Archive for children’s health

As children suffer, meningitis cases confirm need for FDA reform



You may have read about meningitis outbreaks at college campuses, in some instances resulting in deaths . Today's guest post is by someone whose name you may very well recognize, Dr. Julianne Malveaux. She makes a good case for urgent FDA reform:

Meningitis Cases Confirm Need for FDA Reform
by Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

It is virtually impossible to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything healthcare related these days. Even issues that everyone can agree on - like covering Americans with pre-existing conditions and keeping young adults on their parents' health plan - become political footballs.

But while Congress continues to debate healthcare policies, they are missing opportunities to genuinely effect Americans' health. There is common ground to be found, including ensuring our nation is properly expediting life-saving vaccines for a deadly disease.

Recent scares at Princeton University and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have highlighted a sluggish, reactive approach to disease prevention and that the consequences of this leadership vacuum, particularly at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, could be deadly.

Last spring, a Princeton University student was diagnosed with Meningitis type B (MenB), a highly contagious and life-threatening bacterial infection known to strike college campuses. By November, officials made national headlines by confirming an eighth case.

Just as Princeton was taking steps to protect its students against this deadly disease, UCSB confirmed that MenB had stricken four of its students. One young man – a lacrosse player, Aaron Loy – had to have the lower portion of both legs amputated.

As a former college president, I can assure you that no university is prepared for this kind of crisis. This is particularly true because many college administrators believed they had protected their campuses by requiring incoming freshmen to be vaccinated against meningitis. But it turns out that immunizations cover every meningitis type except for MenB, which accounted for more than 30 percent of meningococcal cases last year.

Because FDA has not approved a MenB vaccine for use in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been scrambling to respond to public health crises like those at Princeton and UCSB. Rather than proactively immunizing susceptible college students before or immediately after a meningitis outbreak occurs, the CDC can only administer “Bexsero” – a MenB vaccine that is currently in use for all ages in European Union, Australia, and Canada – weeks after students have already fallen ill.

FDA’s ad hoc approval for Bexsero means that it takes months for the vaccine to reach college students, rather than days. In the case of Princeton, CDC and FDA launched a vaccination program more than two months after university officials requested special permission to administer the vaccine. Just last week UCSB began immunizing students, some three months after the first case of MenB was confirmed. As one CDC official told CNN, “You don't go online and order 10,000 doses and get next-day delivery of this vaccine. It takes time.”

That statement underscores the need for full U.S. approval of Bexsero -- quickly. A country that has long been the world leader in developing and deploying life-saving medicines should not have to depend on partners in the EU or Canada.

Moreover, other college campuses should be afforded the opportunity to vaccinate their students proactively, well before a disease like MenB strikes their campus. But this option for college administrators, state health officials, and parents is not possible so long as Bexsero remains unapproved in the U.S.

If Congress isn’t yet convinced that there is an urgent problem, perhaps they should listen to the parents of affected students.

"It's absolutely devastating to have Aaron, in the prime of his life, be stricken,” Mike Loy said. “We hope that Aaron's horrific illness brings increased awareness and rapid approval by the FDA of the vaccine.”

I've also heard one mother whose healthy daughter contracted MenB at college and she died within 30 hours of entering the hospital with a headache. She said the FDA would be moving a lot faster if they had to watch their children suffer the way she did.

Improving efficiency at FDA is an issue that should find bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Our system’s continued failure on the MenB vaccine is just one example that illustrates that there’s too much at stake for FDA reform to turn into the partisan fight du jour, or worse yet, be ignored by Congress altogether.


VIDEO-- Nancy Pelosi: Dems can win the House. Oh, and she's totally into Hillary.


yes we can

pelosi on winning back the House

If Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were to become Speaker again, the House will finally pass a bill. And not just "a" bill, but a bill or three that would actually help this country instead of doing what the GOP does, and create gridlock in order to make President Obama look bad.

When she was Speaker, here's what was accomplished in two years:

accomplishments under Obama Pelosi

Since John Boehner became Speaker? Nada. Zero. Zip:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Now The Hill is reporting that Nancy Pelosi is optimistic that Democrats will "of course" gain seats and may regain control of the House:

In a sit-down interview in her office in the Capitol, the House minority leader stopped short of predicting that Democrats would regain the lower chamber in the 2014 midterm elections, but she had no hesitation in saying what she would use a majority for. [...]

[S]he vowed her party would “of course” pick up seats next year. It is the first time Pelosi has guaranteed that Democrats will cut into the GOP’s majority. [...]

And although the odds are stacked against Democrats taking back the House, the shutdown has boosted Democratic hopes.

“I’ve changed my prediction … from, ‘We’re working to win the House’ to ‘We can win the House,’ ” Pelosi said.

One of her priorities would be a bill that would significantly expand federal childcare benefits.

And per the Hill, Pelosi "can barely disguise her delight at the thought of a Hillary Clinton White House. It would align the first female president with the Democrats’ women’s empowerment agenda." In fact, she even hinted that she might endorse Hillz.

Pelosi on Hillary Clinton

Let's just win the House first, okay? Okay.


12-year-old girl dies of asthma; father blames school staff cuts


philadelphia student dies of asthma

I worked at public schools for years, and a common sight would be a student stepping away to use an inhaler. Occasionally, a kid would forget to bring one, or they would lose theirs, and I would notice them sitting on the floor gasping for breath as school staff scrambled to track down family members or the school nurse who could quickly provide one.

It was always a disturbing and tense scenario, one that I could never shake off, one that is stuck in my memory forever, one that made adults and students alike feel helpless as we tried to comfort the panicky, choking child trying to cope until help arrived.

Twelve-year-old Philadelphia sixth-grader Laporshia Massey had an asthma attack at school and died later that day.

Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, there was no nurse on campus, nor was there a trained medical professional to recognize how serious her symptoms were. So they did what we found ourselves doing, they told her to try to remain calm. The difference was, we were fully staffed and could respond quickly and efficiently.

Laporshia was denied the attention and care she needed, so by the time she was taken to the hospital, it was too late. She lost her life.

Via Philadelphia City Paper:

Sixth-grader Laporshia Massey died from asthma complications, according to her father, who says he rushed her to the emergency room soon after she got home from school on the afternoon of Sept. 25. He says Laporshia had begun to feel ill earlier that day at Bryant Elementary School, where a nurse is on staff only two days a week. This day was not one of those days. 

Daniel Burch, Laporshia’s father, is angry and wants to know whether Philadelphia’s resource-starved school district failed to save his daughter’s life.

“If she had problems throughout the day, why … didn’t [the school] call me sooner?” asks Burch... “Why,” he asks, “didn’t [the school] take her to the hospital?”

Burch's fianceé, Sherri Mitchell, got a call from school during which Laporshia told her, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Neither Burch nor Mitchell realized how serious the situation was, thinking that a trained professional at the elementary school would diagnose her.

When Laporshia went to the teacher, she was told that there was "no nurse and just to be calm.” Once school let out, a school staff member drove Laporshia home.

When she got there, her father immediately gave her medication and rushed her to the hospital.

She collapsed in the car, at which point Burch flagged down a passing ambulance in the middle of traffic. Burch says his daughter later died at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. [...]

The District source believes that Laporshia’s life could have been saved if the school had responded appropriately to her illness. “If they had called rescue, she would still be here today,” the source said.

The Philadelphia school district has been underfunded; Gov. Tom Corbett's budget cuts have let 3,000 staff members go since June. Per the City Paper article, after the initial cuts, a nurse specifically warned that "other staff were not competent to deal with asthmatic students in her absence."

Sadly, the nurse was right.


"Access to medical care profoundly influenced by where you live. Citizens of Mississippi first, or of America first?"



During the Democratic convention, former President Clinton talked about Medicaid in his speech. He said, "You won't be laughing when I finish telling you this... [The GOP wants to] "block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years. Of course, that's going to really hurt a lot of poor kids."

L.A. Times's Michael Hiltzik went even further in one of his columns, reminding us that Medicaid "serves the poorest and sickest Americans, those with the fewest healthcare options.... In many cases their financial health depends on Medicaid." But because of the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, the governors of six Southern states say they are rejecting expansion of Medicaid, a controversial part of that law.

We should not leave Medicaid, or medical care in any way, vulnerable to "State's Rights." Like Medicare, Medicaid should be federally controlled and dispersed.

Sadly, race is a factor, as it so often is in the South. This obviously has national implications, especially considering the recurring congressional GOP hostage-taking and out of control GOP governors and state legislatures.

The letter below is a strong argument, one we should embrace. It was written by Michael Petit, Founding President of Every Child Matters Education Fund. Previously, he served as Commissioner of Maine’s Human Services Department and was Deputy Director of the Child Welfare League of America. He was a delegate to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in Helsinki, Finland.

So today's letter to the editor comes from the New York Times, because as always, our voices matter:

Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law” (front page, Oct. 3) reminded me of my discovery 35 years ago — shortly after being appointed commissioner of Maine’s Health and Human Services Department — that states had wide latitude in shaping their Medicaid programs. Income eligibility, scope of services and reimbursement rates were largely left to the states to determine. Generally, the Northern-tier states opted for more generous benefits and the Southern states for fewer. Just like today.

Geography matters, with access to medical care profoundly influenced by where you live. Are citizens of Mississippi citizens of Mississippi first — or citizens of America first? Would the states even need to be involved if an efficient way could be found to treat all citizens equally from coast to coast, allowing them the same medical benefits wherever they live? Actually, for those over 65, it’s been done already and is called Medicare.

President, Every Child Matters
Washington, Oct. 3, 2013