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The current method for administering vaccinations, the syringe/needle (S/N) system, poses many logistical difficulties including transport, vaccine deterioration/waste, and high system costs. Created by Gijsbert van de Wijdeven, the Bioneedle Technology Group aims to replace the S/N method with an easier, less wasteful, more cost-effective system.
Recognized by WHO as a breakthrough medical technology, Bioneedles, or “tiny, biodegradable mini-implants,” come prefilled and contain vaccines in a thermally stable environment. They are administered via sub-dermal application and quickly absorbed into the body within minutes. This virtually painless process leaves almost no waste and allows one person to vaccinate over 16x more people per hour than by the S/N method.
Although this project is only in the Ideation stage, the technology has the possibility to grant vaccine access to more people than ever before and increase the global population’s immunity to infectious diseases.
Twenty percent of all the babies born in the world each year—the equivalent of nearly five times the children born yearly in the United States—are not getting the basic vaccines they need to be protected from killer diseases, such as measles.
And that’s why Venetia Dearden traveled to West African nation of Mali with “Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières” (MSF) to see firsthand the importance of vaccines to families and the lengths to which they must go to get them. When MSF teams stage vaccination campaigns in the West African nation of Mali, mothers will come from hours away, sometimes days away.
In the first year of their life, children must receive vaccines five separate times. In certain parts of the world, it can be extremely difficult for children and their caregivers to come so often if they live far away from a vaccination point or can’t afford the cost of transportation. As in many other countries, these women, who are overwhelmingly the stewards of their families when it comes to health issues, want the protection vaccines can provide them and their children against several potentially deadly diseases that plague the region. In the best-case scenario, MSF and other agencies would bring the vaccines to them, wherever they lived, in whatever conditions. But this isn’t possible at present, because many of the vaccines available today are not tailored for the difficult environments in which they must be used. To give but one example: establishing and sustaining cold chain is very difficult in places where electricity is hard to come by, to say nothing of ice. That’s why MSF has been advocating for a global approach to vaccine development and dissemination that takes into account the conditions in the countries where these vaccines are most needed to half preventable deaths, as well as the particular strains of diseases found in various locations.
MSF Access Campaign
In someone who has never had chickenpox, the vaccine would protect against a disease that is far more serious in adults than it is in children, said Dr. Mark S. Lachs, director of geriatrics for the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System and professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.
After childhood chickenpox, the varicella virus is never eliminated from the body but lies dormant in nerve roots. Decades later, it may reactivate along the nerve pathway and cause the very painful rash called shingles, and later, in many cases, a persistent pain called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN.
Therefore, for most people over 60, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the shingles vaccine. It safely reduces (but does not eliminate) the risk of both shingles and PHN in those who have had chickenpox, Dr. Lachs said.
In someone who never had chickenpox, he said, the concern is not shingles but adult chickenpox, which has “fatality rates 25 times higher than in children.”
Such a person should instead be vaccinated against a primary infection with the varicella virus, Dr. Lachs said. The vaccine differs in strength from the one for shingles and is given in two injections, a month apart.
The New York Times
Vaccines are both terrifying and wonderful. My youngest child got her 18-month shots this month and I hated it. I hated the needles, the pediatric visit and even the little Band-Aids she wore afterward. But I hate vaccine-preventable diseases even more.
Ninety percent of parents vaccinate their kids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But listen to the media sometimes and you might think otherwise. All too often, the voices of ordinary parents such as myself are shoved aside. Meanwhile, ill-informed anti-vaxxers, including Jenny McCarthy, are handed center stage and allowed to speak for us. McCarthy has even been given her own column in the Chicago Tribune.
New Jersey is suffering the consequences of this kind of vaccine refusal. Overall vaccination rates here are among the lowest in the nation. Meanwhile, we’re in the middle of huge outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) and measles. On the last day of the school year, I was informed that my daughter’s elementary school had a confirmed case of pertussis, which can make adults cough so badly they break a rib. It has a 1-in-250 fatality rate in young babies.
It is understandable that moms and dads are apprehensive about vaccines. Bring up this subject at any playground and you’ll often immediately hear horror stories. A single Google search on the topic leads to dozens of seemingly impressive websites that seek to advance the argument that vaccines are dangerous and ineffective.
None of this criticism has real merit. Vaccines are an amazing accomplishment and a tremendous boon to humanity. At the turn of the previous century, even in advanced industrialized England, mothers buried 16 percent of all their children before their fifth birthday.
Today, almost no parent will go through the hell of watching a child go deaf from measles, enter an iron lung from polio, or struggle to breathe as a result of diphtheria. It wasn’t improved sanitation that has vastly reduced haemophilus influenzae type b (HIB) deaths or decreased the number of children who need liver transplants as a result of hepatitis B.
The vaccines introduced in the 1980s did that.
Yet the media and people in power unfortunately like to pretend otherwise. Gov. Chris Christie met with Louise Kuo Habakas during his election campaign. Habakas, a New Jersey resident, is the co-author of a highly misleading book on vaccines. She also is the co-founder of an organization that lobbies for vaccine exemptions, promotes the false idea that vaccines are linked to autism and implies that vaccines carry a huge risk of side effects.
None of these allegations is true.
I co-authored a book on vaccines. This month, I was initially slated to speak about the book at the West Orange Public Library. The library later withdrew the invitation on the grounds that there was no one to speak for the anti-vaccine side. This is ludicrous. All too often, conditions are applied to the pro-vaccination position that would never apply to any other factual assertion. Someone who wrote a vegetarian cookbook is not required to share a podium with a spokesman from the National Cattlemen’s Association.
Efforts have been made to combat the work of the anti-vaccine lobby. In 2009, New Jersey pediatricians formed the New Jersey Immunization Network. The NJIN is a wonderful organization that seeks to help increase vaccine rates and awareness in this state. Parents across the state need to join with the NJIN, step forward, and boldly and proudly state the truth about vaccines.
The truth? Arguing against vaccination is akin to arguing the Earth is flat or the Holocaust never happened. Without vaccines, thousands of kids in this state alone would die each year.
We, the ordinary pro-vaccine parents of New Jersey, need to say so without being censored or forced to share a podium with those who attempt to scare our fellow parents away from vitally important public health measures. The very safety of our community depends on it.
Stacy Mintzer Herlihy of Roseland is the co-author of “Your Baby’s Best Shot: Why Vaccines are Safe and Save Lives.”
Andrew Wakefield, the doctor struck off the medical register for his discredited research that claimed to find a link between autism and the MMR vaccine, can add another honour to his list this Christmas: the inaugural Golden Duck award for lifetime achievement in quackery, set up by the science writer Simon Singh.
Runners-up for the award were Prince Charles and David Tredinnick, the Tory MP for Bosworth and member of the Commons health select committee. The Good Thinking Society, a campaign group led by Singh, set up the annual Goldon Duck award to recognise those “who have supported or practised pseudoscience in the most ludicrous, dangerous, irrational or irresponsible manner”.
In 1998, Wakefield was the lead author of a paper in the Lancet medical journal that suggested a link between the measles virus and inflammatory bowel disease. The paper also suggested the virus played a role in the development of autism. Wakefield later said that his research led him to believe that, instead of the MMR triple vaccine, children should be given a series of single vaccines. His statements led to alarm around the world, a drop in the rate of MMR vaccination and, in the UK, a rise in cases of measles cases.
In 2010, the Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s paper and he was struck off the medical register after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct. Subsequent studies have found no credible link between MMR and either autism or Crohn’s disease.
Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at Bristol University, said that Wakefield’s legacy was “many, many thousands of unimmunised children born over the last 15 years whose parents decided MMR was too risky at the time and subsequently have forgotten all about it. Measles rates are up and they will only decline when this accumulation of susceptibles has either had the vaccine or the disease.”
Singh said Wakefield’s impact on vaccination in the past decade had been important and worrying. “Reminding people of these issues is very important,” he said
Pakistan may be one of the world’s three remaining polio-stricken countries but Sartaj Khan has decided that the government-sponsored vaccination campaign is much more sinister than it appears.
“These vaccines are meant to destroy our nation,” said Khan, a 42-year-old lawyer in the city of Peshawar. “The [polio] drops make men less manly, and make women more excited and less bashful. Our enemies want to wipe us out.”
Khan is not alone in the belief, propagated by extremist groups, that is gaining currency in the Pashtun belt of northwestern Pakistan: The government’s anti-polio campaign is a ruse by the Americans to sterilize or spy on Muslims.
Many also believe that much like the Pakistani physician, Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who helped the CIA run a fake vaccination program to establish the presence of Osama bin Laden, the army of health workers employed to vaccinate the country’s children are also on the United States’ payroll.
The belief has turned deadly: Nine anti-polio workers have been killed by gunmen on motorcycles this week. Some of those killed were teenage girls. Following the violence, the United Nations pulled back all staff involved in the vaccination campaign and officials suspended it in some parts of the country.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
An outbreak of mosquito-spread yellow fever has caused more than 800 suspected cases of the disease in the Darfur region of Sudan since the beginning of October.
Experts are calling the outbreak, which killed 168 people, the worst worldwide outbreak of yellow fever in 20 years. An emergency vaccination campaign is now underway to stop the disease from spreading to the rest of Sudan.
Other African countries like Cameroon recently reported some cases of yellow fever. Unlike Sudan, most of the other countries reporting cases have the yellow fever vaccine in their childhood immunization schedule.
“There’s been no such vaccine campaign in Sudan for decades,” Anshu Banerjee, the World Health Organization’s representative in Darfur, said. “It’s because of priorities. Sudan recently identified itself as a high-risk country for a yellow fever outbreak and had conditional approval to begin a vaccination campaign. Unfortunately the outbreak hit before this could happen.”
U.K. International Development Secretary Justine Greening said that the U.K. government would contribute approximately $2.9 million toward the vaccination campaign.
“After years of conflict and poverty, the people of Darfur are now facing a major outbreak of one of the world’s deadliest diseases,” Greening said. “British support will protect millions of Sudanese people against yellow fever and stop this regional outbreak from turning into a nationwide epidemic. The international community needs to continue to help the people of Sudan build a more peaceful and stable future.”
Yellow fever causes jaundice, kidney and liver failure and bleeding. A vaccine can prevent infection but there is no treatment for people infected with the disease.
Vaccine News Daily
NAPNAP (National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners)