MyIR makes accessing immunization records easy
Now, you too can access your own and your child’s immunization records online through a portal called MyIR. It’s never been so easy to view and print your immunization records! It’s simple (and free) to sign up. The secure system even allows you to print out a pre-filled Certificate of Immunization Status (CIS), which is the form required for entry to schools and child cares, without an additional visit or call to your healthcare provider. This makes it so much more convenient to provide required immunization records. If your little ones are headed to camp this summer or starting school in the fall, try it out!
I signed up recently, and MyIR showed me that I’m due for a second dose of Hepatitis A vaccine – I got the first dose before some travel last year, and two doses are needed for full protection. Plus, now I’ll know when it’s time for that tetanus booster!
However, there’s one caveat: there may be some vaccines you or your family received that don’t appear on the immunization record in MyIR, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. HPV vaccine is sometimes given by a healthcare provider confidentially. Since MyIR doesn’t know which HPV vaccines were given confidentially or not, all HPV vaccinations are hidden on immunization records in MyIR. Contact your healthcare provider if you think you need a more complete record of your or your family’s immunization history.
You can get started today at https://wa.myir.net/.
Immunization Program: 2015 Reflections & 2016 Opportunities
- 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!
Promoting a healthy Washington: the Pink Book Course
Fighting health inequities, one shot at a time
Did you know that Latina women in the US are over 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than non-Latinas and, once diagnosed, 1.5 times more likely to die from cervical cancer? To us at WithinReach, inequities like this are unacceptable.
Some of the factors that contribute to this inequity include lack of access to quality care, making Latinas less likely to get regular Pap smears, more likely to have more advanced cervical disease when they are screened, and less likely to receive follow-up care after diagnosis. Without a doubt, Latinas need better access to care and better quality of care when they do have access. But to get to one root of the problem, we need to prevent cervical cancer in the first place. Fortunately, we have a very effective way to do so: the HPV vaccine.
That’s why it’s disturbing to us that Latino parents are less likely to report that their provider recommended the HPV vaccine for their child(ren). Among a group of Latino parents in Yakima, 87% said that they would get their daughter vaccinated if their doctor recommended it, but only 46% had actually ever been offered the HPV vaccine!
We’re working to change that through a project offering targeted training to providers and staff in clinics that serve Latino families in western Washington. We talk about why the HPV vaccine is so important, how to make an effective recommendation, and how to have respectful and helpful conversations with parents about it. Luckily, we found a great partner for this work in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Inspired by its Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) launched a Community Health Improvement Grant program to addresses specific cancer screening, early detection, and prevention needs for at risk populations in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. Designed to build sustainable collaborations with Washington communities, SCCA selected seven local nonprofit organizations to receive funds in 2015, including WithinReach.
Finally, I can’t end this post without mentioning that the HPV vaccine prevents many different cancers that are caused by the human papillomavirus in both men and women, including cancers of the anus, oropharynx (throat area), and genitals. No one wants those diseases for their children. That’s why it’s important for both boys and girls to be immunized! And for providers out there interested in the latest on HPV immunization recommendations and how to navigate conversations with families, check out our free online CEU course.
Protecting newborns from whooping cough: a new protocol at WithinReach
A few weeks ago, WithinReach’s Immunization and Healthy Connections Teams collaborated to roll out a new conversation pathway with callers to the Family Health Hotline, where our friendly and informed staff helps callers understand and apply for a variety of food, health, and child development resources in Washington State. We are proud of the fact that all pregnant callers, or all callers who are in a household with a pregnant person, are now being advised of the recommendation that all pregnant women get a booster of the Tdap vaccine in every pregnancy. The Tdap booster ensures continued immunity from three diseases: tetanus diphtheria, and pertussis. We are particularly concerned about pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in Washington for several reasons:
- We are seeing a surge in new cases right now.
- Whooping cough makes babies very, very sick, and some die.
- Most babies who get whooping cough get it from a person in their household, particularly a parent.
- If the booster is given to the mother in the third trimester, some immunity will be conferred to the baby, offering some protection if the baby is exposed to an infected person.
- Babies cannot begin the vaccination series until they are 8 weeks old.
The above-listed reasons, combined with the fact that our Healthy Connections Team interfaces with more than 250,000 families per year, makes this the ideal venue to protect families from this disease. This recommendation is new, so many people may not have heard about it. To learn about the recommendations for pregnant women, read more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lastly, antibodies for pertussis wane over time, so it’s critical that everyone (regardless of if you are in contact with a pregnant woman) consult their doctor about a booster. In particular, adolescents are scheduled to get their booster dose of Tdap in the 11-12 age range. But outside of these groups, please make sure you’re up-to-date with your Tdap vaccine, especially if you did not get a booster as a teen or pre-teen. With waning immunity, risk increases, and the best thing you can do to protect a newborn is to ensure that you’re providing a disease-free cocoon around that child.
Do You Believe in Magic?
Dr. Paul A. Offit’s book Do you Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine examines the $34-billion-a-year business known as alternative medicine. Dr. Offit is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and a vocal advocate for immunizations.
Dr. Offit understands the allure of alternative medicine and begins with the story of his own disappointing experiences utilizing the modern healthcare system. He gets multiple incorrect diagnoses, including one which led him to believe he was dying from a fatal illness for two years. In another incident, he awoke from what he had been assured would be minor knee surgery to learn that it had been a major surgery which would take a year to recover from. Offit says, “the miscalculation didn’t seem to surprise or upset the orthopedist. But it upset me.” Through misadventures and mixed advice, Offit looks into the chasm between modern and alternative medicine.
Offit argues that the popularity of media celebrities who promote alternative therapies, such as Dr. Mehmet Oz, comes from their offer of “an instruction book for something that doesn’t come with instructions: life.” These superstars, as he calls them, claim that following their advice will enable you to live longer, love better, and raise happier children. Who doesn’t want the playbook for how to live life? Unfortunately, this playbook is often full of medicine that doesn’t work.
One chapter is dedicated to the myth that vaccines cause autism, a belief propagated by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy. Offit doesn’t fault parents for searching for a cause for their child’s autism. He understands how easy it is for parents to believe in untested theories and describes how the unfounded fear of vaccines has allowed a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States and incited parents to fear vaccines more than the diseases they prevent.
Part of the appeal of alternative medicine is that it is personalized. Offit acknowledges that modern medicine often leaves a patient feeling more like a number than an individual. He recognizes how the fluidity of modern medicine can be unsettling, highlighting that many alternative medicines have remained unchanged for hundreds even thousands of years, which begs the question: Haven’t we increased our knowledge of human anatomy and disease over these years?
The continual evolution of modern medicine should be comforting. We are constantly learning and applying that knowledge to medicine, which in turn adapts – resulting in new and changing treatments and recommendations.
Paul Offit is a supporter of medicine that works – he does not discriminate against type of medicine, whether alternative or conventional, he only distinguishes between medicine that can be proven to work and medicine that only pretends. Offit argues that proper evaluation of all medicine is paramount. With over 40 pages of notes and selected bibliography, Offit uses the platinum standard in scientific reasoning—a case-control study—to make his point. If the treatment proves to make a difference in comparison to its control than he simply calls it medicine that works. Summing up the timely takeaway message of the book, he writes:
“Although conventional therapies can be disappointing, alternative therapies shouldn’t be given a free pass. I learned that all therapies should be held to the same high standard of proof; otherwise we’ll continue to be hoodwinked by healers who ask us to believe in them rather than in the science that fails to support their claims. And it’ll happen when we’re most vulnerable, most willing to spend whatever it takes for the promise of a cure.”
Creating a Healthy Washington: The Pink Book Training
I have a strong belief that anyone who works in the field of public health is an everyday hero. These professionals work “behind the scenes” to keep us all safe and healthy every day, but their work largely goes unnoticed if they’re doing their jobs well. Immunization falls into this category; by getting kids immunized on-time, diseases that used to plague our community have nearly vanished.
But the job isn’t easy and it requires tremendous technical expertise. Vaccines need to be stored, timed, and dosed appropriately, and providers need to know of contraindications, among myriad other factors. It’s important that we consistently provide immunization champions and providers with the opportunity to stay abreast of immunization best practices as well as the science of vaccines, which includes the fields of immunology and virology.
This is why WithinReach is thrilled to be hosting The Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Course, colloquially known as The Pink Book Course (because of the pink book that contains all of the information from the course) September 15-17, 2015 at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma, WA. We are proud to offer this opportunity to health care providers in Washington State and beyond. Faculty from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases will present a live, two-day comprehensive review of immunization principles, as well as vaccine-preventable diseases and the recommended vaccines to prevent them. We’ve planned some great pre-course workshops as well, on topics from vaccine hesitancy to using our state’s immunization registry.
Perhaps most importantly, the course will bring together our colleagues, giving them the chance to learn and network. The course also offers 14 continuing education credits for just $250, making it an exceptional value. To learn more about the course, or to register, please visit the course website. Opportunities for comprehensive, inexpensive, and immunization-specific education are rare; we’re happy that we can organize this opportunity for our peers and we encourage you to spread the word. Reserve early to save your seat!
Immunization Promotion Hits Close To Home!
“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)
Expanding the frame: global-local vaccine links
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)
(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/