Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – August 4, 2015

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By: Elisavet Serti, Ph.D.

“photo credit:CDC Global Health via photopin cc

Global health

Ebola vaccine is ‘potential game-changer’

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published vaccine trial results in the Lancet and characterized the VSV-EBOV vaccine as a potential “game-changer” in the fight against the Ebola disease. The “remarkable” results that show that the vaccinated participants of the study were subsequently 100% protected against the virus. The vaccine contains a fragment of the Ebola virus on a VSV viral vector in order to train the immune system to recognize Ebola and build “immune memory” against the deadly virus. The trial was based on “ring” strategy, based on that used in smallpox eradication in the 1970s, to test the vaccine’s effectiveness. “The premise is that by vaccinating all people who have come into contact with an infected person you create a protective ‘ring’ and stop the virus from spreading further,” said John-Arne Rottingen of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, which had been involved in implementing the trial. This means that when a patient was identified as Ebola-positive, his friends, neighbors and family were vaccinated to create a “protective ring” of immunization. One hundred patients were identified in the trial between April and July and then close contacts were either vaccinated immediately, or three weeks later. In the 2,014 close contacts who were vaccinated immediately there were no subsequent cases of Ebola. In those vaccinated later there were 16 cases, according to the results published in the Lancet medical journal. As a result of these observations, the researchers decided to immediately vaccinate the close contacts of Ebola patients in Guinea, including children based on the safety assessments for this vaccine. Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general at the WHO told BBC News: “It is certainly promising. We have seen that where rings have been vaccinated, the transmission has stopped. (…) When there is a new outbreak this vaccine will be put to use to stop the outbreak as soon as possible to not have the terrible disaster we have now.” (James Gallagher, BBC News)

Science in International Policy

Bridging the Chasm: Why Science and Technology Must Become Priorities for Diplomacy and International Policy

An interesting perspective was recently published by Daryl Copeland in the “Science and Diplomacy”, a quarterly publication from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Center for Science and Diplomacy. Mankind is currently faced with several profound global challenges, such as widespread epidemics and climate change, that require expertise and cooperation on a global scale. The main message of this article was that it is necessary for diplomacy and international policy to incorporate science and technology in order to address the world’s most important problems, such as those affecting the future of our planet. According to Copeland, “science diplomacy is relevant, effective, and potentially transformative. It can play a key role in responding to some of the most elemental challenges facing the international community.” He urged for increased resources, training and prioritization of science diplomacy by governments and international policy organizations. Scientists should be trained properly by policy institutions in order to be understood by the public and the borders of science should broaden in the consulting sector. The scientific culture of evidence-based decision making should be implemented in public administration as it encourages “openness and transparency (through the publication of research findings), merit (through peer review), and civic values and citizen empowerment (…) Science offers a methodology and approach that produces the closest thing we have to proof and truth.” (Daryl Copeland, Science and Diplomacy, AAAS)

Childhood screening

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines that recommend ongoing surveillance and screening for autism at 18 and 24 months regardless of whether a child show signs of the disorder, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force needs more evidence to support it. The independent scientific panel recommends testing only if a young child shows signs of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. About one in 68 U.S. children have an autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and it is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189). According to “Autism Speaks”, an organization that stresses the importance of ASD early diagnosis and intervention, the “red flags” that a parent should look for include no big smiles or other joyful expression by 6 months, no sharing of smiles or sounds by nine months, no babbling by 12 months, no words by 16 months, no meaningful, two word phrases by 24 months, or any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age of a toddler’s life. The task force review, which began in 2013, found significant research gaps regarding the benefits and harms of screening all children for ASD, said Grossman, who is also a pediatrician in Seattle. “We need more evidence and we think that evidence is achievable,” Grossman said. On the other hand, Dr. Susan Levy, chair of the AAP’s autism subcommittee and a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the Children’s Hospitals of Philadelphia, said her concern is that the task force’s statement will lead people to question the benefit of screening. Early identification allows for early intervention, which is known to result in better outcomes for children, she said. (Andrew M. Seaman, Reuters)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

August 4, 2015 at 10:00 am

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