Vaccines save lives–even more evidence

Vaccines-save-lives;-fear-endangers-them.-It's-a-simple-message-parents-need-to-keep-hearing.One of my favorite tropes (of so many) of the vaccine denier gang is that vaccines are not effective, thereby implying that the limited usefulness is not worth the risks of vaccines, real or imagined. But the fact is vaccines do save lives in measurable and sometimes fascinating ways. Two peer reviewed papers, recently published, provided clear evidence of some of the ways vaccines directly save lives.

The first article analyzed the relationship between flu vaccines and reduction of cardiovascular events; while the second one examined how vaccines might reduce morbidity and mortality from pneumococcal meningitis.

Let’s start with the flu vaccine, which has a high safety profile and most people receive for the obvious reasons–flu prevention. However, we are aware of other benefits of the flu shot, including providing somewhat better outcomes during pregnancy. In an article published on 21 August 2013 examined a previously suspected, but not firmly established, benefit of the flu vaccine was examined. This study found that the risk of getting a heart attack was about 50% less amongst patients who were vaccinated against the flu compared to a group that was not.

Now, the study does not show that the flu vaccine has some miraculous anti-heart attack component, it might reduce the risk of catching the flu, or possibly reducing the severity of the infection, which reduces the risk of having a heart attack. In fact, the study’s original hypothesis was that catching the flu might actually increase the risk of a cardiovascular event, specifically a heart attack.

Furthermore, the researchers observed that the flu vaccine reduced heart attack risk even when the vaccine’s effectiveness was shown to be not very high. This conclusion itself debunks one of the huge myths of the antivaccination crowd (which is essentially that if it’s not 100% effective then we must conclude that it’s 0% effective, an application of the Nirvana logical fallacy); sometimes even when a vaccine isn’t completely effective, it still has some net positive effects. Continue reading “Vaccines save lives–even more evidence”

Stem cell treatments for heart attacks

Acute myocardial infarctions (AMI), commonly known as heart attacks, are responsible for about 12.6% of deaths worldwide, according to The World Health Report 2004 – Changing History.  In the United States, about 16.6% of those who have heart attacks die within 30 days of the attack.  Outside of AIDS and a few infectious diseases, AMI is the biggest killer of adults.

An AMI is essentially caused by a blockage of the coronary arteries which leads to cellular damage of some of the heart muscle (myocardium).  This prognosis can be minor to deadly, depending on a lot of issues such as other cardiovascular risk profile (diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, smoking and others), quality of treatment, and severity of the tissue damage.  Over the past few years, treatments have improved the outlook for AMI sufferers, but the risk of a subsequent heart attacks and mortality rates are still high. Continue reading “Stem cell treatments for heart attacks”