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Posts Tagged ‘vaccines

Science Policy Around the Web – October 6, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

NFL Crusaded Against Science – An investigative book claims that the NFL denied a growing number of scientific studies linking playing football and brain damage. As part of their effort to discredit publications demonstrating a link between the two, the league created the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee in 1994. The studies published by the committee were controversial and included findings such as: concussions were minor injuries, concussions do not increase the risk of further injury, and football does not cause brain damage. Earlier this year, former NFL players sued the NFL over the fraudulent findings by the committee and received a $865 million settlement. (Don Van Natta Jr.)

NIH Trial Turns Away New Patients as Shutdown Obstructs Work of Scientists, Researchers – With 3/4 of NIH employees furloughed, new patients are unable to be enrolled in clinical trials. On average, 200 new patients enroll in trials each week, including 30 children being enrolled in cancer trials. As the government shutdown continues, those individuals’ health and well being are in danger. Additionally, other science agencies including the NSF, NASA, and DOE have either furloughed or have plans to furlough the majority of their employees. If the shutdown continues for an extended period of time, outside agencies and universities that receive federal government funding can be affected as well. (Joel Achenbach)

Vaccine Refusal Linked to California Pertussis Outbreak –  In 2010, over 9000 individuals were infected with pertussis in California. Several causes of infections have been previously described, including decreased immunity years after receiving the vaccine. However, a new study published in “Pediatrics” indicated that populations that were largely intentionally unvaccinated also contributed to the outbreak. The study identified nearly 40 geographical clusters with an unusually high number of non-medical exemptions for the pertussis vaccine were more likely to have a pertussis outbreak than surrounding areas. (Michelle Healy)

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October 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – August 29, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

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Measles outbreak tied to Texas megachurch sickens 21 – A visitor to the Eagle Mountain International Church that previously traveled to Indonesia and became infected with measles, has spread the infection to the largely unvaccinated congregation. To date, 16 people in Tarrant County, including a 4 month old infant, and 5 people in Denton County have contracted the illness and the number is expected to increase. All of the individuals infected have been linked to the church. As many as 1,000 people may have been exposed to the disease. Due to the outbreak, the church will be holding vaccination clinics for uninfected individuals. (JoNel Aleccia)

Government must step in to halt Fukushima leaks - A leak at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has resulted in the spillage of hundreds of tons of radioactive water, and experts believe the power company overseeing the plant is unable to cope with the leak. Therefore, many are calling on the Japanese government to intervene. Initially, the leak was labeled a Level 1 incident, but as of this week, it has been upgraded to Level 3. Several countries have offered to help Japan deal with the leak. (Quirin Schiermeier and Jay Alabaster)

Free papers have reached a tipping point, study claims – A study funded by the European Commission demonstrates that 50% of all scientific papers published are freely available after 1-2 years from publication, and the number is set to increase. US agencies funding scientific research and the European Commission are proposing plans for papers to be open access within 12 and 6 months, respectively. (Jocelyn Kaiser)

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August 29, 2013 at 10:43 am

Science Policy Around the Web – Aug 2, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: Army Medicine via photopin cc

photo credit: Army Medicine via photopin cc

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

The Pertussis Paradox – As the number of incidences of pertussis (whooping cough) neared 50,000, scientists were forced to evaluate the efficacy of the newer pertussis vaccine. A new, safer pertussis vaccine was introduced in 1990. The newer vaccine, called DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis), had fewer adverse side effects than the older DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis) vaccine that was introduced in the 1940s. Possible side effects of the DTP vaccine included high fevers and seizures. After following the efficacy of the DTaP vaccine for several years, it became clear that while DTaP caused fewer adverse effects, the immune-protection is not as long lasting. Initially, the DTaP vaccine creates an immune response that is similar to that of the DTP vaccine, however, over time the immune-protection declines with the DTaP vaccine. In fact, children who received 1 dose of DTP were twice as likely to be protected during a whooping cough outbreak than children who received 5 DTaP vaccines during infancy. Today, efforts to determine the cause of the declining immune-protection in DTaP and methods for making the DTP vaccine safer are underway. (Arthur Allen, subscription required)

Astrophysicist tapped to lead NSF – Earlier this week, President Obama nominated astrophysicist France Cordova to head the National Science Foundation. If her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Cordova will be only the second woman to lead the agency. Cordova, who is a former Purdue University administrator and NASA chief scientist, currently serves as the chairwoman for for the governing board of the Smithsonian Institution. Interestingly, Cordova’s career didn’t start with science; she earned her bachelors in English from Stanford University. (Lauren Morello)

Experts warn of dangers of over diagnosis and treatment of cancer –  A panel advising the National Cancer Institute has recommended that the word “cancer” be selectively used in diagnoses to prevent patients from panicking and seeking unnecessary, extreme treatments. The committee recommended using the word “cancer” only when lesions have a “reasonable likelihood of lethal progression if untreated.” For example, some women have localized lesions that look like cancers but are not lethal, and these women are unnecessarily treated with radiation therapy or mastectomies despite the fact that the lesions will never harm them. While preventative care is not necessary in some cases, removal of non-cancerous lesions in the colon or on the cervix has reduced the incidence of cancer. (Lenny Bernstein)

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August 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – June 11, 2013

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pills and money

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By: Katherine Donigan

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

An Experimental Drug’s Bitter End- Clinical trials for a promising drug that could ease the behavioral symptoms Fragile X syndrome and autism were recently halted, after failing to meet goals for both syndromes.  Despite failing in trials, some patients saw improvements, including reduced social withdrawal and the ability to express emotions or verbalize for the first time.  Drug developer Seaside Therapeutics has indicated that they can no longer afford to produce the drug for the select group of responsive patients and will be halting production.  This incident raises a few important questions about clinical trials.  How should results be assessed for drug trials targeting disorders characterized by a diverse spectrum of neurological symptoms?  What is the responsibility of the drug developer to the responsive trial participants when a drug has failed trials? Parents have organized to petition Congress and increase awareness through social media in pursuit of a new funding source to continue the trial.  (NYTimes, Andrew Pollack)

Michael Douglas HPV Comment Highlights Rise in Cancers, as Few Boys Vaccinated- Actor Michael Douglas made headline news when he revealed that his case of oral cancer could have been linked to HPV infection.  Oral cancer incidence has been on the rise in the US, increasing over 200% from 1998 to 2004.  The majority of oral cancers are thought to be caused by HPV, with about 3000 new cases being diagnosed in the US every year.  Compared to women, men are four times as likely to develop this type of cancer.  Only 2% of boys in the US have received the HPV vaccine, which protects against several common cancer-causing strains of the virus. HPV vaccination rates of US girls now top 50%, accompanied by a decline in cervical cancer rates.   Ideally, increased public awareness about HPV-related cancers in men will lead to a similar result. (ABC News, Susan Donaldson James)

Few children get hepatitis A in frozen berry outbreak- Since late April, a nationwide outbreak of food-borne Hepatitis A has affected 79 people, but only one of them was a child.  Health officials are attributing this to routine HepA  childhood vaccines that were recommended by the CDC starting in 2006.  The single child who fell ill had not received the vaccine.  Since the vaccine became available in 1996, the US has seen a dramatic drop in infection rates – from over 31,000 in 1995 to just over 1600 in 2010.  Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can result in liver failure, making it all the more critical that young children who are able to do so receive their vaccinations.  (USAToday, Elizabeth Weise)

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June 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Legislating health care: balancing between vaccine mandates and personal freedoms

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syringe

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By: Jessica Lamb

To establish my perspective, let me begin by stating that I believe unequivocally everyone who can be vaccinated should be.  I think boys should be vaccinated against HPV [i], and everyone should get a yearly flu shot.  For a long time I was on the fence – I certainly wanted to get vaccines against diseases like measles for myself and my family, but I was undecided regarding whether I should bother to get the flu shot if I am currently healthy.  Should I worry if others don’t want to get their shots?  I approached this issue purely in terms of individual protection – how likely am I to benefit from my decision? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – May 12, 2013

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tanning bed

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By: Katherine Donigan

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

FDA Proposes Tougher Warnings for Tanning Beds – Despite recommendations from the FDA’s own advisory panel and the American Medical Association that favor an outright ban on tanning beds for children, the agency is proposing only to increase the risk level associated with indoor tanning.  This move would result in requiring tanning beds to display a warning label advising against use by anyone under 18.  The decision to upgrade tanning beds from low to moderate risk devices is a step in the right direction, as skin cancer has been found to be significantly increased in people who are exposed to UV radiation from tanning beds before age 35.  The FDA has indicated that warning labels may be a precursor to an outright ban in the future, but the reasoning behind the agency’s reluctance to presently support such a ban remains unclear. (Steve Reinberg, US News)

Cancer Vaccines Get a Price Cut in Poor Nations – The two major manufacturers of the HPV vaccine have announced that they will be making it available to girls and women in poor countries for under $5 per dose.  This price reduction is significant, as in the US, the vaccine usually runs around $130 per dose.  Advocates of a low-cost HPV vaccine hope that by 2020, 30 million girls living in 40 different countries would be vaccinated.  The HPV vaccine protects against multiple strains of human papilloma virus that cause genital warts and up to 70% of cervical cancers.  Dramatically reducing the cost barrier for women and girls in poor countries at higher risk of dying from cervical cancer has the potential to save millions of lives, representing a major advance for women’s health. (Sabrina Tavernise, NYTimes)

New Genomic Prostate Cancer Test Holds More Answers – The limitations of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test have become increasingly apparent over the years, as new studies have shown PSA levels alone are a relatively poor marker for prostate cancer.  Data indicate that PSA testing can lead to overdiagnosis, and in October 2011, the United States Preventive Services Task Force issued a recommendation against PSA testing in healthy men at any age.  A new test from Genomic Health, Oncotype DX, screens 17 different genes from a biopsy and assigns a numerical score correlating to tumor aggressiveness.  The test appears to be more sensitive at detecting the differences between low and high-risk samples, potentially sparing thousands of men each year from unnecessary medical treatment. (Andrew Pollack, NYTimes)

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May 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm

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Science Policy Around the Web – April 28, 2013

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saturn

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By: Katherine Donigan

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Senators, Representatives Express Opposition to Disproportionate Cuts to NASA Science Budget – Federal budget cuts resulting from sequestration continue to affect many areas of research.  Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, along with Representatives Adam Schiff and John Culberson have signed a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden to express opposition to budget reductions to the Planetary Science program.  This program focuses on solar system exploration through data collection; from flyby images of distant planets to roving missions on planet surfaces. Proposed budget cuts would likely eliminate a planned mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, that is known to have an ice-covered ocean that may harbor living organisms.  Current missions, such as the Cassini spacecraft that orbits Saturn, may be cut short.  As the effects of sequestration and budget cuts on scientific research start to become more defined, we can expect to see more opposition arise to specific cuts, but how best to navigate science budgets in these fiscal times is far from clear. (Richard M. Jones)

Drug Policy Reform In Action: A 21st Century Approach – The White House has released a plan for drug policy reform that is based on scientific study regarding the nature of addiction. Despite all the effort put into fighting the “war on drugs,” drug-induced overdose deaths are now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.  Past policies were focused on enforcing criminal penalties and incarceration.  This new approach accounts for the mountains of scientific data indicating that addiction has a physiological basis, and should be treated as a public health issue with a focus on prevention, treatment and recovery.  These studies show us why the drug war has been such a difficult one to fight, and points toward a new direction for policy reform.(R. Gil Kerlikowske)

Despite safety and effectiveness, parent HPV vaccine concerns persist – A recent study published in Pediatrics has found that the numbers of parents who are not getting their daughters vaccinated against HPV is on the rise.  The vaccine protects against strains of HPV that cause cancer and strains that cause genital warts, and has not been shown to have any side effects beyond the typical ones seen for vaccines.  Despite the data supporting the safety of this vaccine, more parents are citing safety concerns as reason to not get their daughters vaccinated.  The primary reason cited for not vaccinating, however, was that parents didn’t see the need to vaccinate a young child against a sexually transmitted virus.  Maximum effectiveness is seen when girls are vaccinated early, before they have had a chance to be exposed to HPV.  In fact, recent data on genital wart prevention indicate that the vaccine is 93% effective in girls vaccinated before age 14.  These recent studies highlight the need for increased public awareness about HPV vaccine effectiveness, especially when given at a young age. (Tara Haelle)

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April 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

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Science Policy Around the Web – November 4, 2012

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By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Scientists unsure if humans are to blame for Hurricane SandyFollowing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy last week, one must ask “Did this storm occur as a result of global climate change?” While most climate scientists will not conclusively say that the storm resulted from global climate change, some will offer several pieces of evidence that global warming at least intensified the effects of the storm. (Justin Gillis)

Politics and fetal diagnostics collide – A new diagnostic called non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) will increase the amount of genetic information available early in pregnancy. This test is currently used to determine a fetus’s blood type, gender, father, trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) and trisomy 13. Due to its non-invasive nature and the fact that it can be completed at 10 weeks gestation rather than during the second trimester (when amniocentesis can be performed), NIPT is a valuable tool for diagnosing genetic abnormalities. This new screening method is strongly opposed by pro-life groups and has resulted in the introduction of new legislation to limit abortions following genetic screening. To date, “the FDA has not developed a regulatory scheme for genetic tests”. (Jaime King, subscription required)

Will Elephant Contraception Work in South Africa? – Although the elephant population in much of Africa is endangered due to poaching, the number of elephants in South Africa keeps increasing. Elephants eat approximately 600 pounds of food per day and can be incredibly destructive to their environment. Therefore, wildlife conservationists have encouraged the use of a contraceptive vaccine on female elephants to reduce elephant fertility. However, some experts oppose this new treatment and raise questions about its feasibility. (Martin Plaut)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

November 4, 2012 at 8:38 am

Science Policy Around the Web – October 18, 2012

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Photo Credit: Adamo Photo

By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Parsing of Data Led to Mixed Messages on Organic Food’s Value - Recently two independent groups reviewed years of scientific data regarding the benefits of organic food and came to very different conclusions. A study published in 2011 by a group from Newcastle University in England found that organic food was generally more nutritious and contained more molecules that help people fight cancer and heart disease. However, while reviewing many of the same original studies, a group from Stanford University concluded that organic food is not more nutritious than conventionally grown food. Kenneth Chang of the New York Times reviews the methodology used by both groups that led to this discrepancy.

Science in an Election Year – President Obama and Governor Romney were recently asked 14 science-related questions regarding topics such as energy, climate change, and the future of research, and Scientific American evaluated the responses given by their campaigns. The candidates’ full responses can be found here. Additionally, sciencedebate.org asked leaders of congressional committees that impact science policy 8 of the 14 questions that were asked of the presidential candidates- The Top American Science Questions: 2012 Congressional Edition.

Pertussis: Get the Vax or At Least Listen To Why You Should – Tara Haelle, a Double X Science contributor, reviews several recent events regarding vaccines and vaccine exemptions. On September 30, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2109 which requires parents to sign a statement stating they received information about the risks and benefits of vaccines before excluding their children from immunization. The statement must also be signed by a health care practitioner. On September 24, a US District court in Ohio ruled that religious objections were not sufficient for vaccination exemption stating that “the mere assertion of a religious belief . . . does not automatically trigger First Amendment protections,” and that “it has long been recognized that local authorities may constitutionally mandate vaccinations.”  Finally, a study in the journal Epidemiology highlights the importance of family members being vaccinated to protect the health of babies who are too young to be vaccinated and may contract the disease.

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October 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – April 19, 2012

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By:  Rebecca Cerio

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

The Ultimate Endpoint – Elie Dolgin points out the particular ethical and social difficulties faced when studying one of the leading causes of death among young Americans:  suicide.  Is our fear of doing harm leading to research paralysis on a deadly problem?  (via Nature)

Shopping Your Science –   A NASA scientist points out some marketing research that can help scientists make their point, including the three types of figures that you can include to make your point stick with your audience.  Be sure to check out the excerpt from the author’s book as well.  (by Marc J. Kuchner via The Scientist online)

Whooping Cough at Epidemic Levels in Washington – “So far in 2012, 640 cases have been reported in 23 counties as of March 31. This compares to 94 cases during this same time period last year, putting Washington on-pace to have the highest number of reported cases in decades.”  Officials are urging all residents, including adults, to verify that they are up-to-date on their vaccines.  With such vaccines available, I can’t help but see this as a science policy issue.  WHY are we seeing a revival of this disease?  (via the Washington State Department of Health)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm

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