Category Archives: Vaccines

Fighting the Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric with Science

In the interest of promoting more robust discourse around the importance of regular vaccinations for serious but preventable contagious conditions, MHA@GW is hosting a guest post series in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). During the month of August,they’re featuring blogs from thought leaders and advocates who were asked to answer the question, “Why immunize in 2015?” You can read an excerpt of Violent Metaphors‘ Jennifer Raff here, and be sure to read on to explore more posts. MHA@GW is the online master of health administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.

“It’s critical that we continue to talk about immunization, because vaccine opponents are relentless — see the comments on my piece here for many examples of the bad science and provocative rhetoric they employ.

Speaking up is the most important step, letting parents know that their decision to vaccinate is the safest and most common way people protect their children. The anti-vaccine minority is disproportionately loud, partly because vaccines are so safe, so effective and so ubiquitous that they become part of the background landscape of parenting. Fortunately, in reaction to harmful pseudoscientific scaremongering and events like the Disneyland outbreak, people are motivated to speak out in favor of vaccines.

It matters how we talk about vaccines, too. Here is where there is the most room for improvement in 2015. Writers want the discussion to be dramatic and too often try to paint “anti-vaxxers” as demonic or vile. Or they try to use the vaccine debate as a weapon in the larger culture wars. This leads to the media (and many well-meaning science writers) giving too much weight to vaccine opponents, creating the false perception that there is a “growing movement.” Another problem is that the default images associated with stories on vaccinations are often distressed children and menacing needles. These approaches can have the unfortunate effect of recruiting more people to the anti-vaccine community, as Dan Kahan has pointed out in his piece in Science Magazine and on his blog.

Continue reading Fighting the Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric with Science

The Push to End Meningitis Cases and Outbreaks: MHA@GW Observes National Immunization Awareness Month

Featured photo: A child receives a meningitis vaccination at the Al Neem Camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in El Daein, East Darfur, Sudan. UN Photo/Albert González Farran

In the interest of promoting more robust discourse around the importance of regular vaccinations for serious but preventable contagious conditions, MHA@GW is hosting a guest post series in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). During the month of August, we’re featuring blogs from thought leaders and advocates who were asked to answer the question, “Why immunize in 2015?” You can read an excerpt of National Meningitis Association President Lynn Bozof’s guest post here, and be sure to read on to explore more posts. MHA@GW is the online master of health administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.

“Evan had meningococcal meningitis, a multi-syllabic disease that kills rapidly, without mercy. For weeks, Evan struggled to fight the infection. We were surrounded by doctors and medical teams. We clung to any indication that he might live. But one complication followed another — extremely low blood pressure, damage to the lungs and liver, gangrene of the limbs followed by amputation of all his limbs, seizures and finally, irreversible brain damage. Evan died 26 days after his first phone call to us.

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Meningococcal disease, also known as bacterial meningitis, is difficult to say but simple to prevent with a vaccine. Meningitis kills 10 to 15 percent of the people who get it. About 20 percent of those who survive will suffer serious, long-term complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, loss of kidney function or amputations.

When my son died, there were no routine recommendations for meningococcal vaccination. Now, in part because of years of advocacy from awareness groups and families, we have recommendations in place to protect adolescents and young adults.” Read the rest of her post here.
Continue reading The Push to End Meningitis Cases and Outbreaks: MHA@GW Observes National Immunization Awareness Month

Immunizing an Aging Europe: MHA@GW Observes National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM)

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In the interest of promoting more robust discourse around the importance of regular vaccinations for serious but preventable contagious conditions, MHA@GW is hosting a guest post series in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). During the month of August, we’re featuring blogs from thought leaders and advocates who were asked to answer the question, “Why immunize in 2015?” You can read an excerpt of Vaccines Today Editor Gary Finnegan’s piece here, and be sure to read on to explore more posts. MHA@GW is the online master of health administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.

“Europe has a lot going for it. Health services are, for the most part, excellent and easily accessible. Immunization is free and childhood vaccine schedules are well established. The trouble is that most Europeans think vaccination begins and ends in childhood. The consequences of this are very real.

Take Europe’s ongoing measles outbreak. There have been 4,000 cases in the European Union and thousands more in neighboring countries. 70 percent of the EU cases have been in German and Italy — two of the most developed nations in the world.Many children have caught the virus and, tragically, a toddler in Berlin died from the disease. But there are also many outbreaks in adolescents and young adults — most of whom missed out on crucial vaccines when the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) uptake dropped in the late 1990s.” Read the rest of his post here.

Sophia Bernazzani is the community manager for MHA@GW and MPH@GW, both offered by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. She’s passionate about global health, nutrition, and sustainability. Follow her on Twitter.

[Photos] Haiti Works Toward Eliminating Maternal Tetanus

Casimer Dieuvela, 24 years old and five months pregnant, lives two to three hours walk from her monthly health post in Deschappelles, Haiti, but she goes despite the distance to receive her tetanus shot.

It’s her third time coming to the health post run by health agent Junior Exanthus and arranged by Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS). Dieuvela brings her daughter to receive her full course of vaccinations. HAS also immunizes pregnant women for tetanus. Last year there were 1,332 first doses and boosters administered.

“I heard through a neighbor about the health post,” Dieuvela said through translation. “I come because it is good for my health. It is important to me.”

Maternal and newborn tetanus (MNT) is an extremely deadly disease, but can be prevented through immunization, proper cord care, and hygienic birthing practices. Without care and immunizations, tetanus has a 100 percent death rate. In Haiti 1.3 million women between the ages of 15 – 49 are at risk of contracting tetanus.

Maternal Tetanus
Women receiving the maternal tetanus shot at a health post in Deschappelles, Haiti

The World Health Organization effectively started initiative campaigns to eliminate maternal tetanus in 1999 with a goal year of reaching the goal by 2015. Thus far, 36 of highly affected countries have reached their goal to eliminate maternal tetanus. Haiti is not one of those countries. In fact, Haiti accounts for 50 percent of all maternal and newborn cases of tetanus in the Western Hemisphere.

Since 1999, 129.5 million expectant women have been immunized against tetanus. According to the WHO, MNT remains a major public health problem in 23 countries.

In 2013, Minister of Health of Haiti Florence D. Guillaume said during a vaccine drive in Port-au-Prince, “Vaccination has always been a priority for prevention and improving health and today we are reaffirming that commitment.”

Expectant women receiving tetanus vaccine in Deschappelles, Haiti.
Expectant women receiving tetanus vaccine in Deschappelles, Haiti.

In order to eliminate maternal tetanus, more women in remote areas need to be vaccinated. GAVI has committed to over $20 million dollars in vaccines and health systems strengthening through 2020. As of Feb 28, 2015, a little over $10 million has been disbursed.