Vaccine News Roundup - November 9, 2018

November 9, 2018 Rene F. Najera

In Indonesia, religious leaders issued an edict about the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR), leading to low uptake of the vaccine and higher incidence of measles outbreaks:

"Back in August, Indonesia's peak Islamic body officially declared the measles and rubella vaccine forbidden, under assertions they were based on material derived from pigs.

In spite of exceptions permitting the use of the vaccine in the absence of suitable alternatives, millions of Indonesians have followed the spirit of the ruling, causing immunisation rates to plummet.

The religious proclamation – or fatwa – made by the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) isn't in any way legally binding.

But those of strict Islamic faith take such decrees seriously, and with doubt and misinformation already making so many hesitate, it's enough to have caused a significant decline in the delivery of the measles and rubella vaccine across the nation.

Thanks largely to geographical isolation and socioeconomic factors, Indonesia has struggled to vaccinate a significant proportion of its people, leading to large pockets where outbreaks of communicable diseases like measles aren't uncommon."

In Thailand, similar religious concerns like the ones in Indonesia have caused similar outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases:

"Health authorities in Thailand are racing to contain a measles outbreak in the country’s southern provinces, where 14 deaths and more than 1,500 cases have been reported since September.

Officials blame the comeback of the disease on low vaccination rates in the south caused by misconceptions among the Muslim population about the nature of the vaccine.

Islam prohibits the consumption of pork, and vaccine makers sometimes use gelatin derived from pork products as a stabilizing agent. However, health official Vicharn Pawan said Thailand imports measles vaccine products that do not contain porcine gelatin."

In Australia, researchers looked at the safety and immunogenicity (ability to stimulate an immune response) of the pertussis vaccine in newborns whose mothers were not immunized while pregnant:

"The study was conducted at 4 sites across Australia on 440 full-term infants. They were classified by maternal vaccination status—maternal receipt of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and pertussis antigen content (Tdap) vaccine prior to pregnancy—and infants were randomly selected to receive either the acellular pertussis (aP) vaccine within 120 days of birth alongside the hepatitis B vaccine, or the hepatitis B vaccine alone.

The research team concluded that their study shows a narrowed immunity gap between birth and the receipt of a child’s first direct pertussis vaccine—a critical period during which infants are susceptible to dangerous pertussis infection.

The study found that more infants given a single dose of the aP vaccine at birth alongside their hepatitis B vaccine had detectable antibodies by 10 weeks of age to pertussis toxin and pertactin, regardless of whether or not their mothers had received Tdap vaccinations in the previous 5 years. The research team also found that the infants’ immunoglobulin-G antibody responses to pertussis toxin were 4 times higher in the infants vaccinated with the birth dose of the pertussis vaccine than their peers. The infants vaccinated at birth also had higher levels of pertussis antibodies than the control group at 6 weeks of age, regardless of the maternal vaccination.

Birth doses of the vaccine were generally well tolerated, but some fevers were reported. However, the study notes that fever rates were similar among those infants vaccinated with the pertussis vaccine at birth and those who were not.

Although the aim of the study was not to usurp current recommendations for maternal vaccination, the study does reference recent research suggesting that maternal antibodies present at birth can possibly reduce an infant’s own antibody responses to pertussis, diphtheria, and diphtheria-related vaccines."

In Syria, the United Nations and its partners delivered aid to over 50,000 people in a refugee camp. They had not received relief supplies since January:

"UNICEF sent 21 trucks of humanitarian assistance as part of the convoy and supported 21 vaccinators with vaccines, cold chain equipment and medical supplies to immunize 10,000 children against measles, polio and other childhood diseases in the camp. This has been one of the most complex humanitarian operations in Syria with over 75 trucks and more than 100 humanitarian and logistics workers delivering aid to people in need in Syria south-eastern desert conditions."

And now, some quick links:

"Flu Shots vs. Nasal Spray. What's the Difference?" The Pantagraph

"How Does the Experimental 'Vaccine' for Celiac Disease Work?" Live Science

"Vaccines Are Safe, Even After ReactionsContemporary Pediatrics

That's it for this week. If you see or hear of any vaccine-related news you'd like to share, make sure to share it in the comments section.

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