Tag Archives: immunization

Journalists around the country track vaccination rates

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

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

New ideas for an annual update: Older adults and vaccines

About Sally James

Sally James (@jamesian) is a Seattle freelance writer who frequently covers biotechnology and research stories for magazines.

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

The season of coughing is around the corner. Ads for flu shots and other vaccinations are getting thicker too. Vaccinations for older adults have new developments this year. A great place to start is this tip sheet from Eileen Beal.

Herd immunity: When writing about vaccines for a certain age group, remember that your audience is not just that group. Communities are protected by the entire immunity of their neighbors and friends. Elders housed in assisted living or nursing homes are at special risk. But college student volunteers, visitors, and grandchildren may need to read your story to avoid unwittingly exposing these older adults. This works backwards also. Older adults who lack up-to-date immunization for whooping cough (pertussis) can expose a newborn when Grandma and Grandpa visit. The booster that many may need is called T-DAP. Continue reading

Vaccine waivers contribute to outbreak

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

In the wake of California’s public health director’s declaration that whooping cough has reached epidemic status, California Watch’s Christina Jewett looks at public health data and where the number of cases are highest.

She finds the most cases in Marin County, one of the state’s most affluent, and in Fresno County, which has “a vulnerable population gripped with child poverty and other ills.”

One contributing factor, according the Marin’s public health officer, is that more than 7 percent of kindergartners start school without vaccinations. Parents there are signing waivers to opt out of immunizations based on their beliefs that vaccinations are dangerous.

Jewett includes links for more information about such fears and about whooping cough. Her piece also includes the county-by-county data on whooping cough in California.

Will pharmacists play a role in H1N1 vaccinations?

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

In some states, pharmacists can administer influenza vaccinations. However, laws do differ from state to state. Some states allow pharmacists – who must be certified – to give flu shots based on an established protocol agreed upon with a physician. Other states, such as Oklahoma (until Nov. 1), require patients to obtain a prescription from a doctor before a pharmacist can administer a vaccine.

The differing standards and regulations have the potential of creating barriers to access for vaccinations, something that should be of concern as the H1N1 vaccine makes its way to health care providers.H1N1

In Oklahoma, for example, I saw about a dozen people arrive at a pharmacy counter for their flu shots, only to be told they had to get a prescription. Those people left the pharmacy, presumably to visit their doctor, a visit that likely required a co-pay or other payment. Every time someone left, I had to wonder whether they would follow through and return with a prescription. In my case, I went to a walk-in clinic where I only waited a few minutes – though I had to fill out several forms – then had my vitals recorded and answered a series of questions, first from a nurse and then from the doctor. I then returned to the pharmacy, filled out more forms very similar to what I had completed for the doctor and waited until the pharmacist was available to give me a flu shot. The whole process took about two hours – time that many people can’t afford to spend.

Presumably, states are allowing pharmacists to give influenza vaccinations to increase the public’s access and boost immunizations. But are the regulations guiding such vaccinations working or are different barriers being created? It remains to be seen whether pharmacists will be giving H1N1 vaccinations, but a number of organizations are discussing the possibility.

Carolyn C. Ha, Pharm.D., of the National Community Pharmacists Association, has provided a state-by-state breakdown of requirements for pharmacist-provided immunizations.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials recently released an “Operational Framework for Partnering with Pharmacies for Administration of 2009 H1N1 Vaccine” that includes information about requirements in each state. (contact: Paula A. Steib, senior director communications, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, 202-371-9090 ext. 3173)

The American Pharmacists Association has provided information about vaccine distribution. The organization is working with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, state associations, CDC, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to get pharmacies included in each state’s 2009 H1N1 influenza virus immunizing program.

The CDC’s has contact information for state/jurisdiction officials and guidelines for clinicians. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also will have information about H1N1 vaccinations.

For more about the certification process for pharmacists, read “Incorporating an Immunization Certificate Program into the Pharmacy Curriculum,” from the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and from the American Pharmacists Association.