Largest Study Ever Finds No Link Between Measles Vaccine, Autism

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Amid ongoing U.S. measles outbreaks, one of the largest studies to date provides fresh evidence that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine does not cause autism.

Danish researchers found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, even when they focused on children at greater risk for developing autism.

“In a study of more than 650,000 Danish children, there was no difference in the risk of autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated children,” said lead researcher Anders Hviid. He is a senior investigator of epidemiology with the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark.

But Hviid is skeptical the new findings will make much difference among anti-vaccine activists.

“I do not think we can convince the so-called anti-vaxxers,” Hviid said. “I am more concerned about the perhaps larger group of parents who encounter anti-vaccine pseudoscience and propaganda on the internet, and become concerned and uncertain.”

Six measles outbreaks have been reported across the United States in the first two months of 2019, infecting 159 people with the highly contagious virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The largest outbreak, taking place in the Portland, Oregon region, has sickened 68 people, the CDC said.

The discredited link between the MMR vaccine and autism dates back two decades to a study published in The Lancet that claimed a handful of children had been diagnosed with autism within four weeks of receiving the vaccination.

That study received wide publicity, but was subsequently retracted by the medical journal after discovery that the research was fraudulent.

Despite repeated studies demonstrating no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, anti-vaccine advocates continue to cite that concern as one basis for their opposition.

Hviid and his colleagues decided to take another large-scale stab at testing the alleged link. They tracked 657,461 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010, following them from 1 year old through August 2013.

During that period, just over 6,500 of the children were diagnosed with autism.

The researchers found no increased autism risk among kids who received the MMR vaccine, compared with those who did not.

In addition, the study found no increased risk for autism even in subgroups of kids who naturally are more likely to develop autism, the researchers said. These included children whose siblings have autism, or who scored high on an autism risk assessment.

This addressed one critique of previous studies of the MMR vaccine and autism. Critics had complained that earlier efforts had failed to focus on the effects of the vaccine on kids at increased risk of autism, according to an editorial accompanying the new study.

The new study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Amesh Adalja called the new study “a very powerful piece of evidence.” He was not involved with the new report.

“This study, which includes over a decade of data on more than half a million children, goes further than prior studies by looking in high-autism risk subgroups,” said Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in Baltimore.

“That no increased autism risk was found — even in high-risk subgroups — is not surprising,” Adalja continued. “However, the anti-vaccine movement is not influenced by facts, by science or by logic, so I fear that another study demonstrating the safety of MMR vaccination will not sway those whose allegiance is not to reality, but to irrational arbitrary beliefs.”

Hviid noted that the World Health Organization has declared vaccine hesitancy one of the 10 greatest threats to public health.

“Hopefully, our study can play a small part in turning the anti-vaccine tide,” Hviid said.

Source: HealthDay

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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Recommended a Better Vaccine for Shingles

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . .

On the heels of approval of a better vaccine for the painful condition shingles, adults over 50 should plan to roll up their sleeves — again.

The new vaccine, Shingrix, will likely be recommended even for those already inoculated with an older vaccine.

An advisory panel of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Wednesday that all adults 50 and older receive the new two-shot vaccine, just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of Shingrix.

Shingrix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, is more than 90 percent effective in preventing shingles, a painful skin disease that afflicts about one of every three people in the United States during their lifetime.

If the CDC adopts the panel’s recommendation, Shingrix will supplant the only other shingles vaccine available, the single-dose Merck product Zostavax.

“The new shingles vaccine represents a major step forward,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore. “The efficacy of this vaccine is significantly higher than Zostavax, and those vaccinated with Zostavax should benefit from revaccination with Shingrix.”

Shingles is a painful itching rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same bug behind chickenpox. The virus lies dormant in the nerve tissue of people who’ve had chickenpox, and years later can reactivate as shingles.

Anyone who’s had chickenpox can develop shingles, but about half of all cases occur in people 60 and older, according to the CDC.

Shingrix is 97 percent effective in preventing shingles in people 50 to 69 years old, and 91 percent effective in those 70 and older, according to a briefing provided to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices prior to its decision Wednesday.

By comparison, Zostavax is 70 percent effective in your 50s; 64 percent effective in your 60s; 41 percent effective in your 70s; and 18 percent effective in your 80s, the briefing states.

Shingrix is also better than Zostavax in preventing nerve pain that continues after a shingles rash has cleared — about 90 percent effective versus 65 percent effective, the briefing stated.

“The shingle attack itself is severe and painful to most people, and then there’s the possibility that the skin lesions clear up but nerve pain continues,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “That can be really chronic, unremitting and difficult to treat.”

Based on these results, the advisory committee voted 8 to 7 to recommend Shingrix for people 50 and older. It also said people previously inoculated with Zostavax should come back to get the new vaccine.

Dr. Talia Swartz is an assistant professor of infectious diseases with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Swartz said, “The reason for the close vote is that while Shingrix is much more effective, it is also associated with more reactions. While they are not serious reactions, they may be temporarily inconvenient, including fever and muscle pain.”

The advisory committee vote closely followed the FDA approval of Shingrix on Monday.

It’s not clear at this point whether people who’ve received Zostavax should come back immediately for Shingrix or wait. The point did not come up during the panel’s discussion, Glaxo spokesman Sean Clements said.

The pharmaceutical company expects the CDC to clarify the timing of re-vaccination with Shingrix if it supports the advisory committee recommendation, Clements said.

Horovitz said he also hopes for clarification on whether someone who has received Zostavax will only need a single dose of Shingrix, or the full two-dose regimen.

Zostavax patients who wait a bit likely will not have to pay as much for their Shingrix vaccination, Swartz said.

Vaccine maker GSK estimates that Shingrix costs about $280 for two doses, according to The New York Times.

“Shingrix is more expensive and not yet covered by insurance,” Swartz said. “Pending official endorsement from the Centers for Disease Control, insurance companies will likely begin covering Shingrix.”

Shingrix is a non-live herpes zoster vaccine that contains a booster intended to generate a strong and long-lasting immune response.

That booster and the fact that the vaccine is a two-dose series are likely why it has superior protection, Adalja said.

Source: HealthDay


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