Category: Immunization News

The VACCINES Act

A lot of folks have been saying that new Federal vaccines laws were coming.

Instead, we have just been seeing more and more cases of measles.

The VACCINES Act

Well, we might finally be getting a new Federal vaccine law, but it isn’t the kind of law that will force people to get vaccinated that anti-vaccine folks have been warning us about.

Rep. Schrier with the AAP Executive Committee, who urge passage of the VACCINES Act and federal funding for vaccine hesitancy surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rep. Schrier with the AAP Executive Committee, who urge passage of the VACCINES Act and federal funding for vaccine hesitancy surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Instead, the Vaccine Awareness Campaign to Champion Immunization Nationally and Enhance Safety (VACCINES) Act, which was recently introduced by Representative Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) will simply help to increase public awareness of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

“Vaccines were one of the greatest medical accomplishments of the 20th century and have been proven safe and effective at preventing diseases that once killed or greatly harmed people around the world.

As a pediatrician, I understand that parents want to do what they think is best for their children and some do not vaccinate because of unfounded fears. We are now seeing outbreaks of diseases like measles, which was considered eliminated 19 years ago, in part because of an anti-vaccine campaigns around the country. This bill will make sure that parents have access to facts about vaccines, so they can make an informed decision.”

Rep. Kim Schrier

The VACCINES Act will:

While I’m pretty sure the CDC could already do all of these things already without a new law, hopefully it will provide the extra funding and resources to actually get it done.

Tell your U.S. representative to consider co-sponsoring the VACCINES Act and help get this bill passed.

More on the VACCINES Act

The Puget Sound Measles Outbreak

Everyone is likely familiar with the large outbreaks that we have been seeing this year in New York (Brooklyn and Rockland County), Michigan, and the Pacific Northwest.

There have already been 79 cases of measles in Washington so far this year.
There have already been 79 cases of measles in Washington so far this year.

After all, those outbreaks make up the majority of measles cases that have occured so far this year.

The Puget Sound Measles Outbreak

Have you heard of the latest outbreak?

This one, also centered in the Pacific Northwest, began with exposures to a traveler with measles at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on April 25.

“A Canadian resident from British Columbia who traveled to the Seattle area in late April 2019 has been diagnosed with measles. The traveler, a man in his 40s, has since recovered from his illness.

Prior to arriving in King County, he spent time in Japan and New York during the period that he was infected, two places that currently have measles outbreaks. This case has no connection to the recently-ended measles outbreak based in Clark County, Washington state.

While he was infectious with measles, he spent time in the Seattle area at several locations, including popular tourist attractions and Sea-Tac Airport. Anyone who does not have immunity to measles through vaccination or from previously having measles is at risk for infection if they were at a location of measles exposure.”

Measles case in traveler to King County

Those exposures have led to cases in:

  • King County – 4
  • Pierce County – 2
  • Snohomish County – 1

With exposures in Bothell, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Orting, Bonney Lake, Puyallup, Renton, Auburn, Issaquah, Woodinville, Kent, and Seattle.

And that’s what has led to the name Puget Sound outbreak. The Puget Sound is an inlet of the Pacific Ocean along the northwest coast of Washington, near Everett, Olympia, Seattle, and Tacoma.

How big will this outbreak get?

Immunization rates in the Puget Sound area are a bit better than in Clark County, where the last Pacific Northwest outbreak was centered.
Immunization rates in the Puget Sound area are a bit better than in Clark County, where the last Pacific Northwest outbreak was centered.

It’s anyone’s guess at this point, keeping in mind that all it would take is for one of these exposures to be in a “pocket of susceptibles” with low immunization rates to start a big outbreak.

And all it would take to stop the outbreaks is for folks to get vaccinated and protected, understanding that vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on the Puget Sound Measles Outbreak

Did Saint Lucia Quarantine a Scientology Cruise Ship Because of Measles?

We got news today that cruise ship has been quarantined in Saint Lucia.

The Chief Medical Officer of Saint Lucia, Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James is saying that they quarantined the ship because “there are cases of measles on the vessel.”

Which cruise ship?

Did Saint Lucia Quarantine a Scientology Cruise Ship Because of Measles?

She didn’t say…

Surprisingly though, it is really easy to figure out where cruise ships are and to see that there aren’t any ships from the big cruise lines in Saint Lucia right now.

Who is docked in Saint Lucia?

The Freewinds is a “440-foot motor vessel provided a distraction-free environment for parishioners to study and experience the highest level of spiritual counseling available in the Scientology religion.”

The SMV Freewinds, a cruise ship affiliated with the Church of Scientology.

Are Scientologists against vaccination? Would that explain measles cases on their ship, if it is indeed their ship under quarantine?

No, they claim that there is nothing in Scientology that is against vaccines.

Still, there are some rather famous anti-vaccine celebrities who are Scientologists, such as Jenna Elfman, Kirstie Alley, and some others.

Is this the ship under quarantine for measles?

More on Saint Lucia Cruise Ship Quarantine and Scientology

Why Should Medical Exemptions Be Based on CDC Contraindications?

Getting a medical exemption for vaccines isn’t controversial.

Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Why Should Medical Exemptions Be Based on CDC Contraindications?

As many people know though, some people have been taking advantage of the fact that medical exemptions weren’t clearly defined in California’s vaccine law.

Who are the doctors handing out fake medical exemptions in California?
Who are the doctors handing out fake medical exemptions in California?

Are there just a few doctors taking advantage of the California law?

“But at 105 schools in the state, 10% or more of kindergartners had a medical exemption in the school year that ended last month, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of state data.”

Pushback against immunization laws leaves some California schools vulnerable to outbreaks

Is 10% a lot?

In one recent report, Vaccination Coverage for Selected Vaccines, Exemption Rates, and Provisional Enrollment Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2016–17 School Year, the median rate of medical exemptions in the US was just 0.2%, with a range of <0.1 to 1.5%.

In West Virginia and Mississippi, states that don’t allow non-medical exemptions and where criteria for medical exemptions are fairly strict, the rates were 0.1 and 0.3% respectively.

And that’s about what you would expect, as there are very few true contraindications or precautions to getting vaccinated.

So yes, 10% is an awful lot and that’s a good sign that it is more than just a few doctors taking advantage of the law.

“If a child has a medical exemption to immunization, a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State must certify that the immunization is detrimental to the child’s health. The medical exemption should specify which immunization is detrimental to the child’s health, provide information as to why the immunization is contraindicated based on current accepted medical practice, and specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated, if known.”

Dear Colleague letter regarding guidelines for use of immunization exemptions

Why do most other states have so few medical exemptions?

Mostly because there are very few true medical reasons to skip or delay a child’s vaccines!

They include, but aren’t limited to, the contraindications and precautions listed in the package insert for each vaccine (the contraindications and warnings sections…) and by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

They don’t include many other things that are “incorrectly perceived as contraindications to vaccination,” such as things in the family medical history of the child, eczema (unless they are getting the smallpox vaccine), colic, sleep apnea, or being a picky eater.

Is everything a vaccine injury?
Is everything a vaccine injury?

It should be obvious.

Medical exemptions for vaccines should be based on CDC criteria because some folks think that everything is a vaccine injury.

More on Medical Exemptions

How to Avoid Getting Caught up in a Measles Outbreak

By now, you have likely heard the news that we are on track for record-breaking numbers of measles cases this year, both in the United States and around the world.

You may also have heard that some of the folks getting caught up in these outbreaks weren’t actually anti-vaccine, but were people who thought they already had measles or thought they were already vaccinated and protected.

How to Avoid Getting Caught up in a Measles Outbreak

Are you and your family protected against measles?

Six ways to avoid measles.

You might be thinking, “of course we are, we get all of our vaccines!”

But you still might want to double check, keeping in mind that:

  • only people born before 1957 are thought to have natural immunity to measles, because measles was very common in the pre-vaccine era
  • the original measles vaccine that was used between 1963 and 1967 was not thought to be effective, so if that’s the only dose you had, it should be repeated
  • a recommendation for a second dose of MMR didn’t come until 1990, so many people born before that time have only had one dose, especially since there was never a catch-up program to make sure older people had two doses. Even now, adults don’t necessarily need two doses of MMR unless they are in a high-risk group (foreign travel, healthcare workers, living with someone who has a compromised immune system, people with HIV, and students).
  • children don’t routinely get their first dose of MMR until they are 12 to 15 months old (one dose is 93% effective at preventing measles), with a second dose at age 4 to 6 years (two doses are 97% effective)
  • a third dose of MMR isn’t typically recommended for measles protection

Still think you and your family are protected?

In addition to routine recommendations, to avoid measles in a more high risk setting (traveling out of the country or during an outbreak), you should:

  • get infants an early MMR, giving them their first dose any time between 6 and 11 months of age (repeating this dose at age 12 to 15 months)
  • get toddlers and preschoolers an early second dose of MMR, giving them their second dose at least 28 days after the routine first dose that they received when they were 12 to 15 months old, instead of waiting until they are 4 to 6 years
  • get older children and adults two doses of MMR if they haven’t already had both doses

What if your baby is exposed to measles before you have a chance to get him vaccinated?

Younger infants who are less than six months old can get a dose of immunoglobulin within 6 days if they are exposed to measles. Older infants, children, and adults can get a dose of MMR within 72 hours if they are not vaccinated and are exposed to someone with measles.

And the very best way to avoid measles is to keep up herd immunity levels of protection in our communities. If everyone is vaccinated and protected, then we won’t have outbreaks and our kids won’t get exposed to measles!

More on Avoiding Measles

What Does the Torah Say About Vaccines?

Even though I grew up in Borough Park section of Brooklyn, this is probably the last article I ever thought I would be writing…

From the P.E.A.C.H. anti-vaccine magazine.

After all, what do I know about the Torah?

What Does the Torah Say About Vaccines?

Fortunately, it isn’t hard to find experts who have answered the question for us.

“We are obliged by the Torah “Venishmartem Meod L’nafshoseichem,” – “to guard our health” and if the recognized experts are telling us to vaccinate, then we must do it.”

Der Yid Newspaper – Senseless! Heartless! Torah-less and Reckless

There are many people in the Orthodox community warning the parents who aren’t vaccinating their kids that they are on “the wrong path.”

Their choice to skip or delay vaccines and put their kids at risk is not about religion

“There are halachic obligations to care for one’s own health as well as to take measures to prevent harm and illness to others, and Jewish law defers to the consensus of medical experts in determining and prescribing appropriate medical responses to illness and prevention. Therefore, the consensus of major poskim (halachic decisors) supports the vaccination of children to protect them from disease, to eradicate illness from the larger community through so-called herd immunity, and thus to protect others who may be vulnerable. The vaccination of children who can medically be vaccinated is absolutely the only responsible course of action.”

Statement on Vaccinations from the OU and Rabbinical Council of America

Again, Orthodox Jews are not against vaccines.

“Getting vaccinated according to recommended guidelines is not only vital for the health of both our community and the public-at-large, but it is also our halachic obligation.”

Rabbi Hyim Shafner

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary. For all of us.

More on What the Torah Say About Vaccines

The Tragedy in Samoa Was Not Caused by the MMR Vaccine

Remember the two young children who died in Samoa in early July 2018, shortly after getting an MMR vaccine?

In addition to the tragic deaths of those two children, it led to the suspension of all vaccinations in the country.

The Tragedy in Samoa Was Not Caused by the MMR Vaccine

Fortunately, that suspension was eventually reversed, but they did continue to hold MMR vaccinations.

How long did they suspend MMR vaccinations?

They actually don’t restart until April 15.

And while the trial for the two nurses involved in the tragedy is delayed until June, the Director General of Health, Leausa Take Naseri, has said that their deaths were a mistake caused by human error.

And that the MMR vaccine is safe.

With measles outbreaks in many nearby countries, health experts and parents are eager to get vaccinations restarted and to get kids caught up.

Local officials say that Taylor Winterstein, the face of the VAXXED tour in Australia, is taking advantage of what happened at the Safotu District Hospital

Hopefully, they get vaccinated before anti-vaccine folks head to Samoa to try and scare folks away from getting vaccinated.

More on The Vaccine Tragedy in Samoa