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Studies Confirm HPV Shot Is Safe

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 18, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The HPV vaccine gives parents a chance to prevent their children from developing some types of cancer, and two new studies reaffirm what past research has found — the vaccine is safe.

The two studies included millions of doses of Gardasil 9 vaccine, the only vaccine currently used in the United States for the prevention of HPV-related cancers.

“The data from our study was very reassuring. We saw nothing unexpected or surprising. With Gardasil 9, we can now prevent a large portion of cervical, oropharyngeal [mouth, tongue and throat] and other cancers,” said one of the studies’ lead author, Dr. James Donahue. He’s an epidemiologist with the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin.

The studies and an accompanying editorial were published Nov. 18 in the journal Pediatrics.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus. It’s estimated that 79 million people in the United States are already infected with HPV. Around 14 million new infections with HPV occur every year. About half of those are teens and young adults, according to the editorial. Sometimes these infections get better on their own, but many do not.

HPV is responsible for more than 33,000 cancers each year — 20,000 in women and 13,000 in men. Routine use of the Gardasil 9 vaccine could prevent about 90% of these cancers, the editorial said.

Yet editorial author Dr. H. Cody Meissner, from Tufts University Medical Center in Boston, noted that the rates of immunization with the HPV vaccine remain low.

He said there are a number of reasons why people are vaccine-hesitant overall, and those issues are compounded because this vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted infection.

“Sexuality is a difficult topic for pediatricians and many parents, and this vaccine got designated as a way to prevent sex-transmitted infection. But what’s far more important is that it prevents a common deadly cancer,” Meissner said.

Some people worry that giving a child a vaccine for a sexually transmitted infection might encourage their child to be more promiscuous, but Meissner said studies have shown that isn’t true.

Continued

Additionally, he said, “People may be misinformed or misunderstand safety issues surrounding the vaccine. No vaccine is absolutely safe, but aspirin isn’t safe and people take it. The likelihood of complications is very low, and there’s an enormous upside to this vaccine.”

Dr. David Fagan, vice chair of pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., wasn’t involved in the studies, but reviewed the findings.

“What the public may not and clearly needs to know is that there are systems in place to monitor for vaccine safety. Both of these studies confirm what we as physicians already know, that vaccines are safe and specifically that the HPV vaccine is safe,” Fagan said.

Donahue’s study involved near real-time surveillance of vaccine safety data from 2015 to 2017. During the study period, nearly 839,000 vaccine doses were given. Researchers didn’t find any new safety concerns.

The second study, led by Dr. Tom Shimabukuro from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at a three-year period and included about 28 million vaccine doses given. In that large group, approximately 7,200 people had an adverse reaction.

More than 97% of the adverse events weren’t serious, that study found. These events included headache, dizziness, fainting and injection site irritation.

Fagan said he frequently points out to parents that the HPV vaccine prevents cancer.

“If you had the choice to prevent your child getting cancer by immunizing them with a vaccine that is safe, wouldn’t you do that for your child?” he said.

The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for males and females between the ages of 9 and 26. Two doses are recommended between the ages of 11 and 12, though they can be given as early as age 9. If someone hasn’t been given the HPV vaccine by their 15th birthday, they’ll need three doses of the vaccine.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: James Donahue, D.V.M., Ph.D., epidemiologist, Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wisc.; H. Cody Meissner, M.D., professor, pediatrics, Tufts University Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston; David Fagan, M.D., vice chair, pediatrics, Cohen Children’s Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Nov. 18, 2019,Pediatrics

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Nurse Pens Powerful Post About Flu Shot

Oct. 11, 2019 — “The flu shot is NOT always about you. It’s about protecting those around you, who cannot always protect themselves.”

A nurse’s Facebook post is going viral after she penned a powerful statement urging everyone to get a flu shot.

Amanda Bitz writes that we shouldn’t just get vaccinated to keep ourselves healthy. Instead, it’s “for the grandparents, whose bodies are not what they used to be, and they just can’t kick an illness in the butt like when they were young. For the 30 year old, with HIV or AIDS, who has a weakened immune system. For the 25-year-old mother of three who has cancer. She has absolutely zero immune system because of chemotherapy.”

Bitz goes on to build her case, citing heart-wrenching example after example, before concluding that everyone needs to do their part to keep others safe. “I have been in the room as a patient has passed away, because of influenza. I have watched patients struggle to breathe, because of influenza,” she writes. “Herd immunity is a thing. Influenza killing people is a thing. You getting the flu shot, should be a thing.”

As of Friday afternoon, the post had been shared more than 82,000 times and had more than 1,200 comments.

The flu can be deadly and cause serious illness, but vaccination rates remain low. Last season, 45.3% of adults 18 and older received flu vaccinations, according to the CDC. The rate was higher among children 6 months through 17 years: 62.6%.

A recent CDC study found that roughly two-thirds of pregnant women in the U.S. don’t get vaccinated against the flu — which puts them and their babies at risk. When pregnant women get the flu shot, it reduces their newborns’ risk of being hospitalized due to the virus by an average of 72%.

The agency recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated — if their health allows — and says vaccination is especially important for people with a high risk for serious complications, including young kids, adults over the age of 65, people with underlying medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, and pregnant women.

Last year’s flu season lasted a whopping 21 weeks — the longest in a decade. But health officials aren’t sure how long this one will last or how bad it will be. Each flu season varies, but it usually starts in October, peaks between December and February, and lasts as late as May.

While flu activity is still low in the U.S., the CDC warns that Australia experienced an early start to its 2019 flu season and that, because influenza is unpredictable, circumstances can change very quickly.

Sources

Facebook, Amanda Catherine Bitz, Ocober 7, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Flu Symptoms & Diagnosis.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Update: Influenza Activity — United States and Worldwide, May 19–September 28, 2019, and Composition of the 2020 Southern Hemisphere Influenza Vaccine.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Flu Treatment.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Low Rates of Vaccination During Pregnancy Leave Moms, Babies Unprotected.”

CDC, “Update: Influenza Activity in the United States During the 2018–19 Season and Composition of the 2019–20 Influenza Vaccine.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Flu Season.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Childhood TB Shot May Offer Long-Term Protection from Lung Cancer

TUESDAY, Oct. 1, 2019 — A tuberculosis vaccine commonly used in other parts of the world might reduce a person’s risk of developing lung cancer if given early in childhood, a six-decade-long study reports.

The Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is the only vaccine approved for preventing tuberculosis (TB) — a potentially fatal infectious disease that typically attacks the lungs. Because TB risk is low in the United States, the vaccine isn’t often given to American children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the new study suggests the vaccine may have some positive side effects.

“BCG-vaccinated participants had a significant 2.5-fold lower rate of lung cancer,” said study senior author Dr. Naomi Aronson, director of infectious diseases at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md.

She said lower lung cancer rates persisted in those who received the vaccine no matter where they lived, and whether they smoked, drank alcohol or had tuberculosis.

Aronson said BCG affects the immune system somehow and may provide even more benefit in the lungs.

The initial study was conducted in 3,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children in the 1930s. If the findings are confirmed in different groups, Aronson said the use of BCG vaccine in childhood “might be considered for risk reduction for lung cancer over a lifetime.”

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, interim chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, reviewed the study and called the findings fascinating. “And you rarely see this duration of follow-up,” he added. “The authors went to great lengths to validate their information.”

But, he said, it’s unlikely that BCG will be used for lung cancer prevention. While the study found a statistically significant reduction in the rate of lung cancer, the actual number of cases was very low. Just 42 people in the study were diagnosed with lung cancer.

There’s also a serious, ongoing shortage of BCG vaccine that would limit any such efforts, Lichtenfeld said. The vaccine is an effective treatment for a certain type of bladder cancer, and doctors find it hard to get enough for that purpose.

In addition, the BCG vaccine has been tested as a treatment in a number of other cancers with mixed results. In some cases, it looked as if lesions had shrunk, but the vaccine didn’t prolong survival, he explained.

Plus, Lichtenfeld said, there’s a very effective way to prevent many cases of lung cancer — don’t smoke. And, if you do, quit. “Tobacco causes most, but not all lung cancers. Not smoking helps prevent many cancers,” he said.

The initial study was conducted between 1935 and 1938. About 3,000 children from nine American Indian and Alaska Native tribes at multiple U.S. sites were randomly given the BCG vaccine or a placebo.

None of the youngsters had had tuberculosis. They were vaccinated between 5 and 11 years of age, with a median age of 8 years. Half were younger when they got the shot, half were older.

From 1992 to 1998, researchers reviewed health information from the trial participants.

There was no statistically significant differences in overall cancer rates between the vaccine and placebo groups. But the odds of lung cancer were significantly lower, the study found.

Researchers noted that lung cancer is a leading cause of death for Alaska Natives and Native Americans.

The study was published Sept. 25 in the journal JAMA Open.

More information

Read more about ways to prevent lung cancer from the American Cancer Society.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: October 2019

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Got High Blood Pressure? Get Your Flu Shot

SUNDAY, Sept. 1, 2019 — If you have high blood pressure, getting a flu shot could save your life, researchers say.

A new study found that patients with high blood pressure who got a flu shot had a nearly 18% lower risk of dying during flu season.

Previous research has found that the stress flu puts on the body may trigger heart attacks and strokes. Patients with high blood pressure already are at increased risk for both.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from Denmark on more than 608,000 people, aged 18 to 100, with high blood pressure during nine flu seasons, from 2007 to 2016.

The investigators looked at how many patients got a flu shot before each flu season and how many died.

After adjusting for patient characteristics — such as age, health problems and medications — in a given flu season, flu vaccination was associated with an 18% lower risk of death from any cause; a 16% lower risk of death from any cardiovascular cause; and a 10% lower risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

The findings were to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), in Paris. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Given these results, it is my belief that all patients with high blood pressure should have an annual flu vaccination,” said first author Daniel Modin, a research associate at the University of Copenhagen. “Vaccination is safe, cheap, readily available and decreases influenza infection. On top of that, our study suggests that it could also protect against fatal heart attacks and strokes, and deaths from other causes.”

Modin noted that during the nine flu seasons studied, vaccine coverage ranged from 26% to 36%, meaning that many patients with high blood pressure were unprotected.

“If you have high blood pressure, it would be worth discussing vaccination with your doctor,” Modin said in an ESC news release.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more on flu vaccination.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: September 2019

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Traveling Abroad? Make Sure Your Measles Shot Is Up to Date

WEDNESDAY, July 24, 2019 — Due to waning vaccination levels in some areas, measles outbreaks are back with a vengeance.

But many globe-trotting Americans may not realize the problem is worldwide. Therefore, making sure your measles vaccination is up to date is paramount before jetting off.

In fact, U.S. outbreaks of measles “are usually started by foreign travelers importing the virus to the U.S.,” according to Dr. Len Horovitz. He’s a specialist in pulmonary illnesses at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“This is exacerbated by lack of vaccination in many foreign countries,” Horovitz said. And according to a regularly updated list of measles “hotspots” from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “this is clearly a global epidemic,” he said.

“Asia, Africa and the Middle East lead the list, but in Europe the Ukraine and Romania have had reports of outbreaks,” Horovitz noted. “Also included on the outbreak list are Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Bulgaria and Lithuania.”

Besides ruining a dream vacation, measles is very contagious and can be spread quickly to others, experts warn. And even if you think you got the shot in childhood, it’s smart to check and see if your immunity has waned, Horovitz said.

That’s especially true for some of the baby boomer generation.

“It’s well-known that vaccines between 1963 and 1967 were less effective, and immunity can fade over the age of 50, even if you’ve had the disease,” Horovitz explained. “So one cannot assume immunity to measles, mumps or rubella in any adult.”

A simple blood test can gauge your immunity. Horovitz said he’s been “testing patients for immunity in the last 10 weeks. All are adults, and I’ve uncovered two or more patients each week who need booster vaccination. That’s 23 non-immune adults so far in a solo practice.”

According to Horovitz, one large commercial lab that tests for immunity to MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) found that as many as 9%-13% of specimens lacked immunity to one or more of the three viruses.

So while getting kids vaccinated is crucial, “there’s also clear evidence that there is a significant number of non-immune adults in the U.S.,” Horovitz said.

Meanwhile, the measles situation in the United States continues to be dire.

“The 2018-2019 measles epidemic has been documented as one of the worst on record since 2000,” Horovitz said. “In April 2019, the CDC reported 695 cases in 22 states. The largest outbreaks were in Washington state and New York State.” He pointed out that 2018 saw a 300% increase in cases.

Some patients should not receive measles vaccination (including those with multiple sclerosis), so it’s better to assess a patient’s need for re-vaccination rather than just giving a booster to any patient requesting it or traveling to a country where measles is common, Horovitz said.

“A simple blood test with 24-hour turnaround time will reveal the immune status and need for vaccination. Patients who don’t require a booster should not be vaccinated, but a surprising number will require it,” he said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on measles vaccination.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: July 2019

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Bar scales back ‘free shot per goal’ promotion after U.S. 13-0 win

Soccer Football – Women’s World Cup – Group F – United States v Thailand – Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims, France – June 11, 2019 General view of the scoreboard after the match REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

(Reuters) – A Miami bar that offered customers “free shots” for every goal scored by the United States at the Women’s World Cup has scaled back its offer in the wake of the team’s record-breaking 13-0 thrashing of Thailand this week.

The American Social Bar & Kitchen used its social media page for the promotion, clearly not expecting the U.S. to rack up the tournament’s biggest-ever win in their opening game in Reims, France on Tuesday.

The rampant U.S. team, a traditional powerhouse of women’s football, face unfancied Chile on Sunday but thirsty Florida customers should not be expecting another night of multiple free shots and will have to settle for a single drink.

“Our ‘free shots’ promotion is not meant to be taken literally, especially when records are shattered,” a furiously back-pedalling Paul Greenberg, one of the managing partners at American Social, said in an email to Reuters.

“No one expected this, so instead of passing around shots, we have welcomed our patrons back for a round on us during the match against Chile on Sunday.”

The bar is a favorite meeting place for the local chapter of the U.S. soccer supporters group, the American Outlaws.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Mitch Phillips

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Flu Shot Won’t Cause Miscarriage, Study Confirms

FRIDAY, March 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) A flu shot cannot cause a pregnant woman to miscarry, researchers say.

“This is a very definitive study for a recent, relevant time period of flu and should remove all doubts a woman might have about whether it is safe to be vaccinated during pregnancy,” said co-investigator Dr. Edward Belongia, director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin, CNN reported.

The findings are based on an examination of the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 flu seasons and were presented Wednesday to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The study comes at a time when there is significant focus in the U.S. on the consequences of certain groups telling people to ignore vaccine recommendations, CNN reported.

Not only is a flu shot during pregnancy safe, it’s necessary, said lead investigator James Donahue, a senior epidemiologist at Marshfield.

“There’s lots of evidence of the severity of flu for a pregnant woman, more chance of hospitalization, more risk of death, especially as she enters the second and third trimester,” Donahue said, CNN reported.

“There are also many studies that show the mother’s vaccination will help protect the newborn baby from flu, which is critical since the baby cannot be vaccinated until 6 months of age,” he added.

CDC guidelines emphasize the importance of a flu shot during pregnancy.

“The findings provide a high level of reassurance regarding the safety of influenza vaccine in early pregnancy and through pregnancy and support the current recommendations of an influenza vaccination for all pregnant women,” Donahue said, CNN reported.

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Will Your Flu Shot Weaken as Flu Season Drags On?

Feb. 25, 2019 — This year’s flu season hasn’t been as severe as last year’s, but it may not have peaked yet, public health officials say. So, if you dutifully got your flu shot in the fall, will your immunity wane before flu season does?

Maybe, say vaccine experts, depending on your age, the type of vaccination you got, and how bad the season gets.

The question of waning vaccine immunity has been under study recently, with some experts finding immunity does decline. It’s difficult to find clear-cut answers as to how much, because each flu season — and each annual vaccine — come with so many variables.

If you get the flu vaccine say in August, antibody levels drift down, and by the end of the season, ”you might be more at risk, but it’s remarkably difficult to prove,” says Ann Falsey, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York, who studies respiratory viruses.

What Research Finds

The risk of getting the flu rises about 16% every 28 days after vaccination, according to a study by Kaiser Permanente Northern California researchers. They looked at flu seasons from 2010 through 2017 and the medical records of nearly 45,000 people who tested positive for flu.

Researchers placed subjects into three categories: People in Group A tested positive for the flu 14 to 41 days after being vaccinated; In Group B, people got the flu 42 to 69 days after receiving the vaccine; and people in Group C were vaccinated more than 154 days before getting the flu.

Patients in Group B were 1.3 times more likely to have gotten the flu than those in Group A. Patients in Group C were twice as likely to have gotten the flu, compared with those in Group A.

Other researchers turned to data from the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network, using information from the 2011 through 2015 seasons. They found that vaccine effectiveness declined by about 7% a month for influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B, and about 6% to 11% for influenza A (H1N1).

The CDC has published a recommendations report, including timing of the flu vaccine, says Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson.

Even though it’s possible that your vaccine protection will wane, the CDC recommends getting the shot by the end of October.

Studies have not found that one age group sees vaccine protection waning more quickly than others, the CDC says, nor has the strain of flu virus mattered.

Looking at older adults, Melissa Stockwell, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics and of population and family health at Columbia University, says ”we don’t know enough about the waning in a season” to make hard and fast recommendations at the beginning of the season. The researchers concluded there may be benefits to vaccinating older patients as close to the start of flu activity to maximize protection.

She also does not recommend that adults get a second flu shot.

This Year’s Vaccine and Season

So, could vaccine waning be to blame for a late-season surge in flu?

“It’s a really good question, but I don’t know if we could ever really know the answer,” says Laura Haynes, PhD, a professor of immunology at the UConn Center on Aging at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington.

“This is the middle of winter, this is when flu should be peaking,” she says. “It might also have to do with weather,” she says of cases rising. “In the Northeast, we had a pretty mild January, and people were outside. In February, we got snow, and people were inside more. The flu is transmitted when people are [crowded] together and humidity is low. People are breathing on each other and touching doorknobs.”

More Recommendations

This season, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, it is not too late, Stockwell says.

As for next season? If you are over 65, she suggests talking to your doctor about the high-dose or adjuvant vaccines, meant to boost the immune response in older adults.

For others, the advice to get the flu shot by the mid- to late October is still good, Stockwell says. “It can take 2 weeks to reach full protection against the flu [for adults]. And some years, flu season begins as early as November.”

Sources

Melissa Stockwell, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons; associate professor of population and family health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Kristen Nordlund, CDC spokesperson.

Ann Falsey, MD, professor of medicine and infectious diseases, University of Rochester School of Medicine. 

CDC: “Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2018-19 Influenza Season,” Aug. 24, 2018.

Vaccine: “Within-season influenza vaccine waning suggests potential net benefits to delayed vaccination in older adults in the United States.”

Clinical Infectious Diseases: “Intraseason Waning of Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness.”

Clinical Infectious Diseases: “Intraseason waning of influenza vaccine protection: Evidence from the US Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network, 2011-12 through 2014-15.”

Laura Haynes, PhD, professor of immunology, UConn Center on Aging, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington.

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Flu Shot Much More Effective This Year, CDC Says