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Study: Patients not more likely to get vaccinated during disease outbreak

BY Michael Johnsen

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Conventional wisdom holds that when the risk of catching a disease is high, people are more likely to get vaccinated to protect themselves. This may not be the case, however, according to a study presented May 5 at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting.

Researchers, led by Elizabeth Wolf, compared rates of infant vaccination with the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine before and during an epidemic of pertussis (whooping cough) in Washington state. Surprisingly, they found no difference in vaccination rates.

"We have always assumed that when the risk of catching a disease is high, people will accept a vaccine that is effective in preventing that disease. Our results may challenge this assumption," stated Wolf, the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Fellow in General Academic Pediatrics at University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Washington state experienced a pertussis epidemic from Oct. 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2012, and infants were hit the hardest. The highly contagious bacterial disease causes uncontrollable, violent coughing that can make it hard to breathe. Pertussis also is known as whooping cough because a "whooping" sound often is heard when the patient tries to take a breath. Pertussis can lead to pneumonia, seizures (jerking and staring spells), brain damage and death.

Wolf and her colleagues compared the proportion of 3- to 8-month-olds who had received the recommended number of doses of pertussis-containing vaccine before the epidemic and during the epidemic. Infants who received at least one dose by 3 months of age, at least two doses by 5 months and at least three doses by 7 months are considered up to date by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We hypothesized that a whooping cough epidemic would result in more parents getting their children immunized against whooping cough," Wolf said. "But compared to a time before the 2011-2012 whooping cough epidemic in Washington state, there was no significant increase in receipt of whooping cough vaccines for infants during the epidemic."

Results did show considerable variability in vaccination rates among different counties.

"Vaccination rates in the U.S. are still below public health goals," Wolf noted. "We don’t fully understand what improves vaccine acceptance. This study found no significant increase in vaccination coverage statewide during the 2011-2012 pertussis epidemic. This finding may challenge the assumption that vaccine acceptance uniformly increases when risk of disease is high."

 

 

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Wegmans makes Lifeclinic 500 health stations available to patients for better health tracking

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Wegmans Food Markets is making it easy for patients to monitor their blood pressure with a stop to the pharmacy at any store, the company announced Wednesday. That’s where customers can find a health station that lets them take their own vital statistics and track them over time, providing the kind of record doctors often ask patients to keep. The Lifeclinic 500 stations can measure blood pressure, pulse, weight and calculate body mass index.

According to Wegmans, it’s fast, free and private. It takes only about a minute to do a reading. A patient’s personal statistics can be stored online, protected by password. On a home computer with an internet connection, patients can print out their records to bring to the doctor.

“It makes record keeping so much easier,” stated Katie Niles, a pharmacist who is Wegmans’ clinical and wellness services coordinator. “You can also tell at a glance the meaning of your numbers – if you’re in a normal, healthy range, or if there’s something to discuss with your health provider.”

On average, more than 100,000 blood pressure readings a month are taken at the company’s 84 stores. More than 800 people each month create a new private account to store their personal data, and about 900 people a month save the data from their visit to the Lifeclinic 500 unit. 

“Knowing your numbers is the first step in taking charge of your health – and if they show your blood pressure or weight is above where it should be, you can take action and set goals,” Niles said. “Some people find that watching their numbers keeps them on track, so they can make corrections as needed. But it’s also important to celebrate milestones, and knowing your numbers helps you see improvements as you go along.”

Several years ago, Wegmans began encouraging employees to “know their numbers” as a way to help them enjoy healthier lives. The company installed the Lifeclinic self-testing stations in stores, offices and manufacturing areas. A 2009 study of the Lifeclinic units published in Postgraduate Medicine showed that when these stations were in the workplace, significant numbers of employees used them to keep blood pressure and weight on track, thus improving their odds of staying healthy.

“Just as we think this technology can help our own people make informed choices that are good for their health and well-being, we think it can help customers too, so that’s why it’s available to everyone in our stores,” Niles said.

 

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Study: Asthmatics need better allergy management

BY Michael Johnsen

PORTAGE, Mich. — The results of a new study released Thursday recommend allergy testing for both indoor and outdoor allergens in children with asthma, regardless of severity — even for occasional asthma sufferers. According to 2007 NAEPP guidelines, allergy testing is recommended for only perennial indoor allergens in those with persistent asthma. The study, released in the Journal of Asthma, included 1,627 predominately Hispanic children living with asthma in urbanized areas of Orange County, Calif.

“Our data suggest that sensitization to indoor and outdoor aeroallergens can be useful predictors of asthma control, and should be assessed in all asthmatic children,” stated Kenny Kwong, chief of the division of Allergy/Immunology, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and one of the co-authors of the study. “This has significant implications for how we manage asthma, particularly in children and certainly in settings such as the inner city.”

Some of the key findings include:

  • Sensitization to tree and weed allergens in those with intermittent asthma at baseline is associated with the loss of well-controlled asthma;
  • Researchers found aeroallergen sensitivity in 74% of patients with persistent asthma severity and in 58% of patients with intermittent severity; and
  • Approximately 70% of all patients were allergic to at least one aeroallergen.

The study, entitled “The Relationship of Aeroallergen Sensitization Phenotypes to Asthma Control in Primarily Hispanic Asthmatic Children,” included children ages 2 to 18 years who enrolled in the Children’s Hospital of Orange County Children’s Breathmobile program from April 2002 to December 2011. The retrospective study included children who showed sensitivity to specific indoor and outdoor aeroallergens during baseline testing and subsequently returned for follow-up care within 6 months of their baseline visit.

 

 

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