Vaccine News Roundup

November 2, 2018 Rene F. Najera

Worldwide, Merck & Co. has declared that it will no longer provide RotaTeq, a vaccine against rotavirus infection, at zero to no cost in Africa, shifting its supply toward China:

“Merck's decision means it will fall short of its commitment to supply its rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, to four low-income countries in 2018 and 2019, according to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. By 2020, the company will completely stop delivering its vaccine.

"This was difficult decision for us, which did not come lightly," Merck wrote to NPR in an email. "We would like to express our deepest regret to all of the parties involved and have offered to assist and work with UNICEF, Gavi and affected countries through the transition to alternative images [versions] of rotavirus vaccines," the email added.”

This could mean bad news for those children whose parents will not be able to access or afford the vaccine. From the same article above:

“As a result of Merck's decision, more than a half-million children in West Africa may not receive the vaccine in 2018 and 2019, Gavi told NPR in an email. And more than 2 million may go without the vaccination in 2020.

"This is deeply disappointing news and in the short term will mean that children are likely to miss out on this lifesaving vaccine, leaving them vulnerable to this horrific disease," Gavi's CEO Dr. Seth Berkley said in a statement to NPR.

Almost every child worldwide is exposed to rotavirus by age 5. In rich countries, the infections are rarely lethal but can be severe. Before the U.S. introduced the rotavirus vaccine in 2006, infections caused more than 50,000 hospitalizations each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

In poor countries, on the other hand, a rotavirus infection can quickly become life-threatening, says Dr. Mathuram Santosham at Johns Hopkins University. Children can have six to 20 bouts of diarrhea in a day and dehydrate extremely fast.”

In New York, the outbreak of measles in Rockland County continues. As a result, yet another vaccine clinic is planned:

“With the number of measles cases in Rockland quickly growing, the county health department has added a fifth free vaccine clinic.

The total number of cases is 43, the county health department said at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The fifth clinic is scheduled for Nov. 5 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the first floor of Building A of the Robert Yeager Health Center, at 50 Sanatorium Road in Pomona.”

In the United States, the Cato Institute, a Libertarian Think Tank, did some research on immunization rates in Latin American countries from which undocumented immigrants are trying to reach the United States:

“WHO has national estimates of vaccination coverage rates by country and type of vaccine.  It’s unclear whether vaccination coverage rates include immigrants, but they definitely include those born in each country as of 2017.  Vaccination coverage rates for the United States were unavailable for Tuberculosis and one of the polio vaccines (IPV1) while the IPV1 vaccine coverage rate is also unavailable for Costa Rica.  We shouldn’t expect vaccination rates to be the same in all countries for at least two reasons.  First, some diseases are more prevalent in certain climates so the requirement for vaccination there can be lower or higher.  Second, vaccines have a positive externality so there is less of an individual incentive to become vaccinated as all of the benefits are not internalized to the individual who receives the shot.  I expect the first reason to be more important than the second as enough benefits are internalized for the net-benefit of a vaccine to be positive (yes, vaccines are great) while many of the governments in these countries strongly encourage or mandate vaccination.”

In Hawaii, the state health department is looking to expand vaccine requirements for school-age children:

“The state Health Department wants to expand its immunization program for school-age students.

Currently, the Health Department requires all schoolchildren to be immunized by six types of vaccines.

Under the proposed new rules, it wants to add three more types of vaccinations.

But the plan is getting some push back from a minority of parents, who worry that adverse reactions to the vaccines could cause physical and learning disabilities. Health professionals stress that the vaccines are safe — and that immunizations help protect against preventable disease.”

In the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that people over 1 year of age who experience homelessness be immunized against Hepatitis A:

“The hepatitis A vaccine work group explained in a presentation at the meeting that since 2016, HepA outbreaks have occurred in 11 states with more than 7,500 cases, about 4,400 hospitalizations and 74 deaths.

Homelessness was found to be independently associated with two to three times higher odds of infection with HepA and two to three times higher chance of severe outcomes such as hospitalization or death, Rockwell said.

So, the ACIP voted unanimously to recommend adding homeless individuals to the list of those who are at increased risk of HepA infection or severe HepA disease…”

In California, scientists are working on a universal influenza vaccine (one that would work against all strains of influenza), and they may have had a breakthrough:

“In a study in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, a team from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and their international colleagues have taken a major step toward the long-sought goal of developing a universal vaccine against influenza.

When they tested their intranasal formulation in mice, it quickly conferred complete protection against a raft of human flu strains adapted to mice. Those include A viruses, such as the H1N1 “swine flu” that touched off a global pandemic in 2009, and B viruses, which occur only in humans.

Against H1N1, a dose of the experimental vaccine was shown to protect for at least 35 days — a span of time equivalent to more than a single flu season for humans.”

And now, some quick links:

That is all for this week. If you see vaccine-related news that we should share, feel free to leave a comment, or contact us.

Have a great weekend!

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