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Vax Northwest

New frontiers in vaccine hesitancy research: a border-spanning collaboration

An exciting project is taking shape at WithinReach. After nine years of extraordinary work in the vaccine hesitancy field, Vax Northwest is embarking on a new project, and we’re doing so with new partners—
a wide range of researchers from, or interested in, the midwifery community who come from both the United States and Canada.

Midwives are a very influential group of health care providers. Midwives attend 8.3% of births in the United States [1], but their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about vaccines have not been robustly studied. Likewise, we know very little about the people who seek care from the midwifery community. In our attempt to engage as many leverage points as possible in building vaccine confidence, Vax Northwest has elected to focus on the midwifery community.

On January 10th, more than 20 researchers and practitioners from the fields of midwifery, naturopathy, allopathic medicine, public health, pediatrics, and anthropology, among others, came together at WithinReach to define a research agenda related to midwives (and other perinatal providers to a lesser extent). We had a rich and varied conversation that culminated in three research questions that Vax Northwest and our partners will address going forward:

    1) What are the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of midwives toward vaccines? (Are they advocates of vaccines?
    Do they want to be advocates of vaccines? What support is needed to become better vaccine advocates?)

    2) What are the characteristics of people who seek midwifery care? (Are they more likely to be vaccine hesitant? Are they dissatisfied with ‘traditional’ medicine?)

    3) What is the vaccination status of children in Washington, by the type of provider who attended their birth (midwife, physician, etc.)? Is there an association between provider type and immunization status?

“As an observer, it was a fascinating experience to listen to experts in various fields discuss current information and determine what new information is needed before deciding on specific research questions. Since the influence of the midwifery community on the decision to vaccinate children has not been studied, it will be exciting to see how these new research questions will help us better understand vaccine hesitancy” noted Cristina Cardenas, a WithinReach AmeriCorps service member, who participated in the meeting and has a special interest in immunizations.

Making policy, decisions, or interventions based off anecdotal evidence can be ineffective, or even worse, backfire. That’s why Vax Northwest has such a strong focus on creating a research foundation before we act. After several years of sharing the informative and well-received results of our previous research, we’re excited to be breaking new ground with this project and adding to the vaccine hesitancy research base. As always, we’ll do so in collaboration with the right partners with the goal of keeping all Washington families thriving and healthy.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_12.pdf

Tags: Canada   immunizations   midwife   midwifery care   research   vaccines   Vax Northwest   Washington state   

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   

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   

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

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

 

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

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   

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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