Archive for October, 2013

More than half of the parents have doubts about the flu vaccine. These experts give you the truth about how it works

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 (last updated)

The 2012-13 flu season took a serious toll on families: 158 children – most of them younger than 11 – died. That’s almost five times the number of children who were victims of the flu during the previous season. “Influenza struck early and hard,” says Dean Blumberg, M.D., chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC-Davis Children’s Hospital, in Sacramento. Kids with chronic medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes are especially vulnerable–and yet 40 percent of the children who died during the last flu season had no prior health problem. And, sadly, about 90 percent of those who died missed out on the one thing that could have saved them: a flu vaccination.

Despite studies proving that flu vaccinations are a lifesaver, less than half of all children in the United States (and even fewer parents) are immunized each year. Fear and misinformation cause many families to take their chances with this potentially fatal respiratory virus. One recent survey from Ipsos Public Affairs, a social-research company, found that 16 percent of Americans consider the vaccine to be unsafe and 35 percent believe the vaccine causes the flu. “The tragedy is that children continue to die from an illness that is largely preventable,” says Dr. Blumberg. Because awareness and education are key to making smart decisions about your family’s health, we went to the experts to get clear-cut information about the flu and the vaccine.

THE FEAR My baby already gets too many shots.

REALITY CHECK Doctors hear this from many parents, but they want moms and dads to understand that children ages 6 months to 5 years are at a high risk of serious flu-related complications like pneumonia, dehydration, and hospitalization. In fact, an average of 20,000 kids ages 5 and younger are hospitalized with the flu every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than a third of the children who died during the 2012-13 flu season were under age 4. “Their immature immune system is still developing the ability to make antibodies to fight off sickness,” explains Mary Glode, M.D., head of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital Colorado, in Aurora. That’s why kids 8 and under who are vaccinated for the first time need two separate doses at least 28 days apart. The first one primes their immune system, while the second starts providing protection.

THE FEAR The vaccine can cause the flu.

REALITY CHECK It’s impossible for the killed or inactivated viruses in the flu shot to cause illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nasal-spray vaccine does contain live flu strains, but they’re too weak to make you sick. Some people who get the nasal spray do experience reactions such as a runny nose, a sore throat, or fatigue. “These side effects–which are mild and short-lived compared with the actual flu–indicate that your body is building up antibodies to fight flu,” explains Pedro Piedra, pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. If you or your child truly gets sick with the flu soon after being vaccinated, it means the virus had entered your system prior to or shortly after you got the vaccine.

THE FEAR My child has an egg allergy and the vaccine will cause a reaction.

REALITY CHECK Both the shot and the nasal-spray flu vaccine contain trace amounts of egg allergen because the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs, which is why kids with egg allergies have traditionally been told to avoid them. However, a December 2012 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that the amount of egg protein is too low to cause a reaction even in those who have a severe egg allergy. Still, your doctor may want to monitor your egg-allergic child for reactions for 30 minutes when she gets the vaccine for the first time. (A new egg-free flu shot, Flublok, should be available this season for adults; a version for children is expected to be on the market in the next few years.)


70% of unimmunized children live in just 10 countries. Time for action!

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 (last updated)

unimmunized children


Professor Harald zur Hausen and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 (last updated)

Vincent Racaniello speaks with Professor Harald zur Hausen, recipient of the 2013 Society for General Microbiology Prize Medal for “work that has had a far-reaching impact beyond microbiology.”

Professor zur Hausen talks about the beginnings of his work on the human papilloma virus (HPV) starting in 1972 with a group he setup to look at the “isolation and characterization of the viruses in genital warts.”

This group would lead to the discovery of HPV 16 and 18 (the leading cause of cervical cancer) amongst many other types.

The discovery of these two particular strains of HPV led to insights into the cancer causing properties of HPV which would result in the production of the HPV vaccine.

Vincent and Professor zur Hausen also discuss other virus related cancers including the possibility that colon cancer is a product of a virus and the application of the HPV vaccine to males as well as females.


Why does Ukraine have Europe’s lowest vaccination rate?

Monday, October 28th, 2013 (last updated)

Ukraine has the lowest vaccination rates of any European country, and health experts are alarmed.
They are warning that the situation has made the country vulnerable to a number of serious diseases, including polio and measles.
So why are many parents leaving their children unprotected?
David Stern reports from the Ukrainian capital Kiev.


Children benefit from early dose of measles vaccine

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 (last updated)

Children should receive their first dose of the measles vaccine when they are between 1 year and 15 months old to best avoid the side effects of the shot, according to a new report.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Institute for Health Research found that when the first dose of the measles immunization is administered earlier, children have a lower increased risk of fever and seizures. The study is published in the Oct. 14 online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

“We found that the magnitude of increased risk of fever and seizures following immunization with measles-containing vaccines during the second year of life depends on age,” study lead author, Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, said in a Kaiser Permanente news release.


“While measles-containing vaccines administered at 12 to 15 months of age are associated with a small risk of fever and seizures following immunization, delayed administration at 16 to 23 months of age results in a greater risk of those adverse events,” Rowhani-Rahbar added.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children receive their first of the two-dose series of measles vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age. But, the researchers pointed out, most children receive their first dose between 12 and 23 months of age, and only 85 percent of children had received this immunization by the time they are 19 months old.


Also kids should get a flu shot: sing along with ‘Sid the Science Kid’

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 (last updated)

Sid the Science Kid and his classmates sing a song about the importance of getting a flu vaccine.


GAVI on track to immunize one-quarter billion children by 2015

Friday, October 25th, 2013 (last updated)

The GAVI alliance – a public-private global health partnership previously known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization – has announced it is on track to immunize a quarter of a billion children against killer diseases by 2015.  The organization said nearly four million children’s lives will be saved thanks to these additional vaccinations.

GAVI said it is reaching record numbers of children with life-saving vaccines.  It said more countries than ever are introducing new vaccines, averting many deaths and improving the health and wellbeing of millions of people.

Pneumonia and diarrhea are the two biggest child killers in the world.  The price of the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, which protect against these illnesses, has gone down dramatically, making them affordable for children in developing countries.

GAVI introduced pentavalent vaccines in 2001 with the aim of reaching all 73 GAVI-eligible countries by 2014.  These vaccines offer protection against five diseases – diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis, and haemophilus influenzae type b.

GAVI chief executive officer Seth Berkley said the widespread use of these vaccines in the poorer countries is an essential step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015.  He said pentavalent vaccines now are available in 72 of the 73 GAVI countries.

“The last country which will have this vaccine rolled out is Southern Sudan, which will be rolled out in the first quarter of next year.  Of course, Southern Sudan was not a country when GAVI began the roll-out of this vaccine, so this vaccine is now becoming the normal vaccine in the world and that is, for us, a big deal,”  said Berkley.

Closing the rich-poor gap

GAVI’s progress report also finds the immunization gap between rich and poor countries is closing.   For example, it noted in the Kilifi district of Kenya, the number of cases of pneumococcal disease has gone down from 38 to zero cases in the three years since the launch of the PCV (pneumococcal) vaccine.  It said similar effects have been obtained with the meningitis and haemophilus influenzae type b vaccines.

Despite these successes, Dr. Berkley said challenges remain in a number of fragile countries.  For example, he tells VOA some 22 million children are not being fully immunized against diptheria, pertussis and tetanus.  The largest number is in India, followed by Nigeria and Ethiopia.

In these fragile countries, he said it is important to improve the reliability of supply chains, improve in-country data collection, and adopt tailored approaches toward immunization.

GAVI - Seth Berkley

“So, instead of having the same mechanism for every country, we work with different countries in different ways. So, Afghanistan, for example, has made a decision that it would use non-governmental organizations to do most of its distribution.  So, the government then contracts out the work that GAVI does in the supply of vaccines…But, our goal at the end is to try and work with each country and help them.  During the recent disturbances in Mali, for example, we worked very hard to make sure that vaccines kept going during that period, and we were able to do that,” said Berkley.

Berkley added that vaccines are widely recognized as one of the most-cost effective public health tools, providing the best possible protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.  He said that means every child must have access to all 11 of the vaccines the World Health Organization recommends.

Voice of America

Should you get a whooping cough vaccine?

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 (last updated)

Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears visits actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, a mother of a 1- and 4-year-old, who received the whooping cough vaccine when she was pregnant. Sarah, who is an ambassador for March of Dimes’ Sounds of Pertussis campaign, says that 80 percent of the time a child catches whooping cough, it’s from a caretaker or a direct family member, and 50 percent of the time, it’s from one of the parents.


The Susan Komen Foundation gives nearly $1 million for breast cancer vaccine research

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 (last updated)

Susan G. Komen is supporting the breast cancer vaccine research of a University Hospitals oncologist with nearly $1 million in grant money.
Dr. Joseph Baar said he hopes to begin enrolling patients in a Phase 1 clinical trial for a vaccine to prevent breast cancer recurrence by early January. The trial, which also will be available at the Cleveland Clinic, is still undergoing the regulatory approval process.
Over the summer, Baar, director of breast cancer research and the Breast Cancer Survivor Program at UH Case Medical Center, received news of the four-year, $996,900 grant to Case Western Reserve University. Baar is developing a trial to study the vaccine in women who have had metastatic, or advanced, breast cancer. He is collaborating with immunologist Walter Storkus of the University of Pittsburgh.
The vaccine strengthens the body’s T-cells, killer immune cells instrumental in helping fight off disease. These cells target the environment in which cancer cells thrive, such as blood vessels that help fuel the growth of cancerous tumors. The T-cells cut off the blood supply to those tumors, rather than to the cancer cells themselves.

University Hospitals Cleveland, Ohio

Immunization – A community coming together

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 (last updated)

The Childhood Immunization Initiative has a multi-pronged effort to tackle the problem of children not getting their vaccinations, including:

  • Providing funding for a pilot to find effective ways to help parents share accurate, reliable information with peers in their school communities.
  • Creating new communication tools for health care providers to talk with parents about vaccinations.
  • Increasing access to vaccinations.
  • Partnering with public health departments to develop strategies to increase vaccinations.

A public awareness campaign and free vaccine clinics in response to the 2012 pertussis epidemic.

Group Health Foundation