Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
Parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their children–or who have decided against vaccination–are not likely to be swayed by awareness programs meant to educate parents about the importance of giving kids vaccines against preventible diseases like measles and mumps. The programs, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics, can actually make parents express more reservations about vaccines. More from Reuters:
The study’s lead author told Reuters Health that the research is an extension of his work in political science that found it is difficult to correct people’s misinformation.
“We found political misinformation is often very difficult to correct and giving people the correct information can backfire,” said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
“We were interested in seeing if the messages public health agencies were putting out were effective,” he said.
Specifically, Nyhan and his colleagues examined public health campaigns about the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Although national U.S. MMR vaccination rates are high, the researchers write in Pediatrics that there are states where the rate dips below 90 percent, which is a commonly used threshold for so-call herd immunity. Herd immunity is the point where high vaccination rates within a population may also offer protection to the unvaccinated.
They also write that maintaining high levels of MMR vaccination is important because of the increasing number of measles cases reported in the U.S. and recent outbreaks in the UK. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can lead to death.
Another study published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers in the same journal found that vaccinating U.S. kids born in 2009 according to the routine immunization schedule will save about $70 billion and prevent over 40,000 early deaths and over 20 million cases of disease.
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Monday, February 24th, 2014
At least 15 cases of measles have been reported in California since January 1 of this year, a marked increase from the same time last year, by which time only two cases had been documented. More from UPI:
Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of California Department of Public Health in Sacramento said the cases occurred throughout California.
“Immunization is the best defense against measles, with 99 percent of persons developing immunity after two doses,” Chapman said in a statement. “With an outbreak in the Philippines and measles transmission ongoing in many parts of the world outside of North and South America, we can expect to see more imported cases of this vaccine-preventable disease.”
Imported cases can spread to the community, especially among unvaccinated persons, including infants too young to be vaccinated, Chapman said.
High immunization rates in California have kept preventable childhood diseases, such as measles, at record lows during the past 20 years.
In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States, but the number of cases per year in California ranged from four to 40 cases due to infected visitors or unvaccinated Americans visiting countries where measles still occurs.
Among the California cases with measles onset in 2014, three traveled to the Philippines, where a large outbreak is occurring, and two traveled to India, where measles is endemic, Chapman said.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread through the air when someone who is ill with the disease coughs or sneezes.
It is recommended children get their first dose of MMR — measles, mumps, rubella — vaccine at 12 to 15 months. The second dose of MMR is usually administered before children start kindergarten at ages 4 to 6. Immunized adults do not need boosters.
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Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
A single dose of the vaccine against human papillomavirus, a leading cause of cervical cancer, may be enough to immunize a woman against the disease, a new study has found. Three doses are the current guideline, though research shows that fewer than half of American girls receive the recommended number of doses. More from CNN.com:
“Cervical cancer is a major cause of public health concern, especially in less developed countries where about 85% of cervical cancer occurs,” says study author Mahboobeh Safaeian. “The reason for that is mainly because of lack of screening infrastructure offered.”
Safaeian and her team followed a group of women in Costa Rica who were participating in the National Cancer Institute-funded phase III clinical trial testing the efficacy of Cervarix. About 20% of these women did not complete the three-dose vaccine regimen. Safaeian compared the groups of women who had received one, two and three doses of the vaccine, as well as women who had antibodies from having been naturally infected.
The researchers found that women vaccinated with a single dose of Cervarix, as opposed to the current CDC recommendation of three, had antibodies against HPV that remained stable in their blood after four years. The findings suggest that the common recommendation for three doses may not be necessary to ensure long-lasting antibodies that prevent HPV. Safaeian, a researcher for the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Infections and Immunoepidemiology, says this could have significant implications for women across the world by simplifying the logistics and costs of vaccinations.
“This vaccine is about $130 a dose … It’s just not feasible in a lot of undeveloped countries,” Safaeian explains.
Image: Girl getting a vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 6th, 2013
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is on track to sicken more people in Texas than have been affected in the past 50 years, prompting health officials in the state to urge that parents vaccinate their children–and make sure their own vaccines are up to date. More from CNN:
The threat grows when one considers that scientists estimate 10 cases of pertussis, popularly known as whooping cough, occur for every one that is reported, she said in a telephone interview, adding, “We’re clearly having an epidemic.”
So far this year, Texas has tallied nearly 2,000 cases, two of them fatal, and the total is expected to exceed the 3,358 recorded in 2009, when the last such outbreak occurred, the Department of State Health Services said.
There does not appear to be any single explanation for the spike, said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the department. “It really looks like several things working together,” he said in a telephone interview, noting that outbreaks tend to occur in cycles. “We see a peak and a lot of people will be exposed and develop natural immunity,” leading to fewer cases, he said. “Then it wears off and it (the number of cases) will go up again.”
The numbers are a little squishy in the outbreak, in which cases have not been focused on any one area, he said. Awareness has increased and diagnostic tests have improved in recent years, meaning doctors may be identifying more cases than they used to, he said.
But there is no debate about the seriousness of the disease. As many as two in 100 adolescents and five in 100 adults with pertussis are hospitalized or have complications, including pneumonia and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The federal health agency recommends that women get the vaccine during each pregnancy, ideally between the 27th and 36th week — since an estimated 30% to 40% of babies who contract whooping cough get it from their mothers — and that their children undergo a series of five pertussis vaccinations beginning at 2 months of age.
That first shot is to be followed by injections at 4 months and 6 months, and boosters at 15 to 18 months and again at 4 to 6 years of age so that children’s immunity will be robust during the first months of life, when they are most vulnerable. Both of the Texas fatalities were younger than 2 months.
“We want to make sure that they are getting the immunizations on that schedule so that the waning immunity won’t be as much of an issue,” Van Deusen said.
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Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Nearly half of U.S. children receive recommended vaccines on a delayed schedule, a new report conducted by Kaiser Permanente has found. Further, researchers say that the rising number of children who skip the vaccines altogether could reintroduce some long-eliminated diseases back into the mainstream. More from Reuters:
“What we’re worried about is if (undervaccination) becomes more and more common, is it possible this places children at an increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases?” said study leader Jason Glanz, with Kaiser Permanente Colorado in Denver.
“It’s possible that some of these diseases that we worked so hard to eliminate (could) come back.”
Glanz and his colleagues analyzed data from eight managed care organizations, including immunization records for about 323,000 children.
During the study period, the number of children who were late on at least one vaccine – including their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) shots – rose from 42 percent to more than 54 percent.
Babies born towards the end of the study were late on their vaccines for more days, on average, than those born earlier.
“When that happens, it can create this critical mass of susceptible individuals,” said Saad Omer, from the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, who wasn’t involved in the new study.
Just over one in eight children went undervaccinated due to parents’ choices. For the rest, it wasn’t clear why they were late getting their shots. Some could have bounced in and out of insurance coverage, Glanz suggested, or were sick during their well-child visits, so doctors postponed vaccines.
The report comes on the heels of new data from the Institute of Medicine saying that the recommended infant vaccine schedule is safe for children.
Image: Baby vaccine, via Shutterstock
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