Archive for March, 2011

WHO’s European director says vaccination goals attainable

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 (last updated)

The World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe recently said that she remains confident that Europe is capable of remaining polio free, eliminating measles and rubella, and reducing mortality from other vaccine-treatable diseases.

Zsuzsanna Jakab recently spoke at the opening of a high-level conference on childhood diseases held in Budapest, Hungary, saying that Europe can achieve its goals through joint planning and the implementation of effective preventative measures.

In Europe, vaccines and immunizations have supported dramatic improvements in overall health, particularly among children. Jakab said that Europe is on the threshold of eliminating measles and rubella due to the collaborative effort, reports.

Jakab said, however, that despite the overall success, threats remain. She cited high-level population movement, the existence of unimmunized groups with limited access to healthcare services and a continuing decline in the acceptance of vaccines among populations. She also pointed to recent and continuing measles outbreaks and the reemergence of polio.

European Immunization Week begins on April 23. WHO/Europe will coordinate the initiative, which promises to raise awareness about the lack of access to both traditional and new vaccines and to highlight the benefits of vaccination.

The government of Hungary supported the conference on childhood immunizations in Budapest as part of its activities as president of the Council of the European Union. The conference was organized by the Hungarian presidency, the European Commission, the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and WHO/Europe

Japan halts Pfizer, Sanofi vaccines after four die

Monday, March 7th, 2011 (last updated)

Japan’s health ministry halted the use of vaccines made by Pfizer Inc and Sanofi-Aventis SA that prevent meningitis and pneumonia following the deaths of four children.

The infants died shortly after receiving the vaccines. While it was unclear if there was link between the deaths and vaccines, use of Pfizer’s Prevenar and Sanofi’s ActHIB will be suspended while the deaths are investigated, the ministry said in a statement.

A ministry safety panel is scheduled to discuss findings in the investigations on Tuesday. Health officials said they were aware of the deaths in Japan but have not seen any such safety concerns in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “will continue to monitor the safety of all vaccines, including” the two at issue from Pfizer and Sanofi, FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said in a statement.
In February last year health authorities in the Netherlands said no relation was found between Prevenar and the deaths of three infants who had received the vaccine.

Three of the children that died in Japan were administered Prevenar together with ActHIB. In addition, three of the children also received a mixed vaccine against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus on the same day they received the other vaccines. Three of the four children died a day after being immunized. The deaths happened between March 2 and March 4.
Representatives for Pfizer and Sanofi in Tokyo said the companies were cooperating with the investigation.

A spokesman for Sanofi said that the company has shipped more than 3 million doses of ActHIB in Japan since 2008 while a spokesman for Pfizer said the firm has distributed more than 2 million doses of Prevenar in Japan since last year.

Vaccinated Children Not at Higher Risk of Infections or Allergic Diseases, Study Suggests

Friday, March 4th, 2011 (last updated)

Do vaccinations put too much strain on or weaken children’s immune systems? Roma Schmitz and her colleagues from the Robert Koch Institute investigate exactly this research question in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

Their data are based on the results of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents.

In their study, the authors compare the occurrence of infections and allergies in vaccinated and unvaccinated children and adolescents. These include bronchitis, eczema, colds, and gastrointestinal infections.

The evaluation showed that unvaccinated children and adolescents differ from their vaccinated peers merely in terms of the frequency of vaccine preventable diseases. These include pertussis, mumps, or measles. As expected, the risk of contracting these diseases is substantially lower in vaccinated children and adolescents.

Journal Reference:

Schmitz R, Poethko-Müller C, Reiter S, Schlaud M. Vaccination status and health in children and adolescents – findings of the German health interview and examination survey for children and adolescents (KiGGS). Dtsch Arztebl Int, 2011; 108(7): 99%u2013104.

Efforts renewed to eradicate polio

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 (last updated)

Renewed efforts are under way to make polio the second disease eradicated from the planet since smallpox in 1979.

Though polio once left thousands of children in the United States paralyzed, it has since been eliminated with vaccines developed in the 1950s. In most of the rest of the world, a $9 billion vaccination campaign has diminished the number of outbreaks.

Today, 99 percent of the globe is polio-free. Polio is not entirely eradicated, however. It still makes its presence known in parts of India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. This year, an ongoing outbreak in the Congo has left hundreds dead and even more paralyzed.

Outbreaks like the one in Congo have ignited a renewed push to finally eliminate wild polio from the planet. Dr. Donald Henderson, the American physician and epidemiologist who pioneered the drive to eradicate smallpox in the 1960s and 1970s, used to believe eradicating polio would be impossible. He now believes he has cause to change his mind.

“I think eradication of the wild polio virus is possible,” Henderson said in a recent interview.

In India, efforts to stop the disease include vaccinating children at every opportunity and examining all children that show signs of the disease.

Dr. Hamid Jafari runs the polio arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization in India.

“It doesn’t take much for the virus to get to another continent,” Jafari said. “And if the virus finds a group of unimmunized children, it will have a home and it will kill and paralyze children.”