Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Flu Vaccine Works

Duke University Medical Center released a study a couple of weeks ago that showed 91% of patients who are in the intensive care unit (ICU) with influenza this season did not have a seasonal flu vaccine. Another 67% of those admitted to the hospital with less severe cases of the flu also weren't vaccinated. The bottom line is, the flu vaccine works.

The study examined only 55 patients who were admitted to the Duke Medical Center between November of 2013 and January of 2014. But, the cases were well documented. 47% of patients were Caucasian, 42% were African-American and 6% were Hispanic. 49% of patients were in the 18-49 age range, with the median age at 28.5. 33% of the patients were ages 50 to 64.

Duke's numbers are consistent with the national trend this year, that the flu is affecting young or middle aged adults more than infants, toddlers and seniors, who are always at high risk. Patients who were vaccinated but still had the flu had disorders that rendered them immunocompromised, therefore causing the vaccine ineffective.

Cameron R. Wolfe, M.D. was co-author of the study and stated: "Even if you get influenza, the vaccine reduces the likelihood of truly serious disease. These people on the intensive care unit are very sick. If you end up there, you're going to be battling a month or more of hospitalization." Five of the 22 ICU patients had died by the time the study was published.

It's not too late to get a flu vaccine. The FluView shows the states that are still having high flu activity levels. The vaccine generally takes 10-14 days to become effective. Vaccine Watch encourages people with questions and concerns to consult their physician about the flu vaccine options available.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

High Rate of Adult Deaths from Vaccine Preventable Diseases

The University of Colorado School of Medicine recently released the results of a study showing that adult vaccination rates for vaccine preventable diseases are remaining low. This news came after the report that adults make up 95% of the annual death rate for vaccine preventable diseases. The death rate is currently at 30,000 people per year. These facts represent a growing public health concern.

Laura Hurley, MD, MPH is an assistant professor of medicine at the CU School of Medicine and was the lead author. “Our study suggests that missed opportunities for adult vaccination are common because vaccination status is not being assessed at every (physician’s) visit, which is admittedly an ambitious goal. Also, most physicians are not stocking all recommended vaccines.”

There are eleven recommended adult vaccines. Estimates have shown that only 62-65% of adults over age 65 received a pneumococcal or influenza vaccine. A dismal 20% of high-risk adults between the ages of 19 and 65 received a pneumococcal vaccine and only 16% of those 60 or older got their shingles vaccine.

“Physicians reported a variety of barriers to vaccine stocking and administration, but financial barriers dominated the list,” Hurley continues. “Physicians in smaller, private practice often assume more risks from stocking expensive vaccine inventories and may be particularly affected by these financial barriers.” Physicians also struggle to get reimbursed by insurance companies, a problem that discourages them from stocking vaccines. Physicians choose to refer patients to pharmacies or public health facilities for vaccination.

“I feel we need to take a more systematic approach to this issue,” Hurley concludes. “As the population ages this could easily grow into a more serious public health issue.”

Vaccine Watch recommends all adults speak with their physician about recommended vaccines and take the necessary steps to insure they are protected from vaccine preventable diseases.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What is the Alternative Vaccine Schedule?

This article was originally published by WebMD.

By Katherine Karn
WebMD Feature

Experts debate the pros and cons of the alternative vaccine schedule and what it means for parents.

When pediatrician Robert W. Sears, MD, FAAP, wrote The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, he envisioned giving parents more choices on how to vaccinate their children if they were concerned about a vaccine’s side effects or ingredients or the large number of shots that kids receive today.
 “A lot of parents don’t really trust the vaccine system,” Sears says. “I felt that if I could give parents a better understanding of vaccines -- as well as an alternative way to approach giving vaccines -- then these families who otherwise might not vaccinate could go ahead and feel comfortable with vaccinating.”
Sears, who practices in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., says that he isn't against vaccinations. Instead, his book suggests an untraditional “alternative” schedule that delays shots or spaces them further apart. If parents are skittish about any shots at all, he offers a separate “selective” schedule to encourage them to give their kids at least the "bare minimum" of vaccinations.
But public health officials say that those approaches leave too many kids unprotected for too long and aren’t backed up by science.
“These altered schedules have not been studied at all,” says Meg Fisher, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of the Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center in New Jersey and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' section on infectious diseases. "I would rather stay with what we know is the most likely to protect the most people."

Regular, Alternative, Selective Vaccine Schedules

The regular vaccine schedule for children aged 0-6 is approved by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
It recommends 25 shots in the first 15 months of life. The shots immunize against whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, tetanus, mumps, measles, rubella, rotavirus, polio, hepatitis B, and other diseases.
The alternative and selective vaccination schedules aren't reviewed or approved by the CDC or other public health group. They come solely from Sears.
Sears’ alternative vaccine schedule spreads the shots out over a longer period of time, up to age 5-6 years. For instance, he recommends not giving kids more than two vaccines at a time. It also changes the order of vaccines, prioritizing what Sears believes are the most crucial vaccines to get, based on how common and severe the diseases are.
As Sears writes, “If some of the theoretical problems with vaccines are real, this schedule circumvents most of them. If the problems aren’t real, then the only drawback is the extra time, effort, and cost for the additional doctor’s office visits.”
For parents who are the most reluctant to vaccinate, his selective vaccination schedule includes what he calls the "bare minimum" vaccinations against serious and common diseases, such as whooping cough and rotavirus. It also omits some vaccines, including the one for polio.

Vaccine Watch encourages parents considering the alternative vaccine schedule to consult their pediatrician.