Vaccine

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Forget Public Health: The Politics of the California Vaccination Debate

(Craig Miller/KQED)

(Craig Miller/KQED)

Over on the KQED News Politics and Government Desk, John Myers hosts a terrific podcast on California politics. The most recent edition (published last Friday) took a hard look at the political debate in California over SB 277, a bill that would eliminate the state’s vaccine personal belief exemption.

Myers, KQED News’ Marisa Lagos and Anthony York of the Grizzly Bear talk about it starting at 11:20, and their discussion runs about 10 minutes:

We’ve written often (perhaps exhaustively) on State of Health about vaccines, but usually it’s been from a medical perspective or a public health perspective. But the debate around SB 277 has illuminated the politics around trying to change policy when a very loud, very vocal minority swamps the Capitol. Continue reading

Disneyland Measles Outbreak to be Declared Over

The outbreak sickened 134 Californians. (Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

The outbreak sickened 134 Californians. (Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

By Alicia Chang, AP

The state’s measles outbreak that began at Disneyland and reignited debate about vaccinations is nearing an end.

The outbreak will be declared over in California on Friday if no new cases pop up, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Disease investigators worked for months to contain the highly contagious disease that originated at Disney theme parks in December and spread to several other states and countries. In all, 134 people in California were infected.

The outbreak cast a spotlight on the small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Many who fell ill in the Disneyland outbreak were not immunized or had only one of the two recommended doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Continue reading

Frontline ‘Vaccine War’ Live Chat; Wednesday 3/25, Noon PT

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Frontline aired an updated version of its 2008 documentary The Vaccine War on Tuesday night. The film dives deep into the debate over vaccines. While the overwhelming majority of parents vaccinate their children, a small but growing minority either under-vaccinate their children or refuse vaccines altogether.

The debate has taken a new turn in the wake of the measles outbreak which started in Disneyland in December. Public health officials believe a still-unknown person infected with measles visited the park and spread it to others. As the outbreak took hold, a new front in the debate grew: that of people who are immune-compromised.

State of Health first told the story of Carl Krawitt the father of 7-year-old Rhett who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was two and a half. Because of the treatments Rhett underwent to fight his disease, prior vaccine protection was wiped out, and he had to wait until he had been in remission for a year before his vaccines could begin again. The Krawitt family has been arguing that those unvaccinated by choice should not be able to attend public school.

Frontline producers told the story of Rhett’s family in The Vaccine War.

Now, it’s your turn. On Wednesday (March 25) at noon PT, Frontline is hosting a live chat, and I’m honored to be the moderator. ‘Vaccine War’ producer and director Kate McMahon will take your questions, along with Carl Krawitt, and Dr. Arthur Reingold, Head of Epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

Feel free to leave a question now and please join us at noon for the chat!

Beyond Abolishing the ‘Personal Belief Exemption’ To Raise Vaccination Rates

Students leaving a vaccine clinic after being vaccinated against whooping cough at a middle school in Los Angeles. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Students leaving a vaccine clinic after being vaccinated against whooping cough at a middle school in Los Angeles. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

On Wednesday in Sacramento, a MoveOn.org member is expected to deliver a petition with 21,000 signatures calling on the state’s government to abolish the personal belief exemption.

“Focusing on the parental-choice issue risks provoking a counter-productive backlash.”

She will be holding a press conference with Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who announced a bill earlier this month to do just that. When he made the announcement, Pan repeatedly spoke of wanting to increase vaccination rates.

It sounds so good: Just wipe out the option to refuse vaccines, and vaccination rates will improve.

But is abolishing the personal belief exemption — a choice that permits parents to lawfully send their children to school unvaccinated — the best way to accomplish that goal? Continue reading

First Measles Case in Contra Costa; BART Riders Potentially Exposed

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A Contra Costa Country resident commuting to and from work in San Francisco last week may have exposed some BART riders to measles, health officials said today.

Officials with Contra Costa Health Services and the San Francisco Department of Public Health said risk of contracting measles by being exposed to the disease on BART is low, but riders should nonetheless be aware of the situation.

The person traveled between the Lafayette and Montgomery BART stations during the morning and evening commutes from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The person also spent time at E&O Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant located at 314 Sutter St. in San Francisco, on Feb. 4 between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Continue reading

Marin School District Considers Endorsing Ban of Vaccine ‘Personal Belief Exemption’

Rhett Krawitt with his oncologist, Dr. Rob Goldsby, taken Monday at an appointment at UCSF. (Courtesy: Carl Krawitt)

Rhett Krawitt with his oncologist, Dr. Rob Goldsby, taken Monday at an appointment at UCSF. (Courtesy: the Krawitt family)

Update Feb. 10, 10:00pm: The board of the Reed Union School District voted 4-1 to “encourage the state of California” to eliminate the personal belief exemption.

Original post:

As first reported on State of Health, the face of the vaccine debate in southern Marin’s small Reed Union School District is Rhett Krawitt. He’s a first grader at Reed Elementary in Tiburon. Rhett was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2 and went through three years of chemotherapy.

Rhett is in remission now, but cannot yet be vaccinated, for medical reasons. A small percentage of school children statewide — 0.19 percent — have such medical exemptions. They depend on everyone around them being vaccinated to protect them from disease. This community protection is called herd immunity.

But Marin County has a much higher rate of “personal belief exemptions” — a way for parents to lawfully refuse vaccines on behalf of their children.

In large part because of prodding from Rhett’s parents, the district’s board at its regular meeting tonight will consider whether to formally endorse a new bill that would abolish the personal belief exemption in California. Continue reading

Vaccine Opt-Out Rate Drops — First Time Since 1998; Look Up Your Calif. School

By Olivia Allen-Price and Lisa Aliferis

Under California law, all kindergarteners must be vaccinated against a range of communicable diseases before they can start school. But California also permits parents to opt-out of vaccines on behalf of their children. The opt-out rate doubled over a seven year period ending last school year. But now, for the first time since 1998, the opt-out rate has declined, from 3.15 percent statewide to 2.5 percent.

A new state law appears to be the driver. Under AB 2109, parents who wish to opt out of vaccines must file a personal belief exemption or PBE, a signed statement that vaccines are against their personal belief.

lookupThis school year, for the first time, parents must first meet with a health provider who explains the risks and benefits of both vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases. Until the current school year, parents simply had to sign the statement without any consultation.

State senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) sponsored the bill and is pretty happy about the decline. He believes that requiring the meeting with a health care provider clears up confusion some parents have about vaccines. Continue reading

Not Vaccinated? ‘Stay Home from School,’ Says Marin Dad of Leukemia Patient

Carl Krawitt has watched his son, Rhett, now 6, fight leukemia for the last 4½ years. For more than three of those years, Rhett has undergone round after round of chemotherapy. Last year, he finished chemotherapy, and doctors say he is in remission.

Do you want to help the family of a child with cancer? Make sure your own children are vaccinated, doctor says.
Now, there’s a new threat, one that the family should not have to worry about: measles.

Rhett cannot be vaccinated, because his immune system is still rebuilding. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection — or what’s known as herd immunity.

But Rhett lives in Marin, a county with the dubious honor of having the highest rate of “personal belief exemptions” in the Bay Area and among the highest in the state. This school year, 6.45 percent of Marin’s kindergarteners have a PBE which allows parents to lawfully send their children to school unvaccinated against communicable diseases like measles, polio, whooping cough and more. Continue reading

Answers to Five Common Measles Questions

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Amanda Stupi

An outbreak of measles and a new report that identified clusters of vaccine refusals in Northern California have become this week’s hot topics. As such, KQED’s daily talk show Forum devoted an hour to the outbreak, and opened up the phones to listeners’ questions. The result: the sharing of some very good information. Here are answers to five common questions:

1. Can people who have been vaccinated against the measles still get it? 

Of the confirmed measles cases in California, at least five are people who were fully vaccinated. Experts aren’t exactly sure why this is the case.

“No vaccine is 100 percent effective,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. The measles vaccine comes close — it protects 99 out of 100 people, but that’s “one percent of a lot of people,” she said. Continue reading

Disneyland Measles Cases Now at 26

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

The number of measles cases linked to having visited Disneyland parks in mid-December has climbed to 22 in California, according to state data. There are four more cases in other states — two in Utah and one each in Colorado and Washington.

While the incubation period for people who visited the parks between Dec. 17-20 ended on Jan. 10 — meaning that anyone who was at Disneyland in that time frame would have gotten sick by now — the Los Angeles Times is reporting that an unvaccinated, infected woman took two flights after she became ill.

The woman was in her 20s, the TImes reported, had visited Disneyland in December and became ill on Dec. 28.  Continue reading