Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

An advocacy group opposing the new HPV vaccine requirement for seventh graders is raising money to bring the fight to the state capital. Their efforts may hit a roadblock.

 A spokeswoman says some House republicans plan to pre-file legislation aimed at reversing a new HPV vaccine requirement for middle school students. Representatives Robert Nardolillo (R-Coventry) and Justin Price (R-Hopkinton, Exeter, Richmond) have spoken against the new requirement.

Immunization Action Coalition

Protestors are asking the state health department to abolish the requirement that all seventh graders receive the HPV vaccine, which can prevent cervical and other kinds of cancers. Parents can request an exemption. But the groups say they’re still opposed to the mandate. The health department has added additional community meeting dates to respond to public concerns.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Beginning this fall, all seventh graders in Rhode Island must receive the first dose of the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is already widely used, although some parents object.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In most cases it just goes away, but in others it can cause cervical and other kinds of cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend routine vaccination for boys and girls around 11 years old.

James Volk / CDC

Three strains of meningococcal bacteria - the critters that can cause meningitis - circulate and cause disease in the U.S. Until recently, we only had vaccines to protect against two of them. But in October 2014, the FDA approved a new vaccine for the strain known as serogroup B; on January 23rd, the agency approved a second vaccine for serogroup B, this one requiring just two doses, rather than three.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

That depends on your priorities. But first, here's what's at issue:

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

While the flu is now widespread in Massachusetts, it’s still sporadic in Rhode Island. But 16 Rhode Islanders have already been hospitalized, and officials expect the number of cases to spike.

Health department officials say so far there have been no flu deaths, but in past years flu has killed well over a hundred people in Rhode Island. They say one of this year’s dominant strains in Rhode Island and nationally is H1N1, but that’s also one of the strains this year’s vaccine protects against. 

C. Difficile is a highly contagious infection people can catch in hospitals or after taking antibiotics. It sickens many and kills about 14,000 people every year. But there’s hope for preventing these infections as a new vaccine moves into the clinical trial phase. The Miriam Hospital is participating in the trial.

RI Dept. of Health / CDC, National Immunization Survey

Herd, as in "herd immunity," the concept being that the majority of vaccinated people protect the minority who aren't vaccinated, a kind of safety-in-numbers for your immune system. But what if the number in the minority starts to creep up?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates this year’s flu vaccine was effective about fifty percent of the time. But the vaccine was much less protective for older adults.

The CDC found that vaccinations against influenza types A and B were about 56 percent effective overall. But in people aged 65 and older, the vaccines only worked 27 percent of the time. But Rhode Island Department of Health director Doctor Michael Fine says that’s no reason NOT to get vaccinated.

If you've got the flu, it's bad. Awfully bad. But is this season any worse than unusual? Are hospitals really being overwhelmed by "skyrocketing" cases in an unprecedented outbreak?

I blogged earlier this summer about a pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in Rhode Island and a growing number of cases throughout the country (see the latest from the RI Dept. of Health). There were some indications then that the vaccine was losing its efficacy. But that may not be the full picture.