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Immunity Community

Top Ten Ways to Be A Positive Voice For Vaccines!

Adapted from our colleagues at Immunize Nevada, here are some tips for expressing your gratitude for vaccines in Washington State.
1. Join the Immunity Community. If you live in Bellingham, Spokane, North Kitsap, South Snohomish, or Thurston Counties, become a Parent Advocate at your child(ren)’s school. Learn more and sign up today.
2. Get your flu vaccine. It’s not too late! People who haven’t been vaccinated against flu still have time to get their vaccine before the season reaches its peak in Washington (likely February). Bring along a friend, elderly neighbor, or babysitter to get vaccinated with you! Find a location near you.

3. Get up to date on your own vaccines. Check if you are up to date in MyIR. Haven’t used MyIR yet? Sign up by visiting the Washington State Department of Health’s website and choose Option 1. Once you are in the system, you can print off your recommended immunizations and bring them to your healthcare provider or pharmacist. While you’re at it, check to make sure your kids and your family members are up to date as well.

4. Share your immunization story. Why are you passionate about vaccines? Whether you’ve personally experienced a vaccine preventable disease, or someone you love has been impacted, sharing your story with us to use on our website and social media is a powerful way to be an advocate. Contact us at vaxnw@withinreachwa.org.

5. Get Social. We need people like you to spread positive immunization messages within your social networks. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share our messages and images.

6. Advocate for immunizations to friends and family.  Vaccines aren’t a “taboo” topic – they’re an important part of preventive health. Have the courage to ask family members if they’re up to date on their vaccines, if they got their annual flu vaccine, or if they’re planning to immunize their newborn. And remember, most people fully vaccinate on time. Here’s a great article on how to approach the subject using the HEART method for talking about immunization with friends.

7. Become a member of the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington (IACW). The IACW meets quarterly to learn about and collaborate on a variety of immunization topics. Recent topics have included: HPV prevention, vaccine hesitancy, and global health initiatives. Additionally, there is a monthly newsletter with hot topics, resources, and news articles to keep you up-to-date!  To learn more and become a member, email: vaxnw@withinreachwa.org.

8. Take action. Your help in promoting vaccines in Washington State will help keep our community healthy and decrease the transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases. Sign up for our Immunization Action Alert to be notified when you can lend your voice to advocating for immunizations in Washington.

9. Write a letter to the editor. Let your pro-vaccine stance be known to your community and elected officials. Contact us if you need help with any ideas or templates.

10. Thank an Immunizer. Next time you are at your healthcare provider’s office or the pharmacy, thank an immunizer. These are the people that protect health by vaccinating, and people often forget to thank someone holding a needle!

Tags: IACW   Immunity Community   immunizations   pro-vax   vaccine-preventable diseases   vaccines   Vax Northwest   VaxNW   Washington state   

Immunization Program: 2015 Reflections & 2016 Opportunities

2015 was a very good year for the Immunization Program at WithinReach.  In our efforts to promote immunization across the lifespan, our program grew substantially and we widened our scope of work.  We have forged dozens of new relationships and our statewide reach and collaboration is particularly strong.
As we enter 2016, I’d like to first call out a few of our greatest successes from 2015:

  • We welcomed Jessica Broz, Immunization Coordinator, to our team.  Jessica has been a wonderful addition, supporting all of the work we do with skill and a thoughtful approach.
  • The Pink Book Conference, which the Immunization Team hosted in September, was a sold-out event that brought together 450+ colleagues from around the state to learn, network, and strengthen relationships.
  • The Immunity Community, our program that engages parents as immunization-positive advocates in the spaces where their children spend time, expanded into a truly statewide program, with active communities in Spokane, Thurston, Snohomish, Kitsap, and Whatcom Counties.
  • We developed an HPV educational webinar for healthcare providers.  This webinar shares the latest communication science around vaccines and encourages a strong HPV vaccine recommendation and has been taken by over 700 healthcare providers.
  • WithinReach began hosting the HPV Task Force, a collective of partners statewide that are convening to collaborate on promoting HPV vaccine uptake and series completion.

And in 2016, we look forward to:

  • The continued expansion of the Immunity Community.
  • Re-energizing the Vax Northwest work with healthcare providers, hopefully developing a new research project focused on provider-parent communication.
  • Learning more about what drives parent decision-making about vaccines in Washington State, and where we might best intervene through focus groups across the state.
  • Extending the stellar work of our Spokane Regional Health District partners to provide mobile immunization clinics and other tools to improve immunization record-keeping statewide.
  • Restructuring the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington’s committees to better align with needs in the state.
  • Connecting with current and new partners to promote HPV vaccine uptake.

To the exceptional Immunization Team at WithinReach, thank you for being so proactive and skilled in producing work of an outstanding caliber.  To all of our partners with whom we collaborate on these successes, thank you for your great work independently and with us!

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy New Year!

Tags: Community Health   HPV vaccine   Immunity Community   Immunization Action Coalition of Washington   immunizations   preventable diseases   vaccines   Washington state   WithinReach   

Growing the Immunity Community

WithinReach is excited to announce that the Immunity Community (IC) is growing! We are thrilled to expand the IC into Snohomish, Kitsap and Thurston Counties for the 2015 – 2016 school year thanks to generous support from the Group Health Foundation. We will continue our work in Bellingham and Spokane, building on the successful partnerships established over the last few years. A program of Vax Northwest, the IC is a proven community engagement campaign where parents who value immunization confidently speak in support of immunization in their communities. The program seeks to reduce vaccine hesitancy by mobilizing parents to have positive conversations about immunizations with other parents through a variety of activities, reinforcing vaccination as a social norm.

Immunity Community Parent Advocates (PAs) are volunteers connected to sites such as elementary schools, childcare centers, and preschools. Each fall a “Launch Meeting” kicks off the beginning of the IC program; PAs are trained to talk about vaccines, and brainstorm pro-vaccine actions they can take in their communities. Local health department staff also participate by presenting on current vaccine topics. Support continues throughout the school year with PAs receiving ongoing technical assistance, including monthly newsletters, flyers, postcards, shareable social media images and giveaways for events, among many other resources. PAs use multiple strategies to raise awareness and educate parents at their sites and in their communities, including social media advocacy, hosting events, distributing immunization-related materials, engaging in one-on-one conversations, and working to calculate and publicize site immunization rates. PAs share their stories about deciding to vaccinate their children and tailor their immunization advocacy to what works best for them and their communities.

Rigorous evaluation by the Group Health Research Institute’s Center for Community Health and Evaluation has shown this parent-to-parent campaign to be successful. Specifically, the IC has:

  • Trained parent volunteers to be effective immunization advocates in their communities
  • Raised awareness of vaccine-related issues in the focus area communities
  • Increased support for vaccination among parents surveyed in focus area communities
  • Facilitated a preschool policy change that has statewide impact

We are excited to continue the IC in Bellingham and Spokane and expand into Snohomish, Kitsap and Thurston Counties this fall because of the support from Group Health Foundation. The IC is part of a multi-faceted approach to health that WithinReach undertakes with its partners to promote a healthy Washington, and we look forward to continuing this outstanding body of work.

 

Tags: Community Health   Group Health   Immunity Community   immunizations   vaccines   Vax Northwest   

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   

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   

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.

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** 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 (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.

Tags: Immunity Community   immunizations   Invisible Threat   

Why We Get the Flu Shot

Recently the CDC reported that 25 states in the US have widespread influenza, and Washington is one of those states. This years strain of flu is the H1N1 virus that plagued the country in 2008-09.
The good news is that his year’s flu shot is a “tight match” for this strain of H1N1. 
There are many reasons to get the flu shot — it is safe, effective, and helps us avoid getting sick. At WithinReach we care about creating community immunity, at work and beyond. In their own words, our staff shared why they got the flu shot.
Jefferson
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.

Stephanie
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.

Anna
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.

Dominique
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.

Keri
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.

Kay
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!

Todd
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.

Sara Jaye
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.

Jeannie
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.

Erin
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.

Mackenzie
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.

Tags: flu shot   HINI   Immunity Community   

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.

Tags: Autism   Everybody's Business   Immunity Community   immunizations   Pro Vaccine   vaccines   Vashon Island   Vax Northwest   

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