Archive for August, 2012

Is there such a thing as a vaccine debate?

Thursday, August 30th, 2012 (last updated)

Many science minded people are bothered by the term “vaccine debate”.  The suggestion is that no debate exists when one side has the benefit of scientific evidence, while the other relies on an unproven hypothesis.

But a “debate” it has become.  Especially when it provides for interesting coverage in the mainstream media.  This recent PBS video, To Vaccinate or Not? Two Mothers ‘Debate’ is a perfect example of how various vaccination decisions can be compared, debate-style.  With the U.S. currently in the midst of the worst whooping cough outbreak in more than half a century, PBS Newshour positioned took two women from Washington state and addressed the question of whether it is irresponsible not to vaccinate our children.

I was somewhat impressed by how the women chose to defend their opinions.  At one point, even the woman who has chosen not to vaccinate her child, made some relevant points.

  • She emphasized that the most important thing that we can do for newborns is to keep infants away from anyone with a cough.  However, her suggestion to test everyone for pertussis reveals her lack of understanding of the symptoms and diagnosis of the disease.
  • She recognized that the pertussis vaccine has a less than perfect record of efficacy, yet she emphasized that the vaccine helped reduce the severity of the disease.  While most people who are well versed in vaccine efficacy realize this to be true, I agree with her comment that many vaccinated individuals are not always aware that the vaccine does not provide 100% assurance against contracting the disease.
  • However, my biggest concern with her statements was her personal conviction that her kids were at “no risk of complications from pertussis”.  She was certain that if they contracted whooping cough, that they would not die, but may suffer greatly.  I’m not entirely certain what she based this opinion on, but I found her statements a bit troubling.

Shot of Prevention & PBS Newshour

Five things you should know about whooping cough

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 (last updated)

Whooping cough was once a menace to children, but in recent years it had all but faded from memory. Now it’s back with a vengeance. This year is the worst in five decades for whooping cough, something that can be deadly in babies.

Whooping cough is making a comeback. 2012 is shaping up to be the worst in 50 years. To help keep you safe, we’ve identified five things you should know.

“Bordetella pertussis is the etiologic agent of whooping cough; it causes whooping cough. And the Chinese word for pertussis literally translates to ‘a hundred day cough,’ so it’s a very prolonged illness,” says Dr. Angela D’Alessandro, a pediatrician on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Lee Memorial Health System

Vaccines and your baby

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 (last updated)

Children are our greatest prize. And we, as parents, want to do what is best — to nurture them and protect them from harm.

The Vaccine Education Center @ The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Vaccines: good information versus bad information

Monday, August 27th, 2012 (last updated)

Good information comes from scientific data that is published in reputable journals, peer-reviewed journals and can be reproduced.

This video answers questions many parents have about vaccines. It also contains the stories of several parents whose children suffered vaccine-preventable diseases.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Flu season is around the corner

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 (last updated)


Researchers working on West Nile Virus vaccine

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 (last updated)

Researchers at Pitt are working on a vaccine to stop the spread of West Nile Virus.

Federal health officials believe the current outbreak is the largest in the U.S.

Already, more than 1,100 cases have been reported in 38 states, including here in Pennsylvania, where eight people have been diagnosed with the virus.

Nationwide, 41 people have died from it, none in Pennsylvania.

Domingo Villa spent 11 days in the hospital because of it.

“I was feeling real drowsy, real weak and everything, started having problems breathing and went to lay down to see if things would get better,” he said.

Villa lives in Texas, the hardest hit area in the country, but officials are recording a near record number of illnesses even here in Pennsylvania.

“Eight confirmed cases in people, five of them have been severe, involving the central nervous system,” said Jared Evans, a virologist at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Vaccine Research.

Workers there have been working for the past five years to develop a vaccine for West Nile Virus.

The vaccine won’t be on the market for another five to 10 years, but the need for it is on the rise.

Evans said the virus no longer discriminates.

“The primary age group for the people that have been ill in Pennsylvania this year have been in the 40 to 59 range, and prior to that those people were generally not affected. So it can affect anyone,” he said.

The major reason for the spike in cases has been the weather.

“It was a very mild winter across the entire country, and there was an early spring and a very warm summer so far,” Evans explained. “That plus intermittent rainfall leads to higher mosquito populations.”

In Allegheny County, the assault on West Nile Virus includes pesticide spraying.

People are being warned to empty standing water, a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Experts say the number of cases will rise because the West Nile season is young and does not end until September.

“The mosquitoes will start feeding more because they will start to plan for the winter,” Evans said.”Yes, we’ve had a bad year, but it’s not over yet. “


Risks in delaying childhood vaccination

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 (last updated)

Pediatricians are seeing a new trend, one that is troubling in terms of childhood diseases. For various reasons, some parents are delaying or altering their child’s vaccination schedule.

Two busy boys keep mom Marina Bloetz bustling. Life is full of things-to-do, including getting their childhood vaccinations.

“Well, we were a little late with the second one, you know, time consuming and working, but I think it’s important to have them,” says Bloetz.

It’s a trend nationwide, and not a healthy one. The Journal of Pediatrics found the number of parents delaying or limiting their kids’ vaccinations is on the rise, tripling from 2006 to 2009.

“With the first one, you know you keep track with everything. The second one it’s a little tricky with a full-time job,” says Bloetz.

The CDC recommends more than two dozen shots from birth to age six. They protect children from 14 different diseases. Health experts say it’s minor in comparison to getting sick.

“The diseases are so dramatically disastrous for the children if they get the worst case scenario,” says Lee Memorial Health System pediatrician Dr. Nancy Witham.

Dr. Witham encourages parents to stick with the program.

“To protect from a bunch of preventable diseases; the menu of immunizations that we’ve chosen is because we know that those diseases have particular problems,” says Dr. Witham.

Some parents are ‘shot limiters’ who don’t like their child getting several shots in one visit or fear an adverse reaction from a group of shots. In fact, when vaccinations are authorized to be given together, they’ve been tested to ensure they’re safe as a set.

“That piece of information should make it a little bit more comfortable to go through with the schedule as its been written out versus feeling like, oh gosh I need to space them to be kinder to my child,” says Dr. Witham.

Ultimately Bloetz pulled the trigger on her boy’s shots.

“Because I think it protects them against worse illnesses,” says Bloetz.

It goes back to something parents everywhere say everyday – safety first.

Lee Memorial Health System

Beat the bug: get your flu shot

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 (last updated)

Hilarious video of ZDoggMD: “Flu shots are safe and effective. They DO NOT cause flu. Vaccinate yourself even if you think you never get sick, because people can carry influenza and spread it to vulnerable people (children and the elderly) without ever having any symptoms themselves. It’s about Community Immunity folks, so get your vax on!”


Vaccines boost economic growth in poorest countries

Friday, August 24th, 2012 (last updated)

Vaccines bring added value to the economies of the world’s poorest countries with GAVI’s investment in immunisation set to yield an 18% rate of return by 2020, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study.

The study, commissioned by GAVI in 2005 and entitled ‘Value of Vaccination’, concludes that long-term benefits of immunisation programmes in low-income countries should be measured in economic terms, not just lives saved.

New sources of economic returns

Published in World Economics (July-September 2005), the study argues that healthier workers are more productive in the workplace because of their improved energy levels and better attendance records; their longer life expectancy also offers a greater incentive to invest in savings.

“When kids grow up healthier, they do better in school and, later, as adults, are more productive, earn more and save more. Overall, we found powerful new sources of economic returns from immunisation,” said Harvard economists David Bloom and David Canning, authors of the study together with Mark Weston of River Path Associates, a knowledge consultancy based in the UK.

GAVI case study

Using GAVI as a case study, the report also argues that vaccination’s economic benefits are produced at a remarkably low cost.

Analysing GAVI’s support for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B and yellow fever vaccines as well as plans to introduce new vaccines against pneumococcal disease, rotavirus infection and meningococcal A from 2010-15, the study estimates an 18% rate of return on GAVI investments by 2020.

Long-term returns on investment in vaccination stands comparision with the returns on basic eduction ” Both increase the wages of children when they enter the workforce,” says Canning, Professor of Economics and International Health..

“If we had calculated the value of savings, averted medical costs, welfare benefits associated with averted deaths or other effects – in addition to productivity gains – vaccination would likely blow the socks off other forms of development aid.”

GAVI Alliance

The dangers of the anti-vaccine movement

Friday, August 24th, 2012 (last updated)

Paul A. Offit, MD, talks with Eli Y. Adashi, MD, about the history and hazards of the anti-vaccine movement.