Stories tagged vaccines

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.

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.

Jun
10
2010

What's better than learning something new? How about learning something new from a cartoon!

Cartoonist Darryl Cunningham writes online comics about science topics, amongst other things. He recently completed a sequence about MMR, autism, and employing a scientific world view. Even if you've read all facts inside, it's still interesting to see it all spelled out in a graphic format.

There are actually quite a few fantastic comic resources out there for understanding science. I think that for a lot of people the added visual stimulus really helps (myself included). I'm a big fan of Two-Fisted Science, which is an anthology of stories of great moments in modern physics. Subjects include Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, and Neils Bohr. I had a chance to meet illustrator Steve Lieber (one of the authors of Two-Fisted Science) this weekend at Charlotte's Heroes Con. During our conversation he recommended the works of Jay Hosler, himself an apiologist (bee scientist). Hosler's two books, Clan Apis and The Sandwalk Adventures both deal with topics in biology. Clan Apis is all about the lifecycle of a honey bee while The Sandwalk Adventures involves Charles Darwin's conversations with his own eyebrow mites in an effort to convince them that he is not God and that evolution is true.

Jan
06
2010

I just came across the following article in The Scientist. It made me say, are you serious!?!?!

The Scientist: NewsBlog:
Test a vax, fly to Mexico
Posted by Jef Akst
[Entry posted at 6th January 2010 03:00 PM GMT]

Want to go to Central America for free? All it takes is your participation in a clinical trial for a diarrhea vaccine. A patch worn on the arm can earn you a complimentary trip to one of nine cities in Mexico and Guatemala, courtesy of Intercell AG.

The Austrian drug company is recruiting 1800 volunteers for the phase III clinical trial of a vaccine against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli -- a major cause of traveler's diarrhea, which affects about 20 million visitors to countries such as Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as illness in more than 200 million children living in those countries each year. If approved, it would be the first vaccine for traveler's diarrhea available in the US.

A couple years ago, we looked at the question of how researchers and companies decide on compensation for subjects' participation in clinical trials. But the trip offered by the Austrian company seems to be an entirely new recruitment tactic, the BMJ reports.

Intercell joined forces with Inclinix, Inc., a North Carolina-based clinical trial enrollment solutions provider, to devise a strategy including partnerships with major travel and tourism websites, as well as a variety of social networking outlets, including Twitter and YouTube. "Social communication avenues allow Inclinix to reach a unique audience," Diane Montross, director of patient recruitment for Inclinix, told Medical News Today. "We are defining the next patient recruitment landscape."

In addition to the flight to Central America, participants will receive at least six nights of three star accommodations, pre-paid mobile phones, welcome kits with useful travel tools, and $1,500 in cash upon completion of the study. Participants will be given either the active vaccine or a placebo before travel, give blood within 48 hours of arrival, keep a stool diary throughout their trip, and provide additional blood and stool samples if they develop diarrhea.

For more information go to the TREK Research Study site.

A study in Finland suggests that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects boys as well or better than it does girls. (The vaccine is currently licensed in the US for women ages 9-26. ) HPV causes less cancer in men than it does in women, but vaccinating boys could help protect them and their sexual partners against the virus. But the shot series is very expensive and public-health dollars are always scarce, so a recommendation that boys be vaccinated may be a while in coming.

More on the HPV vaccine

Minnesota has recorded its first culture-confirmed case of influenza for the 2008-09 season in a 39-year-old man from Chisago County. The man's illness was caused by the A (H1) strain of the virus, the Minnesota Department of Health reported today. The man's virus is a good match for this year's vaccine, health officials said.

It is not too late to get your influenza vaccine! The peak influenza season usually occurs in February and it takes only 2 weeks after the vaccination to develop immunity. The best news is this year's vaccination is a good match to the first confirmed case. For a full report from the Minnesota Department of Health see this link.

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.

Apr
07
2008

Measles rash: This young boy has a 3 day old rash caused by the measles virus.
Measles rash: This young boy has a 3 day old rash caused by the measles virus.Courtesy CDC PHIL #1152

Recently, twelve people were diagnosed with measles in San Diego, another nine in Pima County Arizona. In Salzburg, Austria 180 people have been infected during a recent outbreak. Thankfully there haven’t been any deaths from these latest outbreaks.

People in Nigeria’s northern Katsina state have not been as lucky. At the moment they are facing a measles epidemic which has killed nearly two hundred children in the past three months, and infected thousands.

What’s going on?
It seams that parents, for a variety of reasons, are fearful of giving their children vaccinations. For nearly everyone, the measles vaccination is safe and effective and if you want more information about the vaccine click here. Measles outbreaks aren’t very common in the U.S., fewer than 100 per year. But in the pre-vaccine era, 3-4 million measles cases occurred every year in the US. This resulted in approximately 450 deaths, 28,000 hospitalizations and 1,000 children with chronic disabilities from measles encephalitis each year. These two outbreaks in the US serve as a reminder that unvaccinated people remain at risk for measles and that measles spreads rapidly without proper controls.

According to the WHO, around the world measles still kills 250,000 people each year. Most of these deaths occur in undeveloped nations where people don’t have access to vaccinations and healthcare. But it appears the problem in both Austria and Nigeria are unvaccinated children. In Nigeria many parents are afraid to vaccinate as reported in the VOA:

Katsina state's director of disease control, Halliru Idris, tells VOA that the outbreak is mostly affecting young people who have not been immunized. "I can tell you that over 95 percent of all the children that have measles are those whose parents have not allowed them to receive immunization," he said.
A handful of radical Islamic clerics instigated a boycott of infant vaccinations in northern Nigeria in 2003 and 2004, alleging that immunization was a western ploy to render Muslim girls infertile. Though the dispute has been resolved, parents still tend to avoid immunization.

In Austria officials fear that school administrators at the private school where the outbreak began advised parents against vaccinating their students. An investigation is ongoing.

So what should we do?
In Iowa the public health response to one imported measles case cost approximately $150,000. Should parents who choose not to vaccinate their children be responsible for these expenses? How do we balance personal choice and the good of the community?

Some microbes are resistant to antibiotics. Researchers in England have developed a way to change the molecular structure of antibiotics to make them more effective against these “superbugs.”