Tag Archives: Vaccination

Help keep the flu off the holiday party guest list: Get vaccinated

By Linda Bell, M.D.
Director, Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control
State Epidemiologist

There’s nothing like all the hugs, kisses and displays of affection we’re sure to get from family and friends during various holiday parties, family gatherings and visits with friends and neighbors.

Unfortunately, all of that merrymaking can sometimes invite an unwelcomed guest: the flu.

No one wants the flu at any time, let alone during the holidays. The contagious disease can lead to hospitalization — and even death.

There’s still time to get your flu vaccine

If you haven’t done so, it’s not too late to get vaccinated and give yourself the gift that provides the best protection from the flu. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine.

Each flu season is unique; the timing of the peak activity and how severe a season will be are hard to predict, making it very important to protect yourself against flu as early as possible.

Although it is relatively early in this flu season, influenza activity in South Carolina at this point has been higher than normal.  The number of influenza-associated hospitalizations reported in individuals in the 65 years and older age group is nearly double the average number of cases reported over the past five flu seasons.

That is why vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for those 65 years and older, as well as other people who are at high risk of severe flu illness and serious complications from influenza. Other groups who are at high risk include children 5 and younger, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. But it’s important to remember that even healthy people who get the flu can have serious complications, like pneumonia, hospitalization or even death.

National Influenza Vaccination Week

This is National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 3-9), and there is no better time to remind not only older adults, but everyone to get their annual flu vaccine. It’s the single best way to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the flu this holiday season — and throughout the year.

Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider the flu vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. DHEC encourages everyone to find the facility that works best for them.

Here’s why vaccination is important

There is no shortage of reasons for getting the vaccine:

  • The flu vaccine gives your body the ability to protect itself against the flu because you cannot predict when you might be exposed to someone who is ill. Getting vaccinated yourself also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness.
  • Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu.
  • While good hand washing practices are always recommended, they only provide limited protection. Flu vaccines offer lasting protection against the flu for the entire flu season.
  • The flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations and deaths.

Take preventive measures against the flu

In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work, school and errands if you are sick to avoid getting others sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if one is handy; throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use the crook of your elbow to cover yourself.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. You can become infected by touching one of these areas after touching something that is covered in germs.

For more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you, visit the DHEC website at www.scdhec.gov/flu.

Do your part to help keep the flu off the guest list this holiday season. Get vaccinated.

Benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risks

By Linda Bell, M.D.
Director, Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control
State Epidemiologist

Thanks to vaccinations, diseases such as polio and diphtheria are becoming rare in the United States. Some physicians rarely — if ever — treat a case of measles.

That’s what makes vaccination one of the most successful public health accomplishments of the 20th century. It reduces the spread of disease and prevents complications and deaths.

But that success does not mean that the diseases vaccines help prevent are no longer a threat.

Although we have seen significant reductions in – even the elimination of – certain diseases, there were nearly 7,800 reports of vaccine-preventable diseases in South Carolina in 2016.  Of 238 disease outbreak investigations the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control conducted last year, 29 percent were influenza outbreaks.

Many of those flu cases occurred in schools and nursing homes, which serve people who often have complications from the flu.  The age groups with the highest rates of hospitalizations for flu included children ages 4 and younger and individuals older than 65. Unfortunately, 94 deaths from the flu have been reported in South Carolina during the 2016-17 flu season, which ends the end of September.

We also continue to see cases of whooping cough, bacterial meningitis, hepatitis A and B and other vaccine-preventable diseases, and they will increase unless we get more people vaccinated. The number of people receiving vaccines in South Carolina and the U.S. has declined in recent years.

Still, the fact remains that vaccines protect entire populations from multiple diseases. But questions remain.

Are vaccines effective? While no vaccine offers 100 percent protection, they are extremely effective.

How well a vaccine prevents illness varies based on the type of vaccine and the individual’s health status.  For example, the flu vaccine does not protect the elderly as well as it protects younger people. However, studies suggest that elderly people vaccinated against the flu have less severe disease, are less likely to be hospitalized and are less likely to die from the flu.

While there can be adverse effects from vaccines, severe adverse events are rare and occur far less often than complications from vaccine-preventable diseases. Although questions have been raised about whether there is a relationship between autism and vaccines, research does not show any such link.

Do vaccines have risks? Yes, vaccines — like all medications — have potential risks that must be weighed against the benefits. The risks are quite low and are comparable to those associated with prescription and over-the-counter medication.  The benefits are significant in protecting the public health and in cost-savings.  Ask your health care provider about what vaccines are best for you as well as potential risks based on your health factors.

In July the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics published a study showing that a 5 percent decrease in the number of children ages 2 to 11 vaccinated against the measles in the United States could triple the number of measles cases in that group and significantly increase the cost of controlling disease outbreaks. Of great concern is that the article reveals that several regions in the country are just above the level of vaccine coverage needed to prevent measles outbreaks.  If vaccination levels drop further, we could see a sharp rise in measles cases, one of the most highly contagious diseases known.

We continue to see preventable illness, hospitalizations and, unfortunately, deaths in South Carolina from influenza, whooping cough, meningitis, hepatitis B, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.  Every year U.S. travelers are infected after being exposed to diseases while abroad. Infected people can begin spreading a disease before they show symptoms. Numerous outbreaks have occurred in communities with low vaccination rates.

DHEC is working to increase vaccine coverage in South Carolina by enhancing partnerships with other vaccine providers, offering vaccines in schools and communities, improving technology that tracks vaccinations and simplifies access to immunization certificates, and — most importantly — educating people about the risk of diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.

While vaccines help prevent the spread of disease, their effectiveness relies on people being vaccinated. That’s where you can help. It is important that everyone – not just children – get immunized.

We have had great success combating diseases through vaccination. Let’s not lose ground now.

DHEC in the News: Immunizations, opiods, ‘One City Two Canals’

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

Health officials encourage parents to get child vaccinated

(WSPA) – At the end of every summer, most parents begin to stress about one thing.

“Oh goodness, going back to school is always a kind of crazy time school shopping for school supplies usually new shoes and new clothes,” said Erin VanDuinen, Anderson County parent.

But it also typically includes that yearly visit to the doctor. There are a number of immunizations that are required for your child prior to heading back to school.

“Its prevention, you are preventing a lot of major illnesses or death just by getting a simple shot,” said nurse Amber Littmann.

‘You need treatment along with prescription’; focus on opioid addiction as medical issue is vital, officials say

Opioid addiction is a complex problem that has to been seen more as a medical condition, and less as a moral failure, if addicts are to get the help they need, health and law enforcement officials say.

“There is not a silver bullet, but I think that the United States government needs to step up to the plate and do more to treat it more kindly and participate in finding ways to treat it more effectively,” Dr. Monnie Singleton of Singleton Health Center in Orangeburg said.

“Incarceration doesn’t do a thing. … What they need to do is really embrace the fact that opioid addiction is a medical condition,” he said.

Opioid prescription rates have been linked to addiction and overdose.

One City Two Canals at Columbia’s Riverfront Park offers update from flood

Columbia, SC (WLTX) – The One City Two Canals tour on Columbia’s Riverfront Park came with a flood update and a cool history lesson Saturday afternoon.

If you want to know anything about Riverfront Park, you ask Park Ranger Karen Swank Kustafik. When the October flood of 2015 hit this area, it breached the oldest hydro’s. “That’s pretty remarkable because it had been operating consistently from 1898 until October 2015” said Kustafik.

All last year they had a series of engineering tests as a part of the re-building plan. Divers were also taking pictures of the head gates that allow water to come into or out of the Columbia Canal.

The value of immunizations for infants can’t be overstated

Immunizations save lives. There is no denying it: Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases.

Just consider some of the milestones shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.
  • In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles and, unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Many physicians today have never seen a case of the measles.
  • Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
  • The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

The importance of immunizations

Immunizations play a valuable role in protecting the health of not only our children, but families and communities. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

The success of vaccines in preventing disease can’t be overstated. Each year we pause to observe National Infant Immunization Week, which this year runs from April 22-29.  It is a time to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States.  It is also a time to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring all children are fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the United States. It’s easy for measles to spread when it reaches communities in the United States — or anywhere else — where groups of people are unvaccinated.

The best way to protect against childhood diseases

Remember, giving babies the recommended immunizations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from serious diseases, like whooping cough and measles.  Talk to your health care provider about what vaccines are recommended for your child, and make sure you keep all immunization and well-child appointments.  For more information about how to protect your child with immunizations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/protecting-children/index.html.

Make getting vaccinations less stressful

Even though you know you are keeping her safe from diseases, it’s hard to see your child cry when she gets her shots. But you can take some steps to make the process less stressful.

The CDC suggests trying the following tips before, during and after shots:

For babies and younger children

  • Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
  • Smile and make eye contact with your child. Let your child know that everything is OK.
  • Comfort your child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar will help your child feel more comfortable.
  • Hold your child firmly on your lap, whenever possible.

For older children and adolescents

  • Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.
  • Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
  • Tell or read stories. Be sure to pack their favorite book!
  • Support your child if he or she cries. Never scold a child for not “being brave.”

National Immunization Awareness Month

By Teresa Foo, MD, MPH
Medical Consultant
Divisions of Immunization and Acute Disease Epidemiology

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). Immunizations represent one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the 20th century. The purpose of NIAM is to celebrate the benefits of vaccination and highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.

Vaccines prevent diseases and keep us healthy.

The need for vaccination does not end in childhood.  Vaccines are actually recommended throughout our lives. Did you know that every year, tens of thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, or even die from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination?

Here are four important things to remember not only during National Immunization Awareness Month, but throughout the year.

  • Vaccines protect against serious diseases. Immunizations not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • These diseases still exist and outbreaks do occur. Vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. It’s easy for a disease to spread when it reaches communities where groups of people are unvaccinated.
  • Vaccines are recommended for people of all ages. Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, travel locations, medical conditions and previous vaccination history.
  • Babies receive vaccinations that help protect them from 14 diseases by age 2. It is very important that babies receive all doses of each vaccine, as well as receive each vaccination on time. After age 2, children are still recommended to receive a yearly flu vaccine. Children will also be due for additional doses of some vaccines between 4 and 6 years of age. Following the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health.
  • Vaccines are also needed for children as they grow to be preteens, teens and young adults. Childcare facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, childcare centers, classrooms and communities – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.
  • Preteens and teens need four vaccines to protect against serious diseases:
    • quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and blood infections (septicemia);
    • HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV;
    • Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis); and
    • a yearly flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu.
  • Adults need vaccines too. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill, and can pass certain illnesses on to others. Certain vaccines are recommended based on a person’s age, occupation or health conditions.
    • All adults, including pregnant women, should get the influenza (flu) vaccine each year. Every adult should have one dose of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis or whooping cough) if they did not get Tdap as a teen, and then get the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster vaccine every 10 years. In addition, pregnant women are recommended to get the Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27-36 weeks.
  • Vaccines are very safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Data shows that the current U.S. vaccine supply is the safest in history.” Get more information on vaccine safety at gov/vaccinesafety. The United States has a long-standing vaccine safety program that closely monitors the safety of vaccines. Scientists conduct various studies to ensure vaccine safety.

Remember, immunization isn’t just for children, it’s for all of us. Talk to your doctor or other health care provider about what vaccines you or your child need.

For more information about vaccines visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/ or www.scdhec.gov/health/vaccinations.