Three anti-vaccine bills move ahead in Arizona despite measles outbreaks

 A single dose of MMR (for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) at Kaiser Permanente East Medical offices in Denver.

Lawmakers in Arizona are moving forward with three bills that will make it easier for parents to opt out of getting life-saving vaccinations for their children—and may even encourage them to do so, according to a report in The Arizona Republic.

The brazen legislative move comes as the country grapples with six outbreaks of measles, an extremely contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that can be disabling and even fatal to young children. One of those outbreaks is occurring in Washington state’s Clark County, where rampant anti-vaccine views and similarly lax vaccination laws fueled the spread of disease. Since the start of the year, officials have tallied 65 cases, mostly in children under the age of 10 (47 of the 65 cases) and nearly all unvaccinated (57 cases of the 65 cases).

Hoping to prevent future outbreaks, Washington state lawmakers are now advancing legislation that would eliminate vaccination exemptions on personal and philosophical grounds. But Arizona lawmakers seem to have taken no heed of the efforts of their Washington counterparts, even as public health experts condemned Arizona’s proposed legislation.

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Facebook, Google, CDC under pressure to stop anti-vax garbage from spreading

Facebook, Google, CDC under pressure to stop anti-vax garbage from spreading

With five measles outbreaks ongoing in the US, lawmakers are questioning both health officials and tech giants on their efforts to combat the noxious anti-vaccine misinformation fueling the spread of disease.

Last week, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate health committee, along with ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health and Human Services. The lawmakers asked what health officials were doing to fight misinformation and help states dealing with outbreaks. “Many factors contribute to vaccine hesitancy, all of which demand attention from CDC and [HHS’ National Vaccine Program Office],” the lawmakers wrote. On Thursday, February 14, the committee announced that it will hold a hearing on the subject on March 5.

Also Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) sent letters to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In them, Schiff expressed concern over the outbreaks as well as the tech companies’ role in enabling the dissemination of medically inaccurate information.

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Vaccinations jump 500% in antivax hotspot amid measles outbreak

Administration of a measles, mumps rubella vaccine.

Demand for measles vaccines leapt 500 percent last month in Clark County, Washington—a hotbed for anti-vaccine sentiment that has now become the epicenter of a ferocious measles outbreak.

As of January 6, the county—which sits just north of the border from Portland, Oregon—has tallied 50 confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases of measles since January 1. The case count is rising swiftly, with figures more than doubling in just the last two weeks. On January 18, the county declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak.

Health officials have long feared an outbreak in the area, given the rampant skepticism of vaccines driven by misinformation and fear-mongering by anti-vaccine advocates. Only 76.5 percent of kindergartners in Clark County had all the standard immunizations during the 2017-2018 school year. Overall, the county’s population is below the 92-percent to 94-percent range some experts consider necessary to curb the spread of disease.

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Anti-vaccine advocates appointed to Minnesota autism council after measles outbreak

A nurse prepares to administer the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine as well as a vaccine used to help prevent the diseases of diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and polio at Children's Primary Care Clinic in Minneapolis, MN, Friday, April 28, 2017.

Officials in Minnesota have appointed anti-vaccine advocates to a newly formed state council on autism, sparking controversy in the wake of a record measles outbreak in the state.

State senator Jim Abeler formed the MN Autism Council last fall to address issues surrounding autism, including “treatment, educational options, employment opportunities, independent living, and more.”  While about one in 59 children in the US are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, the rate in Minnesota is one in 42.

Though the council is not designed to take up the issue of vaccination, it has been ensnared in controversy due to the anti-vaccine sentiments it includes, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. At least two of the council’s more than 30 members are skeptical of vaccine safety and oppose compulsory immunizations. One of those skeptical members, Wayne Rohde, was one of three initial people Abeler appointed to the council. Rohde was charged with helping to shape the council and with picking other members.

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Anti-vaccine nonsense spurred NY’s largest outbreak in decades

Anti-vaccine nonsense spurred NY’s largest outbreak in decades

Health officials in New York are cautiously optimistic that they have a large measles outbreak under control after tackling the noxious anti-vaccine myths and unfounded fears that fueled the disease’s spread.

Since last fall, New York has tallied 177 confirmed cases of measles, the largest outbreak the state has seen in decades. It began with infected travelers, arriving from parts of Israel and Europe where the highly contagious disease was spreading. In New York, that spread has largely been confined to ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

As measles rippled through those insular religious communities, health officials ran into members who were wary of outsiders as well as those who harbor harmful myths and fears about vaccines. This included the completely false-yet-pernicious belief that the measles vaccine causes autism.

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China’s refusal to share virus is “scandalous… many could die needlessly”

A man in protective gear stuffs a bird into a garbage can.

US health experts are alarmed and outraged that the Chinese government appears to be withholding samples of the deadly, rapidly evolving bird flu virus, H7N9, from US research labs, according to a report by The New York Times.

The samples are critical for studying the virus and developing life-saving treatments and vaccines in preparation for potential outbreaks or pandemics. Usually, countries share viral samples “in a timely manner” without any fanfare under an agreement established by the World Health Organization to address such potential flu threats. That usually means a matter of months.

But according to the Times, China has failed to share the samples for more than a year, despite persistent requests from government officials and researchers, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moreover, scientists and experts worry that, as the US and China continue to butt heads on trade agreements, the issue of sharing biological samples and other medical-related materials could worsen.

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Vaccine-refusing community drove outbreak that cost $395K, sickened babies

A 2013 measles outbreak rooted in a vaccine-refusing community in Brooklyn, New York cost the city’s health department an estimated $394,448, requiring 87 employees to collectively spend more than 10,000 hours on outbreak response and control, according to an analysis published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

During the outbreak, which spanned March through July, health workers quickly mobilized to track down more than 3,300 people exposed to the highly contagious, potentially life-threatening virus. Workers then determined the vaccination status of those exposed and doled out prophylactic treatments or vaccines to those who would take them. To get the word out about the health threat, workers contacted local doctors’ offices, schools, and daycares. They also placed announcements in local newspapers, set up a telephone hotline, and held community briefings on the situation.

Almost a third of the employees involved in the response were working outside of their job descriptions, diverting resources from other critical public health activities. The cost estimate combined a conservative assessment of employee compensation ($332,000) and supply costs, such as lab testing and advertising ($62,000).

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Medical board puts infamous doc on probation for toddler vaccine exemption

Dr. Robert Sears, a pediatrician infamous for promoting alternative vaccine schedules that allow parents to delay or entirely avoid the life-saving jabs, has been placed on a 35-month probation by the Medical Board of California.

The punishment stems from an accusation filed by the board in 2016 claiming Sears demonstrated gross negligence in the case of a two-year-old. The board alleged that Sears gave the young patient an exemption from all future vaccinations without reviewing any of the child’s medical records, including those that indicate which vaccines the child had received and any subsequent reactions the child suffered. Sears instead relied on an account from the child’s mother, who said the child went limp and that the child’s kidneys and intestines “shut down” after vaccinations.

The board also cited Sears for later examining the child for a head injury after the child had reportedly been “‘hit on head with hammer’ by Dad.” Sears failed to follow up with standard neurological testing, the board wrote.

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