Milestones :: Perspectives

Milestones :: Perspectives

In India, 410 million children to be vaccinated against measles-rubella
7 February 2017 – India has launched one of the world’s largest vaccination campaigns against measles and rubella. The campaign to vaccinate more than 410 million children aged 9 months to 15 years over the next 2 years is a big step towards improving child survival and preventing birth defects.

India’s measles-rubella vaccination campaign a big step towards reducing childhood mortality, addressing birth defects
By Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia
World Health Organization congratulates India for launching one of the world’s largest vaccination campaign against measles, a major childhood killer disease, and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), responsible for irreversible birth defects.
The campaign launched today to vaccinate more than 35 million children in the age group of nine months to 15 years with MR (measles and rubella) vaccine, once again demonstrates India’s commitment to improve health and well-being of its people by protecting children against vaccine preventable diseases.
The first phase of the campaign is significant as it is expected to accelerate the country’s efforts to eliminate measles which affects an estimated 2.5 million children every year, killing nearly 49 000 of them. The campaign also marks the introduction of rubella vaccine in India’s childhood immunization programme to address CRS which causes birth defects such as irreversible deafness and blindness in nearly 40 000 children every year.
India has made important efforts and gains against measles in recent years. Measles deaths have declined by 51% from an estimated 100 000 in the year 2000 to 49 000 in 2015. This has been possible by significantly increasing the reach of the first dose of measles vaccine, given at the age of nine months under routine immunization programme, from 56% in 2000 to 87% in 2015. In 2010 India introduced the second dose of measles-containing vaccine in routine immunization programme to close the immunity gap and accelerate measles elimination. Nearly 118 million children aged nine months to 10 years were vaccinated during mass measles vaccination campaigns between 2010 and 2013 in select states of India.
Today’s campaign, the first in the series to cover a total of 410 million children across the country over the next 2 years, is a truly remarkable, world-beating effort. Apart from improving the life-chances of millions of children in India, the campaign is expected to have a substantial effect on global measles mortality and rubella control target as India accounts for 37% of global measles deaths…

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New York Times
February 8, 2017Op-Ed Contributor
How the Anti-Vaxxers Are Winning
Peter J. Hotez, a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine, is director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.
HOUSTON — It’s looking as if 2017 could become the year when the anti-vaccination movement gains ascendancy in the United States and we begin to see a reversal of several decades in steady public health gains. The first blow will be measles outbreaks in America.
Measles is one of the most contagious and most lethal of all human diseases. A single person infected with the virus can infect more than a dozen unvaccinated people, typically infants too young to have received their first measles shot. Such high levels of transmissibility mean that when the percentage of children in a community who have received the measles vaccine falls below 90 percent to 95 percent, we can start to see major outbreaks, as in the 1950s when four million Americans a year were infected and 450 died. Worldwide, measles still kills around 100,000 children each year.

The myth that vaccines like the one that prevents measles are connected to autism has persisted despite rock-solid proof to the contrary. Donald Trump has given credence to such views in tweets and during a Republican debate, but as president he has said nothing to support vaccination opponents, so there is reason to hope that his views are changing.

However, a leading proponent of the link between vaccines and autism said he recently met with the president to discuss the creation of a presidential commission to investigate vaccine safety. Such a commission would be a throwback to the 2000s, when Representative Dan Burton of Indiana held fruitless hearings and conducted investigations on this topic. And a documentary alleging a conspiracy at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” has recently been shown around the country.

As a scientist leading global efforts to develop vaccines for neglected poverty-related diseases like schistosomiasis and Chagas’ disease, and as the dad of an adult daughter with autism and other disabilities, I’m worried that our nation’s health will soon be threatened because we have not stood up to the pseudoscience and fake conspiracy claims of this movement.

Texas, where I live and work, may be the first state to once again experience serious measles outbreaks. As of last fall, more than 45,000 children here had received nonmedical exemptions for their school vaccinations. A political action committee is raising money to protect this “conscientious exemption” loophole and to instruct parents on how to file for it. As a result, some public school systems in the state are coming dangerously close to the threshold when measles outbreaks can be expected, and a third of students at some private schools are unvaccinated.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has produced a 21-page document listing all of the studies clearly showing there is no link between vaccines and autism, in addition to more recent epidemiological studies involving hundreds of thousands of children or pregnant women that also refute any association. A study of infant rhesus monkeys also shows that vaccination does not produce neurobiological changes in the brain.

Vaccines are clearly not the reason children develop autism. So what is? There is strong evidence that genetics play a role, and that defects in the brain of children on the autism spectrum occur during pregnancy. Exposure during early pregnancy to particular chemicals in the environment or infections could be involved. Researchers have suggested that damage could be done by the drugs thalidomide, misoprostol and valproic acid; by exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos; and by infection of the mother with the rubella virus.

This is what we need to be focusing on, not the myth that vaccines cause autism. Yet I fear that such myths will be used to justify new rounds of hearings or unwarranted investigations of federal agencies, including the C.D.C. This would only distract attention from these agencies’ crucial work, and the real needs of families with children on the autism spectrum, such as mental health services, work-entry programs for adults and support for the research being done by the National Institutes of Health.

Today, parents in Texas have to live in fear that something as simple as a trip to the mall or the library could expose their babies to measles and that a broader outbreak could occur. Perpetuating phony theories about vaccines and autism isn’t going to help them — and it’s not going to help children on the autism spectrum, either.

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Washington Post
February 8, 2017
More than 350 organizations write Trump to endorse current vaccines’ safety
By Lena H. Sun
More than 350 organizations, including leading U.S. medical, advocacy and professional organizations, have sent a letter to President Trump expressing their “unequivocal support for the safety of vaccines.”

The effort, organized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, reflects the growing alarm among a wide array of groups over Trump’s embrace of discredited claims about vaccine safety. After a meeting in January with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism, a Trump spokeswoman said he was considering creation of a commission on autism.

“Vaccines protect the health of children and adults and save lives,” the letter opens. “Vaccines have been part of the fabric of our society for decades and are one of the most significant medical innovations of our time.”

It continues: “Claims that vaccines are unsafe when administered according to expert recommendations have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature.”

The letter was sent to Trump on Tuesday. Organizations that signed on represent families, providers, researchers, patients and consumers. They include the American Medical Association, the advocacy group Autism Speaks and major children’s and disability groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund, Easter Seals and the March of Dimes.

Following their meeting last month, Kennedy said that he and Trump had discussed creation of a vaccine commission, which he would chair. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already has a well-established expert panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which follows a scientifically rigorous and open process to evaluate all aspects of vaccine safety.

The letter calls vaccines the safest and most cost-effective way of preventing disease, disability and death. It notes that the United States is still experiencing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illness, disability and death, such as the 2014-2015 measles outbreak that began at Disneyland and the sharp spike of pertussis, or whooping cough, in 2012.

The organizations wrote that they would welcome a meeting with Trump “to share the robust, extensive, scientific evidence” supporting vaccine safety and effectiveness. After just over a page of text, the letter continues for 26 additional pages to list all the national and state-based groups that signed as well as a summary of more than 40 studies on vaccine safety.
Here is the letter in full