Archive for May, 2012

Actress Amanda Peet’s vaccine story

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 (last updated)

Actress Amanda Peet was inspired to speak out for vaccines based on advice from her scientist brother-in-law. But when her daughter caught whooping cough, the importance of this basic health technology became apparent. That’s why she is campaigning to get inexpensive, powerful shots to kids all over the world.


Kids skipping shots increases threat of dangerous outbreak

Monday, May 21st, 2012 (last updated)

One in three Arizona schools last year had kindergarten classes with vaccination rates so low children were left vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks such as measles, mumps or pertussis, an Arizona Daily Star investigation has found.

By far the worst offenders are charter and private schools, some with vaccination rates as low as 50 percent in Pima County and under 30 percent in Maricopa County. Rates need to be 80 percent to 95 percent, depending on the disease, to prevent the spread of infection.

The largest numbers of unimmunized children attend schools that fail to enforce state requirements that students either be immunized or have a personal-belief or medical exemption.

Schools are supposed to suspend students who aren’t immunized, but other than sending letters, the state has taken no action. The health and education departments each said the other was responsible for enforcement, and the law doesn’t spell out consequences for violators.

The more people in a group who are vaccinated, the better protection for the weaker among them. High vaccination rates help prevent the vulnerable from being exposed to infectious diseases.

Infants too young to be immunized face the biggest risk from an unvaccinated population because their small bodies can easily succumb to an aggressive bacterial disease like pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

High vaccination rates also protect people with conditions such as Down syndrome, whose weakened immune systems make them vulnerable despite vaccinations. Finally, high rates protect those whose vaccinations did not work, which for a disease like pertussis can be as high as 20 percent.

“It’s a very real risk, choosing not to vaccinate,” said Natalie Norton, whose newborn son died of pertussis in January 2010. “It’s like playing Russian roulette with your own children, and with everybody else’s.”

Arizona Daily Star

Despite discredited study, some parents still link vaccine to autism

Sunday, May 20th, 2012 (last updated)

The research linking the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism was a hoax, a complete fraud. The English study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, deceived the world and parents looking for a cause of their autistic child’s unfortunate condition. These revelations were outlined in a series of extensive investigative reports published in the British Medical Journal.


The infamous study was published in the medical journal Lancet in 1998 by lead author Wakefield and 12 others from the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine in London. Ten of those co-researchers retracted their names from the study in 2004, having been deceived as well.

The paper sparked a decade-long worldwide immunization scare and lent enormous credence to the belief that vaccinations are a major cause of autism. With wide media coverage, it raised such doubt among parents, especially in the United Kingdom, that it caused immunization rates to plunge leading to mumps outbreaks and a measles epidemic in 2008.


The MMR immunization rate in England has never fully recovered, and the study fueled much of the fear regarding immunizations in America as well. The number of U.S. measles cases in 2011, the highest in 15 years, and the Super Bowl-associated measles outbreak in Indianapolis are the results of children left unimmunized.

Wakefield claimed to have discovered a new syndrome, “autistic enterocolitis,” precipitated by the MMR vaccine. The vaccine supposedly created an inflammatory condition in the bowel that allowed encephalopathic proteins to be released in the blood which injured the brain. Astonishing breakthrough, but unfortunately Wakefield applied for research grants citing evidence for this new diagnosis before his study to prove it was actually conducted. Even worse, the study’s data was fabricated.

Wakefield chose the study’s 12 children in a biased and unscientific manner and falsified medical records and facts. Unremarkable bowel histopathology reports were changed to abnormal. The commencement of autistic traits was falsified to produce the appearance of these behaviors within 14 days after vaccination. Actually, five of the children’s problems were pre-existing, yet were classified as being previously normal. Only one child in the study actually had regressive autism. All of the children’s records were altered to create the desired study outcome.

Wakefield lost his British medical license, charged with acting “dishonestly and irresponsibility,” with “callous disregard” to the children and families involved, and “repeatedly violating the most basic principles of research medicine.”


The investigations also uncovered that Wakefield was funded by an attorney planning to use the study in a suit against MMR vaccine manufacturers. And during his research, Wakefield applied for patents for a diagnostic test to identify children with the bogus condition. It was all about fame, dishonesty, money and greed.

Although the study’s methodology was always suspect, it took seven years to expose the fraud. Wakefield’s institution and Lancet falsely reassured the world by reporting that an investigation had been conducted that almost entirely cleared Wakefield. That investigation never took place. What only transpired was a media relations scheme to protect all involved.


Additionally, the English government was slow and incomplete in its investigation, and took 12 years for Lancet to retract Wakefield’s paper. The system failed.

Since the publication of Wakefield’s study, there have been 14 studies looking at hundreds of thousands of children who did and did not receive MMR. The incidence of autism was the same in both groups. Meanwhile, Wakefield persists in his claims, and parents continue questioning the wisdom of vaccinating their children.


Vaccines are not absolutely harmless.

Extremely rare allergic and idiosyncratic reactions do occur. All medications have adverse effects. But although there is no credible scientific evidence linking vaccines to autism, 25 percent of parents continue to believe vaccines cause autism.

The Star Press

Breast cancer vaccine shows promise

Saturday, May 19th, 2012 (last updated)

A new breast cancer vaccine has been shown to cut the risk of recurrence by nearly half.

The clinical trial involving about 200 breast cancer patients started back in 2007.

Anne Allen of Topeka, Kansas was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.

A second opinion at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center confirmed it was worse than she thought.

“It turned out to be stage three that involved my lymph nodes,” Allen said.

With no known history of breast cancer, Allen was vigilant about getting yearly mammograms.

With dense breasts, the two lumps were overlooked.

“Calcifications are white. Dense breast tissue is white. It’s like looking for a rabbit in a snowstorm sometimes,” Allen explained.

After a total mastectomy, removal of her lymph nodes, 16 rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation, Allen enrolled in a clinical trial at MD Anderson for a breast cancer vaccine.

“Hopefully, if this doesn’t help me, it gives more information so that down the road, a vaccine would be tremendous for other cancer patients,” she said.

Patients are inoculated under the skin once a month for six months. Then they receive a booster shot every six months for three years.

That time period is when the chance of recurrence is the highest.

Dr. Elizabeth Mittendorf, surgical oncologist at MD Anderson and the trial’s national principal investigator, explained, “It’ll teach the T cells to recognize that HER2 protein. So the thought would be that if the T cells were educated in this way, if the tumor cell were to come back, the immune system could identify it, attack it and destroy it before the patient would have, as we see, a measurable recurrence.”

Mittendorf said the results of the study were extraordinary with a recurrence rate of 10 percent compared to 18 percent in the control group. That works out to be a 43 percent reduction in the risk of recurrence.

The next phase of the trial would include even more patients.

The results of the study will be presented in June at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Trial enrollment is expected to end this fall


Creating Vaccines, Protecting life

Friday, May 18th, 2012 (last updated)

From the moment Louis Pasteur administered the first rabies vaccine in 1885, Sanofi Pasteur has drawn inspiration from the legacy of its founders to protect people from infectious diseases. Each year, our company makes it possible to vaccinate more than 500 million people across the globe.


Vaccination campaigns are highly successful when people are afraid of life- threatening infections but, over time, the fear of the disease fades and vaccine coverage tends to decline. This is why we have made a long-term commitment, one that is part of a global, collaborative vaccination policy.

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Sanofi Pasteur

Potential malaria vaccine produced from algae

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 (last updated)

Biologists have successfully engineered algae to produce potential candidates for a vaccine that would prevent transmission of the parasite that causes malaria.


Initial proof-of-principle experiments suggest that such a vaccine could prevent malaria transmission.


The achievement could pave the way for the development of an inexpensive way to protect billions of people from one of the world’s most prevalent and debilitating diseases.


Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by infection with protozoan parasites from the genus Plasmodium. It affects more than 225 million people worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions, resulting in fever, headaches and in severe cases coma and death.


While a variety of often costly anti-malarial medications are available to travellers in those regions to protect against infections, a vaccine offering a high level of protection from the disease does not yet exist.


The new development resulted from an unusual interdisciplinary collaboration between two groups of biologists at University of California, San Diego—one from the Division of Biological Sciences and San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, which had been engineering algae to produce bio-products and biofuels, and another from the Center for Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases in the School of Medicine that is working to develop ways to diagnose, prevent and treat malaria.


Part of the difficulty in creating a vaccine against malaria is that it requires a system that can produce complex, three-dimensional proteins that resemble those made by the parasite, thus eliciting antibodies that disrupt malaria transmission.


Most vaccines created by engineered bacteria are relatively simple proteins that stimulate the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against bacterial invaders. More complex proteins can be produced, but this requires an expensive process using mammalian cell cultures, and the proteins those cells produce are coated with sugars due to a chemical process called glycosylation.


“Malaria is caused by a parasite that makes complex proteins, but for whatever reason this parasite doesn’t put sugars on those proteins,” said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the research effort.


“If you have a protein covered with sugars and you inject it into somebody as a vaccine, the tendency is to make antibodies against the sugars, not the amino acid backbone of the protein from the invading organism you want to inhibit. Researchers have made vaccines without these sugars in bacteria and then tried to refold them into the correct three-dimensional configuration, but that’s an expensive proposition and it doesn’t work very well,” he stated.


Instead, the biologists looked to produce their proteins with the help of an edible green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, used widely in research laboratories as a genetic model organism, much like the fruit fly Drosophila and the bacterium E. coli.

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Zeenews India & PLoS ONE

Waiting for the last measle…

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 (last updated)

The boy in this video describes the “invisible monster” that came through his village, to be chased away by the measles vaccine. He now waits to hear about the last measle. We can all do something to hasten the elimination of measles. Visit to find out more.

Measles & Rubella Initiative

The introduction of rotavirus vaccines in Africa

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 (last updated)

The roll out of rotavirus vaccines in Africa has begun. In this five-minute film, immunisation experts, health workers and mothers from Sudan and Tanzania talk about the need for the vaccines and their hope for the future.

GAVI Alliance

Interactive map plots outbreaks of measles, mumps, rubella, polio, whooping cough and others

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 (last updated)

Interactive map plots outbreaks of measles, mumps, rubella, polio, whooping cough and others

Council of Foreign Relations

10 tips for successful malaria vaccine advocacy

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 (last updated)

The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative,in collaboration with Burness Communications, works with malaria vaccine researchers and scientists in African countries to foster a network of skilled scientist-advocates. This work, part of a program known as the Malaria Vaccine Advocacy Fellowship, aims to bridge the worlds of science and policymaking and to help ensure that policymakers at national, regional, and international levels have the information they need to make timely and informed decisions as soon as a first malaria vaccine becomes available for use.


Slow decision-making can contribute to a substantial lag between the availability of lifesaving interventions, such as vaccines, and developing countries’ access to them. Researchers and scientists working on new health interventions can help to close this costly gap by becoming advocates in their own right.


This booklet presents a set of advocacy tips, success stories, and examples of advocacy efforts. These examples demonstrate that while simple actions—whether briefing policymakers, writing an opinion piece, or inserting a paragraph into a key speech—may seem to be small steps on their own, their collective impact can be significant over time.

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Malaria Vaccine Initiative