Archive for October, 2011

Vanderbilt University doubles Guinness World Record for influenza vaccinations given in 8 hours

Sunday, October 16th, 2011 (last updated)

Adjuvant makes influenza vaccine more effective in children

Saturday, October 15th, 2011 (last updated)

A trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) that contains the MF59 adjuvant is more effective than a nonadjuvanted vaccine at preventing influenza illness in infants and young children, a randomized trial showed.

The absolute efficacy against all influenza strains was 86% with the adjuvanted vaccine and 43% with the nonadjuvanted vaccine, according to Timo Vesikari, MD, of the University of Tampere in Finland, and colleagues.

That works out to a relative efficacy of the adjuvanted versus the nonadjuvanted vaccine of 75%, the researchers reported in the Oct. 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

They noted that the protection was principally against the predominant strain circulating during the two flu seasons during which the study was conducted — influenza A H3N2 — which precludes conclusions about the efficacy of the vaccines against H1N1 and B viruses.

Although children have the highest rates of seasonal influenza infection and illness, the efficacy of TIV has been shown to be poor in infants and young children. The intranasal live attenuated flu vaccine has better efficacy, but cannot be used in children younger than 2 or in older children with a history of wheezing.

This phase III study examined the effect of adding the MF59 adjuvant, an oil-in-water emulsion, to TIV. The adjuvant is approved for use in 27 countries, but not in the U.S.

The study included 4,707 children ages 6 months to less than 72 months who had never been vaccinated against the flu, and was conducted during two consecutive flu seasons — 2007-2008 in Germany and 2008-2009 in Germany and Finland. Most of the results came from the second year, however.

Source reference:
Vesikari T, et al “Oil-in-water emulsion adjuvant with influenza vaccine in young children” N Engl J Med 2011; 365: 1406-1416.

Vaccine for chlamydia comes closer to reality

Friday, October 14th, 2011 (last updated)

UK researchers have made a breakthrough in accessing the chlamydial genome and believe it could pave the way for new treatments and the development of a vaccine for the sexually transmitted disease.

For decades experts have been prevented from fully understanding the bacteria, which if undetected can make sufferers infertile.

The infection is part of a silent epidemic as most cases do not show symptoms and are left untreated.

It can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes, causing infertility and higher risk of ectopic pregnancy.

“This is a very significant advance in the study of chlamydia and we are proud to be the first people to achieve this,” according to Professor Ian Clarke, from the University of Southampton.

“Previously people have been unable to study chlamydial genetics and this has created a barrier to the comprehensive study of this disease. We, together with our colleagues in Israel, discovered that by treating the chlamydia with calcium ions we were able to introduce a piece of foreign DNA. This will open up the field of chlamydia research and will enable a better understanding of chlamydial genetics. It could lead to the development of new approaches to chlamydial vaccines and therapeutic interventions,” he added.

To prove that they had accessed the chlamydial genome, the research team inserted the gene for a fluorescent protein into C. trachomatis which identified the chlamydial-infected cells by making them glow green.

The study has been published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Pathogens.

Family’s story: HPV

Thursday, October 13th, 2011 (last updated)

Audra and her aunt Laura are strong believers in the HPV vaccine, for good reason. Gisel, Audra’s mother and Laura’s older sister, died from cervical cancer at only 38.

New meningitis vaccine could be approved by spring

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 (last updated)

When Katie Grassie’s nine-year-old son Keaton suddenly got a high fever, she took him to the emergency room.

They sent her and Keaton home.

In the middle of night, her son woke up confused and hallucinating.

Grassie noticed red splotches on his skin and again, they rushed to the emergency room.

This time, Keaton was admitted and had to be put into a coma to help him recover from meningitis. He was given blood thinners and while it saved his life, both his legs had to be amputated at the knees.

“He just had a high fever. How can this be life-threatening?” Grassie recalled thinking. “The scary thing about meningitis is, how many times your kid has a cold or a sniffle or they’re just not feeling well and parents send them to bed?”

Meningococcal disease can be hard for doctors to diagnose because symptoms often mimic the flu, Dr. Ron Gold, medical advisor for the Meningitis

There are five main strains of bacterial meningitis — A, C, Y, W-135 and B — and until recently, Canadians had no way to protect against meningitis B, the most common one.

But many Canadians don’t know they’re not protected, a new survey has found.

In a Leger Marketing survey, 44% of respondents said the vaccines currently available prevent all strains of meningitis, 43% said they don’t, while 13% weren’t sure.

As well, 92% of those polled didn’t know meningitis B is the most common strain.

The online survey, conducted between Sept. 23 and Oct. 2, polled 1,827 Canadian mothers between the ages of 28 and 45. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The good news is researchers in Italy have developed a new vaccine to protect against meningitis B, which Gold said is now before Health Canada.

The process to review the vaccine takes six to nine months and it could be approved by spring.

“It’s a breakthrough in (that) this is the last common cause of meningitis,” Gold said. “Prevention is much better than waiting for the disease.”

Had the vaccine been available when Keaton was a child, Grassie would have wanted him to have it, even though he had meningitis Y, a rare strain.

She said when Keaton was sick, “We didn’t really know anything about meningitis.”

“If I didn’t know about it, how many other people don’t know about it?” she said. “We have to do more to inform people.”

Grassie, who is from Keswick, Ont., 70 km north of Toronto, said her son is now 16 and just got his driver’s permit.

“It hasn’t stopped him in the least,” she said. “He’s come a long way.”

Medical myth: the MMR vaccine causes autism

Monday, October 10th, 2011 (last updated)

Few medical myths have spread as feverishly and contributed to so much preventable illness than the theory that the triple measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine might be linked to autism.

The tale was first suggested by Andrew Wakefield at a 1998 press conference following the publication of his now discredited (and retracted) Lancet paper.

The paper itself didn’t address such a connection but Wakefield raised concerns with journalists and called for a boycott of the MMR vaccine.

“I can’t support the continued use of these three vaccines, given in combination,” he said, “until this issue has been resolved.”

Wakefield said the vaccine should instead be broken into single components and given at yearly intervals.

We now know Wakefield had good reason to discredit the MMR: he had a patent for a single measles vaccine and he was being paid by lawyers who were assembling a case against MMR manufacturers.

None of these conflicts of interest were revealed when The Lancet paper was submitted for publication – if they were, it would never have been published. As the editor of the Lancet noted, Wakefield’s paper was “fatally flawed.”

Further investigation published this year in the British Medical Journal revealed what Wakefield did wasn’t just bad science, but deliberate fraud.

Andrew Wakefield’s actions were “callous, unethical and dishonest”. AAP

Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register in 2010 for “callous, unethical and dishonest” behaviour. But the damage had already been done.

A drop in MMR vaccination rates lead to inevitable outbreaks of preventable disease.

The episode also prompted research on possible links between MMR – and vaccines, in general – and autism. Now, 13 years after Wakefield’s paper was published, we have considerable evidence that MMR is not linked to autism.

One of the largest single studies to look for a link came from Denmark and covered all children born from January 1991 through December 1998. The study examined a total of 537,303 children, 82% of whom had been vaccinated for MMR.

It found no association between vaccination and the development of an autistic disorder.

More evidence comes from Japan, which stopped using the trivalent vaccine in 1993 over safety concerns with the anti-mumps component of the MMR formulation.

A study of more than 30,000 children found autism cases continued to rise even after the MMR was withdrawn and replaced with single vaccines, providing strong evidence that the MMR vaccine was not implicated.

Most recently, the United States Institute of Medicine completed an exhaustive review in August 2011 of all the scientific literature and concluded there was no causal relationship between MMR vaccine and autism.

So science has rejected such a link, but what have the courts found?

The US Court of Federal Claims (Vaccine Court) was established in 1988 as a no-fault system for litigating vaccine claims.

In 2007 the court began to hear the “autism omnibus” trials – a class action of almost 5,000 lawsuits attempting to demonstrate MMR played a causal role in the development of autism.

The group put forward the best three cases as a trial and the decision was handed down in 2010.

Judge Hasting wrote of one case, “Considering all of the evidence, I found that the petitioners have failed to demonstrate that … the MMR vaccine can contribute to causing either autism or gastrointestinal dysfunction.”

Patricia Campbell-Smith, special master on another case, said “The petitioners’ theory of vaccine-related causation is scientifically unsupportable.”

This myth has been well and truly busted.

Science still doesn’t know exactly what causes autism, but researchers are continuing to look.

In the meantime, it’s important parents get accurate information about vaccines so they can protect their kids from preventable disease and avoid getting taken in by expensive and dangerous quack therapies.

Who knows, if we hadn’t been sent on a wild goose chase by the nefarious research of Andrew Wakefield we might be closer to understanding this syndrome.

Measles cases continue to surge in Europe and Africa, says UN agency

Sunday, October 9th, 2011 (last updated)

The United Nations World Health Organization reported today that several large measles outbreaks have continued to spread in the past six months in Europe and Africa, and to a lesser degree in the Americas.

So far, 40 European countries have recorded 26,025 cases between them since the start of the year. France has been the most affected, with 14,025 cases, and the Government has responded by modifying its vaccination schedule as well as offering vaccines in schools free of charge. Other countries have increased access to and availability of the vaccines.

Of all the European cases, only 11 were fatal, six of them occurring in France and one each in Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the United Kingdom.

In Africa, more than 103,000 cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) alone, and although deaths are not routinely notified to the WHO regional office, the agency estimates that there have been 1,100 measles-related deaths in that country this year. In addition, 17,428 cases were reported in Nigeria, 5,397 in Zambia and 2,902 in Ethiopia.

The number of cases is significantly lower in the Americas with Canada being the most affected country with 742. None were fatal. Other countries that presented outbreaks include the United States, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Chile, with most linked to importations from Europe and Africa.

Measles is a highly infectious disease that causes complications and deaths, even in previously-healthy individuals. It remains one of the world’s biggest causes of death among young children, but is fully preventable by vaccination.

In April, WHO urged European countries to work closely to avoid the spread of the outbreak. European Immunization Week kicked off that month in 50 countries, the largest number of participants since the initiative began.

Holding babies close helps them during immunization

Friday, October 7th, 2011 (last updated)

It’s a natural instinct, and it works: Cuddling infants will help sooth them when they’re getting needles, a new study has found.

A team of researchers from Toronto’s York University looked at the results of 70 research studies to look at how babies managed pain during routine procedures.

“Holding your baby against your chest, giving the baby something to suck, and rocking are effective ways to help babies with the pain they feel from heel pricks and immunizations,” professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell said in a release about the study, which was published Wednesday in the Cochrane Review.

“This can happen naturally, like when a mother breastfeeds during an immunization procedure. Unfortunately some physicians – for younger infants in particular – give immunizations with the infant lying on a table.”

Researcher Pillai Riddell said “kangaroo care” works best for premature babies, along with a soother and swaddling.

Full-term newborns also respond to being swaddled tight, rocking/close holding and sucking a pacifier before and after the injection, Riddell said.

Sign the petition of the Meningitis Research Foundation supporting vaccination against meningitis

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 (last updated)

Please sign our petition supporting the introduction of vaccination against meningitis and septicaemia. We are looking for 10,000 signatures to be able to present our petition to 10 Downing Street.

We the undersigned call on the UK government to:

· Include a MenB vaccine in the Childhood Immunisation Schedule as soon as one that is safe and effective is available;

· Change its criteria for assessing the value of vaccination for meningitis and septicaemia to include full medical costs, plus social and education costs of the disease.

Sign the petition here

Please sign our petition supporting the introduction of vaccination against meningitis and septicaemia. We are looking for 10,000 signatures to be able to present our petition to 10 Downing Street.

We the undersigned call on the UK government to:

· Include a MenB vaccine in the Childhood Immunisation Schedule as soon as one that is safe and effective is available;

Change its criteria for assessing the value of vaccination for meningitis and septicaemia to include full medical costs, plus social and education costs of the disease.

Even compliant parents doubt vaccine safety

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 (last updated)

A new study finds that 28% of parents following the CDC-recommended schedule for childhood vaccinations think it would be safer to delay the shots until children are older.

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, confirms that about 2% of parents living in the United States are refusing all vaccines for their children, and more than one in 10 alter the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended vaccination schedule by delaying or refusing certain vaccines.

Among parents following an alternative vaccine schedule, 30% actually began with the regular schedule, but then changed their minds.

“I was surprised by the malleability of people’s attitudes” said Dr. Amanda Dempsey, one of the study authors. “In my own clinical practice, I have been more used to parents pretty firmly decided one way or the other what they wanted to do.”

Parents are refusing certain vaccines at higher rates than others, the study finds. H1N1 and the seasonal flu vaccine topped the rejection list.

Among vaccines delayed until a child grows older, the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, a two-stage vaccine administered at 12 months and then again at age 4, topped the list.

Pediatricians generally stay sensitive to parents’ concerns, accommodating alternative vaccine schedules when requested.

“There is a small group of pediatricians, and I think it’s growing slowly, that tell patients, ‘If you come into our practice, we are immunizing your children according to the CDC’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics standard schedule,'” said Dr. William Schaffner, who chairs the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. “[They say] ‘Anything less than that is not appropriate for your child. If you’re uncomfortable with that, God bless you, here are the names of some other pediatricians in town who will likely take care of your children.”

Schaffner said the main problem, as he sees it, is that parents have no knowledge of the diseases their children are being inoculated against. The diseases have sort of faded from the public consciousness, but can spring back if enough of the population goes unvaccinated.