During the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, then-Navy corpsman David Ridenhour often browbeat troops in 1st Battalion, 5th Marines to take their medications — the anti-nerve agent pyridostigmine bromide and another pill, new to the market, to prevent anthrax.
Ridenhour took them. And while he doesn’t completely blame his Gulf War illness symptoms on the drugs, he was interested to learn that last summer the Food and Drug Administration toughened its warnings for Ciprofloxacin, or Cipro, saying the potent antibiotic can cause severe and sometimes permanent nerve damage.
Ridenhour has that damage, known as peripheral neuropathy, which manifests as tingling and numbness in his limbs.
[...] It’s been well documented that the Defense Department stockpiled 30 million doses of Cipro during the Gulf War, and 150,000 troops received anthrax vaccines to prevent infection. But less well known is that during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, some troops actually took Cipro in anticipation of an anthrax attack.
According to Marine Corps documents, members of I Marine Expeditionary Force near Jubayl, Shaikh Isa and Bahrain International Airport and elsewhere took Cipro for a week or more as a prophylactic — although it was not approved to prevent or treat anthrax.
That approval from the FDA wouldn’t come for nine more years.
The Japanese government withdrew its recommendation that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can be used by girls, due to possible adverse effects such as long-term pain and numbness.
On the contrary, health officials in the Unites States recommended last week that teenage girls should be HPV vaccinated more after a study showed that the vaccine is “highly” effective.
The vaccination in Japan is not suspended, but the use of the vaccine is not promoted by local governments, as instructed by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.
by Helena Smith
My friend Malcolm Brabant has gone to places none of us would like to go. He has been possessed sitting on his veranda under a dark, Attic sky; he has heard voices in his head that have urged him to kill; he has been drunk with delirium, believing he was the chosen one, the Messiah come to save the world. He has grappled with inner demons, devilish thoughts that have made him believe he was Lucifer, too.
For almost two years, my friend Malcolm has slipped in and out of madness, dancing on the edge of an abyss most of us will never know. Spirits he calls guardian angels – friends and relatives who died prematurely – have sometimes accompanied him along the way. They have spoken to him in commandments, urging him to drink his urine or eat his excrement – or brush his teeth with a lavatory brush. And, like those satanic thoughts, they have inhabited his soul.
‘Parents will be forced to either vaccinate their children or register for an exemption in order to enroll them in childcare, after changes to the Public Health Act passed through cabinet Monday night.
The changes mean parents or guardians must provide evidence their child is fully vaccinated for age, is on a recognised catch-up schedule, or has an exemption approved by a doctor when they enroll their child.
To get an exemption, parents will have to receive counselling and fill out forms along with their doctor. Valid exemptions include personal, philosophical or religious beliefs.’
‘Over the past two decades the anti-vaccination movement has gained a growing following in NSW, Australia’s most populous state. It may have met its match.
After fighting to retain its ability to raise funds and disseminate information about “vaccine choices” through a series of legal battles, the Australian Vaccination Network and the wider anti-vax movement has become a target for the country’s largest selling newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, and its sister-paper The Daily Telegraph.
The campaign has been prompted by falling vaccination coverage rates, including in some of the most affluent parts of Sydney.’
by SUE DUNLEVY and PETRA STARKE
‘PARENTS who fail to vaccinate their children should face barriers to enrolling them in school and childcare centres, the Australian Medical Association says.
Only one state, NSW, requires childcare centres to ask for proof of vaccination when children enrol.
And Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory aren’t required to ask about immunisation status when children enrol for school, the Federal Department of Health and Ageing has warned.
AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton says parents who don’t vaccinate their children should be forced to produce a conscientious objection form.’
by Peter Lind
Gardasil, the vaccine for HPV (human papillomavirus), may not be as safe as backers claim.
Judicial Watch announced it has received documents from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that its National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) has awarded $5,877,710 dollars to 49 victims in claims made against the highly controversial HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines. To date 200 claims have been filed with VICP, with barely half adjudicated.
“This new information from the government shows that the serious safety concerns about the use of Gardasil have been well-founded. Public health officials should stop pushing Gardasil on children.” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
The CDC recommends the Gardasil vaccine, made by Merck Pharmaceuticals, for all females between 9 and 26 years to protect against HPV. Furthermore, the CDC says Gardasil is licensed, safe, and effective for males ages 9 through 26 years.
As a measles epidemic in south Wales continues to spread at an “alarming rate” an expert has said mandatory vaccinations should be considered.
Dr Paul Offit, a US-based measles expert, told the BBC that mandatory vaccinations in America had prevented similar outbreaks.
His comments came as measles cases in the Swansea area rose to 620.
The Welsh government said it believed the “hard won trust” in MMR would be damaged if vaccination was compulsory.
Some 240,000 children have missed U.N.-backedvaccinations against polio because of security concerns in Pakistan’s tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, a top official with the World Health Organization said Friday.
Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, the acting WHO chief in Pakistan, said health workers have not been able to immunize children in the North and South Waziristan regions — Taliban strongholds — since July 2012.
Pakistan is one of the few remaining countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is rampant. As many as 58 cases were reported in Pakistan in 2012, down from 198 in 2011.
She said polio transmission is now concentrated in core endemic areas — central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the Federally Administered Tribal Regions or FATA, parts of Karachi, Quetta and nearby Killa Abdullah and Pishin districts in south western Baluchistan province.
Abid said that 15 health workers have been killed in the anti-polio campaign in Pakistan since July 2012. Pakistani militant groups oppose the vaccinations and accuse the workers of spying for Washington.
Producing vaccines against viral threats is a potentially hazardous business and that’s why manufacturers have to operate strict controls to ensure that no pathogens escape.
British scientists have developed a new method to create an entirely synthetic vaccine which doesn’t rely on using live infectious virus, meaning it is much safer.
What’s more the prototype vaccine they have created, for the animal disease foot-and-mouth, has been engineered to make it more stable.
That means it can be kept out of the fridge for many hours before returning to the cold chain – overcoming one of the major hurdles in administering vaccines in the developing world.
The research, published in the journal PLOS pathogens, was a collaboration between scientists at Oxford and Reading Universities, the Pirbright Institute, and the UK’s national synchrotron facility, the Diamond Light Source near Oxford.
The ability to immunize babies at birth — rather than two months of age, when most current vaccination series begin — would be a triumph for global health. Worldwide, each year, infections kill more than 2 million infants under 6 months old. In resource-poor countries, birth may be the only time a child has contact with a health care provider.
While newborns lack most aspects of the immune response, researchers led by Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, of the Division of Infectious Disease at Boston Children’s have shown that their white blood cells do have one receptor that responds strongly to stimulation, known as Toll-like receptor 8 (TLR 8). In their new work, published March 4 by the online open-access journal PLoS ONE, they tested a panel of synthetic small-molecule compounds that specifically target TLR8, known chemically as benzazepines.
The compounds, provided by VentiRx Pharmaceuticals (Seattle, WA), potently stimulate the human immune system and are in clinical trials in patients with certain cancers.
Tested in Levy’s lab, one benzazepine, VTX-294, produced a strong immune response in white blood cells from newborns (taken from cord blood samples) as well as whole blood from adults. It induced robust production of cytokines — chemicals that rally the immune response — and proved at least 10 times more potent than the best activator of TLR8 known previously.
“The response was not only equal to that in adults, but VTX 294 was sometimes actually more effective in newborns than adults,” notes Levy, the study’s senior investigator.
The compound also triggered production of so-called co-stimulatory molecules that enhance immune responses. Moreover, even very low concentrations of VTX-294 strongly activated antigen-presenting cells, a type of white blood cell whose activation induces immune memory — key to effective responses to vaccines.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs), first identified in humans about two decades ago, are part of the innate (rapid) immune response that provides our first defense against infections. Ten types of TLRs are known, and TLR stimulators have begun to be added to vaccines as adjuvants. The main one, monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA), stimulates TLR4 and is used in the human papillomavirus vaccine Cervarix. However, in a recent clinical trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a malaria vaccine with MPLA failed to elicit a sufficient immune response in infants.
With encouraging results in cells from human newborns, Levy and colleagues now hope to formulate VTX 294 or a similar TLR8 stimulator for testing as a vaccine adjuvant in newborn primates, a model in which the lab has expertise, and whose responses to TLR8 closely resemble humans’.
“This one receptor seems to lead to more adult-like responses — immediate, short-term responses that are more appropriate for fighting infections,” says David Dowling, PhD, co-first author on the study. “We’re excited about the benzazepines because they are already in the clinical pipeline. That advances the potential for using them in a clinical study in human newborns, once they have been proven safe in animal studies.”
The Swedish Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket) ordered the massive study to determine if the vaccine had any connection to narcolepsy after dozens of reported cases of young people coming down with the affliction after receiving a swine flu jab.
The study, which took place between October 2009 and the December 2011, compared 3.3 million vaccinated Swedes with 2.5 million who were not vaccinated.
“We can see that over the whole study period we have 126 cases of those vaccinated getting narcolepsy,” Ingemar Person, professor behind the study, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“There were 20 cases among those not vaccinated. We’re talking about a threefold increase in risk.”
The risk was found to be highest among the youngest people who took the vaccines. For those under the age of 21, the risk of contracting narcolepsy was three times higher for those who were vaccinated with Pandemrix, whereas those aged between 21 and 30 had double the risk.
Those vaccinated over the age of 40 had the same risk as those who didn’t, according to the study.
Person added that it was “very difficult” to determine whether there was any connection with other sicknesses or diseases from taking the vaccine.
One of the UK’s preeminent scientists has denounced the wasting of some £80 million on smallpox vaccines. The terrorist threat of the disease – now confined to laboratories – has been changed following repeated studies showing low infection risks.
The Ministry of Defense’s quiet downgrade of the danger posed by smallpox sparked criticism from one of the country’s top scientists. “The downgrade is of a threat that should never have had an upgrade. Buying millions of doses of vaccine was a waste of money,” Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, told the Independent.
In total, the UK government spent £79 million on the anti-smallpox scheme in the early 2000s.
In official documents obtained by the paper, ministers appeared to agree, ruling that earlier preparations to counter the possible spread of smallpox were too expensive, “unwieldy” and not“proportionate” to the threat level. The Ministry of Defense and the Department of Health have simultaneously been reviewing strategies for countering a smallpox attack.
Although some stocks remain worldwide for research purposes, the virus was formally eradicated in 1980; no one has died as a result of the disease since.
No smallpox vaccinations have been necessary for around three decades. But 11 years ago, in the wake of 9/11, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered the purchase of millions of doses of the vaccination for use in a “smallpox plan.” An enormous national controversy erupted, as £32 million went to a donor for the then-ruling Labour party, Lord Drayson, whose company, Powderject, was granted a contract for the vaccine.
Professor Pennington pointed out that the slow-spreading nature of the virus and the difficulties in sourcing or manufacturing it means the threat of a virus terror attack is “far-fetched” and overstated.
The United States government is buying enough of a new smallpox medicine to treat two million people in the event of a bioterrorism attack, and took delivery of the first shipment of it last week. But the purchase has set off a debate about the lucrative contract, with some experts saying the government is buying too much of the drug at too high a price.
A small company, Siga Technologies, developed the drug in recent years. Whether the $463 million order is a boondoggle or a bargain depends on which expert is talking. The deal will transform the finances of Siga, which is controlled by Ronald O. Perelman, a billionaire financier, philanthropist and takeover specialist.
Smallpox was eradicated by 1980, and the only known remaining virus is in government laboratories in the United States and Russia. But there have long been rumors of renegade stocks that could be sprayed in airports or sports stadiums. Experts say the virus could also be re-engineered into existence in a sophisticated genetics lab.
As part of its efforts to prepare for a possible bioterrorism attack, the government is paying more than $200 for each course of treatment.
AUSTRALIAN teenage boys will become the first in the world to receive the groundbreaking cervical cancer vaccine from today even though its a cancer they won’t ever develop.
Boys aged 12-13 will be vaccinated with Gardasil at schools around the country and in coming months boys aged 14-15 will get the jab as part of a catch up program.
More than one million teenage girls aged 12-16 have already been vaccinated under the free program that is expected to reduce the 700 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year.
U.S. health regulators have sent letters to nine Internet distributors of dietary supplements warning them against making false claims about their products’ ability to fight the flu.
The Food and Drug Administration posted the letters on its website late Thursday to steer consumers away from a variety of herbal products that the distributors claim reduce the duration or severity of the flu.
In a letter to a company called Supplementality LLC, for example, FDA said the distributor was improperly offering products intended to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, treat or cure the flu virus, and demanded the company “immediately cease marketing” in this way.
“There are no over-the-counter products that shorten the duration or severity of the flu,” Gary Coody, FDA’s national health fraud coordinator, said in an interview.
The warning covers products including Resveratrol, Garlic, Echinacea, Elderberry, Ashwagandha and Astragalus Immune System Support.
The warning letters come amid an unusually severe cold and flu season, which has pushed up demand for remedies.
by Ketaki Gokhale
The London-based drugmaker has agreed to form a 50-50 venture with India’s Biological E Ltd. to develop a product that would combine Glaxo’s injectable polio shot with a vaccine produced by Biological E that protects against five diseases including diphtheria and tetanus, the companies said in an e- mailed statement today.
Boosting vaccine production in India will help Glaxo gain market share as smaller Indian rivals like billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India Ltd. make inroads by selling low-priced shots for developing countries. Poonawalla said this month he is being urged to offer the injectable polio vaccine at a third to a quarter of its current price.
Glaxo and Paris-based Sanofi (SAN) are the largest suppliers of injectable polio vaccine, which is used in most developed countries to protect children against crippling poliomyelitis.
Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine-making unit of France’s largest drugmaker, already has an Indian vaccine unit, Hyderabad-based Shantha Biotechnics Pvt.
Shantha’s Shan6 inoculation will be an “affordable answer” to six diseases including polio, said Olivier Charmeil, president and chief executive officer of Sanofi Pasteur, said Jan. 17.
by Kate Kelland
Emelie is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares. When she wakes up, she’s often paralyzed, unable to breathe properly or call for help. During the day she can barely stay awake, and often misses school or having fun with friends. She is only 14, but at times she has wondered if her life is worth living.
Emelie is one of around 800 children in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe who developed narcolepsy, an incurable sleep disorder, after being immunized with the Pandemrix H1N1 swine flu vaccine made by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline in 2009.
Finland, Norway, Ireland and France have seen spikes in narcolepsy cases, too, and people familiar with the results of a soon-to-be-published study in Britain have told Reuters it will show a similar pattern in children there.
Their fate, coping with an illness that all but destroys normal life, is developing into what the health official who coordinated Sweden’s vaccination campaign calls a “medical tragedy” that will demand rising scientific and medical attention.
Europe’s drugs regulator has ruled Pandemrix should no longer be used in people aged under 20. The chief medical officer at GSK’s vaccines division, Norman Begg, says his firm views the issue extremely seriously and is “absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of this”, but adds there is not yet enough data or evidence to suggest a causal link.
Others – including Emmanuel Mignot, one of the world’s leading experts on narcolepsy, who is being funded by GSK to investigate further – agree more research is needed but say the evidence is already clearly pointing in one direction.
by RYAN JASLOW
Flu activity continues to rise in the U.S., according to new surveillance statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.
Forty-seven states have now reported widespread influenza activity, according to the CDC’s latest FluView report, three more states than officials estimated Wednesday. Two more children have died since last week’s report, raising the total to 20 kids who have succumbed to the virus. It is still too soon to predict the severity of this flu season compared to previous ones, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters during a conference call Thursday.
“The only thing predictable about flu is that it’s unpredictable,” said Frieden.
Measles is responsible for thousands of tragic (and preventable) deaths each year. Which is perhaps why so many reviewers are panning a new (and apparently self-published) book by Stephanie Messenger, an Australian author and anti-vaccine activist. According to the author’s page, “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles” was written to:
Educate children on the benefits of having measles and how you can heal from them naturally and successfully. Often today, we are being bombarded with messages from vested interests to fear all diseases in order for someone to sell some potion or vaccine, when, in fact, history shows that in industrialized countries, these diseases are quite benign and, according to natural health sources, beneficial to the body. Having raised three children vaccine-free and childhood disease-free, I have experienced many times when my children’s vaccinated peers succumb to the childhood diseases they were vaccinated against.
Amazon reviewers have not taken kindly to Messenger’s suggestion that measles can be an “adventure,” either. As one recently wrote:
Isn’t Melanie lucky that she didn’t get pneumonia from her measles like 1 in 15 children (7%) do? I had measles when I was a toddler in the 1950s before there was a measles vaccine available. I was in hospital in an oxygen tent for over a week with bilateral pneumonia when I had measles.
I can only presume that the author was born after the successful vaccination programme made people complacent about the dangers of measles. I was not so lucky. In the epidemic of my childhood I was nearly blinded, and still have scars on my eyeballs. I was the lucky member of the family; my sister died from complications. Measles kills children. This book is irresponsible and misleading at best. At worst it could lead to the death of a child.
Messenger’s title seems to allude to the Roald Dahl book, “George’s Marvelous Medicine.”Dahl, however, was a strong proponent of vaccination, a position rooted in the tragic death of his young daughter from measles.
A face-to-face educational method used among Orthodox Jews apparently led to a U.S. outbreak of mumps in 2009 and 2010 even though most of those infected had been properly vaccinated, according to a U.S. study.
The outbreak, detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicates how close, repeated contact with an infected person can overwhelm the mumps vaccine, the researchers said.
“The risk of infection with mumps may be higher when the exposure dose of virus is large or intensely transmitted,” wrote lead author Albert Barskey, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respirators Diseases, and colleagues.
This may also explain why the mumps vaccine tends to be less effective among household contacts than among school or community contacts, they added.
A sharp decline in deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases like measles and tuberculosis has caused a shift in global mortality patterns over the past 20 years, according to a report published on Thursday, with far more of the world’s population now living into old age and dying from diseases mostly associated with rich countries, like cancer and heart disease.
The shift reflects improvements in sanitation, medical services and access to food throughout the developing world, as well as the success of broad public health efforts like vaccine programs. The results are striking: infant mortality declined by more than half from 1990 to 2010, and malnutrition, the No. 1 risk factor for death and years of life lost in 1990, has fallen to No. 8.
At the same time, chronic diseases like cancer now account for about two out of every three deaths worldwide, up from just over half in 1990. Eight million people died of cancer in 2010, 38 percent more than in 1990. Diabetes claimed 1.3 million lives in 2010, double the number in 1990.
“The growth of these rich-country diseases, like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, is in a strange way good news,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, chairman of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “It shows that many parts of the globe have largely overcome infectious and communicable diseases as a pervasive threat, and that people on average are living longer.”
In 2010, 43 percent of deaths in the world occurred at age 70 and older, compared with 33 percent of deaths in 1990, the report said. And fewer child deaths have brought up the mean age of death, which in Brazil and Paraguay jumped to 63 in 2010, up from 30 in 1970, the report said. The measure, an average of all deaths in a given year, is different from life expectancy, and is lower when large numbers of children die.
But while developing countries made big strides the United States stagnated. American women registered the smallest gains in life expectancy of all high-income countries’ female populations between 1990 and 2010. American women gained just under two years of life, compared with women in Cyprus, who lived 2.3 years longer and Canadian women who gained 2.4 years. The slow increase caused American women to fall to 36th place in the report’s global ranking of life expectancy, down from 22nd in 1990. Life expectancy for American women was 80.5 in 2010, up from 78.6 in 1990.
In a press release from Dec. 17, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the World Health Organization’s recommendation that thimersol, an organomercurial compound used as a preservative, should not be removed from vaccines. This endorsement is a reversal from the AAP’s stance just over a decade ago.
In 1999, the AAP, the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and various vaccine manufacturers actually agreed that thimerosal should be “removed as soon as possible” from vaccines due to its potential neurotoxicity. Since 2001, no new FDA-approved vaccines for children have contained thimerosal, and all vaccines for children under six years of age are thimerosal-free (or only contain trace amounts of the compound). Since the 1999 recommendation, researchers have reviewed data on the safety and efficacy of mercury compounds in vaccines, have monitored vaccine coverage and have reviewed the risks and benefits of thimerosal-containing vaccines and their alternatives. All of this because thimerosal is a mercury compound.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element, widespread in our environment. It can be found in the water, soil and air. Once in the air, mercury will settle into the land, and eventually wash into the water. Microorganisms in the water change mercury into methylmercury, an inorganic compound and neurotoxin. Methylmercury contaminates aquatic life and moves its way up the aquatic food chain. Humans are often exposed through ingestion of seafood. This form of mercury is easily absorbed but not easily eliminated from the body.
The neurotoxicity of methylmercury was first noticed in the 1950s and 60s. During that time there was significant discharge of industrial materials into Japan’s Minimata Bay, resulting in the consumption of mercury-contaminated fish. Similarly, in 1970s Iraq, a fungicide containing methlymercury was used on seed grain, which was then accidentally used in bread. Both episodes affected neurodevelopment. Maternal exposure to methylmercury was associated with disorders similar to cerebral palsy, sensory and motor neurologic dysfunction and development delays.
So, what does this have to do with thimerosal? Thimerosal has been used in vaccines since the early 1930s. A mercury-containing organic compound, thimerosal has been used to prevent microbial growth in vaccines. The compound is derived from ethyl mercury, which makes it a different chemical compound than methylmercury. According to the FDA, we are lacking in definitive comparative data between the two, and, erring on the side of caution, have considered both to have certain risks. Though, in 2004, the Institute of Medicine issued its safety review of thimerosal-containing vaccines. The report rejected that thimerosal-containing vaccines are causative of disorders such as autism, and further stated that the rejection of vaccines could lead to increases in infectious diseases such as whopping cough, measles, and bacterial meningitis. The CDC provided similar findings with a study of its own in 2010. The CDC also points out that there is no convincing evidence of harm caused by thimerosal in vaccines, and that since 2001, when thimerosal was no longer in vaccines, autism has actually gone up in the United States.
Weighing the Risks
In its Weekly Epidemiological Record, published on May 25, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization recommended that thimerosal use continue. The group reaffirmed:
“thiomersal-containing vaccines were safe, essential and irreplaceable components of immunization programmes, especially in developing countries, and that removal of these products would disproportionately jeopardize the health and lives of the most disadvantaged children worldwide.”
Thimerosal plays an integral role in keeping multi-dose vaccine vials safe for use. As SAGE points out, removing thimerosal, and thus multi-dose vials, could have an enormous negative impact on routine immunizations. Multi-dose vials are cheaper per dose and occupy less cold chain capacity, making them popular in low-resource areas.
In making these recommendations, researchers and policy-makers had to weigh serious risks: the known negative impacts of more rampant infectious disease, or the uncertain negative impacts of a mercury compound. Though perhaps controversial, as Reuters suggests, the result is that the risk of infectious disease outweighs the yet to be fully understood risks of thimerosal.
As drug-resistant superbugs and increasingly virulent viruses menace the medical world, patients face a threat that was supposed to die with the advent of the disposable syringe 150 years ago: dirty needles.
When seven people arrived at a Delaware hospital in March with drug-resistant MRSA infections, the similarities were alarming.
All of the patients had the same strain of MRSA, all had the infections in joints, and all had gotten injections in those joints at the same orthopedic clinic in a three-day span. State health officials found that the clinic had injected multiple patients with medication from a vial that was meant to be used only once, spreading the MRSA bacteria to a new patient with each shot.
by Genevra Pittman
A mercury-containing preservative should not be banned as an ingredient in vaccines, U.S. pediatricians said Monday, in a move that may be controversial.
In its statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorsed calls from a World Health Organization (WHO) committee that the preservative, thimerosal, not be considered a hazardous source of mercury that could be banned by the United Nations.
Back in 1999, a concern that kids receiving multiple shots containing thimerosal might get too much mercury – and develop autism or other neurodevelopmental problems as a result – led the AAP to call for its removal, despite the lack of hard evidence at the time.
“It was absolutely a matter of precaution because of the absence of more information,” said Dr. Louis Cooper, from Columbia University in New York, who was on the organization’s board of directors at the time.
“Subsequently an awful lot of effort has been put into trying to sort out whether thimerosal causes any harm to kids, and the bottom line is basically, it doesn’t look as if it does,” Cooper, who wrote a commentary published with the AAP’s statement, told Reuters Health.
In a 2004 safety review, for example, the independent U.S. Institute of Medicine concluded there was no evidence thimerosal-containing vaccines could cause autism. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came to the same conclusion in 2010.
With the exception of some types of flu shots, the compound is not used in vaccines in the United States, which are distributed in single-dose vials.
And nobody is arguing that should change, according to Dr. Walter Orenstein, a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases and a researcher at the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta.
But in countries with fewer resources – where many children still die of vaccine-preventable diseases – it’s cheaper and easier to use multi-dose vials of vaccines against diphtheria and tetanus, for example.
Thimerosal prevents the rest of a multi-dose vial from getting contaminated with bacteria or fungi each time a dose is used.
Researchers estimated it could cost anywhere from two to five times as much to manufacture vaccines for developing countries without thimerosal, and both transporting vaccines and keeping them refrigerated would be much harder as well.
By HIDEKI MOTOYAMA
Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates expressed annoyance over a Japanese TV program that spread rumors he was “conspiring to control the world population” through his efforts to promote vaccinations.
Microsoft Japan Co. asked TV Tokyo Corp. for a meeting to explain the thinking behind the Nov. 2 installment of “Yarisugi Toshi Densetsu Special 2012 Aki,” saying the company was deeply shocked by the misleading content.
The variety show discusses details about unfounded rumors and urban legends.
On the Nov. 2 show, the emcee entertainer spent about 12 minutes floating such theories as “Bill Gates has devised a ghastly program on humanity” and “Rumors say he is attempting to use vaccines to control the world population.”
Gates told The Asahi Shimbun he is doing the exact opposite.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it has sponsored programs to vaccinate 330 million children across the world against polio, pneumonia and other diseases, an effort that has saved 5.5 million lives.
Gates said that dispelling such misinformation about vaccinations would help to save the lives of millions of children. He said he wants TV viewers to understand the real situation.
TV Tokyo in December told Microsoft Japan that it would remove the questionable parts from rebroadcasts and DVD releases, Microsoft Japan officials said.
“Our approach of having entertainers use their storytelling art to present urban legends has gained a certain level of currency among our viewers,” a TV Tokyo representative said. “We will draw on the latest feedback for our future work.”
However, some viewers apparently believed the rumors about Gates presented on the show.
Many Twitter users and bloggers posted messages that called on people to refuse vaccinations against uterine cervical cancer on the erroneous grounds that the shots would cause sterility.
Medical workers criticized those posters for obstructing efforts to prevent cancer.
“The variety show crossed the line,” said Hiroshi Yamamoto, a science fiction writer well-versed in conspiracy theories.