This section contains links to information about vaccines that was recently in the news:
Two documentaries recently addressed the topic of vaccines — one produced by a group of high school broadcast journalism students, and the other by an award-winning team from PBS and WGHB Nova.
Invisible Threat, released online to coincide with the start of National Immunization Awareness Month, was created by students of Carlsbad High School and Carlsbad High School Television Films (CHSTVfilms) in California. The documentary, which took 18 months of work to produce, examines the childhood vaccination/autism debate. Upon completion, it garnered glowing endorsements from a variety of organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, a host of well-respected universities and medical centers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaccines — Calling the Shots examines parents’ concerns or questions regarding childhood vaccines from scientific angles, while steering clear of social controversies. The film also examines vaccination from a risk-benefit point of view, illustrating how the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risk of adverse effects. Vaccines — Calling the Shots premiered Sept. 10 on PBS and is available to watch at the link below.
A recent review published in the journal Pediatrics analyzed 67 research studies and concluded that serious side effects from childhood vaccines are extremely rare, and as such, the benefits of immunization far outweigh the risks. While childhood vaccines are commonly associated with mild side effects, such as fever or pain and swelling at the injection sites, they have not been found to include adverse effects that are commonly mentioned, such as autism, food allergies or cancer.
The study is an expansion on a 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that identified side effects, but said few health problems were the cause of vaccines.
Study finds vaccine side effects extremely rare. USA Today. July 1, 2014.
Childhood vaccines again deemed generally safe. Associated Press. July 1, 2014.
Systematic review of vaccine safety may allay parents’ concerns. American Academy of Pediatrics. July 1, 2014.
An outbreak of Ebola virus disease, which began in March 2014, continues to spread through several West African countries, including Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. In past outbreaks, the disease killed about nine of every 10 infected people; however, the current outbreak has proved slightly less fatal, claiming the lives of about 55 to 60 of every 100 infected people. This current outbreak is larger than previous outbreaks, having infected people in four West African countries, including international healthcare workers, and killing more than 1,100.
Ebola’s natural host is the fruit bat. The disease is usually transmitted to other animals and humans by close contact with the blood or secretions of infected animals; however, person-to-person transmission can occur through direct contact with bodily fluids such as blood, urine, sweat and breast milk. Patients can transmit the virus while ill with fever, through the later stages of disease and after death, such as during burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of a deceased person. However, it is important to note that persons who don’t have symptoms are not contagious.
Patients with Ebola typically experience symptoms of the disease about eight to 10 days after exposure. Early symptoms include fever, chills, muscle pain, and general discomfort, followed by the development of severe watery diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Currently people are treated by use of antibiotics for bacterial co-infections and balancing fluids and electrolytes through the use of intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration. Currently, no specific treatment or vaccine exists, although several vaccines are in development. A preparation containing antibodies against the viral surface protein has been given to several infected persons.
Widespread occurrences of infectious disease outbreaks have been highlighted in the news recently, including measles and pertussis (whooping cough).
The United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases in 2014, with 592 confirmed infections reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of Aug. 29. That number already represents the highest number of measles cases in a single year since measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. In fact, the CDC announced in June that cases of measles in the first four months of 2014 are the most in any year since 1996.
The majority of people infected with measles were unvaccinated travelers returning from parts of the world where measles is still common.
Twenty-one states have reported measles cases in 2014: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Pertussis is often reported in the news when an infant dies. The disease causes severe bouts of coughing, and young infants are not always able to survive the infection. Because of their narrow windpipes, infants have trouble breathing during the coughing spells, sometimes turning blue. Babies typically need the first three doses of pertussis vaccine to be sufficiently protected from infection. For these reasons newborns and young infants are at greater risk of hospitalization and death. To protect young infants, the CDC has recommended a cocooning strategy whereby infants’ parents and other teens and adults in repeated, close contact receive a Tdap booster vaccine.
Normally, communicable diseases are transmitted from young and school-aged children to parents and other adults. However, in the case of pertussis, teenagers and adults are typically the reservoirs for the disease. Unfortunately, by the time a teen or adult sees a doctor for the prolonged cough caused by pertussis, the infection has already been spread to others. Pertussis in adults is often misdiagnosed as a viral infection further complicating efforts to control its spread.
For more on the history and development of the pertussis vaccine, visit the vaccines in the news archive.
Visit our archive page for additional information on these and other topics that were featured in previous issues of the In the News section:
Last updated: August 2014