Archive for March, 2013

Cancer Council HPV Vaccine: What you need to know.

Friday, March 22nd, 2013 (last updated)

This video was created to help spread awareness about cervical cancer & the HPV vaccine. Please forward this video on and be a part of the solution like the awesome young boys and girls who participated.

HPV affect both boys & girls. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine protects against 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. The vaccine consists of three doses taken over six months, and is provided to girls aged 12 to 13 as part of the school-based immunisation program.

Visit for more information.

Catch the Bird

Vaccine safety: a conversation with Dr. Paul Offit

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 (last updated)

Paul Offit

Autism rates have not declined since 2001 event though thimerosal was eliminated from most vaccines in the US by then. In some cases, those who believe in an autism-vaccine link have just shifted the goalposts to injection of foreign substances into the body and other theories. What are your thoughts?

Dr. Offit: When the hypothesis was raised about whether or not the MMR vaccine caused autism, that was a pretty easy series of studies to do. You could look at children who did or did not receive that vaccine in retrospect, and do a pretty good job of controlling for medical background, socioeconomic background, health care-seeking behavior.

Same thing is true for thimerosal, because there were Canadian provinces that used thimerosal-containing vaccines, others used the same vaccines without thimerosal, Western Europe had taken thimerosal out of vaccines by 1991, we used the full complement of thimerosal-containing vaccines until 2000, so those were easy studies.

Then you get to the harder studies, the questions about aluminum, or fetal bovine serum. You’re not going to be able to have a study where you look at vaccines that contain aluminum and vaccines that don’t, because those studies don’t exist.

The best you can do is look at the studies by Charles Woods and Michael Smith, where you look retrospectively at large numbers of children who either got vaccinated in accordance with the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) / CDC (Centers for Disease Control) schedule, or got very few vaccines — 1 or 2 or 3 in those first couple years of life. You can do that study. This handles many of the things you said, because it handles the aluminum as adjuvants idea, it handles the issue of other excipient materials: things like fetal bovine serum, or porcine gelatin, etc. That obviously shows no difference because it wouldn’t make any sense that you would see a difference.

We’re exposed to small quantities of heavy metals all the time, living on the planet earth. We’re all exposed all the time: Mercury and thallium and beryllium and cadmium. If you really want to scare yourself, there’s a guy at UCSF, Eric Delwart, who has a kind of high throughput, deep sequencing technology

where he can detect very few copy numbers by the polymerase chain reaction of the genes, from very few fragments of genes. I think if he took that technology to the grocery store, and just surveyed the surfaces of the fruits that we buy, I think you would find genetic fragments of DNA from all sorts of things, and I’m including humans — I mean, we die, we get absorbed into the planet earth, we get into the aquifer.

Understood. We sometimes hear from people complaining about things like formaldehyde in vaccines, when our bodies make formaldehyde naturally.

Dr. Offit: That’s true, formaldehyde is part of single carbon metabolism, and your body makes it al the time. And you make more when you drink! So if you really want to avoid formaldehyde, no beer, no wine, no alcohol. While you might not give your baby wine, your baby does have single-carbon metabolism.

We hear a lot from people complaining about “too many vaccines, too soon” even thought the actual antigen load is less than it used to be. How would you address this issue?

Dr. Offit: The way the smallpox vaccine was made 100 years ago is the way that it would be made today — we still have stocks of so-called dry vaccine in the freezers at Wyeth — and if we were to need it again, here is how it’s made:

You take a calf, you shave it. Then you take a rake, this excoriating device, and you scrape it along the sides of the calf, causing these four lines of blood to form. Then take this virus, vaccinia virus  which is not quite cowpox virus — it’s actually a combination of cowpox and swinepox and horsepox, and you put it dropwise on these bloody streaks. You wait a week for the pustules to form, then you harvest the pus, you spin out the white cells and the hair, you dry it — and that’s your smallpox vaccine.

I was at the Wistar Institute as their chief medical officer a number of years ago, and they were doing a study of the Vaccinia virus vaccine recombinant — it’s the smallpox vaccine, except they inserted into it a gene that coded for one protein, a sort of a rabies protein. So they were going to take this vaccine, and distribute it; they were going to soak the heads of chickens with this Vaccinia virus recombinant, and distribute them out on Parramore Island off the coast of Virginia to try to decrease rabies in raccoons.

I had to vaccinate about 30 veterinarians — big, lumbering guys with plaid shirts and beards — with the smallpox vaccine before they could to go to Parramore Island to distribute these chicken heads. One guy came to me a few days later, and he had fever and a tremendous swelling of the lymph gland under his arm which I thought was infected with the bacteria. So I took him to my boss, Stanley Plotkin (the developer and inventor of the rubella vaccine, and the rotavirus vaccine) and thought he was going to say that this guy had an infection of the lymph node under his arm, for which he would need to be admitted to the hospital and receive intravenous antibiotics. But Stanley looked at it and said, “Good take” meaning that’s what you’d expect to see when you have a “good take” from the smallpox vaccine.

That smallpox vaccine is from 100 years ago, and it contained more immunological components than all the vaccines we use today. So when people say things like, “As we give children more and more vaccines and challenge their immune systems more and more, and worrisomely perturb or overwhelm or weaken their immune system,” that is nothing. We live in an era where we have advances in protein purification, chemistry, and recombinant DNA technology where we can make very pure, very safe vaccines — much safer than the smallpox vaccine we gave 100 years ago. We encounter far fewer immunological components in today’s fourteen vaccines that we give to young children than we gave in one smallpox vaccine. And we make them a lot better. We don’t take calves and shave them anymore.

But what we do do is throw in adjuvants, so we are doing something to amplify the immune response. So is the math actually solid to say, “Take just that one comparison — number of antigens then and now — for what our immune response is going to be”?

Dr. Offit: Fair enough. We do things to allow us to give fewer doses of a vaccine and lesser quantities of antigens. For example, if you were infected with diphtheria, that bacteria produces a toxin in large quantities which gets distributed throughout your body and induces a vigorous immune response to the bacteria as well as to its toxin. When you give a diphtheria vaccine, you take that toxin, you kill it so that it can’t cause harm. That makes it much less immunogenic, much less capable of inducing an immune response. So you have to find a way to get your immune response without causing the harm from the diphtheria toxin — and that’s where the adjuvant comes in.

The adjuvant does increase the immune response, it’s true, but it certainly doesn’t do it at a level that would be greater than natural infection — it’s less, and that’s why you have to give many doses. If you’re infected with diphtheria once, you’re probably protected against diphtheria for the rest of your life. But you have to give many doses of diphtheria vaccine, even with an adjuvant, because you’ve so significantly weakened that diphtheria protein by inactivating it.

So when you see fever with vaccines, frankly, mostly it’s because of the adjuvant. And fever is a good thing! I know most parents don’t feel this way, but the question is, “Why do we have fever?” And it’s clearly an adaptive response. All mammals on the face of this earth that are endotherms, meaning having the capacity to make their own fever, have it for a reason, and the reason is that it makes your immune system work better.

Your immune system works better at a higher temperature. And there are many proofs of that — one is that if you take people who have chickenpox, for example, and you give them antipyretics (fever reducing agents) like Tylenol, and compare them to people who don’t get Tylenol — those who don’t get the fever reducing agent and are allowed to have a fever, their blisters will “crust” much more quickly. Therefore, having a fever benefited them, in terms of getting better.

If you take adult volunteers and infect them with rhinovirus, the common cold viruses, and give only some fever reducing agents, those you give the fever reducing agent to shed the virus longer.

A fever is a good thing. A fever is a sign of a health immune response — it just feels bad, it’s uncomfortable to have a fever. You pay a metabolic price for fever. But the degree to which we go crazy trying to lower our children’s body temperatures is unnecessary.

Thinking Person’s Guide To Autism

Do I need any vaccinations today?

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 (last updated)

This three-page screening questionnaire will help you and your healthcare provider determine if you need any vaccinations today. Please check the boxes that apply to you.

do-i-need-any-vaccination Click here

Immunization Action Coalition

Combined measles-rubella campaign kicks off in Rwanda

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013 (last updated)

Rwanda is the first sub-Saharan African country to roll out the combined measles-rubella vaccine which means that more children will be protected from preventable diseases and have the chance to reach their full potential. Here is what UNICEF Rwanda Representative, Noala Skinner had to say about the campaign…


Chicken pox vaccine saves lives

Monday, March 18th, 2013 (last updated)

The widespread introduction of a chicken pox vaccine in Australia in 2006 has prevented thousands of children from being hospitalised with severe chicken pox and saved lives, according to new research.

In a national study of chicken pox admissions at four participating Australian children’s hospitals, researchers found the number of children hospitalised with chicken pox or shingles had dropped by 68% since 2006.

The research was led by Associate Professor Helen Marshall from the University of Adelaide and Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and researchers of the Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS) project.

Prior to the chicken pox (or varicella) vaccine being available, each year Australia had an estimated 240,000 chicken pox cases, with 1500 hospitalisations and between 1-16 deaths.

The results of the study, now published online in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, show that there were no deaths identified in the participating hospitals in Australia during 2007-2010 following the widespread introduction of varicella vaccine.

The study also shows that of children needing hospitalisation for severe chicken pox, 80% had not been immunised.

“These results are a very strong endorsement of the impact of chicken pox vaccine being available for children through the national childhood immunisation program, and of the need to immunise all children against chicken pox,” says lead author Associate Professor Helen Marshall, from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute and Director of the Vaccinology and Immunology Research Trials Unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide.

“A higher level of immunisation would have spared most children from severe chicken pox, which in a few cases required intensive care treatment. Based on the results of our studies, this is now mostly preventable,” Associate Professor Marshall says.

Chicken pox is a highly contagious infection spread by airborne transmission or from direct contact with the fluid from skin lesions caused by the disease. In its most serious form, chicken pox can cause severe and multiple complications, including neurological conditions, and even death.

“At least one dose of varicella vaccine in eligible children and in other members of their household has the potential to prevent almost all severe cases of chicken pox in Australia,” Associate Professor Marshall says.

“Not only does this have the potential to save lives, it also saves millions of dollars in hospital admission costs each year.”


Science Alert

Join the team – “MORE THAN A GOAL”

Sunday, March 17th, 2013 (last updated)

Together, we can save the lives of children around the world. FC Barcelona, Fundacio FC Barcelona, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are coming together to end polio forever.

Gates foundation

Scientists seek ‘super vaccine’ for newborns

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 (last updated)

Researchers have discovered a compound that could help protect the health of newborns when they are most vulnerable to infection.  The compound — a vaccine additive — could make immunizations more effective, potentially saving the lives of millions of babies around the world every year.

Every year, bacterial and viral infections, including rotavirus, whooping cough and pneumonia, kill more than two million infants under six months of age.  These newborns are especially vulnerable, experts say, because their immune systems are too immature to respond adequately to vaccines.

That’s why immunizations are generally not given to babies less than two months old.  These include vaccinations to guard against rotavirus — which can cause severe diarrhea — and polio, which older infants receive in a series.   Yet in many resource-poor countries, birth might be the only time a child will have contact with a health care provider.

Ofer Levy, who studies infectious diseases at Harvard Medical School in Boston,  Massachusetts, says researchers have been looking for a way to protect newborn health by closing this vulnerability gap:

“So we want to design a super vaccine that you can give at birth and maybe even get single shot protection or maybe fewer shots needed.  But also by giving it early in life, you close the window of vulnerability inherent in the current shot schedule,” Levy said.

Levy and a team of researchers at Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital have identified a small synthetic molecule, called VTX-294, that stimulates a strong immune response in samples of protective white cells taken from the umbilical cord blood of newborns. While VTX-294 also induced a strong reaction in whole blood samples taken from adults, researchers say the newborn response was as strong, if not stronger.

VTX-294 activated a type of white blood cell, called an antigen-presenting cell, which is essential to successful vaccines.  Antigen-presenting cells help the immune system recognize and destroy disease-causing microorganisms if they are encountered following vaccination.

Levy says VTX-294 proved to be more potent than any compound tested so far in research to boost newborns’ immune responses:

“When we say potent, it means we can have very little amounts of this compound and get a very powerful response,” Levy said.

Levy says researchers are also looking at whether the compound can boost the immune systems of cancer patients so anti-cancer agents can be more effective.

Scientists seek ‘super vaccine’ for newborns Click here

Voice of America

There’s an anti-vaccine movement? Let’s stop the spread of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Friday, March 15th, 2013 (last updated)

Katie EllisIt’s no secret that I have always been science-minded. My entire life, I wanted to become a doctor. I took AP science courses in high school, entered college majoring in biology/pre-medicine, and today enjoy reading scientific journal articles “for fun.” It was no surprise, therefore, that as a microbiologist whose work focuses on vaccines, I never questioned vaccinating my children. I knew how great of an achievement vaccines were for the history of science, and the profound enhancements they have made to public health.My son was born in 2009, and he was vaccinated per the CDC and AAP recommended schedule. I knew I was making an informed, intelligent choice to protect him from deadly childhood diseases. Yes, I had heard all of the hype about the Andrew Wakefield fraud incident (in a now-discredited and fraudulent study, Wakefield tried to link the MMR vaccine to autism), but knew that it was nonsense, and never doubted my vaccination choices. At this point, I was obviously pro-vaccine, but had never given a thought to advocating for the use of such vaccines.Soon after this, Dr. Paul Offit spoke at my place of employment. The topic of his talk was the anti-vaccine movement, which intrigued me—I didn’t know there was a big enough group of people against vaccines to form a movement.  After hearing Dr. Offit speak, I felt a multitude of emotions. I felt fascination, for Dr. Offit was such a dynamic speaker who clearly had vast amounts of knowledge about vaccines and infectious diseases.  I felt anger that parents in this country had access to life-saving technology and were not utilizing it. More than that, though, was anger that parents were not vaccinating due to fear, uncertainty, and doubt spread by Jenny McCarthy and other parents who have graduated from the “University of Google.”  Mostly, though, I felt a spark of passion to become an advocate for the safety and efficacy of vaccines.This spark was further stoked when I became pregnant with my daughter. I began to read about outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) that occurred in California in 2010, in which ten babies (not yet old enough to be fully vaccinated) perished. I read about the anti-vaccine movement, and how it grew larger by scaring new parents with lies.  I started to peruse pro-vaccine blogs, such as Shot of Prevention, and Facebook pages, such as Vaccinate Your Baby and Nurses Who Vaccinate.  Amazed by the depth of knowledge of the active pro-vaccine advocates on those pages, I was deeply inspired—and my passion grew.

When my godmother was diagnosed with whooping cough and sent to the hospital for two weeks, just months before my daughter was due, it was the final straw.  Right before her diagnosis, my family—including my godmother—had all been gathered at the hospital.  We were visiting my grandmother, who was sick with uterine cancer. I realized now that not only was my grandmother at extreme risk of contracting whooping cough, but so was my unborn child and I.  I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to fully protect my child when she was born and was too young to be vaccinated.  Thus, my passion grew to the point that I began posting comments on pro-vaccine blogs and pages.  As I posted more, I learned more. As I learned more, I turned my anger into more passion. I now have confidence to post on anti-vaccine pages and blogs and new articles; I feel comfortable writing letters to members of Congress. I am a parent, a hugely passionate vaccine advocate, and very proud of it.

Katie Ellis is a mother of two, who works full time as a microbiologist specializing in vaccines. She loves spending time with her family, running, baking, and being active.

Voices for Vaccines

Outbreaks associated to large open air festivals, including music festivals, 1980 to 2012

Thursday, March 14th, 2013 (last updated)

In the minds of many, large scale open air festivals have become associated with spring and summer, attracting many people, and in the case of music festivals, thousands of music fans. These festivals share the usual health risks associated with large mass gatherings, including transmission of communicable diseases and risk of outbreaks. Large scale open air festivals have however specific characteristics, including outdoor settings, on-site housing and food supply and the generally young age of the participants. Outbreaks at large scale open air festivals have been caused by Cryptosporium parvum, Campylobacter spp., Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Shigella sonnei, Staphylococcus aureus, hepatitis A virus, influenza virus, measles virus, mumps virus and norovirus. Faecal-oral and respiratory transmissions of pathogens result from non-compliance with hygiene rules, inadequate sanitation and insufficient vaccination coverage. Sexual transmission of infectious diseases may also occur and is likely to be underestimated and underreported. Enhanced surveillance during and after festivals is essential. Preventive measures such as immunisations of participants and advice on-site and via social networks should be considered to reduce outbreaks at these large scale open air festivals.


Eurosurveillance (ECDC)

Do you need more reasons to immunize

Thursday, March 14th, 2013 (last updated)


Canadian Immunization Awareness Program