Archive for April, 2012

Measles attacks: how vaccination skeptics gave new life to an old disease

Monday, April 30th, 2012 (last updated)

Measles is hot again. First the good news: a recent World Health Organization report found that, worldwide, 9.6 million lives were saved in the last decade because of redoubled vaccine efforts.
But here in the Unites States, measles is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. saw more measles in 2011 than at any time since 1995. Usually the U.S. has about 60 annual cases; last year it had 222.
While that number may seem inconsequential compared with colds (10 million new cases annually), salmonella (1.2 million), or HIV (50,000), the reasons for measles’ mini-spike are particularly troubling. For measles, we have an effective vaccine, sufficient vaccine supplies, and an infrastructure in place to deliver the shots.
Measles is on the rise in the U.S. for the exact opposite reason it is dropping globally. Here, as well as in Europe and other resource-rich places, many people hate vaccination. Almost all of the 2011 U.S. cases developed in or were spread by unvaccinated Americans traveling to Europe and elsewhere, or about-to-be-sick travelers visiting the U.S. from abroad.
The number of vaccine-averse people is difficult to estimate, but only 90 percent of the U.S. population is vaccinated according to specification. In that other 10 percent is a mix of those who forgot, those whose doctor forgot, and those who spurned their shots outright. Many refuseniks cite side effects as their primary concern, yet their worry does not diminish when such connections are disproved, as with autism. Nor does the reappearance of a near-vanquished infection in under-vaccinated communities ring a reality-based bell.
For these folks, and their 200-year-old forebears, vaccines are bad because they are not “natural.” This is true, but isn’t the point of civilization to rise above the blunt cruelty of nature? To arrive at some higher ground where we, and not Mother Nature, can call a few shots? Those wanting pure nature might prefer to watch a lion shred a wildebeest for lunch, or chase a tornado as it levels mobile homes in Oklahoma. That’s nature at its purest: disinterested, timeless, unfazed by suffering.
One of nature’s charter members is measles, which, even with WHO’s impressive efforts, still kills hundreds of thousands of children annually. Its victims die a slow, miserable, natural death as the virus overwhelms every organ within a few weeks, culminating in respiratory failure. Vaccination has saved tens of millions of lives, more than any other medical invention. It is one of the few health-care heroes out there. Wouldn’t it be more natural for us to be thankful?

The Daily Beast

FC Barcelona is teaming up to end polio. Join the team !

Sunday, April 29th, 2012 (last updated)

Thanks to vaccines, we are on the verge of eradicating polio. FC Barcelona and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are teaming up to end polio and we need your support. Please join the team at ‪

Gates Foundation & FC Barcelona

Welcome to the adventures of VacciBoy & ImmuGirl

Saturday, April 28th, 2012 (last updated)

Welcome to the amazing world of vacciboy and immugirl. Through a series of episodes, you will learn about dangerous viruses, that are living around us and how to protect you and people you love against them. You will find entertaining and fun activities while you learn about many health threats. You will meet the viruses and how bad they are for our health and will discover how vacciboy and immugirl acquired their special powers to fight them. They will also help you, your parents and all health care providers to form a powerful team to get rid of the most dangerous viruses in the world. Come on, join VacciBoy and ImmuGirl on their adventures.

Welcome to the adventures of VacciBoy & ImmuGirl

WHO Western Pacific Region

Australian Vaccination Network’s ad pulled by American Airlines

Friday, April 27th, 2012 (last updated)

A controversial Australian pressure group that claims vaccines can cause brain damage and cancer says it has been the victim of a witch-hunt after it was stopped from spreading its message overseas.

Australian Vaccination Network, which has been criticised for putting out misleading and irresponsible information based on “conspiracy theories”, had planned to run ads on American Airlines’ in-flight TV channel.

But just one month after the ads were announced, AA pulled the plug on the ads, which would have aired in June and July and which AVN claims would have been seen by 8.4 million people .

The group’s president Meryl Dorey told “We were offered a three minute slot, but because of the controversy from ‘Stop the AVN’ we lost it,” she said.

”They are about stifling public debate on this particular issue and whether you agree with us or not, let’s have an open debate.”

Ms Dorey claimed the airline’s decision had nothing to do with the content of the video, but was done to prevent bad publicity snowballing after a number of other groups opposed the ads.
“American (Airlines) has serious financial trouble right now and felt this was the last thing it needed,” she said.
“The fact is we are not misrepresenting science – you always have two sides.”

Daniel Raffaele from the group ‘Stop the AVN’, which says it kickstarted the campaign to pressure American Airlines into cutting the advertisements, told “Basically when it comes to information the AVN provides misinformation.”
“It’s completely spurious they don’t provide any evidence base for its arguments, they’re all based on conspiracy theories.”
Mr Raffaele rejected the AVN’s claim he was trying to stifle free speech and debate on vaccination’s alleged risks.
“The AVN does not bring balance to any debate,” he said. “They provide false balance.”

Earlier this year Ms Dorey’s group scored a victory in the NSW Supreme Court after it ruled a NSW Health Care Complaints Commission warning that the group “poses a risk to public health and safety” was outside the Commission’s jurisdiction. However the court did not rule that the warning the AVN was wrong.
In 2010 the group was stripped of its charity licence after the NSW Office of Gaming Liquor and Racing found that “AVN had breached charitable fundraising laws and potentially misled the public.”
Yesterday this licence was reinstated with OLGR saying the charity had rectified the earlier problems.

In 2007 the group was sued by the Australian Medical Association for falsely claiming the AMA took funding form pharmaceutical companies and censored information. The AVN was forced to issue a retraction and issue and apology.
Last year in December the Woodford Folk Festival was criticised for allowing Ms Dorey to address the crowd.
The Queensland Government defended the festival’s right to allow her to speak saying it was not going to censor anyone.

Herald Sun

Misconceptions that feature among anti-vaccinationists and fuel parental concerns about vaccines

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 (last updated)

In the limited time of an office visit, how can a primary care physician make the case to parents that their child should be vaccinated? During National Infant Immunization Week, a Mayo Clinic vaccine expert and a pediatrician offer suggestions for refuting three of the most common myths about child vaccine safety. Their article, The Clinician’s Guide to the Anti-Vaccinationists’ Galaxy, is published online this month in the journal Human Immunology.

“Thousands of children are at increased risk because of under-vaccination, and outbreaks of highly transmissible diseases have occurred” says lead author Gregory Poland, M.D., Mayo Clinic vaccinologist. “Primary care physicians have less time than most to explain the scientific case for vaccination. This article gives them the background and tools to debunk some of the major myths.”

Dr. Poland and Mayo pediatrician Robert Jacobson, M.D., review the three immunity-related misconceptions that they say “fuel patient and parental concerns, questions and fears about vaccines.” Those myths are:

  • Babies’ systems aren’t ready for the number of vaccines given today.
  • Vaccines can cause autoimmune diseases.
  • Natural immunity is safer and better.


The Mayo experts explain that the number of active molecules in infant vaccines is far lower than ever before, so while vaccines are not only safe, each child is receiving a fraction of actual antigen compared to children in the past. Among other evidence, they point to a recent review of 1,200 articles by the Institute of Medicine that failed to find any autoimmune side effect from vaccines. They make the point that there is either no impact or that any relation to autoimmune conditions is not causative. Finally, they make the case that while natural immunity does protect as well, the risk of illness and death is far higher than with a vaccine.

The article also includes background on the anti-vaccine movement and outlines the harm it has done by spreading inaccurate information.


“We want to offer a user-friendly guide for doctors, but also issue a call to action,” Dr. Poland says. “We can now show that children have died because of under-vaccination and that diseases have spread needlessly because of this trend.”

Dr. Poland says lack of vaccination has put many children at risk for diseases that are avoidable, including whooping cough and measles. He emphasized that the risk of death for measles is three in 1,000 without vaccination, while the risk of death from the measles vaccination is zero.

Professor G. Poland Professor G. Poland

Bio-Medicine & Human Immunology

ECBT Director Amy Pisani discusses pertussis vaccination

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 (last updated)

Every Child By Two (ECBT) was founded by Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Former First Lady of Arkansas Betty Bumpers in 1991 as a result of the Measles epidemic that killed over 120 people, many of them children.  Carter and Bumpers have been working on immunizations since their husbands were governors in the early 70’s and have been credited with the passage of laws mandating school-age vaccination requirements.  The goals of ECBT are to raise awareness of the critical need for timely immunizations and to foster a systematic way to immunize all of America’s children by age two.  To forward its agenda, ECBT enlists the support of elected officials and their spouses, concerned community leaders, and representatives of many national organizations.
ECBT Executive Director Amy Pisani discusses pertussis and shot@life on Connecticut NBC Affiliate WVIT.

NBC & Every Child By Two

Eliminating measles – personal stories

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 (last updated)

Nastasia has made a spectacular recovery. Just a year ago she was in a coma after contracting measles. The 16-year-old who lives in Valence, in southeastern France, suddenly complained of a sore throat, red spots appeared and she had a high temperature. After one week at 41°C, she was hospitalised, diagnosed with encephalitis.

Nastasia was in a coma for 12 days. It took her four months to recover.

“The first things I remember are the physiotherapy sessions, because I was tetraplegic. After three weeks of physiotherapy, I could walk again, I could even climb the stairs. For one week, I could not speak. My first words were ‘Hello mummy!’”

“I still have urinary problems, because of the paralysis. Also all my muscles have shrunk: I went from 50 to 39 kilos. I often urgently needed to go to the toilet.“

Nastasia is one of many victims of the measles epidemic that has been thriving in Europe over the past few years.

The highly contagious disease can lead to serious complications: pneumonia, otitis (a middle ear infection), diarrhoea and neurological problems.

Over the past three years, in about a quarter of cases, hospitalisation has been necessary.

In 2011, more than 30,000 people contracted measles in Europe. There were as many cases in 2010, that is four times more than in 2009.

Eight patients died of measles complications, six in France, the hardest hit country. Ninety percent of the cases in Europe have been reported in five countries: France, Italy, Romania, Spain and Germany. The vast majority were not vaccinated or not sufficiently so.

Two doses of the vaccine are necessary to ensure optimum protection – the World Health Organisation says that is the only way to reach its target of a measles free Europe by 2015.


GAVI funds training for health volunteers in Vietnam

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 (last updated)

In the remote and mountainous Vietnamese province of Ha Giang, Nguyen Thi Xuan represents the first point of contact with basic health care for more than 20 ethnic minorities.
Xuan is one of hundreds of village health workers in the province who go door-to-door to offer basic medical treatment and information.  For the 266 people in her village of Na Pong, about five kilometres from the commune health clinic, this 45-year-old grandmother’s prompt intervention can often mean the difference between life and death.

Health System Strengthening

Xuan received her one and, to date, only training session a decade ago.
Now, thanks to GAVI’s health system strengthening (HSS) support, she is scheduled to take part in a residential training course to upgrade village health worker skills and give them an understanding of the health services provided by the province.
In 2008, Ha Giang province received US$ 1.6 million in HSS funding from GAVI; this will help extend existing training sessions from two months to nine months, provide computers for data collection and bags containing basic equipment. More than 240 people were trained in 2009.

Quality of training

“Thanks to GAVI’s support, we can focus on the quality of training,” says Dr Dang Van Huynh, Deputy Director of Health, whose Health Department aims to strengthen and extend their health system to serve every community.
The basic training course for village health workers is 36 weeks: 21 weeks at a residential training school, 13 weeks of on-the-job training at district level and two weeks at a district hospital.
“Before taking this course, I was a birth attendant and I helped deliver dozens of babies. Having done the course, I now know more about diseases. Now people come to me with many questions about diseases, and I am able to help them,” says Xuan.

Vietnam: a lesson in preventive healthcare

2000: eradicates polio
2002: with GAVI support, introduces hepatitis B
2005: erradicates neonatal tetanus
2010: with GAVI support, introduces Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine as part of its pentavalent introduction.

GAVI Alliance

The Type 1 Diabetes Prevention Trial

Monday, April 23rd, 2012 (last updated)

The Type 1 Diabetes Prevention Trial, also known as the Intranasal Insulin Trial (INIT II), is part of a coordinated global effort to develop a vaccine for type 1 diabetes. The trial, which began in 2006, is jointly funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), through the Diabetes Vaccine Development Centre (DVDC).

If successful, this vaccine could prevent type 1 diabetes and the need for daily insulin injections in people at risk.

Who can participate?

Before someone is diagnosed with diabetes, there is a period of time, often many years, when there are no symptoms, but the body’s immune system has already begun attacking the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This time provides a potential opportunity to prevent further destruction of the beta cells and thus the onset of type 1 diabetes.

If you or your child are aged between 4 and 30 and are a relative of someone with type 1 diabetes you may be at higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes than others in the general population. By testing a blood sample, we can determine your risk of developing type 1 diabetes. The blood is tested for three different antibodies that show if your immune system has started attacking the beta cells in the pancreas. If you have two or more antibodies, you have a high risk of developing diabetes and may be eligible to participate in the nasal insulin vaccine trial. It is important to note that only 2% of relatives tested will be considered high risk. The remaining 98% can be reassured that their risk is low.

If you have antibodies and are at risk of developing type 1 diabetes you will be offered further free testing to measure your ability to produce insulin. Your out of pocket expenses related to travel will be reimbursed.

If the glucose tests are normal you would be eligible to participate in the trial.

This is a placebo-controlled trial. Therefore, people in the trial receive either the active treatment or a placebo (dummy) treatment. Neither the researchers nor those in the trial know what is in the nasal spray until the end of the trial. This method is used in clinical trials of new medicines to find out if a treatment really works. Every person participating in the trial is vital in finding out if type 1 diabetes can be prevented.

For more information:

Stop Diabetes Australia

Ari Brown & the power of vaccines

Monday, April 23rd, 2012 (last updated)

Ari Brown, MD, FAAP (lower left) is an award-winning pediatrician and the coauthor of Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year.
Brown graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in child development. After receiving her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, she did her pediatric residency at Harvard Medical School/Boston Children’s Hospital. She performed additional fellowship training in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Harvard Medical School under the tutelage of acclaimed pediatrician, T. Berry Brazelton, MD. She is board-certified and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In private practice since 1995, Brown is a partner at Capital Pediatric Group in Austin, TX. She teaches monthly prenatal and baby care classes, and volunteers with the Texas Pediatric Society, promoting children’s health issues through political advocacy.

Texas Pediatric Society