Stories tagged vaccination

Jan
07
2011

Back in 1998, a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield did a study on twelve children, and wrote a paper claiming that a link existed between childhood vaccinations and autism.

Naturally, this freaked out a lot of parents, and lots of folks stopped having their kids vaccinated. Consequently, infection rates of diseases that are totally preventable with vaccines—like measles and whooping cough—went up.

Then, other scientists were unable to reproduce Wakefield's experiment, which kind of made it seem like it was wasn't accurate to begin with. Wakefield couldn't even reproduce his experiment. Nonetheless, lots of people stuck to the idea that autism is caused by vaccines, or by ingredients in vaccines. When these ingredients were removed because of the concern, people picked other ingredients to blame. Still scientists could find no link between any of the components of vaccines and autism.

Meanwhile, most of the other scientists involved with Wakefield's research removed their names from the published results. And then The Lancet, the respected medical journal that originally published Wakefield's research, actually retracted the study, because it was so inaccurate. And then Wakefield had his medical license, because his poor research was so irresponsible. Still Wakefield and his supporters insisted that the link existed, and that he was the target of a global conspiracy.

Now, there's another nail in a coffin that just won't stay shut: a journalist (who has signed a statement saying that he has no financial interest in the debate) has found that Wakefield's original research on the twelve children was fraudulent. Wakefield misrepresented the medical histories of his subjects to make it appear that they had developed autism after receiving the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella, when, in fact, some of the subjects had shown signs of autism before receiving the vaccine, and some had not developed autism at all.

During all this, Wakefield accepted $674,000 from lawyers preparing a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers. Eh... whoops.

The new information suggests that not only was Wakefield's research inaccurate, he deliberately falsified it.

It's an interesting story, but as Dr. Max Wiznitzer points out in the article linked to above, the medical and scientific communities already knew Wakefield was a fraud, and Wakefield's followers aren't likely to change their positions now, so it's a little bit of a moot point.

Wakefield himself says that the truth is in his book, which he wants you to buy.

The hype of H1N1 flu has run its course. News reports say that 40 million doses of unused vaccine (valued at $260 million) have been destroyed and that the flu impacted much fewer people than the regular seasonal flu. And there are millions more doses of the vaccine are set to expire at the end of this month. What just happened?

Babies are dying

"Whooping cough is now an epidemic in California," said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health, in a statement. "Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family members and caregivers of infants need a booster shot." ABCnews

Click here to watch whooping cough video on You Tube.

Sep
27
2009

H1N1 vaccination
H1N1 vaccinationCourtesy AJC1

How do I know it is safe?

"The recurring question is, 'How do we know it's safe?'" said Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic. What if, after getting a flu shot, a person goes home. then suddenly has a heart attack. Was the heart attack a side effect of the flu shot?

More than 3,000 people a day have a heart attack. This happens when no flu shots are given. When no flu shots are given, from 14,000 to 19,000 miscarriages happen every week.
When we start giving flu shots to 100s of millions of people, how do we differentiate side effects caused by the vaccination, from what would have happened even without the vaccination?

Intensive monitoring of side effects planned

This year there will be intense new monitoring.

Harvard Medical School scientists are linking large insurance databases that cover up to 50 million people with vaccination registries around the country for real-time checks of whether people see a doctor in the weeks after a flu shot and why. The huge numbers make it possible to quickly compare rates of complaints among the vaccinated and unvaccinated, said the project leader, Dr. Richard Platt, Harvard's population medicine chief.

Johns Hopkins University will direct e-mails to at least 100,000 vaccine recipients to track how they're feeling, including the smaller complaints that wouldn't prompt a doctor visit. If anything seems connected, researchers can call to follow up with detailed questions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing take-home cards that tell vaccine recipients how to report any suspected side effects to the nation's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system.

However the flu season turns out, the extra vaccine tracking promises a lasting impact.

"Part of what we hope is that it will teach us something about how to monitor the safety of all medical products quickly," said Harvard's Platt.

Source: Associated Press

Sep
19
2009

FluMist inhaler for H1N1 flu
FluMist inhaler for H1N1 fluCourtesy garrisonpao

Vaccine for swine flu is ahead of expectations

October is almost here, and so are more than 3 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine. The vaccine is a the FluMist nasal spray type which is inhaled rather than injected. The nasal spray contains a weakened live virus, while injections contain killed and fragmented virus. The inhalation method gives a stronger immune reaction and is not recommended for pregnant women, people over 50 or those with asthma, heart disease or several other problems. The earlier than expected delivery will be be great for people in other high-risk groups though (health care workers, people caring for infants, and healthy young people).

Any type of flu can be deadly

In the United States a typical flu season is believed to kill about 36,000. The Asian flu of 1957 was blamed for the deaths of about 70,000 Americans. The pandemic H1N1 or 2009 H1N1 flu (we are not supposed to call it the swine flu) so far has not been bad. Flu activity is now “widespread” in 21 states, up from 11 a week ago. (Read more here - New York Times)

2009 H1N1 flu vaccine approved

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Sept. 15 that it has approved four vaccines against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. The vaccines will be distributed nationally after the initial lots become available, which is expected within the next four weeks.
As with any medical product, unexpected or rare serious adverse events may occur. The FDA is working closely with governmental and nongovernmental organizations to enhance the capacity for adverse event monitoring, information sharing and analysis during and after the 2009 H1N1 vaccination program." FDA News Release

Sep
13
2009

H1N1 vaccination
H1N1 vaccinationCourtesy AJC1

Making sure vacinations are safe

Before giving H1N1 flu vaccinations to millions of people, clinical trials are needed. What is an effective dose for people of various ages and body types. What are the side effects.

No second shot required for H1N1 flu

Clinical trials are showing that the new H1N1 swine flu vaccine protects with only one dose instead of two. This is very good news. The vaccinations can be given to twice as many people at half the cost.

"Healthy adults got one 15-microgram shot, and their blood was tested 21 days later. By that time, 97 percent of the 120 adults had enough antibodies to be considered protected."
“This is definitely a big deal,” said Dr. John J. Treanor, a vaccine expert at the University oRochester. “People had been planning for a scenario that would require two doses.” New York Times

Pregnant women first

The vaccinations are proving to be effective only 8-10 days after being administered. This may allow all 159 million people in the high risk group (pregnant women, people under 24 years old or caring for infants, people with high-risk medical conditions and health-care workers) to be protected before the swine flu reaches its expected mid-winter peak.

Learn more about H1N1 influenza vaccine clinical trials

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) News statement: "Early Results from Clinical Trials of 2009 H1N1Influenza Vaccines in Healthy Adults".

May
31
2009

Vaccine production
Vaccine productionCourtesy AJC1

US pays billion dollars for developing new flu vaccine

The latest information from Pandemicflu.gov explains the next steps toward an H1N1 influenza vaccine.

BARDA

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is part of the Dept. on HHS, has an official "fact sheet" explaining 2009 H1N1 Vaccine Development Activities.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is directing nearly $1.1 billion in existing preparedness funds to manufacture two important parts of a vaccine for the Strategic National Stockpile, to produce small amounts of potential vaccine for research, and to perform clinical research over the summer. HHS press release

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by tricking the immune system into thinking it has been infected with the H1N1 swine flu virus so that it creates antibodies against it. The vaccine is a hybrid of the virus which is similar enough that our immune system will develop antibodies against a specific virus.

How is swine flu vaccine made?

We are now starting step 4.

  1. obtain typical sample of novel H1N1 virus
  2. reproduce sample in eggs
  3. Mix H1N1 and PR8 viruses into eggs and allowing a hybrid strain to be created through a natural re-assortment of their genes
  4. Multiply seed virus into millions of doses
  5. test virus in people to determine the most effective and safest dose to generate a strong immune response to the 2009-H1N1 virus
  6. decide whether to use adjuvants
  7. mass produce vaccine

What is an adjuvant?

An adjuvant is an additive to a vaccine that helps to generate a stronger immune response to the vaccine. When using an adjuvant it is often possible to reduce the size of the vaccine dose and the number of doses needed. Special permission from the Food and Drug Administration will be needed for the adjuvants to be used, as neither one is currently approved for use in this country. Washington Post

Can vaccines be made without using eggs?

"The federal government has given the vaccine industry $1.3 billion to spur a shift from growing the viruses in eggs to growing them in stainless steel tanks containing mammalian cells.

Such cell culture could shave a few weeks off the process, experts estimate, and would eliminate the need for millions of eggs on short notice. Some vaccines made in cells have been approved in Europe but not in the United States." New York Times

Learn more about making swine flu vaccine

How to make a swine flu vaccine BBC
CDC May 28 Press Briefing transcript
Flu vaccine development questions and answers BARDA

Oct
03
2008

Take your time and think it through, guy: But don't worry about the MMR vaccine.
Take your time and think it through, guy: But don't worry about the MMR vaccine.Courtesy paul+photos=moody
Let’s be careful how we put our words together, everybody.

I mean, when I get dressed in the morning, I know that I want to get underwear, socks, pants, and at least one shirt onto my body. However, if I were to forgo all rules of dressing order and arrangement, I might give off the wrong message: i.e., I’m crazy, and possibly dangerous to be around.

Why would I take any less care with my precious, precious words?

Because I’m pretty lazy, I don’t generally read most (any) of the articles on science that I come across every day. Instead, I read only the headlines. Or, better yet, I have them read to me—that way I can rest my head on my desk while I’m taking in the news. It’s very important, then, that all headlines are clearly worded. Otherwise I could dictate a Science Buzz post that is even more factually inaccurate than my posts normally are. That’s dangerous territory.

Survey confirms parents’ fears, confusion over autism.”

I looked at that headline, saw the word “vaccine” in the body, and thought, “Oh, snap! Vaccines do cause autism?” Because, that’s what parents’ are afraid of, after all.

Nope. The existence of parents’ fear and confusion over autism is what has been confirmed here. The actual connection between vaccinations and autism remains non-existent.

A recent study found that a significant percentage of parents still believe that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine can cause autism, or are at least uncertain and fearful that such a connection does exist. This is despite the fact that scientists can establish no connection between early childhood vaccines and the development of autism.

The fear that early childhood vaccinations lead to an increased risk for autism originated from a 1998 study that linked autism to a particular mercury-based preservative in the MMR vaccine. It was later revealed that the study was based on bad research, and it was retracted by most of its authors and disowned by its publisher. In 2001, manufacturers of the MMR vaccine began removing the preservative from their vaccines anyway—and that’s probably not a bad thing, but it hasn’t led to any decrease in the occurrence of autism. And people are still worried about the vaccine anyway.

This confusion wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that the better-safe-than-sorry attitude towards not having children vaccinated has led to a resurgence in diseases that had essentially been eradicated in areas where the vaccine is available.

Science Buzz has had a lot of conversation on this subject already, and, if you’re interested, I’d recommend you check out some of the other posts on autism and vaccinations.

It probably won't be ready for the winter flu shot season, but researchers in Japan are developing a new syringe that works without a needle. Here's a link to video about this new concept. I know, it takes all the thrills and danger out of visiting the clinic, but think of all the tears that will be saved by five-year-olds getting their pre-kindergarten vaccinations!

Sep
05
2008

We're back in business here at the Science Museum (although the building is still closed to the public until next Friday), just in time to report some good news.

Ouch: Taking one for the team?
Ouch: Taking one for the team?Courtesy Spamily

The CDC reported yesterday that 77.4% of US children between the ages of 19 months and three years received all their recommended vaccinations in 2007. That's a slight improvement over the 2006 statistic. There are big regional variations in coverage, and children living below the poverty line are slightly less likely to be fully vaccinated, but overall less than 1% of US kids received no immunizations at all.

What are the recommended shots?

  • Four or more doses of diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and any acellular pertussis vaccine, or DTaP
  • Three or more doses of polio vaccine
  • At least one dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • At least three doses of Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine
  • At least three doses of hepatitis B vaccine
  • At least one dose of varicella vaccine

Some folks don't vaccinate their kids--particularly against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)--because they worry that the vaccine is linked to autism. That theory has been debunked many times, in many countries, but it persists. On Wednesday, researchers from Columbia University and the CDC offered up another study showing zero causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism (or gastrointestinal problems.) So kids, roll up your sleeves at those back-to-school physicals and get your shots. It sucks, but it beats getting measles.

On the other hand, evidence is mounting to show that flu shots don't work well to protect people over 70. Older people have a lesser immune response to the vaccine and don't develop as much immunity. But the very old and the very young also account for the highest number of flu deaths. So what to do? According to the NT Times article:

"Dr. Simonsen, the epidemiologist at George Washington, said the new research made common-sense infection-control measures — like avoiding other sick people and frequent hand washing — more important than ever. Still, she added, “The vaccine is still important. Thirty percent protection is better than zero percent.”

Another way to protect the elderly is to vaccinate preschoolers. Not only are they likely to pick up the flu before other members of the family, but there's some evidence that preschoolers are actually the drivers of annual influenza outbreaks. Stop the flu in young kids, and you might just stop it for everyone else, too.