Vaccines: The Greatest Live-Saving Health Success

Vaccines have proven to be one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the 20th century. Safe and effective vaccination has had a significant impact on global health by saving lives and increasing life expectancy. They not only protect the person receiving the vaccine, but also helps prevent the spread of potentially deadly diseases. As the U.S. health leaders, the CDC strongly supports protecting the world with recommended vaccinations. They work tirelessly around the globe to help prevent sickness and save lives. The CDC MMWR reports vaccines to be one of the “Ten Great Public Health Achievements” both in the U.S. and Worldwide.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans – more than 80 percent, in a recent Pew Research Center survey – believe in the benefits of childhood vaccinations. As the lead author simply stated, “public health benefits from vaccines hinge on very high levels of immunization in the population.” This is why adhering to the CDC’s immunization schedule of recommended vaccines is the best way to protect those that are most vulnerable – such as infants and young children. Furthermore, the CDC’s National Immunization Survey results showed that the U.S. continues to be the leading example with high immunization rates, and most children are up-to-date and fully vaccinated.

Heat maps published in The Wall Street Journal titled “Battling Infectious Diseases in the 20th Century: The Impact of Vaccines” help to easily visualize the impact vaccines have had against infectious diseases. With 70+ years of data from across all 50 states and D.C., they examined seven infectious disease: measles, hepatitis A, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella, and smallpox. Upon vaccine introduction, these heat maps show a decline of infection from these diseases. Thanks to live-saving vaccines, the battle against these infectious diseases in the 20th Century looks very different.

With a number of infectious disease being a thing of the past, it should come as no surprise that ABC News listed vaccines at the top of their “10 Health Advances That Changed the World” list:

Throughout history, communicable diseases have had a tremendous impact on human history. So too, then, has the development of one of the most effective ways to defend against rampant viral infection — vaccination.

Through decades of innovation, it’s easy to see why vaccines and their positive impact are first on this list. The development of vaccination has been one of the most effective ways to defend against infections. From a global health standpoint, vaccine discovery has saved endless lives and continues to change the world.

In addition to their public health benefits, vaccines also provide tremendous social and economic value. A recent study in the American Journal of Managed Care found that by preventing illness and premature deaths, vaccination of children born in the United States in 2009 will generate $184 billion in lifetime social value, or about $45,000 per child. Of this, about two percent ($3.4 billion) accrues to vaccine manufacturers in the form of profits, while the remaining 98% ($180.7 billion) is retained by society.

Vaccination might only be a few hundred years old, but it also makes top 10 of “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel” – which was about 6,000 years ago. The Atlantic surveyed scientists, historians, and technologists – who ranked vaccines above the internet in terms of impact on modern life.

Vaccines have proven their ability to save lives time and time again, and we should continue to celebrate their success.

Psychiatrists are least likely to use EHR, CDC survey finds

As it turns out, some physician specialties are more likely than others to adopt and use EHR systems.

The CDC’s 2015 National Electronic Health Records Survey took a closer look at which physicians were more wired than others.

The NEHRS gathered information from nonfederal office-based patient care physicians about certain aspects of their practice. Anesthesiologists, radiologists and pathologists are not included in the survey. It is conducted each year by the National Center for Health Statistics and is sponsored by the ONC.

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The 2015 survey is based on responses from 10,302 physicians between August and December 2015. The unweighted response rate was 51.9 percent, while the weighted response rate was 49.2 percent. Physicians could respond via the internet, mail and phone.

Based on physicians’ responses, the NCHS created a table that summarized physicians’ adoption of EHR and EMR systems. The table broke physicians’ adoption levels into three categories: use of any EHR/EMR system, use of a basic system and use of a certified system.

Use of a basic system was defined as a system inclusive of various functionalities, such as “patient history and demographics, patient problem lists, physician clinical notes, comprehensive lists of patients’ medications and allergies, computerized orders for prescriptions and the ability to view laboratory and imaging results electronically,” as per the Institute of Medicine‘s definition. Use of a certified system was defined by a physician responding “yes” to having a system that “meets meaningful use criteria defined by the Department of Health and Human Services,” as per an ONC data brief. The table points out that not every certified EHR system meets the definition of a basic EHR system.

After parsing through the data, a few specialties came out as the clear winners for adopting any type of EHR or EMR system. Approximately 95.6 percent of cardiologists reported using any EHR. Additionally, 64.4 percent of cardiologists said they used a basic EHR system, and 83.2 percent reported using a certified system. Neurologists were also likely to use EHRs, with 94.5 percent reporting to using any EHR or EMR system. About 75.7 percent of neurologists said they used a basic system, and 89.9 percent said they used a certified system.

Psychiatrists, however, were on the low end of the spectrum. Only 61.3 percent of psychiatrists said they used any type of EHR system. A meager 15.5 percent of psychiatrists reported using a basic EHR system, and 40.8 percent said they used a certified system. Dermatologists also had a relatively low rate of adopting any type of EHR or EMR system. While 70.2 percent of dermatologists reported using any type of EHR, only 21.3 percent said they used a basic system and 62.3 percent said they used a certified system.

Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill, Getty Images

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), which is a great opportunity to recognize the importance of vaccination. The National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC), in collaboration with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, reminds us that safe and effective immunizations represent one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the 20th century. Immunizations are important because they not only protect the person receiving the vaccine, but also helps prevent the spread of disease, especially to those that are most vulnerable to serious complications such as infants and young children, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. The purpose of NIAM is to celebrate the benefits of vaccination and to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages and stages of life: babies and young children, school-aged children, preteens and teens, adults, and pregnant women. Below are some CDC highlights on vaccines and immunization:

Babies and Young Children – Vaccinating your children according to the recommended schedule is one of the best ways you can protect them from 14 harmful and potentially deadly disease like measles and whooping cough (pertussis) before their second birthday.

View the CDC’s parent-friendly childhood immunization schedule here.

School-Aged Children – Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. In these settings, illnesses can easily spread. When children are not vaccinated, they are not only at increased risk for disease, but they can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms and communities. States may require children to be vaccinated when entering child care, school, colleges and universities. Parents should check with their doctor, school or the local health department to learn about the requirements.

View the CDC’s parent-friendly immunization schedule for ages 7-18 here.

Preteens and Teens – As you get ready to send your preteens and teens back to school, make sure they are protected from deadly diseases by being up-to-date on their vaccines. Preteens and teens need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis or whooping cough) vaccine, quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine, and a yearly flu vaccine. A booster dose of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine and a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine is recommended at 16 years old.

View the CDC’s parent-friendly immunization schedule for ages 7-18 here.

Adults – All adults – even healthy ones – should get vaccines to protect their health from serious illness which can then be passed on to others. In addition to yearly influenza (flu) vaccines, every adult should have one dose of Tdap vaccine if they didn’t as a teen and the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster vaccine every 10 years. The shingles vaccine is recommended for those 60 and older, as is the pneumococcal vaccines for those 65 and older. Other vaccines adults may need – like hepatitis A, hepatitis B and HPV – are determined by factors such as age, lifestyle, occupation, health conditions, locations of travel, and previous vaccines.

View the CDC’s adult schedule for recommended immunizations here.

Pregnant Women – Vaccines are an important component of a healthy pregnancy. Women should be up to date on their vaccines before becoming pregnant, and should receive vaccines against both the flu and whooping cough (pertussis) during pregnancy. These vaccines not only protect the mother by preventing illnesses and complications, but also pass on protection to her baby before birth. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, such as rubella, can lead to significant pregnancy complications, including birth defects.

View the CDC’s pregnancy immunization recommendations here.