Vaccination method that wiped out smallpox gets unleashed today on Ebola

With more than 7,500 doses of an experimental vaccine against Ebola, health officials today began a vaccination campaign to try to thwart the latest outbreak of the deadly virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to the World Health Organization, the campaign will start with healthcare workers operating in areas affected by the outbreak. Then officials will focus on a “ring vaccination” strategy, which targets people who have had contact with someone with a confirmed case of Ebola, as well as people who have had contact with those contacts. (This creates rings of vaccination around each case, hence the name). These defensive social circles ensure that those most vulnerable to contracting the virus are protected while also preventing the spread of the virus from the most likely sources. The same strategy was critical during the campaign in the 1960s and ‘70s to eradicate smallpox—the only human disease that has ever been successfully wiped out.

The Ebola-vaccination campaign will take place in the DRC’s northwestern Equator Province (Province de l’Équateur), where there have been 46 confirmed, probable, or suspected cases, including 26 deaths, as of May 18. Officials have already identified 600 contacts and contacts of contacts of cases. Nearly all cases and contacts have been in the remote town of Bikoro. But officials counted four confirmed cases in Mbandaka, a provincial capital with more than a million residents. This has raised concerns about the potential for the outbreak to explode.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Parents of children with autism may be more likely to believe vaccine myths

Kids diagnosed with autism are less likely than the general population to receive the recommended set of safe and protective vaccines—and so are their younger siblings, according to a new observational study in JAMA Pediatrics.

The finding indicates that children with autism and their siblings are at an increased risk of contracting preventable—and dangerous—infectious diseases. It also suggests that a pernicious and completely bogus notion that vaccines cause autism may be spurring hesitancy in some parents.

The authors of the study note in their conclusion:

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Morals behind anti-vaccination: Vigilance against tyrannical, impure shots

For years, doctors and health experts have tried in vain to douse the modern anti-vaccine movement with data and science. They’ve showered vaccine-hesitant parents with data on the safety and efficacy of the life-saving injections, plus information on herd immunity and the dangers of otherwise bygone diseases, such as measles. Nevertheless, the efforts largely fail. In some cases, they even backfire; mind-boggling studies have found that repeating myths and misinformation in the process of debunking them can actually reinforce them.

For a new tactic, public health researchers have turned away from facts and reason and toward morals and values. They hypothesized that if they can pitch vaccines in a way that gives anti-vaccine parents all the right feels, they may finally quench the insidious and deadly movement. And indeed, in a preliminary study, they found evidence that vaccine-averse parents have differing moral foundations than those who embrace vaccines.

In the initial study of 1,007 parents, researchers found that the most vaccine-hesitant parents were twice as likely as low-hesitancy parents to place high value on ideals of “purity” and “liberty.” Those are two of six value categories in the Moral Foundation Theory, which social psychologists developed years ago to untangle people’s moral judgments and decisions based on emotional or intuitive processes—not data and science.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Un-bustable myths and stubborn minds: Anti-vaccine efforts backfire

Striking at a myth with facts may only shore it up, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that three main intervention strategies for combating anti-vaccine lies and falsehoods were ineffective at changing minds. But perhaps more concerning, they found that over-time exposure to the interventions strengthened participants’ belief in those lies and falsehoods, researchers recently reported in PLOS One. The researchers speculate that the mere repetition of a myth during the process of debunking may be enough to entrench the myth in a believer’s mind.

“People tend to mistake repetition for truth, a phenomenon known as the ‘illusory truth’ effect,” the authors, led by Sara Pluviano at the University of Edinburgh, note. And when those myths are built into a framework of beliefs and world views—a cognitive consistency perspective—it becomes even harder to knock them out.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Custom cancer vaccines safely fight and kill tumors in early human trials

With swift shots to the arm, doctors safely and effectively prime our immune systems to fight off deadly infectious diseases. Now, with tightly crossed fingers, they plan to do the same for cancers.

In two early clinical trials involving 19 patients with skin cancer, personalized vaccines appeared safe and effective at spurring immune responses to attack and destroy tumors. The vaccines worked by coaching killer immune cells—T cells—to destroy tumors by seeking out uniquely mutated proteins on each patient’s one-of-a-kind cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

The results of the two trials, both published this week in Nature, follow years of basic research and animal studies on this strategy. Researchers are optimistic, but there are big hurdles ahead of these small trials, including bigger trials with more patients and controls. If those go well, researchers will likely have to figure out how to streamline creating vaccines for individual patients, which is currently tedious and expensive.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Crunch Report | Sprint Takes 33% Stake in Tidal

Sprint takes a 33% stake in Tidal, The SEC is investigating Yahoo, a study from Cambridge on vaccinating fake news, Apple fixes more MacBook Pro bugs and a big Snapchat redesign hits iOS. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

First experimental Zika vaccine gets nod from FDA, moves to human trials

The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first human trial of an experimental Zika vaccine, according to a joint announcement by the two companies behind the new therapy.

The companies, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., based in Pennsylvania, and GeneOne Life Science, Inc., based in South Korea, said that their DNA-based vaccine candidate, dubbed GLS-5700, will be given to 40 people in a phase I trail. The trial will start “in the next weeks,” the companies said, and could yield results later this year.

Inovio and GeneOne noted in their announcement that pre-clinical data from animal studies suggested that the vaccine could induce a strong immune response that might protect against mosquito-transmitted Zika. But, like all phase I trials, their upcoming human study will not test how effective the vaccine is at fighting off Zika virus, but rather its safety and appropriate dosage levels. If the DNA-based vaccine is found to be safe, it will then move on to larger trials on efficacy that will take years to complete.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

California sees boost in vaccination rate ahead of ban on opt-outs

As health experts continue to combat vaccine fears and myths with pamphlets and explainers, as politicians rush to install stricter rules on vaccination requirements for school children, and as fiery feuds about the life-saving medicines continue to rage online… something is working—at least in the state of California.

On Tuesday, officials there reported a 2.5 percent increase in vaccination rates of kindergarteners attending public and private schools. For the 2015-2016 school year, 92.9 percent of the state’s more than half a million ankle-biters were up to date on their shots. That’s up from 90.4 percent in 2014 and 90.2 in 2013, the state reported.

The vaccination data tracks shots that prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTAP); measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); polio; hepatitis B; and chicken pox.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments