Category Archives: Vaccines

Apr 15 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: April 15

Small Amounts of Daily Exercise Can Help Teens Quit Smoking
As little as 30 minutes of daily exercise can help kids quit smoking, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. It can also help to reduce tobacco use. Researchers found that daily smokers were more likely to reduce or quit smoking if they combined a fitness program with a smoking cessation program, rather than just a cessation program alone. Every teen in the study smoked an average of half a pack of cigarettes each weekday and a full pack a day on weekends. And that was just one of the poor health habits of many of the participants. "It is not unusual for teenage smokers to engage in other unhealthy habits,” said author Kimberly Horn, associate dean for research at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. “Smoking and physical inactivity, for instance, often go hand in hand.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 13 percent of Americans age 18 and under smoke tobacco. Read more on tobacco.

Study: Low Food Security, Exposure to Violence Closely Linked
There is a close correlation between low food security and exposure to violence, according to a new study in Public Health Nutrition. Researchers spoke with forty-four mothers of children age 3 and under who participated in public assistance programs, finding increased exposure to violence, which in turn increased the chance of negative mental health, an inability to continue school and an inability to make a living wage.  The violence included child abuse, neglect and rape. The study clearly demonstrates the need to consider and include violence prevention efforts when establishing policies to deal with hunger. Read more on violence.

Size of Parents’ Social Groups Can Affect Whether Kids are Vaccinated
What they hear from friends and the people in their social group may affect whether parents have their children vaccinated, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Parents who were less likely to vaccinate were also more likely to have large social groups and rely on books, pamphlets and the Internet for information on vaccines. "I think that what needs to be done is that everybody needs to understand the importance of vaccines,” said Joseph Anthony Bocchini, Jr., MD, chairman of Pediatrics Medicine at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. “And they're not only important for the people who receive them but they're also important for the community." About 95 percent of kindergarten-aged children are appropriately vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on vaccines.

Apr 2 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: April 2

Study: Chickenpox Vaccine Provides Long-Term Protection
A new study published online in the journal Pediatrics confirmed that the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is effective at preventing chicken pox, and that the effectiveness does not wane over a 14-year period. One dose provided excellent protection against moderate to severe disease. Consistent protection was important because chickenpox infection in older teens and adults can be much more serious than it generally is in childhood, according to the study author, in an interview with HealthDay. The study data also suggest that the vaccine may also reduce the risks of shingles, another type of infection caused by the chickenpox virus that tends to affect people later in life. The study followed a total of 7,585 children vaccinated with varicella vaccine in their second year of life in 1995 for 14 years to see if they developed either chickenpox or shingles. Read more on vaccination.

EPA Proposes Measures to Cut Air Pollution, Improve Population Health
Based on input from auto manufacturers, refiners, and states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards for cars and gasoline that will significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses. Once fully in place, experts say the standards will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children. The measures will also prevent 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits, and 1.8 million lost school days, work days and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution. Total health-related benefits in 2030 are expected to be between $8 and $23 billion annually. The new standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent, which will also enable vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently. Read more on environmental health.

New Jersey Bans Children from Tanning Beds
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law on Monday banning children under 17 from using commercial tanning beds. Tanning before age 35 has been shown to increase the risk for melanoma by 75 percent. The new law also bans children under 14 from getting spray tans in tanning salons, which could impact social norms around young teens wanting to look tan if their friends look tan. Read more on safety.

Mar 29 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: March 29

Analysis: ‘Big Box’ Stores Offer Best Costs on Prescription Drugs
People looking to save money on generic prescription drugs should ask their pharmacists about comparison shopping and should generally look to big box stories rather than smaller pharmacies, according to a new analysis by Consumer Reports. The report found the lowest prices at Costco and the highest at CVS Caremark. "Especially for the independent pharmacies, if they want to retain your business and loyalty, they will help you get the best price," said Lisa Gill, an editor at Consumer Reports. "It really comes down to a store's business model. For example, big box stores tend to use their pharmacies as a way to get consumers through the door with the expectation that they'll buy other things.” Read more on prescription drugs.

CDC: Sharp Increase in Valley Fever in Past Decade
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified changes in weather, an increase in population of changes in disease detection and reporting as possible explanations for the dramatic increase in Valley Fever from 1998 to 2011. In Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah there were about 22,000 cases in 2011; there were only 2,265 in 1998. The fungal respiratory infection, caused by a fungus found in the southwestern United States, is caused by flu-like symptoms that can lead to hospitalization. "Valley Fever is causing real health problems for many people living in the southwestern United States," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. "Because fungus particles spread through the air, it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid exposure to this fungus in these hardest-hit states. It’s important that people be aware of Valley Fever if they live in or have travelled to the southwest United States." Read more on infectious disease.

CDC Study Offers More Proof of Non-link Between Vaccines, Autism
A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics offers yet more scientific proof that there is no link between vaccinations and autism. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that exposure to vaccine antigens was the same for kids with and without autism. "This should give more reassurance to parents," said lead researcher Frank DeStefano, MD, director of the CDC's Immunization Safety Office. A small study in the Lancet in 1998 originally linked vaccinations and autism; the study has since been retracted. Still, about one-third of parents believe young children receive too many vaccinations and that they could lead to autism. Read more on vaccines.

Mar 18 2013
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Faces of Public Health: Mary Selecky Looks Back

Mary Selecky, Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky, Washington State Secretary of Health

Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky has announced her retirement from state service.  Selecky has served under three governors since her initial appointment as acting secretary in October 1998. She also served two terms as president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, served on the board of the National Association of County and City Health Officials and is a past president of the Washington State Association of Local Public Health Officials. In 2010, Selecky received the American Medical Association's Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service.

NewPublicHealth Health spoke with Mary Selecky about her public health career and accomplishments.

NewPublicHealth: Your tenure has spanned many public health game changers. What stands out to you as the greatest triumphs and greatest threats in Washington State?

Mary Selecky: In terms of greatest triumphs, a key one is that we took on the issue of tobacco use in Washington State. Tobacco would be at the top of my list because of the health impact it has had and because it really is something that can be prevented by getting the right information out to people. It has taken us decades for the public to get it that smoking kills.

We had an announcement about tobacco yesterday, in fact. Among our 10th-graders, 9.5 percent used a cigarette in the last 30 days, and our rate has dropped from two years ago, even though across the nation the rate has flattened. So we’re doing something right. We’re a smoke-free state—not just tobacco-free but smoke free. And that really has the most profound influence on people’s health.

On the other hand, tobacco is also our greatest threat, because the tobacco companies continue to spend more than $140 million in this state to get you to use their product or to switch products, and we know they’ve moved to point-of-sale marketing. If you go into the smaller stores particularly, you’re greeted by all these tobaccos posters on the windows, inside the shop and on the counter. Those kinds of things are going on every single day—and every year there’s a new crop of 10th-graders. So it disturbs me that so many of our states have reduced tobacco prevention programs and that, as a result, nationally we’re not making much headway.

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Jan 30 2013
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U.S. Public Health School Deans Protest Sham Vaccine Campaign in Pakistan

Earlier this month, the deans of twelve graduate schools of public health, including Harvard, Columbia and Johns Hopkins, sent a letter to the White House, signing as individuals, to protest the reported use by the CIA of a fake polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan to gain information on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. In the letter the deans say that as a result of the fake campaign, medical groups running long-standing vaccination programs have been asked to leave Pakistan. And in December, at least eight polio vaccination workers were assassinated in Pakistan and the U.N. polio eradication program was suspended.

“[C]ontaminating humanitarian and public health programs with covert activities threatens the present participants and future potential of much of what we undertake internationally to improve health,” the deans wrote.

Suspension of vaccine efforts can also pose risks to countries beyond the developing world. According to Johns Hopkins research, Pakistan is one of only three countries where wild polio transmission still occurs.

>>Bonus Link: Read a New York Times article published in late December on other third world vaccination efforts that have come under threat in recent years. 

Jan 30 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: January 30

CDC: Adult Vaccine Rates “Unacceptable Low”
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that current adult vaccine rates are “unacceptably low” in the United States. The vaccines that need improvement prevent diseases such as pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis, shingles and whooping cough. Pneumonia alone killed approximately 4,000 people in the country in 2011, with most of those over the age of 50. The CDC recommends adults speak with their health care providers about which vaccines they may need. Read more on vaccines.

Non-drug Treatments Have Little Effect on ADHD
Non-drug interventions do little to address key symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study found no positive effects from treatments such as cognitive training, neurofeedback and behavioral training, and little benefits from with dietary treatments. Study author Emily Simonoff, MD, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King's College London, said it’s important for families to realize that in addition to being ineffective, non-drug interventions can also have adverse effects. "For example, does a highly selective diet limit the way a child can play and socialize, making them feel different from their friends? And for parents, if a child doesn't improve under these therapies, does it affect how the parents feel about themselves?" Approximately 3 to 7 percent of U.S. children have ADHD, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Read more on mental health.

CDC Report to Help Combat Future Foodborne Illnesses, Set Policy
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its first ever comprehensive report on the food sources of all foodborne illnesses. The paper uses historical data to determine how many illnesses are caused by individual food categories, which will give CDC and other organizations a solid foundation on which to establish new food safety interventions and policies. The report appears in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Read more on infectious diseases.

Jan 24 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: January 24

Quitting Smoking Adds Back Years to Life Expectancy
The earlier someone quits smoking, the greater the health benefits, according to two new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine. The first study found that smoking reduces life expectancy by an average of 10 years, but people who quit between the ages of 25 and 34 can gain those 10 years back. People who quit late also gain years, though not as many. The second study found women now have the same death rates as men for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other tobacco-related diseases. “These studies are a timely reminder to the nation's elected officials that the battle against tobacco is far from over, but they can accelerate progress by implementing proven strategies to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting to smoke in the first place,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a release. Read more on tobacco.

Study: Rotavirus Vaccine in Kids also Helps Protect Unvaccinated Adults
By reducing the amount of rotavirus in a community, vaccinating children against the disease can also help unvaccinated adults stay healthy, according to a new study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. The disease causes several gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea and vomiting, and can be deadly. Researchers compared patient samples from before and after widespread implementation of the vaccine in children, finding the number of unvaccinated adults who contracted the disease was cut in half after implementation. Rotavirus in adults costs about $152 million in inpatient hospital charges annually. Read more on vaccines.

Report: ‘One Size Fits All’ Approach Wrong For Treating Veterans with CMI
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should tailor its treatment of chronic multisymptom illness (CMI) to meet the different needs of veterans, rather than rely on a “one size fits all” approach, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Veterans with CMI (formerly called Gulf War Syndrome) have chronic symptoms in at least two of six categories for at least six months: fatigue; mood and cognition; musculoskeletal; gastrointestinal; respiratory; and neurologic. “[W]e endorse individualized health care management plans as the best approach for treating this very real, highly diverse condition,” said committee chair Bernard M. Rosof, chair of the board of directors at Huntington Hospital, Huntington, N.Y., in a release. Among the report’s recommendations is that veterans receive a comprehensive health examination immediately after leaving active duty, and making the results available to health care providers both inside and outside the VA health system. Read more on access to health care.

Jan 18 2013
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PHLR 2013: What Works to Convince Health Workers to get Their Flu Shot?

The timeliest presentation at this year’s Public Health Law Research Program annual meeting taking place this week in New Orleans was likely the study presented by Richard Zimmerman, MD, MPH, and a professor of family medicine at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine. Zimmerman’s research looked at factors—including hospital policies—that help drive health workers to get a flu shot. The study looked at 429 hospitals in 41 states and found that 31 employed a mandate that fired workers who refused a flu shot, while 131 has other types of mandated requirements. For example, a health worker who refused the flu shot was required to wear a mask at all times while on the job during flu season.

NewPublicHealth: Tell us about your study.

Dr. Zimmerman: It was essentially a nationwide study that looked at the worker vaccination rate and what policies to use to increase vaccination rates. Factors associated with the highest rates are hospital mandates, either making vaccination a condition of employment or requiring safeguards such as mandating that health workers who don’t get a flu shot wear a mask during the flu season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goal for the percentage of health workers getting flu shots is 90 percent, but many institutions achieve rates in the 60 percent to 75 percent range.

NPH: How do you increase that?

Dr. Zimmerman: It’s a high bar. We see over a decade that we’ve moved from the 40s to the 60s, but I fear we are going to plateau at the 65 to 75 percent ranges.

NPH: What reasons do workers, and the general public, give for not getting the flu vaccine

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Jan 17 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: January 17

HHS Launches Year-Long National Dialogue on Mental Illness
As part of the effort toward helping to reduce gun violence in the country, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced some new initiatives. HHS Secretary Sebelius says the agency will join with private and public partners to launch a year-long national dialogue on youth and mental illness, engaging parents, peers and teachers to reduce negative attitudes toward people with mental illness, to recognize warning signs and to improve access to treatment. Read more on mental health.

IOM Committee Says Current Childhood Immunization Schedule Is Safe
An Institute of Medicine report released yesterday supports the safety of the federal childhood immunization schedule, but recommends that it be monitored. The current schedule calls for 24 immunizations by age 2 which results in some parents delaying vaccines, sometimes out of fear that too many simultaneous vaccines may pose a safety risk. The IOM panel said there is no evidence that a different schedule would be safer. Read more on vaccines.

Take a Night to Count — and Help — the Homeless
During the last ten days of January, tens of thousands of volunteers in more than 3,000 U.S. cities and counties will join in Make Everyone Count, a national effort to count the number of homeless adults and youth in shelters and on the streets. The counts provide local planners with both the number and characteristics of people who are homeless to help them develop targeted responses. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides grants for the counts, being able to determine how many people are homeless and why is critical to helping to end homelessness. Volunteer by contacting homeless organizations in your area. Listen to a public service announcement on counting the homeless Make Everyone Count," by musician Cyndi Lauper.

Study Finds PE Requirement at Universities at All-time Low
A new study from the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences finds that the number of college students required to take physical education and exercise requirements is at an all-time low of 39 percent. The researchers looked at data from 354 randomly chosen four-year universities and colleges going back to 1920, a year when 97 percent of students were required to take physical education. Oregon State still requires physical education courses and lead researcher Brad Cardinal says requiring PE sets the tone for students to understand that being active and healthy is as important as their academic courses. Cardinal says he thinks budget cuts and an increased focus on purely academic courses are factors behind the reduction in college PE. And Cardinal says that campus fitness centers don’t take the place of required courses because they can be intimidating for many students. Read more on physical activity.

Dec 3 2012
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National Influenza Vaccination Week: It's Not Too Late

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The proportion of flu-related doctor visits has reached a nine-year high for this time of year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as reported by USA TODAY. Correct anyone who tells you it’s too late to get a flu shot, though. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intentionally schedules National Influenza Vaccination Week in December as a reminder to get the shot for the many millions of Americans who still haven’t.

 “Flu season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated now.”

December holiday gatherings are optimal opportunities to spread the flu, and since it takes up to two weeks for full immunity to take effect, this week is a good time to roll up your sleeve if you’re still shot-less.

Flu shots come in several varieties. Children who never had a flu shot need two doses the first year they get the vaccine. There’s a nasal spray for adults 18-49 and a higher dose version for people 65 and older. Learn more from the CDC about different versions of the flu shot and what might be best for you and your family.