Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Since a 1998 article published in the medical journal The Lancet argued that childhood vaccines–specifically the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine–can cause autism spectrum disorders (ASD), debate has crested and fallen, ebbed and flowed. Neither the retraction of the article–partially in 2004 and fully in 2010–nor the failure of any scientist since to replicate author Andrew Wakefield’s findings has dissuaded some who still believe that autism may be caused by vaccines. In fact, earlier this year a study came out reporting that parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their children–partially or entirely because of the autism fear–are rarely persuaded to change their opinions even in the face of solid scientific evidence that vaccines do not cause autism.
Study after study has been published in the intervening years confirming no link between vaccines and autism. Meanwhile, amid growing numbers of families who do not have their children vaccinated, outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases are on the rise. This year, measles cases have reached a 20-year high, and whooping cough was declared an epidemic in California.
This week, a new study was published, once again vindicating vaccines of having any causal relationship with autism. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study reviewed a large of body of scientific findings and concluded that parents should be reassured about vaccines’ safety. More from HealthDay News:
The researchers behind the new study also found no link between childhood leukemia and vaccines for MMR, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), tetanus, influenza and hepatitis B.
Overall, vaccines given to children 6 or younger are safe, causing few side effects, the review concluded. The findings are published in the July 1 online edition and the August print issue of the journal Pediatrics.
“We found that the serious adverse effects linked to vaccines are extremely rare,” said lead author Margaret Maglione, a policy analyst at RAND Corporation.
These findings should provide solid support for pediatricians and family physicians in their discussions with parents about the benefits and risks of immunization, said Dr. Carrie Byington, a professor of pediatrics and vice dean of academic affairs and faculty development at the University of Utah College of Medicine.
In an accompanying editorial, Byington noted recent medical school graduates have reported themselves more skeptical of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines than did older graduates.
“I’m hopeful younger physicians who have not seen the devastating vaccine preventable infections may see the data and strengthen their will to communicate the importance of vaccines to parents,” Byington said.
Image: Child getting vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Autism, autism spectrum disorders, epidemic, measles, MMR, vaccine safety, Vaccines, whooping cough | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Parenting News
Monday, June 16th, 2014
California’s public health officials have declared an epidemic of whooping cough, the bacterial respiratory infection also called pertussis, in light of a staggering 800 cases of the disease reported in the state over the past two weeks alone. More from CNN:
The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.
This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.
Whooping cough, known to doctors as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis.
The popular name for the disease comes from the whooping sound an infected person makes when gasping for breath after a coughing fit.
The bacteria spreads through coughing and sneezing. One person can infect up to 15 people nearby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typically symptoms appear an average of seven to 10 days after exposure.
Infants and young children are more vulnerable to the disease than other age groups. It can be particularly dangerous for babies. About half of the infants who get whooping cough end up in a hospital. Some cases are fatal.
That’s why the public health department in California is strongly urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, especially if they’re pregnant. State health officials are working closely with schools and local health departments to spread the word.
“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against the potentially fatal diseases.”
All adults should get a Tdap booster, unless you had one as a teenager (after age 11).
The CDC declared 2012 to be the worst year for whooping cough in a half century, blaming inconsistent vaccinations and boosters for at least part of the outbreak.
Find out if your child is too sick for school and shop thermometers.
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Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
All pregnant women are advised to get the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough. A small study shows that newborns could benefit from the vaccine as well. More from The New York Times:
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, researchers randomized 33 pregnant women to a vaccination at 30 to 32 weeks gestation, and 15 to a placebo shot.
The researchers found no serious side effects in any of the women or infants, and there were no cases of pertussis in either group. But women in the vaccination group had high concentrations of pertussis antibodies, and so did their newborn babies. That did not substantially affect the babies’ response to the recommended four doses of the infant version of the vaccine given from age 2 months to 13 months.
“We have shown that by receiving the Tdap during gestation, the babies get high concentrations of pertussis antibodies,” said Dr. Flor M. Munoz of Baylor College of Medicine, the lead author of the JAMA article. “This is likely to be protective during the first two months, before they are able to get their own vaccinations.”
Keep track of your medical records during pregnancy and shop maternity dresses.
Image via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
The vaccine against pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough, has been perplexing researchers who are observing that it’s less effective than anticipated at halting the spread of the disease. 2012 was the worst whooping cough outbreak in 50 years, and the continued presence of the disease is troubling, especially as many families choose not to have their children vaccinated–or to get Tdap booster shots themselves.
A new study by the Food and Drug Administration may be onto the reason why even in communities with high vaccination rates, whooping cough can appear and spread. More from NBC News:
The research suggests that while the vaccine may keep people from getting sick, it doesn’t prevent them from spreading whooping cough — also known as pertussis — to others.
“It could explain the increase in pertussis that we’re seeing in the U.S.,” said one of the researchers, Tod Merkel of the Food and Drug Administration.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that can strike people of any age but is most dangerous to children. It was once common, causing hundreds of thousands of illnesses annually and thousands of deaths. But after a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, cases dropped to fewer than 5,000 a year.
The vaccine was replaced in the 1990s because of side effects that included pain and swelling from the shot and fever. The newer vaccine is part of routine childhood vaccinations as well as adult booster shots.
But cases have rebounded. Last year was the nation’s worst year for whooping cough in six decades — U.S. health officials received reports of more than 48,000 cases, including 18 deaths.
This year hasn’t been half as bad — about 20,000 reported illnesses, including six deaths so far. Whooping cough ebbs and flows in cycles, so experts aren’t surprised to see cases recede. But 20,000 can still be seen as a lot when a widely used vaccine is supposed to protect the public.
Image: Child coughing, 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.
Image: Child receiving vaccine, via Shutterstock
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