Watch what happens when vaccinations drop by 10%
Don't believe a small reduction in immunization matters?
- Universities of South Florida and Pittsburgh publish an online immunization simulator.
- The simulator shows the stunning effect of even small drops in vaccination rates.
- It's not just anti-vaxxers threatening community health. There are economic and geographical factors as well.
While vaccinations are administered to individuals, the benefit they provide extends beyond the recipient to the entire community in which they reside. They strengthen community immunity, or "herd immunity," by making it harder for contagious diseases to spread through a group of people. When such illnesses encounter potential victims who've been vaccinated against them, they don't get anywhere, and their progression is blocked.
If enough people remain unvaccinated, rapid contagion through the community is more likely to occur. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), "vaccination rates of 96 to 99 percent are necessary to preserve herd immunity and prevent future outbreaks."
We're currently experiencing the worst outbreak of measles — a dangerous disease — since 1996 due to a decline in vaccination rates. A new online simulator from University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health, in partnership with the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, shows how easily this can happen.
How the USF simulator works
Image source: FRED Web/USF
The online simulator is called "FRED" for "Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics." It utilizes actual Florida census data to create a visualization that models both actual current cases — each appears as a red dot — and the likely outcome if vaccination rates were to fall by 10 percent. While Florida-specific, these results could apply to any state, aside from local behavioral differences. It's pretty stunning.
Anti-vax sentiment, income level, and geography
Image source: Yakobchuk Viacheslav/Shutterstock
The CDC recommends children under 24 months in age be vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and varicella (chicken pox). The most recently published information from the CDC finds that U.S. vaccination rates for these diseases was low enough in 2017 to be a problem for herd immunity:
- ≥3 doses of poliovirus vaccine — 92.7%
- ≥ 1 dose of MMR (the combined vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella) — 91.5%)
- ≥3 doses of HepB — 91.4%
- ≥1 dose of varicella vaccine — 91.0%
There are a few factors leading to the break down of what's been a highly effective worldwide vaccination effort that's wiped out childhood smallpox and nearly eliminated malaria and polio.
The anti-vax movement, which has become increasingly widespread due largely to endorsements by misinformed celebrities, has grown around solidly disproven links between the MMR vaccine and autism. It's behind the measles outbreak that's emanating outward from anti-vax communities such as the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of Brooklyn and Rockland County, New York. As of this writing, there have been 839 nationwide cases confirmed by the CDC. Sixty-six of these were in Brooklyn and 41 in Rockland.
The CDC has also found that many parents are skipping vaccines for their children due to the medicine's cost. Among lower-income groups, vaccinations have dropped precipitously for vaccines other than Hep B:
- For Medicaid children, children are anywhere from 2.5 to 15 percent less likely to be vaccinated, depending on the vaccine.
- For uninsured children, not surprisingly, the numbers are far worse, as they're 14.7 to 30.3 percent less likely to be immunized.
There's also a geographic component. Children living outside metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are 2.6 to 6.9 percent less likely to be vaccinated.
Why vaccines don't cause autism
Perhaps the most challenging issue is the anti-vaxxers, since they seem amazingly resistant to better, more accurate information about the safety of vaccines and the damage done to their communities by opting out of herd-immunity efforts.
The remaining factors are largely an issue of access to vaccinations, both in terms of local availability — such as public school-based programs implemented in the past — and cost. Vaccinations are an important area in which the current U.S. healthcare system is clearly falling short.
- This Chilling Simulation Shows What a Measles Outbreak Could Do ... ›
- Watch how the measles outbreak spreads when kids get vaccinated ... ›
- FRED Measles ›
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.
- New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
- Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
- The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.
Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.
The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.
The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.
Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.
"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."
University of Colorado Boulder
This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.
Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.
The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.
Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.
What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.
"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."
Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
We were gaining three IQ points per decade for many, many years. Now, that's going backward. Could this explain some of our choices lately?
There's a new study out of Norway that indicates our—well, technically, their—IQs are shrinking, to the tune of about seven IQ points per generation.
An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.
- "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
- "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
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