Is eliminating the religious or philosophical exemption from vaccinations the right public policy tool to stop and prevent measles outbreaks? This is a public policy debate that hasn’t been widely covered, but is an important conflict within the public health world and worth the attention of journalists.
Earlier this year, Daniel Salmon, Ph.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety, raised concerns that state efforts to pass laws banning the religious exemption could backfire by increasing mistrust of public health officials and harden parents’ objections to vaccinating their children. Continue reading
Photos accompanying news stories about vaccines are notoriously awful, both in effect and in verisimilitude. They often feature large needles that have little resemblance to the actual needles used to administer immunizations.
Or they are real images but feature an utterly terrified child screaming as though Satan himself were injecting demon blood into their veins. (Note: Most vaccines are administered into the muscle, not the bloodstream.) Continue reading
Many adults are not getting the vaccines they need; often because of the cost or a belief that they are healthy and don’t need them, two public health experts told AHCJ during a members-only webcast last month.
While health care providers generally do an effective job of vaccinating children, less than half of American adults are getting vaccinations for the flu (influenza), hepatitis B, shingles (zoster) and whooping cough (pertussis). Continue reading
Fall has arrived so it’s time for older adults to get their flu shots. Or is it?
Older adults are at greater risk of serious complications of the disease than those under age 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They recommend that everyone get vaccinated by the end of October, if possible, as the best way to prevent the flu. Continue reading
Pia Christensen/AHCJRebecca Plevin, a health reporter at KPCC Southern California Public Radio, includes in her stories the fact that there’s no scientific evidence backing up claims that vaccines are harmful.
As a measles outbreak late last year spread from Disneyland to seven U.S. states affecting at least 147 people, one news organization on the front lines of the story made a deliberate decision about how to handle stories related to vaccines.
“Like climate change, there aren’t two sides to this story,” said Rebecca Plevin, a health reporter for KPCC Southern California Public Radio, referring to the fact that in both cases there’s no dispute over the science. There are not two sets of facts when it comes to vaccines, she said.
Plevin’s remarks came during a panel about vaccines at Health Journalism 2015 in Santa Clara, Calif.
When she’s doing stories about vaccine-preventable diseases or parents’ qualms about giving vaccines, Plevin now talks about the proven benefits of vaccines. If parents talk about diverting from recommended vaccine schedules or say they have fears that vaccines harm children, Plevin and her co-workers include a statement that there’s no scientific evidence backing up claims that vaccines are harmful. Continue reading
As many are reporting, the measles outbreak has parents and officials questioning state laws that allow unvaccinated children to attend school, under religious or philosophical exemptions. Forty-eight states allow religious exemptions, according to this map from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
News organizations are compiling interactive maps, databases and other widgets to show vaccination rates by state and, sometimes county. Some allow searching for specific schools.
USA Today has searchable data on exemptions in 13 states, with more to come. The states it covers include California, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia. (Update: As of Feb. 9, it has added Arkansas, Georgia, Washington and Wisconsin.) Continue reading