Category Archives: Immunization News & Outbreaks

 

The Importance of Being on Time: Why the Vaccine Schedule Benefits Young Children

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Posted on August 14th, 2017

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week’s focus is on giving children “a healthy start” through immunization. Right from birth, children are at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases that can result in severe consequences. Thankfully, vaccines are available to help protect babies when they are most vulnerable and offer protection throughout childhood and into adulthood. Now, we have more protection than ever for young children, with immunizations against 14 serious diseases! These vaccines work best when given according to the recommended schedules for ages 0-6 years and 7-18 years. Our guest blogger, Dr. Lynne Tetreault, is here to share her perspective as a Maine pediatrician on this important topic.

By Lynne Tetreault, MD – Updated August 2017

Happy almost back to school time! Like many parents this time of year, you may be trying to squeeze in the last few days of summer while making sure that your kids have what they need for school. You may also be preparing to return to a normal daily routine. Helping children adjust to the school schedule can prepare them for a successful year. But the school schedule isn’t the only one to think about – the immunization schedule is another important tool to help children thrive. Even if you have children who are too young for school, now is a great time to check their immunization record to be sure they up-to-date on their vaccines and that they get their next vaccines on time.

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Want a Better Vacation? Prevent Illness!

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Posted on June 24th, 2016

Summer vacation begins at most Maine schools this week, college students are leaving campuses, and many families are packing up for fun family trips over the break. No matter where you plan to go, a little advance planning will help you return safe, healthy and happy. By preparing your family with necessary medications, immunizations, and other preventive techniques, you can help ensure that illness isn’t one of your souvenirs.

Traveling with kids is a wonderful way to expand their horizons while strengthening family relationships. Whether you are on a camping trip or a cruise ship, the time you spend together away from your daily routines can be magical and create treasured memories. Travel exposes us to new sights, traditions, people, ideas … and germs. Several cases of travel-associated infectious disease among Mainers are reported each year. Don’t let a preventable illness interrupt a fun family getaway! As soon as you decide on your travel plans, give your family doctor or travel clinic a call. Current immunizations, preventative medications, and other recommendations for your travel destination can keep your family travels on track.

Staying Healthy During Domestic Travel
If your family will be traveling within the U.S., you will want all your recommended routine vaccinations to be up-to-date. Places where large numbers of people from around the world congregate, such as airports, train stations, tourist attractions, water or theme parks, restaurants, hotels, and summer camps can increase the risk of exposure to many bacteria and viruses.

Although vaccines can help prevent infection from some of these germs, there are many for which vaccines are not available. In addition to timely vaccination, hand hygiene and food and water safety can help protect your family’s health. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention post some of the larger current disease outbreaks, most outbreaks are confined to individual cities or regions. You can check with the state or local health department at your travel destination about current risks, especially if someone in your family has underlying medical conditions.

Staying Healthy During International Travel
International travel is so exciting—and can require more advanced planning. In addition to all of the recommended routine vaccinations, the CDC may recommend additional protections based on each traveler, what you will be doing, and where you will be going. You can search recommendations based on your destination here and find current travel alerts here. Keep in mind that some countries require certain vaccines for entry. Be sure to carry your immunization records with your other important documents, like passports and plane tickets, in case you need medical attention during your travels. Continue reading

Reinforcing Our Efforts to Keep Maine Immunization Rates on the Rise

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Posted on October 9th, 2015

The state of Maine received a great deal of attention recently following the release of results from the 2014 National Immunization Survey (NIS) by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These data indicate a notable rise in our toddler immunization rates, placing us among the states with the highest childhood immunization coverage estimates. Additional CDC data show a reduction in Maine’s kindergarten vaccine exemption rates in the 2014-15 school year. Although we are optimistic, we and our partners must continue to advocate for policies and activities proven to increase childhood immunization coverage. Kudos to Maine’s healthcare providers, public health partners, insurers, parents, and, most importantly, our blissfully unaware children who contributed to this great accomplishment!

Portrait of happy diligent pupil looking at her classmate at lesson

According to the 2014 NIS, an estimated 85% (± 5%) of Maine’s children between the ages of 19 and 35 months were up-to-date on a combined series of 7 recommended vaccines that protect against 11 diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, varicella (chickenpox), Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib), and pneumococcal disease. This is a significant increase from Maine’s estimated rates in 2012 (73%) and 2013 (71%), and it is significantly higher than the 2014 national rate (72%) and the 2014 rates of 30 other states. Additionally, the NIS results indicate that Maine’s estimated coverage for individual childhood vaccines is high, with statistically significant increases for ≥1 dose of hepatitis A vaccine from 2012 (70%) to 2014 (84%) and for ≥3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine from 2013 (85%) to 2014 (94%).

This trend is supported by a CDC assessment that shows a reduction in kindergarten exemptions from school required vaccines in Maine from 5.5% in the 2013-2014 school year to 4.4% in the 2014-2015 school year. Current Maine law requires kindergarteners to be immunized against pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio and varicella before they start school. However, the law includes a provision allowing parents to request vaccine exemptions for their children for any, or all, of the required vaccines due to philosophical, religious or medical reasons.

These data are encouraging because increased childhood immunization coverage means better protection for the whole community. When a high enough percentage of a population is immune to a disease, everyone in the population is protected against the disease, even those who cannot be vaccinated – this is known as “herd” immunity,” or community immunity. The population can be a school, a town, a county, or even the whole state. When the threshold for herd immunity is reached, the chance of cases or outbreaks of the disease occurring in the population is decreased. Continue reading

The Importance of Being on Time: Why the Vaccine Schedule Benefits Young Children

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Posted on August 26th, 2015

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week’s focus is on giving children “a healthy start” through immunization. Right from birth, children are at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases that can result in severe consequences. Thankfully, vaccines are available to help protect babies when they are most vulnerable and offer protection throughout childhood and into adulthood. Now, we have more protection than ever for young children, with immunizations against 14 serious diseases! These vaccines work best when given according to the recommended schedules for ages 0-6 years and 7-18 years. Our guest blogger, Dr. Lynne Tetreault, is here to share her perspective as a Maine pediatrician on this important topic.

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By Lynne Tetreault, MD

Happy almost back to school time! Like many parents this time of year, you may be trying to squeeze in the last few days of summer while making sure that your kids have what they need for school. You may also be preparing to return to a normal daily routine. Helping children adjust to the school schedule can prepare them for a successful year. But the school schedule isn’t the only one to think about – the immunization schedule is another important tool to help children thrive. Even if you have children who are too young for school, now is a great time to check their immunization record to be sure they up-to-date on their vaccines and that they get their next vaccines on time.

The Power of Vaccines

Childhood vaccines are important because they help prevent 14 serious and life-threatening diseases by the age of 2. I’ve heard people say that vaccine-preventable diseases are rare and that they aren’t very serious, but as a pediatrician, I can assure you that this simply isn’t true. Although we do see fewer cases of illness and death due to vaccine-preventable diseases than we have in the past (thanks to vaccines!), these diseases are still a threat. In 2014 there were 23 outbreaks of measles in the U.S. affecting 668 people from 27 states. This year, there have already been over 150 reported measles cases, most among people who were not vaccinated or who were unaware of their vaccination status. Outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) have also occurred in U.S. over the past few years, resulting in hundreds of infant deaths. In Maine, there have already been over 200 cases of pertussis this year, most in school-age children. Additionally, there were several reported outbreaks of chickenpox (varicella) in Maine schools at the beginning of the year. These are not mild diseases – they can be dangerous. For example, before the chickenpox vaccine, 100 kids (60 of whom were previously healthy kids) a year would die from chickenpox in this country – that’s 100 too many. Thankfully, I haven’t seen a patient die from strep meningitis in 17 years due to the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. If we stop vaccinating, or if the trend of rejecting the vaccine schedule continues, pediatricians like me will most certainly begin seeing more unnecessary illness, severe complications resulting in hospitalizations, and deaths again.

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Protect Your Baby from Whooping Cough

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Posted on August 11th, 2015

By Dr. Erin Dawson-Chalat

Ishutterstock_115541380t’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week’s theme is “Protect yourself and pass protection on to your baby.” Although there are some vaccines that women shouldn’t get while they are pregnant, several vaccines are safe in pregnancy and are even recommended. Diseases like influenza and whooping cough can be very serious for infants, and getting the flu while you’re pregnant can lead to complications for you. Getting vaccinated against flu and whooping cough is one of the best ways to protect mom and baby. Of course, it’s also important to be sure you are up-to-date on other vaccines before becoming pregnant. To learn more about vaccines that you may need before, during, and after pregnancy, take a look at this chart.   Because whooping cough continues to cause outbreaks in Maine and nationally, our guest blogger, Dr. Erin Dawson-Chalat is here to help us spread the word about preventing additional cases in newborns.  

A newborn baby is exciting, and friends and family can’t wait to welcome the newest addition. It is such a special time for everyone, but it is important to remember that all those visitors can bring harmful germs with them. To keep your baby healthy, you should take every opportunity to protect them from diseases that can spread easily and quickly. That includes making sure that everyone who touches the baby washes their hands first and that those who are sick wait to visit until they are well. One of the most dangerous illnesses that a baby can get is whooping cough, or pertussis, which is easily spread from children and adults to infants through coughing and sneezing. Continue reading

Contact Maine Legislators to Support Immunization Bills

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Posted on April 16th, 2015

At Vax Maine Kids, we’re grateful that the majority of Maine parents fully immunize their children according to the recommended vaccination schedule. But it’s hard not to worry about children whose parents delay or refuse vaccines.  While these parents may believe they’re making decisions in their child’s best interest, they are usually based on misinformation or a misunderstanding of the science, safety, and regulation of vaccines. 

image001That is why we need your help!  During this legislative session, elected representatives from Maine will be voting on important immunization bills that can help keep Maine children free from vaccine preventable diseases. 

We know that parents who are against some or all vaccines will come to the State House in large numbers to share their stories.  They will rely on emotional, yet anecdotal stories to trump decades of science and research and will do their best to convince legislators not to put policies in place o educate parents about vaccines and protect children from dangerous diseases. We can’t let that happen, so we’re calling on the silent majority of Maine parents who immunize their children to have their pro-vaccine voices heard. Call, email, or write your legislator today to support vaccine laws based in science. Do it for your family, your children, and your community. 

Our mission at Vax Maine Kids is to share evidence-based vaccine information and resources with Maine parents. Part of that mission also involves promoting policies and programs that have been show to help increase children’s immunization rates. All states require children to have received certain immunizations before starting school because it is a strategy that ensures communities reach levels of immunity that can protect everyone from diseases. Under current Maine law, all children enrolled in licensed child care facilities and schools (public and private) must be immunized against several vaccine-preventable diseases including: measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella (chickenpox), diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, (with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Hib, Rotavirus and Pneumococcal also required for daycare).  

Currently, parents can elect to not vaccine their children against these diseases for medical, religious or personal belief reasons.  Just a simple signature from a parent is all it takes to avoid immunization requirements – making it easier and more convenient to opt-out of vaccinations than to follow the law. 

Maine is one of only 19 states that allow for personal belief exemptions and they made up more than 95% of all exemptions among Kindergarteners in the 2013-2014 school year.  

ImmunizationsUnfortunately, immunization coverage in Maine has reached dangerously low levels, leaving not just children, but all Mainers at increased risk of serious diseases.  Consider the following statistics: Continue reading

Parents Eager for Measles Vaccine During Outbreak

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Posted on February 12th, 2015

At Vax Maine Kids, our mission is to help keep Maine children healthy by encouraging parents to vaccinate them according to the immunization schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s why Maine parents who have questions about vaccines often turn to Vax Maine Kids for answers. Right now, we’re hearing a lot of concerns from parents about the rising number of measles cases in the U.S. due to the outbreak starting at Disneyland this past December. Unfortunately, with 141 measles cases in as many as 17 states so far this year, the U.S. is on a collision course towards reaching a startling statistic in 2015 – having the highest number of measles cases in the past decade in a single year.  All of this information and resulting media coverage has parents starting to worry and wonder…

measles“How likely is it that this outbreak will eventually make its way to Maine?”  

AND 

“What can be done to make sure our children and our communities are safe?”   Continue reading

Even the Happiest Place on Earth Is Not Immune to Measles

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Posted on January 15th, 2015

As crowds of holiday visitors pushed through turnstiles and shared rides at the Disneyland amusement park in Southern California this December, they had no idea they were sharing way more than a good time – they were sharing measles!  At first, health officials confirmed a total of nine measles cases that were tied to exposures at Disneyland.  But, in the past few weeks, the outbreak has continued to spread to four other states with as many as 33 cases suspected so far.  

Why should Maine residents care about cases of measles in California?  And if measles was eradicated from the United States fifteen years ago, why have we seen a record high number of measles cases in 2014? 

disneyland-measles-665x385Thanks to a very effective measles vaccine and a strong public health system, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from the U.S. back in 2000. How can that be if we’re still hearing reports of cases in 2014?  

Elimination” is actually defined as the “absence of continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more”.  While there were 86 cases of measles in 2000, the cases were mostly coming in from outside the country and were quickly contained.  However, there’s a growing concern among health professionals that the refusal of measles vaccination is also contributing to the rising rates of measles cases in the U.S. today.   

What do the numbers tell us?

Data from the 2013-2014 childhood immunization survey revealed that 94.7% of kindergarteners across the nation received at least one dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.  That’s good news for our country.  But, as many as 17 states, including Maine, had MMR vaccine coverage below 90.0%; that’s not great news for our state. Continue reading

The Importance of Flu Vaccination During this Severe Flu Season

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Posted on January 8th, 2015

Earlier this week, the Sun Journal reported that the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention raised the status of the flu in Maine to “widespread” after confirmed cases were found in all of Maine’s 16 counties. With reports that this flu season may be more severe due to the specific strains going around, it’s important that everyone six months and older receive a flu vaccination so that they have the best defense against the flu and its dangerous complications.

Image courtesy of flunearyou.org.

Image courtesy of flunearyou.org.

Why do Maine families need a flu vaccine every year?

When unusual diseases like Ebola take over the news, it’s easy to forget that one of the biggest threats to our health is much more common: influenza, also known as the flu. You may think the flu is no big deal, but complications from the flu can be serious and even life-threatening.

Influenza can be particularly harmful to young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease. It can also claim the lives of healthy children and adults so we recommend that everyone six months and older get an influenza vaccine every year to help prevent the flu.

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Important Immunization News You May Have Missed from 2014

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Posted on January 1st, 2015

We’ve seen steady growth in readership on the Vax Maine Kids website, blog and Facebook page in 2014, and we are thankful for the support. As we continue our efforts to encourage parents to fully vaccinate their children throughout 2015, we’re hopeful that more people will turn to Vax Maine Kids for local, accurate, evidence-based vaccine information, news, and resources. After all, our goal is to help ensure Maine kids stay safe and healthy, which requires a commitment from parents, doctors, nurses, and public health professionals across the state.Brave little girl receiving injection

In looking back on this past year, we would like to highlight some of our most popular posts in hopes that they will provide a snapshot of the valuable information we share on this forum and on our website. We would like to encourage you to revisit these posts and share them with friends and family to help us engage even more people in these important immunization discussions. Continue reading