Tag: vaccine strains

More Measles Myths

It’s kind of sad that some folks still believe many of the measles myths that were being told in 1963.

Folks once accepted measles as inevitable because they had no choice, but that changed when we got a vaccine.
Measles was long known as a harmless killer

Wait, measles isn’t harmless?

But what about that Brady Bunch episode!?!

More Measles Myths

What other myths about measles have you heard?

Have you heard that folks never worried about measles before we had a vaccine? That it never even made the newspaper?

There were newspaper articles warning about measles in 1959 - a measles year.

The other myths they push are just as easily disproven

Which of these myths do you believe?

Which ones are keeping you from vaccinating and protecting your kids?

More on Measles Myths

About Those Vaccine Strains in Measles Outbreaks…

A lot happens to control and contain a measles outbreak these days.

For one thing, you have to confirm that everyone with measles symptoms actually has measles. If you miss anyone, because measles is so contagious, then they could expose other people and the outbreak will keep getting bigger.

How do they confirm who has measles and who doesn’t?

While you could just make a clinical diagnosis, simply relying on the person’s history and pattern of symptoms, typically everyone just gets tested.

About Those Vaccine Strains in Measles Outbreaks…

What kind of testing?

“Laboratory confirmation is essential for all sporadic measles cases and all outbreaks. Detection of measles-specific IgM antibody and measles RNA by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) are the most common methods for confirming measles infection. Healthcare providers should obtain both a serum sample and a throat swab (or nasopharyngeal swab) from patients suspected to have measles at first contact with them. Urine samples may also contain virus, and when feasible to do so, collecting both respiratory and urine samples can increase the likelihood of detecting measles virus.”

Measles For Healthcare Professionals

It depends, but often a throat swab or a throat swab and urine are collected for PCR testing, especially if it has been 7 or fewer days since the patient came down with their rash.

If it has been longer than 7 days, then testing using urine and blood specimens can be performed.

“Molecular analysis can also be conducted to determine the genotype of the measles virus. Genotyping is used to map the transmission pathways of measles viruses. The genetic data can help to link or unlink cases and can suggest a source for imported cases. Genotyping is the only way to distinguish between wild-type measles virus infection and a rash caused by a recent measles vaccination.”

Measles For Healthcare Professionals

Because many people get vaccinated during an outbreak and a rash and fever is a side effect of the MMR vaccine, testing becomes very important in those who were recently vaccinated.

Statistics from the 2015 Disneyland measles outbreak...
Statistics from the 2015 Disneyland measles outbreak. Anti-vaccine folks, this slide doesn’t mean what you think it means.

After getting vaccinated, testing helps confirm that someone has vaccine strain measles and not wild type, a vaccine reaction, and don’t actually have measles.

“Here, we describe a real-time reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) method that detects the vaccine genotype (MeVA RT-quantitative PCR [RT-qPCR]) and that can provide rapid discrimination between wild-type-virus infections and vaccine reactions.”

Roy et al on Rapid Identification of Measles Virus Vaccine Genotype by Real-Time PCR

An no, the vaccine reaction is not that they developed measles! They developed a rash and/or fever, a common side effect of the MMR vaccine.

“During outbreaks, measles vaccine is administered to help control the outbreak, and in these situations, vaccine reactions may be mistakenly classified as measles cases.”

CDC on Genetic Analysis of Measles Viruses

So the reports that you might have seen that 31 people in the California measles outbreak had a vaccine strain of measles aren’t true. There were at least 31 people who were recently vaccinated during the outbreak and had a rash and/or fever, and they tested positive for the vaccine strain, proving that they weren’t actually part of the outbreak. None of them actually had measles though.

Has anyone ever gotten the measles after being vaccinated?

“Vaccine‐associated measles is a possible, but extremely rare event.”

Sood et al on Vaccine‐associated measles in an immunocompetent child

Yes, there are a few case reports.

Very rare case reports.

Who's to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?
Who’s to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?

We know who’s responsible for the rise in measles outbreaks and no, it ain’t folks who have recently been vaccinated. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

Get vaccinated. Stop the outbreaks.

More on Vaccine Strains in Measles Outbreaks

What Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Saying About the Measles Outbreaks?

If your kids are intentionally not vaccinated and you live in an area where there is a big measles outbreak, then you are hopefully saying, “where can I get an MMR for my child.”

There were 23 measles cases in Orange County in 2014 and an additional 35 cases in 2015.

And you hope that your “vaccine friendly” pediatrician has vaccines and will actually vaccinate your kids…

What Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Saying About the Measles Outbreaks?

And while many parents change their minds and ending up vaccinating their kids when faced with an outbreak, you likely won’t be surprised about what some folks think or say during an outbreak of measles.

Actually, the CDC said that there was no ongoing, single, multi-state outbreak of measles. Instead, there were lots and lots of little outbreaks.

Yes, these are the things anti-vaccine folks say to try and reassure themselves that they made a good decision to intentionally leave their kids unvaccinated and at risk for a life-threatening disease. One that their kids are even more at risk of getting, because there is an outbreak in their community.

Of course, most folks in measles outbreaks are unvaccinated. It isn’t spread by those who are vaccinated.
And these outbreaks are never caused by shedding or a vaccine strain of measles.
Reporting about outbreaks to help get them under control is not media hysteria. And yes, measles made the headlines in the pre-vaccine era.
That’s because measles didn’t kill everyone who got sick. But there were about 500 measles deaths each year in the United States in the pre-vaccine era. Those folks all had stories, whether or not you ever heard them.
Vitamin A as a treatment for measles is typically helpful if you have a vitamin deficiency. It is probably not going to be very helpful in a developed country.
And yet measles was referred to as a harmless killer, because while many kids didn’t recover, others died or had complications, like encephalitis.
Measles is not a deadly disease if you don’t ever get it. And are you really not going to vaccinate your kids because the Brady Bunch had an episode about the measles?
This copypasta links to a post that left out the part of the article that told folks to get vaccinated…
God I hope that measles parties aren’t going to become a thing.
What scares folks about measles? Anti-vaccine misinformation about vaccines.

While you’re researching measles, do a little research about vaccines too.

Yes, a woman who got caught up in the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington died.
Yes, a woman who got caught up in the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington died.

Your kids will feel better if they are vaccinated and protected and don’t have measles.

More on What Anti-Vaccine Folks Are Saying About the Measles Outbreaks

Is a Vaccine Strain Causing The Latest Measles Outbreak?

What’s the first question anti-vaccine folks start asking whenever we see a large outbreak of measles?

No, it’s not how can I get my kids vaccinated and protected so that they don’t get measles…

It is whether or not it a vaccine strain of measles started the outbreak.

That’s not how any of this works…

Where do folks get all of this stuff about genotypes and vaccine strains? I wonder…

Dr. Bob had no facts, but still posted that a vaccine strain of measles could have killed a woman who got caught up in the last measles outbreak in Washington.

Yup.

The usual suspects.

Is a Vaccine Strain Causing The Latest Measles Outbreak?

Why do folks who intentionally don’t vaccinate their kids desperately want these measles outbreaks to be caused by a vaccine strain?

Because then it isn’t their fault that their kids are at risk of getting a life-threatening disease!

It’s never a vaccine strain though.

Remember the Disneyland measles outbreak. A lot of folks were talking about vaccine strains when it first started.

“…California patients were genotyped; all were measles genotype B3, which has caused a large outbreak recently in the Philippines…”

Measles Outbreak — California, Dec 2014–Feb 2015

It wasn’t a vaccine strain.

OutbreaksYearGenotype
Minnesota2017B3
Tennessee2016B3
California2015B3
Florida2013D8
California2014B3, D8
Brooklyn2013D8
North Carolina2013D8
Minnesota2011B3
Washington, Illinois2008D5, D4

For example, during 2011, 222 cases of measles and 17 outbreaks were reported in the United States, with most cases originating from just five countries (France, Italy, Romania, Spain, and Germany). Six different genotypes were identified, including B3, D4, G3, D8, H1, and D9. No vaccine strains…

And no, it doesn’t matter that the vaccine strain of measles, genotype A, differs from all of the wild strains of measles we see in the outbreaks.

“Vaccine induced immunity protects against all virus strains. Measles is considered a monotypic virus despite the genetic variations.”

Factsheet about measles

Unlike the flu, HPV, and pneumococcal bacteria, in which vaccines only protect against different serotypes, in the case of measles, the genotype simply helps us figure out where the measles case came from.

And no, the latest outbreak, wherever it is, wasn’t caused by shedding from a vaccine.

But if it isn’t the vaccine strain, then why do they that is it important to rapidly identify wild strains vs vaccine strains?

“During measles outbreaks, it is important to be able to rapidly distinguish between measles cases and vaccine reactions to avoid unnecessary outbreak response measures such as case isolation and contact investigations.”

Roy et al on Rapid Identification of Measles Virus Vaccine Genotype by Real-Time PCR

That’s easy to answer.

Outbreaks typically trigger a lot of folks to get vaccinated. While that’s great, one possible problem is that some of those folks might develop a fever and/or rash after their MMR vaccine. So it is important to quickly figure out whether they are part of the outbreak and have a wild strain (maybe they were exposed before their vaccine could start to work) or are having a common, mild vaccine reaction.

But couldn’t they have vaccine-associated measles if they have a rash and fever and a vaccine strain? Theoretically, but then they would likely have true measles symptoms. And even in these rare case reports, the children didn’t spread the measles to anyone else.

So why are you waiting to know the genotype of the measles strain causing the outbreak in your area? Hopefully, it isn’t to help you decide whether or not to vaccinate and protect your kids. While it is interesting to know where the outbreak originated, you can bet that it isn’t a vaccine strain.

More on Vaccine Strains Causing Measles Outbreaks

Understanding Flu Season

Flu season starts.

A lot of folks get sick as flu season peaks.

Flu season eventually ends.

What’s to understand?

Understanding Flu Season

While we see flu activity at epidemic levels every year, some years are clearly much worse than others.

What kind of flu season will we have this year?
What kind of flu season will we have this year?

And while the severity of a flu season is easy to see after it is over, many of us could use a little help making sense of things when we are still in the middle of it.

  • Geographic Spread of Influenza Viruses – when you hear that there is widespread flu activity in a lot of states, this is what they are talking about. The only problem is that this doesn’t really tell you anything about the severity of a flu season. We get widespread flu activity in all states, or almost all states, each and every year as flu season peaks.
  • ILI Activity Indicator Map – like the maps showing the geographic spread of the flu, the ILI activity indicator map can help you tell where flu is spreading, but since it doesn’t necessarily represent the whole state, it can be misleading.
  • Influenza-like Illness Surveillance – the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI), or basically, how many people are going to the doctor with flu symptoms. Once we get above the national baseline of 2.2%, we know that flu season is starting in an area. How high can ILI get? Recently, it has peaked between 3.6% (2015-2016) and 7.5% (2017-2018). But that’s nationally. Because of wide variability in regional level data, you might see much higher ILI numbers in your state. For example, the regional baseline in Texas is 4%, while it is just 1.1% in Idaho. Still, widespread flu activity with a high ILI likely means a bad flu season.
  • Flu-Associated Hospitalizations – laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations. Overall, as flu season peaks, this can range from 4 to 5 per 100,000 population in a typical flu season, to 9 or 10 in a more severe flu season. This is also reported by age group. During a bad flu season, flu-associated hospitalizations will be high.
  • Mortality Surveillance – the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza. At some point in flu season, we get above an epidemic threshold and more people die with the flu, especially during a bad flu season.
  • Pediatric Deaths – pediatric influenza-associated deaths have been a nationally notifiable condition since the 2004 flu season and since then, on average, about 118 kids die with the flu each year. Last season was especially bad, with 185 pediatric flu deaths.

So how do you really know if it is a bad flu season?

Look for a high ILI%, high flu-associated hospitalizations, which will almost certainly be followed by a high mortality surveillance.

You also want to check viral surveillance data. Are the majority of influenza viruses being tested antigenically and genetically similar to the cell-grown reference viruses representing the 2018–2019 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine viruses? If not, that could mean a vaccine strain mismatch and a worse flu season.

And don’t be surprised by reports of widespread flu activity or rising ILI. That’s just flu season.

More on Understanding Flu Season

What’s the Real Risk from the Contaminated Vaccines in India?

Most people understand that polio vaccines have helped to control and get us close to eradicating polio.

Many even know that there are two types of polio vaccine – the inactivated Salk vaccine and the live Sabin vaccine.

Some might even know that there are actually three strains of polio virus that we have traditionally gotten vaccinated against, and that one of those strains, type 2, has already been eradicated.

“In April 2016 a switch was implemented from trivalent OPV to bivalent OPV in routine immunization programmes.”

OPV Cessation

That’s why we have switched to using a bivalent OPV which only contains type 1 and 3 serotypes.

Contaminated Vaccines in India

What does all of this have to do with the news of contaminated vaccines in India?

“At least three batches of polio vaccines containing 1.5 lakh vials have been found contaminated with type 2 polio virus, putting at risk India’s “polio free” status as children born after April 2016 — when the type 2 virus was withdrawn worldwide including in India — do not have immunity to this particular virus, sources said.”

Unfortunately, some contaminated vaccines were actually administered to children in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Telengana, and Uttar Pradesh before the contamination was discovered.

Will these kids get polio?

No, as the vaccines weren’t contaminated with wild polio virus.

It seems that Bio-Med Private Limited was still producing and distributing polio vaccine with the type 2 vaccine virus, even though this type of vaccine was discontinued a few years ago.

Why?

We will  hopefully find out, as the managing director of Bio-Med Pvt Ltd has been arrested, but we don’t know yet.

We do know that there is little risk from these vaccines and they won’t put India’s “polio free” status at risk.

Why would there be any risk from kids getting an extra vaccine virus strain?

It’s because the type 2 strain of polio is the most likely to cause cVDPV, or outbreaks of polio that are actually caused by the polio vaccine.

Fortunately, these outbreaks are very rare.

A dose of IPV is the backup plan to make sure a problems with the switch to bOPV doesn't end up in a tragedy.
A dose of IPV is the backup plan to make sure any problems with the switch to bOPV doesn’t end up in a tragedy.

But kids in the area are at even less at risk from these “contaminated” vaccines because as part of the plan to switch from trivalent oral polio vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV), they likely got a dose of IPV, which includes protection against all three polio virus strains.

Not that this means that it isn’t a problem that a company was making and distributing a vaccine that kids shouldn’t have been getting.

That is terrible!

It just isn’t as big a danger as some folks are making it out to be. It is extremely unlikely that there will be any cases of polio in India, and definitely not a resurgence of polio because of these vaccines, as some have suggested.

The real risk will be that an isolated event will scare folks away from getting vaccinated and protected, even though we know that these events are rare and that vaccines are safe.

More on Contaminated Vaccines in India

Do They Really Just Guess at Which Strain to Put in the Flu Vaccine?

Every year we hear experts telling us to get vaccinated against the flu.

And more often than not, we hear critics telling us that the flu vaccine isn’t going to work that well because it isn’t a good match.

Is that because they just guess at which flu strains to put into the flu vaccine each year, as some folks say?

Do They Really Just Guess at Which Strain to Put in the Flu Vaccine?

Of course they don’t guess at which vaccine strain to put in the flu vaccine!

“Flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine composition is reviewed each year and updated as needed based on which influenza viruses are making people sick, the extent to which those viruses are spreading, and how well the previous season’s vaccine protects against those viruses.”

CDC on Selecting Viruses for the Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

There are over 100 flu centers in over 100 countries that are involved in testing thousands of flu virus samples each year. Representative samples from these centers then go to the five major World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centers for Reference and Research on Influenza.

The directors of these centers review these samples and other available information and make a recommendation on which vaccine strains to include in the flu vaccine for the next flu season. Each country then considers this recommendation and decides which flu strains to include in their flu vaccine.

“The influenza viruses in the seasonal flu vaccine are selected each year based on surveillance data indicating which viruses are circulating and forecasts about which viruses are the most likely to circulate during the coming season.”

CDC on Selecting Viruses for the Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

Although they don’t have a crystal ball and so can’t know exactly which flu strains will be making us sick each flu season, it is hardly a wild guess.

How often are they right?

“During seasons when most circulating influenza viruses are closely related to the viruses in the influenza vaccine, the vaccine effectiveness estimate has ranged from 50-60% among the overall population.”

WHO on Vaccine effectiveness estimates for seasonal influenza vaccines

Actually, they are right in most years! So if it is a guess, than the folks who choose which strains to include in the flu vaccine are very good guessers!

Except for a few years when their was a poor match, the flu season is typically between 37 to 60% effective.
Except for a few years when their was a poor match, the flu season is typically between 37 to 60% effective.

There have actually only been a few times in recent years when we have had mismatched flu strains. And in one of those years, they picked the right strain, but then the strain changed or drifted before the start of flu season.

“One hundred fifty-six (22%) of the 709 influenza A(H3N2) isolates were characterized as antigenically similar to A/Wyoming/3/2003, which is the A/Fujian/411/2002-like (H3N2) component of the 2004-05 influenza vaccine, and 553 (78%) were characterized as A/California/7/2004-like.”

2004-05 U.S. Influenza Season Summary

Not surprisingly, flu vaccine effectiveness goes way down during a mismatch year. During the 2004-05 flu season, for example, the overall vaccine effectiveness of the flu vaccine was just 10%.

Of course, in most years, flu vaccine is typically much more effective than that.

How effective will flu vaccines be this season?

Will this year’s flu vaccine be a good match?

We won’t know until flu season is well under way, not that you should wait for an answer to get your flu vaccine. The benefits of the flu vaccine extend beyond preventing the flu, so it is a good idea to get vaccinated even in a year when there might not be a good match.

More on Selecting Flu Vaccine Strains