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MyIR makes accessing immunization records easy

When it comes to immunization records, most of us don’t realize how lucky we are to live in Washington State. When we get vaccinated, our vaccine history usually gets entered into our state’s immunization information system (IIS). This helps healthcare providers and school nurses track vaccine records. When you change healthcare providers, this database eliminates the need to transfer immunization records. Most healthcare providers enter vaccines into the IIS; ask if yours does and encourage them to if they don’t!

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/.

Tags: immunizations   myIR   preventable diseases   vaccines   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   

Promoting a healthy Washington: the Pink Book Course

Last month, more than 450 health professionals gathered at the Pink Book Course in Tacoma, Washington to learn the latest recommendations from the world of immunizations. WithinReach hosted the Pink Book Course, also known as the Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, to provide our front-line clinicians and managers with the latest immunization and vaccine information. The Pink Book Course was brought back by popular demand; the last training in Washington State was hosted by WithinReach in 2011, and the demand is consistent, with each training selling out.This course was packed full of important immunization recommendations. Vaccine experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented material over two days covering every vaccine-preventable disease and the vaccine used to prevent it. The Pink Book gets its name from the actual 400+ page pink book, weighing over 2 ½ pounds, which contains all of the material covered during the training.
The training draws professionals from many fields including medical assistants, nurses, physicians, clinic managers and staff from local and state health departments. Attendees hailed from nearly all Washington counties and at least six other states. Individuals attended to learn from the CDC experts in order to provide precise, accurate immunization care and referrals to their patients. Each disease and vaccine section was followed by the CDC experts answering questions from attendees. These sections gave a clear indication of the need for this information sharing and will undoubtedly result in better care for Washington residents. Vaccine science is a changing field, and keeping up with the latest recommendations can be challenging, which is why WithinReach hosts this training. We are dedicated to making the connections Washington families need to be healthy and the Pink Book Course helps keep our clinicians and public health professionals up-to-date on the latest standards. We are lucky to have dedicated public health professionals in Washington State who take advantage of training opportunities and strive to stay current with emerging information. Washington State’s immunization professionals are unsung heroes preventing diseases from spreading and protecting our most vulnerable residents: the young, the old, and the immunocompromised. Thanks to those that attended the training for working to keep our state free of preventable disease!

Tags: CDC   immunizations   Pink Book Course   preventable diseases   Public Health   vaccines   Washington state   

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.

 

 

Tags: cervical cancer   HPV   HPV vaccine   immunizations   preventable diseases   Public Health   Seattle Cancer Care Alliance   vaccines   Yakima   

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.

Tags: CDC   Family Health Hotline   immunizations   pregnancy   preventable diseases   Public Health   Tdap   vaccines   whooping cough   

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.”

Tags: alternative medicine   Autism   Dr. Paul Offit   immunizations   preventable diseases   Public Health   vaccines   WithinReach   

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, WAWe 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!

 

Tags: Center for Disease Control   immunizations   Pink Book Course   preventable diseases   Tacoma   vaccines   

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   

“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   

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