Another point for vaccines
May 25, 2019

Maine became the fourth state — joining California, Mississippi, and West Virginia — to end most non-medical exemptions for mandatory childhood vaccines, The Hill reports.

The state's governor, Janet Mills (D), signed the bill, which eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions and will go into effect 90 days after the state legislature adjourns. Now, only doctors and pediatric primary care givers can determine if there is need for a medical exemption.

Maine reportedly has one of the highest rates of non-medical vaccine exemptions in the country. Last year, The Hill writes, the kindergarten vaccination opt-out rate was 5.6 percent, more than three times the national average. But with a confirmed case of measles in the state, it appears Maine's government was not taking any chances. "It has become clear that we must act to ensure the health of our communities," state Rep. Ryan Tipping (D) said.

Still, there are opponents to the new bill, who emphasize religious freedom. "We are pushing religious people out of our great state," state Sen. Lisa Keim (R) said earlier this month. "And we will be closing the door on religious people who may consider making Maine their home. We are fooling ourselves if we don't believe an exodus would come about." Tim O'Donnell

March 8, 2019

An unvaccinated boy nearly died from tetanus after he busted his head open while playing on a farm, and the CDC says his experience was preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a case study on the boy on Friday, writing that his was the first pediatric case of tetanus in Oregon in more than 30 years.

The boy's wound was stitched and cleaned at home, according to the report. But six days later, his muscles were spasming and he had difficulty breathing. He later received a tracheostomy to allow him to breathe, writes USA Today. The child spent 57 days in the hospital, totaling $811,929 for care and rehabilitation.

One month after his hospital stay, he was healthy enough to run and use a bicycle. After the whole ordeal, the CDC writes, the family still opted not to vaccinate the boy.

"Despite extensive review of the risks and benefits of tetanus vaccination by physicians, the family declined the second dose of DTaP and any other recommended immunizations," reads the case study. It also says the cost "to treat this child's preventable disease" was 72 times higher than the mean cost of a pediatric hospitalization.

Diseases typically prevented by vaccines are on the rise due to an increase in "anti-vax" adults who fear adverse effects from immunizations. The boy's family's stance on vaccines is unknown. Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

March 5, 2019

The MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, does not increase the risk of autism, researchers in Denmark report in a new study.

In the late 1990s, a British physician named Andrew Wakefield published a now-retracted study claiming to have found a connection between autism and the MMR vaccine. It was later revealed that he faked some of his data, and Wakefield can no longer practice medicine, but his report is still fueling the anti-vaccination crowd, which maintains a link exists.

The Danish study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, specifically focused on criticisms from people who think vaccinations are dangerous. The researchers looked at children who have a sibling with autism and those with older parents, for example, to see whether some kids are more likely to be diagnosed with autism following an MMR vaccination, The Guardian reports.

Overall, the study followed 657,461 children, 6,517 of whom were diagnosed with autism over the decade-long study; 95 percent of the children received the MMR vaccine. The team found that children who were given the MMR vaccine were 7 percent less likely to develop autism than kids who did not get vaccinated, and that kids who did not receive any vaccinations were 17 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism than kids who did get them.

They also determined that kids with autistic siblings were roughly seven times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those who did not have that family connection. Dr. Anders Hviid of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, the study's lead author, made it clear that that vaccines should not be skipped due to fear of autism. "The dangers of not vaccinating includes a resurgence in measles, which we are seeing signs of today in the form of outbreaks," he told Reuters. Catherine Garcia

February 8, 2019

Cases of measles in the Pacific Northwest are continuing to rise at a rapid rate, with 55 reported instances in 2019 as of Thursday, reports NPR.

The majority of cases have affected unvaccinated children and are located near the disease's epicenter in Clark County, Washington. The Pacific Northwest has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S., per NPR, and Washington is one of 17 states that allows parents to opt-out of vaccinating their children for "philosophical exemptions."

"In 2000, measles was declared eliminated from the United States, thanks to widespread vaccination campaigns," writes NPR, but 11 states have reported cases this year.

Rates have increased substantially across the globe, and cases tripled in Europe from 2017 to 2018, per VICE News. Ukraine led Europe in total measles cases in 2018, with more than 50,000. Ukraine had a 31 percent vaccination rate in 2016, reports VICE.

In order to prevent an outbreak, vaccination rates should be around 90 to 95 percent, per NPR. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently tracking three different outbreaks in New York City, New York state and Washington state. Marianne Dodson

January 23, 2019

There have been at least 22 confirmed case of measles in Clark County, Washington, and three more suspected cases, since Jan. 1. One adult has been infected with the highly contagious airborne disease, and most of the 21 children are age 10 or younger; one has been hospitalized. Nineteen of the people infected were not immunized against the disease, which — thanks to vaccines — was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.

Clark County, which borders Portland, Oregon, has the lowest vaccination rate in Washington, with 77.4 percent of public school students having completed their vaccinations, The Oregonian reports. "The outbreak has hit religious and private schools in Clark County especially hard." Schools and a church have been identified as possible infection spots, and infected people also visited Portland International Airport, stores and restaurants, and a Jan. 11 Portland Trail Blazers game at Portland's Moda Center. No Oregonians have yet been diagnosed with measles.

There has been a rise in children not being vaccinated, raising concerns among public health officials. Before the vaccine became widely used in the early 1960s, about 400 to 500 people died every year and tens of thousands more were hospitalized. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, 349 people in 26 states were confirmed infected with measles. Peter Weber

June 26, 2018

Polio may seem out of date in the U.S., but its vaccine may be leading to a new medical breakthrough.

A modified polio vaccine injected into patients' deadly brain tumors helped reverse their "dismal" diagnoses, a report in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests. The survival rate for stage IV gliomas — a common type of brain tumor — is usually less than 20 months, and there's no effective treatment. But some of these tested patients are still alive after six years.

The 61 patients treated with the vaccine saw their conditions plateau after two years, and their 21 percent survival rate stayed constant for another year, per the report. Untreated patients had a 14 percent survival rate at two years and just 4 percent a year later.

Not every patient saw success, but it's a hopeful step in treating these aggressive tumors, NBC News says. The study's leader told NBC the results are "unprecedented," and the team will keep testing to figure out how to make the treatment work for everyone. Kathryn Krawczyk

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