Vaccines Fast Facts | CNN



CNN
 — 

Here’s a look at information and statistics concerning vaccines in the United States. For vaccines related to coronavirus, see Coronavirus Outbreak Timeline Fast Facts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides vaccine recommendations by age, as well as by disease.

For more than 100 years, there has been public discord regarding vaccines based on issues like individual rights, religious freedoms, distrust of government and the effects that vaccines may have on the health of children.

Exemptions to vaccines fall into three general categories: medical, religious and philosophical.

As of May 25, 2022, 44 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation allowing religious exemptions from vaccines, and 15 states allow philosophical (non-spiritual) exemptions.

1796 – Edward Jenner develops the smallpox vaccine, the world’s first successful vaccine.

1855 – Massachusetts mandates that school children are to be vaccinated (only the smallpox vaccine is available at the time).

February 20, 1905 – In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the US Supreme Court upholds the State’s right to compel immunizing against smallpox.

November 13, 1922 – The US Supreme Court denies any constitutional violation in Zucht v. King in which Rosalyn Zucht believes that requiring vaccines violates her right to liberty without due process. The High Court opines that city ordinances that require vaccinations for children to attend school are a “discretion required for the protection of the public health.”

1952 – Dr. Jonas Salk and his team develop a vaccine for polio. A nationwide trial leads to the vaccine being declared in 1955 to be safe and effective.

1963 – The first measles vaccine is released. In 2000, the CDC declares the US has achieved measles elimination, defined as “the absence of continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area.” While the US has maintained measles elimination since, there are occasional outbreaks.

1986 – Congress passes the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. This coordinates vaccine activities across several government agencies to monitor vaccine safety, requires vaccine information statements are provided to those receiving vaccines, and creates the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to compensate those injured by vaccines on a “no fault” basis.

March 19, 1992 – Rolling Stone publishes an article by Tom Curtis, “The Origin of AIDS,” which presents a theory that ties HIV/AIDS to polio vaccines. Curtis writes that in the late 1950s, during a vaccination campaign in Africa, at least 325,000 people were immunized with a contaminated polio vaccine. The article alleges that the vaccine may have been contaminated with a monkey virus and is the cause of the human immunodeficiency virus, later known as HIV/AIDS.

August 10, 1993 – Congress passes the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act which creates the Vaccines for Children Program, providing qualified children free vaccines.

December 9, 1993 – Rolling Stone publishes an update to the Curtis article, clarifying that his theory was not fact, and Rolling Stone did not mean to suggest there was any scientific proof to support it, and the magazine regrets any damage caused by the article.

1998 – British researcher Andrew Wakefield and 12 other authors publish a paper stating they had evidence that linked the vaccination for Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) to autism. They claim they discovered the measles virus in the digestive systems of autistic children who were given the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The publication leads to a widespread increase in the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children for fear of its link to autism.

2004 – Co-authors of the Wakefield study begin removing their names from the article when they discover Wakefield had been paid by lawyers representing parents who planned to sue vaccine manufacturers.

May 14, 2004 – The Institute of Medicine releases a report “rejecting a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.”

February 2010 – The Lancet, the British medical journal that published Wakefield’s study, officially retracts the article. Britain also revokes Wakefield’s medical license.

2011 – Investigative reporter Brian Deer writes a series of articles in the BMJ exposing Wakefield’s fraud. The articles state that he used distorted data and falsified medical histories of children that may have led to an unfounded relationship between vaccines and the development of autism.

2011 – The US Public Health Service finds that 63% of parents who refuse and delay vaccines do so for fear their children could have serious side effects.

June 17, 2014 – After analyzing 10 studies, all of which looked at whether there was a link between vaccines and autism and involved a total of over one million children, the University of Sydney publishes a report saying there is no correlation between vaccinations and the development of autism.

February 2015 – Advocacy group Autism Speaks releases a statement, “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.

August 23, 2018 – A study published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that Twitter accounts run by automated bots and Russian trolls masqueraded as legitimate users engaging in online vaccine debates. The bots and trolls posted a variety of anti-, pro- and neutral tweets and directly confronted vaccine skeptics, which “legitimize” the vaccine debate, according to the researchers.

October 11, 2018 – Two reports published by the CDC find that vaccine exemption rates and the percentage of unvaccinated children are on the rise.

January 2019 – The World Health Organization names vaccine hesitancy as one of 10 threats to global health in 2019.

September 4, 2019 – Facebook announces that educational pop-up windows will appear on the social media platforms when a user searches for vaccine-related content, visits vaccine-related Facebook groups and pages, or taps a vaccine-related hashtag on Instagram

December 19, 2019 – The US Food and Drug administration announces the approval of a vaccine for the prevention of the Ebola virus for the first time in the United States. The vaccine, Ervebo, was developed by Merck and protects against Ebola virus disease caused by Zaire ebolavirus in people 18 and older.

December 27, 2019 – A study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open finds that a single dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine may be just as effective as two or three doses at preventing cancer-causing HPV infection.

February 3, 2020 – The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announces that a clinical trial for an HIV vaccine has been discontinued since the vaccine was not found to prevent infections of human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS.

May 3, 2023 – The US FDA approves, Arexvy, the first vaccine to protect against respiratory syncytial virus or RSV. It is a single shot for adults 60 or older.

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Covid-19 Pandemic Timeline Fast Facts | CNN



CNN
 — 

Here’s a look at the coronavirus outbreak, declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization. The coronavirus, called Covid-19 by WHO, originated in China and is the cousin of the SARS virus.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. The viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold. Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days.

WHO Situation Reports

Coronavirus Map

CNN’s early reporting on the coronavirus

December 31, 2019 – Cases of pneumonia detected in Wuhan, China, are first reported to WHO. During this reported period, the virus is unknown. The cases occur between December 12 and December 29, according to Wuhan Municipal Health.

January 1, 2020 – Chinese health authorities close the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market after it is discovered that wild animals sold there may be the source of the virus.

January 5, 2020 – China announces that the unknown pneumonia cases in Wuhan are not SARS or MERS. In a statement, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission says a retrospective probe into the outbreak has been initiated.

January 7, 2020 – Chinese authorities confirm that they have identified the virus as a novel coronavirus, initially named 2019-nCoV by WHO.

January 11, 2020 – The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announces the first death caused by the coronavirus. A 61-year-old man, exposed to the virus at the seafood market, died on January 9 after respiratory failure caused by severe pneumonia.

January 17, 2020 – Chinese health officials confirm that a second person has died in China. The United States responds to the outbreak by implementing screenings for symptoms at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

January 20, 2020 – China reports 139 new cases of the sickness, including a third death. On the same day, WHO’s first situation report confirms cases in Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

January 20, 2020 – The National Institutes of Health announces that it is working on a vaccine against the coronavirus. “The NIH is in the process of taking the first steps towards the development of a vaccine,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

January 21, 2020 – Officials in Washington state confirm the first case on US soil.

January 23, 2020 – At an emergency committee, WHO says that the coronavirus does not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

January 23, 2020 – The Beijing Culture and Tourism Bureau cancels all large-scale Lunar New Year celebrations in an effort to contain the growing spread of coronavirus. On the same day, Chinese authorities enforce a partial lockdown of transport in and out of Wuhan. Authorities in the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou Huanggang announce a series of similar measures.

January 28, 2020 – Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom in Beijing. At the meeting, Xi and WHO agree to send a team of international experts, including US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff, to China to investigate the coronavirus outbreak.

January 29, 2020 – The White House announces the formation of a new task force that will help monitor and contain the spread of the virus, and ensure Americans have accurate and up-to-date health and travel information, it says.

January 30, 2020 – The United States reports its first confirmed case of person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus. On the same day, WHO determines that the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

January 31, 2020 – The Donald Trump administration announces it will deny entry to foreign nationals who have traveled in China in the last 14 days.

February 2, 2020 – A man in the Philippines dies from the coronavirus – the first time a death has been reported outside mainland China since the outbreak began.

February 3, 2020 – China’s Foreign Ministry accuses the US government of inappropriately reacting to the outbreak and spreading fear by enforcing travel restrictions.

February 4, 2020 – The Japanese Health Ministry announces that ten people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship moored in Yokohama Bay are confirmed to have the coronavirus. The ship, which is carrying more than 3,700 people, is placed under quarantine scheduled to end on February 19.

February 6, 2020 – First Covid-19 death in the United States: A person in California’s Santa Clara County dies of coronavirus, but the link is not confirmed until April 21.

February 7, 2020 – Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor who was targeted by police for trying to sound the alarm on a “SARS-like” virus in December, dies of the coronavirus. Following news of Li’s death, the topics “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology,” and “We want freedom of speech,” trend on China’s Twitter-like platform, Weibo, before disappearing from the heavily censored platform.

February 8, 2020 – The US Embassy in Beijing confirms that a 60-year-old US national died in Wuhan on February 6, marking the first confirmed death of a foreigner.

February 10, 2020 – Xi inspects efforts to contain the coronavirus in Beijing, the first time he has appeared on the front lines of the fight against the outbreak. On the same day, a team of international experts from WHO arrive in China to assist with containing the coronavirus outbreak.

February 10, 2020 – The Anthem of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, sets sail from Bayonne, New Jersey, after a coronavirus scare had kept it docked and its passengers waiting for days.

February 11, 2020 – WHO names the coronavirus Covid-19.

February 13, 2020 – China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency announces that Shanghai mayor Ying Yong will be replacing Jiang Chaoliang amid the outbreak. Wuhan Communist Party chief Ma Guoqiang has also been replaced by Wang Zhonglin, party chief of Jinan city in Shandong province, according to Xinhua.

February 14, 2020 – A Chinese tourist who tested positive for the virus dies in France, becoming the first person to die in the outbreak in Europe. On the same day, Egypt announces its first case of coronavirus, marking the first case in Africa.

February 15, 2020 – The official Communist Party journal Qiushi publishes the transcript of a speech made on February 3 by Xi in which he “issued requirements for the prevention and control of the new coronavirus” on January 7, revealing Xi knew about and was directing the response to the virus on almost two weeks before he commented on it publicly.

February 17, 2020 – A second person in California’s Santa Clara County dies of coronavirus, but the link is not confirmed until April 21.

February 18, 2020 – Xi says in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that China’s measures to prevent and control the epidemic “are achieving visible progress,” according to state news Xinhua.

February 21, 2020 – The CDC changes criteria for counting confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the United States and begins tracking two separate and distinct groups: those repatriated by the US Department of State and those identified by the US public health network.

February 25, 2020 – The NIH announces that a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the antiviral drug remdesivir in adults diagnosed with coronavirus has started at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The first participant is an American who was evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.

February 25, 2020 – In an effort to contain the largest outbreak in Europe, Italy’s Lombardy region press office issues a list of towns and villages that are in complete lockdown. Around 100,000 people are affected by the travel restrictions.

February 26, 2020 – CDC officials say that a California patient being treated for novel coronavirus is the first US case of unknown origin. The patient, who didn’t have any relevant travel history nor exposure to another known patient, is the first possible US case of “community spread.”

February 26, 2020 – Trump places Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the US government response to the novel coronavirus, amid growing criticism of the White House’s handling of the outbreak.

February 29, 2020 – A patient dies of coronavirus in Washington state. For almost two months, this is considered the first death due to the virus in the United States, until autopsy results announced April 21 reveal two earlier deaths in California.

March 3, 2020 – The Federal Reserve slashes interest rates by half a percentage point in an attempt to give the US economy a jolt in the face of concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. It is the first unscheduled, emergency rate cut since 2008, and it also marks the biggest one-time cut since then.

March 3, 2020 – Officials announce that Iran will temporarily release 54,000 people from prisons and deploy hundreds of thousands of health workers as officials announced a slew of measures to contain the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak outside China. It is also announced that 23 members of Iran’s parliament tested positive for the virus.

March 4, 2020 – The CDC formally removes earlier restrictions that limited coronavirus testing of the general public to people in the hospital, unless they had close contact with confirmed coronavirus cases. According to the CDC, clinicians should now “use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested.”

March 8, 2020 – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signs a decree placing travel restrictions on the entire Lombardy region and 14 other provinces, restricting the movements of more than 10 million people in the northern part of the country.

March 9, 2020 – Conte announces that the whole country of Italy is on lockdown.

March 11, 2020 – WHO declares the novel coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. WHO says the outbreak is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. In an Oval Office address, Trump announces that he is restricting travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. The ban, which applies to the 26 countries in the Schengen Area, applies only to foreign nationals and not American citizens and permanent residents who’d be screened before entering the country.

March 13, 2020 – Trump declares a national emergency to free up $50 billion in federal resources to combat coronavirus.

March 18, 2020 – Trump signs into law a coronavirus relief package that includes provisions for free testing for Covid-19 and paid emergency leave.

March 19, 2020 – At a news conference, officials from China’s National Health Commission report no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the pandemic began.

March 23, 2020 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres calls for an immediate global ceasefire amid the pandemic to fight “the common enemy.”

March 24, 2020 – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach agree to postpone the Olympics until 2021 amid the outbreak.

March 25, 2020 – The White House and Senate leaders reach an agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus deal to offset the economic damage of coronavirus, producing one of the most expensive and far-reaching measures in the history of Congress.

March 27, 2020 – Trump signs the stimulus package into law.

April 2, 2020 – According to the Department of Labor, 6.6 million US workers file for their first week of unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28, the highest number of initial claims in history. Globally, the total number of coronavirus cases surpasses 1 million, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.

April 3, 2020 – Trump says his administration is now recommending Americans wear “non-medical cloth” face coverings, a reversal of previous guidance that suggested masks were unnecessary for people who weren’t sick.

April 8, 2020 – China reopens Wuhan after a 76-day lockdown.

April 14, 2020 – Trump announces he is halting funding to WHO while a review is conducted, saying the review will cover WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”

April 20, 2020 – Chilean health officials announce that Chile will begin issuing the world’s first digital immunity cards to people who have recovered from coronavirus, saying the cards will help identify individuals who no longer pose a health risk to others.

April 21, 2020 – California’s Santa Clara County announces autopsy results that show two Californians died of novel coronavirus in early and mid-February – up to three weeks before the previously known first US death from the virus.

April 28, 2020 – The United States passes one million confirmed cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.

May 1, 2020 – The US Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency-use authorization for remdesivir in hospitalized patients with severe Covid-19. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn says remdesivir is the first authorized therapy drug for Covid-19.

May 4, 2020 – During a virtual pledging conference co-hosted by the European Union, world leaders pledge a total of $8 billion for the development and deployment of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against the novel coronavirus.

May 11, 2020 – Trump and his administration announce that the federal government is sending $11 billion to states to expand coronavirus testing capabilities. The relief package signed on April 24 includes $25 billion for testing, with $11 billion for states, localities, territories and tribes.

May 13, 2020 – Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, warns that the coronavirus may never go away and may just join the mix of viruses that kill people around the world every year.

May 19, 2020 – WHO agrees to hold an inquiry into the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. WHO member states adopt the proposal with no objections during the World Health Assembly meeting, after the European Union and Australia led calls for an investigation.

May 23, 2020 – China reports no new symptomatic coronavirus cases, the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in December.

May 27, 2020 – Data collected by Johns Hopkins University reports that the coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 people across the US, meaning that an average of almost 900 Americans died each day since the first known coronavirus-related death was reported nearly four months earlier.

June 2, 2020 – Wuhan’s Health Commission announces that it has completed coronavirus tests on 9.9 million of its residents with no new confirmed cases found.

June 8, 2020 – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that almost all coronavirus restrictions in New Zealand will be lifted after the country reported no active cases.

June 11, 2020 – The United States passes 2 million confirmed cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.

June 16, 2020 – University of Oxford scientists leading the Recovery Trial, a large UK-based trial investigating potential Covid-19 treatments, announce that a low-dose regimen of dexamethasone for 10 days was found to reduce the risk of death by a third among hospitalized patients requiring ventilation in the trial.

June 20, 2020 – The NIH announces that it has halted a clinical trial evaluating the safety and effectiveness of drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus. “A data and safety monitoring board met late Friday and determined that while there was no harm, the study drug was very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalized patients with Covid-19,” the NIH says in a statement.

June 26, 2020 – During a virtual media briefing, WHO announces that it plans to deliver about 2 billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine to people across the globe. One billion of those doses will be purchased for low- and middle-income countries, according to WHO.

July 1, 2020 – The European Union announces it will allow travelers from 14 countries outside the bloc to visit EU countries, months after it shut its external borders in response to the pandemic. The list does not include the US, which doesn’t meet the criteria set by the EU for it to be considered a “safe country.”

July 6, 2020 – In an open letter published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, 239 scientists from around the world urge WHO and other health agencies to be more forthright in explaining the potential airborne transmission of coronavirus. In the letter, scientists write that studies “have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1 to 2 meters (yards) from an infected individual.”

July 7, 2020 – The Trump administration notifies Congress and the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from WHO. The withdrawal goes into effect on July 6, 2021.

July 21, 2020 – European leaders agree to create a €750 billion ($858 billion) recovery fund to rebuild EU economies ravaged by the coronavirus.

July 27, 2020 – A vaccine being developed by the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in partnership with the biotechnology company Moderna, enters Phase 3 testing. The trial is expected to enroll about 30,000 adult volunteers and evaluates the safety of the vaccine and whether it can prevent symptomatic Covid-19 after two doses, among other outcomes.

August 11, 2020 – In a live teleconference, Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that Russia has approved a coronavirus vaccine for public use before completion of Phase 3 trials, which usually precedes approval. The vaccine, which is named Sputnik-V, is developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute with funding from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

August 15, 2020 – Russia begins production on Sputnik-V, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

August 23, 2020 – The FDA issues an emergency use authorization for the use of convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19. It is made using the blood of people who have recovered from coronavirus infections.

August 27, 2020 – The CDC notifies public health officials around the United States to prepare to distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine as soon as late October. In the documents, posted by The New York Times, the CDC provides planning scenarios to help states prepare and advises on who should get vaccinated first – healthcare professionals, essential workers, national security “populations” and long-term care facility residents and staff.

September 4, 2020 – The first peer-reviewed results of Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine are published in the medical journal The Lancet. The results “have a good safety profile” and the vaccine induced antibody responses in all participants, The Lancet says.

October 2, 2020 – Trump announces that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for Covid-19. He spends three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center receiving treatment before returning to the White House.

October 12, 2020 – Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson announces it has paused the advanced clinical trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine because of an unexplained illness in one of the volunteers.”Following our guidelines, the participant’s illness is being reviewed and evaluated by the ENSEMBLE independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) as well as our internal clinical and safety physicians,” the company said in a statement. ENSEMBLE is the name of the study. The trial resumes later in the month.

December 10, 2020 – Vaccine advisers to the FDA vote to recommend the agency grant emergency use authorization to Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine.

December 14, 2020 – US officials announce the first doses of the FDA authorized Pfizer vaccine have been delivered to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

December 18, 2020 – The FDA authorizes a second coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna for emergency use. “The emergency use authorization allows the vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. for use in individuals 18 years and older,” the FDA said in a tweet.

January 14, 2021 – The WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of the outbreak in Wuhan arrive in China.

January 20, 2021 – Newly elected US President Joe Biden halts the United States’ withdrawal from WHO.

February 22, 2021 – The death toll from Covid-19 exceeds 500,000 in the United States.

February 27, 2021 – The FDA grants emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, the first single dose Covid-19 vaccine available in the US.

March 30, 2021 – According to a 120-page report from WHO, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 probably spread to people through an animal, and probably started spreading among humans no more than a month or two before it was noticed in December of 2019. The report says a scenario where it spread via an intermediate animal host, possibly a wild animal captured and then raised on a farm, is “very likely.”

April 17, 2021 – The global tally of deaths from Covid-19 surpasses 3 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins.

August 3, 2021 – According to figures published by the CDC, the more contagious Delta variant accounts for an estimated 93.4% of coronavirus circulating in the United States during the last two weeks of July. The figures show a rapid increase over the past two months, up from around 3% in the two weeks ending May 22.

August 12, 2021 – The FDA authorizes an additional Covid-19 vaccine dose for certain immunocompromised people.

August 23, 2021 – The FDA grants full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for people age 16 and older, making it the first coronavirus vaccine approved by the FDA.

September 24, 2021 CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky diverges from the agency’s independent vaccine advisers to recommend boosters for a broader group of people – those ages 18 to 64 who are at increased risk of Covid-19 because of their workplaces or institutional settings – in addition to older adults, long-term care facility residents and some people with underlying health conditions.

November 2, 2021 – Walensky says she is endorsing a recommendation to vaccinate children ages 5-11 against Covid-19, clearing the way for immediate vaccination of the youngest age group yet in the US.

November 19, 2021 – The FDA authorizes boosters of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for all adults. The same day, the CDC also endorses boosters for all adults.

December 16, 2021 – The CDC changes its recommendations for Covid-19 vaccines to make clear that shots made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are preferred over Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

December 22, 2021 – The FDA authorizes Pfizer’s antiviral pill, Paxlovid, to treat Covid-19, the first antiviral Covid-19 pill authorized in the United States for ill people to take at home, before they get sick enough to be hospitalized. The following day, the FDA authorizes Merck’s antiviral pill, molnupiravir.

December 27, 2021 The CDC shortens the recommended times that people should isolate when they’ve tested positive for Covid-19 from 10 days to five days if they don’t have symptoms – and if they wear a mask around others for at least five more days. The CDC also shortens the recommended time for people to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus to a similar five days if they are vaccinated.

January 31, 2022 – The FDA grants full approval to Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for those ages 18 and older. This is the second coronavirus vaccine given full approval by the FDA.

March 29, 2022 – The FDA authorizes a second booster of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for adults 50 and older. That same day, the CDC also endorses a second booster for the same age group.

April 25, 2022 – The FDA expands approval of the drug remdesivir to treat patients as young as 28 days and weighing about seven pounds.

May 17, 2022 – The FDA authorizes a booster dose of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 at least five months after completion of the primary vaccine series. On May 19, the CDC also endorses a booster dose for the same age group.

June 18, 2022 – The CDC recommends Covid-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months.

August 31, 2022 – The FDA authorizes updated Covid-19 vaccine booster shots from Moderna and Pfizer. Both are bivalent vaccines that combine the companies’ original vaccine with one that targets the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sublineages. The CDC signs off on the updated booster shots the following day.

May 5, 2023 – The WHO says Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency.



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What is the painful condition called shingles? | CNN



CNN
 — 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the 89-year-old California Democrat, recently announced she is out of the hospital and recovering at home from shingles, a painful viral inflammation in the skin’s nerves that causes a blistering rash lasting for two to four weeks. Feinstein was diagnosed in February and hospitalized in San Francisco last week.

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — which is the same virus responsible for chickenpox. Varicella zoster is also responsible for a rare condition called Ramsay Hunt syndrome that caused pop star Justin Bieber’s face to become partially paralyzed in June 2022.

“As you can see, this eye is not blinking. I can’t smile on this side of my face. This nostril will not move,” Bieber said at the time in answer to fans who wondered why he had canceled performances.

Painful skin is one of first signs of shingles, and for some people, the pain is intense. It can create a burning sensation, or the skin can tingle or be sensitive to touch, according to the Mayo Clinic. Shingles can occur at other places on the body, such as the face and scalp, but the most common presentation is on the torso on one side of the body.

A red rash will begin to develop at the site of the pain within a few days. The rash often begins as a small, painful patch, which then spreads like “a stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of the torso,” the Mayo Clinic said.

In rare cases, the rash may become more widespread and look similar to a chickenpox rash, typically in people with weakened immune systems, according to the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to pain, some people may develop chills, fatigue, fever, headache, upset stomach and sensitivity to light. See a doctor if you are over 50, have a weakened immune system, the rash is widespread and painful, or the pain and rash occur near an eye.

“If left untreated, this infection may lead to permanent eye damage,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

The varicella-zoster virus is highly contagious when in the blister stage, spreading through direct contact with the fluid from blisters and via viral particles in the air.

However, you cannot get shingles from someone who has shingles. If you aren’t vaccinated for chickenpox or haven’t previously had it and are infected by that person, you will develop chickenpox, which then puts you at risk for shingles later in life, the CDC said.

If you have shingles, you can prevent the spread of the virus by covering the rash and not touching or scratching the raised vesicles that form the rash, the CDC stated. Wash your hands often.

“People with shingles cannot spread the virus before their rash blisters appear or after the rash crusts,” the CDC said.

If the rash is covered, the risk of transmission “is low,” the CDC said. “People with chickenpox are more likely to spread (the virus) than people with shingles.”

If you think you have shingles, call a doctor as soon as you can, the CDC recommended. If caught early, there are antiviral medications, including acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir, that can shorten the length and severity of the illness.

“These medicines are most effective if you start taking them as soon as possible after the rash appears,” the CDC said.

Doctors may also suggest over-the-counter or prescription pain medication for the burning and pain, while calamine lotion, wet compresses and oatmeal baths may ease itching.

For older adults, the population most likely to develop shingles, the best treatment is prevention. The US Food and Drug Administration approved a two-dose vaccine called Shingrix in 2017 for people 50 and older.

“Shingrix is also recommended for adults 19 years and older who have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy,” the CDC said.

Shingrix, which is not based on a live virus, is more than 90% effective in encouraging the aging immune system to recognize and be ready to fight the virus, according to its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline.

Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a dose of Shingrix or is allergic to any of the components of the vaccine should avoid it, the CDC said.

“People who currently have shingles, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should wait to get Shingrix,” the CDC said.

Another vaccine called Zostavax, which the FDA approved for people over 50 in 2006, is 51% effective in preventing shingles, according to the CDC. Zostavax is based on a live virus, the same approach used for the chickenpox vaccine recommended in childhood. It has not been sold in the United States since November 2020.

If you have never had chickenpox, you can’t get shingles. However, once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in the spine’s sensory neurons, possibly erupting years later as shingles.

Two doses of a chickenpox vaccine for children, teens and adults, introduced in 1995, is 100% effective at preventing a severe case of chickenpox, according to the CDC. Immunity lasts 10 to 20 years, the CDC noted.

In the small number of people who still get chickenpox after vaccination, the illness is typically milder, with few or no blisters.

The CDC recommends the vaccine be given to children in two doses, the first between 12 and 15 months and a second one between 4 and 6 years. Anyone 13 years old and older who has no evidence of immunity can get two doses four to eight weeks apart, the CDC said.

Some people should not get the vaccine, including pregnant women, people with certain blood disorders or those on prolonged immunosuppressive therapy, and those with a moderate or severe illness, among others.

About 1 in 10 people will develop a painful and possibly debilitating condition called postherpetic neuralgia, or long-term nerve pain. All other signs of the rash can be gone, but the area is extremely painful to touch. Less often, itching or numbness can occur.

The condition rarely affects people under 40, the CDC said. Older adults are most likely to have more severe pain that lasts longer than a younger person with shingles. For some, the nerve pain can be devastating.

“Five years later, I still take prescription medication for pain,” said a 63-year-old harpist who shared his story on the CDC website. “My shingles rash quickly developed into open, oozing sores that in only a few days required me to be hospitalized.

“I could not eat, sleep, or perform even the most minor tasks. It was totally debilitating. The pain still limits my activity levels to this day,” said the musician, who has been unable to continue playing the harp due to pain.

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Up to 20,000 people who attended a religious gathering may have been exposed to measles. What should they do next? | CNN



CNN
 — 

Up to 20,000 people who attended a religious gathering at a college in Wilmore, Kentucky, in February could have been exposed to a person later diagnosed with measles.

On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to clinicians and public health officials about the confirmed case of measles in an individual present at the gathering who had not been vaccinated against the disease.

“If you attended the Asbury University gathering on February 17 or 18 and you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against measles, you should quarantine for 21 days after your last exposure and monitor yourself for symptoms of measles so that you do not spread measles to others,” according to the CDC advisory.

The CDC also recommended that people who are unvaccinated receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Reading this news, people may have questions about measles, including its symptoms, infection outcomes and who is most at risk. They may also want to know what makes measles so contagious, what has been the cause of recent outbreaks and how effective the MMR vaccine is.

To help answer these questions, I spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Previously, she served as Baltimore’s health commissioner, where her duties included overseeing the city’s immunization and infectious disease investigations.

CNN: What is measles, and what are the symptoms?

Dr. Leana Wen: Measles is an extremely contagious illness that’s caused by the measles virus. Despite many public health advances, including the development of the MMR vaccine, it remains a major cause of death among children globally.

The measles virus is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected individuals. If someone is infected and coughs or sneezes, droplets can land on you and infect you. These droplets can land on surfaces, and if you touch the surface and then touch your nose or mouth, that could infect you, too.

Symptoms usually appear 10 to 12 days after infection. They include a high fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and small, painless white spots on the inside of the mouth. A few days after these symptoms begin, many individuals develop a characteristic rash — flat red spots that generally start on the face and then spread downward over the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet. The spots can become joined together as they spread and can be accompanied by a high fever.

A nurse gives a woman a measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccin at the Utah County Health Department on April 29, 2019 in Provo, Utah.

CNN: What are outcomes of measles infections? Who is most at risk?

Wen: Many individuals recover without incident. Others, however, can develop severe complications.

One in five unvaccinated people with measles are hospitalized, according to the CDC. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles will get pneumonia; about 1 in 1,000 who get measles can develop encephalitis, a swelling of the brain that can lead to seizures and leave the child with lasting disabilities. And nearly 1 to 3 out of every 1,000 children who are infected with measles will die.

Measles is not only a concern for children. It can also cause premature births in pregnant women who contract it. Immunocompromised people, such as cancer patients and those infected with HIV, are also at increased risk.

CNN: What makes measles so contagious?

Wen: Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world — up to 90% of the unvaccinated people who come into contact with a contagious individual will also become infected. The measles virus can remain in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area.

Another reason why measles spreads so easily is its long incubation period. In infected people, the time from exposure to fever is an average of about 10 days, and from exposure to rash onset is about 14 days — but could be up to 21 days. In addition, infected people are contagious from four days before rash starts through four days after. That’s a long period of time where they could unknowingly infect others.

CNN: What has been the cause of recent measles outbreaks?

Wen: It’s important to note that this incident in Kentucky is not yet considered an outbreak. Only one person has been diagnosed with measles. That person was possibly exposed to many others given the number of people in attendance at this gathering, but we don’t know yet if any of those people were infected.

But let’s look at a recent example of a confirmed outbreak in the US: In November 2022, health officials in central Ohio raised alarm over young children being diagnosed with measles. In all, 85 children got sick. None of the children died, but 36 needed to be hospitalized. All those infected were either unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated.

Health officials were able to contain the outbreak through contact tracing, vaccination and other public health measures in early February, and it was declared over. But there is concern it won’t be the last of its kind. A study from the CDC reported the rate of immunizations for required vaccines among kindergarten students nationwide dropped from 95% in the 2019-20 school year to 93% in the 2021-22 school year. Some communities have far lower rates than this national average, however, which can lead to outbreaks — not only of measles but also diseases like polio that can also have severe consequences.

CNN: How effective is the MMR vaccine?

Wen: The MMR vaccine is a two-dose vaccine. The recommendation is for children to receive the first dose at age 12-15 months and the second dose at age 4-6 years. One dose of the MMR vaccine 93% effective at preventing measles infection. Two doses are 97% effective.

CNN: What is the best way to protect against measles?

Wen: The MMR vaccine is an extremely safe and very effective vaccine and is recognized as a significant public health advance for preventing an otherwise extremely contagious disease from spreading and causing potentially very severe — even fatal — outcomes.

Consider that the vaccine was licensed in the US in 1963. In the four years before that, there were an average of more than 500,000 cases of measles every year and over 430 measles-associated deaths. By 1998, there were just 89 cases and no measles-associated deaths. That’s a huge public health triumph.

Young children should receive the vaccine according to the recommended schedule. Older kids and adults who never received it should also discuss getting it with their health care provider. And clinicians and public health officials in the US and around the world should redouble efforts to increase routine childhood immunizations so as to stop preventable diseases from making a comeback.

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FDA vaccine advisers vote to harmonize Covid-19 vaccines in the United States | CNN



CNN
 — 

A panel of independent experts that advises the US Food and Drug Administration on its vaccine decisions voted unanimously Thursday to update all Covid-19 vaccines so they contain the same ingredients as the two-strain shots that are now used as booster doses.

The vote means young children and others who haven’t been vaccinated may soon be eligible to receive two-strain vaccines that more closely match the circulating viruses as their primary series.

The FDA must sign off on the committee’s recommendation, which it is likely to do, before it goes into effect.

Currently, the US offers two types of Covid-19 vaccines. The first shots people get – also called the primary series – contain a single set of instructions that teach the immune system to fight off the original version of the virus, which emerged in 2019.

This index strain is no longer circulating. It was overrun months ago by an ever-evolving parade of new variants.

Last year, in consultation with its advisers, the FDA decided that it was time to update the vaccines. These two-strain, or bivalent, shots contain two sets of instructions; one set reminds the immune system about the original version of the coronavirus, and the second set teaches the immune system to recognize and fight off Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which emerged in the US last year.

People who have had their primary series – nearly 70% of all Americans – were advised to get the new two-strain booster late last year in an effort to upgrade their protection against the latest variants.

The advisory committee heard testimony and data suggesting that the complexity of having two types of Covid-19 vaccines and schedules for different age groups may be one of the reasons for low vaccine uptake in the US.

Currently, only about two-thirds of Americans have had the full primary series of shots. Only 15% of the population has gotten an updated bivalent booster.

Data presented to the committee shows that Covid-19 hospitalizations have been rising for children under the age of 2 over the past year, as Omicron and its many subvariants have circulated. Only 5% of this age group, which is eligible for Covid-19 vaccination at 6 months of age, has been fully vaccinated. Ninety percent of children under the age of 4 are still unvaccinated.

“The most concerning data point that I saw this whole day was that extremely low vaccination coverage in 6 months to 2 years of age and also 2 years to 4 years of age,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Birth Defects and Infant Disorders. “We have to do much, much better.”

Cohn says that having a single vaccine against Covid-19 in the US for both primary and booster doses would go a long way toward making the process less complicated and would help get more children vaccinated.

Others feel that convenience is important but also stressed that data supported the switch.

“This isn’t only a convenience thing, to increase the number of people who are vaccinated, which I agree with my colleagues is extremely important for all the evidence that was related, but I also think moving towards the strains that are circulating is very important, so I would also say the science supports this move,” said Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford University.

Many others on the committee were similarly satisfied after seeing new data on the vaccine effectiveness of the bivalent boosters, which are cutting the risk of getting sick, being hospitalized or dying from a Covid-19 infection.

“I’m totally convinced that the bivalent vaccine is beneficial as a primary series and as a booster series. Furthermore, the updated vaccine safety data are really encouraging so far,” said Dr. David Kim, director of the the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Program, in public discussion after the vote.

Thursday’s vote is part of a larger plan by the FDA to simplify and improve the way Covid-19 vaccines are given in the US.

The agency has proposed a plan to convene its vaccine advisers – called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC – each year in May or June to assess whether the instructions in the Covid-19 vaccines should be changed to more closely match circulating strains of the virus.

The time frame was chosen to give manufacturers about three months to redesign their shots and get new doses to pharmacies in time for fall.

“The object, of course – before anyone says anything – is not to chase variants. None of us think that’s realistic,” said Jerry Weir, director of the Division of Viral Products in the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review.

“But I think our experience so far, with the bivalent vaccines that we have, does indicate that we can continue to make improvements to the vaccine, and that would be the goal of these meetings,” Weir said.

In discussions after the vote, committee members were supportive of this plan but pointed out many of the things we still don’t understand about Covid-19 and vaccination that are likely to complicate the task of updating the vaccines.

For example, we now seem to have Covid-19 surges in the summer as well as the winter, noted Dr. Michael Nelson, an allergist and immunologist at the University of Virginia. Are the surges related? And if so, is fall the best time to being a vaccination campaign?

The CDC’s Dr. Jefferson Jones said that with only three years of experience with the virus, it’s really too early to understand its seasonality.

Other important questions related to the durability of the mRNA vaccines and whether other platforms might offer longer protection.

“We can’t keep doing what we’re doing,” said Dr. Bruce Gellin, chief of global public health strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation. “It’s been articulated in every one of these meetings despite how good these vaccines are. We need better vaccines.”

The committee also encouraged both government and industry scientists to provide a fuller picture of how vaccination and infection affect immunity.

One of the main ways researchers measure the effectiveness of the vaccines is by looking at how much they increase front-line defenders called neutralizing antibodies.

Neutralizing antibodies are like firefighters that rush to the scene of an infection to contain it and put it out. They’re great in a crisis, but they tend to diminish in numbers over time if they’re not needed. Other components of the immune system like B-cells and T-cells hang on to the memory of a virus and stand ready to respond if the body encounters it again.

Scientists don’t understand much about how well Covid-19 vaccination boosts these responses and how long that protection lasts.

Another puzzle will be how to pick the strains that are in the vaccines.

The process of selecting strains for influenza vaccines is a global effort that relies on surveillance data from other countries. This works because influenza strains tend to become dominant and sweep around the world. But Covid-19 strains haven’t worked in quite the same way. Some that have driven large waves in other countries have barely made it into the US variant mix.

“Going forward, it is still challenging. Variants don’t sweep across the world quite as uniform, like they seem to with influenza,” the FDA’s Weir said. “But our primary responsibility is what’s best for the US market, and that’s where our focus will be.”

Eventually, the FDA hopes that Americans would be able to get an updated Covid-19 shot once a year, the same way they do for the flu. People who are unlikely to have an adequate response to a single dose of the vaccine – such as the elderly or those with a weakened immune system – may need more doses, as would people who are getting Covid-19 vaccines for the first time.

At Thursday’s meeting, the advisory committee also heard more about a safety signal flagged by a government surveillance system called the Vaccine Safety Datalink.

The CDC and the FDA reported January 13 that this system, which relies on health records from a network of large hospital systems in the US, had detected a potential safety issue with Pfizer’s bivalent boosters.

In this database, people 65 and older who got a Pfizer bivalent booster were slightly more likely to have a stroke caused by a blood clot within three weeks of their vaccination than people who had gotten a bivalent booster but were 22 to 42 days after their shot.

After a thorough review of other vaccine safety data in the US and in other countries that use Pfizer bivalent boosters, the agencies concluded that the stroke risk was probably a statistical fluke and said no changes to vaccination schedules were recommended.

At Thursday’s meeting, Dr. Nicola Klein, a senior research scientist with Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, explained how they found the signal.

The researchers compared people who’d gotten a vaccine within the past three weeks against people who were 22 to 42 days away from their shots because this helps eliminate bias in the data.

When they looked to see how many people had strokes around the time of their vaccination, they found an imbalance in the data.

Of 550,000 people over 65 who’d received a Pfizer bivalent booster, 130 had a stroke caused by a blood clot within three weeks of vaccination, compared with 92 people in the group farther out from their shots.

The researchers spotted the signal the week of November 27, and it continued for about seven weeks. The signal has diminished over time, falling from an almost two-fold risk in November to a 47% risk in early January, Klein said. In the past few days, it hasn’t been showing up at all.

Klein said they didn’t see the signal in any of the other age groups or with the group that got Moderna boosters. They also didn’t see a difference when they compared Pfizer-boosted seniors with those who were eligible for a bivalent booster but hadn’t gotten one.

Further analyses have suggested that the signal might be happening not because people who are within three weeks of a Pfizer booster are having more strokes, but because people who are within 22 to 42 days of their Pfizer boosters are actually having fewer strokes.

Overall, Klein said, they were seeing fewer strokes than expected in this population over that period of time, suggesting a statistical fluke.

Another interesting thing that popped out of this data, however, was a possible association between strokes and high-dose flu vaccination. Seniors who got both shots on the same day and were within three weeks of those shots had twice the rate of stroke compared with those who were 22 to 42 days away from their shots.

What’s more, Klein said, the researchers didn’t see the same association between stroke and time since vaccination in people who didn’t get their flu vaccine on the same day.

The total number of strokes in the population of people who got flu shots and Covid-19 boosters on the same day is small, however, which makes the association a shaky one.

“I don’t think that the evidence are sufficient to conclude that there’s an association there,” said Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office.

Nonetheless, Richard Forshee, deputy director of the FDA’s Office of Biostatistics and Pharmacovigilance, said the FDA is planning to look at these safety questions further using data collected by Medicare.

The FDA confirmed that the agency is taking a closer look.

“The purpose of the study is 1) to evaluate the preliminary ischemic stroke signal reported by CDC using an independent data set and more robust epidemiological methods; and 2) to evaluate whether there is an elevated risk of ischemic stroke with the COVID-19 bivalent vaccine if it is given on the same day as a high-dose or adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

The FDA did not give a time frame for when these studies might have results.

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Decreasing rates of childhood immunization are a major concern. Our medical analyst explains why | CNN



CNN
 — 

Vaccine rates for measles, polio, diphtheria and other diseases are decreasing among US children, according to a new study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rate of immunizations for required vaccines among kindergarten students declined from 95% to approximately 94% during the 2020-21 school year. It dropped further — to 93% — in the 2021-22 school year.

That’s still a high number, so why is this drop in immunization significant? What accounts for the decline? What might be the consequences if these numbers drop further? If parents are unsure about vaccinating their kids, what should they do? And what can be done on a policy level to increase immunization numbers?

To help us with these questions, I spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician, public health expert and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also author of “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.”

CNN: Why is it a problem that childhood immunization rates are declining?

Dr. Leana Wen: The reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases is one of the greatest public health success stories in the last 100 years.

The polio vaccine was introduced in the United States in 1955, for example. In the four years prior, there were an average of over 16,000 cases of paralytic polio and nearly 2,000 deaths from polio each year across the US. Widespread use of the polio vaccine had led to the eradication of polio in the country by 1979, according to the CDC, sparing thousands of deaths and lifelong disability among children each year.

The measles vaccine was licensed in the US in 1963. In the four years before that, there were an average of over 500,000 cases and over 430 measles-associated deaths each year. By 1998, there were just 89 cases recorded — and no measles-associated deaths.

These vaccines are very safe and extremely effective. The polio vaccine, for example, is over 99% effective at preventing paralytic polio. The measles vaccine is 97% effective at preventing infection.

We can do this same analysis for other diseases for which there are routine childhood immunizations.

It’s very concerning that rates of immunization are declining for vaccines that have long been used to prevent disease and reduce death. That means more children are at risk for severe illness — illness that could be averted if they were immunized. Moreover, if the proportion of unvaccinated individuals increases in a community, this also puts others at risk. That includes babies too young to be vaccinated or people for whom the vaccines don’t protect as well — for example, patients on chemotherapy for cancer.

CNN: What accounts for the decline in vaccination numbers?

Wen: There are probably many factors. First, there has been substantial disruption to the US health care system during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many children missed routine visits to the pediatrician during which they would have received vaccines due to pandemic restrictions. In addition, some community health services offered also became disrupted as local health departments focused on Covid-19 services.

Second, disruption to schooling has also played a role. Vaccination requirements are often checked prior to the start of the school year. When schools stopped in-person instruction, that led to some families falling behind on their immunizations.

Third, misinformation and disinformation around Covid-19 vaccines may have seeded doubt in other vaccines. Vaccine hesitancy and misinformation were already major public health concerns before the coronavirus emerged, but the pandemic has exacerbated the issues.

According to a December survey published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than one in three American parents said vaccinating children against measles, mumps, and rubella shouldn’t be a requirement for them to attend public schools, even if that may create health risks for others. This was a substantial increase from 2019, when a similar poll from the Pew Research Center found only 23% of parents opposed school vaccine requirements.

CNN: What are some consequences if immunization rates drop further?

Wen: If immunization rates drop further, we could see more widespread outbreaks. Diseases that were virtually eliminated in the US could reemerge, and more people can become severely ill and suffer lasting consequences or even die.

We are already seeing some consequences: Last summer, there was a confirmed case of paralytic polio in an unvaccinated adult in New York. It’s devastating that a disease like polio has been identified again in the US, since we have an extremely effective vaccine to prevent it.

There is an active measles outbreak in Ohio. As of January 17, 85 cases have been reported. Most of the cases involved unvaccinated children, and at least 34 have been hospitalized.

CNN: If parents are unsure of vaccinating their kids, what should they do?

Wen: As parents, we generally trust pediatricians with our children’s health. We consult pediatricians if our kids are diagnosed with asthma and diabetes, or if they have new worrisome symptoms of another illness. We should also consult our pediatricians about childhood immunizations; parents and caregivers with specific questions or concerns should address them.

The national association of pediatricians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, “strongly recommends on-time routine immunization of all children and adolescents according to the Recommended Immunization Schedules for Children and Adolescents.”

CNN: What can be done to increase immunization numbers?

Wen: There needs to be a concerted educational campaign to address why vaccination against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio and so forth is so crucial. One of the reasons for vaccine hesitancy, in my experience, is that these diseases have been rarely seen in recent years. Many people who are parents now didn’t experience the devastation of these diseases growing up, so may not realize how terrible it would be for them to return.

Specific interventions should be targeted at the community level. In some places, low immunization levels may be due to access. Vaccination drives at schools, parks, shopping centers, and other places where families gather can help increase numbers. In other places, the low uptake may be because of vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. There will need to be different strategies implemented in that situation.

Overall, increasing immunization rates for vaccine-preventable childhood diseases needs to be a national imperative. I can’t underscore how tragic it would be for kids to suffer the harms of diseases that could be entirely prevented with safe, effective and readily available vaccines that have been routinely given for decades.

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