Tag: contraindications

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

How Is California’s New Vaccine Law Working?

As clusters of unvaccinated kids in California grew and so did outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, legislators got ahead of the problem with a series of vaccine laws to get kids vaccinated and protected.

  • AB 2109 – signed into law in 2012, and in effect for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, it required parents to get a signed form from a health care provider if they wanted to get a vaccine exemption
  • SB 277 – signed into law in 2015, it eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions and has been in effect since the 2016-2017 school year

So are all of the kids in California vaccinated now?

How Is California’s New Vaccine Law Working?

Unfortunately, some folks have found a way around the new vaccine laws.

How?

Some California doctors have taken advantage of fearful parents, and instead of doing the work to help parents understand that vaccines are safe with few risks, they are writing unjustified medical exemptions.

And since many of these parents share their fears with their friends, these intentionally unvaccinated kids often attend the same schools and use the same doctors to obtain unwarranted exemptions of their own. That results in the pockets of susceptible children we often talk about.

Some of these doctors have even created an industry out of providing medical exemptions to kids to get them out of getting vaccinated and protected before attending school. It is reported that they are selling fake medical vaccine exemptions for conditions that are not true medical contraindications to getting vaccinated!

Bob Sears is having to post about the latest measles outbreaks from the sidelines. There are very few measles cases in California so far this year.
Bob Sears is having to post about the latest measles outbreaks from the sidelines. There have been very few measles cases in California so far this year.

Still, many others have gotten vaccinated.

In fact, after years of declines, the vaccination rates for kids entering kindergarten in 2017 were at the highest rate since at least 1998!

“The proportion of students attending kindergarten in 2017-2018 reported to have received all required vaccines is 95.1%, a 0.4 percentage point decrease (difference of unrounded values) from the 2016-2017 school year and a 4.7 percentage point increase over the three years since 2014-2015. The 2017-2018 rate of 95.1% is the second highest reported for the current set of immunization requirements for kindergarten, which began in the 2001-2002 school year.”

2017-2018 Kindergarten Immunization Assessment – Executive Summary California Department of Public Health, Immunization Branch

What about the exodus from public schools that many predicted?

Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.
Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.

Or the exodus of folks California?

Neither happened.

“About 130,000 more residents left California for other states last year than came here from them, as high costs left many residents without a college degree looking for an exit, according to a Bee review of the latest census estimates.”

More people left California in 2017 than moved here. Who they are and where they went

While some people are leaving, it is typically for economic reasons.

It isn’t because folks have to vaccinate and protect their kids.

So except for not predicting that folks would try to get fake medical exemptions, California’s new vaccine law is working well!

More on the Effectiveness of California’s New Vaccine Law

What is Eczema Vaccinatum?

Did you know that having eczema is a contraindication to getting a vaccine?

Which vaccine?

The smallpox vaccine!

Yes, smallpox has been eradicated, but the vaccine is sometimes still used in very specific situations, especially in the military.

What is Eczema Vaccinatum?

Not only is eczema a contraindication to getting the smallpox vaccine, you shouldn’t even get it if a household contact has eczema.

Why not?

Shedding.

Yes, although anti-vaccine folks needlessly worry about shedding when kids get routine childhood vaccines and even talk about a shedding season, with the smallpox vaccine, problems with shedding are really a thing.

Since the smallpox vaccine is a live virus vaccine and since it very commonly causes a skin reaction at the injection site, shedding can spread it to others. While that’s a good thing with some vaccines, like the oral polio vaccine, because it increases herd immunity, it isn’t with the smallpox vaccine.

If the weakened smallpox vaccine can cause a skin reaction on your arm where you got the shot, what is it going to do if it gets on a child’s skin that is irritated all over with eczema?

An 8-month-old boy with eczema vaccinatum.
An 8-month-old boy with eczema vaccinatum. Photo by CDC/Arthur E. Kaye

It’s a good thing that we don’t routinely have to use the smallpox vaccine anymore.

“Because persons with eczema are deferred from vaccination, only a single, accidentally transmitted case of EV has been described in the medical literature since military vaccination was resumed in the United States in 2002.”

Reed et al on Eczema vaccinatum.

And that it doesn’t happen with any other vaccines!

More on Eczema Vaccinatum

Can Your Kids Get a Vaccine While They Are Taking Antibiotics?

In general, simply taking an antibiotic would not usually be a reason to not get vaccinated.

“Contraindications and precautions to vaccination generally dictate circumstances when vaccines will not be given. Many contraindications and precautions are temporary, and the vaccine can be given at a later time.”

General Recommendations on Immunization

The reason your child is taking the antibiotic could make you want to think about delaying the vaccine though.

Can Your Kids Get a Vaccine While They Are Taking Antibiotics?

Kids are prescribed antibiotics for a lot of different reasons, from treating ear infections and acne to pneumonia and meningitis.

Since a mild acute illness with or without fever isn’t considered a contraindication or precaution to getting vaccinated, in most cases, being on an antibiotic would not cause you to want to skip or delay your child’s vaccines.

The vaccine information sheet that you get with each vaccine will list contraindications and precautions on who should not get the vaccine.
The vaccine information sheet that you get with each vaccine will list contraindications and precautions on who should not get the vaccine.

In fact, current antimicrobial therapy is listed by the CDC as one of the conditions commonly misperceived as a contraindication or precaution!

There are some exceptions though, including:

  • taking the antibiotic for a moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever (a general precaution to getting a vaccine)
  • antimalarial agents and antibiotics might interfere with the Ty21a oral typhoid vaccine
  • antiviral drugs (acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir) might interfere with varicella-containing vaccines (Varivax)
  • antiviral drugs (Tamiflu, Relenza) might interfere with LAIV4 (FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine)

Is your child taking the antibiotic for a mild illness or a more moderate or severe illness for which they are now recovering? Then the fact that they are still taking an antibiotic likely isn’t a contraindication or a precaution to getting vaccinated.

More on Vaccine Contraindications

Are the Risks Greater Than the Benefits for Any Vaccines?

The only reason some folks question the risk-benefit ratio of vaccines is because most of them have never had or even known anyone with a vaccine-preventable disease.

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 those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

Of course, that’s simply because most people are vaccinated and protected. But if enough folks decide to skip or delay their vaccines, then we will have outbreaks and a higher risk of getting sick.

We shouldn’t have to wait for outbreaks for anyone to understand that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh their risks though.

Are the Risks Greater Than the Benefits for Any Vaccines?

Vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

Unless you have a true contraindication to getting vaccinated, until a disease is eradicated, the benefits of a vaccine will typically be far greater than its risks.

The switch from the live, oral polio vaccine to the inactivated vaccine is a good example of when this wasn’t the case though. Since OPV could rarely cause vaccine-associated paralytic polio (VAPP), once polio was well controlled in the United States, the risk of this side effect became greater than the benefit of continuing to use the vaccine, but only because we had an alternative polio vaccine that didn’t cause VAPP.

Similarly, the original rotavirus vaccine was withdrawn because the extra risk of intussusception, even though it was small, was thought to be greater than the benefits of the vaccine.

In the great majority of cases though, to think that getting vaccinated is a bigger risk than getting a vaccine preventable disease, you have to buy into the anti-vaccine hype:

Of course, none of that is true. These, and other anti-vaccine talking points have been refuted time after time.

Don’t put your kids at risk.

Don’t put others at risk from your unvaccinated child.

Get them vaccinated and protected.

More on Risks and Benefits of Vaccines

Is Surgery a Contraindication to Getting Vaccinated?

There are some situations in which it is very important to think about vaccines before your child has surgery.

“Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, Prevnar 13, Pfizer), Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine (Hib), meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY), and meningococcal B vaccine should be given 14 days before splenectomy, if possible.”

Ask the Experts about Scheduling Vaccines

A splenectomy leaves your child at extra risk for many vaccine-preventable diseases, so it is a good idea to get vaccinated and protected well in advance of a planned splenectomy, if possible.

This doesn’t mean that these vaccines won’t work after the surgery, but just that you don’t want your child to be unprotected while he remains unvaccinated.

Is Surgery a Contraindication to Getting Vaccinated?

What about other surgeries?

Some kids are put on an aspirin regimen after cardiac surgery and it should be noted that taking aspirin is a contraindication for getting FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine, and is considered a precaution for getting the chicken pox vaccine.

“(j)No adverse events associated with the use of aspirin or aspirin-containing products after varicella vaccination have been reported; however, the vaccine manufacturer recommends that vaccine recipients avoid using aspirin or aspirin-containing products for 6 weeks after receiving varicella vaccines because of the association between aspirin use and Reye syndrome after varicella. Vaccination with subsequent close monitoring should be considered for children who have rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions requiring therapeutic aspirin. The risk for serious complications associated with aspirin is likely to be greater in children in whom natural varicella develops than it is in children who receive the vaccine containing attenuated VZV. No association has been documented between Reye syndrome and analgesics or antipyretics that do not contain aspirin.”

Vaccine Recommendations and Guidelines of the ACIP

In most other situations, not only is surgery not considered a contraindication to getting vaccinated, but “hospitalization should be used as an opportunity to provide recommended vaccinations.”

“Most studies that have explored the effect of surgery or anesthesia on the immune system were observational, included only infants and children, and were small and indirect, in that they did not look at the immune effect on the response to vaccination specifically. They do not provide convincing evidence that recent anesthesia or surgery significantly affect response to vaccines. Current, recent, or upcoming anesthesia/surgery/hospitalization is not a contraindication to vaccination. Efforts should be made to ensure vaccine administration during the hospitalization or at discharge.”

Vaccine Recommendations and Guidelines of the ACIP

The one possible argument that makes sense to delay a vaccine in few days or weeks before a planned surgery is that if your child has a reaction to the vaccine, even if it is a mild reaction, like a fever or irritability, then it might cause them to delay the surgery.

And you could make the same argument about delaying vaccines in the days or weeks after having surgery. Could mild reactions to a vaccine be confused with complications from the surgery?

Otherwise, your anesthesiologist’s preferences aside, a recent or upcoming surgery is not a true contraindication to getting vaccinated, especially if it is a vaccine that your child is already past due for or needs because of a local outbreak, etc.

nless they are giving these kids the oral polio vaccine or plan on them sharing a room with a bone marrow transplant patient, they don't need to worry about shedding. But that's only one of the reasons that this hospital's recommendations don't follow ACIP guidelines.
Unless they are giving these kids the oral polio vaccine or plan on them sharing a room with a bone marrow transplant patient, they don’t need to worry about shedding. But that’s only one of the reasons that this hospital’s recommendations don’t follow ACIP guidelines.

What happens if you delay getting your child vaccinated because of a planned surgery and they get exposed to someone with measles or chicken pox?

Fortunately, this isn’t usually an issue unless your child is already behind on their vaccines and needs to catch up. After all, there is a lot of flexibility built into the immunization schedule, so that your child could get all of their vaccines on time, even with a planned or unexpected surgery.

More on Surgery and Vaccines

Autoimmunity as a Contraindication to Getting Vaccinated

Can your kids get vaccinated if they have an autoimmune disease?

Can your kids get vaccinated if you or another family member have an autoimmune disease?

Folks shouldn't be using 23andMe DNA testing to justify their not wanting to vaccinate their kids.
Folks shouldn’t be using 23andMe DNA testing to justify their not wanting to vaccinate their kids.

Can your kids get vaccinated if you did one of those 23andMe genetic risk type tests?

“Risks associated with use of the 23andMe GHR tests include false positive findings, which can occur when a person receives a result indicating incorrectly that he or she has a certain genetic variant, and false negative findings that can occur when a user receives a result indicating incorrectly that he or she does not have a certain genetic variant. Results obtained from the tests should not be used for diagnosis or to inform treatment decisions. Users should consult a health care professional with questions or concerns about results.”

FDA allows marketing of first direct-to-consumer tests that provide genetic risk information for certain conditions

Not surprisingly, in almost all cases, the answer is yes.

Autoimmunity as a Contraindication to Getting Vaccinated

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some true medical reasons that kids shouldn’t be vaccinated.

“Contraindications (conditions in a recipient that increases the risk for a serious adverse reaction) and precautions to vaccination are conditions under which vaccines should not be administered. Because the majority of contraindications and precautions are temporary, vaccinations often can be administered later when the condition leading to a contraindication or precaution no longer exists. A vaccine should not be administered when a contraindication is present; for example, MMR vaccine should not be administered to severely immunocompromised persons. However, certain conditions are commonly misperceived as contraindications (i.e., are not valid reasons to defer vaccination).”

Vaccine Recommendations and Guidelines of the ACIP

Which autoimmune diseases are listed as contraindications to get vaccinated?

None.

Which autoimmune diseases are listed as precautions to get vaccinated?

There are just a few, including Guillain-Barré syndrome (DTaP, Tdap, and flu vaccines) and thrombocytopenic purpura (MMR), but they typically don’t mean that you can’t still get vaccinated. And the general precaution to avoid getting a vaccine during “moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever” would apply to a time when you are acutely sick with your autoimmune disease, but you would get vaccinated once your symptoms were under better control.

Other things about autoimmune diseases are simply misperceived as being contraindications or precautions to getting vaccinated. Or they are pushed as anti-vaccine propaganda to scare you away from getting vaccinated and protected or to help you get a fake medical exemption.

“…vaccines are able to prevent some infections in MS patients known to accelerate the progression of the disease and increase the risk of relapses.”

Mailand et al on Vaccines and multiple sclerosis: a systemic review

For example, not only do vaccines not cause multiple sclerosis, they are recommended because they can prevent vaccine-preventable diseases that can make the disease worse for many people.

And flu shots and other vaccines are highly recommended for kids with diabetes, as they are at high risk for flu complications.

Vaccines are safe and necessary, even, and sometimes especially, if you have an autoimmune disease.

And having a predisposition for an autoimmune disease, either because of your child’s family history, or because of the results of some genetic testing kit you ordered on the internet, certainly isn’t a reason to skip or delay your child’s vaccines and leave them unprotected. You’re not avoiding any of the triggers that can cause autoimmune disease and simply increase the risk that they will get a vaccine-preventable disease and get others sick.

More on Autoimmunity as a Contraindication to Getting Vaccinated