Archive for October, 2011

ECDC publishes monthly measles monitoring update

Monday, October 31st, 2011 (last updated)

ECDC publishes monthly measles monitoring updateMeasles, a highly infectious vaccine-preventable disease, is re-emerging in Europe. Countries within the European Region of the World Health Organization, which include EU and EEA/EFTA countries, have committed to eliminate measles by 2015. Elimination of measles requires sustained vaccination coverage above 95% with two doses of a measles-containing vaccine (MCV).

ECDC is monitoring measles transmission in these countries and produces epidemiological updates. The European monthly measles monitoring reports (EMMO) aim to provide timely public updates on the measles situation in Europe for effective disease control measures, and in support of the common 2015 measles elimination target. These monthly reports are based on information from multiple sources including national websites, the EUVAC.NET database, the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS), validated media reports, and personal communication from national authorities.

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European Commission has approved Prevenar 13 in adults ≥ 50 year

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 (last updated)

Pfizer announced today that the European Commission has approved the Company’s pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, Prevenar 13 (pneumococcal polysaccharide conjugate vaccine [13-valent, adsorbed]), for active immunization for the prevention of vaccine-type invasive disease caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae in adults aged 50 years and older.

Prevenar 13, the first and only pneumococcal conjugate vaccine approved by the European Commission for use in adults, has the potential to prevent invasive pneumococcal disease in adults aged 50 and older – a time of life when the risk for contracting the disease begins to increase,” said Emilio Emini, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, Vaccine Research, Pfizer Inc. “It is important that older adults talk to their health care provider about pneumococcal disease prevention and Prevenar 13 as part of a plan for healthy aging.”

The European Commission’s decision to authorize this new indication for Prevenar 13 followed a review of clinical immunogenicity and safety data involving more than 6,000 adults aged 50 years and older.

Panel Endorses HPV Vaccine for Boys of 11

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 (last updated)

Boys and young men should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, or HPV, to protect against anal and throat cancers that can result from sexual activity, a federal advisory committee said Tuesday.

The recommendation by the panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is likely to transform the use of the HPV vaccine, since most private insurers pay for vaccines once the committee recommends them for routine use. The HPV vaccine is expensive. Its three doses cost pediatricians more than $300, and pediatricians often charge patients hundreds more.

The committee recommended that boys ages 11 and 12 should be vaccinated. It also recommended vaccination of males ages 13 through 21 who had not already had all three shots. Vaccinations may be given to boys as young as 9 and to men between the ages of 22 and 26.

The committee recommended in 2006 that girls and young women ages 11 to 26 should be vaccinated, but vaccination rates in the United States have so far been disappointing.

We need a vaccine against ignorance. Vaccination skepticism is becoming the new public health threat.

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 (last updated)

When I was a boy, a friend of mine had a magic rock. He kept it with him at all times, deep in a pocket of his Oshkosh denim overalls. He claimed that his magic rock kept away tigers. I’d tell him that if he believed that, he was crazy. But he’d throw out his arms like a priest invoking benediction and shout, “Do you see any tigers around here?”

One day much more recently I was waiting to see my family doctor, and I overheard one young woman proudly telling another that she would never have either of her toddlers vaccinated. While she chatted, her son and daughter wandered around the waiting room, stopping occasionally at the children’s play area to stuff toys into their mouths and to interact with the other little ones. I challenged her, telling her that she was exposing every child in the waiting room to the risk of acquiring a number of devastating infections. Before telling me to mind my own business, she asked indignantly, “When was the last time you saw a kid with polio or the mumps?”

The reason we don’t see tigers prowling Jackson Square is because we keep them safely locked away in places like the Killman Zoo. The reason we don’t see kids with polio or the mumps is because we keep the tigers of infection safely locked away in cages called vaccines.

Today, some people want to open these cages because they think the tigers have gone away. They haven’t. They’re still there, lurking in the darkness at the back of the cage, waiting to pounce. Or perhaps these people think that the tigers, once loose, will eat someone else’s child, not theirs. That’s an awful risk to take, and it’s thoughtless and terribly unfair to place someone else’s child in danger just to satisfy your own magical thinking. We locked these viruses away for very good reasons: They maim, they destroy lives, and they kill people.

Some people refuse to vaccinate their children because they think such shots as MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) cause autism. They don’t. Sixteen epidemiological studies have all concluded there is no link between autism and such vaccines as MMR or thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once used in vaccines. Thimerosal has not been present in any childhood vaccines, except inactivated influenza vaccine, since 2001. In those 10 years, have the number of identified cases of childhood autism decreased?

No. Actually, they’ve increased.

Since vaccines or thimerosal can no longer be blamed for causing autism, a lot of parents now fault the vaccine immunization schedule. They claim it overwhelms the immune systems of children by introducing too many new vaccine proteins at one time. Yet, every day of their lives, babies and young children successfully adjust to thousands of foreign proteins that are contained in food, dirt, animal hair and everything else that populates the less-than-sterile environment of home. The current vaccines used to prevent 14 childhood diseases contain only 153 proteins. So if it’s not the vaccine and it’s not the immunization schedule, then what are parents waiting for? Science is never going to construct the perfect tiger cage.

Andrew Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist at Johns Hopkins University, states that some cases of autism are caused by viral infections, such as congenital rubella. Congenital infections occur in the womb before birth. That means that the toddler you refuse to inoculate today could, as an adult, give birth to a child with cataracts, glaucoma, hearing loss, heart defects, developmental delays and, irony of ironies, autism if the unvaccinated mother contracts rubella while she’s pregnant. Do you really want to be responsible for harming not just one generation of children, but two?

Vaccine skepticism is becoming the new public health threat. Squeeze enough unimmunized people into one area, and you have an outbreak of disease. Currently, the World Health Organization warns that an outbreak of polio first identified in Pakistan has now spread to China. This year alone, there have been outbreaks of measles in 33 European countries. Think it can’t happen here in Ontario?

Think again.

The town of Norwich lies in Oxford County, and is only 66 kilometres southwest of Hamilton. In 2005, 283 people in Oxford County were infected in a rubella epidemic. 394 elementary and high school students were excluded from school in Norwich because only 40 per cent of them had been vaccinated against the disease. Immunization clinics were held on three different occasions in Norwich, but attendance was poor. Only 42 students were immunized during the entire outbreak. Ten pregnant women also contracted the disease.

Parents who refuse to immunize their children against illness and possible death are, in my opinion, committing a form of child abuse.

Get your children immunized. Magic rocks don’t keep the tigers away.

Cages do.

We are “this close” to ending polio once and for all

Monday, October 24th, 2011 (last updated)

In October, we observe both World Polio Day and the birthday of Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the world’s first safe and effective vaccine against this crippling and sometimes deadly disease. We also celebrate the fact that the world is on the verge of eradicating one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century.
When Rotary launched its push to end polio in the 1980s, the wild poliovirus crippled nearly 1,000 people every day. Since then, Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have reduced the incidence of polio by 99-percent. And the push continues: This year, India has the lowest number of polio cases in history. We are “this close” to ending polio once and for all.
Despite this tremendous progress, children in some developing countries continue to be infected. That’s why Rotary and its partners must reach every child in some of the most challenging regions of the world with the oral polio vaccine. But the greatest challenge to the polio eradication effort is a funding shortage.

Controlling Dengue fever with a new approach to generate sterilised mosquitoes, as long as no vaccine is available

Monday, October 24th, 2011 (last updated)

Dengue is a potentially fatal disease spread by infected female mosquitoes of the Aedes aegypti species. Bed nets are of little use because this species of mosquito also bites during the day. With no vaccine and more than 2.5 billion people worldwide at risk of infection, new methods to prevent the spread of this debilitating disease are urgently needed.

In this short film, hear how Oxford-based firm Oxitec are pioneering a molecular biology approach to generate genetically sterilized mosquitoes as a means of preventing the spread of Dengue infection. The team has received a Translation Award to support controlled open field trials of their technology in Malaysia.

New vaccine promises to stop spread of lung cancer

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 (last updated)

The world may soon be able to slow down or stop progression of lung cancer – the most common malignancy worldwide as far as incidence and mortality are concerned.
Scientists say they have found an effective new cancer vaccine TG4010, which when combined with standard chemotherapy, enhances the effect of chemotherapy and slows down the progression of advanced non-small-cell-lung cancer (NSCLC) – the most common type of lung cancer – as compared to chemotherapy.
The finding has been published in the medical journal “Lancet Oncology” on Saturday.
Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer. In some places, it is the most common because of tobacco consumption. Around 90% of lung cancers are NSCLC, which is very aggressive. More than 85% report to a doctor in advanced stages. If detected in stage 1, the cure rate is 70%, while in stage 3, it is 20%. Majority of the patients, however, come to us when in stage four. So a vaccine that can slow down progression and also improve chemotherapy effects will be a boon.
NSCLC accounts for about 80% of lung cancer cases, and is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. About half of NSCLC patients are diagnosed with advanced disease and chemotherapy is their only treatment option.
In advanced lung cancer, the MUC1 protein is altered and produced in excess by tumour cells. Around 60% of NSCLCs over express MUC1.
TG4010 is a novel therapeutic vaccine designed to stimulate an immune response against MUC1 and activate the body’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells.
In this study, Elisabeth Quoix from France’s Universite de Strasbourg, enrolled 148 patients, who had advanced NSCLC and whose tumours expressed MUC1 but had not received prior chemotherapy, from 23 centres across France, Poland, Germany, and Hungary. Patients were assigned to either TG4014 in combination with chemotherapy (74 patients; combination group) or only chemotherapy (74 patients; control group).
After six months, 43% of patients in the combination group were progression free as compared to 35% in the control group. Besides, tumour response was substantially higher in patients, who received the combination treatment, as compared to those who got only chemotherapy.
The TG4010 vaccine was largely well tolerated. The most common adverse events were anaemia, neutropenia (low white blood cell count) and thrombocytopenia (abnormally low number of blood platelets), and both groups experienced a similar number of these complications.

Largest measles outbreak in years underscores importance of vaccination

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 (last updated)

This year’s jump in measles in the United States and Canada was costly and occurred among unvaccinated children and adults, suggest several studies being presented at the 49th annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).
Thanks to a successful infant measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination program, measles has been declared eliminated in the United States – meaning the illness hasn’t had continuous spread – since 2000. But outbreaks can occur when the infection is imported, typically by unvaccinated Americans who are infected while traveling to Europe or other continents and then return home, or by foreign tourists who are infected and travel to this country.
Measles is very contagious and can spread quickly in communities with low vaccination rates and among those who are not fully vaccinated (including infants and other vulnerable populations). This is the largest number of reported measles cases in many years: 15 years in the United States and 16 years in Canada.
“Forest fires start with sparks, but unless there is sufficient dry tinder, they won’t roar out of control,” says James M. Hughes, MD, IDSA president. “The same is true of outbreaks. The occasional case is not an issue, but when it occurs in a community where a fair number of people are not vaccinated it can cause serious problems. This is why vaccination is important. We don’t want to return to the days when measles and other vaccination-preventable diseases were rampant.”
Before measles vaccination was available in the 1960s, in the United States every year about three to four million people were infected with measles, 48,000 were hospitalized, 1,000 were permanently disabled and about 500 died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
U. S. Measles Outbreak Largest Since 1996
In 2011 to date, 212 people with measles have been reported in the United States, 68 were hospitalized and at least 12 of them had pneumonia, reports the CDC. This is the largest number of measles cases since 1996. Rapid public health response efforts prevented measles cases and outbreaks from becoming much larger, by isolating cases and vaccinating those who were unvaccinated.
Of those infected, 183 (86 percent) were unvaccinated, or their vaccination status was unknown and 27 (13 percent) were less than a year old. Most of the imported measles cases occurred among U.S. residents traveling overseas to Western Europe (47 percent), Africa or Asia, where vaccination rates are significantly lower, and measles is an ongoing problem.
“The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing measles, and high coverage is critical for preventing outbreaks,” says Huong McLean, PhD, epidemiologist at the CDC. “Quick public health response limited the spread of the disease. But the more unvaccinated people there are in a community, the more difficult it is to control an outbreak.”

World’s first malaria vaccine works in major trial

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 (last updated)

An experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline halved the risk of African children getting malaria in a major clinical trial, making it likely to become the world’s first shot against the deadly disease.

Final-stage trial data released on Tuesday showed it gave protection against clinical and severe malaria in five- to 17-month-olds in Africa, where the mosquito-borne disease kills hundreds of thousands of children a year.
“These data bring us to the cusp of having the world’s first malaria vaccine,” said Andrew Witty, chief executive of the British drugmaker that developed the vaccine along with the nonprofit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI).
While hailing an unprecedented achievement, Witty, malaria scientists and global health experts stressed that the vaccine, known as RTS,S or Mosquirix, was no quick fix for eradicating malaria. The new shot is less effective against the disease than other vaccines are against common infections such as polio and measles.
“We would have wished that we could wipe it out, but I think this is going to contribute to the control of malaria rather than wiping it out,” Tsiri Agbenyega, a principal investigator in the RTS,S trials in Ghana, told Reuters at a Seattle, Washington, conference about the disease.

Malaria is endemic in around 100 countries worldwide and killed some 781,000 people in 2009, according to the World Health Organisation.
Control measures such as insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying and use of combination anti-malaria drugs have helped significantly cut the numbers of malaria cases and deaths in recent years, but experts have said that an effective vaccine is vital to complete the fight against the disease.
The new data, presented at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Malaria Forum conference in Seattle and published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine, were the first from a final-stage Phase III clinical trial conducted at 11 trial sites in seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
The trial is still going on, but researchers who analysed data from the first 6,000 children found that after 12 months of follow-up, three doses of RTS,S reduced the risk of children experiencing clinical malaria and severe malaria by 56 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

“We are very happy with the results. We have never been closer to having a successful malaria vaccine,” said Christian Loucq, director of PATH MVI, who was at the conference. Loucq said widespread use of insecticide-treated bednets in the trial — by 75 percent of people taking part — showed that RTS,S can provide significant protection on top of other existing malaria control methods.
Results in babies aged six to 12 weeks are expected in a year’s time and, if all goes well, GSK believes the vaccine could reach the market in 2015.

Eradication of polio in Pakistan is made more difficult by rumors linking vaccination campaigns to Western plots

Monday, October 17th, 2011 (last updated)

Whenever Safa sees her father readying the brace, she fidgets and sobs. It’s not very comfortable and already too small, but without it the 2-year-old Pakistani girl would crumple to the floor.
Safa’s right leg is paralyzed, and Tahir Wali now realizes his daughter’s plight was wholly avoidable. The girl’s grandmother repeatedly turned away polio vaccination teams from the family’s front door, convinced that the vaccine sterilizes girls. Like many Pakistanis, she bought into rumors spun by fundamentalist imams who denounce polio vaccination campaigns as a Western plot.
“My mother believed there was a conspiracy to use polio vaccines to keep population growth down by suppressing the fertility rate,” Wali says, cradling Safa in his arms inside his family’s tiny two-room house in the northwestern city of Peshawar. “I should have intervened, but I didn’t.”

In the Western world, polio is largely a forgotten disease, an anachronism that conjures up images of iron lungs and March of Dimes posters. In Pakistan, however, polio remains a scourge that international health organizations have failed to eradicate.
As of Oct. 13, 111 cases of polio had been recorded this year in Pakistan — second only to the African nation of Chad, where 114 cases have been reported this year. Last year, Pakistan logged 144 cases of polio. Today, Pakistan is one of just four countries where polio is deemed endemic; the other three are Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.

Several factors have stood in the way of eradication. In the country’s volatile tribal areas along the Afghan border, the war against Islamic militants has made it difficult for vaccination teams to make the rounds in villages and towns, where cases of polio continue to spread. The migration of Pakistanis from the country’s northwest to densely populated cities such as Karachi and Quetta has further spread the disease.
Underlying those factors, however, is an intense mistrust among some Pakistanis for the vaccines and the people who supply and administer them. Radical clerics seed rumors that vaccines are un-Islamic because they are made from substances derived from pigs, or that they cause infertility. Some clerics try to convince parents that polio vaccines are made from the urine of Satan.
The reluctance by some Pakistanis to trust polio vaccination programs is also driven by a belief that the U.S. is behind the campaigns. Anti-American sentiments are more fervent than ever in the country, stoked this year by the case of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who shot to death two Pakistanis in Lahore in January, as well as by President Obama’s decision to not inform Pakistani leaders in advance about the U.S. operation against Osama bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad in May.
Parents’ fears about polio immunization drives were compounded by a CIA-orchestrated phony vaccination campaign aimed at obtaining DNA evidence from Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad in the weeks before the U.S. commando raid that killed him.