Archive for June, 2013

EU Health Prize for Journalists

Sunday, June 30th, 2013 (last updated)

The European Commission is proud to present the fifth edition of the EU Health Prize for Journalists. It is awarded to stimulate high-quality journalism that raises awareness of issues related to healthcare and patient’s rights. Under the theme “Europe for Patients”, the prize highlights the following EU health policy initiatives:

Journalists are invited to submit their articles published in print or online media in any EU Member State (including Croatia) between 01 August 2012 and 30 September 2013. The articles must relate to one of the 12 health topics (e.g. active and healthy ageing; rare diseases; flu vaccination; childhood vaccination) listed above. Submissions are open until 30 September 2013.

All details, including the link to the Journalist Prize website, can be found in our Press Release, available in all EU languages:

Deadline for submitting articles is 30 September!

EU Health Prize for Journalists

European Commission

Positive Hope, a film that follows the testing of a new HIV vaccine

Saturday, June 29th, 2013 (last updated)

POSITIVE HOPE is a film that follows, at the Conception Hospital in Marseille, the tests on humans of a new form of vaccine aimed to neutralize the AIDS pandemic and eventually to eradicate this disease from the planet. 
The elaboration of a preventive and curative vaccine against AIDS from a protein called TAT, is developed by a dozen research teams in the world and is considered one of the most serious tracks today. 
Among all these various researches, that of Dr. Erwann Loret, in Marseille, is the most advanced. Toxicity tests were successful and since the beginning of April 2013, a first cohort of 48 patients received the first injections of a vaccine.

In 18 months, the results of this test will be made public. This film will be a great and powerful bearer of hope for the millions of people infected and affected by AIDS in the world. We have the exclusive right of filming all the clinical tests, in collaboration with the scientific team; and an exceptional access to the testimony of some of the first patients to receive this vaccine. After their first injections and before the first results, we will film and accompany them in their daily lives.

We do not know the results yet, the first two injections having been made on April 8th 2013. Sensationalism will be deliberately excluded.


Whooping cough can be deadly for infants, but 61% of adults don’t know vaccine status

Friday, June 28th, 2013 (last updated)

Cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are on the rise in the U.S., recently reaching their highest level in 50 years. The disease can be serious or even fatal to newborns who have not yet received vaccinations.
Effective vaccines against pertussis have been available for many decades, but that vaccine protection can wear off over time. A new University of Michigan poll shows that 61 percent of adults say they don’t know when they were last vaccinated against pertussis, which could mean they might be unwittingly exposing vulnerable babies to the disease.

Only 20 percent of adults reported that they received the pertussis vaccine less than 10 years ago (the recommended time frame) and 19 percent said they were vaccinated more than 10 years ago.

“Pertussis is a very preventable disease,” says Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. “But many adults may think their childhood vaccinations still are protecting them against pertussis. Findings from this poll show that few adults have received a booster shot within the recommended 10-year time frame and in fact, two-thirds told us they were not aware of their vaccination status.”

Pertussis easily spreads within households, day care facilities, schools and neighborhoods and is most often serious in infants and young children. In fact, the majority of deaths from pertussis occur in children less than 3 months old.

The poll found, however, broad support for parents to insist their newborns aren’t exposed to those who might not be current on their pertussis vaccine.

The majority of adults polled (72 percent) strongly agree or agree that parents have the right to insist that visitors receive the pertussis vaccine before visiting a newborn baby in the hospital. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of adults strongly agree or agree that parents should make sure all adults receive the pertussis vaccine before visiting a newborn baby at home.

Pertussis vaccines are recommended for teens and adults (known as the “Tdap” vaccine), including pregnant women. Boosting immunity against pertussis among teens and adults is especially important for protecting newborns against the disease. Most infants who fall sick with pertussis got the illness from an older child or adult with pertussis.

“Welcoming a baby to the family is a wonderful time, and no one would want to put an infant at risk. So the results of this poll are encouraging because they indicate some awareness that visitors need to be protected against this disease,” Davis says. “Teens and adults who have received the Tdap vaccine are less likely to get whooping cough themselves, and therefore less likely to spread whooping cough to other people — including infants who have not yet been protected by the recommended pertussis vaccinations.”

Davis says he hopes the awareness among parents will increase the numbers of people seeking a booster vaccine.

“Expectant parents should have a conversation about pertussis vaccine with their family and close friends BEFORE the baby is born, to allow time for them to get their pertussis vaccine up to date,” Davis says. “If parents begin to take this approach, it may have a very positive impact decreasing the number of newborns who become severely ill or die as a result of pertussis.”

Source: & University of Michigan Health System &

HPV infections fell by half in teen girls after vaccine was introduced

Thursday, June 27th, 2013 (last updated)

In the four years following the 2006 introduction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, the prevalence of HPV infection — the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States — dropped by half in adolescent girls, according to a study published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This decline was much higher than public-health officials had expected. Officials hope the results will encourage more adolescents to receive the vaccine.

“Unfortunately, only one third of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine,” noted Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, in a press statement. “Countries such as Rwanda have vaccinated more than 80 percent of their teen girls.”

A serious health concern

About 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with the HPV virus, according to the CDC. The infection usually goes away on its own, and most people never realize they’ve had the virus. But in some cases, an HPV infection leads to serious health problems, including several types of cancer.

HPV is the main cause of the 19,000 annual cases of cervical cancer that develop in American women. It also causes 8,000 cases of cancers in American men each year, mostly oropharyngeal (throat) cancer. Other cancers associated with HPV include those of the vagina, penis and anus.

Study details

For the new study, CDC researchers used National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data to compare HPV prevalence among American women aged 14-59 in the three-year periods before (2003-2006) and after (2007-2010) the introduction of the HPV vaccine. More than 8,000 women were included in the study. In addition to answering survey questions, the women provided vaginal swabs that were then analyzed by the CDC.

The researchers found that among teenage girls (aged 14 to 19), the prevalence of HPV infections covered by the vaccines fell from 11.5 percent in 2003-2006 to 5.1 percent in 2007-2010, or a decline of 56 percent.

A closer look revealed that among the girls who had received the vaccine, the drop in infections was 88 percent.

Significantly, no decreases were observed in the other (non-vaccinated) age groups.

These results occurred despite the fact that most young women are not getting vaccinated against HPV. The CDC researchers found that only 49 percent of young women aged 13 to 17 had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 32 percent had received all three doses.

Dr. Tom Frieden hopes this study will be a “wake-up call” for parents and young women.

“Our low vaccination rates represent 50,000 preventable tragedies — 50,000 girls alive today will develop cervical cancer over their lifetime that would have been prevented if we reach 80 percent vaccination rates,” Frieden pointed out in his statement. “For every year we delay in doing so, another 4,400 girls will develop cervical cancer in their lifetimes.”

Minnpost & PBS News Hour

Japan puts pro-active communication concerning both cervical cancer vaccines on hold

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 (last updated)

The Japanese government withdrew its recommendation to use human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines in girls last week, citing concerns from the public about adverse effects, according to news reports. The announcement is in stark contrast to the pronouncement this week by health officials in the United States that vaccination rates in teenage girls should be increased after a study concluded that estimated vaccine effectiveness is “high.” The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is not suspending vaccination, but has instructed local governments not to promote the use of the medicine while analyses are conducted about adverse effects, such as cases of complex regional pain syndrome (CPRS).

Cases of complex regional pain syndrome (CPRS) were reported from Japan where over 8 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed. CPRS is a painful condition that emerges in a limb usually following trauma. Cases have been reported following injury or surgical procedures. It remains of unknown etiology and may occur in the absence of any documented injury. CPRS following HPV vaccines has received media attention in Japan with 5 reported cases most of which seem not compatible with typical CPRS cases. Review by an expert advisory committee could not ascertain a causal relationship to vaccination given lack of sufficient case information and in many cases could not reach a definitive diagnosis. While these are under investigation, Japan has continued to provide HPV vaccine in their national program. The expert advisory committee requested additional safety data from manufacturers (of the two HPV vaccines: Cervarix and Gardasil) to further review. This outcome led the anti-vaccines group to further aggressively protest against HPV vaccination which was reported widely by the media in Japan.

Japan puts pro-active communication concerning both cervical cancer vaccines on hold

Medscape & World Health Organization

Earth’s virology course

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 (last updated)

Each lecture of the virology course of Professor Vincent Racaniello

was recorded as a videocast and is available at the course website, at iTunes University, or on YouTube. One hundred and eighty-five Columbia University undergraduates registered for the virology course in 2013, but nearly 100,000 individuals have subscribed to the course through iTunes University.

Professor Racaniello strongly believes that the general public must understand as much as possible about viruses, so they can participate in the debate about issues that impact them, such as vaccination, H7N9, and the new coronavirus CoV-MERS. As Professor Racaniello has said before “It is my goal to be Earth’s virology professor, and this is my virology course for the planet.”

In August, the Virology course of Professor Racaniello will become the fourth course from Columbia University to be offered as a MOOC (massive open online course) via Coursera. Below is a short video which explains that offering. Click here to register for part I.

Professor Vincent Racaniello & Virology Blog (

The CDC Immunization Baby Book

Monday, June 24th, 2013 (last updated)

The CDC Immunization Baby Book

For parents there’s no greater joy then watching your child grow up happy and healthy. That’s why most parents choose the safe, proven protection of vaccines. Flipping through this baby book, you can learn what vaccines babies need, when they’re needed, and why it’s so important to follow CDC’s recommended immunization schedule. Immunization gives you the power to protect your baby from 14 serious childhood diseases by age 2.


Vaccinophobia: World’s most powerful disease preventing tool – the vaccine – still a hard sell

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 (last updated)

The benefit of expanding the use of vaccines worldwide seems like a no-brainer: A cheap and easy way to stop disease dead in its tracks.

Yet polio persists despite a massive global campaign. The crippling disease is back in the Horn of Africa and new violence against vaccinators in Pakistan prompted the World Health Organization to again suspend its polio immunization work there.

The ups and downs of the polio campaign is a cause for concern to those seeking to eradicate this disease. But it isn’t just polio vaccines, or vaccinators, in poor countries that are targeted. There’s a disturbing synchronicity among vaccine opponents – whether it’s the Pakistani Taliban, Nigerian Islamists or Seattle granola heads. Seattle, in addition to being an epicenter for global health, is also known for having the lowest rate of child vaccination for any US city.

Part of the problem may be that a vaccine’s benefit is invisible on the individual level – lack of death and disease. Perhaps another reason vaccines are so frequently targeted for boycotts is the contagion of scientific illiteracy.

For further proof of the damage caused by a decline in vaccine rates, look no further than Great Britain. A fraudulent study published by Dr Andrew Wakefield in 1998 claimed that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. It took 12 years for the medical journal The Lancet to retract the paper. Researchers could not replicate the paper’s results and some of the information was faked. Of the 9 children supposedly with autism, it was determined that only one clearly had it and three had no form of autism.

The Lancet distanced itself from the paper as early as 2004, but did not issue the retraction because of the conversation it sparked. Lancet Editor Dr Richard Horton later told NPR in 2010 that he did not consider the wide reach the paper could have due to media reports.

MMR vaccine rates in the UK dropped, reaching lows in 2003-4.

A resurgence of vaccines followed to now record levels. However the damage was done.

Vaccinophobia: World’s most powerful disease preventing tool – the vaccine – still a hard sell

Measles made a comeback in England and Wales last year. 2,000 cases were recorded in the two countries, the highest number in two decades. As a comparison  the United States sees about 60 cases of measles each year. The parts of Wales where vaccine rates dipped below 60% of children under two years old now shoulder the burden of the measles outbreak. Health officials estimate roughly 38,000 children are unvaccinated in Wales, putting them at risk of measles and now the greater population at risk of rubella.

“This is the legacy of the Wakefield scare,” Dr. David Elliman, spokesman for the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, to the AP.

Pakistan faces similar challenges due to disruptions in vaccine delivery. Rather than feat of autism, it is fear of death by bullet that yet again forced a campaign to stop. A pair of young vaccine workers were shot while distributing polio vaccines in Peshawar. At least one died and the UN again stopped the campaign, having taken similar steps in December following a rise in attacks on polio vaccine workers by the Taliban.

“Operations will remain suspended in Peshawar until the security situation returns to normal,” said WHO spokesperson Maryam Younas.

Meanwhile, Kenya and Somalia are dealing with two cases of polio that caused paralysis. It is concerning because both countries are considered to be polio-free and the cases of paralysis indicate that there may be more infected children in the region. The Kenyan Ministry of Health indicated that it is going to conduct a new round of vaccines that will reach over 500,000 children in the region bordering Somalia. Ensuing rounds will provide coverage to the arid northern half of the country.

Vaccine advocates say that people should stick to the science that shows how vaccines work.

“Where a vaccine already has an established and strong safety record and is saving lives, the onus should be on producing evidence of a genuine risk before there is any change in policy related to its availability,” wrote GAVI alliance CEO Dr Seth Berkley in the New York Times.


TED-talk: “How vaccines work”

Friday, June 21st, 2013 (last updated)

Brilliant talk of Dr. Adam Finn who describes how vaccines work and why we all have a role in ensuring that they are effective.

Bristol HP – TEDMED Bristol

Lenny Kravitz asks for your help in saving children from preventable diseases

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 (last updated)

Four-year old Shahadat was crippled by polio when he was only 2. It came on suddenly, paralyzing his entire body. Shahadat can move his left leg, but he will never regain the use of his right leg. Living in cramped quarters near India’s capital, New Delhi, he faces a lifetime with a permanent handicap. Shahadat will never run home from school, chase a ball and live a life he deserved.

Lenny Kravitz asks for your help in saving children from preventable diseases

In a new public announcement, Grammy award–winning singer and songwriter Lenny Kravitz brings Shahadat’s story to light and asks for public support in the fight against polio.

“We can eradicate the disease of polio in our lifetime. And we can help UNICEF fully immunize every child,” he says.

As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Children under 5 are especially vulnerable.

In 2011 alone, 1.5 million children died from diseases preventable by currently recommended vaccines. It may be too late for Shahadat now, but it isn’t for millions others.

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare – an extremely ill child,” Kravitz says. “UNICEF’s goal is to make sure that 100 per cent of children are immunized against preventable diseases. Failing to reach every last child is unacceptable, especially when the cost of a vaccine is so little.”

Vaccines are responsible for eradicating smallpox and for preventing an estimated 2 million to 3 million deaths each year from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough measles and polio. Fifty years ago, polio was one of the most feared diseases in the world. Timely immunization with today’s safe and effective oral vaccines is the most effective way to prevent infection. As a result, polio is now endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.