Earlier this week, the highest court in the European Union ruled that “courts can consider whether a vaccination led to someone developing an illness even when there is no scientific proof.”
The Court of Justice ruled in favor of a French claimant who initiated legal action against Sanofi Pasteur in 2006 for an alleged vaccine injury. The plaintiff claimed that a 1988 hepatitis B immunization resulted in his multiple sclerosis diagnosis the following year.
Numerous studies have disproven the link between the hepatitis B vaccine and multiple sclerosis, a key argument that led to the case’s dismissal in France’s Court of Appeals. After the case was heard at France’s Court of Cassation, it reached the Court of Justice.
This landmark ruling significantly reduces the burden of proof for claimants by requiring the following evidence for cases: “the time between a vaccine’s administration and the onset of a disease, an individual’s previous state of health, the lack of any family history of the disease and a significant number of reported cases of the disease occurring following vaccination.”
Vaccine experts have criticized the ruling for lowering the threshold of proof for adverse events following vaccination. Most notably, Dr. Paul Offit is quoted as saying, “Using those criteria, you could reasonably make the case that someone should be compensated for developing leukemia after eating a peanut butter sandwich.”
Given the increasing visibility that vaccine skeptics have received, the ruling could be used to validate their controversial arguments. Recent disease outbreaks, specifically the devastating measles outbreak in Minnesota, have demonstrated that anti-vaccine rhetoric has real-world implications.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) convened in Atlanta this week for the second of three meetings scheduled for 2017.
The committee voted to retain many of its influenza recommendations from the previous year, including a provision to expand approved influenza vaccine options for pregnant women. The group also advised against using FluMist for the 2017-2018 flu season, consistent with its recommendation against administering the nasal spray for the 2016-2017 season.
Committee members heard presentations on Shingrix, GSK’s herpes zoster vaccine that could potentially replace Merck’s Zostavax in national vaccine guidelines.
Recently released data revealed that the influenza vaccine had a lower level of effectiveness in adults 65 and older during the 2016-2017 season.
While the vaccine had an overall moderate rate of effectiveness (42%), it was essentially ineffective for seniors. Studies suggest that the flu vaccine has been ineffective for seniors “in four of the last seven flu seasons.” The group suffered the highest rate of influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths during the past flu season.
Despite low effectiveness, health officials are still encouraging seniors to get the influenza vaccine next season, as there are still “important benefits of vaccination with currently available vaccines.”
A recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that a growing number of pregnant women are getting vaccinated against whooping cough, or Pertussis.
Whooping cough is a potentially fatal respiratory infection, and the CDC recommends pregnant women get a Tdap vaccine against tetnanus, diphtheria and pertussis during the third trimester of every pregnancy to help protect their baby from whooping cough in the first few months of life.
“Getting Tdap vaccination while pregnant helps protect babies during the critical time between birth and 2 months old, the age when they are old enough to begin getting their own whooping cough vaccines,” said Carla Black, a researcher with the CDC’s Immunization Services Division who worked on the study.
About 49 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. got the Tdap vaccine last year, up from just 27 percent in 2014.
The study also found that women were most likely to get the Tdap vaccine when a doctor or nurse recommended it and offered to immunize them. About 70 percent of women were immunized under these circumstances, compared with just 1.4 percent of women who were not recommended the vaccine by a health care provider.
A study published this week found that a mother’s fever during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk that her child will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
This research, conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and published in the journal “Molecular Psychiatry”, lends support to the theory that infectious agents may disrupt a fetus’s brain development.
The study examined over 90,000 Norwegian children born between 1999 and 2009, and identified over 15,000 whose mothers had said they had fevers at some point during their pregnancy. Of that group, 583 had children later diagnosed with autism.
This publication coincides with recent attention on the scientifically discredited theory that childhood vaccines cause autism. President Trump has energized some anti-vaccine activists with his request for a vaccine safety commission.
Some parents believe see a link between their child developing autism and vaccinations. The timing of these two events is coincidental, as symptoms of autism typically become clear around age two, the same age when children begin to be vaccinated.
Earlier this week, the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) held a meeting at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C.
The meeting focused on three subject areas: Immunization Information Systems (IIS); vaccine confidence; and vaccine technologies and adult immunizations. The committee listened to numerous presentations on the three subject areas, each of which was followed by a panel discussion featuring the speakers.
The research presented illustrated the need for effective, well-funded Immunization Information Systems, in order to properly track vaccinations among populations. Kristen Ehresmann from the Association of Immunization Managers (AIM) described how an effective IIS in Minnesota has proved extremely useful in determining how best to target Minnesota’s resources, during the current measles outbreak.
The presentations on vaccine confidence emphasized how these efforts to boost vaccine confidence and reduce vaccine hesitancy need to be both multi-faceted and localized. Additionally, the research illustrated a number of the most frequently cited parental concerns around vaccines: vaccine safety, necessity of vaccines, the vaccine schedule and freedom of choice.
Additionally, the research on adult vaccinations found considerable racial and ethnic disparities among adults in all of the vaccines assessed, particularly among the pneumococcal and herpes vaccines.
New legislation will go into effect next month requiring kindergartens to notify the German health authority if parents have not submitted proof of vaccination counseling for their children.
This change will strengthen current vaccination policy. Current law requires parents to submit proof that they have attended vaccination counseling before enrolling their child in kindergarten, but childcare centers do not currently have to report this information.
Childcare centers are not allowed to refuse a child a place without this proof from parents, an aspect of the existing regulation that will remain in place.
From January to May 2017, Germany has reported 634 cases of measles, compared with just 62 cases during the same period in 2016. Other nations including the United States, Italy, Thailand and Ukraine are reporting either outbreaks or higher cases of measles than the previous year, according to a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control report.
Some immigrant parents in South Carolina are opting out of some health services for their children, including vaccinations, because of fear that they will be deported and separated from their families, a South Carolina public health advocate said this week.
Julie Smithwick is executive director of PASOs, a group founded in 2005 which helps the Latino community and service providers work together for strong and healthy families through education, support and grassroots leadership development.
“We’ve gotten calls from the health department of mothers not coming to…appointments, not showing up for immunizations,” said Smithwick.
Many of these children qualify for government-sponsored health care benefits and immunizations.
Recently, Kaiser Health News reported that some foreign-born Californians are similarly reluctant to sign their children up for Medicaid policies “out of concern that personal information may be used to deport families.”
Pennsylvania State University confirmed this week that the case count of mumps has now reached 86.
The outbreak started in late January 2017, and by April the number of confirmed cases was 77.
The majority of those infected during the original outbreak have recovered, but new cases continue to appear on the Penn State campus.
Most students, including those living on and off campus, are expected to receive two doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine, or to submit results from a blood test proving immunity, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Mumps outbreaks can still occur in highly vaccinated U.S. communities, particularly in close-contact settings such as schools, colleges, and camps. However, high vaccination coverage helps to limit the size, duration, and spread of mumps outbreaks,” states the CDC.
According to the CDC, there has been more than a 99 percent decrease in mumps cases in the United States since vaccinations for the disease began in 1967.