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vaccine testing

Debunking myths about vaccine testing and safety

The goal of this article is to respond to a number of recurring myths raised by anti-vaccine activists regarding vaccine testing and safety – a common trope used against vaccines.

The bottom line is that vaccines are extensively and carefully tested for safety, and that vaccine safety is shown by many, many studies from a variety of sources, reinforcing each other and all pointing to the same result – serious problems from vaccines are possible, but extremely rare. And those small, rare risks are far outweighed by the benefits vaccines provide by protecting us against much larger risks.

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adult vaccines

Adult vaccines – the CDC wants to save adult lives too

Generally, when I write about vaccines, it’s about protecting children’s lives from vaccine preventable diseases. That itself is a noble goal for vaccines. But in case you didn’t know, there is also a CDC schedule for adult vaccines, which is as important to adults as they are to children.

Vaccines have one purpose – to protect us and those whom we love from potentially deadly and debilitating diseases. Many of us in the blogosphere have talked about the children’s schedule a lot, often to debunk claims of people who are ignorant of science, and think that the children’s vaccine schedule is causing undue harm. Yeah our intellectually deficient president, Donald Trump, thinks he knows more than the CDC, but that’s a problem shared by many vaccine deniers.

One adult vaccine I push regularly is the flu vaccine. It protects adults, pregnant women, the elderly, children, and healthy young adults from a severe infection that hospitalizes and kills more people every year than you’d think. Because flu is not really a serious disease, in some people’s minds, a lot of people decide that they don’t need the vaccine. They’d be wrong.

Just in case you were wondering, there is more to adult vaccines than just flu vaccines. There are several other vaccines indicated for adult use, including those adults with underlying health issues like diabetes, HIV and heart disease – unfortunately, the uptake for adult vaccines is depressingly low. Let’s take at the low uptake and the recommended adult vaccines schedule.

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A failed vaccine clinical trial – it happens

There is a trope that Big Pharma has an open door to push whatever drug they want onto the unwitting public, whenever they want, irrespective of any safety and effectiveness data. For those who actually work in Big Pharma, this causes more nervous laughter than any other trope, because they know how hard and complicated it is to actually do so.

I’ve written previously that less than 10% of hyped pre-clinical data ever makes it through clinical trials so that it might be considered valuable evidence for clinical decisions. And less than 10% of drugs, such as cancer treatments, ever make it from the first step through the last step (often called pivotal studies) of clinical trials to gain regulatory approval (pdf).

So if Big Pharma is lying to the public about the quality of their drugs (and by extension, vaccines), and then bribing the FDA to cover up these lies, they are laughably incompetent. I guess if they really were that inept, it’s a good thing.

But now we come to a failed vaccine clinical trial – what does that tell us about vaccine development.Read More »A failed vaccine clinical trial – it happens

Vaccination coverage in US children,19-35 months–uptake still high

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported in the 2012 National Immunization Survey (NIS) that the majority of children, age 19-35 months, remained extremely high from 2008 through 2012, although there was a small, but statistically significant drop in uptake of some vaccines from 2011 to 2012. In addition, the CDC specified a substantial concern about clusters of unvaccinated children in widespread communities that are at risk from vaccine preventable diseases, and may pose a health risk to the community at large.

The study results were based upon a survey (cell and land-line phone calls with follow-up details from the health care provider) of about 16,000 children (an extremely large sampling for a survey). The data was then adjusted for racial/ethnic, income, and other population factors. Even though the CDC provided data from 2008-2012, the current method of polling was started in 2011, and only results from 2011 and 2012 are mathematically comparable.

vaccine-uptake-2013-2012

 

 

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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.Read More »Vaccines save lives–even more evidence

The benefits of immunization: reducing pneumonia hospitalizations

pneumonia_355pxIn this blog, I have spent an inordinate amount of time refuting claims from vaccine deniers about the effectiveness of vaccines (along with debunking claims about safety). Even if the safety claims were legitimate, and they are not, in general,  even close to being legitimate, the antivaccinationists give disproportionate weight to the adverse events over the actual benefits of the vaccination. For example, I just reviewed an article about non-medical exemptions to vaccinations, in which the authors concluded that, “the past several decades have seen a shift in parental concerns from disease prevention to vaccination risks, largely and paradoxically because of the success of large scale immunization.” 

But it’s much more than just ignoring the successes of vaccinations, sometimes the vaccine denier community will actually misrepresent and revise history, to make facetious, and easily discredited,  claims such as diseases were disappearing before vaccines. Sometimes, the vaccine refusers confuse mortality and morbidity, failing to understand how vaccines have reduced both. Or they just invent stories to show that the decline in infectious diseases was caused by anything but vaccines.Read More »The benefits of immunization: reducing pneumonia hospitalizations

New 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine is safe

pneumonia_355pxA recent study, published in the journal Vaccine, provided evidence that the new 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is as safe as the previous version, the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7). The newer version of the vaccine, introduced in 2010 after clinical trials, protects against a broader range of pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniaea significant human pathogenic bacterium) subtypes. These studies show that the new version did not increase  the risk for any serious adverse events related to the vaccine.

Pneumococcal disease is a serious health care issue, especially for children and adults with certain risk factors. Pneumococcal disease can lead to various serious diseases like pneumonia and bacterial meningitis, or less serious ones like otitis media. Unfortunately, pneumococcal disease can be fatal. In some cases, it can result in long-term problems, like brain damage, hearing loss, and limb loss.Read More »New 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine is safe

Consequences of not vaccinating–Report 4, meningitis and education

college_meningitisThis is the fourth in a series of reports about actual consequences from not vaccinating against infectious diseases. The reports are all based on verifiable reports from health agencies and/or articles published in high impact peer-reviewed journals. 

Bacterial meningitis is a usually severe inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. For example, in the United States, about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis, including 500 deaths, occurred each year between 2003–2007.

There are several pathogens that can cause bacterial meningitis including Haemophilus influenzae (most often caused by type b, often called Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae, group B StreptococcusListeria monocytogenes, and Neisseria meningitides. Depending on the pathogen, bacterial meningitis is highly contagious, especially among groups that are in enclosed areas such as schools, college dormitories and other such situations. There are other types of meningitis, viral, fungal, parasitic and non-infectious, but they are significantly different than bacterial meningitis, about which is the focus of this article.Read More »Consequences of not vaccinating–Report 4, meningitis and education