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Friday, December 12, 2014

Vaccine Update

Philip Reese writes at The Sacramento Bee:
More California kindergartners are getting their vaccinations before starting school, curbing a decadelong trend of falling immunization rates, new state figures show.
The shift comes as California experiences one of its worst whooping-cough outbreaks in generations. Health experts said several prior years of lax immunization primed the state for such an outbreak.
This year’s rise in vaccination rates corresponds to the introduction of a new “personal belief” form that must be completed by parents who don’t want to immunize their children. The result of a new state law, the form must be signed by a doctor who acknowledges telling parents about the risks and benefits of vaccinations; alternatively, parents can state that visiting a doctor violates their religious beliefs. The new form replaces a document that did not require a doctor’s signature.

Read more here:

Parents who refuse vaccinations for their children because of philosophical or religious reasons will have to take another step now under a new policy by the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Starting Jan. 1, they must have their waivers certified by the local health department.
The new rule "will help ensure that those who may choose to sign a waiver have accurate information and education" about the risks and benefits of vaccines, Jennifer Smith, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Community Health, said in an e-mail.
The change in the department's administrative rules comes as two northern Michigan counties — Grand Traverse and Leelanau — have reported five cases of measles, a disease that in 2000 was deemed eliminated from the U.S.
Susan J. Demas writes at MLive that Michigan has the fourth-highest rate nationally of parents declining vaccinations.
But it gets even worse. Thanks to exhaustive reporting from MLive, we now know almost half of people in Michigan (44 percent) live in counties with kindergarten vaccination rates below the level needed for "herd immunity" -- encompassing 800 schools.

Vaccinations are safe and studies claiming otherwise have been roundly discreditedby the medical community.
And yet, anti-vax sites dominate top search-engine hits, competing with the Centers for Disease Control as information sources.
Terrified parents, already subjected to endless articles that they're not feeding their kids or disciplining them right, now see they could kill their babies with shots.
That nice lady from "The View" said her son got autism afterward, so it could happen, right?
The internet age means we're all experts, so as Tom Nichols argues in The Federalist, no one is really an expert anymore. Certainly not needle-wielding doctors who haven't seen fraudulent late-night informercials on deadly vaccines.
More information, quite frustratingly, only makes anti-vaxxers more resolute.
We can't give up trying to change things -- it's imperative for public health that we don't. But it means this problem is more insidious that we may think.
At The Atlantic, Carl Romm writes of a study of attitudes toward flu vaccines:
The study built on previous research from [Brendan] Nyhan and Exeter University’s Jason Reifler, published earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics, that found a nearly identical effect when parents were exposed to information about the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. After reading that the MMR vaccine wasn’t dangerous to their children, the Pediatrics study found, the most concerned parents were less likely that before to say they would vaccinate their children.

Both political scientists, Nyhan and Reifler have spent the past several years studying what they call the “backfire effect,” or the idea that when presented with information that contradicts their closely-held beliefs, people will becomemore convinced, not less, that they’re in the right. In one study, when staunch conservatives read information refuting the idea that the U.S. found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they tended to believe more firmly than before that it was true; the researchers saw similar effects in studies correcting the notion thatPresident Obama is Muslim and the claim that “death panels” were a part of healthcare reform.
From there, vaccination seemed like a logical next step in their research, Nyhan said:
“Vaccines aren’t a partisan or ideological issue, but they’re controversial. They bring up issues of identity and tribalism that feel a lot like politics,” he explained. “I have kids, and talking about vaccines on the playground is like bringing up religion. It’s very weird and delicate and controversial.”"I have kids, and talking about vaccines on the playground is like bringing up religion. It’s very weird and delicate and controversial."
Though the vaccine studies have yielded results subtly different from the “backfire effect”—people were willing to accept new information as true, even when it had no effect on what they did in the end—Nyhan believes that the same sort of mental gymnastics is likely at work across both areas: reactance, the psychological phenomenon in which persuading people to accept certain idea can push them in the opposite direction.