Archive for June, 2011

ECDC stresses importance of getting vaccinated before attending mass gathering events

Monday, June 27th, 2011 (last updated)

Mass gathering events represent a risk for the spread of communicable diseases. These large gatherings presents a unique situation where the spread of infectious diseases can be facilitated due to the huge number of people, originating from different countries and congregating in space and time.

In this context, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is stressing the importance for European Union citizens planning to attend these events to be vaccinated against infectious diseases especially measles. The Agency also notes that the vaccine should be administered according to their national authority recommendations.

Measles is of particular interest in the context of mass gatherings because the number of measles cases has been increasing within Europe. The majority of measles cases so far have been reported from France (7321), Spain (1812) and Germany (1037). However, several other European countries report higher number of cases compared to the same period last year: Switzerland (554), United Kingdom (345), Belgium (382), Romania (254), Italy (170), Denmark (79), Norway (26) and Sweden (17). The vast majority of case reports continue to be in un-vaccinated individuals.

The importance of pre-travel health advice in case of mass gathering events such as concerts, sporting events and religious gatherings is well-known: persons travelling to these events can be exposed to infectious diseases such as measles and carry the acquired infections back to their home countries where they infect other people. On the other hand, visitors can bring infections from their home country when attending the events, and as such, expose fellow visitors and nationals.

One such event is the World Youth Day scheduled on 16-21 August in Madrid, Spain. It is anticipated that this event will bring together over 350,000 persons, mainly teenagers and young adults, from all over the world.

ECDC is continuously monitoring the European and global situation regarding communicable diseases to be able to identify at an early stage any events that pose a risk to the public health of European Union citizens.

CDC panel: whooping cough vaccine OK for pregnant women

Saturday, June 25th, 2011 (last updated)

The US has seen a dramatic rise in the number of cases of whooping cough in the last few years. The disease is most dangerous for infants. Of the people to die of pertussis in the last decade, 78 percent were infants less than 1 month old, and another 12 percent in children 2-3 months.

The best method for preventing and containing the disease is vaccination, according to the CDC, and in order to make those vaccines more effective, they are now suggesting that pregnant mothers get the pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus (DtaP) vaccine in their third trimester.

The idea is that both the mother and the child are inoculated at the same time. The child is very likely to be born with an immunity, thus decreasing the chances of infection – or unthinkably, death – in those especially vulnerable first months of a newborn’s life.

Previously, the CDC had recommended a method of prevention called “cocooning,” where everyone that is expected to be in immediate contact with the infant would be inoculated just after birth, including the father, mother, siblings, grandparents, and anyone else who would be close to the child.

This “cocooning” method has proven to be ineffective by itself, according to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the committee that made the recommendation to the CDC, which still has to vote to adopt it.

The idea is to both vaccinate the mother in the third trimester as well as close contacts, and continue on a vaccination schedule for the child after that, which normally occurs at 2, 4, and 6 months.

Precisely how vaccination in the third trimester will affect the child’s response to further vaccines after birth is not yet known.

Influenza vaccination during pregnancy protects newborns

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 (last updated)

Infants born to mothers who received the influenza (flu) vaccine while pregnant are nearly 50 percent less likely to be hospitalized for influenza than infants born to mothers who did not receive the vaccine while pregnant, according to a new collaborative study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and colleagues.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends influenza vaccination for anyone older than 6 months of age, but specifically singles out target groups, including pregnant women, who have a greater risk of influenza-related complications.

“It is recommended that all pregnant women receive the influenza vaccine during pregnancy because it is known that pregnant women have increased morbidity and mortality during pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum period if they get the flu,” said Katherine A. Poehling, M.D., MPH., an associate professor of pediatrics and lead author on the study. “We also know that mothers pass antibodies through the placenta to the baby. This study showed us that receiving the influenza vaccine during pregnancy not only protects the mother, but also protects the baby in the early months of life.”

Can a vaccine prevent type 1 diabetes?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 (last updated)

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own components, resulting ultimately in the stress and death of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The exact impetus for the autoimmune breakdown is unclear, but the theory goes something like:

  1. For some reason, the immune system becomes sensitized against pancreatic beta cell proteins like insulin and the enzyme GAD65, to which it makes antibodies (An antibody is a special protein released by the immune system that is designed to target and disable invading pathogens like bacteria and viruses; an autoantibody, then, is an antibody directed towards the self.)
  2. This internal immune struggle against individual proteins expands, resulting in a very inflammatory environment in the tissues of the pancreas.
  3. The stress is too much for beta cells, and they undergo apoptosis, or cell death.
  4. As the beta cells die off, the body loses its ability to produce insulin.  The result is diabetes.

If this is the general progression of type 1 diabetes, then it stands to reason that ameliorating the initial inflammatory reaction– against insulin, GAD65 and so on– could help prevent the gradual increase of inflammation and ultimate beta cell apoptosis.  Thus, a number of researchers, including Leonard C. Harrison at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Victoria, Australia, have been investigating the possibility that type 1 diabetes can be stopped in its early pre-clinical stage.

How does one prevent the immune system attack on these proteins? The general idea is a kind of reverse-vaccine: inundate the body with the protein of interest in a particular way, and the immune system will be normalized, accepting the protein as self rather than foreign invader.

A number of different approaches have been tried along this vein, with different proteins and different means of administration, but Harrison and his team have focused on nasal administration of the insulin protein. After seeing the success in mice of insulin administration, Harrison conducted a trial in which insulin was administered nasally to 52 recent-onset type 1 diabetics. Unfortunately, the treatment did not prevent or significantly slow the death of beta cells in the participants. However, the treatment did desensitize the immune system so that when insulin was later injected the amount of antibodies made to the injected insulin was significantly reduced.

Speak Up! 2011 Virtual Immunization Symposium available online

Monday, June 20th, 2011 (last updated)

Speak Up! 2011 Virtual Immunization Symposium was held on May 5 and attended by health communicators, educators and clinicians featured internationally renowned speakers, advocates, coalition members and communicators.

This Virtual Immunization Symposium demonstrated the effective use of new media strategies to amplify the voice of your organization, convey the importance of your message and motivate others to Speak Up! for immunizations and public health.

The recording of Speak Up! 2011 Virtual Immunization Symposium is now available at can watch or share individual sessions featuring communication specialists, coalition leaders, active mommy bloggers and social media experts who present effective communication strategies that can support you and your organization’s efforts to promote and advocate for immunization and public health.

Total duration of this virtual symposium is 55 minutes. Upload can take up to 5 minutes.

Jaxson has whooping cough: adults and teens should be vaccinated to reduce the circulation of pertussis in the very young

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 (last updated)

Children with pertussis have decreased ability to cough up respiratory secretions and develop thick, glue-like mucus in the windpipe. This causes severe coughing spells that make it difficult for them to eat, drink, or breathe. The child may suffer from coughing spells for two to three weeks or longer. Sometimes the child coughs several times before breathing in; when the child finally does breathe in there is often a loud gasp or “whooping” sound. The disease is most severe when it occurs early in life; it often requires hospitalization.

Vaccine study supports immune targeting of brain tumors

Friday, June 17th, 2011 (last updated)

An experimental vaccine developed by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute targets overactive antigens in highly aggressive brain tumors and improves length of survival in newly diagnosed patients, according to new data that was presented in a poster session at the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive type of tumor originating in the brain, typically live only 12 to 15 months after diagnosis even with standard treatments: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

In this Phase I clinical trial that started in November 2006, 11 of 16 patients (69 percent) were still alive at 32 months (a median analysis time); six of 16 (38 percent) continued to be disease-free; three have gone almost four years and another three have survived more than 2.5 years with no recurrence. Median progression-free survival — the time from treatment to disease recurrence (median progression-free survival) was 16.9 months.

ICT-107 targets six antigens found on glioblastoma cells, three of which also are found on cancer stem cells. Those cells widely are believed to be the original source of tumor cells, enabling them to resist treatment and recur. The study revealed that all 16 patients had at least three of the targeted antigens and 75 percent had all six. Patients who had four of the antigens (MAGE-A1, AIM2, gp100 and HER2) had better immune responses and longer progression-free survival rate.

US facing obstacles from declining vaccination rates

Thursday, June 16th, 2011 (last updated)

The United States is currently seeing twice the number of measles cases that occur in a typical year, marking the largest outbreak of the disease in 15 years.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has reported 152 confirmed measles cases so far this year. Half of the patients have been hospitalized. The return of vaccine-preventable diseases is a concern for doctors and public health officials, but one that is considered predictable.

“Measles can be like a canary in a coal mine,” Gregory Wallace of the CDC said. “If there are any issues with vaccine coverage, it can first be apparent with measles.” Recent years have also seen the resurgence of other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as mumps, whooping cough and Hib. Although vaccine coverage remains high among Americans, about 40 percent of parents admit to deliberately delaying or skipping vaccines for their children.

To Paul Offit, an infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, vaccines are a victim of their own success. Today’s parents have little experience with diseases like the measles, that once killed 3,000 to 5,000 Americans every year. “We’ve not only eliminated these diseases; we’ve eliminated the memory of these diseases,” Offit said. Fear of the vaccinations themselves has also become a major reason that parents have avoided immunizing their children. Around the world, millions of parents stopped vaccinating because of an infamous, and now retracted, article in the British medical journal The Lancet that linked autism to the MMR vaccine. Offit told that it has become one of the greatest myths in modern medicine. Despite the retraction and nearly two dozen studies showing no link between vaccines and autism, the belief persists.

Vaccine summit aims to save four million lives

Monday, June 13th, 2011 (last updated)

Today, the UK Government is spearheading a global effort to vaccinate a quarter of a billion children by 2015. The drive is set to save the lives of four million children across the developing world.

Together with the GAVI Alliance health partnership, the government is co-hosting a vaccine summit this Monday 13 June 2011, calling on international partners to join the UK and donate to its cause.


Core Facts

  • The GAVI Alliance – is a health partnership set up to increase access to immunisation in the world’s poorest countries.
  • Since 2000, the GAVI Alliance has helped vaccinate over 288 million children and saved more than five million lives.
  • Every year, two million children die of diseases that can be prevented through vaccination – the vast majority of whom live in poor countries.
  • Pneumonia kills more than 1.2 million children under five in Africa and Southeast Asian countries each year.
  • Diarrhoea takes the lives of more than 1.3 million children around the world each year.
  • At the summit, international donors will come together to make the contributions needed to roll out vaccines, which will protect against the two biggest killers of small children – pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease.

The UK is prepared to significantly step up its contribution to the GAVI Alliance, but needs other donors to do the same to meet the funding challenge and make sure hundreds of millions of children get the vaccinations they need.

Pledging conference held by the GAVI Alliance: donors commit vaccine funding to achieve historic milestone in global health

Monday, June 13th, 2011 (last updated)

Major public and private donors achieved a milestone in global health today by committing funding to immunise more than 250 million of the world’s poorest children against life-threatening diseases by 2015 and prevent more than four million premature deaths.

Donors committed US$ 4.3 billion at the first pledging conference held by the GAVI Alliance. This exceeds an initial target of $3.7 billion, enabling GAVI to reach more children faster than planned and to accelerate the introduction of new vaccines. A portion of the pledges are conditional upon GAVI raising additional funds from new donors in the future. Today’s pledges bring GAVI’s total available resources for the period 2011 to 2015 to $ 7.6 billion.

The increased support is timely. GAVI recently reported a record 50 countries applied for vaccine funding during the Alliance’s latest application round – nearly double the previous record in 2007. This new support will allow GAVI to fully fund approved applications.

The meeting convened prime ministers, ministers and high-level officials from donor and developing countries, leaders of UN Agencies, CEOs from private companies and senior civil society leaders to make commitments to support GAVI’s life-saving work. GAVI estimates that the total level of co- financing will triple to US$ 100 million by 2015. Vaccine manufacturers announced last week they will contribute by offering lower prices on a range of life-saving vaccines supported by GAVI, including a two-thirds reduction on the rotavirus vaccine, which combats the leading cause of diarrhoea deaths. Co-financing and lower prices will enhance the sustainability of immunisation programmes.

“GAVI was one of the very top performers in our root-and-branch review of the agencies that deliver British aid because it demonstrates tangible results. Britain will play its full part and our support to GAVI will help vaccinate over 80 million children and save 1.4 million lives. That’s one child vaccinated every two seconds for five years,” said David Cameron, UK Prime Minister.