Tag: clusters

Mapping the 2019 Measles Outbreaks

Cases of measles continue to rise, as we pass 1,000 cases in the United States.

2019 Measles Outbreaks

With a record high number of cases, there are measles cases and outbreaks in 29 states, including:

Arizona1Massachusetts2
California49Michigan44
Colorado1Mississippi1
Connecticut3Missouri1
Florida2Nevada1
Georgia3New Hampshire1
Hawaii2New Jersey13
Idaho1New York702
Illinois7Oklahoma4
Indiana1Oregon11
Iowa2Pennsylvania6
Kentucky2Tennessee3
Maine1Texas14
Maryland4Virginia1
Washington80

What’s the first thing you notice about this measles outbreaks?

Where Are the Measles Outbreaks

They aren’t spread out evenly through the United States.

A simple tilegram of the United States.
A simple tilegram of the United States.

In fact, the largest outbreaks are clustered in just a few states, including California, Michigan, New York (Rockland County and Brooklyn), and Washington (Pacific Northwest Outbreak and the Puget Sound Outbreak).

Mapping the 2019 Measles Outbreaks

What does that look like when you map it?

It looks a little strange…

A tilegram mapping the 2019 measles outbreaks in the United States.
A tilegram mapping the 2019 measles outbreaks in the United States.

And that’s because, amazingly, about 70% of cases this year are in just one state – New York!

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be concerned if you don’t live in New York. After all, measles is on the rise all over the world and it is still just a plane ride away. And there are plenty of other communities with low immunization rates where folks are at risk for outbreaks.

Also consider that even without the big outbreaks, this would still rank as a big year for measles.

Bottom line?

Get vaccinated and protected and stop the outbreaks. The MMR vaccine is safe, effective, with few risks. And it is obviously necessary.

More on Mapping the 2019 Measles Outbreaks

Update on Vaccine Exemption Rates in California

Vaccination rates in California are dropping.

Wait, what?

Didn’t they recently pass a vaccine law that removed non-medical exemptions? How could vaccination rates be dropping?

Update on Vaccine Exemption Rates in California

While SB 277 did indeed remove all non-medical exemptions to getting vaccinated, some folks found a way around it. Since 2015, when it passed, some doctors are giving kids fake or unnecessary medical exemptions. These extra medical exemptions are likely making up for their previous personal belief vaccine exemptions.

The result?

It isn’t fewer exemptions since 2015.

Explain to me how it is ethical to misrepresent the rates of medical exemptions during a measles outbreak?
Explain to me how it is ethical to misrepresent the rates of medical exemptions during a measles outbreak?

While personal belief exemptions are certainly down, medical exemptions keep going up.

In addition to the 0.9% of medical exemptions, another 1.5% of kids, also up as a percentage, are unvaccinated “for other reasons specified under SB 277.”

There are also about 1.7% of kids in kindergarten who enroll as conditional entrants.

Why is that important? Among those conditional entrants are kids with temporary medical exemptions.

And how many kids aren’t vaccinated simply because they are “receiving IEP services?”

So it is not only wrong, it is unethical to try and say that only 0.9% of kids have vaccine exemptions in California this year.

Update on Vaccine Exemption Rates in California’s Clusters

Still, the big story continues to be what’s going on in the clusters of intentionally unvaccinated kids in California and other parts of the United States.

Are they getting vaccinated and protected under SB 277?

Wait, I thought Dr. Bob said that the vaccine exemption rate was just 0.9%. What happened at this Waldorf school? 30% of the kids have medical exemptions!
Wait, I thought Dr. Bob said that the vaccine exemption rate was just 0.9%. What happened at this Waldorf school? 30% of the kids have medical exemptions!

Some actually are!

The MMR rate at the Waldorf school in San Diego was just 44% back in 2014, as a whopping 56% of kids had a personal belief exemption. As sad as it sounds, even though it is still below herd immunity levels of protection, their current MMR vaccination rate of 68% is a big improvement!

Unfortunately, there are many schools with even lower immunization rates. And of course, that means even more students with “medical exemptions” at those schools.

SchoolPMEs
Marin Waldorf School31%
Yuba River Charter64%
Westside Waldorf School37%
Sebastopol Independent Charter45%
Muse Charter50%
Live Oak Charter41%
Nevada City School of Arts31%
Sunridge Charter47%
Santa Cruz Waldorf School34%
Cedar Springs Waldorf School30%
Journey33%
Waldorf School of Orange County33%
Coastal Grove Charter36%
Mariposa School of Global Ed31%
Waldorf School of the Peninsula36%
Maple Village Waldorf School30%

In addition to these permanent medical exemptions (PMEs), some schools also have high rates of temporary medical exemptions.

Medical Exemptions for Vaccines in California are Unusually High

What’s the usual rate of medical exemptions?

As there are few reasons to skip or delay a child’s vaccines, it is lower than those rates.

A lot lower.

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 U.S. was just 0.2%, with a range of <0.1 to 1.5%.

Also unusual is that in some cases, many of those exemptions are written by just a few doctors. In fact, families often go to these doctors just to get their kids their medical exemptions!

“…the removal of nonmedical exemptions in California was initially effective in increasing vaccination rates, but the substitution between exemption types may render the repeal partially ineffective in improving immunization coverage and preventing VPDs over time.”

Richwine et al on Do Stricter Immunization Laws Improve Coverage? Evidence from the Repeal of Non-medical Exemptions for School Mandated Vaccines

How do we fix this and get more kids vaccinated and protected?

“Beyond fostering compliance, tightening the requirements around medical waivers will also aid in promoting public policies that protect public health.”

Richwine et al on Do Stricter Immunization Laws Improve Coverage? Evidence from the Repeal of Non-medical Exemptions for School Mandated Vaccines

In addition to closing the loopholes that allow some doctors to abuse medical exemptions, it will be important to help parents be more skeptical and see through the anti-vaccine propaganda that other doctors use to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

More on Vaccine Exemption Rates in California

Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California

In general, higher immunization rates should translate into lower rates of disease.

And it is true that in most states, including California, overall immunization rates are up.

So what’s happening?

Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California

Everyone knows what’s happening!

Clusters of unvaccinated kids and adults.

Pockets of susceptibles.

Abuse and overuse of vaccine exemptions.

And folks who continue to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

There are measles outbreaks in this part of northern California...
There are measles outbreaks in this part of northern California…

What’s the truth about California’s immunization rates and the reason they are still having outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases?

“Oh, but wait! What do you mean we have higher vaccination coverage NOW than we did back then? How can that be? I thought rates have been declining steadily for two decades putting us in a terrible position of falling wayyyy below herd immunity levels!?

I thought the reason we are now “in danger of disease outbreaks” is because of the increasing number of children being exempted from vaccines? Hold on, wait. You’re telling me there are LESS kids exempted now than there were in the year 2000 when we were free of outbreaks because of “high vaccination rates”? That can’t be right…can it?”

Melissa Floyd

You aren’t going to get it from anti-vaccine folks

73% is actually pretty good for a Waldorf school!
73% is actually pretty good for a Waldorf school!

But it’s not surprising that you get misinformation about herd immunity from folks who think vaccines don’t actually create herd immunity.

And it shouldn’t be surprising that you can’t hide in the herd when your herd is a cluster of unvaccinated kids at a Waldorf school.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary. Vaccinate your kids and help stop the outbreaks.

More on Fact Checking the Truth About Vaccination Rates in California

A Legislative Guide to Advocating for Stronger Vaccine Laws

Having to get vaccinated to attend school isn’t a new idea.

In 1827, Boston mandated that all children attending public school must receive the smallpox vaccine.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until the 1980-81 school year that there were laws in all 50 states mandating that children receive vaccinations before starting school. The smallpox vaccine wasn’t one of them…

A Legislative Guide to Advocating for Stronger Vaccine Laws

Not surprisingly, as vaccines did their job and rates of vaccine-preventable diseases dropped, politicians were able to weaken our vaccine laws.

Over just a few years, from 1998 to 2000, 15 states added personal belief vaccine exemptions!

We are now paying the price, with increases of vaccine-preventable diseases among clusters of intentionally unvaccinated children whose parents claim non-medical vaccine exemptions.

And that’s why we are seeing more and more states work to strengthen their vaccine laws.

Legislators who want to combat vaccine exemption abuse should enact laws that make it clear that:

  • medical exemptions are based on ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence-based medicine – not anecdotes
  • medical exemptions should be reviewed and approved by the State Epidemiologist, Deputy State Epidemiologist, or other designated professionals at the health department
  • religious exemptions, if included at all, should specifically exclude philosophical exemptions and must reflect a sincere religious belief
  • philosophical exemptions, if included at all, should require some degree of education against the myths and misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating their kids
  • exempted students will be excluded from school during outbreaks
  • exemptions should include a signed affidavit that is notarized
  • exemptions should be recertified each year
  • most exemptions are temporary
  • a separate exemption application should be required for each vaccine
  • exemption rates should be tracked at the school level and should be posted on school websites

Getting an exemption shouldn’t be easier than getting vaccinated!

Become an advocate and help get more kids vaccinated. You can also help stop bad vaccine laws from being enacted in your state, including some that would make it even easier to get an exemption.

More on A Legislative Guide to Stronger Vaccine Laws