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Immunizations

Vaccine Education Across Language and Culture

By Judith Pierce, WithinReach Immunizations Graduate Intern.

From April 18-25, we’re celebrating National Infant Immunization Week. Did you know that routine childhood immunization in one birth cohort prevents about 20 million cases of disease and about 42,000 deaths? It’s pretty awesome. That’s why we work to ensure that all children in Washington have access to immunizations, and their parents have the information they need to make a good decision. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same access to health information. Below, our graduate intern, Judith Pierce, describes her work with us to help address one of these gaps.

In summer of 2014 I had just completed my first year of public health school, and was in search of a year- long project for my capstone requirement. I knew I wanted to practice skills in evaluation and data analysis, but I also wanted a project with content that would be able to hold my interest for a year. When I initially approached WithinReach’s Immunization program, I was really interested in their work with provider training and the Immunity Community, and assumed I would work on those projects. Instead, they gave me the opportunity to develop a community forum for Russian speakers. Through speaking with the Immunization team I learned that Russian speakers have the lowest childhood immunization rates of any population in Washington, and have had the lowest rates since 2008. This was incredibly interesting and I grew curious to learn more.”

Over ten months I researched the literature and spoke with key informants to better understand the historical context and social connections in Russian speaking populations that contribute to low immunizations rates.  Much of the vaccine hesitancy we find in Russian speakers stems from confusion and frustration with the US immunization schedule, concerns of adverse reactions to the vaccines and an inability to find a Russian speaking provider to answer their questions. The Washington State Department of Health conducted a series of Russian speaking focus groups to identify major themes, and all four groups requested an event with a Russian speaking provider to address immunization concerns in a community forum. With help from Spokane-based health service providers, we were able to develop the community forum parents asked for. At the forum, parents expressed their frustration and fears about childhood immunizations to a Russian speaking pharmacist who was able to answer their questions and explain why the US immunization schedule is different from their home countries.  At the end of the meeting, the majority of surveyed participants said they enjoyed the forum and were able to have their questions answered by someone they trusted.  40% said the forum changed their minds about immunizations.

With the measles outbreak at Disneyland and whooping cough on the rise in Washington, media pundits and bloggers often lay the blame squarely on a mythical homogenous anti-vaccination group. The reality is people have a variety of concerns, and those of us doing immunization work should not assume why a particular group has fears about vaccines. This project allowed me to not only develop skills and learn new content, but also develop an appreciation for programs, such as Washington State Department of Health’s focus groups, that actively seek to understand health disparities and find culturally appropriate ways to address concerns within a community.

For additional information on how to develop a community forum addressing vaccine concerns for Russian speakers, contact Sara Jaye Sanford, WithinReach’s Immunization Action Coalition of Washington Program Coordinator at: (206) 830-5175 or sarajayes@withinreachwa.org.

 

Tags: childhood immunizations   Community Health   Immunity Community   immunizations   Measles   Public Health   Russian Speakers   Spokane   vaccines   Washington state   Whopping Cough   WithinReach   

Giving Kids a Shot@Life in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this month, Mackenzie Melton and I had traveled to Washington, D.C., where we learned a great deal about the legislative process through a partner organization, Shot@Life. Shot@Life is the arm of the United Nations Foundation that advocates for childhood immunizations across the globe, saving millions of lives annually by securing funding for life-saving vaccines. Shot@Life is currently emphasizing the importance of four vaccines that have the chance to dramatically reduce childhood morbidity and mortality: rotavirus, polio, measles, and pneumonia.
In addition to being a phenomenal learning opportunity where we heard from immunization, public health, and elected leaders, from, for instance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the State Department, the United Nations, and other esteemed organizations, we were also exposed to the legislative process. We even met with staff members from four legislators’ offices in Washington State: Senator Patty Murray, Representative Jim McDermott, Representative Dave Reichert, and Representative Derek Kilmer. Exploring Capitol Hill and promoting immunizations at home and abroad was a profoundly eye-opening experience that expanded our capacity to do powerful immunization advocacy.
We were stunned that, upon arriving in Senator Patty Murray’s office, her staff members knew not only of the work of Shot@Life, but had read and learned about Vax Northwest on their own accord! It was a thrilling confirmation of our work and its value on the national scene as we seek to protect families everywhere from vaccine-preventable disease. We have long known that there are tremendous resonances between our local work and that happening at larger scales, and we couldn’t be more excited about making these connections.
And in case you need some evidence of the effect of vaccines, a child dies every 20 seconds globally from a vaccine preventable disease, meaning 1.5 million children die per year from deaths that could be prevented with a modest investment. This is a stark reminder of why immunizations are so critical to the health of populations, and why we at WithinReach promote them with such passion. Thanks again to Shot@Life for this opportunity!

 

Tags: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation   Capitol Hill   immunization advocacy.   Measles   Pneumonia   polio   Representative Dave Reichert   Representative Derek Kilmer   Representative Jim McDermott   rotavirus   Senator Patty Murray   Shot@Life   United Nations   United Nations Foundation   vaccines   Vax Northwest   Washington D.C.   

What can parents do to support immunization?

In the wake of outbreaks of diseases like measles, many parents are wondering what they can do to protect their families and their communities from diseases that vaccines can prevent. Here are three steps that any parent can take:
1. Make sure your whole family is up to date on immunizations. To best protect our communities, all of us need to be immunized. For example, when moms and dads are immunized against whooping cough, babies are protected because they are less likely to catch the disease from them. To learn more about what immunizations might be right for you, go to the Washington State Department of Health. Ask your family’s healthcare providers about getting up to date! If you need help finding an immunization provider, contact ParentHelp123.
2. Be a positive voice for immunizations. Speak up for vaccines! Tell other parents in a positive way why you immunize on time and why you think it is important to your community. Posting stories and information about immunization and your own experiences getting vaccinated on social media can also be a great way to show your support for immunization. (Like WithinReach on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for great news and facts to share.) For tips on having respectful and productive conversations about vaccines, check out this blog post.
3. Advocate. Find the immunization rate for your child’s school on SchoolDigger. Consider writing a letter to the editor about news items relating to immunization. If there is a policy change being considered in your school or state that you care about, let your representative know. Connecting with programs specifically for parents, like the Immunity Community in Washington State or Voices for Vaccines, a national organization, can be a great way to get more involved.

 

Tags: Advocate   Community Health   family   immunizations   Measles   parents   Protect   publich health   Support Immunizations   vaccines   

Have a HEART When You Talk About Vaccines

Do you find yourself being inundated with information in the media about immunizations these days? Do you want to speak out, but just don’t know what to say, or how to say it? Measles this, mumps that. Personal belief exemptions – are they good or bad? What do I do if my child’s school vaccination rate is really low? How can I talk to other parents about vaccinations? What can I do?
So many questions are circulating around the internet and social media. Friends that I haven’t talked to in years have been coming out of the woodwork with questions, or wanting to know how to get involved. The silent majority of parents (71% in WA) that immunize are starting to become louder and want their voices to be heard.
At WithinReach, through our partnership with Vax Northwest, we’ve developed a program we call the Immunity Community where we teach parents to become immunization advocates in their communities, schools, child cares, or parents’ groups and to have a respectful, honest conversation about immunizations. We encourage parents to speak from their HEART and we’ve developed and tested 5 simple steps you can take the next time you find yourself in a conversation with your barista, PTA president, etc.
When you are having a conversation about vaccines, try the H-E-A-R-T (Hear, Empathize, Analyze, Resources, Tell) Method:
1. Hear: The first and best thing you can do is to really listen to her concerns and questions. Really hear what her fears are about vaccines. Organize your thoughts before answering her questions.
2. Empathize: Start your response with an emotional acknowledgement of his feelings. Address his investment in the issue. He’s put a lot of thought into this problem. Give him the credit he deserves for being the concerned parent he is. Example: “You’ve put so much thought into this. I think it’s great that you care so much about your child’s health.”
3. Analyze: Ask questions to understand where they are getting their information from and what concerns them. Example: “I’ve been researching vaccines, too. Where did you hear that from?”
4. Resources: Answer her emotional concerns with knowledge and specific information (check out our FAQ page for some of the top questions people have about vaccines). Facts, paired with emotion, win parents over! Example: “That’s very interesting. What I’ve read on the Internet is pretty different. There’s a nonprofit organization called Every Child By Two that talks about how vaccines are safe and how they protect kids from dangerous diseases like whooping cough.”(Then insert talking points from the FAQs page to answer her specific questions.)
5. Tell: Conclude your points with another emotional statement that sums up what benefits you gain from vaccinating your child. Example: “After I read both sides of the argument, I decided to vaccinate my children. I get so worried when my baby’s sick, and I can’t bear the thought of her getting sick with something that could be avoided. For me, vaccines are all about prevention.”
Repeat this method with every concern she raises. Make sure to start over at the “Hear” stage to ensure you are answering her specific questions. Even if she shares an anecdotal story of her own, really listen to her fear and try to understand her root concern.

Vaccines are important, but they are not something to lose a friendship over. Don’t forget to respect your friend’s opinion, and trust that he will do the same. Here is a good phrase to help you get out of a tough conversation: “Thank you for sharing your opinions with me. I’m just glad we both care about protecting our kids’ health. Thank you for being so passionate.”

Now just smile, squeeze her arm, and divert the conversation to something you both can agree on. Remember, you might not sway your friends today, but you may have sparked a new way of thinking about vaccines. You have become an information source they can turn to with questions later.

If you want to learn more about Vax Northwest and the Immunity Community or want to become involved visit: www.vaxnorthwest.org

 

Tags: Community Health   Immunity Community   immunizations   kids health   Measles   mumps   Personal Belief Exemptions   Public Health   vaccine conversations   vaccines   Vax Northwest   

From Magic Mountain to Measles – Get Vaccinated to Stay Safe!

If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard about the outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland, but has spread to Washington and across the country. It feels particularly unfair that an outbreak of a sometimes-fatal disease is linked to Disneyland, a place where families go for a fun and carefree experience. But the irony is that, in a world where parents are opting out of immunizations in high numbers, Disneyland is a Petri dish for cultivating an outbreak. Because kids and their families visit Disneyland from around the country and world, and because symptoms of the disease don’t manifest for many days after exposure (the disease can be spread before symptoms emerge), situations like this are very dangerous.
Measles is one of the most highly contagious diseases on earth. It is spread easily and rapidly among individuals who are not protected from the disease. In 2014, and now again in 2015, we have had confirmed cases of measles in Washington State—cases both related to and independent of, the Disneyland cases. This disease is different from most other communicable diseases in that it can be contracted through aerosol transmission, meaning simply by breathing air in a space where a measles-infected person has coughed or sneezed recently. In order to prevent individual cases of measles becoming outbreaks, and eventually epidemics, around 95% of us need to be immunized against the disease—it’s that infectious!
Many of the stories about measles have parodied the ride/song ‘It’s a Small World’, which is an iconic Disneyland experience. Besides being somewhat trite, it’s the perfect reference. The human experience is one that invariably involves exposure to other people, sometimes tens of thousands of people at attractions like Disneyland. We must immunize in high numbers to protect ourselves and our families when visiting such sites, but also to ensure we don’t become disease vectors ourselves, spreading to our loved ones and communities.

Our Immunization Team will always advocate strongly for complete, on-time vaccination to protect health. We also recognize that all parents, even those who don’t immunize, do so out of an interest for the health of their children. As such, we’ll continue to foster dialogue about why immunization should be a community priority, especially featuring the voices of parents who choose to immunize, like those enrolled in our Immunity Community program. Many thanks to those parents who are working hard to ensure that children in Washington are protected from disease!

 

Tags: contagious diseases   Disneyland   healthy children   Immunity Community   immunize   Measles   outbreak   Protect   vaccine   Vax Northwest   Washington state   

Immunization Promotion Hits Close To Home!

Yesterday over breakfast I read an opinion piece in The Seattle Times titled, “The rich and anti-vaccine quacks”, which draws attention to the fact that many parents in California, as in other states, are choosing not to vaccinate their kids. The columnist is outraged that this choice on behalf of “anti-vaxxers” puts public health at risk. Though this is not new news to me as the CEO of an organization that works hard to improve public health by encouraging vaccination, it became even more relevant and personal later in the day when I received word from my daughter’s Seattle high school that they have confirmed two cases of Pertussis, or Whooping Cough.
This is where my professional life and personal life cross. Like the columnist, I was frustrated and a bit outraged to receive this information from the school. Whooping Cough is a very serious illness, and is one of many vaccine preventable diseases. Though my daughter is fully immunized, my Mom brain began to spin – “Mari can’t get sick, she has way too much going on, she’s just getting up to speed as a freshman in high school, missing school would set her back, and what about kayak practice and her driver’s education course…”. Then my administrator brain activated – “Pertussis is highly contagious, what if it spread?, how many kids will get sick?, how will the school manage this?”… and finally, I ended up back at outrage – “why is my daughter’s school even having to deal with this?, I want them to focus on educating her, not addressing an avoidable health crisis!” I do not know the circumstances of the cases, nor the immunization status of the sick students, but I do know that we must use these scary moments to inspire positive action.
So, after yesterday, I am more passionate than ever about the protection immunization provides us all, and our work at WithinReach aimed at promoting immunization across the lifespan. Specifically, I am committed to our work to normalize immunization as a community priority. Our project called the Immunity Community reminds parents that the social norm is to vaccinate (the majority of us fully immunize on time and on schedule), and supports parents in conveying publicly WHY we vaccinate: the health and well-being of our entire community.

 

Tags: Anti-vaccine   Community Health   Immunization   kids health   Pertussis   preventable diseases   protection   Public Health   vaccinate   Whopping Cough   

Concerned About Ebola?

Consider protecting yourself against something that might actually harm you.
While West Africa’s Ebola epidemic has been devastating parts of the region for many months now, popular media coverage of the disease has intensified as it has slowly migrated to new countries and continents. We are seeing near-constant debate and discussion about the prospect of outbreaks outside West Africa, and especially how to implement quarantines and monitor travelers. When two nurses who cared for a patient with Ebola contracted the disease on American soil, anxieties were fueled.
But we must step back and be as rational as possible…stated another way, at the time of this writing exactly 2 of 300 million+ Americans have contracted the disease in the United States, so our odds of NOT contracting Ebola domestically are the best of any communicable disease currently in circulation. Yet, recent polling shows that 25% of Americans believe Ebola is a major public health threat (1). There will probably be more cases, and Ebola will continue to cause morbidity and mortality, especially in places with the deadly combination of low education attainment, high poverty, and weak health systems—but we will not see a widespread epidemic in the United States.
And yet there is a threat that will kill thousands of Americans this year and sicken many more: the flu. While 5 to 20% of Americans will get the flu in any given year, Americans clearly don’t perceive themselves at great risk for this disease because only 58.9% of children and 42.2% of adults got the flu vaccine in 2012 (2). This means that more than half of adults are choosing not to protect themselves and their communities from a disease over which we can exert a great deal of control. Even if the non-vaccinated people don’t die or get seriously ill from the flu, they may pass it to someone for whom the consequences are much worse. And although some people, such as the young and elderly, are at an increased risk, the flu causes serious illness and even death in healthy people of all ages each year.
While there are many other reasons to be deeply concerned about coverage of Ebola (for the racism and xenophobia inherent in narratives of the disease, for the way it mimics problematic judgements seen with past epidemics like HIV, for the inflammatory nature of some public discussions, etc.), in the immunization world we seek to re-ground people in the diseases that they’re actually at risk of and to remind them of the control they do have, which involves getting a flu vaccine annually.
When Ebola comes up in your conversations, please consider using it as an opportunity to remind people of the ways they can contribute to the health of their community. We have a strong health care and public health infrastructure in the United States, and it rests, on some level, on everybody doing their part. Getting a flu vaccine is one way to contribute. To find out where to get a flu vaccine, visit the vaccine finder.
Citations
(1) The Harris Poll; Pritish Tosh, M.D., infectious diseases physician and researcher, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
(2) “Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2013-2014 Influenza Season.” Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1314estimates.htm

 

Tags: Community Health   Ebola   Flu Vaccine   Immunization   protection   Public Health   

“On Immunity: An Inoculation”

It’s not too often that a new book about immunizations hits the shelves. And it’s even less often that a book on immunizations from a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning essayist is published. Much of my reading for work involves publications in medical journals or things like the CDC’s “Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases” (say that three times fast) – while full of information that is both useful and fascinating, they’re not exactly page-turners. So I was excited to pick up “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss.

Eula Biss approaches the topic as a mother and essayist, not as a scientist or advocate, and she blends poignant stories from her own experiences of birth and motherhood with philosophical contemplation. Rather than focusing on the science of immunization, she asks the question, what does it mean to be vaccinated? What does it mean to be immune to diseases? What are the cultural implications and contexts of choosing to be immunized, or to forgo immunizations?

The book is short – just 163 pages – and Biss’ prose is tight, so while she touches on sources ranging from her conversations with other mothers to Greek philosophy to Victorian gothic novels, her tangents never ramble. Susan Sontag’s work on illness as a metaphor is a huge influence on her, and Dracula (yes, the vampire) makes several appearances as well. She explores the culture of fear that impacts the choices many parents make, and the constant tension between individual freedom and the collective good that marks American discourse.

On this last note, she addresses the work of a prominent promoter of an “alternative,” un-researched and un-proven immunization schedule who recommends delaying some immunizations and skipping others. A few years ago, one of his patients got measles and went on to infect several vulnerable children and infants in their school and in a different doctor’s waiting room:

“In Dr. Bob’s world, another doctor’s waiting room is not his concern and public health is entirely independent of individual health. ‘This is an important vaccine from a public health standpoint,’ he writes of the hep B vaccine, ‘but it’s not as critical from an individual point of view.’ In order for this to make sense, one must believe that individuals are not part of the public. Public health, Dr. Bob suggests, is not our health.” (p 108-109)

Both my professional training in public health and my personal values lead me to believe in the “us,” not just the “me.” The public is made up of individuals, and the biological reality is that the choices we make affect each other in myriad ways. And although immunizations offer us extraordinary protection as individuals, I also value them for how they protect those around us as well. I think this is true not just of immunizations, but of our passion for promoting healthy families throughout the work we do at WithinReach: When families have the resources they need to be healthy, we all benefit.
If you loved your English and philosophy classes but loathed science, this is definitely the immunization book for you. And if you loved science and are having a hard time wrapping your brain around why some folks aren’t leaping at the opportunity to immunize their children, this book will offer some insight. Anybody who cares about public health but, more deeply, what our collective obligations to each other are in a democratic community will enjoy this thoughtful read.

 

Tags: Health   immunizations   preventable diseases   Protect   Public Health   vaccination   

Expanding the frame: global-local vaccine links

Outside of WithinReach, I am also a faculty member at the University of Washington, where I will be teaching Global Health 101 this fall. In preparing to teach this course for the first time, I have been re-grounding myself in the interventions that have created—or have the potential to create—enduring health on a global scale. From clean water and sanitation to the education of women and unrestricted access to family planning resources, global health successes stem from making basic services accessible to all free of charge. Vaccines are integral to this story. Even I, as a person who spends his days focused on promoting immunization, sometimes forget how powerfully vaccines have altered the course of human history.
The American surge in health associated with vaccines began more than sixty years ago, and thus isn’t as noticeable today, but we too have witnessed remarkable advances in health thanks to vaccines—results that are yet to be fully translated across the globe.

Here are some broad statistics that make the case for vaccines:

  • Vaccines save 3 million lives and $42 billion globally per year (3)
  • 1.5 million children die annually globally from vaccine preventable diseases (2)
  • Smallpox claimed between 300 and 500 million lives before it was eliminated thanks to a vaccine (2)
  • The World Health Organization has said that “the two public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on the world’s health are clean water and vaccines.” (4)
Washington State takes exceptional leadership when it comes to vaccines. Founded largely with funding from the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has spent over $4.5 billion to immunize nearly five hundred million children, “raising the immunization rate among children in low-income countries to 79 percent—an all-time high” (1). This effort alone has saved 5 million lives since 2000, so we’re definitely trending in the right direction. Considering the resource and infrastructure limitations in many parts of the world, that 79% of children in low-income countries are immunized speaks to the value of vaccines from the perspective of governments. Coordinating vaccination, especially supply lines, handling, storage, and, of course, delivery is a challenging task, but one the global community has committed to addressing because vaccines have such transformative power. Washington should be proud of our contributions to vaccines globally, but we must also refocus locally.
Just because we in the United States are removed (mostly) from the days of mass illness and death associated with infectious disease does not mean we should let down our guard; rather, histories like these should compel us to keep focused on saving lives through this safe and cost-effective means of promoting health—at home and abroad.
Citations:
(1) Farmer, P. et al. (2013). Reimaging Global Health: An Introduction. Berkeley, University of California Press: 306.
(2) History of Vaccines: http://www.historyofvaccines.org/
(3) The Immunization Action Coalition’s Timeline page: http://www.immunize.org/timeline/
(4) The World Health Organization’s Vaccines page: http://www.who.int/topics/vaccines/en/

Tags: GAVI   global health   health promotion   immunizations   preventable diseases   vaccines   VaxNorthwest   Washington state   

How I Became a Crunchy Pro-Vaxing Mom

The following is an excerpt from a blog post written by one of our returning Parent Advocates, Kathy Hennessy.WithinReach is thrilled to work in Bellingham for a second year of the Immunity Community this coming 2014-15 school year.
I’ve long considered myself to be a semi-crunchy person. I grew up in a beach community and have always had an appreciation for taking care of the environment. When my first daughter was born I did not think twice about the eye goop or the vaccine they gave her in the hospital or the vaccines she got every few months thereafter. She was a colicky baby and the parenting books that helped me the most were by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. William Sears. I had found attachment parenting and it not only worked well with our daughter’s temperament but it fit with what I wanted for my life with my baby. My husband wholeheartedly agreed.
Being a practitioner of attachment parenting, I was drawn to others who also wear their babies and co-sleep and that led me to meeting mothers who do not vaccinate their children. I live in Whatcom County in Washington State where nearly 8% of kindergartners and 6th graders in public schools have vaccine exemptions, which is about double the state exemption rate[1].
How can a person who thinks of herself as crunchy still vaccinate her children? I am asked this all the time. Science. Science is the answer. And it is not a belief system or the truth. It is evidence in support or not supporting an idea. Simply put, there is no evidence to support not vaccinating. None. Everything I read – and I do read a lot of pro- and anti-vaccine information, both as former administrator of the Facebook page Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children[2] and in my current position as Immunity Community Parent Advocate – has supported the choice to vaccinate.

We know that there are risks with every parenting decision we make, but we have to make them rationally and based on sound science. Since every country and every major medical and scientific body on earth supports vaccines and there is lots of evidence that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risk, immunizing myself and our children and advocating that the husband also gets up-to-date on his vaccines is one of the wisest health choices we have made.

So, how can I be crunchy and pro-vax? Simple. Because we do what we know is best for our health, based on sound science. Living healthy, i.e. being crunchy, makes sense to us. So does vaccination.

While I was running the Facebook page Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children, I became aware of the Immunity Community[3]. In the Immunity Community, parents learn to use their social networks, both online and off, to advocate in a positive and non-adversarial way for immunization. We are taught to spread the word about the benefits and how to talk to parents who are concerned about the risks. I was thrilled to find this group and advocated strongly for them to come to Bellingham. Now I am part of the Immunity Community and I could not be happier. We got our program written up in the Bellingham Herald[4], on the front page, which was thrilling. Other parents are making a huge different at their children’s preschools, by sharing information in a positive manner. We are making a difference. And it is very exciting to be spreading the word that you can live in healthy, crunchy Bellingham, WA and also be fully immunized.

_____________________________________________________________________________

** As summer winds down, kids and their families across Washington State are gearing up for the start of a new school year. With a new year upon us, it is a good time to make sure you and your family are up-to-date on all the required vaccines for school entry. Vaccines are free in Washington State for all children under 19. For help finding a vaccination clinic visit: http://parenthelp123.org/resources/resource-finder or call 1-800-322-2588.

Curious how protected your children’s school is from vaccine-preventable diseases? Check-out http://www.schooldigger.com/WAImmunization/ to see your school’s vaccination and exemption rates.

 

Tags: Children   Immunity Community   immunizations   Parent Advocate   parents   vaccines   Volunteer   Whatcom County   

A Cancer-Preventing Vaccine!

If you could give your child a vaccine to prevent cancer, would you? That’s exactly what HPV vaccine does, yet uptake of HPV vaccine is distressingly low in the United States. While Washington does slightly better than the national average, completion of the HPV series (3 doses of vaccine) in girls in our state stands at just 43.5%. To put this in perspective at the national level, for each year that we do not achieve 80% coverage for the vaccine (The U.S. is currently around 30%), 4,400 girls will get cervical cancer and 1,400 of them will die from cancer—this despite the fact that we have an HPV vaccine.
This is why WithinReach is excited to be partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics to disseminate the CDC’s You Are the Key to Cancer Prevention communication toolkit. HPV stands for human papillomavirus, a virus that almost all unvaccinated individuals will get in their lifetimes because it spreads so easily. HPV can cause several types of cancer, including oropharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancers and genital cancers in both men and women. By preventing infection with the most carcinogenic strains of HPV virus, the HPV vaccine has the power to prevent these cancers. According to the CDC, “Low HPV vaccination rates are leaving another generation of boys and girls vulnerable to devastating HPV cancers. Vaccination could prevent most of these cancers.”
In the coming months, WithinReach will be educating providers throughout the state about HPV communication through Grand Rounds presentations at local hospitals. We will be sharing HPV statistics and the latest communication science with providers. With new tools like the CDC’s You Are the Key to Cancer Prevention toolkit that we’re disseminating, WithinReach is proud to be supporting an effort that will hopefully increase immunization rates and decrease the number of young people in our state who will get cancer.
Health communication is one of the most challenging topics we health researchers face…and yet the beauty of science is that it allows us to finesse our approach to meet the public’s needs. We have evolved our approach to HPV prevention to focus on cancer prevention. Not incidentally, this is the reason our immunization work always draws from an evidence base of sound science.
If you are interested in learning more, please join us on the morning of August 21st at Seattle Children’s Hospital. You can also gather more information at the parenthelp123.org website. Furthermore, WithinReach intends to stay focused on HPV long after this grant ends, so stay tuned for future developments! And remember, girls and boys should be immunized against HPV…both spread the disease and both can fall victim to associated cancers.

Tags: Cancer Prevention   CDC   HPV   immunizations   ParentHelp123   vaccines   Washington state   

2014 National Conference on Immunization and Health Coalitions Wrap-Up

WithinReach, home of the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington (IACW), hosted the 11th National Conference on Immunization and Health Coalitions (NICHC) in Seattle on May 21-23, 2014. NCIHC is a gathering of coalition leaders, staff and board members; public health staff and experts; and community advocates. The conference occurs every two years and is the product of a national volunteer planning committee. The goal of NCIHC is to improve community health by enhancing the effectiveness of health coalitions, and topics include coalition management, health promotion, and of course, lots of immunization information!

Dennis Worsham, Deputy Secretary of Health for Public Health Operations, welcomed attendees from across the country before Dr. Ed Marcuse, recently retired from Seattle Children’s, gave a thought-provoking opening plenary about the current state of immunizations. He addressed topics ranging from the challenge of vaccine hesitancy to the tragic impact of vaccine-preventable disease on the Northwest’s indigenous people, wrapping up with a look at what the vaccines of the future might be. Other highlights of the conference included two very special keynote speakers, Dr. David Williams and Dr. Bill Foege. On Thursday, Dr. Williams, of the Harvard School of Public Health, was introduced by Allene Mares (Assistant Secretary of Prevention and Community Health) and delivered a powerful presentation about the continuing impact of race and racism on health and what we can do to work towards health equity. His talk ranged from the economic disparities that help create the context for poor health, to the unconscious biases that we each must recognize and combat within ourselves. Many conference attendees noted Dr. Williams as the absolute highlight for them. However, it was hard to choose the “best” as Dr. Foege addressed the group with a closing plenary on Friday, after being welcomed by OICP Director Michele Roberts. Dr. Foege, who was a leader in eradicating smallpox in the 1970s, has since directed the CDC, the Carter Center, the Task Force for Child Survival, and led global health at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His historic perspective on the impact vaccines have had on health around the world was inspiring.

In addition to a wide variety of breakout sessions on topics ranging from social media to policy to quality improvement, other special events included pre-conference workshops and the first-ever film festival. We featured the high-school student-produced “Invisible Threat,” and “Everybody’s Business,” a documentary about immunizations and the dialogue about personal decisions and their impact on community health on Vashon Island here in Washington. Local advocate Celina Yarkin and Vashon school nurse Sarah Day attended to field questions.

WithinReach is proud to have brought this unique learning and networking opportunity to the Pacific Northwest for the first time, and is very grateful to all of the partners that helped make it happen, including the Washington State Department of Health – Office of Immunization and Child Profile, IACW members, and Immunize Oregon! Presentations from the conference can be downloaded at healthcoalitionsconference.org/program.

 

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