Why is Minnesota's vaccination rate falling, understanding CPB, winter marches on, sexting, and musical Pi.
1) MINNESOTA'S RELUCTANCE TO VACCINATE
Minnesota, which historically has ranked #1 or #2 among the states for health, is lagging when it comes to getting kids vaccinated, according to a study from Chidren's Hospitals.
The state has dropped from seventh to 20th place among the states, the report says.
The decline is part of a worrisome trend that could pose a threat to the health of Minnesota children. The 2009 NIS indicates that in only two years, Minnesota's childhood immunization rate slipped to 76.9 percent in 2009 from 80.5 percent in 2007.(2) Based on the state's current population of 423,000 children ages 0 through 5 years, for every percentage point drop in the immunization rate, 4,230 young kids are exposed to vaccine-preventable disease.(3)
State officials say a reason the rate went down is a shortage of vaccine.
This e-mail that we got from a retired teacher in Chisholm today is a fairly typical one we get whenever the subject comes up:
At two months of age, my son had a severe screaming reaction to his first DPT shot. Do you know how scary it is to have a perfectly healthy 2 month old baby have a severe reaction to an immunization that was supposed to protect him?
My son is now 26 and has not been immunized since. Instead I searched out alternative care to strengthen his immune system in more natural ways.
Anyone witn a shred of common sense would realize that we are immunizing our children too young and too often. To immunize a newborn, as is being done now, is a national travesty. We have no idea of what this will do to our children in the long run, and it will be almost impossible to trace future problems back to something given on the lst day of life. For one thing, there will be no measure of that child's initial true health for comparison.
It is claimed that vaccines are well tested. On animals? What exactly is that supposed to prove. Animals don't even get these diseases. How sick is that?
The motto of the medical system is supposed to be "First, do no harm." Breastfeeding is the number one best immunization we can give to our children.
If MPR has one more medical person come on and proclaim that vaccines are perfectly safe, I will stop contributing as a member. I just can't support lies.
2) UNDERSTANDING CPB
Just about everyone in public radio is waiting for another shoe to drop in the secret filming of a now-fired NPR executive by a conservative filmmaker who's made a name for himself with these sorts of things. Yesterday's video was described as part one. Is there a part two?
NPR, it should be noted, did an excellent job of reporting on its sullied reputation, which -- ironically -- should say something about its reputation.
At the same time, the New York Times quotes the usual suspects saying this is proof the government shouldn't be funding NPR, a reference to the attempt by Washington Republicans to eliminate support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
But the paper, the network, the politicians, and most of the public are missing an important distinction that is required for a fact-based discussion on the question of how public broadcasting should be structured. Funding for NPR and funding for the CPB are two separate issues, and yet the debate combines them as if they are one. They are not (The Christian Science Monitor, however, gets the structure correct today). Some funding of NPR comes from the CPB, but the majority of CPB funds are spent on individual public radio stations (NPR doesn't operate radio stations) and on PBS and local public TV stations, none of whom were caught on camera saying stupid things.
3) WINTER MARCHES ON
Alright, so we've got a little more snow it looks like the winter is a never-ending season. Look closer. The Gunflint Trail blog, for example, documents the subtle changes already taking place:
It's a little earlier for the telltale sign of spring in northern Minnesota: baby animals. That is, unless you're the gray jay (also known as Canada jay or Whiskey Jack). These bird's young are so well adapted for cold weather that they hatch in February and March. Other animals, moose, deer, wolves, foxes, coyotes, are all currently in their gestation periods. It's an expectant time on the Gunflint Trail: lots to enjoy in the present and plenty to look forward to.
And Duluth's Blogging the North Shore details a favorite of the late season: exploring the ice mounds of Lake Superior:
It's super fun and a bit scary to explore out on these ice mounds. Everything is built out of shards of ice that have been piled up and frozen back together. Sometimes it's just a field of shards, sometimes the shards build up to a ridge that drops precipitously down toward the lake side, where storm waves had tossed ice chunks up and over.
Forty percent of teens say they have received sexually explicit photographs and 20-percent of them have forwarded it on to someone else. That's the nature of "sexting." This PSA from Elk River was uploaded this morning:
The "alternate ending" is a bit more disturbing.
5) A MUSICAL PIECE OF PI
There's some research that shows mastery of music encourages a mastery of math. This, perhaps, is a good example. It's what Pi sounds like:
Bonus: Reports that Target Corp., would change its political donations policy to accommodate a deal with Lady Gaga have turned to be premature.
Last month, the singer told Billboard, " "Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they've made in the past ... our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they've made supporting those [antigay] groups."
The Advocate reports the deal has fallen apart.
Gov. Mark Dayton says the teacher licensure bill was an example of bipartisan compromise for leaders to follow as they grapple with the budget and other issues. What compromises would you like to see this legislative session?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: In the latest conversation in MPR's "Broadcast Journalist Series," Midmorning's Kerri Miller speaks with Ken Auletta about his career as a journalist, and the upheaval that the digital world is creating in the media industry.
Second hour: Advice columnist Amy Dickinson has had experiences with second chances in her own life, and now she wants to hear yours.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Second hour: Phil Angelides, head of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, speaking at the Commonwealth Club about the causes of the financial meltdown.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Political talk with Ken Rudin.
Second hour: The effect of high gasoline prices.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Several thousand soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard are preparing for deployment to Kuwait this summer. It'll be the second-largest deployment for the 34th Infantry Division "Red Bulls" since World War II. New research continues to come out about the long term impacts of PTSD and traumatic brain injury. MPR's Jess Mador talks to veterans about how these combat-related conditions can complicate the return home.
University of Minnesota researchers are using salmonella to fight cancers of the gut in human clinical trials. Salmonella naturally finds its way to a person's gut. So, it's an effective method to deliver certain cancer-fighting treatments to that region. MPR's health reporter, Lorna Benson, will have the story.
#1 - where is the proof that vaccinations aren't safe? There is none, at least none that is credible. At the same time the people lashing out against vaccines are saying that it causes peoples immune system to be weaker (again I don't know of any studies that prove this, but would welcome some.) Seems like "we've tested, we've found no adverse side effects, they are probably safe" is the best you are ever going to get for ANYTHING.
#2 - it is a shame that big bird, and PBS (what comes out to be some of the most educational TV for low-income families, at least it was when I was a kid) are getting lumped in with NPR (which may or may not be a bunch of liberal hippies on the airwaves, or perhaps the best unbiased news outlet of our times... either way.)
#3 - YAY SPRING!
As a new father, I am very concerned about the drop in vaccination rates. After years of research on the safety of vaccines, evidence of any danger from vaccinations has yet to appear. Drops in vaccination rates have already resulted in measles outbreaks that have killed young children.
Anyone interested in the great "vaccine panic" of the modern era should read Seth Mnookin's book "The Panic Virus." It's simultaneously terrifying and enlightening. And fair. He came to the issue with no prior interest in vaccines, and did his research rigorously and tenaciously - reading the scientific research, interviewing everyone imaginable on all sides of the issue. And what did he find? That our scientific illiteracy in this country is leading people to trust their gut instinct and "common sense" (as the letter writer above does) over scientific research. Thus, parents are choosing not to immunize, herd immunity is being lost, and 19th century, 3rd world diseases are killing babies in the 21st century in the richest country on Earth. Great. Just great. Way to go, America.
I was given a flu shot at 15. My body became "confused" and my antibodies started to attack my nerves thinking they were a virus. It's a condition known as Guillan-Barre, or French Polio, or CIDP. Essentially, I woke up one morning and struggled walking....one month later, I was paralized. I am better now, but I am always at risk for a relapse. I can not take any preventative medicines. I am not an advocate one way or another (your baby, your choice), but don't try to over-ride instinct.
I would like to see the evidence that lower vaccine rates among our population are "killing babies," as Susan WB argues. You argue that scientific research proves there is no harm in vaccines. Please back up your other claims with scientific research as well for consistency.
Question - why are parents who vaccinate their children concerned about children who are not vaccinated? If your child is vaccinated, then they are not at risk, right? Isn't that the point of the vaccine. Any thoughts on that are appreciated.
I don't see this issue as black and white. It's complicated and there is a lot of info out there. When you have you own children, the info can be paralyzing.
We live in a very toxic environment. Vaccines cannot be discussed in a vacuum. I could bring my child to McDonalds everyday, let them eat as much candy and processed foods as they want, sit them in front of the tv for hours. But the vaccine issue is the test on whether I am a whacko parent or not.
Do European countries vaccinate as much as we do?
Read the book. Seriously. He interviews the parents of kids who HAVE DIED because they were not immunized. From infectious diseases that were entirely preventable if the children had been immunized - Hib, measles, polio, whooping cough.
I am a mother of a young child. I had no problem immunizing him. I know the risks, and yes, no medical intervention is ever 100% risk-free. Some people, like Marina, will have the rare adverse effect. But no-one wants to talk about the risk of not immunizing, which is so much greater! The risk, for example, to my friend who is HIV positive, to my aunt who is on chemotherapy, to children who are too young to get the immunization. Those people are vulnerable! They are only protected from infectious disease by the "herd immunity" of the rest of the population. My great-grandfather died of a tetanus infection; my grandfather walked with a limp all his life from polio. These diseases are real, dangerous, and they can easily come back if immunization rates fall.
As far as I'm concerned, if your non-immunized kid passes along, for example, whooping cough to a 10 week old baby (too young to get the immunization) and that baby dies (as they have - whooping cough is making a terrible come-back in this country, and little babies are dying of it) you're guilty of manslaughter.
I don't think you're a "whacko parent." I think the media and our educational system have failed you (and failed our country) and you don't really know what you don't know. It's not really your fault, but the fact is we are making decisions *not* based on facts, but on "truthiness." And that scares me.
Immunizations are a public health issue. If your decision to not immunize only put your own kid at risk, then I wouldn't really care. It's your business; on your own head be it if he gets sick. But it doesn't just affect you. It affects everyone else in your community. You put them at risk with your decision. To me, it's no different than drunk driving.
I think there are two things that are really important to this debate that often get lost in the emotional heat.
First, as tragic as it is to hear that someone had an adverse reaction to a vaccine, it's impossible to draw conclusions based on one person's experience. For example, look at the WIkipedia entry for Guillain-Barre syndrome. Out of the millions of doses of flu vaccine given, a handful of people developed this condition. In the data from Chinese vaccinations (100 million+ doses given), there were actually fewer people who got GBS than in the non-vaccinated population. Because, in fact, influenza virus that you pick up "in the wild" can give you GBS.
The second point is that you have to look at the risk of the vaccine versus the risk of harm if you were to get that particular disease. There may be a tiny fraction who have a bad reaction to a vaccine, but in most cases the reason that medical professionals recommend vaccination is that they know that the disease has a much higher chance of doing you much worse harm.
I don't want to say that vaccines are perfect. But we're all rolling the dice whether we get vaccinated or not. From what I can tell, the odds are stacked much higher against you if you don't vaccinate.
Susan WB touched on both those points before I got my post up, so apologies if it sounds like I'm disregarding what she said. In any case, I agree that reading books, checking up on facts, etc. is a great idea before coming to any conclusions.
So, Susan WB, is a nurse also guilty of manslaughter for administering a vaccine from which a child later dies? That happens too. In fact, we have a federal claims body that deals with vaccine related deaths.
On another note, remember last year when the Dept. of Health and other experts were warning everyone of the pending H1N1pandemic. Everyone was supposed to get the vaccine otherwise the consequences were supposed to have been epic. The vaccine rates were not very high -- what happened there?
Unfortunately, vaccines suffer from a PR problem: they work. They worked to reduce and sometimes eradicate dangerous and debilitating diseases. Once those diseases are gone or are uncommon, they seem to be superfluous, and misinformation and perception lead to vaccination rates going down. Diseases reappear. Repeat.
There have always been anti-vaccination groups, and there always will be. One hopes that credible scientific information would be able to break through belief, but this rarely happens.
I also recommend Seth Mnookin's book. He did an excellent job breaking down the issue.
When I got my 1 year old his MMR vaccine this morning, the doctor commented that there has just been a confirmed case of Measels in Hennepin County.
There is a list of confirmed cases (going back to 1997) on the D of Health's website.
Thank you Susan WB and Chris N. for your well reasoned and researched thoughts. Responsible parents vaccinate their kids.
Data is not the plural of anecdote, nor is evidence. One of my favorite blogs is sciencebasedmedicine.org, where vaccination is a frequent topic.
Whooping cough is becoming more frequent, and there have been mumps cases in the Midwest in recent years. I had an African classmate during undergrad who walked with canes because of polio, and he was lucky. He was still alive.
Vaccination is a hot topic in my household. My spouse swears that if we have another child, he/she will not be vaccinated because she has heard the autism argument.
Me - on the other hand - having been vaccinated more times than most in this country, am a firm believer in vaccination. I went to school with kids who suffered from mental retardation since their mothers came down with measles while pregnant with them.
Comes down to managing risks. I am willing to take on the risk of a possible adverse side effect rather than risk a possibly fatal disease. However, I agree with the writer above who is concerned that we may be heading back to a 3rd world country in terms of disease prevention.
Ignorance and fear are a lethal combination in this situation. Not lethal for those who refuse to vaccinate their children, but lethal for others.