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vaccines

I am a man of science. Okay, perhaps not of science, but certainly near it. As a science journalist, I'm science-adjacent. But I consider myself to be bound by logic and facts.

Which is why it was weird when I took my infant son in for his first vaccines and started peppering his pediatrician with questions. I inspected the boxes, telling myself that I was concerned about a recent bad batch of vaccines in Chiapas, Mexico, that made a bunch of kids sick. But really, I was looking for a label that read "not the autism kind of vaccine."

When Ebola erupted in West Africa a few years ago, it was catastrophic.

But one good thing emerged from the outbreak: The development of an Ebola vaccine-- a powerful vaccine.

Bill Nye, here signing books in New York, says he loves you, Vashon, but you're wrong.
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Bill Nye is back. Netflix is now streaming episodes of “Bill Nye Saves the World,” starring everyone’s favorite bowtie-clad scientist. (And of course, we’re still a bit nostalgic for those olden times when Nye traded in his signature tie for exercise shorts and a cape, all for Seattle’s amusement.)


Come July, the yellow fever vaccine could be tough to find.

So, if you're traveling this summer to a place with the disease, you probably want to schedule a trip to a clinic sooner rather than later, the Centers for Diseases for Control and Prevention tells NPR.

"Take heed of our warning: Plan ahead," says CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner. "It may be difficult to get this vaccine. And if you can't get it, then you should postpone your trip."

A group of Oregonians calling for more research into vaccines is asking the Trump administration to set up what they’re calling a "vaccine safety commission."

They returned from a lobbying visit to Washington, D.C., this week.

Activist Robert Kennedy Jr. sparked hopes for such a commission earlier this year when he told reporters President Trump had asked him to chair one.

Next week I'll be hopping on a plane for an 11-hour ride to Europe with a strong-willed, 1 1/2-year-old toddler.

A big concern is how to deal with the inevitable meltdowns. But my top priority before boarding is about my little girl's health: Is she protected from the measles?

The virus — which kills almost 400 kids each day worldwide — is hitting Europe hard this year.

Last year only 67 percent of toddlers in Washington state were fully vaccinated by age 3.
Flickr Photo/Gates Foundation (CC BY-NC-ND)

Washington state is in the midst of a mumps outbreak. There have been nearly 700 cases reported since October.

The last time the state saw numbers like this was the mid '70s. Flares were in style and America was still ensconced in the Cold War.

Health officials in Washington state said there have been 151 cases of mumps have been reported statewide since the end of October. Only 46 were reported in the four years prior. Mumps has also been reported in Oregon this year.

Flickr Photo/Phillip Jeffrey (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/a73h3D

Kim Malcolm talks with Dr. Jeff Duchin about the growing mumps outbreak in King County. As of Wednesday, there were 108 current mumps cases in King County. Duchin is health officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County.

Getting the flu while pregnant doesn't appear to increase the child's risk of being diagnosed with autism later on, a study finds, and neither does getting a flu shot while pregnant.

File photo of a flu shot.
Flickr Photo/Fort Meade (CC-BY-NC-ND)/http://bit.ly/1jxhkty

It’s that time of year again — the start of flu season.

Health officials say don’t wait: Get a flu shot. Already, they’re getting reports of small clusters of people with the flu. 

Federal health officials are urging all Americans to get their flu shots as soon as possible, and are especially concerned that too few elderly people are getting vaccinated.

"Flu is serious. Flu is unpredictable," Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters during a joint briefing Thursday with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. "Flu often does not get enough respect."

Last year only 67 percent of toddlers in Washington state were fully vaccinated by age 3.
Flickr Photo/Gates Foundation (CC BY-NC-ND)

Emily Fox talks with Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County, about vaccination trends for students in King County. 

Tribute: The Man Who Led The War To Kill Smallpox

Aug 25, 2016

"Anxious, pleading, pock-deformed faces; the ugly, penetrating odor of decaying flesh; the hands, covered with pustules, reaching out, as people begged for help .... And there was no drug, no treatment that we could give them."

When you're pregnant, going to the doctors can be exciting. You get to find out if you're having a boy or a girl. Maybe hear the baby's heart beat.

But in southern Africa, many women find out something else.

Allison Groves at American University recently ran a study in a town outside Durban, South Africa. They followed about 1,500 pregnant women. The results left her speechless.

The updated childhood immunization schedule, released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, includes a couple tweaks to vaccine recommendations for older children and teens.

One officially moves the recommendation for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine a few years earlier for children with a history of sexual abuse and adds a version of the HPV vaccine that protects against nine strains of the virus. Another offers all older teens the option of a meningitis vaccine previously recommended only for high-risk children.

washington state vaccination rates historic
KUOW Graphic/Kara McDermott

Washington is prepared for infectious outbreaks — or so it seems.

But a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health says the state can do better.

The report evaluated states on indicators such as flu vaccine rates and needle exchange programs. These indicators are related to prevention, detection and response to outbreaks.

Flu season is in swing and likely won't let up until April.

It seemed like high time to check in on how Americans feel about flu vaccination, so we asked more than 3,000 adults in the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll, conducted during the first half of October.

All told, 62 percent of people said they had been vaccinated or intended to get vaccinated against flu.

If you've ever been vaccinated, you may have seen the nurse head out of the room to go to the refrigerator to retrieve your injection. That's because most vaccines must be refrigerated during travel and storage or they lose their effectiveness.

Vaccines typically need what's known as a "cold chain." From the point of manufacture to the place where they're used, they need to be kept within a narrow temperature range, typically between 35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

Polio is in its final days.

The disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of kids a year around the globe is now down to just a few dozen cases this year. "We are aiming to halt all transmission of wild polio virus next year," says Peter Crowley, the head of UNICEF's global efforts against polio.

If polio is stopped, it will be only the second human disease to be eliminated. Smallpox was the first — the last case was in 1977.

Vaccination rates against human papillomavirus have remained far lower than rates for other routine childhood and teen immunizations. But a big reason for those low rates comes from a surprising source.

It's not hesitant parents refusing the vaccine. Rather, primary care doctors treat the HPV vaccine differently from other routinely recommended immunizations, hesitating to recommend it fully and on time and approaching their discussions with parents differently, a study finds.

Such a little bandaid for a big ouch!
Courtesy Bond Huberman

When writer Eula Biss was pregnant, she absorbed some of the fear about vaccines.   

“Fear is almost contagious itself, and so I caught some fears,” she told KUOW’s Jeannie Yandel.

This month, three new cases of polio, all caused by a strain derived from the vaccine itself, have struck two children in Ukraine and an infant in Mali, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed. Both countries had previously been polio-free, which leads to questions about how and why these outbreaks occurred, and how concerned we should be.

To help sort through the issues, we consulted Oliver Rosenbauer, communications officer from WHO's Global Polio Eradication Initiative; Leilia Dore, communications officer for polio at WHO; and other resources available from WHO.

Last year only 67 percent of toddlers in Washington state were fully vaccinated by age 3.
Flickr Photo/Gates Foundation (CC BY-NC-ND)

More Washington kids are at risk of getting measles, whooping cough and other preventable diseases. The reason: many toddlers are not getting vaccinated. KUOW’s Ruby de Luna has more.

Efforts to ban “personal exemptions” to vaccine requirements failed in Northwest states this past session. But under a new Oregon law, parents who want to keep their kids vaccine-free will have a tougher time.

Polio is almost gone from the face of the earth. The virus is actively circulating in only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But now there's a worrisome new development in the polio end-game.

In Thursday's edition of the journal PLoS Pathogens, scientists report on a man in the United Kingdom who was immunized with oral polio vaccine as a child and whose stool samples continued to contain live polio virus for 28 years.

Imagine a town crier walking down the street outside shouting through his bullhorn: "All of the young people should go get the new meningitis A vaccine." And adding that it's free.

That's one of the ways that health practitioners are combating what they call "vaccine hesitancy" — refusing a vaccine when it is offered or available.

It's a topic that has made headlines this year, when an outbreak of measles focused attention on U.S. parents who'd not vaccinated their kids, fearing unproven side effects.

The infant room at Learning Way School & Daycare in White Center, where director Jeri Finch says she does her best to make sure parents update their children's immunization records regularly.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

Under Washington state law, children are supposed to be fully immunized to attend daycare or preschool.

But no one knows how many kids in child care centers are actually vaccinated, because the state’s not keeping track.

Doctors Without Borders is calling it a "champagne moment." The World Health Organization says it's a "game changer."

In a small trial, an experimental vaccine protected 100 percent of participants who were at high risk for the virus. Although the results are preliminary, they offer new hope of finally stamping out the virus in West Africa — and preventing the next epidemic.

Kathy Parrish, a polio survivor, gets a check-up at Seattle Children's Hospital. Health officials are puzzled at why vaccination rates have declined in the last 17 years.
Courtesy of Kathy Parrish

After an outbreak of measles last fall, Washington state health officials hoped that a small subset of parents would change their minds about getting their kids immunized.

But those parents weren’t moved.

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