Tag: chicken pox outbreaks

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

One extra consequence of the rise in cases of vaccine-preventable diseases we have been seeing lately, in addition to the fact that more kids are getting sick, is that we are seeing more kids being quarantined and kept out of school.

“The parents of 42 children affected by the ban at the school, the Green Meadow Waldorf School, sued the Rockland County health department, asking a federal judge to issue an injunction to allow the children to return.”

Parents Wanted Their Unvaccinated Children in School, but a Judge Said No.

And in a few cases, we are seeing lawsuits trying to get some of these kids, mostly intentionally unvaccinated kids, back into school.

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

While most outbreaks are related to measles, in Kentucky, a large outbreak of chickenpox at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton has led to the quarantine of a number of unvaccinated students.

A chickenpox quarantine sign

One student, a senior and the starting center on the school basketball team, is suing to get him back in school.

“The Kunkels filed their lawsuit Thursday in the Boone County Circuit Court alleging that the Northern Kentucky Health Department had violated Jerome’s First Amendment rights. Accepting the chickenpox vaccine would be “immoral, illegal and sinful,” they said, according to their Catholic beliefs. The lawsuit also alleges that the health department violated due process when officials enacted the extracurricular and school attendance bans without declaring an official emergency, which would have triggered the involvement of the state legislature.”

God, country and chickenpox: How an outbreak entangled one school in a vaccine showdown

So they are actually suing the health department, not his school, to get him back into school…

Wait a minute though?

Is the Catholic Church against vaccines?

“Since there is no Catholic teaching that the use of these vaccines is sinful, schools cannot allow Catholic parents to claim a religious exemption from the requirement of immunization.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center on Vaccines and Exemptions Granted by Schools

Are they against the chickenpox vaccine?

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center

No, they aren’t, which is why most Catholics vaccinate and protect their kids.

“In the event that the county health department or state health department declares an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease for which proof of immunity for a child cannot be provided, he or she may not be allowed to attend childcare or school for up to three (3) weeks, or until the risk period ends.”

Kentucky Parent or Guardian Declination on Religious Grounds to Required Immunizaitons

A judge will have to decide the merits of the case, but from a moral standpoint, it seems like they are on shaky ground.

More on Quarantines for Intentionally Unvaccinated Kids

What’s the Worst That Can Happen If You Lie About Vaccinating Your Child?

We have heard about anti-vaccine parents forging their unvaccinated children’s vaccine records to get them in school.

What’s the harm, right?

What’s the Worst That Can Happen If You Lie About Vaccinating Your Child?

Most of us can think of an awful lot of things that can go wrong in this scenario and we know exactly who’s going to be harmed!

An immunocompromised child got chicken pox after her mom lied about getting her vaccinated.

Yeah, if you lie about getting vaccinated, your kid can get sick.

They can also get other people sick

We found that out last year when an unvaccinated teen returned from a trip overseas and developed measles.

“Although patient A’s parents had chosen not to vaccinate him, his immunocompromised brother, an organ transplant recipient, had received intravenous immunoglobulin to protect him against measles before traveling overseas. When patient A’s illness was reported, SCCPHD recommended that his brother receive additional intravenous immunoglobulin and be quarantined 7 additional days; the family followed both recommendations. Patient C’s unvaccinated sister, aged 17 years, received parental permission to choose to receive MMR vaccine when her brother was quarantined; she opted to receive the vaccine.”

Notes from the Field: Measles Outbreak in an Era of Stricter Immunization Requirements — California, March 2018

While that isn’t so surprising, it is that instead of cooperating with health department investigators, so that they can find and quarantine contact, several people lied. That led to more people getting sick and the outbreak going on longer than it should have.

It is also amazing that they hadn’t already vaccinated their kids, having a high risk, immunocompromised child in the house who couldn’t receive the MMR vaccine!

More on the Worst of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases – Year in Review 2018

Does it seem like we are moving in the wrong direction?

The eradication of smallpox shows just what vaccines can do!
The eradication of smallpox shows just what vaccines can do!

No, smallpox isn’t coming back, but many other vaccine-preventable diseases are.

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases – Year in Review 2018

With the availability of new vaccines and the expanded use of other vaccines, many of us were hopeful of the progress that was being made against vaccine-preventable diseases so far this decade.

Remember, it was just four years ago that the WHO certified India as a polio free country. And after years of declining numbers of wild polio cases, 2018 will be the first year with a higher number of cases than the previous year.

This hasn’t been a good year for measles either. The WHO Region of the Americas has lost its status as having eliminated measles!

In Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, endemic transmission of measles has been re-established, with spread to neighbouring countries. As a result, the Region has lost its status as having eliminated measles. The Regional Technical Advisory Group, which met in July 2018, emphasized the importance of Regional action and an urgent public health response to ensure re-verification of measles elimination in Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Meeting of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, October 2018 – Conclusions and recommendations

After years of declining rates, global measles cases and deaths began to jump in 2017, a trend that continued in 2018.

“Outbreaks in North America and in Europe emphasize that measles can easily spread even in countries with mature health systems. Due to ongoing outbreaks, measles is again considered endemic in Germany and Russia.”

2018 Assessment Report of the Global Vaccine Action Plan

And no, this isn’t just a problem in other parts of the world.

Vaccine preventable diseases are just a plane ride away.
Vaccine preventable diseases are just a plane ride away.

More cases in other parts of the world mean more cases in the United States because unvaccinated folks travel out of the country and bring these diseases home with them, getting others sick.

But it wasn’t just measles outbreaks, including the second largest number of cases in 22 years, that we were seeing in 2018:

  • chicken pox – although the 41 cases involving a North Carolina Waldorf school got the most attention, there were at least 6,892 cases of chicken pox last year, which continues to trend down from recent highs of over 15,000 in 2010
  • hepatitis A – clusters of outbreaks in 15 states with at least 11,166 cases, many deaths, with exposures at popular restaurants
  • mumps – from recent highs of over 6,000 cases the last few years, we were “back down” to just over 2,000 mumps cases in 2018
  • pertussis – cases were also down in 2018, with a preliminary count of about 13,439 cases last year
  • meningococcal disease – isolated outbreaks continued last year, with cases at Smith College, Colgate University, and San Diego State University

And of course, we had one of the worst flu seasons in some time last year, with 185 pediatric flu deaths.

Fortunately, there were no cases of diphtheria, neonatal tetanus, polio, or congenital rubella syndrome. At least not in the United States.

Why are some disease counts down when so many folks say the anti-vaccine movement is more active than ever?

Remember, the great majority of people vaccinate and protect their kids!

And vaccines work!

It is best to think of the anti-vaccine movement, which has always been around, as a very vocal minority that is just pushing propaganda to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks.
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad these diseases are, allow themselves to be influenced by anti-vaccine propaganda, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

Also remember that many of these diseases occurred in multi-year cycles in the pre-vaccine era. When an up year hits a cluster of unvaccinated kids, we get bigger outbreaks. And then more folks get vaccinated, starting the cycle all over again. At least until we finally get the disease under better control or finally eradicated.

Want to avoid getting a vaccine-preventable disease this year?

Get vaccinated and protected and encourage everyone else to get vaccinated too.

More on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases – Year in Review 2018

Seven New Year’s Vaccine Resolutions for 2019

If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, here’s one for the top of your list:

  1. I won’t complain about my kids being kept out of school during an outbreak, if I intentionally didn’t vaccinate them.

Yes, apparently that was a thing this past year…

Not surprisingly, parents lost their challenge to get their unvaccinated kids back into their Waldorf school during a chicken pox outbreak.
Not surprisingly, parents lost their challenge to get their unvaccinated kids back into their Waldorf school during a chicken pox outbreak.

It is an important reminder that there are consequences if you choose to not vaccine your kids.

In addition to the risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease, the risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease and getting someone else sick, there is the chance that your kids will be quarantined and kept out of daycare or school until the outbreak is over.

Six More New Year’s Vaccine Resolutions for 2019

Need some more?

  1. I will not travel out of the country without getting caught up on my vaccines. Remember, most outbreaks are started when an intentionally unvaccinated person travels out of the country, gets exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease, comes home while they are still in the incubation period and not showing symptoms, and then eventually get sick, exposing others.
  2. I won’t let a small, yet vocal anti-vaccine minority scare me into a poor decision about my child’s vaccines
  3. I will not lie to get a religious vaccine exemption. Is your religion really against vaccinating and protecting your child?
  4. I will avoid anti-vaccine echo chambers when doing my research about vaccines.
  5. I will learn about the cognitive biases that might me keeping me from vaccinating and protecting my kids.
  6. I will not repeat an anti-vaccine point that has already been refuted a thousand times.

Vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

This year, resolve to make the right choice and get your kids vaccinated and protected.

More on Seven New Year’s Vaccine Resolutions for 2019

Vaccine Requirements for College Entry

Most of our kids are up-to-date on their vaccines by the time they are ready to start college.

That’s likely why few of us give college vaccine requirements much thought.

Will this chicken pox outbreak in Ohio spread?
Will this chicken pox outbreak in Ohio spread?

But maybe it is something we should start thinking about more, as it seems that many colleges do not have actually require their students to be vaccinated and protected!

Vaccine Requirements for College Entry

The one vaccine that is the most often associated with going to college is the one that protects our kids against meningococcal disease.

That’s actually two vaccines though:

  • MCV4 – Menactra or Menveo
  • MenB – Bexsera or Trumenba

Which other vaccines should kids get before going to college?

They should get whatever vaccines they might have missed when they were younger, including MMR, chicken pox, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Tdap, HPV, and polio vaccines.

Plus they should get a flu vaccine every year.

Vaccine Recommendations for College Entry

Unfortunately, in many cases, instead of requirements to attend college, we really just have recommendations that students can choose to ignore.

What’s the likelihood that your fellow students are vaccinated and protected?

How many are unvaccinated?

Which school do you plan on attending?

“Immunizations are recommended to protect your health and the health of others, but they are not required by the university.”

Welcome to the University of Michigan!

Fortunately, most schools do require at least some vaccines.

In addition to either Menactra or Menveo, many require two doses of MMR.

Some also require three doses of hepatitis B vaccine.

A few, like the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin don’t require any vaccines though.

These are the ten of the biggest colleges in America, at least in terms of enrollment, and their immunization rules:

TdapMMRVarHepA/BMCV4MenBHPVIPV
OSU12
2X/31XX4
FlaR2RR/31RRR
Minn12XXXXXX
ASUR2XXRXRX
UTRRRR/R1XRX
UCFR2RR/RRRRR
A&MXXXX1XXX
MichRRRR/RRXRR
PSU
R2RR/RRRRX
WiscRRRR/RRX
RR

On the bright side, Ohio State University, with one of the largest combined graduate and undergraduate enrollment, has the strongest immunization requirements.

On the other hand, it is quite sad that many of the others either have weak requirements, only recommend (R), but don’t actually require many common immunizations for enrollment, or don’t even mention them (X).

Why don’t more colleges have stricter immunization requirements for enrollment?

It is likely that they haven’t caught up with the problem of parents skipping or delaying their kids’ immunizations.

“While many infectious diseases such as meningitis are rare, it is not uncommon for hundreds of students at a large university to contract the flu each season.”

Contagious on campus

Which brings us to a problem – how can colleges hope to control outbreaks well if they don’t even know which students are vaccinated or not, and so can’t easily quarantine unvaccinated students? They seem to manage mumps and meningococcal outbreaks, but neither are as contagious as measles or chicken pox. 

Do we really need to wait for more outbreaks on college campuses before we start requiring that kids be vaccinated and protected before going to college?

At the very least, can we at least start tracking vaccine-preventable disease rates in college kids, make flu deaths in college students reportable, and report vaccination exemption rates by college campus?

More on Vaccine Requirements for College Entry