Articles Posted in Vaccinations

Call it the million-dollar lie: Minnesotans are finding how costly it can be to allow vaccination foes to spread counter-factual misinformation in vulnerable populations. Doing so has helped fuel one of the North Star state’s worst recent outbreaks of measles among international refugees in the Twin Cities area. The highly contagious infection has swept through the state’s sizable community of Somali immigrants, felling several dozen children, most younger than 10 and all but two un-immunized.

Public health officials blame the disease’s surge, which they say has not peaked yet and has resulted in kids sick enough to need hospitalization, on anti-vaxxers’ exploitation of immigrants’ uninformed fears about American medicine, particularly modern science’s inability to explain precisely what causes autism.

To be crystal clear, no evidence or science ties vaccines to autism. But almost a decade ago, shortly after the government, churches, and nonprofits helped many Somalis—who were fleeing famine and strife in their native African nation and resettling legally in Minnesota—a public health scare erupted. The newcomers feared then that disproportionate numbers of their children were showing signs they were autistic. Health officials investigated and found no higher incidence of the developmental disorder. Americans ages 18 to 59 may be infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV) than previously had been known, with 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women carrying high-risk strains, federal experts say.

The new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may become a key part of campaigns to get more parents to vaccinate youngsters against HPV infections. They have been found to cause cervical cancer and have been tied to cancers of the throat, anus, and male and female reproductive organs.

HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and it is concerning that the CDC found that almost half of Americans’ are infected. But public health leaders have confronted ignorance and adult prudery—by physicians, public officials, and parents—as they try to get boys and girls, ages 11 and 12, inoculated and protected against the virus.

cdc-logo-300x226When it comes to the nation’s health, the Trump Administration and the GOP-dominated Congress seem determined to prove they know how to do penny-wise and pound-foolish. They’re amply demonstrating this with proposed slashes in the nation’s basic budget for public health. They’re calling for a $1 billion cut for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, notably in the agency’s funding to combat bioterrorism and outbreaks of disease, as well as to battle smoking and to provide critical medical services like immunizations. Their target is the Prevention and Public Health Fund, set up under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. With the ACA under fire by partisans who want to repeal and replace it, the fund was already imperiled. GOP lawmakers, determined to cut domestic spending, seem disinclined to come up with substitute sums.

Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican congressman, physician, and House appropriations health subcommittee member, has been quoted as calling the public health money, “a slush fund.” He argued that, “It’s been used by the secretary [of health and human services] for whatever the secretary wants. It’s a misnomer to call it the Prevention and Public Health Fund, because it’s been used for other things, and it’s about time we eliminated it.”

The Obama Administration did embarrass Congress by tapping the fund to provide emergency aid last summer to Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and other states battling tropical infections, including Zika and dengue fever. Congress took a long recess vacation, as states clamored for help for mosquito eradication and vaccine development to deal with Zika, a virus that can cause severe birth defects and other harms.

Edward_Jenner-150x150Donald_Trump-150x150In 1798, Edward Jenner, an English physician, published a small pamphlet that forever changed the course of  medicine. The pamphlet described how vaccinations could prevent infectious diseases. But  more than two centuries after his lifesaving breakthrough, which has sidelined some of the planet’s worst scourges, how is it that a leading physician at one of the nation’s top academic medical centers, a scion of a legendary American political family, and the U.S. president-elect all can raise public doubts — without basis in science or evidence — about modern inoculations and their demonstrable health benefit?

Vaccines, to be sure, carry risks. So do all medical treatments. Some proponents may overstate their effectiveness. Their harms and benefits have been studied extensively by credible experts, and that research continues. It’s published and available, often online for free. What’s beyond issue is that vaccinations protect the public health, and the evidence for their widespread, consistent, and sustained use is beyond debate. For inoculations to reach their maximum effectiveness, it’s vital, of course, that more not less of us get them to build and maintain  “herd immunity.”

We’re almost two decades past the fraud, refutation, and retraction of a rotten medical journal article that utterly misrepresented scientific research about some vaccines. Its harms live on, including when its fabulist views find echoes in a Cleveland newspaper blog post by an M.D. at the notable Cleveland Clinic, or when the incoming leader of the free world engages in another of his dumpster-fire quality meetings with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., both disputing later as to whether it will result in a new presidential panel reexamining vaccinations. The Washington Post underscores that such a panel already exists, and, by the way, Stat, the online health information site, has provided a short, informative look at how the president can affect vaccinations.

coughThe news circus about the health of presidential candidates gives us a good excuse to mention a smart preventive care measure for both  very young and older Americans:  vaccination against pneumonia.

Yes, there are many different kinds, both of the illness and the preventative inoculation. Pneumonia, for which there are at least 30 causes, can be traced to infection by bacteria, virus, or fungi. There are at least two types of anti-pneumonia vaccines, one for kids and the other for those 65 and older.

Pneumonia, combined with the flu, claimed almost 57,000 lives in the United States in 2013, and hospitalized more than 1 million.

aedes-aegyptiThe 2016 Summer Olympic Games are about to launch, and who would have guessed that Miami, and not Rio, is the city that officials are buzzing about because of the tropical malady Zika?

State and local officials say they are stepping up the battle against the mosquito-borne scourge after confirming four locally contracted Zika cases in a neighborhood not far from downtown Miami; none of the cases can be tracked to those who might have traveled outside the United States or engaged in unprotected sex with a Zika carrier−the means by which the infection has occurred, thus far, in the American mainland.

The confirmation of a localized spread of Zika has prompted a major push for pest detection and control in the Wynwood area, a bohemian neighborhood with many restaurants and art galleries.

Hypodermic-NeedleFederal officials have advanced a key way  to combat the zika virus, permitting clinical trials of a vaccine against the tropical infection.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the preliminary testing  of GLS-5700, an experimental vaccine by Inovio, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., and GeneOne Life Science, of Seoul, South Korea.

It is the first but not the only vaccine-based effort to attack zika, a rapidly spreading viral infection that afflicts most people in relatively mild fashion (fever, chills, muscle pains) but can cause severe deformities for the unborn if pregnant moms are exposed. Brazil, in particular, has struggled with hundreds of children born with microcephaly after their mothers were zika-exposed.

hpvWhen it comes to inoculations for kids, cancer doctors want more preteens to get the vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV), while public health officials are encouraging shots and discouraging the use of a nasal mist to protect children against seasonal flu.

The campaign for HPV shots has shifted among medical experts, the Washington Post reported, moving from pediatricians to cancer specialists. Oncologists are pushing this vaccine, citing its effectiveness in curbing cervical cancer in girls and young women, and in helping to reduce throat cancers in men.

I’ve written before about studies showing the vaccine’s effectiveness, and the reluctance of pediatricians, in particular, to recommend this therapy robustly because that would mean talking to young patients, ages 10 to 12, about sex and sexuality.

hpvAlthough the opposition has veered between passive and ferocious, an immunization against a virus that causes cervical cancer has cut the virus’s prevalence in teen girls by two-thirds, researchers say. That’s good news in the fight against cervical cancer, which kills more than 4,000 women a year in the United States. Cervical cancer appears even more preventable if advocates can increase the number of girls and boys vaccinated against strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) that cause the cancer.

Because the three-dose immunization fights a sexually transmitted viral infection, parents, teachers, and doctors have hesitated to talk about the vaccine and HPV, which can cause genital warts, as well as cervical, anal, penile, and mouth and throat cancers.

Some grownups have argued that talking to boys and girls as young as 10 to 12, the ages to ensure optimal protection against HPV by immunization, encourages too early sexual behaviors; others are simply uncomfortable at all about talking with young people about sex.

With the presidential campaigns under way and some partisans playing crazy with health care issues, it’s refreshing to find some good news to report about women’s reproductive issues, specifically, increases in early diagnoses in young women of treatable cervical cancer and calm, quiet efforts in two states to empower pharmacists to prescribe birth control medications.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society attribute the favorable finding on cervical cancer diagnoses to an aspect of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare — more young women stayed on their parents’ insurance coverage and benefited from detection programs, the New York Times has reported.

This matters because the research shows that women with insurance are more likely to get screenings that identify the cancer early and: “Early diagnosis improves the prospects for survival because treatment is more effective and the chance of remission is higher. It also bolsters women’s chances for preserving their fertility during treatment.”

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