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Vaccines

A trial for an HIV vaccine had to be stopped before the trail could be completed because the vaccine was doing the complete opposite of what it was supposed to do. A number of 1,836 were followed and 172 of them contracted the virus.  It was found to be making some men MORE LIKELY to get HIV.  Men that were uncircumcised and received the vaccine were more vulnerable to acquiring the virus after getting the vaccine even when not participating in risky behaviors.  This higher susceptibility however, lessen after 18 months.

Why is it that when researchers realized that the vaccine was not protecting anyone from getting HIV and when they had suspicions hat it was making some men more susceptible to HIV that this faulty vaccine being administered?  Did this pharmaceutical company figure that their profits would be worth more than the lives of these men that were put in danger?

This is an example of a human rights violation because Merck, the pharmaceutical company, should have been a guardian of health and stopped administering this vaccine once they had suspicions that the drug was failing men.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/18/health/research/trial-vaccine-made-some-more-vulnerable-to-hiv-study-confirms.html?_r=1&ref=health

When most Americans imagine Tuberculosis, they think of a disease that was active over 100 years ago.  They imagine people coughing, becoming frail and being sent to warm, dry climates as the disease progressed.  It was then often called “consumption” or “white plague”.  It is a bacterial infection that invades the lungs and destroys the lung tissue.  The bacteria can be spread when people cough, and is airborne.  

Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) is the vaccine that is now in use to protect against tuberculosis. It was first used in 1921.  BCG was first used as a vaccine in 1921. It was given to infants orally. Since 1921, this has been the standard treatment against TB and has been used extensively.  Today, it is estimated that more than 1 billion people have received BCG.  

A startling new finding has many people concerned:  Documentation of a “totally drug resistant strain of TB” has been found in India.  Last week, the World Health Organization convened to discuss these findings and to determine if a new classification must be added to the first TB description:  this new classification would be ‘totally drug-resistant TB,’ or TDR-TB. This means the disease has changed from one that could be treated with a six month course of antibiotics, to the emergence of MDR-TB, then extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). The most disturbing aspect of these new discoveries, says Lucica Ditiu of the WHO’s Stop TB Partnership, is the fact that drug-resistant TB ‘is a totally man-made disease.'”

Bacteria, while simple creatures, are highly adaptable and can evolve to resist the drugs meant to destroy them. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is no exception.  In many areas of the world, TB is a major problem due to lack of vaccination and inability of the people of certain countries to obtain the antibiotics needed to cure them.  To explain this new strain of TB as being man made:  if a person has access to the TB antibiotic, and begins taking the recommended course, then stops for whatever reason—lack of access to the medicine, becoming too ill to travel to obtain the medicine, or simply feeling better and stopping the course of treatment on their own—the bacteria still present in their bodies begins to adapt to fight the antibiotic introduced.  This leaves the person uncured of the original infection, and now able to transmit a new strain of the adapted bacteria to others. 

 Dr Zarir Udwadia, a specialist in TB at the Hinduja National Hospital in Mumbai, recently published a paper in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal examining four cases of TDR-TB. He told Reuters that he has now seen 12 cases of TB where all known TB drugs were applied and none were successful. Three of the 12 cases are already dead.

The powerful TB drugs he tested on each patient, one after another, were first line treaments–isoniazid, rifampicin and streptomycin, and then a range of second line drugs like moxifloxacin, kanamycin and ethionamide. Each medicine did not work.

“If you add it all up, they were resistant to 12 drugs in total,” said Udwadia.

TB can lie dormant in a patient for many years before showing signs of infection.  As TB can now be considered an untreatable disease, the world needs to gear up for epidemic that may be crippling.

 

 

This is a map that says a lot.  It tracks “Vaccine-Preventable Disease Outbreaks” around the world. Many of the biggest circles, showing outbreaks of common infectious diseases that can be treated by inexpensive and effective vaccines, are in Africa.

The five most prevalent diseases the map shows are measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, and rubella. All of the polio cases are in Africa and Asia.

One glaring disparity the map shows, if you click on the circles, is the number of deaths from these diseases.  While measles epidemics have occurred in recent years in France, Spain, and elsewhere in Europe, they didn’t cause any deaths.  Similar epidemics in Africa caused thousands of deaths.

In France, for example, an epidemic involving 34,000 cases didn’t result in any deaths.  In Burkina Faso, an epidemic involving 19,000 cases caused 150 deaths.

 

Are compulsory vaccinations being put into place as a means to maintain and increase standards of health among populations? Are compulsory vaccinations being put into place as what has become a simple means of accruing monetary gain? This week, both of my sisters became sick with the flu, and interestingly, this year was the first in many that both of my sisters received flu shots! They did as doctors and many others advised, vaccinated themselves to prevent illness, and now they are sick. I am currently on the hunt to understand the potential benefits, the possible harmful side effects, along with the skepticism’s and the concerns of vaccines; I would like to imagine that health professionals have been and are continuing to do the like.

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Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that boys in the US be immunized against human papillomavirus (HPV) beginning at age 11-12, just as they had previously recommended for girls.  The recommendation is to use Gardasil, the vaccine produced by Merck.  It should cost about $360 per person for the 3-dose schedule, not including fees for clinic visits.

By protecting against infection with HPV types 16 and 18, which are associated with development of cervical, penile, and anal cancers (and have been reported in conjunction with some oral cancers), Gardasil is meant to be a cancer vaccine.

What does this mean for people in poor countries — where cervical and penile cancer are much more common than in the US, but the vaccine at American prices would be prohibitively expensive?  There are an estimated 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer worldwide, of which only about 12,000 (2.4%) are in the US.  Penile and oral cancer are even rarer here.

So is Merck using the world burden of cancer as an excuse to sell vaccine that the people who need it — primarily women in poor countries — won’t be able to afford?

Merck has begun an initiative to make Gardasil available in the rest of the world.  They say they will donate 3 million doses of the vaccine (enough to immunize a million people — about 2 years’ worth of new infections) over the next 5 years.  Some of this will be done through the Global Vaccine Initiative, GAVI.

Doctors Without Borders has put together a useful summary of the ten key stories from 2011 on the struggle to obtain essential medicines in developing countries.  As they describe, one of the critical faultlines is India, a country that produces “the most quality affordable medicines used in the developing world, but which faces attacks by drug companies and wealthy countries who continue to clamp down on generic production.”