risk for measles, whooping cough and other life-threatening illnesses.

“The last thing we want as the collateral damage of Covid-19 are outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, which we will almost certainly see if there continues to be a drop in vaccine uptake,” said Dr. Sean T. O’Leary, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases.

In the last few years, early childhood immunization rates have been slipping in some hot spots around the country, and in 2019, the United States very nearly lost its measles elimination status. While current nationwide vaccine figures are not available, anecdotal evidence and subsets of data are alarming.

PCC, a pediatric electronic health records company, gathered vaccine information from 1,000 independent pediatricians nationwide. Using the week of February 16 as a pre-coronavirus baseline, PCC found that during the week of April 5, the administration of measles, mumps and rubella shots dropped by 50 percent; diphtheria and whooping cough shots by 42 percent; and HPV vaccines by 73 percent.

The doses that states distribute in a federally funded program for uninsured patients called Vaccines for Children have also dropped significantly since the beginning of March. The Massachusetts health department said its doses were down 68 percent in the first two weeks of April, compared with the previous year. Minnesota reported that its doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine dropped by 71 percent toward the end of March.

In Washington State, dozens of practices and clinics have had to reduce hours or even temporarily close. The state already had its biggest measles outbreak in nearly 30 years last year.

“We know our vaccine rates were already tenuous, so any additional hit to that is a great worry,” said Dr. Elizabeth Meade, president of the state’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Meade leads calls twice a week with physicians throughout the state about how to maintain immunizations and stay solvent.

The problem is global. National immunization programs in more than two dozen countries have been suspended, which could also leave more than 100 million children vulnerable, a consortium of international organizations, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization, recently reported.

“Internationally, measles and diphtheria will pop up around the world. Even with limited travel, they can make it into the United States,” Dr. O’Leary, an immunization expert at Children’s Hospital in Denver, said.

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According to immunization experts, the optimum rate of coverage for many vaccines, known as herd immunity, is about 90 to 95 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians have each been urging doctors to maintain vaccination schedules as rigorously as reasonably possible, particularly for the youngest children. Vaccinate Your Family, a national nonprofit group, is pushing families to set reminders to reschedule canceled vaccine appointments.

Though many doctors note that vaccine-preventable diseases can be more deadly to children than Covid-19 seems to be, parents are understandably focused on the threat at hand. Over the last six weeks, the loud, consistent public message has been to keep children at home, and to take them to the doctor only if necessary.

Initially, medical practices were apprehensive too. In early March, the health clinic in Barre, Mass., called Emily Hoag to say it had postponed her baby’s vaccine appointment for a month to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection. Ms. Hoag felt conflicted: If her baby, Karson, missed his two-month immunization, she feared, he would be susceptible to any number of diseases. But if she took him to the clinic for his shots, they both might be exposed to Covid-19.

A few hours later, Dr. Kristina Gracey, a family medicine physician at the Barre Family Health Clinic, reached out to the new mother: Would she like a house call?

That afternoon, Dr. Gracey showed up at Ms. Hoag’s doorstep. After removing her shoes, meticulously washing her hands and wiping her stethoscope and baby scale, Dr. Gracey gave Karson his shots. Both mother and baby immediately burst into tears.

“Karson cried for a minute and then calmed down, and I was just so grateful that Dr. Gracey was there and able to give him the vaccinations he needed,” Ms. Hoag said.

Dr. Gracey, who has a degree in public health and has practiced in Uganda, has no qualms about home visits, which she and her colleagues are making several times a week.

“We have so many women who are struggling with what it feels like to have a child in the setting of Covid-19,” she said. “And especially for a new mom who has concerns about the risks of coming into the office, it can feel comfortable to receive care within the home.”

Dr. Gracey’s colleagues and other medical practices are experimenting with other ways to boost vaccine rates during the outbreak, including setting up a vaccination tent in a field.

Many practices now schedule well-child visits exclusively in the morning and sick visits in the afternoon, so that an office can be decontaminated at the end of the day. Some have families wait in the car and, when an exam room is ready, a gowned nurse escorts parent and child in for the vaccine.

Dr. Jeanne M. Marconi’s practice in Norwalk, Conn., which had been doing flu clinics in parking lots for years, has adapted that procedure for vaccines generally: Parents pull up, briefly roll down a car window, the child extends an arm, and a masked, gowned healthcare worker does a quick jab. Over and out.

“We’re trying to alleviate all of the fears they have and keep up with the care,” Dr. Marconi said.

Last week, the pediatric ambulatory department at Boston Medical Center, which treats nearly 15,000 children, began sending vaccination mobile units into city neighborhoods. It also stationed a dedicated van for vaccines and well-baby checkups in front of the hospital.

In the early weeks of the shelter-in-place orders, doctors concentrated efforts on vaccinating infants up to 2 years old, and waved off the disruption to the schedule for older children as temporary, saying it could readily be addressed once the restrictions lifted. But the longer that the orders continue, the more worried doctors have also become about vaccine protection for older children.

One concern is that if booster shots are missed — for diseases like measles, mumps and rubella for 4- and 5-year-olds, and tetanus and whooping cough, for 11-year-olds — immunity will begin to wane.

At 11, children should also receive their first meningitis vaccine. Preteens are recommended to get the HPV vaccine series, which protects against certain types of cancer.

Beginning next month, Dr. Eleanor Menzin, managing partner of Longwood Pediatrics in Boston, will try to vaccinate older children, when the practice’s waiting rooms will still be relatively empty. “Looking ahead, I think it’s unwise to get behind even on older kids, because of the logistics of catching them up, given what I predict will be a long period of avoiding crowds,” she said.

Many doctors already report that the backlog from canceled appointments for younger children is staggering. But summer appointment calendars are typically filled by older children, who need vaccine documentation for school and college. Pediatricians, who report that visits have dropped by 50 to 70 percent, are laying off staff; they do not know whether they will be able to handle the rush of last-minute visits in a few months.

Some health officials are wondering whether school registration policies will need to be adjusted: Because of these extreme circumstances, will states temporarily ease school vaccination requirements?

Health experts are also worried about day care centers. Licensed centers require proof of vaccination. Even assuming that parents returning to work could swiftly get immunization appointments for their young children, most vaccines take between two and four weeks before providing full protection.

Dr. Menzin, an instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, said the pandemic was a wake-up call for doctors to rethink their messaging:

“It no longer suffices for us to say, ‘We’re open if you want to come in,’ versus, ‘We want you to come in because this is important. What is keeping you from getting your child vaccinated and let’s solve that together,’” said Dr. Menzin, who has studied bus schedules with patients and helped pick days when the weather forecast suggests that they could walk to the visit.

A common retort to fears about outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses is that transmission will have also dropped because of social distancing. But that assertion leaves many pediatricians shaking their heads.

“They’re at less risk right now, but that risk isn’t zero,” said Dr. Menzin. While sick visits are down, they have not disappeared: Viruses of all sorts are still making plenty of children miserable.

Despite parents’ reluctance to bring in their children to be vaccinated now, several doctors remarked on a noticeable positive shift in attitude toward immunizations, after years of a vocal anti-vaccine movement raising questions in parents’ minds.

“If anything, I’ve noticed a change in families becoming more interested in vaccines,” said Dr. Meade, who practices in Washington, which has large pockets of vaccine-hesitant families. “They’re recognizing how devastating infectious diseases can be.”

Essay Contest for Middle and High School Students

As we are all relying on scientists around the globe to find treatments and create vaccines in the fight against coronavirus, it is a great time to remember, or learn about, Dr. Hilleman! After all, Dr. Hilleman helped to create more than half of the routinely recommended childhood vaccines, and, formally or informally, he mentored many of today’s vaccine scientists. Even for those who did not have the honor of knowing him, his scientific advances are central to the foundation of vaccine science on which we are all counting.

Read on to find ways to remember and honor Dr. Hilleman during this time.

2020 Maurice R. Hilleman Essay Contest now open!
• Have a middle or high school student who is looking for things to do during social distancing?
• Know an educator teaching online?
The 2020 Maurice R Hilleman student essay contest is a great opportunity for students and teachers. Submissions are now being accepted from 6-12 grade students. Participants are invited to learn about Dr. Hilleman’s life and accomplishments and submit a 500-600 word essay that answers the question, “How was Dr. Hilleman’s integrity important to his success, and how is integrity important to you?” Entries are being accepted through June 12, 2020. Complete details and entry form are available at

What better way for students to spend some of their home-bound time than learning, and writing, about this scientific icon? Not to mention, they might win cash and a trip to Philadelphia this fall!

Essays will be judged on adherence to submission guidelines as well as grammar and language, originality, relevance to writing prompt, factual accuracy, and organization. Judging will take into consideration author’s age. Each of three winners will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a trip to Philadelphia from October 22 to 24, 2020, which will include:
• Round trip transportation to Philadelphia for each winner and chaperone*
• Hotel room for each winner and chaperone to share for two nights in Philadelphia*
• Breakfast and private tour at the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
• Lunch and attendance at celebratory event during which winners will read their essays and receive their cash awards
• Tour of labs at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute
* Transportation and accommodations coordinated through Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Get details and application

Bonus for teachers
As a bonus, the teacher named in each winning entry will receive a signed copy of Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong, written by Paul A. Offit, MD.

View HILLEMAN full film and excerpts at home
With many of us sheltering in place, now is a perfect opportunity to rediscover the inspiring story of Dr. Hilleman’s life and work.
• Watch this clip from HILLEMAN telling how, in 1957, Dr. Hilleman was the first scientist to avert an influenza pandemic.
• Stream the film, available with closed captions in multiple languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and English. (Fee)
• Obtain the full film on DVD or Blu-ray, available with Spanish, English, or Romanian captions. (Fee)
• View the film trailer and explore other excerpts of the film, including how Dr. Hilleman developed vaccines for mumps and hepatitis B.

Resources related to COVID-19
The Vaccine Makers Project provides many materials related to infectious diseases and vaccines. Explore some of our popular resources that help answer questions or provide context and information related to the current coronavirus pandemic:
• Visit “The Coronavirus Pandemic – Answering Your Questions” page on the VMP website. This page will be updated throughout the pandemic with new information and answers to some of the questions we receive about the current situation.
• Discover the VMP high school lessons, called “How Diseases Spread.” Lesson 1 explores the different ways that diseases spread. Lesson 2 offers a case study of the 1918 influenza pandemic, looking at how non-biological factors can contribute to the spread of disease.
• Watch VMP animations that demonstrate viral infection and reproduction, such as A Virus Attacks a Cell and How do Viruses Reproduce?
• Explore the VMP high school lesson about Vaccine Safety (HS Unit 2, Lesson 5), which includes resources to help evaluate online information, including website evaluation “pocket cards,” “Logical Fallacies and Vaccines” and “Evaluating Information.”

Stay in touch!
Questions about the essay contest, the Hilleman film, the Vaccine Makers Project or other Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia projects, programs, or resources? Please contact us at

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The Vaccine Mom Explains Cloth Face Masks during the Coroanvirus Pandemic

The Vaccine Mom Explains Cloth Face Masks During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Apr 10, 2020

Cloth face masks are now recommended by the CDC to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The Vaccine Mom, a molecular biologist and mother of two, discusses the CDC recommendation and explains what you should know about when, how, and where to use cloth face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

•CDC: Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19
•CDC: Prevent Getting Sick During a Coronavirus Outbreak
•CDC: If You Are Sick or Caring for Someone
•VYF: Up-to-Date Coronavirus Information (Directly from CDC)
•The Vaccine Mom: U.S. COVID-19 Updates

Like this video from The Vaccine Mom? Watch more of Taryn’s videos on Shot of Prevention.

Maine Vaccination Law Survives Referendum

A Maine law that imposes strict vaccination requirements survived a referendum on Tuesday, with voters keeping the measure that eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions.

Gov. Janet Mills (D) had strongly urged Mainers not to reject the law, set to take effect September 2021, citing the spread of the coronavirus. After the virus was first identified in China, she noted that “one of the first things that public health officials did was begin to work on a vaccine because vaccines save lives,” The Associated Press reported.

State lawmakers passed the measure last year after a surge in whooping cough cases in the state, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of nonmedical exemptions from vaccination. Medical officials had warned that the vaccination rate for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine had dropped below 94 percent, the threshold for herd immunity, among kindergarteners.

The law would apply to students and public and private schools and universities, including nursery schools, as well as employees at health care facilities. It earned the support of every major medical organization in the state.

Those in favor of the referendum called the law a giveaway to large pharmaceutical companies. Supporters of the law noted that while vaccines account for billions in sales, they make up only a small fraction of drug company revenues.

Three Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Son to the Flu (1/23/2020 Shot of Prevention Blog)

While people’s fear of the new coronovirus outbreak in China and its potential spread to other countries is completely understandable, the risk of becoming seriously ill, hospitalized or dying from the flu should be even more concerning to all families in the U.S.

According to the CDC, there have been at least 13 million flu illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations and 6,600 deaths – including 39 children – from flu this season. And it’s not over yet.

Even if the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, getting the flu vaccine every year is still very important and has a lot of benefits. Getting the flu vaccine can:
•Help you get back on your feet sooner if you do get sick with the flu.
•Reduce the risk of children dying from flu.*
•Reduce the risk of serious flu complications like hospitalization for children and adults.
•Help protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness and complications due to age and/or certain chronic health conditions.
•Protect women during and after pregnancy.

In honor of the 39 children who have already died from flu this season, we are reposting Serese Marotta’s guest blog post – 3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Son to Flu – from October 2017 below.


3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Son to Flu

By Serese Marotta, Chief Operating Officer, Families Fighting Flu

Today is a hard day for me – it’s been eight years since I lost my five-year-old son, Joseph, to the flu.

I’m not the same person I was eight years ago. Today, I see things through a different lens as a bereaved parent. I am more compassionate, more empathic, and (generally) more understanding and patient. Losing a child is devastating, but I feel it’s my responsibility to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned through this personal tragedy. So here’s what I want every parent to know:

1. Every parent wants what’s best for their children.

I’ve come to realize that vaccination is a sensitive issue for many people. Some parents believe in vaccination, while others do not. But what we all agree on is that our decisions are motivated by our desire to protect our children.

Whether it’s a post on social media, or a televised interview on the news, we often witness a difference of opinions regarding the risks and benefits of vaccines. However, we all make the choices we do with the information we have because we want to do what we THINK is best for our children. The disconnect occurs when we don’t agree on the validity of the information that’s available to us.

It’s not really the people that are divided, it’s actually the incorrect information on vaccines that we have allowed to divide us.

As parents, we are so overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information out there, that sometimes it’s difficult to determine what’s true and what’s false. That’s why when I have conversations with people who are hesitant, or even opposed to vaccines, I find it’s best to listen to their concerns and start a mutually respectful dialogue. Attacking one another won’t help. We need to combat vaccine misinformation by providing the correct information. I don’t want a single parent to risk their child’s life, or their own, simply because they didn’t have the correct information about vaccines.

So here’s what I know for sure; across the globe, millions of children have died due to infectious diseases and continue to do so. Sadly, most of these deaths could be prevented with vaccines. My son’s death certificate states “complications of H1N1”. I know for a fact that my child died from influenza. I also know, based on the available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that 1,472 children have died from influenza in the United States since 2004. And I know that the flu vaccine has been safely administered in the U.S. for more than 50 years.

How do I know this? Because I made sure I got the facts and I trust the science.

2. Flu vaccines save lives.

We have vaccines for a reason. Vaccines are not created for common, non-life-threatening ailments. The fact that there is even a flu vaccine should be enough to indicate the dangers of flu. Before Joseph died, I never would have thought in a million years that flu was a threat to my healthy child. I have always vaccinated myself and my children, including for flu. Joseph passed away due to H1N1 flu, which was not included in the seasonal vaccine in 2009. The H1N1 vaccine did not become available in our community until two weeks after Joseph passed away. I do believe that if he had been vaccinated for H1N1, Joseph would likely still be here today.

Flu does not discriminate – it does not care if you’re young or old, rich or poor, healthy or immunocompromised. It’s important for people to know that flu can be a serious, even deadly, disease for anyone. Before Joseph died I was more scared of him getting hit by a car or kidnapped by a stranger. Death from flu was not even on my radar. Now I know more about flu than I ever wanted to.

During the 1918 flu pandemic, 20 to 50 million people lost their lives. Every year in the U.S., upwards of 56,000 people lose their lives due to flu, including approximately 100 children. As parents, we do everything we can to keep our children safe. So why wouldn’t we protect them from the flu, too? The flu can kill even a healthy individual. But those who are vaccinated are much less likely to die from flu.


3. Grief is not a linear process.

As a bereaved parent, my lessons would not be complete if I didn’t address grief. As bereaved parents, we often hear “you’re so strong” and “I don’t know how you do it”.

The simple answer is we weren’t given a choice.

One of the important things I’d like people to know about grief is that it’s not a linear process. There are days when I feel gracious, like I can accept Joseph’s loss, move on, and even work towards saving other children from the same fate. But then there are days when I feel like life is just unfair. Grief is a spiral and you can be anywhere on that spiral on any given day. There is no right way to grieve. For those of you that are a bereaved parent, be gentle with yourself and reach out to others for help and support. The Compassionate Friends was very helpful to me after Joseph’s death. And for those of you that know a bereaved parent, reach out to them! Speak their child’s name in conversation, ask how they are – even if it’s years after the loss. Our biggest fear is that our child will be forgotten by others.

So today, I am choosing to remember Joseph as a happy five-year-old in his Spiderman costume, zooming around our house, just happy to be alive and free. Eight years later, do I think about what Joseph would look like, how tall would he be, what sports would he be playing? Of course. But I accept that my responsibility is to educate others about the dangers of flu and the importance of annual flu vaccinations for everyone six months and older. If I, along with all the other bereaved parents who lost children to flu, don’t continue to tell our stories, then we will be doing a disservice to others.

Let our stories be YOUR lessons.

Because of my experiences, and those of many other families who have lost loved ones to flu, you can now learn how dangerous flu can be without having to suffer a similar tragedy. I am thankful that our children’s stories could potentially save your child’s life. So please share Joseph’s story, and all the family stories available on the Families Fighting Flu website, with your friends, neighbors and loved ones.

animated-fight-flu-arm-flexAnd please, remember to get your flu vaccine this year, not only to protect yourself, but also to protect your loved ones and your community. By doing so, you may just save a life and it may even be the life of your own child.

Of course, if you have questions or concerns that are keeping you from getting your family vaccinated, talk to your healthcare provider or check out the online resources from Families Fighting Flu or the CDC.

States Ranked by Percentage of Vaccinated Children

Anuja Vaidya (Twitter) – Thursday, January 23rd, 2020 Print | Email

Massachusetts has highest percentage of children who have been vaccinated, according to the most recently available data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The foundation analyzed data from HHS and the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Here is the percentage of children between the ages of 19 months and 35 months (roughly 1 to 3 years), who were vaccinated in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2017 (the most recent data available):

Note: The list includes ties and results in a numerical listing of 43.

1. Massachusetts: 82.1 percent

2. Tennessee: 79.3

3. New Hampshire: 78.9

4. North Dakota: 78.8

5. Nebraska: 77.9

6. Delaware: 77.1

Virginia: 77.1

7. Florida: 76.2

8. Illinois: 75.4

9. Connecticut: 75.3

10. Maryland: 75.2

11. South Dakota: 74.7

West Virginia: 74.7

12. Rhode Island: 74.4

13. District of Columbia: 74

Vermont: 74

14. Iowa: 72.8

15. Maine: 72.7

16. Wyoming: 72

17. New Mexico: 71.9

18. Nevada: 71.3

19. Alabama: 71.2

Missouri: 71.2

20. Colorado: 71

Kentucky: 71

21. North Carolina: 70.9

22. Pennsylvania: 70.4

23. Oregon: 70.3

24. Louisiana: 70

25. Michigan: 69.9

Washington: 69.9

26. Hawaii: 69.8

27. Alaska: 69.5

Kansas: 69.5

28. Arkansas: 69.4

29. New Jersey: 69.3

30. Idaho: 69.2

Wisconsin: 69.2

31. Mississippi: 68.7

32. California: 68.6

33. Utah: 67.9

34. Texas: 67.8

35. New York: 67.5

36. Oklahoma: 67.3

37. Arizona: 66.5

38. Ohio: 66.4

39. Indiana: 66.3

40. Montana: 66.2

41. Minnesota: 66.1

42. South Carolina: 66

43. Georgia: 65.6

More articles on rankings and ratings:
States ranked by annual healthcare cost per smoker
States ranked by adults with fair, poor health
How 29 physician specialties rank on happiness outside of work