A (not so) Invisible Threat
Invisible Threat is an eye-opening 40-minute documentary produced by California high school students that explores the science of vaccination and how fears and misperceptions have led some parents to make dangerous decisions. In recognition of the national launch on May 1 of the Invisible Threat movement, we are participating in a blog relay to raise awareness of this important issue. Each day a different blogger will be discussing their personal perspective of the film as part of our 10-day countdown to a kick-off event with national legislators at the Capitol Visitors’ Center in Washington, DC. Follow along to find out how you can join us in this movement, arrange for a local screening, and continue our fight against infectious diseases.
We at WithinReach think watching the Invisible Threat documentary is especially important right now with the resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases in our communities. Measles is on the rise in WA, and in 2011 we had the largest pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic in 60 years. In commemoration of the Invisible Threat movement and to celebrate the CDC’s National Infant Immunization Week, we asked a group of our dynamo-Parent Advocates why they choose to vaccinate. These parents are participating in a three year campaign, called the Immunity Community, whose goal is to increase conversations about the positive aspects of vaccination and help parents embrace vaccination as a community priority. Here are their responses:
Why I vaccinate?
Julie G.: I vaccinate my child because it is a safe and effective way to protect him against 14 diseases that, if he were to get, could potentially permanently damage his health or put his life and the lives of others at risk too. There is so much to worry about as a parent. With vaccines I have 14 fewer things I don’t have to worry about as much.
Yvette B.: I vaccinate my kids because I want to keep them healthy and happy.
Kathy H.: I vaccinate myself and my children because all the risk and benefit analyses done, all over the world, by every major scientific and health organization agree that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
Alisson B.: I vaccinate my kids because I want to give them the best chance at a healthy life and to protect those in our community who need it most.
Megan W.: I choose to vaccinate my kids because I can’t protect them from everything, but I can protect them from the diseases that they can be vaccinated against. I also vaccinate my kids to provide protection for those who can’t get vaccinated.
Lisa M: I choose to vaccinate because I want to help my child stay healthy and to help protect the most vulnerable in our communities.
Our Immunity Community Parent Advocates are making a difference in their communities by speaking out in support if immunizations and making sure other parents know that vaccinating is a safe way to keep their family and community protected against disease. You have the ability to make a difference in our fight against infectious diseases. Follow our Invisible Threat Blog Relay and find out how you can be a part of the movement. Tomorrow’s post will be hosted by Nurses Who Vaccinate. And be sure to friend the Invisible Threat Facebook page and follow the filmmakers on Twitter @InvisThreat.
Additionally, you can also watch Invisible Threat at a special screening at the National Conference on Immunizations and Health Coalitions coming up in Seattle in May! Learn more and register today.
WithinReach Goes National!
Next month, WithinReach will be hosting the 11th National Conference on Immunization and Health Coalitions, a premier opportunity to discuss, support, and advance immunization across the lifespan—right here, in Seattle. WithinReach was awarded this prestigious opportunity, recognizing the quality of our immunization work and our longstanding dedication to coalition activities. We look forward to welcoming guests to the beautiful Pacific Northwest for three days of learning and networking.
WithinReach staff is working hard to create a meaningful conference that advances knowledge on these topics: coalition development and management; communications, media, and social marketing; data, research, and evaluation; policy advocacy and fundraising; and immunization specific issues—all topics where WithinReach can both learn and lead. Many of the sessions this year will focus on health communication and social media, topics that are relevant across sectors, but prove particularly important in the field of immunization.
In addition to a great line-up of presenters, we have a powerhouse group of plenary speakers that will draw attendees from across the country. Luminaries including Bill Foege (who is largely responsible for the global eradication of smallpox), David Williams (health equity expert from Harvard), and our very own Dr. Ed Marcuse (pediatrician and vaccine hesitancy researcher) will be delivering plenary lectures. These speakers are leaders in their respective fields who can both inspire and teach. Watch this message from our friend, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, Seattle Mama Doc blogger about why you should attend the National Conference on Immunizations and Health Coalitions.
We are thrilled to be hosting this conference, which will demonstrate our national leadership in the field of immunization promotion and coalition development. We strongly believe in collaboration; bringing together the best and the brightest from around the country ensures critical information and best practices are shared.
Most importantly, this conference is an integral part of creating healthy communities free of vaccine preventable disease—a core goal of WithinReach. Visit our website to register today. We hope to see you in May!
Measles in the News: What You Need to Know
If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably heard about measles across the United States, including outbreaks in New York City and Orange County. And you may have paid particular attention to the fact that we have a couple local cases of measles, including in a woman who was contagious recently while visiting Starbucks, the Kings of Leon concert, Pike Place Market, a local sushi restaurant, and other locations in Whatcom, King, and Pierce counties. The period of latency for this virus is long, so exposed people without immunity may not start showing symptoms until this week.
Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through respiration. It is characterized by general malaise, loss of appetite, a hacking cough, a runny nose, and red eyes followed by a rash that covers nearly the entire body. Measles is terribly unpleasant, can be fatal, is and is often accompanied by complications such as pneumonia, permanent hearing loss, and brain damage.
We get alarmed about measles cases because it is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. Roughly 95% of us need to be immunized or have natural immunity for individual cases to not become epidemics. In New York and California, health professionals are trying to control epidemics, meaning a widespread occurrence of disease amongst a specific community at a specific time. A case becomes an epidemic when their is not adequate immunity surrounding the infected individual. Generally speaking, measles cases do not lead to outbreaks because enough of us are immune (generally through vaccination). The Department of Health and Human Services has a really helpful infographic that visually portrays this concept.
As our friend, the former Washington State Health Officer, Maxine Hayes, is fond of saying, “We should never waste a crisis.” We need to learn the lessons that these outbreaks are teaching us: that terrible diseases are never far away, and that our best defense is to be immunized. In the United States, this means getting the MMR vaccination series in childhood, starting at one year of age. The vaccine is safe and effective and the reason we don’t see more epidemics. Please immunize to protect your health and those around you.
For additional questions, contact your healthcare provider or local health jurisdiction.
Why We Get the Flu Shot
By day I work at WithinReach and by night I’m a musician performing around Seattle with my band. I meet a lot of people and shake a lot of hands in both professions. Back here at WithinReach I sit next to my co-worker, Jeannie, who is pregnant. I got immunized to protect myself, Jeannie (and her baby), my co-workers, my family and my band members.
I got a flu shot early on, because I wanted to play with my little nephew. The flu is more dangerous for a baby! I would also hate to use up Paid Time Off (PTO) because I had the flu, when I’d rather save it for a vacation.
As someone with asthma, I am at increased risk of complications from the flu because the flu can cause further inflammation of airways and lungs. A few years ago, I was sick, and it led to a persistent cough and lung inflammation. It was hard to breathe and I felt terrible. I get the flu shot to avoid that happening to me again, and I also want to do whatever I can to protect the community and others who are high risk for complications from the flu.
I got a flu shot this season because I live with a toddler and a newborn, and I don’t want to put my family members at risk of getting sick! I also rely on public transportation and don’t want to take any chances if someone on the bus is sick.
I get the flu shot to avoid getting the flu and to protect others around me from getting the flu. I got the flu in 2009 and was out for 2 weeks, it really impacted my school work and it was a horrible experience. I also live with my dad and he has an autoimmune disease, I don’t want to risk exposing him to the flu by not getting immunized.
I get my Flu shot every year because I don’t want to risk being really sick. I also want to protect my co-workers, my friends, and my family including my teenage daughter, her Girl Scout troop – which I lead, and my own Mom who, at 82 years old, is my weekly yoga buddy!
Besides wanting to stay healthy myself and protect the health of my community, I also got a flu shot because I have a young nephew who is too young to be immunized against influenza himself, so I’m doing everything I can to protect him.
I get the flu shot because I don’t want to pass a really nasty sickness on to those around me, whether it’s my coworker with her adorable baby or the granny next to me on the bus. The more of us that get immunized, the smaller the pool the flu virus has to circulate in, and the safer vulnerable members of our families and communities will be.
I get the flu shot every year because I have a small child who I don’t want to risk getting sick. I am also currently pregnant and it is imperative that I do everything I can to protect my unborn child from illness.
I got the flu shot because I spend a lot of time outside of work with small children and elderly folks. I have a strong immune system and have not gotten the flu in years (even when I did not get the shot), but I want to make sure to protect the people in my life who are more at risk. I feel like getting the flu shot is an easy way to help keep my family and friends healthy and safe.
Our family of four gets vaccinated against the flu every year and we all go in as soon as the vaccine is available. It’s especially important that both of my boys get vaccinated as they are in preschool settings where they are around a lot of other children and teachers. I don’t want them bringing the flu to school or bringing it home. For us, vaccines are all about prevention!
Go today to get your flu shot! Any flu vaccine available from your healthcare provider or local pharmacy will help prevent the flu. Flu vaccines don’t prevent the common cold or the “stomach flu” (which is caused by different viruses, such as norovirus) – but they are our best defense against a disease that kills Americans of all ages, sick and healthy alike, every year. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans are required to cover flu vaccines without co-pay, as long as you get them from an in-network provider. Contact your primary care provider or find a flu vaccine provider near you at ParentHelp123.
Cervical Health Awareness Month: What You Need to Know!
Prevention Matters: Vaccination and Developmental Screening Give Kids Best Start
Science implores us to never use the results of one study to make a claim. We use individual studies as calls for future inquiry, which is exactly how we ended up discounting the vaccine-autism connection: other scientists attempted to replicate the findings, and none could. So, what do we know about promoting optimal health in children? Health happens when you make a series of choices proven to have results. These choices include vaccinating as well as another priority at WithinReach: regularly screening children for developmental and behavioral concerns. Autism is a form of developmental delay. While we don’t know how to prevent autism, developmental screening is an accurate way to identify children with autism early, when interventions and treatments are dramatically more effective. In addition, screening is an ideal tool for teaching parents and caregivers about what typical development looks like and how they enhance development on a daily basis.
At WithinReach, we make the connections Washington families need to be healthy, and we don’t want parents to fall victim to false dualisms that create a cleavage between choices you need to make for your family to be healthy. When we focus on what we do know—in this case that vaccines don’t cause autism and that developmental screens create healthier kids throughout their lives—the outcome is a healthier and more vibrant community.
This October, Say Boo to the Flu
It’s that time of year. Leaves are changing colors, students have settled in to the new school year, and…influenza, aka the flu, is on its way back to Washington. Getting immunized is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Since there are a growing number of options available to families this year, we thought we’d try to break them down:
- Who should get immunized? Everyone! Well, everyone age six months and older. If you live with or care for vulnerable people like infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems, it’s especially important.
- When is the best time to get immunized? Now! We’ve heard some concern that it’s best to wait so that immunity lasts longer into the flu season – but there’s no evidence that your immunity will wane, and if you wait until the flu is here in full force, it could be too late. It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to fully kick in, so the sooner, the better.
- The shot vs. the nasal spray: Tried and true, the flu shot is the most common way for adults to get immunized. For the needle-phobic among us, the nasal spray can also be a great option. Research shows that the spray may create a better immune response among children between the ages of 2 and 7, but keep in mind – the spray is only for people age 2-49 years of age who aren’t pregnant.
- Trivalent vs. quadrivalent: Forget all the multisyllabic words, this just boils down to how many strains of the flu virus are covered in the vaccine. For the first time this year, some shots and all nasal sprays will protect against four strains (quadrivalent), one more than in the past. Hopefully, these could eventually prove more effective, but until we get the real-life data, both are good options.
- Standard vs. high-dose: Sad but true – as we age, certain parts of our bodies don’t work quite the way they used to. High-dose flu vaccines are formulated to give a bigger boost to older immune systems. If you’re 65 years or older, either shot is an option for you.
- Egg-allergic: For the first time this year, a flu shot is available that doesn’t use any eggs in the production process. Called “recombinant influenza vaccine,” it’s recommended for anyone 18-49 years old with severe egg allergies. Anyone who can eat lightly cooked eggs or who only experiences hives when eating eggs can get a regular flu shot.
The bottom line: Any flu vaccine available from your healthcare provider or local pharmacy will help prevent the flu. Flu vaccines don’t prevent the common cold or the “stomach flu” (which is caused by different viruses, such as norovirus) – but they are our best defense against a disease that kills Americans of all ages, sick and healthy alike, every year. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans are required to cover flu vaccines without co-pay, as long as you get them from an in-network provider. Contact your primary care provider or find a flu vaccine provider near you at ParentHelp123.
Working to Make Vaccines Everybody’s Business
This week I attended the screening of the documentary “Everybody’s Business” with our Immunization team. This screening came after the CDC’s annual release of data about immunization practices among children under age three. The data shows that in Washington just 65% of children in this age range are fully immunized per the recommended schedule, versus a national average of 68%, and a national goal of 80%. So, we’re behind no matter what metric you use.
The documentary provided a glimpse into the real world debate about vaccination through the back drop of Vashon Island. Vashon has one of lowest immunization rates in the state of Washington. The documentary did a terrific job of laying out the struggles that families are facing. However, at the core of the debate was the sincere desire of parents to protect their children.
It raised a central question for me–where does the individual right intersect with the greater good? This is a hard debate, made harder by the fact that every Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie, Uncle is trying to make the best decision support the growth and development of their children.
At WithinReach, we know that, like everything in life, vaccines carry some risks, but not the risks the anti-vaccine movement often claims. Vaccines do not cause autism or other developmental delays, they do not contain toxins, and the so-called ‘alternative schedules’ only increase risk.
Let’s not forget, ALL of us are at increased risk of contracting vaccine preventable diseases, and even if we’re vaccinated, children who are too young to be immunized and others who are immune-compromised (people with diseases or the elderly, for instance) are particularly at risk. We’ve seen several cases of measles in the state this year; pertussis and flu are persistent problems too. These can be deadly to anyone with vulnerable health status. I remember when I was nervous about giving my 8 week old baby his immunizations and the nurse said,“We live in a port city, your child is going to be exposed to so many things, help minimize his risk, get your immunizations.”
At WithinReach, we do not think it is okay that only 65% of kids are being fully vaccinated. For years we’ve been working on ways to increase parent education and action to make sure kids get their immunizations. Over the last couple of years we’ve gotten even more serious. We’ve been working with several other key community advocates through VAX Northwest: Group Health, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Department of Health, and BestStart Washington to launch two initiatives with the goal of making timely immunization the social norm again:
The Immunity Community mobilizes parents who value vaccines (as most do!) to increase the positive chatter about vaccines in places where their children spend time: schools, child care centers and preschools. This pilot project recognizes that parents obtain information through social networks, so immunization-positive chatter needs to be present in these conversations (typically anti-vaccine people are the only ones who make themselves heard). We’re testing this approach at many sites in the Northshore area and in the city of Bellingham.
The Let’s Talk Vaccines project recognizes that parents most often make their immunization decisions based on the advice of their child’s health care provider, but providers often go about immunization conversations the wrong way. When parents are stressed or concerned (as they often are about vaccines), they respond more strongly to empathy than they do to hard science. So, this intervention teaches physicians to lead with empathy, attentive listening, and unifying around common goals (healthy kids)—all with the goal of building trusting relationships. Once trust is firmly established, parents are more likely to listen to their physician about ANY topic, but particularly vaccines. We’ll have results from this study in early 2014.
Vax NW has raised over $1.5 million to support the projects above. And we’re not just trying these things out–they are part of a rigorous evaluation process to see if it really works. I’m super proud of this work, and to be a national leader in our efforts. As we head into flu season, I hope you are doing your part to keep Washington healthy.
Turns out heart matters!
Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Hepatitis Education Project’s 20th Birthday celebration. It was an amazing group of people that have come together to fight for treatment and prevention of Hepatitis A, B and C. WithinReach is proud to be a partner with this movement.
The keynote speaker for the event was Washington State Senator Ed Murray (also a candidate for Seattle Mayor.) He talked about his work with the HIV/AIDS struggle and his personal journey as a gay man. I loved it! So often as nonprofit leaders and elected officials we think that we’re motivating people by telling them the data like 1 in 4 kids in our state are hungry; almost 1 million people in Washington are uninsured; only 76% of kids are fully immunized—yes those are staggering statistics, but they don’t usually evoke action. What evokes action is seeing where you can make a difference, feeling the pain of someone else and know it’s the same pain as yours; and then bravely talking about what is true for you.
Senator Murray has been on the front of some of our state’s biggest issues–none as big as his dogged determination for marriage equality. But, what he shared on Friday night wasn’t about the millions of dollars he has helped to allocate for community health, transportation, basic needs, he shared an authentic description of his struggle. He was honest and forthcoming of his experience–he didn’t sugar coat it so as not to make people feel awkward, but rather he laid it out there. I know I wasn’t alone in leaving the dinner– inspired to do more, to be more authentic and stop hiding behind the statistics. This work is about real people, who struggle. Their struggle is our struggle.
Washington State is not Immune to Whooping Cough
Making the Invisible Visible: World Hepatitis Day 2013
Hepatitis C disproportionately affects baby boomers, or people born between 1945 and 1965. 75% of all hepatitis C patients were born in this time period, but 3 out of 4 people with hepatitis C don’t know they are infected. Nearly 5 million people in the US have hepatitis C. It is treatable and curable, but there is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.
In order to raise awareness of chronic hepatitis B and C, HBCW and HEP staff and volunteers, and members of the University of WA’s Team HBV spent Sunday afternoon disseminating hepatitis B and C educational information, with HEP offering free hepatitis C screening. We were totally jazzed that our community partners wowed the 100+ attendees with lion dances and Kung Fu performances and demonstrations.
Topping off the afternoon was another attempt at the Guinness World Records by performing the “See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” gesture, an old Chinese proverb that highlights how people often deal with problems by refusing to acknowledge them. It was awesome to see the 35 participants officially representing Seattle in the Guinness attempt; numbers from all over the world are still rolling in.
In support of our efforts, President Obama declared in his 2013 WHD Proclamation that “Now is the time to learn the risk factors for hepatitis, talk to family, friends, and neighbors who may be at risk, and to speak with healthcare providers about strategies for staying healthy. On World Hepatitis Day, let each of us lend our support to those living with hepatitis and do our part to bring this epidemic to an end” (www.blog.aids.gov) It is our responsibility as public health professionals and dedicated community members to promote preventative health. Chronic hepatitis is a silent killer but yet is very much preventable. We hope you’ll join us in this fight.
Many thanks go out to our team members who spent countless hours planning, our volunteers and performers for energizing the crowd, our Guinness participants, and the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities for its support. Check out event photos from DGreer Photography on our Facebook page.