Category Archives: Vaccines
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 A small study in the Lancet in 1998 originally linked vaccinations and autism; the study has since been retracted.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
More than Half of Young People With HIV Go Undiagnosed
About 60 percent of people ages 13 to 24 who are infected with HIV don’t even know it, according to a new Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report, which comes shortly before World AIDS Day on December 1, found about 12,200 new infections in that age group in 2010. The rates were the highest for African Americans and gay and bisexual men. The high number of undiagnosed HIV cases is in part because only 35 percent of 18-24 year olds and only 13 percent of high school students have been tested. “That so many young people become infected with HIV each year is a preventable tragedy,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “All young people can protect their health, avoid contracting and transmitting the virus, and learn their HIV status.” Read more on HIV/AIDS.
Study: Whooping Cough Vaccines Weakens Over Time
The 2010 pertussis—or whooping cough—outbreak in California indicates the vaccine guarding against it weakens over time, so health officials may need to revise the vaccination schedule, according to a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The outbreak killed 10 infants and sickened more than 9,000. There have been more than 36,000 cases in the United States this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that while the vaccine was effective when given to infants, by the time those children were 7 to 10 years of age it had weakened and left them more vulnerable to the disease. "Within the first few years, the vaccine's efficacy was around 98 percent," said Lara Misegades, study author and a CDC epidemiologist."Five or more years out, the vaccine effectiveness had dropped to about 71 percent." The DTaP vaccine also immunizes against diphtheria and tetanus. Read more on vaccines.
Court Orders Tobacco Companies to Fund a Media Campaign Admitting Deceptions
A U.S. District Court has ruled that several major tobacco companies must pay for and run a public advertising campaign admitting they spent years lying about the dangers of tobacco. The ruling is part of the case brought in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Justice. The details of the campaign are not finalized and the decision may be appealed. The media campaign, which could run for up to two years, would include messaging such as "Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day." "Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, according to Reuters. Read more on tobacco.
Airport Secondhand Smoke Puts Travelers, Employees at Risk
Just as many Americans are about to board flights for Thanksgiving travel, a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reminding the public that secondhand smoke inside airports puts air travelers and employees at risk. The new study, which looked at air quality at five large U.S. airports, including Dulles International in Washington, D.C., found that the air pollution from secondhand smoke is five times higher outside smoking rooms and other designated smoking areas than in smoke-free airports. And pollution levels inside smoking rooms were 23 times higher than levels in smoke-free airports.
The study also found that five of the 29 largest airports in the United States allow smoking in designated areas that are accessible to the public, including restaurants and bars. "Prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas is the only effective way to fully eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Tim McAfee, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children. Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger acute cardiac events such as heart attack, according to the CDC. Read more on tobacco.
Family Seat Belt Use at Record High
Close to 90 percent of families traveling by car during Thanksgiving will buckle their seatbelts, according to a new survey from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to NHTSA's annual National Occupant Protection Use Survey, seat belt use has steadily increased since 1994. The record high of 86 percent in 2012 is a two percent increase over the previous year. Among the most dramatic increases in seat belt use were in the southern region of the United States, which rose to 85 percent in 2012—up from 80 percent in 2011. Seat belt use continues to be higher in states that have primary belt laws, which permit law enforcement officers to issue citations to motorists solely for not using a seat belt, rather than requiring additional traffic violations in order to stop a car.
Nationwide, 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed primary laws requiring seat belt use, and another 17 states have passed secondary laws. New Hampshire is the only state that has not enacted either a primary or secondary seat belt law, though the state's primary child passenger safety law applies to all drivers and passengers under the age of 18. Read more on injury prevention.
FDA Approves First Flu Vaccine Using Cell Culture Technology
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Flucelvax, the first seasonal flu vaccine licensed in the United States that is manufactured using cultured animal cells instead of fertilized chicken eggs. A key advantage of the cell-based method is that it takes about half the time to manufacture the cell-based vaccine than it does to grow the vaccine in eggs, which is especially important if a vaccine is needed quickly for a pandemic. In clinical trials, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine were very similar to egg-based ones. Read more on vaccines.