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Sioux Falls Scientists endorse Vaccines for showing us that
vaccines have saved millions are are not a cause of autism.

Calling the Shots

Vaccines (2014) - 60 minutes
Vaccines at Amazon.com

Diseases that were largely eradicated in the United States a generation ago - including whooping cough, measles, mumps - are returning, in part because nervous parents are skipping their children's shots. Vaccines - Calling the Shots, a new NOVA special, takes viewers around the world to track epidemics, explore the science behind vaccinations, and shed light on the risks of opting out.

The vast majority of Americans vaccinate their children, and most do it on the recommended schedule. Yet many people have questions about the safety of vaccines, and in some communities, vaccination rates have fallen below the level needed to maintain "herd immunity" - allowing outbreaks to take hold and spread. This film draws on the latest, best available evidence to help parents find the answers.

Highlighting real cases and placing them in historical context, Vaccines - Calling the Shots traces outbreaks of communicable diseases and demonstrates just how fast they can spread - and how many people can fall sick - when a community's immunity barrier falls.

10-5-20 Nobel prize for medicine goes to discoverers of the hepatitis C virus
The 2020 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice for discoveries about the virus that causes hepatitis C virus. The trio’s work led to treatments for the liver-destroying disease. These discoveries have saved millions of lives worldwide and led to the development of drugs that cure 95 per cent of people treated, the Nobel committee said. This could lead to the elimination of the disease. In the 1970s, Alter at the US National Institutes of Health showed that a liver-damaging disease in people given blood transfusions wasn’t due to the hepatitis A or B viruses, and that an unknown infectious agent was responsible. Houghton at Chiron Corporation identified antibodies to the hepatitis C virus, leading to the development of a blood test in 1990. This meant blood contaminated with the virus could be identified, preventing people being infected via blood transfusions. Rice at Rockefeller University in New York developed ways of growing and studying the hepatitis C virus. His work confirmed that the virus was the cause of the disease, and was key to the development of the antiviral drugs now used to treat it. “These developments have saved millions of lives worldwide,” said Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam of the Nobel committee, during a press conference today.

10-5-20 Nobel Prize for Medicine goes to Hepatitis C discovery
Three scientists who discovered the virus Hepatitis C have won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. The winners are British scientist Michael Houghton and US researchers Harvey Alter and Charles Rice. The Nobel Prize committee said their discoveries ultimately "saved millions of lives". The virus is a common cause of liver cancer and a major reason why people need a liver transplant. In the 1960s, there was huge concern that people receiving donated blood were getting chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation) from an unknown, mysterious disease. The Nobel Prize committee said a blood transfusion at the time was like "Russian roulette". Highly sensitive blood tests mean such cases have now been eliminated in many parts of the world, and effective anti-viral drugs have also been developed. "For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world," the prize committee said. However, the 70 million people are currently living with the virus, which still kills around 400,000 a year. The viruses Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B had been discovered by the mid-1960s. But Prof Harvey Alter, while studying transfusion patients at the US National Institutes of Health in 1972, showed there was another, mystery, infection at work. Patients were still getting sick after receiving donated blood. He showed that giving blood from infected patients to chimpanzees led to them developing the disease. The mysterious illness became known as "non-A, non-B" hepatitis in and the hunt was now on. Prof Michael Houghton, while at the pharmaceutical firm Chiron, managed to isolated the genetic sequence of the virus in 1989. This showed it was a type of flavivirus and it was named Hepatitis C. And Prof Charles Rice, while at Washington University in St. Louis, applied the finishing touches in 1997. He injected a genetically engineered Hepatitis C virus into the liver of chimpanzees and showed this could lead to hepatitis.

9-10-20 Gallup Vault: New Vaccines Not Wildly Popular in U.S.
In 1954, shortly after the newly developed polio vaccine became available, Dr. George Gallup interpreted Americans' reaction to it positively, saying, "The public itself is very optimistic about the effectiveness of the Salk test. By more than a 13-to-1 ratio, the people interviewed who expressed an opinion feel that the new vaccine will work." To be precise, 53% thought the vaccine would work, 4% thought it would not, 33% were unsure and 10% were not familiar with the vaccine at all. That same year, Gallup found 60% of Americans saying they were willing to take the new vaccine themselves, while 31% said they would not. This level of skepticism about a new vaccine has proven not unique to polio, as similar percentages of Americans have expressed reluctance about four subsequent vaccines measured over the years. Three years later, in 1957, 20% said they would not take an Asian flu vaccine, with 15% saying they were unsure. Even higher percentages said they would not take new vaccines for smallpox in 2002 (45% would not or were unsure) and the swine flu in 2009 (45%). The 35% who now say they would not take a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available is right within the historical range. (Webmaster's comment: Many Americans are ignorant fools.)

9-9-20 Coronavirus: Oxford University vaccine trial paused after participant falls ill
Final clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, have been put on hold after a participant had a suspected adverse reaction in the UK. AstraZeneca described it as a "routine" pause in the case of "an unexplained illness". The outcome of vaccine trials is being closely watched around the world. The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine is seen as a strong contender among dozens being developed globally. Hopes have been high that the vaccine might be one of the first to come on the market, following successful phase 1 and 2 testing. Its move to Phase 3 testing in recent weeks has involved some 30,000 participants in the US as well as in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Phase 3 trials in vaccines often involve thousands of participants and can last several years. The New York Times is reporting a volunteer in the UK trial has been diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and can be caused by viral infections. However, the cause of the illness has not been confirmed and an independent investigation will now work out if there was any link to the vaccine. Wellcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar, an expert in infectious disease control, said there were often pauses in vaccine trials and it was important any adverse reactions were taken seriously. "It is crucial that all that data is shared openly and transparently because the public must have absolute trust that these vaccines are safe and effective and, in the end, will hopefully bring the pandemic to a close," Sir Jeremy added. UK experts have said a temporary pause could be seen as a good thing because it showed the researchers are prioritising the safety of vaccine above everything else. People can develop side-effects from taking any drug but they can also fall ill naturally.

9-9-20 Coronavirus: Pharma firms unveil safety pledge over vaccine
A group of nine vaccine developers has announced a "historic pledge" to uphold scientific and ethical standards in the search for a coronavirus vaccine. The firms, including Pfizer and Merck, said they would only apply for regulatory approval after vaccines went through three phases of clinical study. It comes amid global debates about the safety of vaccines made this year. US President Donald Trump has said he wants one available in the US before November's election. No vaccine has yet completed clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) - leading some scientists to fear the search for a vaccine is being politicised, and public trust could be damaged. In their pledge, the nine biopharmaceutical firms did not mention Mr Trump but said they believed their action would "ensure public confidence" in the development of any inoculation. They pledged to "always make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority". Other signatories were industry giants Johnson & Johnson, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax. "Together, these nine companies have collectively developed more than 70 novel vaccines that have helped to eradicate some of the world's most complex and deadly public health threats," the statement added. Nearly 180 vaccine candidates are being tested around the world, the WHO says. The organisation has said it does not expect a vaccine to meet its efficacy and safety guidelines in order to be approved this year because of the time it takes to test them safely. None of the candidate vaccines in advanced clinical trials have so far demonstrated a "clear signal" of efficacy at the level of at least 50% sought by the WHO, spokeswoman Margaret Harris said last week. "In terms of realistic timelines, we are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year," she added. Similar sentiments have been shared by Thomas Cueni, director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers. The industry body represents the companies that signed the pledge. "I think it's fairly unlikely that we will have a vaccine approved or in particular distributed at large scale before the end of this year," he told the BBC. "We may be surprised but clearly the manufacturers do not want speed above quality".

9-8-20 What is a vaccine and how do they work? Find out in Science with Sam
Since the first vaccine was developed in 1796, vaccinations have been phenomenally successful at preventing infectious diseases, and wiping out some altogether. The latest video in our new YouTube series, Science with Sam, explains how vaccines work by training your immune system to recognise viruses and bacteria. Ever wondered how flu vaccines are made or why you need a new one every year? Click play to find out. We also take a look at the unprecedented worldwide effort to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus, and consider the challenges involved in making, testing and distributing covid-19 vaccines. Most of us have never had to worry about getting smallpox, polio or diphtheria. A hundred years ago, these diseases were common killers. Now, smallpox is a thing of the past, while polio and diphtheria are very rare in most of the world. The reason? Vaccines. Vaccines are a way of training the immune system for a big fight, so that when it comes up against the same opponent in the future, it knows exactly how to defeat it. When you encounter a virus or bacterium for the first time, your body has a hard time fighting it. But over time, it learns to recognise the danger. Your immune system produces powerful proteins called antibodies that target and eliminate disease-causing microbes. After you recover from an infection, specialised cells remain in your blood and keep a memory of that pathogen – they’re called memory cells – so the next time you face the pathogen, your body can quickly produce the right antibodies to fight it off. Vaccines are a clever way of harnessing this mechanism to make us immune to a disease. They are made of weakened or killed viruses or bacteria that trigger an immune response, without making us ill.

8-27-20 Coronavirus: Vaccine front-runner China already inoculating workers
Earlier this month, the head of a well-known, privately-owned Chinese conglomerate told his staff that a vaccine for Covid-19 was expected to come to market by November. The boss, whose firm has a healthcare division, said that he saw it as a portent of economic recovery; a chance for his firms to sell more, according to a person privy to the comments. Within a few weeks the Chinese government was forced to go public with its apparent progress. The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 originated in humans in China, before it spread ceaselessly across the world. Now China is using its global footprint in a relentless effort to win the race to develop and deploy an effective vaccine. Last week one of the developmental vaccines was pictured in state-run media; a small branded box was shown, held up by a smiling woman in a lab. Sinopharm said it hopes to have it ready to go on sale by December. It even named a price, equivalent to about $140 (£106). China's determination is out there for all to see. We know that half of the leading six candidate vaccines being tested in the final stage of mass trials across the world are Chinese. These global trials are a necessity. Ironically, China is not in a position to test the vaccines on the required scale at home because it's been so successful at containing the spread of the virus within its borders. "All vaccine manufacturers are looking for sites for their phase three trials (in which the vaccine is given to thousands of people) where Covid-19 is still circulating at relatively higher rates," Professor Ben Cowling from the Hong Kong University Public School of Health told me. He's optimistic about all the vaccines currently in development, including the Chinese ones. "I think all of the vaccines currently in phase three have a good chance of being found to be effective."

8-25-20 Coronavirus: Dr Anthony Fauci warns against rushing out vaccine
The top US virus expert has warned against rushing out a Covid-19 vaccine before it has been proven to be safe and effective. Speaking to Reuters news agency, Dr Anthony Fauci also said doing so could hurt the development of other vaccines. US President Donald Trump is reportedly considering plans to put out a vaccine before it has been fully tested. Such a move could boost his chances of re-election in November's presidential election. Democrats accuse the US president of being prepared to endanger American lives for political gain. On Saturday, President Trump tweeted that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines". The Financial Times reported the Trump administration was exploring granting emergency use authorisation (EUA) to a vaccine currently under development by the University of Oxford and drug manufacturer AstraZeneca. Some 10,000 people have volunteered for trials of the drug, but US agencies require trials involving 30,000 people for a vaccine to be authorised. The US has suffered more confirmed cases and deaths from the coronavirus than any other country. According to Johns Hopkins University, it has recorded more than 5.7 million infections and over 177,000 deaths so far. In an interview with Reuters, Dr Fauci - head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - warned rushing out an untested vaccine could damage other trials. "The one thing that you would not want to see with a vaccine is getting an EUA before you have a signal of efficacy," he said. "One of the potential dangers if you prematurely let a vaccine out is that it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the other vaccines to enrol people in their trial." "To me, it's absolutely paramount that you definitively show that a vaccine is safe and effective," he added.

8-19-20 We now have the technology to develop vaccines that spread themselves
Prevention is better than cure, so we should start using genetic techniques to stop dangerous animal diseases jumping to humans, say Scott Nuismer and James Bull. A FAMOUS quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The world is now discovering the cost of its pound of cure for covid-19. But what would an ounce of prevention look like? For infectious diseases that originate in wild animals, like covid-19, SARS, MERS and Ebola, one solution is to prevent the transmission to humans in the first place. To achieve this, an important first step is to change our behaviour to reduce contact with the wildlife species that harbour such diseases. A complementary approach is to target the infectious agents that carry these diseases by reducing their prevalence or eliminating them within wildlife populations. Although this isn’t a new idea, advances in technology mean we may have a better chance of it succeeding than ever before. The classic example of this is rabies: we vaccinate dogs and many wild carnivores to suppress rabies in those populations and so reduce our own risk of catching it. Although these vaccination campaigns have virtually eliminated human rabies in the US and Europe, the disease still kills more than 55,000 people annually across Africa and Asia, where the cost of wildlife vaccination projects is a barrier to maintaining a sufficient level of immunity. Using wildlife vaccination to target other dangerous pathogens that circulate within bats and rodents – such as Ebola, Marburg, SARS and Lassa viruses – faces similar obstacles, which is compounded by the rapid population turnover and large population sizes of these animals. A possible solution is to create vaccines that spread themselves through an animal population.

8-12-20 Everything you need to know about Russia's coronavirus vaccine claims
Russian president Vladimir Putin announced yesterday that the country has approved a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes covid-19. Putin said that the vaccine is safe and effective. Russia apparently plans to start mass vaccinations in October. However, the announcement has caused global concern. Immunologists say there is no way to be sure that the vaccine is safe, let alone effective, and that Russia seems to be cutting corners. The vaccine has been dubbed “Sputnik V”, in reference to the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, which was launched by the USSR in 1957 – a sign that the Russian government plans to trumpet it as a matter of national pride. It has been developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, part of Russia’s Ministry of Health. The vaccine would be administered in two shots, 21 days apart. Both shots contain modified adenoviruses, which would ordinarily cause a common cold. Both have been given the gene for the spike protein from the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. This protein allows the virus to enter human cells. In theory, this should prime the immune system for an encounter with the actual coronavirus. Known as a viral vector, this is a fairly standard approach to a vaccine, and other groups are pursuing similar methods. New vaccines must normally pass three tests before they can be used widely. A phase I trial involves a small number of volunteers, and is intended to determine a safe dose. Phase II requires more people, because it tests whether the vaccine triggers an immune response, and also looks more carefully for side effects. Then a large phase III trial is used to find out whether the vaccine actually protects against infection. This isn’t just a formality: a vaccine might trigger an immune response in phase II, but this may not be enough to confer real immunity in phase III. The Russian researchers have preregistered phase I and phase II trials, and according to one website for the vaccine, these trials were completed in early August. It claims that there were no adverse effects, and that the vaccine triggered the desired immune response. But no detailed results have been released. It also claims that a phase III trial will commence today in a number of countries including Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In other words, the vaccine hasn’t been through the full gamut of tests. Without the data from phase I and II, we don’t know how safe it is. And without phase III, we don’t know if it works. “We actually have no idea if it is safe and effective at all,” writes epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz in The Guardian.

8-12-20 Here’s what we know about Russia’s unverified coronavirus vaccine
Despite incomplete testing, Sputnik-V may be the first COVID-19 vaccine for the general public. Russia has launched a new Sputnik — this time, a vaccine to combat the coronavirus. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in a televised cabinet meeting August 11 that the country is ready to roll out the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine to the general public. Teachers and doctors may be among the first inoculated. Dubbed Sputnik-V, after the first artificial satellite, the vaccine has been tested in only a small number of people. The announcement came even though no published information is available about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, and scientists have yet to complete the final phase of clinical testing to determine whether it works. Nonetheless the vaccine has been submitted to the health ministry for registration, comparable to applying for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It “works quite effectively. It forms a stable immunity,” Putin declared. Researchers around the world have been racing to create a vaccine (SN: 7/10/20), but none have been thoroughly vetted yet. Russia has tried various tactics to get in front of the competition, with hackers in the country reportedly trying to steal vaccine data from the United States, Great Britain and Canada. Being the first to approve a vaccine may be a matter of national pride, but the declaration of victory may be premature, some vaccine researchers say. Usually, vaccines go through three phases of clinical tests. The first two phases test the vaccine in small numbers of people for safety and may collect data on whether people make antibodies or have other responses to the vaccine. The third phase tests the vaccine in thousands of people to determine whether it lowers the infection rate. That third phase of testing has not even started for the Russian vaccine.

8-12-20 Coronavirus: Russia calls international concern over vaccine 'groundless'
Russia has dismissed mounting international concern over the safety of its locally developed Covid-19 vaccine as "absolutely groundless". On Tuesday, it said a vaccine had been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans. But experts were quick to raise concerns about the speed of Russia's work, and a growing list of countries have expressed scepticism. Scientists in Germany, France, Spain and the US have all urged caution. "It seems our foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that... are absolutely groundless," Russia's Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday. He added that the vaccine would be available soon. "The first packages of the medical vaccine... will be received within the next two weeks, primarily for doctors," Mr Murashko said. Russian officials have said they plan to start mass vaccination in October. The announcement on Tuesday was made by President Vladimir Putin, who said the vaccine had passed all the required checks and his daughter had already been given it. But the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was in talks with Russian authorities about undertaking a review of the vaccine, which has been named Sputnik-V. It is not among the organisation's list of six vaccines that have reached phase three clinical trials, which involve more widespread testing in humans. The progress Russia says it has made on a coronavirus vaccine has been met with scepticism by health officials and media outlets in the US and Europe. On Wednesday, Germany's health minister expressed concern that it had not been properly tested. "It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions... of people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong," Jens Spahn told local media. "Based on everything we know... this has not been sufficiently tested," he added. "It's not about being first somehow - it's about having a safe vaccine."

8-11-20 Coronavirus: Putin says vaccine has been approved for use
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a locally developed vaccine for Covid-19 has been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans. Mr Putin said the vaccine had passed all the required checks, adding that his daughter had already been given it. Officials have said they plan to start mass vaccination in October. Experts have raised concerns about the speed of Russia's work, suggesting that researchers might be cutting corners. Amid fears that safety could have been compromised, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Russia last week to follow international guidelines for producing a vaccine against Covid-19. On Tuesday, the WHO said it had been in talks with Russian authorities about undertaking a review of the vaccine, which has been named Sputnik-V. Currently, the Russian vaccine is not among the WHO's list of six vaccines that have reached phase three clinical trials, which involve more widespread testing in humans. More than 100 vaccines around the world are in early development, with some of those being tested on people in clinical trials. Despite rapid progress, most experts think any vaccine would not become widely available until mid-2021. Calling it a world first, President Putin said the vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute, offered "sustainable immunity" against the coronavirus. He said he knew the vaccine was "quite effective", without giving further details, and stressed that it had passed "all needed checks". Mr Putin also said the vaccine had been given to one of his daughters, who was feeling fine despite a brief temperature increase. "I think in this sense she took part in the experiment," Mr Putin said. "After the first injection her temperature was 38 degrees, the next day 37.5, and that was it. After the second injection her temperature went up slightly, then back to normal." He did not specify which of his two daughters had received the vaccine.

8-11-20 Vaccine for major common cold virus could be ready for use by 2024
A vaccine that protects against one of the main common cold viruses has been shown to be safe and effective in a clinical trial and could be available by 2024. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is so contagious that more than 90 per cent of people have experienced their first infection by the age of 2. It usually causes cold symptoms but can lead to severe illness in young children and older people. Globally, around 60,000 children under the age of 5 and 14,000 people over the age of 65 die each year after contracting the virus. Developing vaccines against RSV and other respiratory viruses has been challenging because the respiratory tract, which includes the nostrils and throat, is a surface exposed to the external rather than internal environment, says Kirsten Spann at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, who wasn’t involved in the clinical trial. “It’s harder for antiviral antibodies in the blood to reach viruses in the respiratory tract, or even know they are there, because there is some physical separation,” she says. This also explains why we can get RSV and other cold viruses over and over again, says Spann. In recent years, however, there has been rapid progress in finding new ways to boost immunity against respiratory viruses. Several RSV vaccines are being tested in clinical trials, including one made by German company Bavarian Nordic. Its vaccine is designed to build immunity against RSV by exposing the body to five small fragments of the virus. In a clinical trial involving 420 adults aged 55 and older, a single injection of the vaccine in the upper arm tripled the levels of RSV-fighting antibodies inside the nose and caused no serious side effects. This immune response lasted for six months – enough to cover a winter cold season – and was restored with a booster shot at 12 months.

8-7-20 One in Three Americans Would Not Get COVID-19 Vaccine
But many Americans appear reluctant to be vaccinated, even if a vaccine were FDA-approved and available to them at no cost. Asked if they would get such a COVID-19 vaccine, 65% say they would, but 35% would not. (Webmaster's comment: Those that don't vaccinate will deserve what they get!) The coronavirus' toll on the lives of people around the world continues to grow, with over 18 million confirmed cases and more than 700,000 deaths, including upwards of 150,000 of those in the United States. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently testified before Congress that he continues to be confident that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by early 2021. With more indications that a vaccine could be close, the next question for health professionals, policymakers and political leaders will be Americans' willingness to be vaccinated once a vaccine is ready.

  • 35% of Americans would not get free, FDA-approved vaccine if ready today
  • Republicans less inclined than Democrats to be vaccinated
  • Four in 10 non-White Americans would not get vaccine

8-4-20 WHO urges caution over Russian vaccine claims
Russia has said it wants to hold a mass vaccination campaign by mid-October. WHO says only six vaccines are officially on final phase testing - and Russia's is not one. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warns the world faces a "general catastrophe" due to school closures caused by the pandemic. India reports 803 deaths and more than 50,000 new cases, the highest total in any country on Monday. The US - which has the highest total cases and deaths in the world - has recorded 47,576 new cases and 469 deaths in the last day, the CDC said. Australia is imposing strict on-the-spot fines of $5,000 (£2,725) for people who ignore orders to self-isolate. Current testing and tracing may not Tens of millions of people in the Philippines are back in lockdown after warnings of a surge. There are now more than 18m confirmed cases across the world, and 693,000 deaths

8-3-20 Economic benefits of vaccination programmes vastly outweigh costs
The costs of vaccination programmes are vastly outweighed by the economic benefits of reducing illness, disability and premature death, a modelling study has found. “We hope these numbers can allow vaccines to be seen as investments rather than expenses,” says Bryan Patenaude at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, who led the study. Patenaude and his team generated estimates for the economic cost of illnesses, disability and premature death that would otherwise occur without vaccination programmes in 94 low and middle-income countries, and compared these with the overall cost of implementing the programmes. They focused on vaccination programmes targeting 10 infectious diseases, including measles, yellow fever and hepatitis B. Using a model that considered treatment costs as well as lost wages and productivity due to illness, the researchers found that the money saved through the vaccination programmes will be approximately $682 billion for the period from 2011 to 2020. This is about 26 times the total cost of the programmes during this time. The researchers estimate that a further $829 billion will be saved from the vaccination programmes from 2021 to 2030, which is about 20 times their total predicted cost over this period. “We wanted to convert the benefits [into money] so you can compare them with other types of investments a country or organisation might be making – like in education or transport or other things,” says Patenaude. The researchers validated their findings using another model, which estimates the value of a saved life using data on people’s willingness to spend money to reduce their risk of death. Using this model, they found that the estimated value of lives saved by the vaccination programmes will be about 51 times their cost from 2011 to 2020 and 52 times their cost from 2021 to 2030.

7-30-20 Lyme disease vaccine found to be safe and effective in clinical trial
A vaccine against Lyme disease has been shown to be safe and effective in a clinical trial and could be available by 2025. Tens of thousands of people in the US and Europe are diagnosed each year with Lyme disease, which is transmitted by tick bites and can cause lifelong health problems like joint and nerve pain if it isn’t treated early. French company Valneva has developed a vaccine that works by stopping Lyme-causing bacteria in ticks from passing into people’s bloodstreams when the ticks bite. It does this by targeting a protein on the bacteria called outer surface protein A. In a clinical trial involving 572 adults in the US and Europe, the vaccine was 82 to 96 per cent effective at stimulating immune protection against Lyme disease and caused no serious side effects. “The results are very promising,” says Maria Gomes-Solecki at the University of Tennessee. The next steps will be to test the vaccine in children and larger numbers of adults, and to determine whether booster shots will be necessary to provide long-lasting immunity, says Thomas Lingelbach, CEO of Valneva. “We hope the vaccine will be available within five years,” he says. Children are urgently in need of a vaccine because they are significantly more likely to get Lyme disease than adults, says Lingelbach. Research shows that children often don’t realise that they have been bitten by ticks, making early treatment harder. In the late 1990s, a Lyme disease vaccine that also targeted outer surface protein A became available, but it was discontinued after unfounded claims of serious side effects spread by anti-vaccination campaigners made people too scared to get it. Gomes-Solecki hopes the new vaccine won’t experience the same fate if it is approved. “In recent years, I do feel there has been a shift in public opinion because the need for a vaccine has increased given that Lyme disease keeps expanding into new geographic regions, and studies have been published supporting the safety of the original vaccine,” she says.

7-28-20 Sarah Gilbert on how her team is making the Oxford coronavirus vaccine
Last week was a big one for Sarah Gilbert at the University of Oxford, leader of the team that created the “Oxford vaccine”, a front runner in the race for a coronavirus vaccine. On 20 July, her team published results showing that the vaccine produces the desired immune responses in people. Gilbert says she took a moment to pause ahead of the announcement – she had most of the day before, a Sunday, off. That is a rare luxury these days. She normally works long hours, including on weekends. “There is a lot going on during the week, so weekends are a time to catch up on more substantial pieces of work with fewer interruptions,” she says. Gilbert gradually moved into vaccine development after joining Oxford in 1994. Even so, she never imagined working on a vaccine to tackle a massive global pandemic. “We had been starting to prepare for a ‘disease X’ vaccine, but that was always envisaged as a novel pathogen that would cause an outbreak rather than a pandemic.” The type of vaccine she has been working on against coronavirus is known as a viral vector vaccine. The key component is DNA coding for a surface protein – which would normally trigger an immune response – from the virus you want to protect against. Like a Trojan Horse, this is put inside the shell of an adenovirus that causes colds in chimpanzees, which delivers it to human cells, where the protein is made. In response, the body produces both antibodies that circulate in the blood and bind to any matching viruses they encounter, and T-cells that destroy infected cells before they make more virus. To create the coronavirus vaccine, which is being developed in collaboration with drugs firm AstraZeneca, the researchers simply had to put DNA coding for the virus’s surface protein into the adenovirus “cassette” they had already created for other vaccines.

7-28-20 Coronavirus vaccine hope rises after a flurry of positive results
AMID rising global numbers of daily coronavirus infections, a fresh flush of vaccine trial results is offering hope for the longer run. There are more than 160 coronavirus vaccines in development around the world. About 140 of these are at the preclinical stage, meaning they are still being looked at in laboratories and in animal tests. Another 25 are already being tested in people. The rate at which the tally has risen to 160-plus is unusually fast. “What is phenomenal is the numbers changing over the past few months. The amount of research is incredible,” says Sheuli Porkess at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. As the candidates advance, the World Health Organization (WHO) last month started to convene a working group to prioritise the most promising vaccines. “Practical realities will require a process that focuses global efforts on a small handful of candidates that may have the highest impact,” the WHO said. Four vaccines have made big steps in development in the past few weeks. Initial trials show that they can trigger an immune response and appear safe – but it is too early to say if they will protect against coronavirus and whether they will work across many different groups of people, including older individuals and those with chronic health issues. On 20 July, a team led by Sarah Gilbert at the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca showed that their ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine produced the desired immune responses without showing sworkerious adverse reactions. That was in a combined phase I/II trial of 1077 volunteers. It is now being tested in many thousands more people. Six days earlier, US company Moderna and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases revealed that 45 people had received their mRNA-1273 vaccine and shown an antibody response. On Monday, they began a phase III trial intended to have 30,000 participants. The other two most promising candidates are from CanSino Biologics in China, which published encouraging phase II trial results on the same day as the Oxford team, and another from German company BioNTech with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which published a promising preliminary report on 14 July.

7-25-20 Profit and risk in race for a vaccine
There's big money in creating the first COVID-19 vaccine. What will that mean for its safety? More than 100 separate labs are competing to develop the first COVID-19 vaccine, said Stephanie Baker at Bloomberg Businessweek, and a partnership between the University of Oxford and the pharma giant AstraZeneca is leading the race. A team of researchers at Oxford's Jenner Institute reported positive results this week from an early-stage human trial with more than 1,000 participants, and the stock market leaped at the news. The Oxford lab's vaccine is adenovirus-based; such vaccines have a small but critical "advantage over other candidates: They need only to be kept chilled rather than frozen." That could make worldwide distribution easier for Astra­Zeneca, which struck a manufacturing deal with ­Oxford — assisted by Bill Gates — "in about 10 days through a flurry of Zoom calls." After that deal was announced, "big money followed." The biggest patron: The United States' pandemic drug authority, BARDA, which handed Astra­Zeneca more than $1.2 billion; a test of 30,000 people in the U.S. is scheduled to start next month. The U.S. biotech upstart Moderna has also shown promising preliminary results, said Peter Loftus and Gregory Zuckerman at The Wall Street Journal, but "skepticism has dogged it since its creation in 2010." As its name suggests, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, biotech firm uses a novel process involving the creation of synthetic RNA. But while it has "more than 20 experimental drugs and vaccines" in development, "none are close to being commercially available." Since ­Mo­derna's COVID vaccine entered human ­trials, its stock has risen more than 230 percent. That has let some Mo­der­na executives profit, even though their vaccine has been tested on just a few human subjects, said Christopher Rowland and Carolyn Johnson at The Washington Post. CEO Stéphane Bancel and other executives have "picked up the pace" of their stock selling as the share price rises, and chairman Noubar Afeyan's venture capital firm sold $68 million of Moderna stock. The selling has continued even as Securities and Exchange Commission head Jay Clayton cautioned Moderna to "avoid even the appearance of impropriety." Also raising questions is a $1.6 billion federal contract awarded to Novavax, a company that has "never brought a vaccine to market," said Katie Thomas and Megan Twohey at The New York Times. The Trump administration wanted to "invest in a variety of vaccine technologies," and Novavax's approach holds out the possibility of faster vaccine production than some others. But critics see a second-tier player that has repeatedly "boosted its stock by promising vaccines for new outbreaks, yet never delivering." "Trump did promise America First," said The Economist, and his administration has "turned on the federal money hose" to achieve it. The U.S. has already cut deals for priority access to COVID treatments, causing alarm in countries that worry the U.S. will expect the same preference after "stumping up a lot of cash" in the vaccine race. Another concern is that the FDA will "cut corners" to make a vaccine ready before the election. The agency says that won't happen, but it's already been blasted for giving emergency approval as a COVID treatment to hydroxychloroquine "to avoid embarrassing the president," who endorsed the drug.

7-22-20 COVID-19 vaccines by Oxford, CanSino and Pfizer all trigger immune responses
Volunteers who got the vaccine candidates made antibodies and T cells against the coronavirus. More coronavirus vaccine candidates have passed initial safety tests and induce immune responses that might protect against the virus. All volunteers in a small clinical trial who were given an experimental vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford made antibodies against a protein the virus uses to break into cells. Those participants also produced immune cells called T cells that are important for long-lived immunity, the researchers, working with the global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, report July 20 in the Lancet. Levels of neutralizing antibodies, which can block viral entry into cells, were at levels on par with those from people who have recovered from COVID-19. No serious side effects were seen, particularly when volunteers took acetaminophen after getting an injection. “The results so far are encouraging,” says Mark Poznansky, a vaccinologist who directs the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who was not involved in the study. The researchers won’t truly know whether the vaccine is safe and effective until many more people get it. Work on other viruses suggests that neutralizing antibodies and T cells in people’s blood should offer protection against infection or serious illness. But “a fundamental point about COVID-19 is that we don’t yet know what constitutes a protective [immune] response to the virus,” Poznansky says. “We’re not yet 100 percent clear about how those antibodies contribute to protection in the context of a vaccine.” The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine starts with a chimpanzee adenovirus engineered so that it cannot replicate itself, making it safe to use. The virus can infect human cells, and delivers DNA instructions for making the coronavirus’ spike protein — the knobby protein studding the virus’s outer shell. Once inside a human cell, the DNA integrates, and the cell produces the spike protein, which the immune system then gears up to attack by producing antibodies and training white blood cells known as T cells to recognize the coronavirus.

7-20-20 Coronavirus: Oxford vaccine can train immune system
A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and trains the immune system. Trials involving 1,077 people showed the injection led to them making antibodies and white blood cells that can fight coronavirus. The findings are hugely promising, but it is still too soon to know if this is enough to offer protection and larger trials are under way. The UK has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine. The vaccine - called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 - is being developed at unprecedented speed. It is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. It has been heavily modified, first so it cannot cause infections in people and also to make it "look" more like coronavirus. Scientists did this by transferring the genetic instructions for the coronavirus's "spike protein" - the crucial tool it uses to invade our cells - to the vaccine they were developing. This means the vaccine resembles the coronavirus and the immune system can learn how to attack it. Much of the focus on coronavirus so far has been about antibodies, but these are only one part of our immune defence. Antibodies are small proteins made by the immune system that stick onto the surface of viruses. Neutralising antibodies can disable the coronavirus. T-cells, a type of white blood cell, help coordinate the immune system and are able to spot which of the body's cells have been infected and destroy them. Nearly all effective vaccines induce both an antibody and a T-cell response. Levels of T cells peaked 14 days after vaccination and antibody levels peaked after 28 days. The study has not run for long enough to understand what long-term immunity may look like. There were no dangerous side-effects from taking the vaccine, however, 70% of people on the trial developed either fever or headache. The researchers say this could be managed with paracetamol.

7-20-20 Smallpox vaccination kits from the US civil war reveal historic virus
Strains of viruses used for smallpox vaccines in the US during the civil war have been identified and their genomes reconstructed. “The successful eradication of smallpox via vaccination shows the crucial importance that that practice has had within human history,” says Ana Duggan, who led a team of researchers to analyse smallpox vaccines while at McMaster University in Canada. Smallpox, caused by the variola virus, killed approximately 30 per cent of the people it infected. It was officially eradicated in 1980 after concerted global vaccination efforts. Early protective practices against smallpox involved infecting people with related viruses to induce a milder case of disease that would inoculate them against variola. This was usually done by applying some infected pus or scabs to a cut in the skin, a process known as variolation. Duggan and her colleagues gathered genetic material from US civil war-era vaccination kits to identify the viruses used for smallpox vaccinations at the time. The team analysed five kits, part of a museum collection, that had been used by doctors in the greater Philadelphia area in the mid to late 19th century. The kits contained lancets, tin boxes that held scab material and small glass plates for mixing fluid that had been collected from the blisters of infected people. The team reconstructed the genomes of any viruses present by analysing the scabs and dried blister material from four kits. In one kit, which contained no direct evidence of biological material, the researchers soaked a tin box in a solution with enzymes that essentially hoover up the virus fragments without damaging the box. All five of the viruses identified were strains of the vaccinia virus, which is only distantly related to variola, and is the cause of cowpox. None of the viral genetic material was intact, meaning that it wasn’t infectious. The team then pieced together the viral fragments like a jigsaw puzzle, with the aid of a computer algorithm as well as the genetic sequence of an intact vaccinia virus as a reference.

7-16-20 Covid-19 news: Scientists suggest young volunteers could test vaccines
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Scientists suggest young, healthy people could test coronavirus vaccine candidates. A group of scientists are calling for young, healthy people to help accelerate vaccine research by volunteering to be exposed to the coronavirus in so-called “challenge trials.” The process might make it easier to see how effective different vaccine candidates are at providing protection against covid-19. Challenge trials have been used in the past to test vaccines, but they raise ethical questions about exposing healthy people to a disease for which we have no treatment to guarantee their safety. “If challenge trials can safely and effectively speed the vaccine development process, then there is a formidable presumption in favour of their use, which would require a very compelling ethical justification to overcome,” said an open letter signed by more than 100 prominent figures, including 15 Nobel laureates, which was sent to the US National Institutes of Health, a medical research organisation. UK security officials said information about coronavirus vaccines being developed in UK, US and Canadian organisations were targeted by Russian state-sponsored hackers. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said a group called APT29, which it said was “almost certainly” part of Russia’s intelligence services, were targeting research groups and drug companies. Phase III clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm have begun in the United Arab Emirates. The government of the UAE says 15,000 volunteers will be recruited in the country over three to six months. There are currently 23 coronavirus vaccine candidates in human trials, with three of them in or close to entering phase III, the final stage of testing.

7-15-20 Covid-19 news: US vaccine candidate set to enter final trials
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Moderna coronavirus vaccine candidate deemed safe in first human trial A coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by US company Moderna and the US National Institutes of Health, a medical research organisation, is expected to become the first in the US to enter the final stage of clinical testing. Preliminary results suggested it is safe and able to induce an immune response against the virus. Moderna plans to enter phase III clinical trials on 27 July, and hopes to test the vaccine on 30,000 people, including those whose circumstances put them at high-risk of getting infected with the coronavirus. All 45 volunteers who received the experimental vaccine as part of the phase I trial for safety were found to have developed antibodies against the coronavirus in their blood, and none had serious side effects. These volunteers were younger adults, and preliminary tests on older adults are currently under review. “No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” US government health advisor Anthony Fauci told the Associated Press. There are currently 23 coronavirus vaccine candidates in clinical trials around the world. Face coverings will not be mandatory in offices in England, the UK’s health minister Matt Hancock told MPs on Tuesday. This followed the government’s earlier announcement that people in England will be required to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets starting on 24 July. “The reason is that in offices you tend to spend a lot of time with the same people, and so the way to stop the spread of the virus in offices is to have social distancing, either two metres or one metre plus mitigations in place,” Hancock said on BBC Radio 4 today. Epidemiologist Rowland Kao at the University of Edinburgh says contact tracing is also more straightforward in offices. “Contact tracing is going to be vital in preventing a large outbreak,” says Kao, adding that reducing infections due to casual contact will play a big role in allowing contact tracing to work well. New Zealand must be prepared for new coronavirus outbreaks, the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern told journalists today. She said New Zealand would use local lockdowns to contain any new outbreaks, with nationwide lockdowns imposed if necessary. New Zealand’s strategy is aimed at completely eliminating the virus from the country.

7-10-20 A COVID-19 vaccine may come soon. Will the blistering pace backfire?
In the rush to bring vaccines to market, any misstep could erode the public’s trust. In January, vaccine researchers lined up on the starting blocks, waiting to hear a pistol. That shot came on January 10, when scientists in China announced the complete genetic makeup of the novel coronavirus. With that information in hand, the headlong race toward a vaccine began. As the virus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, began to spread like wildfire around the globe, researchers sprinted to catch up with treatments and vaccines. Now, six months later, there is still no cure and no preventative for the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, though there are glimmers of hope. Studies show that two drugs can help treat the sick: The antiviral remdesivir shortens recovery times (SN: 4/29/20) and a steroid called dexamethasone reduces deaths among people hospitalized with COVID-19 who need help breathing (SN: 6/16/20). But the finish line in this race remains a safe and effective vaccine. With nearly 180 vaccine candidates now being tested in lab dishes, animals and even already in humans, that end may be in sight. Some experts predict that a vaccine may be available for emergency use for the general public by the end of the year even before it receives expedited U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Velocity might come at the expense of safety and efficacy, some experts worry. And that could stymie efforts to convince enough people to get the vaccine in order to build the herd immunity needed to end the pandemic. “We’re calling for transparency of data,” says Esther Krofah, executive director of FasterCures, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. “We want things to accelerate meaningfully in a way that does not compromise safety or the science, but we need to see the data,” she says.

6-28-20 The king who ordered a quarantine 4,000 years ago
Little was known about the mystery disease that was ravaging the ancient kingdom of Mari. But King Zimri-Lim knew the key to stopping it was social distancing — and no small amount of patience. Frantically checking your own condition against the known symptoms of a contagious disease will sound familiar to pretty much everyone in the world right now. And this very type of panic once consumed the ancient realm of Mari. Located in the northeast of what is now Syria, Mari was one of the most prosperous city-states of the 18th century BCE. Its greatest king, Zimri-Lim, extended Mari's sphere of influence by military and marital alliances, built an architectural marvel in his grand palace, and kept the peace along his trade routes. Zimri-Lim also preserved his military, diplomatic, and personal correspondence in a massive archive. More than 20,000 of these tablets — written mostly in Akkadian, the diplomatic lingua franca of the day — were excavated in the 1930s. A number of these letters dealt with the spread and subsequent containment of simmum. Zimri-Lim and his chief wife, Shibtu, exchanged correspondence about how to stop the sickness afflicting their courtiers from spreading. (Of course, some of the details in the scene above are assumed — we can't know exactly what the king said or did at any exact moment that took place nearly 4,000 years ago, and we don't know Astakka's exact role in the court — but the crux of the story is told in these surviving ancient tablets. The pendant mentioned, the gift from Ur to Mari, resided at last report in the National Museum in Damascus.) According to Assyriologist Dr. Markham J. Geller of University College London, simmum, best translated as "lesion," may refer to a contagious skin condition. Assyriologist Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid observes that simmum could serve "as a label for multiple related illnesses, and as a metonym for such illnesses and/or their symptoms." The Mesopotamians might not have understood "contagion" in the sense of transmission of germs, but they knew it could spread.

6-5-20 Coronavirus: AstraZeneca to begin making potential vaccine
Drug company AstraZeneca is to start producing a potential vaccine for coronavirus, its boss has told the BBC. Trials of the drug are under way but Pascal Soriot said the firm must start making doses now so that it can meet demand if the vaccine proves effective. "We are starting to manufacture this vaccine right now - and we have to have it ready to be used by the time we have the results," he said. AstraZeneca says it will be able supply two billion doses of the vaccine. Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Mr Soriot said manufacturing was beginning already because, "we want to be as fast as possible". "Of course, with this decision comes a risk but it's a financial risk and that financial risk is the vaccine doesn't work," he added. "Then all the materials, all the vaccines, we've manufactured will be wasted." He said AstraZeneca would not seek to make a profit from producing the drug during the pandemic. If it works, the company will be able to produce two billion doses after signing two new contracts on Thursday, one of which was with billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with scientists at Oxford University, has agreed to supply half of the doses to low and middle-income countries. One of the new partnerships is with the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume. The other is a $750m (£595m) deal with two health organisations backed by Bill and Melinda Gates. The two charities, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and GAVI vaccines alliance, will help find production facilities to produce and distribute 300 million doses of the vaccine. Delivery is expected to start by the end of the year. Mr Soriot has said he expects to know by August if the AZD1222 vaccine is effective, while CEPI chief executive Richard Hatchett said there is still a possibility the vaccine may not work. AstraZeneca's licensing agreement with India's SII is to supply one billion doses for low and middle-income countries, with a commitment to provide 400 million before the end of 2020. Mr Soirot said the company was building a number of supply chains across the world "to support global access at no profit during the pandemic and has so far secured manufacturing capacity for two billion doses of the vaccine". "Having a vaccine is one thing but you need to produce it at scale and I can tell you that It is not an easy thing to do," the pharmaceutical boss told Today.

5-23-19 World faces risk of 'vaccine nationalism' in COVID-19 fight
With so many competing interests facing off, it's far from clear that once an effective vaccine is produced, all of the world's citizens will have equitable access to it. Global competition to find a vaccine to tackle COVID-19 is fierce, with at least 130 groups racing to be first. One U.S.-based company, Moderna, announced preliminary positive results in May, saying a human vaccine trial produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers. The Moderna vaccine is one of more than 100 under development intended to protect against the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 4.7 million people globally and killed over 315,000. There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, and experts predict a safe and effective vaccine could take 12 to 18 months to develop. The very early data offers a glimmer of hope for a vaccine among the most advanced in development. And with so many groups around the world working towards an inoculation, the odds of finding a way to put a stop to the pandemic increase. But the competition is also somewhat worrisome. With so many competing interests facing off, it's far from clear that once an effective vaccine is produced, all of the world's citizens will have equitable access to it. It's a problem Jane Halton, a former WHO board member, calls "vaccine nationalism." "I worry that some countries will see that there is strategic advantage in the use of any developed vaccine, if they are successful. I also think that there is, in some cases, a need to deal with domestic concerns," Halton said. "And I understand that being able to balance a need for domestic distribution, particularly for the vulnerable, but at the same time acknowledging that all countries are in this together — I think there's a middle line to be struck here." Halton, who is chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and former head of Australia's health and finance departments, tells The World's host Marco Werman that vaccine production should be globally distributed and initially target the most vulnerable in all nations. "What I hope is that whomever succeeds in this search, the quest for a vaccine, that when that vaccine is actually developed and is approved for use, that it isn't used exclusively for the needs of one population, when in fact, the people who need this vaccine are the vulnerable healthcare workers around the world, the elderly, the immune-compromised. And I think that is going to be the very big challenge we're about to face," she added. (Webmaster's comment: Keep in mind that in America it's always profits first, safety second!)

5-1-19 Coronavirus: Millions of children risk missing vaccines, says UN
Millions of children risk missing "life-saving" vaccines, the UN has warned, after a "massive backlog" of shipments built up due to the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak has had a huge impact on the air industry, drastically reducing commercial and charter flights. Dozens of countries are at risk of running out of vital vaccines, the UN children's agency Unicef says. It wants governments and the private sector to free up freight space. Immunisation programmes are one of Unicef's key activities. The organisation estimates that vaccinations for serious diseases like measles, polio and tetanus save the lives of up to three million children a year. With medical researchers hard at work on a coronavirus vaccine, Unicef says the outbreak is disrupting active efforts against other illnesses. "Unicef is calling for support to unlock a massive backlog in vaccine shipments due to unprecedented logistical constraints related to Covid-19 mitigation measures including lockdowns in some countries," said spokesperson Marixie Mercado. Warning of a "dramatic decline" in commercial flights and the "exorbitant" cost of securing them, she said: "Countries with limited resources will struggle to pay these higher prices, leaving children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. "Unicef is appealing to governments, the private sector, the airline industry, and others to free up freight space at an affordable cost for these life-saving vaccines." Last month the organisation warned measles outbreaks might occur as a result of vaccine programmes being delayed by the coronavirus outbreak. Even before coronavirus emerged Unicef estimated that more than 20 million children a year were missing out on a measles vaccine, with the organisation citing scepticism of vaccines as a factor. On Thursday, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg donated $100,000 (£80,000) she won from a Danish charity to Unicef to help its fight against coronavirus. Launching a campaign to help protect children's lives in the outbreak, she said: "Like the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic is a child-rights crisis. It will affect all children, now and in the long-term, but vulnerable groups will be impacted the most."

5-1-19 Australia sees huge decrease in flu cases due to coronavirus measures
Lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Australia seem to also be suppressing the country’s flu season. Australia’s flu season normally peaks during its winter months, from June to August. But cases often start to build around January, as travellers from the northern hemisphere bring the virus into the country. This year, Australia began with relatively high flu rates: it had 6962 laboratory-confirmed flu cases in January and 7161 in February. However, cases have since nosedived, with 5884 recorded in March and only 229 in April, compared with 18,705 in April 2019. This is despite more flu testing being conducted this year. Australia’s FluTracking surveillance system, which surveys about 70,000 people each week and records their flu-like symptoms, shows that, in the week ending 26 April, only 0.2 per cent of Australians had symptoms. This figure was 1.4 per cent at the same time last year. The sharp reduction in cases is probably due to Australia’s decision to shut its borders on 20 March and ban non-essential gatherings to try to stop the spread of covid-19, says Robert Booy at the University of Sydney. “We’re not importing any flu and anything that stops close contact with others is going to make it harder for the influenza virus to transmit,” he says. The government implemented a ban on non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people on 16 March. This gradually ramped up to a more complete lockdown on 23 March when pubs, restaurants, gyms, cinemas and other non-essential businesses were forced to close. Additionally, very few children have been attending school since mid-March, when states and territories began encouraging remote learning where possible. This is probably another reason why flu cases are down, since schoolchildren are known to be major spreaders of the influenza virus in normal years, says Kirsty Short at the University of Queensland. Covid-19 lockdown measures also seem to have brought an early end to the flu season in Hong Kong, which normally extends to March or April, but this year tailed off in February.

4-29-19 What coronavirus antibody tests tell us — and what they don’t
Widespread testing could reveal who has had COVID-19, but not whether they’ll get it again. As some countries begin to reopen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, experts are racing to ramp up the development and use of blood tests that pinpoint people who have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and are no longer infected. The tests detect antibodies, proteins made by the immune system to fight infection (SN: 3/27/20). People who carry antibodies specific to the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, have been infected previously, even if they didn’t know it. For those people, discovering that they have these virus-fighting antibodies could raise hopes of immunity and a return to normal life. But scientists are also working to uncover what these blood tests really tell us. At this point, there isn’t enough evidence to confirm that recovered people are protected from the disease and, if so, for how long, the World Health Organization said in a statement on April 24. So people hoping for that assurance may be disappointed. For researchers and public health officials, though, the tests can reveal the true extent of the pandemic. The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced April 10 that researchers had begun recruiting people for a nationwide study that aims to test as many as 10,000 volunteers without an official COVID-19 diagnosis, which could help clarify how many people across the country have actually been infected. A number of similar, more local studies are also under way. The goal is to fill in the gaps created by trouble rolling out diagnostic tests, which detect the virus’s genetic material and can catch an active infection. Those tests have faced roadblocks such as flawed tests and supply shortages, leaving some sick people wondering whether their symptoms were from COVID-19 or a different respiratory infection.

4-29-19 What coronavirus antibody tests tell us — and what they don’t
Widespread testing could reveal who has had COVID-19, but not whether they’ll get it again. As some countries begin to reopen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, experts are racing to ramp up the development and use of blood tests that pinpoint people who have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and are no longer infected. The tests detect antibodies, proteins made by the immune system to fight infection (SN: 3/27/20). People who carry antibodies specific to the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, have been infected previously, even if they didn’t know it. For those people, discovering that they have these virus-fighting antibodies could raise hopes of immunity and a return to normal life. But scientists are also working to uncover what these blood tests really tell us. At this point, there isn’t enough evidence to confirm that recovered people are protected from the disease and, if so, for how long, the World Health Organization said in a statement on April 24. So people hoping for that assurance may be disappointed. For researchers and public health officials, though, the tests can reveal the true extent of the pandemic. The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced April 10 that researchers had begun recruiting people for a nationwide study that aims to test as many as 10,000 volunteers without an official COVID-19 diagnosis, which could help clarify how many people across the country have actually been infected. A number of similar, more local studies are also under way. The goal is to fill in the gaps created by trouble rolling out diagnostic tests, which detect the virus’s genetic material and can catch an active infection. Those tests have faced roadblocks such as flawed tests and supply shortages, leaving some sick people wondering whether their symptoms were from COVID-19 or a different respiratory infection.

4-28-19 Coronavirus immunity: Can you catch it twice?
Can you catch coronavirus again? Why are some people sicker than others? Will it come back every winter? Will a vaccine work? Could immunity passports get some of us back to work? How do we manage the virus in the long-term? The immune system is at the heart of some of the most important questions about the coronavirus. The problem is we know very little. Our immune system is the body's defence against infection and it comes in two parts. The first is always ready to go and leaps into action as soon as any foreign invader is detected in the body. It is known as the innate immune response and includes the release of chemicals that cause inflammation and white blood cells that can destroy infected cells. But this system is not specific to coronavirus. It will not learn and it will not give you immunity to the coronavirus. Instead you need the adaptive immune response. This includes cells that produce targeted antibodies that can stick to the virus in order to stop it and T cells that can attack just the cells infected with the virus, called the cellular response. This takes time - studies suggest it takes around 10 days to start making antibodies that can target the coronavirus and the sickest patients develop the strongest immune response. If the adaptive immune response is powerful enough, then it could leave a lasting memory of the infection that will give protection in the future. It is not known if people who have only mild symptoms, or none at all, will develop a sufficient adaptive immune response. The immune system's memory is rather like our own - it remembers some infections clearly, but has a habit of forgetting others. Measles is highly memorable - one bout should give life-long immunity (as the weakened version in the MMR vaccine does). However, there are many others that are pretty forgettable. Children can get RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) multiple times in the same winter. The new coronavirus, called Sars-CoV-2, has not been around long enough to know how long immunity lasts, but there are six other human coronaviruses that can give a clue. Four produce the symptoms of the common cold and immunity is short-lived. Studies showed some patients could be re-infected within a year.

4-28-19 What coronavirus antibody tests tell us — and what they don’t
Widespread testing could reveal who has had COVID-19, but not whether they’ll get it again. As some countries begin to reopen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, experts are racing to ramp up the development and use of blood tests that pinpoint people who have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and are no longer infected. The tests detect antibodies, proteins made by the immune system to fight infection (SN: 3/27/20). People who carry antibodies specific to the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, have been infected previously, even if they didn’t know it. For those people, discovering that they have these virus-fighting antibodies could raise hopes of immunity and a return to normal life. But scientists are also working to uncover what these blood tests really tell us. At this point, there isn’t enough evidence to confirm that recovered people are protected from the disease and, if so, for how long, the World Health Organization said in a statement on April 24. So people hoping for that assurance may be disappointed. For researchers and public health officials, though, the tests can reveal the true extent of the pandemic. The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced April 10 that researchers had begun recruiting people for a nationwide study that aims to test as many as 10,000 volunteers without an official COVID-19 diagnosis, which could help clarify how many people across the country have actually been infected. A number of similar, more local studies are also under way. The goal is to fill in the gaps created by trouble rolling out diagnostic tests, which detect the virus’s genetic material and can catch an active infection. Those tests have faced roadblocks such as flawed tests and supply shortages, leaving some sick people wondering whether their symptoms were from COVID-19 or a different respiratory infection.

4-14-20 Measles resurgence fear amid coronavirus
Measles outbreaks may occur as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, officials say, because some vaccination programmes are having to be delayed. Unicef says 117 million children in 37 countries may not get immunised on time. There have been several large outbreaks in countries across Europe where MMR vaccine uptake has been low. The UK has already lost its measles-free status, because of rising cases of the potentially deadly infection. The disease, which causes coughing, rashes and fever, can be prevented by two doses of the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine, available free to all young children in the UK. Here, 95% of five-year-olds have had the first jab - the World Health Organization (WHO) target - but only 87.4% have had the second. And as measles is highly infectious, even small declines in uptake can have an impact. The WHO says countries with no active outbreak of measles can temporarily pause their immunisation campaigns if necessary. And 24 countries, including several already dealing with large measles outbreaks, have decided to delay because of the coronavirus pandemic: • Bangladesh • Brazil • Bolivia • Cambodia • Chad • Chile • Colombia • Djibouti • the Dominican Republic • the Democratic Republic of Congo • Ethiopia • Honduras • Kazakhstan • Kyrgyzstan • Lebanon • Maldives • Mexico • Nepal • Nigeria • Paraguay • Somalia • South Sudan • Ukraine • Uzbekistan. But Unicef says even more may face disruptions. "If the difficult choice to pause vaccination is made due to the spread of coronavirus, we urge leaders to intensify efforts to track unvaccinated children so that the most vulnerable populations can be provided with measles vaccines as soon as it becomes possible to do so," it said. Spokeswoman Joanna Rea added: "Disruptions to routine vaccine services will increase the risk of children contracting deadly diseases, compound the current pressures on the national health services and risks a second pandemic of infectious diseases." The UK continues to offer children MMR as part of its routine immunisation schedule.

2-22-20 To tackle the new coronavirus, scientists are accelerating the vaccine process
Researchers are turning to nontraditional approaches to create vaccines and therapeutics. As a mystery illness started spreading in China in late December, researchers at Inovio Pharmaceuticals were keeping a close eye on what was happening, even before anyone knew the cause was a coronavirus. The company, based in San Diego, is no stranger to the viruses. After MERS, which is caused by a different coronavirus, emerged in 2012, Inovio was one of the first to develop a still-experimental vaccine for the disease. In the new outbreak, as soon as Chinese researchers posted the genetic makeup of the virus, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, the company’s scientists sprang into action. “We’d all hoped that there would be enough overlap that our previously developed MERS vaccine would be helpful in this case,” says Kate Broderick, Inovio’s senior vice president for research and development. Like MERS and SARS, the new virus is a coronavirus that uses RNA as its genetic material. But in-depth analysis revealed that the two coronaviruses are too different for a vaccine against MERS, also known as Middle East respiratory syndrome, to take down the new virus. So the company’s researchers set about designing a new vaccine. That design relies on a relatively new approach to vaccine creation, one that the researchers used to develop the MERS vaccine. Traditional vaccines are composed of weakened or killed forms of viruses or parts of viruses, including purified proteins. When injected into a person, the immune system recognizes the virus as an invader and produces antibodies to stave off future invasions. But growing enough debilitated viruses or purifying enough proteins to make vaccine doses for millions of people can take months or even years.

1-2-20 Injecting a TB vaccine into the blood, not the skin, boosts its effectiveness
The BCG vaccine is notoriously bad at preventing the most common form of tuberculosis. Delivering a high dose of a vaccine against tuberculosis intravenously, instead of under the skin, greatly improves the drug’s ability to protect against the deadly disease, a new study finds. Changing the typical dose and method of administration of the bacille Calmette-Guérin, or BCG, vaccine prevented TB in 90 percent of rhesus monkeys, researchers report online January 1 in Nature. Most “astonishing” is that six of the 10 monkeys who received the IV vaccine never even developed an initial infection when exposed to TB, says Joel Ernst, an immunologist who specializes in TB at the University of California, San Francisco. Preventing infection, not just disease — called sterilizing immunity — is extremely rare with any TB vaccine, says Ernst, who was not involved in the study. Thwarting that infection means that no bacteria can reactivate to cause a latent or active TB infection. The BCG vaccine has been around for nearly a century and is the only currently licensed TB vaccine. More than 150 countries, but not the United States, regularly use BCG to protect infants against some forms of TB. But the vaccine often fails to prevent the most common type of tuberculosis infection, in the lungs, in adolescents or adults. Globally, TB infected 10 million people in 2018. It kills about 1.5 million a year, making it the most lethal infectious disease. Up to 13 million people in the United States have latent TB infection, which induces an immune response but hasn’t progressed to active tuberculosis. An experimental TB vaccine that could help protect people with the latent infection from developing active TB is in the works (SN: 9/25/18).

1-1-20 Delivering tuberculosis vaccine directly to veins may boost protection
Delivering the only vaccine against tuberculosis via veins rather than into the skin can dramatically increase its potency and could be a “game changer” in eradicating the disease. Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s leading cause of death from infection, killing 1.5 million people each year. But the BCG vaccine, which has been around for 80 years and is given at birth or early in life, isn’t very effective against TB infections via the lung as people age. Robert Seder at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Maryland and his colleagues found this could be because of the way the vaccine is delivered. The standard approach is to inject it into the skin. But it turns out to be far more effective when it is delivered directly to a vein. Nine out of 10 monkeys that had the vaccine intravenously were protected from the disease when exposed to it six months later. Just two out of 10 monkeys that received the vaccine into the skin were protected. Monkeys given the vaccine via veins also showed much higher levels of T-cells in the lungs, a key part of the immune system’s protection against TB. The reason for the difference seems to be that giving the BCG vaccine in the skin generates T-cells locally there, and only some of these circulate to the lungs where they can combat a TB infection. The intravenous route sees the vaccine go into lymph nodes around the body, and also into the spleen and the lungs, where it generates T-cells at the site of infection. Tests in humans could be around 18 months off, says Seder. There are still issues to iron out – for instance, it might be hard to organise a mass inoculation programme that delivers a vaccine directly to the vein. There are safety considerations too. “It’s potentially a game changer if we show we can administer it safely,” says Seder.

1-1-20 The global failure to push PrEP is hindering the fight against HIV
The UN set a target of 3 million people on the HIV prevention drug PrEP by 2020 – but lingering prejudice and sheer ignorance of its existence mean we're nowhere near. IN 2016, the UN issued its “Political Declaration on Ending AIDS“, aiming to rid the world of the HIV epidemic by 2030. One target for 2020 was to reduce new HIV infections to fewer than 500,000 by, among other things, reaching 3 million at-risk people with pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) by this year. But this target is set to be missed by a country mile, hindering the global fight. PrEP is a pill containing two chemicals, tenofovir and emtricitabine, that kills HIV before it can infect a person. It can be taken either daily, or at specific times prior to sex, and has been shown to help protect many groups particularly at risk of transmission, including sex workers, intravenous drug users and men who have sex with men. PrEP is both highly effective and works where the use of condoms and other prevention methods may not, for example in cases of sexual assault or needle sharing. It also empowers women, particularly important in sub-Saharan Africa where over half of new adult infections are among women, rising to two-thirds of new infections in young people. Yet PrEP uptake remains underwhelming. In 2018, only 380,000 people were on the medication worldwide. Half of them were in the US, and very few in areas with high HIV prevalence, for example in eastern and southern Africa. “It’s very patchy,” says Rosalind Coleman, a PrEP consultant with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Although every person who regularly takes PrEP helps stem the spread of the virus, “it’s nowhere near enough if we want PrEP to have an impact on the HIV epidemic”, she says.

1-1-20 Could relatives of measles virus jump from animals to us? Some European countries, including the UK, lost their measles-free status and many developing countries, especially parts of Africa, Asia and Oceania are seeing frequent outbreaks. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is experiencing a protracted outbreak of over a quarter of a million cases and more than 5,000 deaths, mainly in children under-five. And the reason for this measles upturn? Declining uptake of measles vaccination. You need to immunise over 90% of a population to protect it from measles outbreaks. In DRC immunisation rates are less than 60%. And there's a potential hidden danger of poor vaccine coverage. Measles belongs to a group of highly related viruses called morbilliviruses, which can be found in various mammals, and these are adept at jumping from one host species to another. The common ancestor of measles virus is thought to have been a virus circulating in cattle which, according to Louise Cosby, emeritus, honorary professor at the Wellcome Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, "probably jumped into humans when cattle were domesticated thousands of years ago". "There are also historical records which suggest that canine distemper virus - or CDV - might have arisen from human measles in the Americas, following one or more human-to-dog spill-overs during extensive measles outbreaks in indigenous people, who were exposed to the virus for the first time when they came into contact with European explorers," she explained. A cross-species spill-over is the transmission of a pathogen from one vertebrate species to another. As CDV has spread around the world, there are many examples of it hopping into other species including seals, cats and even monkeys - often with devastating effects. In the 1980s, this virus wiped out the last wild population of black-footed ferrets and is even putting some endangered big cat species in peril. To be able to flit from one species to another, a virus often has to adapt in order to use the new host cell machinery. We call these potential host-blocks to virus infection the species barrier. The first barrier a virus must overcome is cell attachment and entry. According to Dr Dalan Bailey, a virologist based at the Pirbright Institute, what makes morbilliviruses so adept at cross-species transmission is that the proteins it commandeers to do this are very similar across different mammalian species, so the species barrier is low. And this could pose a potential future risk to human health. "We've definitely got evidence that non-human morbilliviruses can easily adapt to enter human cells, and we're confident that it can replicate in them too," Dr Bailey said. It takes just two simple mutations in one of CDV's surface proteins to allow it to infect human cells.

12-21-19 In a first, an Ebola vaccine wins approval from the FDA
The drug is crucial to efforts to curb an ongoing outbreak of the deadly disease in Congo. An Ebola vaccine, already deployed against the often deadly disease in an ongoing outbreak in Congo, is the first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine, called Ervebo and developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck, underwent testing during the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and was found to be effective at warding off an infection (SN: 12/22/16). Approved for those 18 and older, the vaccine prevents disease caused by one species of Ebola virus, Zaire ebolavirus. The FDA’s action, announced December 19, follows in the footsteps of European regulators’ approval in November (SN: 12/16/19). While cases of Ebola in the United States are extremely rare, the FDA considers the vaccine a crucial tool to stop the spread of the disease. In Congo’s Ebola outbreak, there have been 3,351 cases and 2,211 deaths as of December 18, according to the World Health Organization (SN: 5/21/18). More than 250,000 people have been vaccinated. Health officials working to control the outbreak have been aided by the vaccine as well as experimental treatments for those already infected (SN: 2/11/19). Two of the four treatments proved effective at preventing death from the disease in a clinical trial conducted during the outbreak (SN: 8/12/19). (One of those treatments is made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a major financial supporter of the Society for Science & the Public, which publishes Science News.) The number of new cases has been declining, but conditions in the country remain treacherous for those working to bring the outbreak to an end. In late November, armed attackers killed four workers assisting in the outbreak, including a member of a vaccination team.

12-18-19 2019 saw the tragic and unnecessary return of measles in the US
Once deemed a problem of the past in rich nations, the deadly infection has made a huge comeback, reports Chelsea Whyte. THE shocking resurgence of a deadly but preventable childhood infection this year has led to frustration and shame, and sparked debate about the role of public health systems and the limits of personal liberty. Figures from November revealed that there were 1261 confirmed measles cases in the US this year – up 239 per cent on 2018. This is the highest number of cases since 1992. Most occurred in people who hadn’t been vaccinated against measles, and 123 people were hospitalised. The largest outbreak, in New York City, was curbed just in time. “If it had gone on just one month longer, we would have lost our elimination status as a country,” says Lauren Gardner at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. The UK did lose its World Health Organization elimination status in August. Measles has been bouncing back in Europe since the region’s record low in cases in 2016. But its return in the US has been more sudden. The disease initially took hold in New York state in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities where resistance to vaccination was high and misinformation campaigns that included an anti-vaccination pamphlet deterred parents from following medical guidelines. To stop the disease spreading, Rockland county, New York, banned unvaccinated children from entering public areas such as schools and public transit, while people in New York City were required to provide proof of vaccination as part of investigations to trace the spread of the disease, or face a fine of $1000. Although the science of the benefits of vaccines is clear, there is debate about how best to improve take-up and counter misinformation. A recent study found that California’s 2015 ban on non-medical exemptions for vaccines based on religious or philosophical beliefs had only a very small effect on vaccination rates. (Webmaster's comment: What would you expect of a nation filled with ignorance.)

12-16-19 Measles got a foothold in the United States this year and almost didn’t let go
Areas of low vaccination are blamed for the virus’s almost 12-month stay. n 2019, measles sickened more people in the United States than in any year since 1992. As of December 5, there were 1,276 illnesses reported in 31 states. Two outbreaks in New York accounted for the lion’s share: more than 75 percent of the cases. The New York outbreaks, which began in the fall of 2018, ran almost long enough to strip the United States of its measles elimination status, which it achieved in 2000. To receive that designation from the World Health Organization, a country must go a year without the disease spreading continuously in an area within its borders. There have been U.S. outbreaks since 2000 — most notably, 667 cases in 2014 — but none had threatened to undo elimination (SN Online: 10/4/19). The outbreak in New York City ended on September 3. The other New York outbreak, in Rockland and neighboring counties, ended in early October. “The best way to stop this and other vaccine-preventable diseases from gaining a foothold in the U.S. is to accept vaccines,” Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said in an October 4 statement announcing that the nation was holding on to its elimination status. Many other countries struggled with measles outbreaks this year (SN: 6/8/19, p. 22). As of November 17, Congo had the largest outbreak, with an estimated 250,000 measles cases and more than 5,000 deaths, mostly children under 5. Samoa, with immunization rates as low as 31 percent, was hit hard late in 2019, with more than 3,700 cases and dozens of deaths.

Measles flare-up! U.S. measles cases by year.

12-6-19 Samoan government takes drastic measures to fight measles outbreak
Red flags are flying in Samoa, indicating the houses of people in need of a measles vaccine. An outbreak on the Pacific island has led to drastic government measures to fight off the deadly disease. The Samoan Ministry of Health declared the start of the measles outbreak on 16 October and there have been more than 4300 cases reported since then, including 63 deaths linked to measles. Most of the deaths are among children under the age of 5. The government of Samoa declared an emergency on 19 November, closing schools and restricting children from attending public gatherings. The government also made vaccination mandatory for all 200,000 residents. In the first week after the emergency declaration, public health officials vaccinated 44,907 people, a quarter of the country’s population. As of 5 December, 74 per cent of the population had been vaccinated. The Samoan government undertook a door-to-door mass vaccination campaign on 5 and 6 December to vaccinate people between 6 months old and 60 years old. During that time, the government shut down services so that civil servants could help public health officials administer the vaccine in mobile clinics. Healthcare professionals from New Zealand and Hawaii flew in to help. According to estimates from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, the measles vaccination rate in Samoa fell from 74 per cent in 2017 to 34 per cent in 2018. That may be due in part to hesitancy among parents to vaccinate their children after two Samoan infants died in 2018 due to improperly prepared MMR vaccines. Measles is spreading throughout the region, with outbreaks in Tonga, Fiji, the Philippines and New Zealand.

12-6-19 Samoa arrests vaccination critic amid deadly measles crisis
Samoa has arrested an anti-vaccination campaigner as the country continues to battle a deadly measles outbreak. Edwin Tamasese was charged with incitement against a government order after he was detained on Thursday. The outbreak - which has killed at least 63 people, mostly young children, since October - is in part blamed on people spreading false information, claiming vaccinations are dangerous. Samoa declared a state of emergency, and made vaccinations compulsory. Measles is a highly contagious illness that causes coughing, rashes and fever. Although effective and safe vaccination is available, even some developed countries have seen a resurgence in recent years as unfounded fears about vaccine safety began to spread, often on social media. Samoa's low vaccination rates are in part due to the deaths in 2018 of two children wrongly being attributed to vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella. However, their deaths were due to nurses mixing the vaccine with a muscle relaxant instead of water, and not the vaccine itself. The cases had nonetheless raised local fears, and were exploited by people seeking false proof that vaccines are harmful. His words were echoed by Unicef representative to the Pacific Dr Sheldon Yett, who told the BBC earlier this month that "people who are spreading lies and misinformation about vaccinations are killing children". "The best way to keep children safe is to make sure they're immunised. Preventing vaccination and presenting false information kills children. That is clear - the evidence speaks for itself." Vaccination is not the only way Samoa is trying to end the outbreak. Earlier this week unvaccinated families were asked to hang a red flag outside their homes, while all schools have been closed and children under 17 are banned from public gatherings.

12-4-19 Samoa measles: Unvaccinated families told to hang red flag on door
Families that have not been vaccinated against measles in the Pacific nation of Samoa have been asked to hang a red flag outside their homes to help fight a deadly outbreak of the disease. The flags will assist medical teams travelling door to door inoculating residents. The government says more than 4,000 people have been infected with measles out of a population of 200,000. Sixty people have died so far, many of whom were children under five. Samoa declared a state of emergency in November to combat the outbreak and vaccinations are now compulsory. All schools are closed and children under 17 are banned from public gatherings. Samoan officials say the vaccination rate has now reached about 55%. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has vowed to get the figure above 90%. "Our children and people will never become immune to any future epidemic unless we have almost 100% vaccination coverage," he said while touring a hospital ward on Wednesday. "It's the only antidote." Unicef has sent 110,500 vaccines to the country, and New Zealand has sent medicine, nurses and equipment - while battling an outbreak of the disease itself. It usually takes between 10 days and two weeks for a vaccine to start working. Some people are reportedly peddling false treatments. One businessman told Australian broadcaster ABC that his "Kangen Water" - in reality, tap water - could alleviate symptoms. Tonga and Fiji have also declared states of emergency to tackle their measles outbreaks in the last month. However, both countries have far higher vaccination rates - more than 90% in both countries - and have so far not reported any deaths. The Tonga women's rugby team were put in quarantine on Thursday after a measles outbreak. Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to serious health complications, including infections of the lungs and brain. (Webmaster's comment: All unvaccinated people; men, women and children, should be forced to wear a red patch on their clothes that says "I am unvaccinated and a serious danger to your health!")

11-15-19 How measles hurts the immune system
The measles infection is far more harmful than scientists previously thought, reports NPR.org. The virus itself can cause a severe and sometimes fatal illness, but two new studies suggest it can also wipe out patients’ immune systems—leaving them vulnerable to dangerous infections such as flu and pneumonia for months and possibly years. For the studies, researchers examined blood samples from 77 children in the Netherlands who went unvaccinated for religious reasons. The samples were taken before and after the kids contracted the disease during a 2013 outbreak. They found that measles wiped out 11 percent to 73 percent of the children’s antibodies, which provide protection against an array of viruses and bacteria. (Similar tests in vaccinated children found no loss of antibodies.) Scientists call this effect “immune amnesia.” The immune system essentially forgets what it needs to do to fight colds, flu, stomach bugs, and other illnesses, including illnesses for which the person has been vaccinated. “Measles is much more than a rash,” says Harvard Medical School’s Michael Mina, who led one of the studies. “It’s got these very long-term, stealth-like detrimental effects that are extraordinarily difficult to measure.” Researchers note that the introduction of the measles vaccine in the 1960s was followed by a sharp decline in deaths from other childhood diseases—a shift that could reverse if vaccination rates continue to decline.

11-14-19 Improved rabies vaccine could be better and cheaper
Tweaking the rabies vaccine to spur the body into mounting a stronger immune response could lead to more effective and cheaper treatments. This could help save some of the 60,000 lives thought to be lost to the disease each year. Around the world, more than two in three people live in regions where rabies is endemic. Something as simple as a dog bite or scratch from a bat can transmit the virus, but symptoms may not emerge for weeks or even months. If the infected person hasn’t received medical treatment by then, the death rate is virtually 100 per cent. Unfortunately, the vaccines used both to protect people from a possible infection and to treat them afterwards are expensive and need multiple rounds to work. This prompted James McGettigan at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania and his colleagues to search for a way to make them quicker and more powerful. The current vaccines use inactive virus to trigger special types of cells in the body, known as B cells. These cells remember the virus and produce antibodies against it if they see it again. The team exploited this by attaching an additional protein to the surface of the inactive virus, called the B cell activating factor. This binds directly to B cells and alerts them to the existence of the pathogen more quickly than the traditional vaccine does. When the researchers tested this modified vaccine on mice, they found that the levels of antibodies in their blood jumped quicker and higher than in mice that had been given the traditional vaccine. Within five days, mice who were given the new vaccine had twice the level of virus-neutralising antibodies in their blood of the other mice, and by seven days this had risen to five times. The team also found the mice needed less of the vaccine to get the same immune response, and that this immunity wasn’t any more likely to fade over time.

11-7-19 A new dengue vaccine shows promise — at least for now
Further study is needed to ensure people aren’t left vulnerable to future infections. The latest dengue vaccine reduced the occurrence of the disease by about 80 percent in children vaccinated compared with unvaccinated children, researchers report. But the full picture of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness is still under study, and won’t emerge for several more years. Dengue is responsible for an estimated 390 million infections each year. There’s no cure for the viral disease, which can cause fever, aches, pain and — in severe cases — bleeding, vomiting and rapid loss of blood pressure, which can be fatal. Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to developing severe disease. The new vaccine, under development by Takeda Vaccines, is called TAK-003. Among 12,700 children ages 4 to 16 who were given two doses of TAK-003 three months apart, 61 infections occurred, compared with 149 cases among 6,316 children not given the vaccine. TAK-003 also reduced the occurrence of dengue cases that lead to hospitalization by 95 percent: Of the 210 cases of dengue, there were five hospitalizations among the vaccinated children compared with 53 in the unvaccinated ones, researchers report online November 6 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The results describe how the vaccine performed in the year after the second dose; the children, from Asia and Latin America, will continue to be followed another 3½ years. Dengue, one of the world’s most rapidly spreading mosquito-borne diseases, is gaining footholds in new areas thanks to global travel, urbanization and climate change (SN: 10/7/19). Along with measures to control mosquito populations, developing a vaccine is seen as key to fighting dengue, says Derek Wallace, a physician who heads the dengue vaccine development program at Takeda Vaccines in Cambridge, Mass.

11-6-19 Experimental dengue vaccine cuts infection rates in real-world trials
An experimental vaccine for dengue fever is 80 per cent effective at preventing infections, according to preliminary results from a large clinical trial. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne illness that affects around 390 million people each year. If untreated, it has a mortality rate of 20 per cent. The first vaccine against dengue, called Dengvaxia, began to be rolled out in the Philippines in 2016, but the campaign was halted the following year when safety concerns came to light. Trials showed that the vaccine increases the risk of serious illness in people who have never had a dengue infection. Earlier this year, US regulators approved Dengvaxia, but said it should only be given to people if tests show they have previously been infected with the virus. The new vaccine, developed by Japanese pharmaceutical firm Takeda, is based on a weakened live virus. It has been compared with a placebo in a trial involving more than 20,000 children aged 4 to 16 at 26 sites in Asia and Latin America. Each child received two doses of the vaccine, three months apart. The current results are based on one year of follow-up after the second dose, but a further three years are planned. Unlike Dengvaxia, the new vaccine appears to work well both for people with previous exposure to the virus and for those without. There are four versions of the dengue virus circulating. The vaccine seems to offer good protection against one type and partial protection against at least two of the others. Based on what happened with Dengvaxia, we must wait for more time to find out if these protective results are stable, says Scott Halstead, a retired dengue researcher. Duane Gubler at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, who is a patent holder of the new vaccine, says the results look promising. “If these results hold during long-term follow-up and if the vaccine shows a significant reduction in severe disease, this vaccine, if used properly, could have a major impact on our ability to prevent and control the pandemic of dengue currently ravaging the world,” he says.

11-5-19 50 years ago, cancer vaccines were a dream
Now, researchers are enlisting the immune system to combat the disease. The dream of a cancer vaccine is still just that — a dream. But experimenters at Emory University in Atlanta have shown that the basic mechanism — stimulation of an immune response — can take place. Researchers have devised several ways of getting the immune system to prevent or control cancer. Vaccinations against human papillomavirus, or HPV, prevent infections that cause cervical and other cancers. Hepatitis B vaccines may head off some forms of liver cancer. Other strategies, like CAR-T cell therapy and PD-1 blockade therapy (SN: 7/11/15, p. 14), prompt T cells of the immune system to go after tumors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first PD-1 blockade therapy in 2011 and then two CAR-T cell therapies in 2017 for patients with certain types of cancers (SN: 12/23/17 & 1/6/18, p. 29). Overstimulating the immune system can produce severe side effects, so scientists are working to develop safer options (SN: 7/7/18, p. 22).

11-4-19 California's strict vaccination laws may only have a small effect
Officials in US states and cities are trying several strategies to limit the number of people who go unvaccinated, which has become more urgent after recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. In California, these measures have resulted in a slight decrease in the number of unvaccinated children in schools, but they haven’t fully counteracted the effects of hesitancy over whether to vaccinate. California passed a law in 2015 that banned non-medical exemptions based on religious or philosophical beliefs for parents who wanted to opt out of vaccinating their children. It is not the only place to do so – Washington state enacted a similar law in 2019, and New York City went so far as to mandate that all people in an area with a large measles outbreak had to be vaccinated or face fines. But will these laws work? To find out, Paul Delamater at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his colleagues analysed data from California. The team estimated the proportion of schoolchildren whose parents claimed an exemption to vaccination rules based on vaccination and enrolment data for kindergarteners and seventh graders – the grades at which schools in California check vaccine status, which corresponds to around 5 and 12 years old. As of now, the California law change seems to have resulted in 0.5 per cent fewer unvaccinated children. If the law remains, the researchers found that by 2027, the percentage of children with any vaccine exemption would decrease from 2.59 per cent to 1.87 per cent, where the rate is likely to stabilise. The team also examined the effect of another law in California, which increased scrutiny on medical exemptions – because these are sometimes inappropriately used when non-medical exemptions are unavailable. In that scenario, the percentage of children with vaccine exemptions would be reduced to 1.41 per cent by 2027. If neither law was repealed or had never been enacted, their models show that the rate would stabilise at 2.36 per cent.

11-1-19 New details on immune system ‘amnesia’ show how measles causes long-term damage
After the disease, fewer antibodies are left in the body that recognize other viruses. Measles wages war on cells of the immune system. Now two tallies of the carnage, described in the Nov. 1 Science and Science Immunology, offer even more compelling support for the measles vaccine. The measles virus infects immune cells and erases their memories of earlier threats, raising the risk of contracting other infections for up to three years (SN: 5/21/19). Researchers including geneticist Stephen Elledge, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, put numbers to this erasure with a tool called VirScan. It measures antibodies, proteins made by immune cells that recognize previously encountered infections, in blood. With VirScan, the researchers searched human blood for antibodies, each of which recognized one of about 400 infectious viruses, as well as some bacteria. Blood tested from 77 unvaccinated Dutch children, taken before and about seven weeks after a bout of measles, showed that the children’s immune systems suffered after the disease. Kids lost from 11 to 73 percent of their antibodies for specific threats, including viruses that cause common colds and a type of severe respiratory illness in young children, the team reports in Science. Measles infections also interfere with the body’s ability to replenish a type of memory-storing immune cell called B lymphocytes, scientists report in Science Immunology. Together, the results show how measles is a particularly damaging virus, and attest to the “immense public health value of the measles vaccine,” the researchers write in Science.

10-31-19 Measles has a devastating and long-term effect on your immune system
Measles is known to make children vulnerable to other infections. Now two major studies of Dutch Orthodox Protestants, who reject vaccination, have discovered why: it massively damages the immune system, making measles even more lethal than we realised. That is bad news, as measles cases worldwide rise to levels not seen since 2006, increasing tenfold in Africa and doubling in Europe. They have reached the highest numbers in years in the US and England. There were 7 million cases worldwide in 2017, but figures expected to be published this December show that numbers rose “substantially” in 2018, says Katrina Kretsinger of the World Health Organization. “All cases are because people who should have been vaccinated were not,” she says, because of weak health systems, poor public information and anti-vaccine sentiment. After measles vaccination was introduced in the 1960s, cases fell dramatically. Mysteriously, wherever that happened, deaths from completely unrelated infections also dropped. In 2015, Michael Mina, now at Harvard University, found that children who have had measles are so much more likely to catch other diseases that such post-measles infections may account for half of all infectious disease deaths in children living in areas where measles circulates. Around 100,000 children died of measles in 2017. Mina suspects that two or three times that number who had measles will later die of other infections they would not have caught if they hadn’t had measles. Now we know why. As we are exposed to pathogens as children, we accumulate specialised immune cells, each of which has learned to make antibodies to attack one particular bit of a pathogen. The measles virus kills these cells, but the impact of this wasn’t known.

10-31-19 Measles makes body 'forget' how to fight infection
Measles has a devastating impact on the body's immune system that could make it harder to fight infections for years, a pair of studies show. The virus can cause "immune amnesia" - meaning the body forgets how to fight bugs it once knew how to beat. Measles also resets the immune system to a "baby-like" state, compromising its ability to devise ways of tackling new infections. Experts said the findings showed the importance of vaccination. Measles is a virus that initially causes a runny nose, sneezing and fever. A few days later it leads to a blotchy rash that starts off on the face and spreads across the body. Most people will recover, but measles can cause life-long disability. It can be deadly, especially if it causes pneumonia in the lungs or encephalitis (swelling in the brain). It is estimated that 110,000 people die from measles each year around the world. The findings were based on detailed analysis of unvaccinated children in an Orthodox Protestant community in the Netherlands. Blood samples were taken from the children, and then again two months after a measles outbreak in 2013. Research groups in the United States, UK and Netherlands were analysing the samples to assess the impact of measles on the immune system. The focus was on antibodies - the tiny proteins that stick to foreign invaders - and the white blood cells that make them. The immune system has a memory of the hostile invaders it has fought off before. Part of this memory is kept in memory B-cells, which are a type of immune cell that has specialised in producing just one type of antibody. But the measles virus can infect and destroy these cells, causing "immune amnesia". Researchers at Harvard Medical School looked at blood samples from 77 children. They used a tool, called VirScan, that is like a fancy fishing rod that can catch thousands of different types of antibodies. It allowed the team to build up an incredibly detailed picture of the children's immune system before and after a measles infection.

10-26-19 The flu vaccine: Everything you need to know
How is it made? How often does it work? And what new research is being done to improve it? Getting a flu shot is a seasonal rite. But why do you need one every year — and why doesn't it always work? Here's everything you need to know:

  1. How does the vaccine work? The flu vaccine contains inactive or weakened versions of three or four different strains of the influenza virus. Most people receive the vaccine via injection, but there is also a nasal spray available.
  2. Do most people get vaccinated? No. Although the U.S. has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, only 45 percent of adults and 63 percent of children get flu shots each year.
  3. How effective is it? The vaccine's effectiveness varies dramatically depending on how well it matches the viruses circulating in a given season. In good years, the vaccine protects 50 to 70 percent of the people receiving it.
  4. What makes flu so tricky? The flu virus is constantly mutating, rendering the body's antibodies against previous flu infections obsolete. Influenza is less stable than other viruses, such as chicken pox, because its main genetic material is RNA.
  5. How are vaccines made? The process hasn't changed much since the first flu vaccines were given to American soldiers in 1945. Over 90 percent of flu vaccines are incubated in fertilized chicken eggs, because the virus grows extremely well in them.
  6. Are improvements possible? In theory, yes. President Trump issued an executive order in September directing the Department of Health and Human Services to create a flu vaccine task force to modernize seasonal vaccine production.
  7. A universal flu vaccine: The holy grail of flu research is a universal vaccine that would provide lasting protection against all forms of the virus, but it remains elusive.

9-26-19 DR Congo: Vaccine campaign for world's largest measles outbreak
More than 800,000 children are to be targeted for vaccination in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after a measles outbreak killed more than 3,500 people this year. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Congolese government aim to carry out the emergency programme across the country in slightly more than a week. The WHO says the epidemic is the world's largest and fastest moving. It has killed more Congolese people this year than Ebola. Despite previous rounds of immunisations, the disease has spread to every part of the country. Lack of routine access to vaccinations and healthcare has contributed to the problem. "The DRC is experiencing a dire situation because too many children were missed by routine immunisation," said Dr Deo Nshimirimana, WHO representative to the DR Congo. "[The outbreak] is deadly because the case management is not there," he told the BBC's Newsday programme. "We don't have the resources really to prevent the disease and also to try to prevent the deaths so... measles is very deadly in this country. We are trying our best really to prevent the disease, but also to try to have resources to get supplies so that we can manage the cases." Every one of the country's 26 provinces has reported cases of measles and is battling to control this outbreak, which the ministry of health declared on 10 June. The campaign aims to vaccinate around 825,000 children in 24 regions, over a period of nine days, the agency said. "As of 17 September, a total of 183,837 suspected measles cases (5,989 confirmed) had been reported in 192 of the 519 health zones nationwide, including 3,667 deaths - which exceed the number of deaths due to Ebola. Nearly all the deaths have been children," the WHO said in a statement. In the country's east, Ebola has claimed more than 2,100 lives since erupting in August last year, and is the second largest outbreak of the disease on record. The largest was the epidemic that ravaged parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016, killing more than 11,000 people.

9-25-19 Rockland’s measles outbreak is over, but U.S. elimination status is still at risk
Health officials still have their eye on measles cases in nearby counties New York state’s measles outbreak, which has been going on so long it raised fears the disease would regain a foothold in the United States, appears to be on the verge of finally ending. Officials in Rockland County, N.Y., on September 25 declared their outbreak over. The New York State Department of Health is still keeping a close eye on whether any new measles cases occur in two nearby counties that are considered part of the outbreak that began in Rockland on October 1. The state’s measles outbreak is the longest-running since the disease’s elimination in the United States in 2000 (SN: 4/24/19). If the virus is determined to be circulating in an area for a year or more, the disease is considered endemic, and that elimination status, a major public health achievement, is lost. That milestone occurs October 2, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Rockland County, there were 312 confirmed measles cases, the last of which occurred August 13. Most of those cases were in people who hadn’t been vaccinated against the disease. The last measles cases in Sullivan County and Orange County, New York, were reported on August 15 and August 19, respectively. A measles outbreak can be declared finished 42 days after the date that the last person with measles developed a rash. That means if there are no new cases, the New York state outbreak could come to an end just before the deadline for losing elimination status. So far this year, measles has reestablished itself in four countries where it previously had been eliminated: the United Kingdom, Greece, Albania and the Czech Republic. In a written statement, the CDC said the agency “is hopeful that the U.S. will maintain its measles elimination status,” but that “we are not out of the woods yet.”

9-21-19 DR Congo to introduce second Ebola vaccine
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo are planning to use a second Ebola vaccine to help control an outbreak that has killed more than 2,100 people. In July, former Health Minister Oly Ilunga opposed its use saying it had not been proved effective. But DR Congo health officials say the vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson, is safe. This outbreak, in the east of DR Congo, is the second largest on record. The largest was the epidemic that ravaged parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016, killing more than 11,000 people. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will complement the vaccine manufactured by Merck which has been administered to 225,000 people in the past year, according to a government statement. But DR Congo's Ebola response team have not yet said when it will be introduced. Addressing concerns over safety, the team said, in a statement quoted by Reuters, that "it is a vaccine that other countries already use. Why can't we use it... to protect our population?" Leading health experts have said that the second vaccine is safe and could be an important tool in holding back the spread of the virus. Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson said it had 1.5 million doses available to be deployed. The current vaccine, which is in short supply, is only being given to health workers and people who might have been exposed to the virus. The new vaccine could create a protective wall, vaccinating people outside the immediate outbreak zone. The Congolese authorities intend to use the second vaccine outside the infected areas in Ituri and North Kivu provinces. They first want to protect the small Congolese traders who regularly cross into Rwanda. There have been concerns that the new vaccine - which requires two injections at least 25 days apart - may be difficult to administer in a region where the population is highly mobile, and insecurity is rife. The Merck vaccine requires just one injection.

9-20-19 Herpes vaccine to be tested in humans after best result yet in animals
Hopes have been raised that we will soon have a vaccine to halt the spread of genital herpes, following an animal study that has achieved better results than any previous trial. More than 1 in 10 people worldwide are infected by the virus. The herpes simplex 2 virus (HSV2) is spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex. People remain infected for life, as some of the HSV2 viruses hide away in nerve cells where they lie dormant. Most people never realise they are infected but others suffer from outbreaks of painful symptoms, including genital lesions. The virus can also cause complications such as meningitis, and is occasionally passed on to babies during birth with fatal results. People are most infectious when they have genital lesions but even those with no symptoms often still shed the virus and can infect others. So far efforts to develop a vaccine have failed. But an experimental vaccine developed by Harvey Friedman at the University of Pennsylvania has prevented genital lesions in all mice and guinea pigs tested. In 98 per cent of mice and 80 per cent of guinea pigs it also prevented the low-level “hidden” infections. Other experimental vaccines regarded as promising enough to test in humans have failed to prevent these hidden infections in animals. “Our results in mice and guinea pigs are very encouraging – better than anything we have seen in the literature,” say Friedman. “But we won’t know if this vaccine will work until it is tested in humans.” Many vaccines consist of modified or inactivated viruses. Friedman’s vaccine is unusual in that it consists of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that code for three HSV2 proteins. When these mRNAs get inside cells in the body, the cells produce the viral proteins, triggering an immune response. No mRNA-based vaccine has yet been approved, but some are already in human trials.

8-29-19 Measles: Four European nations lose eradication status
Measles has returned to four European nations previously seen as free of the illness, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease is no longer considered eradicated in Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece and the UK. "We are backsliding, we are on the wrong track," said Kate O'Brien of the WHO's Immunization Department. Measles is a highly contagious and potentially fatal illness that causes coughing, rashes and fever. The disease can be prevented through two doses of the MMR vaccine, which is available for free for all young children in the UK. Countries are declared measles-free when there is no endemic transmission for 12 months in a specific geographic area. Ms O'Brien said all four European nations that have lost their eradication status have "extremely high" vaccination coverage. "This is the alarm bell that is ringing around the world: being able to achieve high national coverage is not enough, it has to be achieved in every community, and every family for every child," she said. Health experts warn that lies about the measles vaccine have allowed the illness to spread in certain areas or communities. All regions of the world showed an increase in measles bar the Americas, which saw a minor decline - although the US registered its highest number of cases in 25 years. Close to 365,000 cases have been reported worldwide this year, the WHO said, almost three times as many as in the first half of 2018. Dr O'Brien blamed misinformation about vaccines and called on social media companies and community leaders to provide "accurate, valid, scientifically credible information". The Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine are suffering the largest outbreaks of measles. (Webmaster's comment: Measles is back thanks to the anti-vaxxers!)

8-23-19 Breakthrough in the battle against Ebola
Ebola could soon be classified as a curable disease, now that two experimental treatments have been shown to massively cut the death rate for patients with the hemorrhagic virus. Scientists have been testing four different drugs in Congo, where a yearlong Ebola epidemic has killed at least 1,800 people. The death rate for Ebola, which causes catastrophic internal bleeding, has been about 70 percent in the current outbreak. But the mortality rate went down to 29 percent for patients who received a drug from U.S. firm Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and to 34 percent for those who took a drug from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which is also American. Among patients who began treatment soon after developing symptoms, when the disease is easier to treat, rates fell to 6 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The drugs use monoclonal antibodies: Y-shaped proteins that recognize the shape of the Ebola virus and call on immune cells to attack it. This breakthrough could transform the fight against Ebola. Many infected people in Congo have been reluctant to seek medical care, because they have seen family members go into treatment centers and come out dead. “Now that 90 percent of patients can go into the treatment center and come out completely cured, they will start developing trust,” Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum, from Congo’s federal medical research institute, tells CNN.com. “These advances will help save thousands of lives.”

6-22-19 The medical student who died of measles
Until recently health authorities thought they had almost eliminated measles from Europe. But now the potentially deadly illness is on the rise because of a dramatic fall in vaccination rates. Worst hit is Ukraine, now suffering the one of the worst measles epidemics in the world, with more than 100,000 cases since 2017. On an autumn day in 2017, Oksana Butenko waved goodbye to her teenage son Serhiy as he set off for university to study to become a doctor. Eighteen months later, in February this year, she brought his body back to her small village in western Ukraine in a coffin. The young man who wanted to devote his life to curing people of diseases had himself died at age 18, suddenly, of an illness health authorities say is completely preventable - measles, a disease they thought, a few years ago, they had almost eradicated in Europe. "He was a brilliant boy," Oksana says, standing outside the little silver-domed village church where her son's funeral was held. "He was the most precious thing I ever had. It was his dream to become a medic, that's what he lived for. "I don't know why it happened. I remember my childhood, everyone got measles, but they all recovered." Measles is a highly contagious disease that most people get over after a couple of weeks of high temperature, and an unpleasant skin rash. But in a few cases - one or two in a thousand - it leads on to fatal complications, most commonly pneumonia. Serhiy died of pneumonia brought on by measles after several days in intensive care, infection eating away at his lungs, unable to breathe without artificial ventilation. He was one of 39 people to have died of measles in Ukraine since the current outbreak began in 2017. Measles has been surging across Europe, with the number of new cases tripling last year to 82,596. The majority of those were in Ukraine, with 53,218 catching the disease.

6-21-19 Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel was widely criticized after she lobbied against a California bill last week that would tighten vaccination requirements amid a nationwide measles outbreak. The actress, 37, met with state legislators in Sacramento to oppose the legislation, and posed with anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who called her stance “courageous.” State legislators say the bill would stop the practice of parents pressuring their doctors to give their kids bogus medical exemptions from vaccinations, by requiring the exemptions to be granted by state health officials. Biel said she was “not against vaccinations” but wanted parents to have “the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside physicians.” In 2015, it was reported that Biel and her husband, Justin Timberlake, planned to not vaccinate their son. Democratic State Sen. Richard Pan of California, a pediatrician who introduced the bill, said privileged parents like Biel “put all of us, our children, and our communities, at risk.”

6-21-19 Inside Italy's war over vaccines
Scientists say, repeatedly, that vaccines have never been safer - or more effective. So why do some people still refuse to trust them? Outbreaks of diseases are happening in countries where they haven't been seen for decades. And the number of people choosing not to vaccinate their children seems to be on the rise. It's one of the top ten global health risks this year, according to the WHO. BBC Population Reporter Stephanie Hegarty went to Italy, where vaccines have become a big issue in recent years, to explore a debate that's riddled with misinformation and fake news.

6-19-19 Labelling people "anti-vaxxers" ignores real roots of their concerns
There’s no doubt everyone should vaccinate – but to combat “anti-vax” we must understand the legitimate reasons for some communities’ mistrust, says Furaha Asani. MEASLES is making a shocking return to the US. At the heart of this return is a growing reluctance by some groups in society, fanned by social media, to have their children vaccinated, citing mistrust of government, big pharma and scientists in pushing inoculation. It is easy to dismiss “anti-vaxxers” as just misinformed and misguided. But vaccine mistrust isn’t monolithic. To fully and respectfully engage with people, the reasoning behind different communities’ doubts must be unpacked with nuance. An instructive perspective comes from elsewhere in the world. While the World Health Organization reports that vaccine uptake is increasing globally, 60 per cent of children who didn’t receive routine immunisations in 2017 came from just 10 countries in Asia and Africa. A deep-rooted mistrust of Western health interventions is one cause. Take the malaria vaccine RTS, S, which Glaxo Smith Kline rolled out as part of a pilot study in Malawi earlier this year, with Ghana and Kenya set to follow. RTS,S is up to 40 per cent effective at preventing malaria in young children. Not great, but this is the first proven vaccine against a disease that kills 1200 people a day worldwide, most of them children in Africa. Yet the trial has provoked a backlash, with concerns ranging from Africans being used as guinea pigs in an unethical trial to it being a plot to sterilise local populations.

6-19-19 What are vaccines, how do they work and why are people sceptical?
Vaccines have saved tens of millions of lives in the past century, yet in many countries health experts have identified a trend towards “vaccine hesitancy” – an increasing refusal to use vaccination. The World Health Organization estimates that vaccines prevented at least 10 million deaths in just five years between 2010 and 2015. It says vaccines have been one of the biggest success stories of modern medicine. The World Health Organization (WHO) is so concerned that it has listed this trend as one of the 10 threats to global health in 2019. How was vaccination discovered? Before vaccines existed, the world was a far more dangerous place, with millions dying each year to now preventable illnesses. The Chinese were the first to discover an early form of vaccination in the 10th Century. Eight centuries later, British doctor Edward Jenner noticed how milkmaids caught mild cowpox, but rarely went on to contract the deadly smallpox. In 1796 Jenner carried out an experiment on eight-year-old James Phipps. The doctor inserted pus from a cowpox wound into the boy, who soon developed symptoms. Once Phipps had recovered, Jenner inserted smallpox into the boy but he remained healthy. The cowpox had made him immune. In 1798, the results were published and the word vaccine - from the Latin 'vacca' for cow - was coined. What have been the successes? Vaccines have helped drastically reduce the damage done by many diseases in the past century. About 2.6m people were dying from measles every year before the first vaccination for the disease was introduced in the 1960s. Vaccination resulted in an 80% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2017 worldwide, according to the WHO. Only a few decades ago, paralysis or death was a very real concern as millions fell victim to polio. Now polio has almost disappeared.

Vaccination has helped reduce cases of mumps, measles and rubella.

Polio has almost disappeared worldwide.

6-19-19 Vaccines: Low trust in vaccination 'a global crisis'
Public mistrust of vaccines means the world is taking a step backwards in the fight against deadly yet preventable infectious diseases, warn experts. The biggest global study into attitudes on immunisation suggests confidence is low in some regions. The Wellcome Trust analysis includes responses from more than 140,000 people in over 140 countries. The World Health Organization lists vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health. The global survey reveals the number of people who say they have little confidence or trust in vaccination. When asked if vaccines were safe: 79% "somewhat" or "strongly" agreed, 7% somewhat or strongly disagreed. When asked if they believed vaccines worked: 84% agree either strongly or somewhat, 5% either strongly or somewhat disagree. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defence against deadly and debilitating infections, such as measles. Vaccines protect billions of people around the world. They have completely got rid of one disease - smallpox - and are bringing the world close to eliminating others, such as polio. But some other diseases, such as measles, are making a resurgence and experts say people avoiding vaccines, fuelled by fear and misinformation, is one of the main causes. Dr Ann Lindstrand, an expert in immunisation at the WHO, said the current situation was extremely serious. "Vaccine hesitancy has the potential, at least in some places, to really hinder the very real progress the world has made in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases," she said. "Any resurgence we see in these diseases are an unacceptable step backwards." Countries that were close to eliminating measles have been seeing large outbreaks. Data shows a rise in cases in almost every region of the world, with 30% more cases in 2017 than 2016. (Webmaster's comment: In the United States 11% think vaccines are unsafe, and 6% think they do not work. We better brace ourselves for mass outbreaks of diseases. We're asking for epidemics!)

6-19-19 Immunisation: Why we do it and how 'herd immunity' works
This is how vaccines work, why they’re important and what the phrase “herd immunity” actually means.

6-19-19 ‘My mum didn’t vaccinate me – this is what happened next’
Meredith's mother was suspicious about vaccines and would never let her have them as a child. For a while it didn't seem to matter, but eventually Meredith (not her real name) starting coming down with some frightening illnesses. It started when I accidentally stood on a nail. Some time afterwards my jaw and shoulder started to seize up and paramedics rushed me to the closest hospital in an ambulance. It was a teaching hospital in Brisbane and I remember vividly that the doctor left the room saying quietly, "Oh my God!" He brought in all the medical students to take a look at me. It was tetanus - also known as lockjaw. They hadn't had a patient diagnosed with tetanus in over 30 years. I was determined and said: "I'm not going to die at 36 because of tetanus." Despite the pain, I felt angry towards my mother, because she deliberately didn't get me vaccinated. The doctors took white blood cells from someone who had already had tetanus - cells that had proved that they were "seasoned fighters" - and injected them into me to help my white blood cells recognise the illness and fight it. With this treatment, eventually I got better. But I was still angry, because this is something that could've been completely prevented. My mum, grandma and aunties are all quite "mystical" and definitely hippies. They tend to believe that the body naturally heals itself. If I had a cold, growing up in New Zealand, I was told, "Eat a cucumber," or, "Have a drink of what the neighbour made." My grandma subscribes to a magazine that gives you tips on how to live better. From this magazine, she ordered a glow stick that cost $200. I know that it's a glow stick because when you snap it, it glows. But she thinks it's a wand that you touch food with, to "give it life".

6-10-19 Big data 'can stop malaria outbreaks before they start'
A ground-breaking study in Bangladesh has found that using data from mobile phone networks to track the movement of people across the country can help predict where outbreaks of diseases such as malaria are likely to occur, enabling health authorities to take preventative measures. Every year, malaria kills more than 400,000 people globally - most of them children. Menpaw Mro lifted his young daughter on to his shoulders and began the long journey to the nearest hospital, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, first on foot, then by boat and finally in a small motorised rickshaw. Time was desperately short. For several days, he had assumed the fever afflicting six-year-old Rum Rao Mro was not serious and she would soon recover at home, in their village in this remote region of Bangladesh. Instead, the fever steadily worsened, putting her life in danger. "She could not sleep, she was crying all the time and had breathing difficulties," he says. They never reached the hospital. Rum Rao died on the last leg of the journey. She'd been suffering from severe malaria. Although in many areas of Bangladesh the number of people falling ill or dying from the malaria has dropped dramatically in recent years, it remains a persistent problem in the Chittagong Hill Tracts - with the region recording the highest number of cases in the country. If these stubborn pockets of malaria were now to be tackled successfully, it would open up the tantalising possibility of Bangladesh finally being able to declare itself free of the deadly disease. But doctors in the Hill Tracts believe they have only a short window of time to achieve this, because the parasites carrying the disease are becoming increasingly drug resistant. Many anti-malarial medicines now have no impact.

5-30-19 Measles record means US could lose eradication status
The number of US measles patients has reached a record high and may cause the nation to lose its "measles elimination status", US health officials say. Sixty new cases were reported in the past week, bringing this year's total to 971 cases in 26 US states - the highest since 1994. The disease was declared effectively eliminated from the US in 2000. Recent outbreaks have been attributed to foreign travellers spreading it to those lacking vaccinations in the US. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement on Thursday: "If these outbreaks continue through summer and fall, the United States may lose its measles elimination status. "That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health. "The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1963 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task." The statement added that previously between three and four million Americans were diagnosed with the sometimes-fatal illness each year, leading to an estimated 400-500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalisations. Earlier this year, Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases testified to lawmakers that more must be done to prevent the spread of the disease. "I consider it an irony that you have one of the most contagious viruses known to man juxtaposed against one of the most effective vaccines they have," he said. "Yet we don't do and have not done what could be done - namely eliminate, eradicate the virus." This year's tally of 971 means the US has already broken the 1994 record - 963 infections - in only the first five months of 2019.

5-17-19 Compulsory vaccines are needed to keep measles under control in the UK
The UK should consider introducing compulsory measles vaccinations before children start school, according to a team of researchers in Italy. Their analysis of international measles data suggests that current vaccination policies are not enough to keep the virus under control. The team looked at vaccination trends in multiple countries, including the UK, US, Australia, and Ireland. They concluded that, in order to keep the percentage of the population susceptible to catching measles under 7.5 per cent by 2050 – the level at which measles is regarded as eliminated – further action is needed. Either far more people need to be vaccinated, or a schools policy should be brought in, say the team. In their analysis, they found that an estimated 3.7 per cent of the UK population across all ages was susceptible to measles in 2018. Without any change to vaccination policies, this is expected to increase to more than 5.5 per cent by 2050. But compulsory vaccination at school entry, in addition to current routine immunisation programs, would enable the UK, Ireland and US to reach stable herd immunity levels in the coming decades, says team member Stefano Merler, of the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trento. There were 966 measles cases in England last year, up from 259 in 2017. Anti-vaccination groups may be behind a number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children with the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). “Vaccine rejection is a serious and growing public health time-bomb,” says Simon Stevens, of NHS England. Social media firms should have a zero-tolerance approach towards dangerous and inaccurate stories, he says.

5-17-19 Vaccines may help bats fight white nose syndrome
Oral inoculation would spread from bat to bat through nuzzles. Oral vaccines could give wild bats a better chance at surviving white nose syndrome, the fungal disease that has ravaged bat colonies in North America. In lab tests conducted on captured little brown bats, vaccination led to fewer infected bats developing lesions and more of the bats surviving, researchers report May 1 Scientific Reports. White nose syndrome, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has killed around 7 million bats in the United States since 2006. In some regions, the disease cut some bat colonies by 75 percent. The white fuzz grows across bats’ skin when the animals hibernate, eventually making them wake up, fly around and waste energy needed to survive winter (SN Online: 1/29/16). “It’s just devastating to some bat populations,” says veterinarian Elizabeth Falendysz at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc. Falendysz and colleagues made two vaccines against the fungus by implanting raccoon poxviruses with DNA instructions for making one of two fungal proteins, in order to trick the bats’ immune system into recognizing and fighting the fungus. (Vaccines that helped in rabies eradication efforts and in fighting plague in prairie dogs rely on the same mechanism.) Wild little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) were vaccinated before being exposed to the fungus. Of 10 bats given a combination of both vaccines, only one developed lesions within the experiment’s 100-day hibernation period. Because little brown bats don’t do well in captivity, the team struggled with dwindling sample sizes, so it was hard to compare these numbers to other individual treatments. But 14 of the other 23 bats, or 61 percent, that didn’t get this vaccine combo developed lesions.

5-10-19 Every country worldwide is now using the most effective polio vaccine
Mongolia and Zimbabwe have added the inactivated polio vaccine to their routine immunisation programmes. They were the last two countries in the world not to use this form of the vaccine. Polio is a contagious viral infection that mainly affects young children and can lead to paralysis or death. It has been largely contained throughout Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, and cases have fallen from 350,000 in 1988 to just 33 reported cases in 2018, according to the World Health Organisation. That decrease has predominantly been due to the oral polio vaccine, which contains a weakened form of the virus that triggers the immune system to create antibodies to fight off the disease. This form of the vaccine is effective but in rare cases it can mutate and cause vaccine-derived poliovirus. The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) creates antibodies that can better enter the central nervous system and provide more protection, but must be administered through injection by a trained health worker. Three countries have large outbreaks of wild poliovirus – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – though Nigeria hasn’t reported any cases due to wild poliovirus in 2019 yet. Afghanistan has had 7 cases of wild poliovirus this year and Pakistan has had 11. In both countries, resistance to the vaccine is fierce and has resulted in outbreaks of violence and attacks that have led to the deaths of health workers administering it. Pakistan’s health minister Zafar Mirza said in a statement that pockets of under-immunised children are allowing the virus to survive, but it could be possible to end transmission of the disease by the end of the year.

5-8-19 Kentucky teen who sued over vaccine gets chickenpox
A US teenager who took legal action against his school after he was banned for refusing the chickenpox vaccination now has the virus, his lawyer says. Jerome Kunkel, 18, made headlines last month after he unsuccessfully sued his Kentucky school for barring unimmunised students amid an outbreak. His lawyer, Christopher Weist, told US media that the teen's symptoms developed last week. The student had opposed the vaccine on religious grounds. His lawsuit argued the vaccine is "immoral, illegal and sinful" and that his rights had been violated. The ban from his school, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton, came during an outbreak that sickened at least 32 pupils. Mr Weist told NBC News his young client did not regret his decision to remain unvaccinated. "These are deeply held religious beliefs, they're sincerely held beliefs," Mr Wiest said. "From their perspective, they always recognised they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it." The Northern Kentucky Health Department excluded unvaccinated students from classes and extracurricular activities from 14 March. A Kentucky judge sided with the health department in April, saying the 18-year-old did not have a right to play sports. The teenager's father, Bill Kunkel, said the vaccines were derived from aborted foetuses, which went against his family's religious beliefs. Some viruses used to make vaccines are grown with cells descended from matter that was sourced from two human foetuses electively aborted in the 1960s. But no new human cells have been used since then to produce vaccines, according to health authorities and drug manufacturers. (Webmaster's comment: The height of human stupidity knows no bounds!)

4-23-19 Innovative child malaria vaccine to be tested in Malawi
A large-scale pilot of what has been called the world's first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children has begun in Malawi. The RTS,S vaccine trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquito bites. Earlier, smaller trials showed that nearly 40% of the 5-to-17-month-olds who received it were protected. Malaria cases appear to be on the rise again after a decade of success in combating the deadly disease. "This is a landmark moment for immunisations, malaria control, and public health," Dr Kate O'Brien, Director of Immunisation and Vaccines at the World Health Organization, told the BBC. According to the most recent annual figures, global malaria cases are no longer falling, sparking concerns about its resurgence. Malawi is the first of three countries chosen for the pilot to roll out the vaccine. It aims to immunise 120,000 children aged two years and below. The other two countries, Ghana and Kenya, will introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks. The three countries were picked because they already run large programmes to tackle malaria, including the use of bed nets, yet still have high numbers of cases. Malaria kills some 435,000 people around the world each year, the majority of them children. Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 250,000 children die every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr O'Brien said that malaria is "a really difficult disease to develop a vaccine against". An early trial of the vaccine began in 2009. "There were seven countries participating in a large trial where over 15,000 children participated," Dr David Schellenberg, who has been working on the development of the vaccine with the WHO, told the BBC's Newsday programme. "[The trial] showed pretty clearly that this vaccine is safe and it is efficacious in terms of its ability to prevent clinical malaria episodes and also severe malaria episodes," he said.

3-31-19 The virtues of West Virginia's vaccine policy
And why the rest of the country should take note. West Virginia is not known for its public heath advances. Since 2016, a raging opioid epidemic has consumed the state, which consistently ranks in the bottom 10 for overall health outcomes. Its residents face some of the highest rates of obesity, cigarette use, and mortality in the country. But when it comes to immunization policy, West Virginia is the gold standard. How did this happen? The state legislature has maintained strong vaccination policies for decades, resisting political pressure to expand exemptions to vaccination mandates. It's the only state that has never had non-medical exemptions, and, as a result, West Virginia has not experienced a measles outbreak in 25 years. In recent decades, a few states (most recently, California) have made similar advances on vaccine policy, often in response to public heath crises. Washington State's Senate voted last week to advance a measure removing non-medical exemptions amid an ongoing measles outbreak. But even more states have done the opposite: Last month, a panel of Arizona lawmakers approved a proposal to expand exemptions, a move research shows can harm herd immunity and increase the risk of outbreak. In tracking the anti-vaccine movement, we tend to focus on the role of a small but vocal contingent of anti-vaxxers. But decades of legislation made that movement possible — and, as West Virginia shows, it can also help fight it. West Virginia is the only state that resisted. Silverman says it has followed an "unbroken" line on vaccine mandates from the 1800s to further protections in 2015. When others were rolling back their policies, the state added mandates for daycare and preschools and set up a review process for medical requests — the kind of measure experts say could help California, which is facing higher rates of medical exemptions after banning personal exemptions in 2015. Silverman says West Virginia's success is largely because of these laws, which kept the exemption process narrow, but also because the state's public health agencies have worked closely with the legislature. Mississippi followed West Virginia's lead in 1979, when its Supreme Court found the state's religious exemptions to be unconstitutional — the only such ruling so far. The court cited a previous ruling, Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that determined "the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death." Mississippi, like West Virginia, has some of the highest vaccination rates in the country and hasn't had a measles outbreak since 1992. "Neither state has had an outbreak of measles in 25-plus years," Silverman says. "That in and of itself shows it's good public health practice. Why create problems when the system you have works?" (Webmaster's comment: Unvaccinated children and their parents should be penned up someplace away from the rest of us so their disease carrying children do not infect us!)

3-27-19 New York county declares measles outbreak emergency
A county in New York state has declared a state of emergency following a severe outbreak of measles. Rockland County, on the Hudson river north of New York City, has barred unvaccinated children from public spaces after 153 cases were confirmed. Violating the order will be punishable by a fine of $500 (£378) and up to six months in prison. The announcement follows other outbreaks of the disease in Washington, California, Texas and Illinois. Vaccination rates have dropped steadily in the US with many parents objecting for philosophical or religious reasons, or because they believe discredited information that vaccines cause autism in children. "We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said. "This is a public health crisis and it is time to sound the alarm." The outbreak in Rockland County is largely concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the New York Times reported. It is believed it could have spread from other predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas around New York which have already seen outbreaks of measles. Mr Day said health inspectors had encountered "resistance" from some local residents, which he branded "unacceptable and irresponsible". "They've been told 'We're not discussing this, do not come back' when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations," he said. Dylan Skriloff, the editor of local newspaper the Rockland County Times, told the BBC the number of measles cases in the county had been increasing steadily in recent weeks. "The first reports came six months ago, and each week we've had a new report with increased numbers," he said. "It's become clear that it's not abating, and the authorities... don't want to accept [this reality] as the new normal." Skriloff said that the authorities had been making "steady progress" in encouraging religious communities to immunise children but communication had broken down in the last month. "The rate of immunisation in the religious communities, for young people, it's about 50%-60%, which is not nearly enough." (Webmaster's comment: All those who do not vaccinate their children and their unvaccinated children should be locked up away from society. They are danger to us all.)

Confirmed cases of measles in the United States 2010-2019

3-13-19 Italy bans unvaccinated children from schools after measles outbreaks
As countries around the world grapple with rise of “anti-vax” sentiment, non-vaccinating parents in Italy face fines or their children being turned away from school. Italy made vaccinations compulsory for children attending state schools this week. Children under the age of 6 will be turned away from nurseries and kindergartens unless their parents have provided proof of their vaccination status. Children aged 6 and over won’t be stopped from attending school, but their parents will have to pay fines of €500 (£430). The required vaccines include measles, mumps and rubella, known as MMR, as well as chickenpox and polio. Children’s immunisation rates have been falling in many Western countries for the past couple of decades, stemming from mistaken fears that vaccines carry health risks. Only a minority of places have made vaccinations mandatory for attending school. These include France, Germany, the US and parts of Australia. In Italy, the law was introduced in 2017 but there have been tussles over whether and when it would come into force. Parents had until this week to provide immunisation certificates to schools, so parents in some regions are now being sent letters saying their child has been suspended. Health officials seek to get vaccination rates up to 95 per cent, the level that gives herd immunity. This means there are so few unvaccinated people that if one person brings in the disease from elsewhere they are unlikely to come into contact with anyone they can pass it on to. This stops outbreaks from spreading, and so shields infants who are too young to be vaccinated or people who cannot be vaccinated because of an impaired immune system. “These children need to be protected,” says Siddhartha Datta of the World Health Organization.

3-12-19 Italy bans unvaccinated children from school
Italian children have been told not to turn up to school unless they can prove they have been properly vaccinated. The deadline follows months of national debate over compulsory vaccination. Parents risk being fined up to €500 (£425; $560) if they send their unvaccinated children to school. Children under six can be turned away. The new law came amid a surge in measles cases - but Italian officials say vaccination rates have improved since it was introduced. Under Italy's so-called Lorenzin law - named after the former health minister who introduced it - children must receive a range of mandatory immunisations before attending school. They include vaccinations for chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Children up to the age of six years will be excluded from nursery and kindergarten without proof of vaccination under the new rules. Those aged between six and 16 cannot be banned from attending school, but their parents face fines if they do not complete the mandatory course of immunisations. The deadline for certification was due to be 10 March after a previous delay - but as it fell on a weekend, it was extended to Monday. "Now everyone has had time to catch up," Health Minister Giulia Grillo told La Repubblica newspaper. She had reportedly resisted political pressure from deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini to extend the deadline even further. Ms Grillo said the rules were now simple: "No vaccine, no school". (Webmaster's comment: We need the same rule in the United States. We need to keep the disease carriers out of our schools!)

3-7-19 A pill that mimics natural antibodies could fight many kinds of flu
When the next flu pandemic comes, we may be better prepared. A pharmaceutical company has developed a conventional drug that mimics the effect of antibodies that are effective against a wide range of flu viruses. Conventional drugs are cheaper and easier to make and store than antibodies, and can be taken in pill form.. Mice that were give 25 times the normal lethal dose of one flu virus survived after taking the drug, which is known only as JNJ4796. It was also effective in tests on human cells grown in a dish. The hope is that this antibody-mimicking strategy could lead to new treatments for many viral diseases, not just flu. When we are infected by a virus, our immune system defends us by producing antibodies, which are proteins that bind to the virus and prevent them from infecting cells. But it takes days for our bodies to ramp up production, by which time people can become seriously ill. Injecting antibodies can help treat viral infections, but there are several problems. Firstly, antibodies are large proteins that are expensive to make and have to be injected directly into the blood. Secondly, flu antibodies usually are specific to a single strain. So an antibody treatment for the flu making people ill one year, will be useless the next year. But biologists recently discovered antibodies that work against a wide variety of flu viruses because they bind to regions of the virus that seldom change. Several companies are now developing treatments that consist of these “broadly neutralising” antibodies, some of which are already being tested in people seriously ill with flu. But these antibodies are still hard to produce and have to be injected. So Maria van Dongen of pharma company Janssen in the Netherlands and colleagues set out to mimic their effect with a small molecule.

3-6-19 MMR vaccine does not cause autism, study once again confirms
A STUDY of 650,000 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010 has confirmed yet again that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)vaccine doesn’t increase the risk of getting autism. Of the children, 6500 were diagnosed with autism. Those given the MMR vaccine were no more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children who didn’t have the vaccine. The study also didn’t find any link with other vaccinations, or with vaccines being given at a particular age (Annals of Internal Medicine, doi.org/c29w). The study adds to the already abundant evidence that vaccines are safe. Despite this evidence, groundless claims about vaccines continue to spread. Vaccination rates have fallen in many countries and there has been a resurgence in measles – one of the most contagious known viruses.

3-1-19 The anti-vaxxers’ impact
After being officially eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, measles is making a comeback. Officials blame low vaccination rates.

  1. Who has been affected? This year there have been six confirmed measles outbreaks in 10 states, including New York, Texas, and Washington state.
  2. Why are high vaccination rates important? If enough people have their shots, diseases can’t spread as easily, and that protects people who can’t be vaccinated themselves—including very young babies, people with vaccine allergies, and those with compromised immune systems.
  3. Why the objection to vaccines? No major religion specifically prohibits vaccination, but some deeply religious people view it as unnatural or interfering with God’s will.
  4. Are their fears legitimate? There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. A small number of children develop side effects such as a mild rash or soreness; stronger reactions are extremely rare.
  5. How common are such beliefs? Only 2 percent of kids nationwide go unvaccinated for nonmedical reasons. But a much larger number of parents delay or skip some vaccines because of their fears about safety.
  6. >What’s being done? Eleven states have passed laws tightening requirements for vaccine exemptions. California passed one of the strictest laws in the country in 2015, abolishing all nonmedical exemptions, after a measles outbreak that began in Disneyland sickened dozens of unvaccinated children.
  7. Vaccines and the internet: Social media has become one of the main sources of vaccine misinformation. A study in the United Kingdom by the Royal Society for Public Health found that half of all parents with young children in the country were exposed to misleading information about vaccines on social media.

3-1-19 A successful flu vaccine
If it seems like fewer people have been sick this winter, there’s a good reason. In its first assessment of this season’s flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that those who had the shot reduced their chances of needing medical care for flu by 47 percent. That’s a significant improvement on last year’s vaccine, which had an estimated efficacy of just 36 percent—a big factor in why last winter was one of the deadliest flu seasons in decades. This year’s shot is proving particularly effective among children, one of the most vulnerable groups, with a success rate of 62 percent. Vaccines differ year by year because scientists have to make educated guesses before the flu season about what strains and mutations of the virus will spread the most. The most prominent strain this year is H1N1, which is less severe than the H3N2 strain that dominated last year. Though relatively mild, the current flu season has so far resulted in 15,900 deaths, compared with about 80,000 total last year. “Flu is still increasing in lots of different places,” the CDC’s Brendan Flannery tells The Washington Post. “It’s still a concern.”

2-25-19 YouTube takes ads off 'anti-vax' video channels
Many YouTube channels pushing anti-vaccination conspiracy theories will no longer get money from adverts. On Friday, YouTube stopped serving ads to lots of popular channels that promote such views. It took the step following protests from firms who discovered their adverts were running alongside the controversial videos. The World Health Organization said anti-vaccine views were a "top 10 global health threat" in 2019. The video-sharing site said it took the step because many of the anti-vaccine channels were promoting "harmful or dangerous " views. "Any misinformation on medical topics is especially concerning," it said in a statement. Alongside the decision to remove ads, it said it was also trying to make "more authoritative content" easier to find on the benefits of vaccination and was also stopping anti-vaccine videos appearing in recommendation lists. It was also planning to create "information panels" on pages that listed sources where people can fact-check information for themselves. It said: "Like many algorithmic changes, these efforts will be gradual and will get more and more accurate over time." The action follows comments in January by Prof Dame Sally Davies, the UK's chief medical officer, who criticised social media for fuelling vaccine fears. Myths peddled about the dangers of vaccines on social media was one reason parents weren't taking their children to get the MMR vaccine, said Dame Sally. She added: "A number of people, stars, believe these myths - they are wrong." YouTube's decision is believed to have been prompted by complaints from large advertisers who did not want their content playing alongside videos promoting anti-vaccine views. Some companies are believed to have pulled all their advertising until YouTube acted. The firms were looking at where their adverts were appearing, following reports last week about paedophiles posting inappropriate comments on many videos featuring children. (Webmaster's comment: The dregs in our societies will have to find some other way to promote their ignorance and evil desires.)

2-24-19 Inside the minds of anti-vaxxers
The World Health Organization recently named a reluctance or refusal to vaccinate one's children as one of the 10 most pressing health issues of 2019. Solving the vaccination gap — and thus preventing problems like the current measles outbreak in Washington State — will require a better understanding of what drives loving mothers and fathers to make the dangerous decision not to inoculate their children. New research from Australia provides valuable insights regarding these parents' underlying motivations. It finds that both hardcore anti-vaxxers and those who are reluctant or hesitant to vaccinate their children tend to occupy specific moral universes. Intriguingly, the elements that make up their ethical codes are a mix of those usually seen on the political right, and others more prevalent on the political left. Identifying these ethical codes could help shape persuasion campaigns more successfully — and stop authorities from pursuing counterproductive campaigns that could drive more people into the anti-vaccination camp. "Public confidence in vaccination is waning, driven in part by the manufacture of doubt by anti-vaccination activists and websites," writes a research team led by Isabel Rossen and Mark Hurlstone of the University of Western Australia. Their study aimed to determine who is vulnerable to anti-vaccination persuasion, and why. To do so, they utilized moral foundations theory, the structure created by psychologist Jonathan Haidt that identifies the core moral domains that underpin our often-clashing ethical codes. These are defined as harm (ensuring others' well-being); fairness (belief in justice and individual rights); loyalty to one's group (be it nation, religion, or some other body that is integral to your identity); authority (respect for the social hierarchy); purity (the belief that certain aspects of life are holy and should remain unsullied); and one that Haidt and his colleagues are considering adding to the list, liberty/oppression (belief in personal freedom and fighting oppression). These foundations align quite well with the dominant values on each side of the left-right divide. Liberals emphasize harm and fairness, while conservatives place a higher value on loyalty, purity, and respect for authority. But the Australian researchers, whose study is published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, found that anti-vaxxers don't fall squarely along these traditional lines.

2-14-19 Can teenagers get vaccinated without their parents’ permission?
Measles outbreaks are spreading in two neighbouring US states, Washington and Oregon, with the former declaring a public health emergency. These states are among 17 that have laws allowing parents to opt out of vaccinating their children on the basis of personal beliefs. The latest outbreak has seen teenagers turning to social media to ask how they can get vaccinated against their parents’ wishes. Legally, it is a difficult question, because children can’t necessarily make their own medical decisions. Regulations vary from state to state, but in general, some minors can access certain treatments without parental consent. Vaccines are not always specified on this list, but in some states the law is vague enough that a minor could potentially have a legal right to a vaccination. In Oregon, anyone 15 or older can get hospital care, dental and vision services, and immunisations without parental permission. In Washington, minors can receive immunisations without their parents’ consent if their doctor determines they are a “mature minor”, which takes into account their age, ability to understand the treatment and self-sufficiency, although they need not be legally independent to qualify. Other states allow even younger children to access some vaccines. In California, 12-year-olds can consent to medical treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These include the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), which has become a target for anti-vaccination campaigners. “There were lots of claims about things that are bad about the HPV vaccine, which really aren’t founded in any scientific evidence. That created a lot of mistrust among parents,” says Claudia Borzutzky, a physician in the adolescent medicine clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Californian minors can also consent to the hepatitis B vaccine. “We don’t have the same resistance to hepatitis B as we do with other vaccines, which is mysterious to me because all our vaccines have the same efficacy. People forget it’s an STI,” says Borzutzky. Almost every state allows minors to consent to medical care related to reproductive health – birth control, pregnancy testing, abortion – and drug and alcohol abuse services. Some states also let minors access mental-health services and sexual-assault treatment without a parent’s permission.

2-1-19 Washington state in state of emergency
Washington state has declared a state of emergency since an outbreak of the measles virus hit Clark County, with at least 34 cases of the highly infectious and sometimes fatal viral illness. Washington is one of 18 states that permit parents to opt their children out of mandatory measles vaccines for philosophical reasons. In Clark County, 7.9 percent of students got exemptions from vaccination last year. (Webmaster's comment: Some human beings can be so stupid!)

11-30-18 Around the world, reported measles cases jumped 31 percent in 2017
Political unrest and refusal to vaccinate is driving the disease’s surge, health experts say. From 2016 to 2017, the number of reported cases in the region jumped 6,358 percent, to 775, largely fueled by an ongoing outbreak in Venezuela that has since infected thousands more. Along with a spike in measles in Europe, the Venezuela outbreak contributed to a 31 percent worldwide increase in reports of the highly contagious disease in 2017, according to researchers from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Both the Americas and the European regions have the resources to stop measles, and it’s not happening,” says William Moss, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who was not involved with the report. The apparent jump comes after years of steady progress toward reducing the spread of the disease. Even taking the recent rise into account, reported measles cases from 2000 to 2017 have dropped 80 percent worldwide — from 853,479 to 173,330 — as have estimated deaths from the disease, researchers say in the Nov. 30 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Measles vaccination prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths over that time, the report says, though it continues to be a leading cause of vaccine-preventable infant deaths globally. “Global efforts to eliminate measles continue to make progress,” says Rebecca Martin, director of CDC’s Center for Global Health in Atlanta. “Despite these gains, multiple regions have experienced large measles outbreaks in 2017, primarily due to low vaccination coverage nationally or in geographic pockets, illustrating how fragile gains in disease elimination can be.”

11-19-18 Anti-vaccine community behind North Carolina chickenpox outbreak
A North Carolina school with a large anti-vaccine community is at the heart of the state's largest chickenpox outbreak in decades, officials say. On Friday 36 students at Asheville Waldorf School were diagnosed with the disease, the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper reported. The school has one of the state's highest rates of religious exemption, allowing students to skip vaccination. US health officials say vaccinating is far safer than getting chickenpox. "This is the biggest chickenpox outbreak state health officials are aware of since the vaccine became available," a North Carolina Department of Health spokesman told the BBC in an emailed statement. Out of the Waldorf School's 152 students, 110 have not received the vaccine for the varicella virus, known to most as chickenpox, the Citizen-Times found. And 67.9% of the school's kindergarten students had religious immunisation exemptions on file in the 2017-2018 school year, according to state data. The primary school is fully co-operating with local health officials and is compliant with all North Carolina laws, a spokesperson for the school told the BBC. "We find that our parents are highly motivated to choose exactly what they want for their children. We, as a school, do not discriminate based on a child's medical history or medical condition." Buncombe County, home to the city of Asheville, with a population of over 250,000, has the highest rate of religious-based immunisation exemptions in the state. Local health officials are closely monitoring the situation, according to the county's health department. "We want to be clear: vaccination is the best protection from chickenpox," County Medical Director Dr Jennifer Mullendore said in a statement. "When we see high numbers of unimmunised children and adults, we know that an illness like chickenpox can spread easily throughout the community- into our playgrounds, grocery stores, and sports teams." North Carolina law requires certain immunisations, including chickenpox, measles and mumps for kindergartners, but the state allows for medical and religious exemptions. (Webmaster's comment: THIS IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN RELIGIOUS IGNORANCE DECIDES. SICK CHILDREN.)

10-26-18 Fewer kids vaccinated
The percentage of American children ages 2 and under who haven’t received any vaccinations has quadrupled over the past 17 years, a worrying sign of the “anti-vax” movement’s success. In 2017, 1.3 percent of kids born in 2015 had received none of the recommended vaccines, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from 0.9 percent for those born in 2011. In 2001, only 0.3 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months were totally unvaccinated. The agency notes “that most children are still routinely vaccinated” and that immunization rates haven’t changed nationally. But if kids born in 2016 were vaccinated at the same rate as those born the previous year, that means there are now some 100,000 children nationwide who aren’t inoculated against preventable diseases such as measles, whooping cough, and hepatitis B. “This is something we’re definitely concerned about,” Amanda Cohn, the CDC’s senior adviser for vaccines, tells The Washington Post.

10-26-18 What the approval of the new flu drug Xofluza means for you
A new single-dose treatment gives doctors a novel way to fight influenza infections. There’s a new flu drug on the shelf, the first in 20 years to get a thumbs-up from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. On October 24, the agency approved the use of the new antiviral drug, called baloxavir marboxil and sold under the brand name Xofluza. The drug, already available in Japan, works differently to kill the influenza virus from the other main class of flu antivirals, which includes the drug Tamiflu. Antiviral drugs can help alleviate symptoms and shorten the flu’s duration, although flu vaccination remains the best way to prevent illness and death caused by the virus. “Prevention is better than treatment in all things and that’s absolutely true for flu,” says infectious disease physician Andrew Pavia of the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City. “So the first message is: Get your flu shot.” Many people aren’t getting that message: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports October 25 that less than 40 percent of adults got a flu shot last year, the lowest amount in at least eight seasons. The 2017–2018 season in the United States was particularly deadly; about 80,000 people died of flu or related complications (SN Online: 9/27/18). The recent bad flu season highlights the importance of having ways to treat the flu, in addition to preventing it. The approval of the new drug is “kind of a big deal in terms of our overall arsenal against flu,” Pavia says.

10-26-18 A mysterious polio-like disease
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning the public about a surge of cases of a rare and mysterious polio-like disease that mostly affects children and can result in paralysis. The agency said last week that it had confirmed 62 cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) across 22 states since the start of the year, reports CBSNews.com. More than 90 percent of those were in children, with the average sufferer being 4 years old. Another 65 possible cases are under investigation. Health officials have been closely monitoring the disease since 2014. Every year since then, normally in late summer, there has been a spike in cases—a pattern that has left researchers baffled. Scientists are still uncertain how AFM, which affects the nervous system, is transmitted. Symptoms include weakened muscles and reflexes, and in some cases paralysis; one child with the disorder died in 2017. Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the CDC, emphasized that the disease was still extremely rare. But she said the agency wanted to raise awareness of the condition and encourage parents to seek immediate medical care if their kids showed any weakness or loss of muscle tone in their limbs.

10-17-18 Chinese firm fined $1.3bn for illegal production of rabies vaccine
A Chinese vaccination firm has been fined $1.3bn (£988m) after it was found to have illegally produced the human rabies vaccine. Changchun Changsheng had blended different batches of vaccine fluid and used expired fluid to produce some of the batches, according to state news agency Xinhua. The company also falsified production data for the vaccine. This is not the first major vaccine scandal to hit China. Changchun Changsheng's pharmaceutical production licence has also been revoked and its illegally produced vaccines have been confiscated. Some of the company's executives may also face criminal charges. "This is the most stringent administrative penalty on record," an official at the China Food and Drug Administration told financial news website Caixin. "The company must be held responsible for its intentional fraud."

9-27-18 The CDC says 80,000 people died from the flu last year
That makes the 2017–2018 flu season one of the deadliest in the United States. In the past year, the flu killed an estimated 80,000 Americans — the country’s highest death toll from flu and related complications in more than a decade, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2017–2018 flu season has been classified as one of “high severity” (SN: 7/7/18, p. 16), with some 900,000 people hospitalized with flu symptoms — the highest hospitalization rate since the 2005–2006 season. A record 180 children died, as of August. Only the 2009 flu pandemic had more child deaths, with 358. The high total death toll was “not surprising,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund says, given that the main virus circulating “was influenza A H3N2, and we know that virus tends to be severe for young children and the elderly.” U.S. health officials are now gearing up for a new flu season. “It is not possible to predict what this flu season will be like,” Nordlund says.

9-27-18 In China, a deadly strain of bird flu now easily infects ducks
A vaccine that protects chickens from the virus works in ducks, too. Some ducks in China now carry a deadly strain of bird flu. Highly pathogenic versions of H7N9 — a bird flu strain that’s proven particularly deadly to people — and H7N2 viruses have turned up in ducks in the Fujian province. These viruses replicate easily in the ducks and can kill them, researchers report September 27 in Cell Host & Microbe. The discovery is worrisome because the virus made the jump to ducks just ahead of efforts to eliminate H7N9 by vaccinating chickens. Since H7N9 began sickening people in 2013, a total of 1,625 people have contracted the bird flu strain and 623 have died. Most of those infected had been in contact with chickens (SN Online: 3/11/15). Initially the virus killed about a third of people who caught it. But in 2016, the virus mutated to become even deadlier in both poultry and people, killing about half of people it infected. A vaccine against the virus protects chickens, and consequently people, the new study found. No human cases of H7N9 have been reported since October 2017. But ducks weren’t vaccinated because the original H7N9 virus didn’t infect them easily. Now, they should be to prevent the deadlier virus strains from spreading to other poultry, wild birds and to people, the researchers write.

9-26-18 A new vaccine raises hopes of someday curbing the tuberculosis epidemic
Two doses cut the disease rate in half for people with a latent TB infection. A new tuberculosis vaccine shows promise in preventing the bacteria from causing disease in people who are infected, but aren’t sick. If approved, it could help control the spread of a disease considered one of the world’s top killers, responsible for 1.6 million deaths in 2017, according to the World Health Organization. In a clinical trial, the new vaccine halved the number of people who developed active TB from latent infections of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, compared with those who received a placebo. Of 1,623 participants treated with two doses of the vaccine and followed for just over two years, 10 went on to develop tuberculosis, an incidence of 0.3 cases per 100 people per year. That’s compared with 22 participants out of 1,660 who received two placebo shots, or 0.6 cases per 100 people per year. The results were reported online September 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine, a day before the United Nations General Assembly’s first high-level meeting on ending tuberculosis. “The results are extremely encouraging,” says Richard Chaisson, an infectious disease physician and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research, who was not involved in the research. “This is the first study of new tuberculosis vaccines that has had such dramatic results.”

8-29-18 Ebola outbreak has killed 75 in the Democratic Republic of Congo
There has been an uptick in deaths caused by the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing the death count for the current outbreak up to 75. THERE has been a sudden uptick in deaths caused by the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bringing the number of people killed in the current outbreak up to 75. In an update on 26 August, the World Health Organization reported 111 cases of the haemorrhagic fever, which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, internal bleeding. Of these, 83 are confirmed cases and 28 are probable. That is more than double the numbers in a previous outbreak in the western part of the DRC that was declared over in June 2018. So far, 13 cases have been reported among health workers, including one death. Of the deaths so far, 47 are confirmed to be due to Ebola, and 28 are deemed probable. The WHO response to the outbreak has been complicated by the fact that its epicentre, North Kivu Province, is ensnared in conflict and contains armed militias. It is also one of the country’s most populated regions and shares a border with Rwanda and Uganda, making it more urgent to contain the outbreak. Five experimental therapies have been approved for use in the region, in an attempt to halt Ebola’s spread and improve survival rates for those who catch it. These include an antibody known as mAb114, which was isolated from a woman who survived a 1995 Ebola outbreak and is currently being tested in clinical trials. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, celebrated the first two Congolese patients to receive the antibody and recover, calling it “a global first, and a ray of hope for people with the disease”.

8-27-18 Yemen cholera epidemic 'controlled' by computer predictions
Cholera cases in Yemen have been slashed by a new system that predicts where outbreaks will occur. Last year, there were more than 50,000 new cases in just one week - this year, the numbers plummeted to about 2,500. The system has enabled aid workers to focus efforts on prevention several weeks in advance of an outbreak - by monitoring rainfall. It comes as the UN says it is concerned about a possible "third wave" of the epidemic. The deployment of the technology has been coordinated by the UK's Department for International Development. Prof Charlotte Watts, the department's chief scientific adviser, said that the system had helped aid workers bring a rampant epidemic under control. "We have thousands of people around the world that died from cholera each year," he said. "And I think this approach could really help put a dent into that figure. "What this technology enables us to do is really home in to where we're going to get new outbreaks, and respond really effectively." Last year, there were a million cases of the waterborne disease in Yemen. More than 2,000 people died and many of them were children. It was the largest and fastest-spreading epidemic on record - and its rapid spread was caused by the destruction of sewerage and sanitation systems during the country's civil war. Although cases have reduced dramatically in 2018, the UN says it is concerned about a possible "third wave" of the epidemic. The UK's overseas aid department has worked with the Met Office to develop a system that predicts where cholera will occur four weeks ahead of time.

8-24-18 Russia trolls 'spreading vaccination misinformation' to create discord
Social media bots and Russian trolls have been spreading disinformation about vaccines on Twitter to create social discord and distribute malware, US researchers say. Troll accounts that had attempted to influence the US election had also been tweeting about vaccines, a study says. Many posted both pro- and anti-vaccination messages to create "false equivalency", the study found. It examined thousands of tweets sent between 2014 and 2017. Vaccination was being used by trolls and sophisticated bots as a "wedge issue", said Mark Dredze from Johns Hopkins University. "By playing both sides, they erode public trust in vaccination, exposing us all to the risk of infectious diseases," he said. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said cases of measles in Europe had hit a record high, with experts blaming this surge in infections on a drop in the number of people being vaccinated. In the US, the number of children being exempted from immunisation for religious or philosophical reasons is also rising, research published in June found. While a majority of Americans believed vaccines were safe and effective, looking at Twitter gave a different impression and suggested that there was a lot of debate about the issue, the disinformation study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, said. "A significant portion of the online discourse about vaccines may be generated by malicious actors with a range of hidden agendas," said David Broniatowski from George Washington University. The researchers reviewed more than 250 tweets about vaccination from accounts linked to the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA). In February the agency was named in a US indictment over alleged election meddling.

8-22-18 Record measles outbreak in Europe reaches 41,000 cases
The failure of parents to vaccinate their children has contributed to the biggest surge in measles cases Europe has seen in a decade, included 37 deaths. THE failure of parents to vaccinate their children has contributed to the biggest surge in measles cases Europe has seen in a decade, according to the World Health Organization. Across the 53 countries in the region, there have been at least 37 deaths and more than 41,000 cases in the first half of this year, already nearly twice the 23,927 cases recorded in the whole of 2016. More than half this year’s cases have been in Ukraine, where measles vaccination coverage has been plummeting over the past decade. In 2016, vaccination rates dropped to 50 per cent. The WHO warns that as soon as fewer than 95 per cent of eligible children receive vaccination, measles can spread rapidly. England has seen 807 cases this year, 281 of them in London. Before vaccination began in 1968, the UK reported roughly half a million cases a year.

8-20-18 Measles cases hit record high in Europe
Cases of measles in Europe have hit a record high, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 41,000 people have been infected in the first six months of 2018, leading to 37 deaths. Last year there were 23,927 cases and the year before 5,273. Experts blame this surge in infections on a drop in the number of people being vaccinated. In England, there have been 807 cases so far this year. The WHO is calling on European countries to take action. Public Health England say the outbreaks in England are largely due to people who have travelled to areas of mainland Europe that have had outbreaks. Measles is highly infectious and spreads by droplets in coughs and sneezes. The infection lasts seven to 10 days. But while most people recover completely, it can cause some serious complications.

7-27-18 Useless vaccines
Chinese parents were outraged this week at the discovery that hundreds of thousands of doses of rabies and diphtheria and tetanus vaccines administered to their children were ineffective. An editorial in the state-run Global Times said the crisis was “flooding the internet with public anger and panic,” and it called on the government to step up regulation of the pharmaceutical industry. Vaccine maker Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology has been fined $500,000, and its management has apologized, saying it feels “very ashamed.” There have been no reports of harm from the faulty vaccines, but the revelation is likely to undermine authorities’ attempts to rebuild public trust in Chinese food and medicine after a series of scandals, including the tainted infant formula that sickened 300,000 babies in 2008.

7-24-18 HPV vaccine to be offered to all children in England, not just girls
Following similar decisions in Scotland and Wales, boys in England will now be offered the HPV vaccine, which protects against several types of cancer. Boys in England are to be offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, 10 years after it was introduced for girls. The decision follows a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) last week, which stated that a gender-neutral programme to protect against the sexually transmitted virus would be cost-effective. The recommendation has already prompted the Scottish and Welsh governments to decide to extend vaccinations to boys. “Any vaccination programme must be firmly grounded in evidence to ensure that we can get the best outcomes for patients, but as a father to a son, I understand the relief that this will bring to parents,” says public health minister Steve Brine. The HPV vaccination is currently offered to girls aged 12 to 13 at secondary school, and is also available free on the NHS up until their 18th birthday. But the virus doesn’t only cause cervical and vaginal tumours – it can also cause penis, anus, mouth and throat cancer, as well as genital warts. Extending the vaccination to boys will help prevent such diseases, and may mean that more gay men get protection from the virus at a younger age. Wider use of the vaccine should also further reduce cervical cancer cases in women, through herd immunity. The girls’ programme has already reduced the prevalence of the two main cancer-causing types of HPV virus by 80 per cent, according to data from Public Health England. “Almost all women under 25 have had the HPV vaccine and we’re confident that we will see a similarly high uptake in boys,” says Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England.

7-23-18 Ebola: How a killer disease was stopped in its tracks
One of the world's deadliest viruses, Ebola kills up to half of those it infects. But despite appearing to have all the hallmarks of a potential epidemic, the latest outbreak developed in a very different way. It was the ninth Ebola outbreak to hit the Democratic Republic of Congo in a decade, killing 29 people and leaving at least 60 children orphaned. While one death is too many, the West Africa epidemic of 2014-16 claimed more than 11,000 lives and it is hoped that later this week the most recent outbreak will be declared officially over by the World Health Organization. The relatively small number of deaths follows the use of an experimental vaccine, which may have saved hundreds, or even thousands of lives. Although the outbreak began in a remote area, there was a real danger that large numbers could be infected. It appeared close to neighbouring Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo - a vast area with a great ebb and flow of people and a fragile health system. It is also an area linked by river and road to the capital Kinshasa - home to 10 million people. The vaccine used, known as rVSV-ZEBOV was already in development during the 2014-16 epidemic. But by the time its effectiveness had been proven, the outbreak was already waning. When the virus returned in 2018, it could be quickly deployed, once the DRC government had approved its experimental use. This vaccine is designed for use against the Zaire strain of Ebola, which caused both this outbreak and the previous one. Scientists and health workers set to work tracking all potential transmissions since the first case had been reported. Front-line health workers, people in contact with confirmed Ebola cases, and their contacts all needed to be given the vaccine.

7-23-18 Chinese Premier Li Keqiang calls for crackdown on vaccine industry
Authorities in China have ordered an investigation into a vaccination scandal as panic grows over product safety. Last week vaccine maker Changsheng Biotechnology Co was found to have falsified production data for its rabies vaccine. The firm has been ordered to halt production and recall rabies vaccines. There has been no evidence of harm from the vaccine, but the scandal has sparked a huge outcry in China. Changsheng, which suspended trading in its shares for part of Monday, saw their value drop by 10% on the day. The shares have slumped 47% since mid-July, when news of the scandal first broke. On Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged severe punishment for the people involved, saying the incident had "crossed a moral line". "We will resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that endanger the safety of peoples' lives, resolutely punish lawbreakers according to the law, and resolutely and severely criticise dereliction of duty in supervision," he said in a statement posted on a government website. Changsheng has apologised, saying that it was "guilty and embarrassed" and would co-operate with drug regulators to carry out a comprehensive internal investigation. On 15 July, China's State Drug Administration (SDA) announced that Changchun Changsheng had falsified production data during the production of its freeze-dried human rabies vaccine. According to a report by Xinhua, an official said the company had "fabricated production records and product inspection records", as well as "arbitrarily changed process parameters and equipment" during production. The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) said the rabies vaccine had been recalled and that the company would be put under investigation.

5-21-18 Ebola vaccinations begin in Congo
On May 21, nurses began vaccinating people in Mbandaka, the city that became the site of the first urban cases in Congo’s Ebola outbreak last week, as well as in Bikoro, the rural epicenter of the outbreak. Emergency teams responding to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo began on May 21 inoculating those most at risk of contracting the virus: health workers and people who have come into contact with Ebola victims. It’s the first real-world test for an experimental vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV. In field trials in Guinea and Sierra Leone in 2015, this vaccine effectively protected people from Zaire ebolavirus — the same type of Ebola now circulating in Congo. In the latest outbreak, 51 people have developed cases of hemorrhagic fever consistent with Ebola, and 27 have died. The outbreak is centered in the rural Bikoro region but nearly a handful of cases have been reported in the city of Mbandaka. Using a “ring vaccination” strategy, health care workers are offering shots not just to the people who’ve had contact with Ebola victims, but also to a second ring of people who’ve had contact with the first group. In that way, the World Health Organization and its partners hope to disrupt the chain of transmission. Merck, the company that makes the vaccine, has donated 8,640 doses to the emergency response effort. That’s more than enough for 50 rings of 150 people. Another 8,000 doses are expected to become available soon, according to the WHO.

5-21-18 Ebola outbreak: Experimental vaccinations begin in DR Congo
Health workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have begun an immunisation campaign in an attempt to halt the spread of an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. The experimental vaccine proved effective when used in limited trials during the epidemic which struck West Africa in 2014-16. At least 26 people are believed to have died in the current outbreak. Health workers were among the first to receive the vaccine on Monday. It is an infectious illness that causes internal bleeding and often proves fatal. It can spread rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid, and its early flu-like symptoms are not always obvious. More than 11,300 people died in the earlier outbreak in 2014-16. At least 45 cases of Ebola have been reported, including three health workers, since the outbreak began earlier this month. The virus has already spread from rural areas to the north-western city of Mbandaka, a major transport hub on the River Congo, where at least four cases have been confirmed. This has sparked fears that the outbreak could reach the capital, Kinshasa, as well as neighbouring countries. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it has "strong reason to believe that the outbreak can be brought under control". At an emergency meeting, on Friday WHO experts said that "the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not currently been met". The vaccine, made by pharmaceutical firm Merck, is not yet licensed, but was effective in limited trials during the West Africa outbreak. Dr Michel Yao, from the WHO, told the BBC that the vaccine had been tested in Guinea and that "almost all of the people who were vaccinated could not get the disease".

5-15-18 We may finally be able to beat the common cold with a new drug
An experimental drug stops common cold viruses from building their protective outer armour, preventing them from replicating and spreading. At last, an experimental drug has shown promise in beating common cold viruses, raising hopes of an effective treatment against rhinoviruses and other pathogens. When tested on human cells in a dish, the drug was found to block several strains of cold virus from replicating, without having any effect on the cells. The drug works by suppressing a human enzyme that cold viruses use to construct their capsids – the armoured outer shell of a virus. Without this protein shield, a virus’s genetic material is exposed and vulnerable. There are hundreds of variants of the rhinovirus, so attempts to develop vaccines against the common cold have so far failed. Most current cold treatments do no more than alleviate symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, and fever. But all strains of rhinovirus use the same enzyme to make copies of themselves, suggesting that this drug may be able to treat them all. However, many more tests of the drug are required first, not only to establish that it works in the human body, but also that it isn’t toxic. “A drug like this could be extremely beneficial if given early in infection, and we are working on making a version that could be inhaled, so that it gets to the lungs quickly,” says Ed Tate, at Imperial College London.

5-9-18 Hope for herpes vaccine after it wipes out virus in monkeys
Animal trials have proved successful in preventing and treating genital herpes in guinea pigs and monkeys, giving hope that the vaccine will move into human trials within the year. We may be a step closer to getting rid of genital herpes. Two vaccines are about to progress to clinical trials after proving to be safe and effective in guinea pigs and monkeys. Genital herpes is a sexually-transmitted infection that affects more than one in six people aged 14 to 49 in the US. It is usually caused by a strain of the herpes simplex virus, called HSV-2, which burrows into the skin and produces painful sores. The virus then permanently lodges in nerve cells and causes periodic flare-ups. Previous efforts to develop a herpes vaccine have failed. One of the most promising contenders – a vaccine called GEN-003 – was abandoned in September after underperforming in clinical trials. Part of the problem is that preclinical research is usually done in mice, which are not good models for human herpes, says Konstantin Kousoulas at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. That is why his team has tested a new vaccine using guinea pig and monkey models. The vaccine is an engineered version of herpes simplex virus that helps train the immune system to fight the real thing. The part that normally allows the virus to enter nerve cells has been removed so that it cannot permanently lodge in the body. A recent guinea pig study found that the vaccine provided complete protection against genital herpes. None of the nine vaccinated animals developed symptoms of the disease after they were exposed to a highly-infectious strain of herpes simplex virus.

5-2-18 The first smallpox treatment is one step closer to FDA approval
The drug prevents the variola virus from infecting other cells. As bioterrorism fears grow, the first treatment for smallpox is nearing approval. Called tecovirimat, the drug stops the variola virus, which causes smallpox, from sending out copies of itself and infecting other cells. “If the virus gets ahead of your immune system, you get sick,” says Dennis Hruby, the chief scientific officer of pharmaceutical company SIGA Technologies, which took part in developing the drug. “If you can slow the virus down, your immune system will get ahead.” An advisory committee to the U.S. Federal Drug Administration unanimously recommended approval of tecovirimat, or TPOXX, on May 1. The FDA is expected to make its decision this summer. Unchecked, smallpox kills about 30 percent of people infected and leaves survivors with disfiguring pox scars. Between 300 million and 500 million people died of smallpox in the 20th century before health officials declared the disease eradicated in 1980 after a worldwide vaccination campaign. For research purposes, samples of the virus remain in two locations — one in the United States, the other in Russia. (Webmaster's comment: Nonsense! The United States and Russia are keeping the virus because they might want to use it as biological blackmail or in an attack against some country they don't agree with!)

4-11-18 Ovarian cancer vaccine improves women’s survival rates
A personalised cancer vaccine that trains the immune system to attack tumours has had encouraging results in women with ovarian cancer. A personalised cancer vaccine that trains the immune system to attack tumours has had encouraging results in women with ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women – around 7,300 women in the UK are diagnosed with it each year. The disease often isn’t recognised until it has already spread, and even after successful treatment, there is a high risk of the cancer returning. Only half of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer survive for five years or more. Cancer vaccines have been showing promise in clinical trials, but few worldwide have made it into the clinic for routine use. Many of these vaccines are designed to train immune cells to recognise particular molecules that are often present in cancer cells, but this can fail because tumours vary between different people. To get around this problem, Lana Kandalaft from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and her team have created personalised vaccines that are tailored to each individual tumour. To do this, they take samples from a woman’s tumour and kill the cells with acid, which exposes molecules that are normally hidden. These dead cells are then mixed with immune cells from the woman’s blood, and grown in the lab for a few days before being injected back into her.

4-10-18 50 years on, vaccines have eliminated measles from the Americas
Excerpt from the April 13, 1968 issue of Science News. Mexico takes vaccine to hinterland: The campaign to eradicate measles in Mexico is going into the hinterland areas. Mobile brigades will use live virus vaccine produced in laboratories of the Republic’s Department of Health. Measles kills 10,000 Mexican children a year. — Science News, April 13, 1968. Update: The last measles case to originate in Mexico occurred in 1995. In 2016, the Pan American Health Organization declared that the Americas were measles-free, largely because of far-reaching vaccination campaigns. That year, 98 percent of Mexicans and 92 percent of Americans received at least one dose of vaccine, the World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate. Eliminating infections doesn’t mean a virus can’t be reintroduced. International travelers can bring measles in from other places. A 2017 outbreak in Minnesota saw 79 cases confirmed, many in a community with low vaccination rates, though the outbreak’s source was never identified.

3-6-18 Australia’s cervical cancer vaccine might eradicate the disease
A national school-based vaccination program has seen the number of young women with human papillomavirus (HPV) infections fall from 22.7 to 1.5 per cent. Australia is on track to become the first country to practically eradicate cervical cancer. A national school-based vaccination program has seen a sharp decline in human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, which cause over 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases. Since 2007, all girls aged 12 or 13 in Australia have been offered a free HPV vaccination. A decade later, the proportion of 18- to 24-year-old women with HPV has fallen from 22.7 to 1.5 per cent. This means the number of Australian women diagnosed annually with cervical cancer should drop from 3000 to just a few by the year 2050, says study author Suzanne Garland at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. Only 53 per cent of women have received the full three doses of the vaccine, but this still provides herd protection, says Garland. “Vaccinated women do not acquire HPV from, or infect, unvaccinated men and these men in turn do not transmit the virus to future unvaccinated female partners,” she says. This herd effect has been further bolstered by the extension of the vaccination program to all boys aged 12 to 13 since 2013. The original vaccine protected against four HPV strains that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancer. The latest version – which was rolled out in Australia in January – protects against nine HPV strains that cause 90 per cent of cases. (Webmaster's comment: This vaccination program would never work in America because of the ignorance and misbeliefs of the American people.)

3-1-18 Teens skipping HPV vaccine
Most American teenagers aren’t getting the HPV vaccine, even though it can protect them from several forms of cancer, reports NPR.org. Human papillomavirus is a group of more than 150 related viruses, some of which can persist in the body and cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, penis, anus, or throat. In order to protect against these diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children receive at least two doses of the HPV vaccine between the ages of 11 and 13. But a seven-year Blue Cross Blue Shield Association analysis of medical claims from more than 1.3 million teens found that only 34 percent of adolescents had received their first dose of the vaccine by their 13th birthday. Further research found that most parents avoid the vaccine because of concerns about side effects, while some believe their preteens are too young to worry about a sexually transmitted virus. The CDC urged parents to have their children inoculated with the vaccine, emphasizing that it triggers a more effective immune response when received at an early age.

2-22-18 Measles cases soar
More than 21,000 people got measles in Europe last year, more than quadruple the number in 2016, and at least 35 of them died. World Health Organization officials blame the spike on parents rejecting or delaying jabs for their children because of the discredited but widespread belief that there is a link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The most affected countries were Italy, Romania, and Ukraine, with about 5,000 cases each. The vaccination rate for young children in Italy is 85 percent; WHO says 95 percent should be immunized to prevent outbreaks. Measles is highly contagious and can cause blindness, encephalitis, and death. Such deaths are “a tragedy we cannot accept,” said WHO official Zsuzsanna Jakab.

2-20-18 WHO warns of soaring rates of measles in Europe
Europe has seen a big surge in measles cases in 2017, which the World Health Organization says is a tragedy after a record low of 5,273 cases in 2016. Cases increased four-fold, with more than 20,000 people affected and 35 deaths. Fifteen European region countries, including the UK, had large outbreaks. Measles cases were highest in Romania, Italy and Ukraine. People shunning vaccination is part of the problem, say experts. Although research published 20 years ago about a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been discredited, the scare it created damaged some people's trust of the vaccine. Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be deadly. The MMR vaccine can prevent it. The WHO says there have been declines in overall routine immunisation coverage, as well as consistently low coverage among some marginalised groups and interruptions in vaccine supply or underperforming disease surveillance systems. Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, from the WHO, said: "Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated. "This short-term setback cannot deter us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children from these diseases once and for all." The UK saw 282 cases in 2017, linked to the continuing outbreak in Europe.

2-3-18 Philippines gripped by dengue vaccine fears
Fears over a dengue vaccine in the Philippines have led to a big drop in immunisation rates for preventable diseases, officials have warned. Health Under-Secretary Enrique Domingo said many parents were refusing to get their children vaccinated for polio, chicken pox and tetanus. The fears centre on Dengvaxia, a drug developed by French company Sanofi. Sanofi and local experts say there is no evidence linking the deaths of 14 children to the drug. However, the company had warned last year that the vaccine could make the disease worse in some people not infected before. Dengue fever affects more than 400 million people each year around the world. Dengvaxia is the world's first vaccine against dengue. The mosquito-borne disease is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). "Our programmes are suffering... (people) are scared of all vaccines now", he warned. Mr Domingo added that vaccination rates for some preventable diseases had dropped as much as 60% in recent years - significantly lower that the nationwide target of 85%. Mr Domingo expressed concerns about potential epidemics in the Philippines - a nation of about 100 million people, many of whom are impoverished.

12-12-17 Anti-vax views must not derail France’s compulsory vaccine law
The nation is about to make 11 childhood vaccines mandatory, but unless anti-vax echo chambers are tackled, the law may not fulfill its promise, says Laura Spinney. A new law takes force in France on 1 January to up the number of mandatory childhood vaccines to 11 from three. It has provoked a polemic, but the law is sound. If there is a problem here, it is the neglect by officials of the main drivers of vaccine hesitancy. France isn’t the first nation to get tough, as anti-vaccination views rose widely after the Wakefield scandal in the UK. Most recently, Italy passed a similar law in July, and a number of US states have also adopted a stricter stance on vaccinating children. However, France has the world’s worst anti-vax attitudes: a 2016 survey showed that 41 per cent of people there say vaccines are unsafe. The hope is the law will reverse a 20-year fall in vaccine coverage that has eroded herd immunity and raised the risk of epidemics. To prevent outbreaks of measles, for example, it is recommended that 95 per cent of the population be inoculated. France, stubbornly below that target, saw 24,000 cases of measles between 2008 and 2016. Of those, 1500 got pneumonia, 34 had neurological complications and 10 died. Against this backdrop, the new law makes sense. The additional vaccines – for whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae, pneumococcus and meningococcus C – are currently recommended in France but not obligatory, although the distinction has no clinical or epidemiological grounds. (Webmaster's comment: The idea that people must be free to be unvaccinated and then walk around as disease carriers is ridiculous!)

12-4-17 Focus on liberty and purity may change anti-vax parents’ minds
Why do some parents choose not to vaccinate their children against deadly diseases? The moral ideas of purity and liberty may play a role. Vaccines save lives, so why do some parents prefer not to get their children vaccinated against deadly diseases? It seems the ideas of purity and liberty have a big influence. Avnika Amin at Emory University, Georgia, and her team surveyed more than 1000 adults in the US who had at least one child aged 12 or younger. They assessed the parents’ attitudes towards vaccinations, as well as how much emphasis they put on each of six moral values: authority, fairness, harm, loyalty, purity and liberty. These values are all known to affect judgement and decision-making. “We thought it might be interesting to see if maybe these intuitive values were associated with health decisions,” says Amin. The team found that 73 per cent of parents got low scores when it was assessed whether they have concerns about vaccinations, but 11 per cent showed some hesitancy around vaccinations, and 16 per cent were highly hesitant. Compared with those who weren’t very worried, the medium hesitancy parents were twice as likely to place a high emphasis on purity as a moral value. And high hesitancy parents were twice as likely to emphasise purity and liberty, but half as likely to stress authority, compared with low hesitancy parents. When the team looked at the claims made on anti-vaccination websites, they found that these often appeal to the same moral values. A better understanding of how moral values affect vaccination attitudes could help public health officials show parents that childhood vaccinations are actually in line with certain values, says Amin.(Webmaster's comment: The choice to not vaccinate a child is a choice to kill it!)

10-5-17 Michigan mother jailed for refusing to vaccinate her son
Michigan mother jailed for refusing to vaccinate her son
A mother in the US state of Michigan has been sentenced to seven days in jail after she refused a judge's order to have her son vaccinated. Rebecca Bredow would not let her nine-year-old be immunised after initially agreeing with the father to do so. Her ex-husband has now been awarded temporary primary custody in order to get the boy the jab. Michigan parents are legally allowed to skip or delay their children's vaccinations due to personal beliefs. But Bredow fell foul of the law because she reneged on agreements with her former spouse dating back to November 2016 to have the boy immunised. The mother-of-two was sentenced on Wednesday for contempt of court after flouting a court order last week to have her son vaccinated. She and her ex-husband decided at the time of their child's birth that they would space out and delay jabs for their son. The couple separated in 2008, according to ABC News, but they shared parental custody and the father still wanted the boy vaccinated. (Webmaster's comment: These "personal beliefs" are a clear and present danger to all of us! We do not want to become a nation of sick disease carriers.)

8-25-17 If you’re 35 or younger, your genes can predict whether the flu vaccine will work
If you’re 35 or younger, your genes can predict whether the flu vaccine will work
Researchers still searching for a similar genetic ‘crystal ball’ for older adults. A set of nine genes can signal whether a young adult will develop a strong response to the flu vaccine, a new study finds. A genetic “crystal ball” can predict whether certain people will respond effectively to the flu vaccine. Nine genes are associated with a strong immune response to the flu vaccine in those aged 35 and under, a new study finds. If these genes were highly active before vaccination, an individual would generate a high level of antibodies after vaccination, no matter the flu strain in the vaccine, researchers report online August 25 in Science Immunology. This response can help a person avoid getting the flu. The research team also tried to find a predictive set of genes in people aged 60 and above — a group that includes those more likely to develop serious flu-related complications, such as pneumonia — but failed. Even so, the study is “a step in the right direction,” says Elias Haddad, an immunologist at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, who did not participate in the research. “It could have implications in terms of identifying responders versus nonresponders by doing a simple test before a vaccination.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that vaccination prevented 5.1 million flu illnesses in the 2015?2016 season. Getting a flu shot is the best way to stay healthy, but “the problem is, we don’t know what makes a successful vaccination,” says Purvesh Khatri, a computational immunologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “The immune system is very personal.”

7-11-17 Measles 'tragedy' kills 35 across Europe
Measles 'tragedy' kills 35 across Europe
Thirty-five people have died in the past year from measles outbreaks across Europe, the World Health Organization has warned. It described the deaths - which can be prevented with vaccination - as an "unacceptable tragedy". A six-year-old boy in Italy was the latest to die from the infection. More than 3,300 measles cases have been recorded in the country. The most fatalities - 31 - have been in Romania. But there have also been deaths in Germany and Portugal since June 2016. Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO regional director for Europe, said: "Every death or disability caused by this vaccine-preventable disease is an unacceptable tragedy. "We are very concerned that although a safe, effective and affordable vaccine is available, measles remains a leading cause of death among children worldwide, and unfortunately Europe is not spared. "I urge all endemic countries to take urgent measures to stop transmission of measles within their borders, and all countries that have already achieved this to keep up their guard and sustain high immunisation coverage." Measles is highly contagious, but vaccinating 95% of the population should prevent it spreading. (Webmaster's comment: Not vaccinating your children can be death sentence for them, and turn your child into a carrier of death for other children.)

7-11-17 First vaccine shows gonorrhoea protection
First vaccine shows gonorrhoea protection
A vaccine has for the first time been shown to protect against the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea, scientists in New Zealand say. There are fears gonorrhoea is becoming untreatable as antibiotics fail. The World Health Organization sees developing a vaccine as vital in stopping the global spread of "super-gonorrhoea". The study of 15,000 young people, published in the Lancet, showed infections were cut by about a third. About 78 million people pick up the sexually transmitted infection each year, and it can cause infertility. But the body does not build up resistance no matter how many times someone is infected. The vaccine, originally developed to stop an outbreak of meningitis B, was given to about a million adolescents in New Zealand between 2004 and 2006. Researchers at the University of Auckland analysed data from sexual health clinics and found gonorrhoea cases had fallen 31% in those vaccinated. The bacterium that causes meningitis, Neisseria meningitidis, is a very close relative of the species that causes gonorrhoea - Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It appears the Men B jab was giving "cross-protection" against gonorrhoea. Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, one of the researchers, said: "This is the first time a vaccine has shown any protection against gonorrhoea. At the moment, the mechanism behind this immune response is unknown, but our findings could inform future vaccine development." Protection seemed to last about two years.

7-10-17 The fight against gonorrhea gets a potential new weapon: a vaccine
The fight against gonorrhea gets a potential new weapon: a vaccine
Shot that curbs meningitis also appears to reduce infections of the sexually transmitted disease. Gonorrhea culprit Neisseria gonorrhoeae (left, in false color) is genetically similar to bacteria that can cause meningitis, Neisseria meningitidis (right, in false color). That close relationship might explain why a vaccine that curbed meningitis in New Zealand also seemed to reduce gonorrhea infections. A vaccine against meningitis has an unexpected side effect: It appears to target gonorrhea, too. If confirmed, the results represent the first instance of a vaccine reducing gonorrhea infections. After receiving a vaccine aimed at a type of meningitis, people were less likely to contract gonorrhea, scientists report online June 10 in the Lancet. That’s a big deal because worldwide each year, an estimated 78 million people contract gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause pelvic inflammation, infertility and throat infections. Gonorrhea’s bacterial culprit, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has developed resistance to many antibiotics, making treatment much more difficult. Some strains of gonorrhea can now resist all known antibiotics, the Word Health Organization announced July 7. “We are in desperate need for new therapies,” says Christine Johnston, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Washington in Seattle. Attempts to make a gonorrhea vaccine have failed so far. The new results are “the first to show that vaccination against gonorrhea could be possible,” Johnston says.

7-10-17 Meningitis B vaccines may fight the rise of super-gonorrhoea
Meningitis B vaccines may fight the rise of super-gonorrhoea
Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea has spread worldwide. Now there’s hope that existing vaccines for meningitis could control gonorrhoea before it becomes unbeatable. A vaccine for meningitis B may stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant super-gonorrhoea. We desperately need a vaccine for the sexually transmitted infection. Last week, the World Health Organization reported that 81 per cent of the 77 countries that have looked for antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea found strains resistant to azithromycin, the main antibiotic used to fight the disease. Two-thirds of these countries had strains that were resistant to one of two “last resort” antibiotics, cefixime or ceftriaxone. Some cases resist all three of these drugs, and are effectively incurable. This means that even people who are treated for the infection can continue to harbour and spread the bacteria. According to the WHO, only three new drugs to combat gonorrhoea are being tested in people. Even if these work, bacteria could evolve to evade them. A vaccine “will ultimately be the only sustainable way to achieve control” of gonorrhoea, the agency warns. But so far, experimental vaccines have all failed. Remarkably, an existing licensed vaccine may do the trick – a finding David Fisman at the University of Toronto, Canada, describes as “incredible news”.

7-5-17 Cancer vaccines could prime our own bodies to fight tumours
Cancer vaccines could prime our own bodies to fight tumours
Two therapies that trigger the immune system into attacking cancer suggest personalised vaccines can eradicate tumours, but bigger trials are needed. COULD this be the cancer advance we have been waiting for? Cancer vaccines that can trigger a person’s immune system into killing a tumour have long been a goal. Now two slightly different ways of doing this have had promising results. The therapies need to be tested in bigger trials, but the initial results from a small number of people with skin cancer are being heralded as major progress. “This could be huge,” says Cornelis Melief of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Our immune system recognises bacteria and viruses as foreign invaders by the different protein molecules they have on their surface. Because tumour cells have mutations that also make them look different, the immune system sometimes targets them – but the cancers that prove fatal somehow escape this attack. For decades, researchers have been trying to find ways to ramp up the immune response to tumours, usually by injecting people with immune-stimulating drugs and the molecules thought to be present on the surface of the cancer cells. However, so far, nothing has worked well. Part of the problem may be that all cancers are different – each person’s tumour can have hundreds of mutations. Also, prompting the immune system to target one particular molecule can fail because tumours can mutate again and stop being recognised.

6-30-17 Hope for a heart disease vaccine
Hope for a heart disease vaccine
A vaccine against heart ­disease has worked successfully in mice, raising the possibility that scientists will develop a breakthrough technique that could save millions of lives. Researchers in Europe tested the experimental vaccine on mice that were fed an unhealthy, high-fat Western diet, leaving them with high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, fatty buildup in the arteries that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. The vaccine effectively lowered the total blood cholesterol level of the mice by 53 percent, The Guardian (U.K.) reports. It also reduced arterial damage linked to atherosclerosis by 64 percent and led to a 28 percent drop in markers of blood vessel inflammation. The vaccine works by triggering the production of antibodies that block an enzyme called PCSK9, which prevents the body from clearing LDL, or “bad” cholesterol from the blood. The antibodies produced by the vaccine remained at high levels throughout the entire 18-week study, suggesting the shot has long-term benefits, unlike daily cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which can cause muscle pain, confusion, digestive issues, and other side effects. The vaccine is currently being tested on 72 people, with results of the Phase I clinical trial expected by the end of the year. “If these findings translate successfully into humans,” says Gunther Staffler, one of the vaccine’s developers, “we could develop a long-lasting therapy that, after the first vaccination, just needs an annual booster.”

6-28-17 Getting a flu ‘shot’ could soon be as easy as sticking on a Band-Aid
Getting a flu ‘shot’ could soon be as easy as sticking on a Band-Aid
Sticky patch with vaccine-infused microneedles prompted immune response. A patch has an array of microneedles that penetrate the skin to deliver a dose of the flu vaccine. DIY vaccination may be on its way. In the first test in adults, a Band-Aid?like patch studded with dissolving microneedles safely and effectively delivered a dose of influenza vaccine. People using the patch had a similar immune response to the flu vaccine as those who received a typical flu shot, researchers report online June 27 in the Lancet. And nearly all of the patch users described the experience as painless. The patch eliminates the need for safe needle disposal, and since it is stable at room temperature for at least a year, it doesn’t require refrigeration, unlike other vaccines. So, it could eventually end up on pharmacy shelves, making vaccination more akin to picking up aspirin than visiting a doctor. Along with possibly improving vaccination rates in the United States, the patch could make delivering vaccines in developing countries easier, too, the researchers say.

6-28-17 Italian father in passionate vaccines plea to Veneto governor
Italian father in passionate vaccines plea to Veneto governor
An Italian father has written a heartfelt letter to a regional governor, urging him not to challenge a new law making vaccination compulsory. Nicola Pomaro's young daughter suffers from severe auto-immune deficiency. In the letter, he says plummeting rates of vaccination in Italy - which the new law seeks to reverse - represent "a mortal danger to my daughter" and thousands of others. He urges Veneto Governor Luca Zaia to abandon his legal challenge. Measles rates have soared in Italy in 2017 as vaccination rates have fallen well below the 95% threshold which scientists say prevent the disease circulating in the general population. Officials have blamed the declining take-up in part on anti-vaccination statements by the populist Five Star Movement, as well as the now-discredited work of Andrew Wakefield, a doctor struck off the UK medical register in 2010. (Webmaster's comment: Unvaccinated children are disease carriers that can kill other people. Vaccination of children for infectious diseases should be mandatory.)

6-9-17 Parents eye Austrian asylum in Italy vaccination dispute
Parents eye Austrian asylum in Italy vaccination dispute
A group of German-speaking parents in northern Italy are so angry about a new requirement to get their children vaccinated that they plan to seek asylum in nearby Austria. The 130 families live in Alto Adige - also known as South Tyrol - a region that was part of Austria before 1919. Last month the Italian government ruled that children must be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses before they can enrol for state-run schools. Cases of measles have risen in Italy. The highly-contagious sickness is fatal in some cases. Some other European countries, including France and Romania, have also seen more measles cases this year. In some parts of Europe, including Italy, vaccination rates have dropped below those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). (Webmaster's comment: The absolute STUPIDITY of those who don't want to vaccinate their children is beyond belief!)

5-26-17 Germany vaccination: Fines plan as measles cases rise
Germany vaccination: Fines plan as measles cases rise
The German government plans to fine parents up to €2,500 (£2,178; $2,806) if they fail to get medical advice about vaccinating their children. Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said it was necessary to tighten the law because of a measles epidemic. He was speaking to the popular daily Bild. "Continuing deaths from measles cannot leave anyone indifferent," he said. The government wants kindergartens to report any parents who lack proof of having had a medical consultation. Failure to get advice about vaccination could mean expulsion of the child from the daycare centre, under the revised law. It is expected to be adopted next month. A mother of three died of measles in the city of Essen this week. However, Germany is not yet making it an offence to refuse vaccinations - unlike Italy. And the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, said forcing kindergartens to report some parents to the health authorities might breach data protection laws. (Webmaster's comment: Not getting vaccinated is as irresponsible as drunk driving! Unvaccinated people can kill other people!)

5-12-17 Measles outbreak
Measles outbreak
Minnesota health officials this week blamed anti-vaccine activists for the state’s worst measles outbreak in nearly 30 years, with at least 48 confirmed cases of the virus reported in recent weeks. The vast majority of the measles cases are in unvaccinated Somali-American children 10 years old or younger in the Minneapolis area. Vaccine skepticism began spreading in the Somali-American community there in 2008, after parents noticed a disproportionate number of Somali children receiving special-education services for autism. “At that point, the anti-vaccine groups just really started targeting the community,” said Minnesota Department of Health official Kristen Ehresmann. Those groups later promoted a fraudulent study that proposed a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. By 2014, vaccination rates among Somali-American children in Minnesota had plummeted to about 40 percent.

5-10-17 Minnesota measles outbreak follows anti-vaccination campaign
Minnesota measles outbreak follows anti-vaccination campaign
Anti-vaccination activists have been targeting Minnesota's Somali-American community, among whom the MMR vaccination rate has halved in a decade. THE state of Minnesota is in the throes of its biggest measles outbreak in 27 years. As of 5 May, 44 cases had been confirmed. Of these, 42 people were unvaccinated, and 38 belonged to the state’s Somali-American community. In 2008, some Somali parents raised concerns over what they perceived to be a high rate of autism in Somali-American children. A subsequent study by the University of Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health found that autism rates among Somalis in Minneapolis were in fact similar to those of the city’s white population. Nevertheless, the concerns of the Somali community prompted anti-vaccination groups to begin targeting Somalis in Minnesota. Former doctor Andrew Wakefield, who lives in Texas, visited Somali communities in Minnesota several times, speaking to parents. Wakefield’s discredited 1998 study suggested a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Between 2004 and 2014, the MMR immunisation rate among 2-year-old Somali-Americans born in Minnesota dropped from 92 to 42 per cent.

4-28-17 HPV vaccine as cancer prevention is a message that needs to catch on
HPV vaccine as cancer prevention is a message that needs to catch on
New infection stats should be ‘a wake-up call’ to spur lagging vaccination rates. In the United States, HPV vaccination rates lag for girls and boys. The message that the vaccine prevents cancer isn’t getting out there, researchers say. Cancer prevention isn’t the first thing that comes to many parents’ minds when they consider vaccinating their preteens against human papillomavirus, or HPV. And the fact that HPV is transmitted sexually gives the vaccine more baggage than a crowded international flight. But what gets lost in the din is the goal of vaccination, to protect adolescents from infection with HPV types that are responsible for numerous cancers. Newly released estimates show just how prevalent HPV infections are in the United States. In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported for 2013-2014 that among adults ages 18 to 59, 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women had genital infections with HPV types that put them at risk of developing cancer. That’s just a snapshot in time. For those who are sexually active, more than 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women can expect to become infected with at least one type of HPV during their lives. About half of those infections will be with a high-risk HPV type.

4-28-17 Measles, mumps come back
Measles, mumps come back
Measles and mumps are vaccine-preventable diseases that once seemed all but eradicated. But now these highly contagious viral infections are enjoying a resurgence in the U.S., where herd immunity—when enough people are immunized to protect the whole population—is on the decline, thanks in part to the anti-vaccination movement. Texas health officials report the number of mumps cases in the state just hit a 22-year high; so far this year, 221 people have been diagnosed with the virus, which can lead to deafness, brain inflammation, and other complications. Mumps can be prevented with the MMR vaccine, which also protects against measles and rubella, but the recommended two doses are only 88 percent effective against the virus. Immunity against mumps also wanes over time. Recurring outbreaks have prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider a third routine dose of the vaccine. Safety concerns about the MMR vaccine, however, have also allowed measles, which can cause lung and brain damage, to make a comeback. “Because some parents are withholding their children from vaccination,” infectious disease specialist William Schaffner tells MedicalNewsToday.com (Webmaster's comment: Unvaccinated people and children are ignorant disease carriers.)

4-24-17 Malaria: Kenya, Ghana and Malawi get first vaccine
Malaria: Kenya, Ghana and Malawi get first vaccine
The world's first vaccine against malaria will be introduced in three countries - Ghana, Kenya and Malawi - starting in 2018. The RTS,S vaccine trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquito bites. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the jab had the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. But it is not yet clear if it will be feasible to use in the poorest parts of the world. The vaccine needs to be given four times - once a month for three months and then a fourth dose 18 months later. This has been achieved in tightly controlled and well-funded clinical trials, but it is not yet clear if it can be done in the "real-world" where access to health care is limited. It is why the WHO is running pilots in three countries to see if a full malaria vaccine programme could be started. It will also continue to assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination. (Webmaster's comment: Not getting vaccinated makes you a disease carrier and causes stupidity!)

4-21-17 Chlamydia vaccine for koalas slows spread of deadly disease
Chlamydia vaccine for koalas slows spread of deadly disease
First results from trials of single-jab vaccine offer hope that the sexually transmitted disease devastating Australia’s koala population can be halted. A single-jab vaccine could halt the chlamydia epidemic wiping out Australia’s koalas. It may even pave the way for a human chlamydia vaccine. In trials, the new vaccine has been shown to slow the rate of new infections and treat early-stage disease. A third of Australia’s koalas have been lost over the last two decades, largely due to the spread of chlamydia, which now affects between 50 and 100 per cent of wild populations. The sexually transmitted disease causes painful urinary tract inflammation, infertility and blindness. Chlamydia in koalas is caused by Chlamydia pecorum, a bacterium that may have spread from livestock introduced from Europe. A similar bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, causes chlamydia in humans. Antibiotics can be used to treat chlamydia in koalas, but they only work in early-stage disease, do not prevent re-infection, and they must be administered daily for at least 30 days in captivity. Moreover, some infected koalas remain asymptomatic and are overlooked for treatment while they continue to spread the disease. (Webmaster's comment: Vaccines work on animals too, but they don't work for ignorant humans that don't get vaccinated.)

3-28-17 Measles outbreak across Europe
Measles outbreak across Europe
Measles is spreading across Europe wherever immunisation coverage has dropped, the World Health Organization is warning. The largest outbreaks are being seen in Italy and Romania. In the first month of this year, Italy reported more than 200 cases. Romania has reported more than 3,400 cases and 17 deaths since January 2016. Measles is highly contagious. Travel patterns mean no person or country is beyond its reach, says the WHO. For good protection, it's recommended that at least 95% of the population is vaccinated against the disease. But many countries are struggling to achieve that. Most of the measles cases have been found in countries where immunisation has dipped below this threshold and the infection is endemic - France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine.

3-15-17 See how bacterial blood infections in young kids plummeted after vaccines
See how bacterial blood infections in young kids plummeted after vaccines
Newcomer pneumococcal vaccines have led to huge reductions in blood infections among young children. To celebrate birthdays, my 2- and 4-year-old party animals got vaccinated. Measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough for the older one (thankfully combined into just two shots), and hepatitis A for the younger. Funnily enough, there were no tears. Just before the shots, we were talking about the tiny bits of harmless germs that would now be inside their bodies, teaching their immune systems how to fight off the harmful germs and keep their bodies healthy. I suspect my girls got caught up in the excitement and forgot to be scared. As I watched the vaccine needles go in, I was grateful for these medical marvels that clearly save lives. Yet the topic has become fraught for worried parents who want to keep their kids healthy. Celebrities, politicians and even some pediatricians argue that children today get too many vaccines too quickly, with potentially dangerous additives. Those fears have led to reductions in the number of kids who are vaccinated, and along with it, a resurgence of measles and other diseases that were previously kept in check. Doctors and scientists try to reduce those fears with good, hard data that show vaccines are absolutely some of the safest and most important tools we have to keep children healthy. A study published online March 10 in Pediatrics shows a particularly compelling piece of data on the impact of vaccines.

3-15-17 Australia to ban unvaccinated children from preschool
Australia to ban unvaccinated children from preschool
The government wants 95 per cent of Australian children vaccinated – a level that would stop infectious diseases spreading and protect those who can’t be vaccinated. No-jab, no play. So says the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who has announced that unvaccinated children will be barred from attending preschools and daycare centres. Currently, 93 per cent of Australian children receive the standard childhood vaccinations, including those for measles, mumps and rubella, but the government wants to lift this to 95 per cent. This is the level required to stop the spread of infectious disease and to protect children who are too young to be immunised or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Childcare subsidies have been unavailable to the families of unvaccinated children since January 2016, and a version of the new “no jab, no play” policy is already in place in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Other states and territories only exclude unvaccinated children from preschools during infectious disease outbreaks. The proposed policy is based on Victoria’s model, which is the strictest. It requires all children attending childcare to be fully immunised, unless they have a medical exemption, such as a vaccine allergy.

3-13-17 Australia considers childcare ban on unvaccinated children
Australia considers childcare ban on unvaccinated children
Unvaccinated children would be banned from childcare centres and preschools under an Australian government plan. Some Australian states already have "no jab, no play" laws, but PM Malcolm Turnbull is calling for nationwide legislation. Health groups have supported the push, arguing parents and the community have an obligation to protect children. An Australian Child Health Poll survey of nearly 2,000 parents showed 5% of children were not fully vaccinated. Mr Turnbull said more needed to be done, citing the case of a baby who died from whooping cough. "This is not a theoretical exercise - this is life and death," Mr Turnbull said. "If a parent says, 'I'm not going to vaccinate my child,' they are not simply putting their child at risk, they are putting everybody else's children at risk too." Vaccinating children is not a legal requirement in Australia, but failing to do so makes parents ineligible for childcare rebates. (Webmaster's comment: Isolate unvaccinated children and their families away from the rest of us so they only infect themselves!)

11-3-16 50 years later, vaccines have eliminated some diseases
50 years later, vaccines have eliminated some diseases
Vaccines provide a crucial line of defense against some diseases such as measles and rubella, but other illnesses have frustrated development efforts. More vaccines promised — “The decline of poliomyelitis among more than 350 million people of the world … (offers) a promise of vaccines that will soon be used against other diseases considered hopeless or untreatable until recently. Vaccines against some of the many viruses causing the common cold, as well as those causing rubella, mumps and other diseases are on the way.” — Science News, November 19, 1966. In 1971, vaccines against mumps and rubella were combined with the measles vaccine into one MMR shot. All three diseases are now very rare in the United States. But persistent pockets of lower vaccination rates (spurred in part by the repeatedly debunked belief that vaccines cause autism) have allowed sporadic outbreaks of all three illnesses. A vaccine against the common cold has not yet materialized. Creating one vaccine that protects against the hundred or so strains of rhinoviruses that can cause colds is not easy. But some scientists are giving it a shot, along with vaccines against HIV, Ebola and Zika.

10-11-16 There's a big change coming to the flu vaccine
There's a big change coming to the flu vaccine
r the past eight years, flu shots around the world have contained a virus that was retrieved from a sick person in California in the spring of 2009, in the earliest days of the H1N1 — or swine flu — pandemic. No more. Recently, the World Health Organization recommended that flu vaccine manufacturers swap out the component that is based on that virus with an updated version. It is uncommon for a flu virus to remain in the vaccine for such an extended period as the current one. "A/California had a good run," Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza epidemiologist at the British Columbia Center for Disease Control in Vancouver, said of the virus that is being discarded. The change, which will first come into effect in the flu shots for the 2017 Southern Hemisphere winter, is good news. It's an indication that advances in flu science — particularly relating to monitoring small changes in viruses and figuring out how that evolution dictates who and how many people might get sick in a flu season — may be helping scientists fine-tune flu-fighting strategy.

9-27-16 Measles has been eliminated in the Americas, WHO says
Measles has been eliminated in the Americas, WHO says
The highly infectious disease, which is marked by flat red spots that can cover the body, has been eliminated from the Americas after decades of wide-spread VACCINATION. A half-century after scientists first introduced a vaccine to combat measles, the disease has been eliminated from a swath of the globe stretching from Canada to Chile — and all the countries in between. The region is the first in the world to have eliminated the viral disease, the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization announced September 27. That’s different from eradication, which means an infectious disease has been scrubbed out permanently, worldwide. So far, only smallpox has been eradicated. Though measles outbreaks still crop up occasionally in the Americas (this year 54 people have contracted the disease in the United States), they stem from travelers bringing the virus in from other parts of the world. A home-grown outbreak in the Americas hasn’t occurred since a 2002 outbreak in Venezuela.

9-9-16 Fear of vaccine safety is higher in Europe than in the US
Fear of vaccine safety is higher in Europe than in the US
A survey across 67 countries has found that Europe is the world’s most sceptical region when it comes to vaccines, especially people in France. Europe is the world’s most vaccine-sceptic region. That’s according to a study that has surveyed 66,000 people living in 67 countries about their views on the importance and safety of vaccines. People in France showed the least confidence – 41 per cent of those surveyed said they disagreed that vaccines are safe. The global average was 12 per cent. France was followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, where 36 per cent doubted the safety of vaccines. Russia and Mongolia came next, with 28 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively. Greece, Japan and the Ukraine all recorded a 25 per cent lack of confidence. In the US, 14 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed disagreed that vaccines are safe, while 86 per cent agree they are important.

9-2-16 Pediatricians push back against anti-vax parents
Pediatricians push back against anti-vax parents
It is “acceptable” for doctors to drop patients who refuse vaccinations on nonmedical grounds, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced in a new policy statement this week. The advice was issued after a survey revealed that 87 percent of pediatricians have dealt with parents who did not want their children to be vaccinated—up from 75 percent a decade ago. Many parents who refuse to have their kids vaccinated believe immunizations can cause autism, a theory that has been thoroughly debunked. Other parents believe vaccines are an unnecessary discomfort for their children. The academy said that doctors should try to persuade hesitant families of the benefits of vaccines, and only exclude them from a practice as a last resort.

9-1-16 Dog vaccine offers hope in China’s fight against rabies
Dog vaccine offers hope in China’s fight against rabies
Scientists in China have found that a rabies vaccine usually given to dogs can also protect livestock. Rabies in domestic cattle and camels, infected by wild dog and fox bites, has been on the rise in north-west China. Because there is no oral vaccine for wild animals in China, it is impossible to prevent this type of spread. A vaccine for large domestic animals is what is needed, the researchers say, but the canine vaccine could provide a stop-gap measure.

8-13-16 What the deadly 1960s rubella outbreak should teach us about the Zika virus
What the deadly 1960s rubella outbreak should teach us about the Zika virus
As the Zika virus continues to sweep through Latin America and begins what appears to be a steady march into the United States, the hunt is on for a vaccine against it. In addition to posing scientific and medical challenges, the development of a Zika vaccine raises social and ethical issues with a twist because of what this vaccine will do and who it is aimed at. In some ways it will be like a vaccine developed almost 50 years ago to fight rubella, a virus that also attacked developing babies. Infection with the Zika virus generally isn't a big deal. Most people don't develop any symptoms. Those who do may have a low-grade fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle or joint pain, or fatigue that disappears within a week. A small number of people infected with the Zika virus develop Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which the immune system attacks nerves, causing pain or partial paralysis. Among women who are pregnant, though, infection with the Zika virus can have devastating consequences for their developing babies. These range from microcephaly, a condition characterized by a small head and impaired brain development, to seizures, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disability. There are strong parallels between Zika and rubella, also known as German measles. An outbreak of rubella rocked the United States in the winter of 1964 and spring of 1965. More than 12 million people were infected with rubella. Like Zika, rubella is generally a minor illness. It causes a distinctive red rash, low fever, and symptoms resembling a bad cold that usually last a few days. For developing babies, however, infection can be a major catastrophe, causing a variety of birth defects, including blindness, deafness, heart damage, cataracts, internal organ damage, and intellectual disability. During that rubella outbreak, more than 20,000 babies were born with congenital rubella syndrome. Without a vaccine, there was nothing their mothers could have done to prevent it. A vaccine against rubella became available in 1969. Since then, this disease has been eradicated in the United States. (Webmaster's comment: We need a vaccine NOW!)

8-12-16 Polio back in Nigeria two years after being wiped out in Africa
Polio back in Nigeria two years after being wiped out in Africa
Just as Africa was due to celebrate the anniversary of its last polio infections, two new cases have set back global efforts to eradicate the virus by 2019. Just as Africa was due to celebrate two polio-free years, it has been announced that the virus has paralysed two children in Nigeria’s Borno state. The decline of polio in Africa is thanks to a huge public health effort. When these two new cases came to light, the continent had been on track to be declared officially polio free in just one year’s time. “The overriding priority now is to rapidly immunise all children around the affected area and ensure no other children succumb,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa. Nigeria previously had a particularly large incidence of polio. As recently as 2012, the country accounted for more than half of all cases globally. But a concerted campaign of immunisation meant that the country was able last month to celebrate two years without a new case. (Webmaster's comment: I wonder what all those anti-vaccination Twits have to say about the polio vaccine. Maybe they'd like to go back to crippled children by the many thousands every year in the United States.)

4-17-16 Vaccine switched in 'milestone' towards ending polio
Vaccine switched in 'milestone' towards ending polio
More than 150 countries have begun switching to a different polio vaccine - an important milestone towards polio eradication, health campaigners say. The new vaccine will target the two remaining strains of the virus under a switchover 18 months in the planning. There were just 74 cases of the paralysing disease in 2015 and there have been 10 so far this year. (Webmaster's comment: Thanks to polio vaccine this disease has almost been eradicated. No thanks to vaccine deniers other diseases have not.)

4-1-16 Pulling ‘Vaxxed’ still doesn’t retract vaccine misconceptions
Pulling ‘Vaxxed’ still doesn’t retract vaccine misconceptions
The Tribeca Film Festival and its cofounder Robert De Niro came under intense fire last week for their decision to screen Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, a film directed by disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. If Wakefield’s name doesn’t ring a bell, his legacy is surely familiar: his fraudulent 1998 study claiming to find a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine kicked off a major public health scare that’s had lasting, devastating consequences. While the purported link between autism and vaccines has been repeatedly debunked, the link lives on within the antivaccination movement. As a result of the backlash against vaccines, cases of the virtually eliminated measles are on the rise, as are outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases.

4-1-16 Robert De Niro pulled the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed
Robert De Niro pulled the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed
Amid a storm of controversy, Robert De Niro pulled the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe from his Tribeca Film Festival. The film accuses the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of covering up an alleged—and repeatedly debunked—link between child vaccinations and rising autism rates. De Niro, who has an autistic child, had defended screening the film “to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family.” But he said, after reviewing the film, “We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.” The film was harshly criticized by doctors and scientists for promoting the myth that autism is caused by vaccination, which has driven down vaccination rates to the point where diseases like measles and whooping cough are making a comeback.

3-27-16 Vaxxed: Tribeca festival withdraws MMR film
Vaxxed: Tribeca festival withdraws MMR film
New York's Tribeca Film Festival will not show Vaxxed, a controversial film about the MMR vaccine, its founder Robert De Niro says. As recently as Friday, Mr De Niro stood by his decision to include the film by anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield in next month's festival. The link the film makes between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism has been widely discredited. "We have concerns with certain things in this film," said Mr De Niro. Mr De Niro, who has a child with autism, said he had hoped the film would provide the opportunity for discussion of the issue. But after reviewing the film with festival organisers and scientists, he said: "We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for." (Webmaster's comment: People have every right to reject promoting the blatant lies of the anti-vaccination advocates. There has only been a single published scientific article in support of the vaccine-autism link and that article was retracted by the publisher many years ago. And the author of the article was found guilty of fraud 15 years ago!)

2-22-16 Vaccine halves cancer-causing HPV infections in US teen girls
Vaccine halves cancer-causing HPV infections in US teen girls
The number of people infected with the virus, which causes most cases of cervical cancer, has fallen dramatically since the vaccine's introduction. Vaccination against human papilloma virus has more than halved the number of HPV infections in the US – the leading cause of cervical cancer – despite its relatively low uptake in the country. The growing body of evidence that HPV vaccination works may convince more countries to give the vaccine to teenage boys, as HPV also causes cancers of the mouth, throat and anus, as well as genital warts. “It supports the case to strive for as much coverage as possible,” says Johannes Bogaards of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment at Bilthoven in the Netherlands, who wasn’t involved in the latest study. The vaccine, called Gardasil, was designed to prevent cervical cancer. It works against four strains of HPV, which cause almost all cases of this type of cancer. (Webmaster's comment: So much for vaccine denials.)

Calling the Shots

Sioux Falls Scientists endorse Vaccines for showing us that
vaccines have saved millions are are not a cause of autism.