The end of a year offers us a chance to reflect on, and make listicles of pop culture moments that have impacted our lives: albums, movies, even celebrity deaths. We would be remiss as science communicators if we didn’t make a few lists of our own. Voila, I present to you my top ten list of Vaccine News Stories 2016. So much HOPE for the future!
Tell us your favorite vaccine moments, conspiracies, or news stories of 2016!!!
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We will not be defenseless when the next Ebola outbreak hits. An Ebola vaccine was developed in Canada that is 100% effective, and is now owned and manufactured by Merck, Sharp & Dohme. It’s currently being fast-tracked by US and European regulatory agencies.
- Detection of Intussusception with RotaVirus Vaccination
Before the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, almost all children in the US were infected by the age of 5, and rotavirus infections were responsible for 400,000 doctor visits, 200,000 ER visits, 55,000-70,000 hospitalizations, and 20-60 deaths each year. Recently, a very small increased risk for a complication has been observed with rotavirus vaccination, leading to better education of parents for the symptoms and new recommendations for children with a previous history of intussusception. This indicates that our post-vaccination monitoring systems work well to help scientists and doctors detect very rare events!!
Unfortunately for Californians, who are experiencing yet ANOTHER measles outbreak, 2016 shed new light on a complication of measles that occurs many years after contracting the illness, and is 100% fatal.
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) was previously thought to only occur in 1/10,000 cases of measles, but this gem of a way to die, by brain inflammation, was recently discovered to actually affect 1 out of every 600 babies that contract measles. In the past, hucksters like “Dr.” Bob Sears have tried to claim that contracting measles isn’t all that bad. Lucky for us, 2016 also saw “Dr.” Bob indicted on negligence charges.
After many months of coordination, planning, training, procurement efforts, and logistical preparations, all countries in the world have switched to a bivalent oral polio vaccine, moving us one step closer to global eradication.
An investigational Zika vaccine developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) entered phase 1 clinical trials in 2016. Never before have so many companies (a dozen) and government organizations worked so quickly to develop a vaccine from scratch. Vaccines usually take a decade or more to develop. But researchers say a Zika vaccine could be available as early as 2018!
In yet another win for the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, the FluMist vaccine, made by MedImmune, was found to be only 3 percent effective last flu season, leading the CDC to discontinue its use for this year. Human immune systems are fickle things, and we are engaged in a “Red Queen” like race with the viruses around us. Thank goodness for vaccines and for the public reporting systems that keep us out of harms way!
The CDC advisory committee has decided that children who start getting vaccinated against human papillomavirus before 15 need only two doses, instead of the previous recommendation for three. Experts predict that the simpler, more flexible timeline will result in higher rates of HPV vaccination, which has lagged among both girls and boys.
Since the HIV virus was identified in 1983, efforts to develop an effective vaccine have been unsuccessful. The first large study of an HIV vaccine’s effectiveness since 2009, is currently being tested in South Africa. The vaccine is a reformulation of a one previously tested in Thailand that yielded a 30% effective rate. This is only the seventh full-scale human trial for an HIV vaccine- for a virus that infects more than 2 million people and kills more than 1 million every year.
In 2016, researchers at McMaster University and two American universities took a step forward in developing a universal flu vaccine. They discovered antibodies, that can “train” the immune system to recognize a portion of the virus that does not change from year-to-year. This discovery paves the way toward a universal vaccine that could be given just once and potentially protect against all future strains of the flu, including mutated strains.
An international team of researchers took pieces of cancer’s genetic RNA code, put them into tiny nanoparticles of fat and then injected the mixture into the bloodstreams of three patients in advanced stages of the disease, fanning the flames of hope for developing a universal cancer vaccine. Early studies like this create an enormous amount of interest. But studies in animals often don’t work out so well when they’re carried out in humans. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings us!