Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
Flu season may still feel far away as summer-like temperatures are still felt over much of the country. But the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an advisory this week urging parents to get their children–and themselves–immunized against the flu as soon as possible to achieve the maximum protection when the season begins in earnest. More from NBC News:
There are some new vaccines on the market and while some of the newer ones might appear better, it’s not worth waiting for one, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in an advisory.
“With the exception of children less than 6 months of age, everybody should go out and get their influenza vaccine as soon as the influenza vaccines are available,” Dr. Michael Brady of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and chairman of the Committee on Infectious Diseases for the Academy told NBC News.
“Parents should not delay vaccinating their children to obtain a specific vaccine,” added pediatrician Dr. Henry Bernstein of the Hofstra North Shore – Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, who led the team writing the recommendations.
“Influenza virus is unpredictable, and what’s most important is that people receive the vaccine soon, so that they will be protected when the virus begins circulating.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that anywhere between 3,000 to 49,000 people a year die from flu in the United States, and up to 200,000 are sick enough to be hospitalized. A lot depends on the strains circulating. During last year’s flu season, 160 children died from flu.
Image: Child getting a shot, via Shutterstock
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Monday, July 29th, 2013
The vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) is not nearly universally given to girls in the United States despite experts repeated assurances that the vaccine is not only safe, but it is effective at preventing a number of cancers, including cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that just half of US girls have received it, often because pediatricians are not recommending it be given at the same time as other routine vaccines. More from NBC News:
“One of the top reasons is their doctor didn’t recommend (it),” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden toLd reporters in a conference call.
“We are dropping the ball,” he added. “We are missing the opportunity to give HPV vaccine… This is a huge disappointment.”
Even so, studies have shown HPV infections fell by half after vaccines became available. “HPV vaccine works even better than we hoped,” Frieden says. “HPV vaccine is safe.”
The CDC study did not look at how many boys and young men had been vaccinated, although the vaccine can prevent cancer in men, also, and has been recommended for boys since 2011.
Dr. Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said his organization would reach out to pediatricians to make sure they do more to get boys and girls vaccinated.
“Doctors need to step up their efforts by talking to parents about the importance of HPV vaccine just as they do other vaccines and ensure it’s given at every opportunity,” Frieden added in a statement. “Parents need reassurance that HPV vaccine is recommended at 11 or 12 because it should be given well in advance of any sexual activity.”
Image: Girl getting a shot, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, June 20th, 2013
The rate of infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) has decreased significantly among teenagers since a vaccine against the virus was introduced in 2006. CNN reports on how the decrease in infection rates has surpassed researchers’ expectations and hopes:
“The prevalence of the types of HPV that commonly cause cervical cancer in women has dropped by about half in girls ages 14 to 19,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director. “That decline is even better than we had hoped for.”
Specifically, rates of HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 – the four types covered by the vaccines – have decreased by 56% in young girls.
Those numbers are surprising, said Frieden, because only about a third of girls have gotten all three recommended doses of the vaccine. He suggested that the extra immunity may come from girls who only got one or two doses, or so-called “herd immunity.” That occurs when those who have been vaccinated cause there to be less virus floating around, therefore lowering the risk for those who haven’t been vaccinated.
But despite the good news, Frieden says the CDC had hoped that 80% of girls would be vaccinated by this point, and more needs to be done.
“This should be a wake-up call that we need to increase vaccination rates, because we can protect the next generation of girls from cancer caused by HPV,” said Frieden. “Fifty thousand women alive today will develop cervical cancer that could have been prevented if we had reached our goal of an 80% vaccination rate.”
In March, an article in the journal Pediatrics called on more parents to vaccinate their children, expressing concern that the overwhelming majority of girls had not received the full course of the HPV vaccine. Another study, published late last year, found that receiving the HPV vaccine does not affect teens’ sexual behaviors, a concern for many parents.
Image: Teen getting a shot, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Four germs have been identified by a new study as the causes of severe–and often fatal–diarrhea in infants and children worldwide, leading researchers to call for better dissemination of the vaccine against rotavirus, one of the four germs. The New York Times has more:
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Diarrhea is a major killer of children, with an estimated 800,000 deaths each year; it has many causes, and doctors want to focus on the most common ones to bring death rates down.
The study, financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and published by The Lancet, found that the most common causes were rotavirus; a protozoan called Cryptosporidium; and two bacteria, Shigella and a toxin-producing strain of E. coli. In some areas, other pathogens, including the bacteria that causes cholera, were also important.
The study followed more than 9,000 children with diarrhea seen at clinics in Bangladesh, Gambia, India, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique and Pakistan, and, for comparison, more than 13,000 children without the disease. The children with diarrhea were more likely to have stunted growth and eight times as likely to die during a two-month follow-up period.
Diarrhea seemed to be linked to chronic malnutrition, which causes gut inflammation that can make it harder to digest food.
The prominent role of Cryptosporidium came as a surprise to the authors; it had been best known as a killer of adults whose immune systems were suppressed by AIDS.
In an editorial accompanying the study, other experts said rotavirus vaccine could save many lives.
Monday, April 8th, 2013
People who post anti-vaccine messages on Twitter tend to lead to other negative tweets, while positive messages don’t spread support for vaccines in the same way, a new study published in the journal EPJ Data Science. NBC News has more:
The study analyzed more than 300,000 tweets that expressed an opinion about the H1N1 flu vaccine in 2009.
Twitter users who saw anti-vaccine posts in their Twitter feed tended to tweet anti-vaccine sentiments themselves, the results show. However, those who saw positive vaccine sentiments didn’t tweet positive sentiments themselves.
What’s more, positive tweets about vaccines sometimes had the opposite effect — a high number of pro-vaccine posts seemed to encourage people to tweet negatively about vaccines, said study researcher Marcel Salathé, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University.
“In other words, pro-vaccine messages seemed to backfire when enough of them were received,” Salathé said.
The reason for this phenomenon is not clear. But it’s possible that “many people had latent negative opinions about the vaccine, and when they were intensely exposed to enough positive messages, they felt the need to express their negative sentiment,” Salathé said.
Image: Mom on computer, via Shutterstock
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