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Analysis and Comment (52)

A very simple answer to suffering. A very simple answer to suffering. Ascom

Race against time to prevent deadly spread of polio

Poliomyelitis is a devastating, highly infectious viral disease. It is spread from person to person or through poor sanitary conditions. It can kill those infected or result in permanent paralysis to the…
A child is vaccinated against polio during a three-day nationwide campaign to eradicate polio, in Karachi, Pakistan, May 2014. A child is vaccinated against polio during a three-day nationwide campaign to eradicate polio, in Karachi, Pakistan, May 2014. EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER

CIA stops fake vaccination programs, but will it matter?

The US government has told a group of local health educators that it will no longer use immunisation programs as a cover for espionage. But the damage from previous such programs is difficult to undo…
Many adults missed out on vaccines that are routinely given to children today. Many adults missed out on vaccines that are routinely given to children today. Shutterstock

Health Check: when do adults need to be immunised?

Most of us will receive the majority of our vaccinations in childhood. But Australian adults still die and become disabled from vaccine-preventable diseases. Immunisations are therefore an important preventive…
Any action taken at the community level should start with acknowledging that parents want the best for their children. Any action taken at the community level should start with acknowledging that parents want the best for their children. Bridget Coila/Flickr

Why do people not vaccinate?

The National Health Performance Authority’s report on childhood vaccination coverage released this morning shows immunisation rates have slightly increased in 2011-2012. But there are still some areas…
A little bit of pain is a worthwhile price for child health and community well-being. A little bit of pain is a worthwhile price for child health and community well-being. Sarah Gilbert

Vaccinations are a vital part of ethical ‘alternative’ lifestyles

Often cited as one of the most important medical breakthroughs in human history, immunisation has been a hallmark of public health interventions for more than 200 years. Globally, an estimated 2.5 million…
Armed conflict remains the major obstacle to ridding the world of this devastating disease. Armed conflict remains the major obstacle to ridding the world of this devastating disease. James Gordon, Los Angeles.

Syria’s polio outbreak is a global public health emergency

As if the children of Syria had not suffered enough, the news of an outbreak of polio (poliomyelitis) signals that even more suffering lies ahead. The polio virus invades the nervous system and can kill…
Open wide. Open wide. Muhammed Muheisen/AP/PA

War, conflict and distrust threaten fight against polio

The World Health Organisation has launched a huge immunisation programme to tackle the first suspected cases of polio in Syria for 14 years. War in the country has seriously affected health services and…
In the meantime, use your hanky. In the meantime, use your hanky. David Jones/PA

A universal flu vaccine is still some time off

After standing in line for the latest year’s flu jab one might wonder why all this in necessary. The answer lies in the flu virus itself and its ability to rapidly evolve and avoid the human immune system…
Asylum seeker children who have tried to get to Australia by boat since the PNG agreement was announced will be sent to Manus Island. Asylum seeker children who have tried to get to Australia by boat since the PNG agreement was announced will be sent to Manus Island.

FactCheck: can children under seven be sent to Manus Island?

“You cannot send children aged under seven to Manus Island because of the issues of inoculation - you can’t do it.” - Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, press conference, 21 July. Scott Morrison…
Mind the gap: Japanese school girls were covered but not the boys. Mind the gap: Japanese school girls were covered but not the boys. Flickr/thecrypt

Vaccination gaps led to rubella outbreaks in Japan and Poland

Recent rubella outbreaks in Japan and Poland are the clearest evidence possible that herd immunity matters. There are many reasons why people don’t get vaccinated for totally preventable diseases such…
The new vaccine scheme sees children receiving their jabs at an earlier age. The new vaccine scheme sees children receiving their jabs at an earlier age. Jovan Mandic/ Shutterstock

Vaccine program changes protect kids, but with fewer ouches

Changes to the National Immunisation Program schedule coming into effect today (July 1, 2013) will see two fewer injections given to young children. The changes represent a more efficient way of delivering…
The benefits of the human papillomavirus vaccine far outweigh risks. The benefits of the human papillomavirus vaccine far outweigh risks. VCU CNS/Flickr

Four things you should know about HPV vaccinations

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has attracted attention in the past week for two contradictory reasons: the Japanese government has withdrawn its recommendation for the shot, while public health…
Tamiflu was stockpiled amid flu outbreaks and scares. Tamiflu was stockpiled amid flu outbreaks and scares. Rui Vieira/PA

Tamiflu cost us £424m yet we still don’t know much about it

Are you worried about how decisions involving public money are made? You should be. Last week, the National Audit Office disclosed that the Department of Health spent £424 million on the anti-flu drug…
A still picture from Jabbed, showing Osman Chandab being treated for whooping cough, which he contracted when he was seven weeks old. A still picture from Jabbed, showing Osman Chandab being treated for whooping cough, which he contracted when he was seven weeks old. Genepool Productions

Science and fear: a review of vaccination documentary Jabbed

In April 1939, measles was coursing through the industrial suburbs of North Melbourne, Carlton and Fitzroy, but the city medical officer assured the public it was not severe. He noted there had been just…
The ‘no jab, no play’ rule seeks to reduce the risk of a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak but it may actually increase the risk. The ‘no jab, no play’ rule seeks to reduce the risk of a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak but it may actually increase the risk. Image from shutterstock.com

With vaccination rates stable, ‘no jab, no play’ rules are beside the point

A recent News Limited campaign to enable childcare centres in NSW to refuse entry to unvaccinated children is gaining momentum, with the legislation expected to be introduced to NSW parliament this week…
Influenza symptoms include high fevers and chills, as well as pains and aches in muscles and joints. Influenza symptoms include high fevers and chills, as well as pains and aches in muscles and joints. Davide Taviani

Explainer: what is the flu?

When people say they have “the flu”, what they’re experiencing most of the time is the common cold, which is not caused by the influenza virus at all. But the term “flu season”, which Australia is in the…
Vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures ever introduced. Vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures ever introduced. Image from shutterstock.com

Six myths about vaccination – and why they’re wrong

Recently released government figures show levels of childhood vaccination have fallen to dangerously low levels in some areas of Australia, resulting in some corners of the media claiming re-ignition of…
Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children put the whole community at risk. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children put the whole community at risk. Dave Haygarth

Measles: new efforts needed to stop an old disease

New diseases grab headlines. The latest influenza scare – H7N9 – has prompted much speculation about the direction the virus might take. And rightly so, as vaccines to fight new viruses can take some time…
Vaccination has a lot more uses than you may know. Vaccination has a lot more uses than you may know. Stephen Mitchell

Explainer: how are vaccines used in Australian agriculture?

Approximately 140 vaccines are registered for use in livestock and companion animals in Australia. Many more animals are vaccinated each year than humans. Vaccines are used in farm animals: to protect…
The Nigerian commissioner for health of Bauchi state, Dr Sani Malam (L), administers a polio vaccine to a Nigerian child during the launch of the national immunization drive in Nigeria on February 5, 2013. The Nigerian commissioner for health of Bauchi state, Dr Sani Malam (L), administers a polio vaccine to a Nigerian child during the launch of the national immunization drive in Nigeria on February 5, 2013. EPA/DEJI YAKE

Killing polio workers threatens grave global consequences

The murder of nine female health workers involved in child immunisation on February 8 in Kano (the largest city in northern Nigeria) is a chilling reminder that saving children’s lives is not a goal shared…
Obesity, over-diagnosis, the NDIS, vaccinations and open access for genetic information were just some of the issues covered in 2012. Obesity, over-diagnosis, the NDIS, vaccinations and open access for genetic information were just some of the issues covered in 2012. Kylie May; shutterstock.com; Morberg; Pranjal Mahn

2012, the year that was: Health + Medicine

It promised to be a full year of reforms: pokies legislation, front-of-pack food labels and a dental system that doesn’t cost those in need an arm and a leg. But while we did see cigarette companies forced…
Parents need the facts about childhood vaccination. Parents need the facts about childhood vaccination. Nonanet.

Anti-vaccination network told to change its name or be shut down

The heated battle between Australia’s anti-vaccine lobby, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), and those fighting against its misinformation took a positive turn late last week, with the New South…
An Afghan health worker gives polio vaccine drops to a child in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, 19 November 2012. An Afghan health worker gives polio vaccine drops to a child in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, 19 November 2012. EPA/Abdul Mueed

Violence against health workers damages public health efforts

The Guardian recently reported the death of a female volunteer in a polio vaccination program in Kapisa province, Afghanistan, who was shot six times and later died in hospital. The shooting has rightly…
The dose makes the poison so fear is stoked by a lack of basic understanding of chemistry and toxicology. The dose makes the poison so fear is stoked by a lack of basic understanding of chemistry and toxicology. Ellen Fitzsimons

‘Toxins’ in vaccines: a potentially deadly misunderstanding

Vaccination is one of the most important preventative measures against serious illness, but its very success may be working against it. With parents no longer having the experience of the devastating diseases…
Late 19th century lithograph by French artist Gaston Mélingue showing Edward Jenner vaccinating a boy on May 14, 1796. Late 19th century lithograph by French artist Gaston Mélingue showing Edward Jenner vaccinating a boy on May 14, 1796. Wikimedia Commons

Preaching to the unconverted: immunisation risks and public health

The principle of prevention being better than the cure is at the heart of public health and social marketing efforts such as immunisation. But not everyone agrees and the challenge is how to address disagreement…
Too much urging can backfire and entrench some parents' opposition to vaccination. Too much urging can backfire and entrench some parents' opposition to vaccination. Flickr/skippytpe

Parents' decisions about vaccination and the art of gentle persuasion

Dr Seuss’ book Green Eggs and Ham is built around the urgings of a weird creature, Sam I Am, who insists the narrator eat the food of its title. When the narrator refuses, Sam issues an ever-widening range…
There is no truth to claims that immunisations cause autism, brain damage or sudden infant death syndrome. There is no truth to claims that immunisations cause autism, brain damage or sudden infant death syndrome. theloushe

Monday’s medical myth: childhood vaccinations are dangerous

When I was an infant I had whooping cough and was ill for three months. I don’t remember it, of course, but I know it was very distressing for my parents. I do remember later trips with my researcher father…
Scientists worked with Hendra virus at the highest level of biosafety within CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Scientists worked with Hendra virus at the highest level of biosafety within CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory. CSIRO

How we developed the Hendra virus vaccine for horses

Today we are launching Equivac® HeV, the world’s first commercially available Hendra vaccine for horses. This breakthrough is the culmination of a scientific journey that dates back to the emergence of…
Many people with chronic hepatitis B in Australia were born in nearby countries where vaccination is still not provided to many children. Many people with chronic hepatitis B in Australia were born in nearby countries where vaccination is still not provided to many children. Andrew W. McGalliard

Why Australia needs to support its neighbours to stop hep B

Of the more than 175,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B infection in this country, the majority were born overseas in high prevalence countries. Most have come from Asia and the Pacific, a region…
Vaccines are the public health measure that, after safe food and water, have saved most lives. Vaccines are the public health measure that, after safe food and water, have saved most lives. Flickr/VCU CNS

Catch cancer? No thanks, I’d rather have a shot!

A couple of years ago, I contributed to a documentary with the intriguing title Catching Cancer. We don’t normally regard cancer as an infection, so it often comes as a surprise to learn that more than…
Protesters carry portraits of Osama bin Laden on his first death anniversary, during an anti-US rally in Quetta, Pakistan, 02 May 2012. Protesters carry portraits of Osama bin Laden on his first death anniversary, during an anti-US rally in Quetta, Pakistan, 02 May 2012. Musa Farman/AAP

Nabbing Osama with a vaccine scam a threat to global health

We’ve been reminded this month of the United States' success in finally finding Osama bin Laden. But one thing missing in the media coverage was the allegation that the CIA established a fake hepatitis…
You might feel crook after a flu vax but the injection itself can’t give you influenza. You might feel crook after a flu vax but the injection itself can’t give you influenza. Nettsu

Monday’s medical myth: the flu vaccine will give you influenza

We hear it all the time: “I don’t want a flu vaccine. It gives you the flu.“ The old, the young, and even health professionals make this claim. And it’s usually followed by a personal example like, “the…
Today’s findings say nothing about the factual nature of the AVN’s information. Today’s findings say nothing about the factual nature of the AVN’s information. Gates Foundation

Anti-vax network wins court case but its claims are still misleading

The Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) today won its Supreme Court appeal against the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), which had ordered the anti-vaccination network to warn that its website…
All vaccines rely on generating an immune response that persists but our understanding of immune memory has some way to go. All vaccines rely on generating an immune response that persists but our understanding of immune memory has some way to go. James Gathany/CDC

Search for the elusive universal flu vaccine

Influenza is never off the news agenda for long. If it’s not the flu season (and it always is in one hemisphere) and the attendant calls for vaccinations, it’s news about vaccines causing problems or new…
Current vaccines are quite good but they offer no protection against novel pandemic strains of the flu. Current vaccines are quite good but they offer no protection against novel pandemic strains of the flu. Jason Rogers

Global efforts against flu evolving in the face of continuing threat

Influenza is never off the news agenda for long. If it’s not the flu season (and it always is in one hemisphere) and the attendant calls for vaccinations, it’s news about vaccines causing problems or new…
Case closed: the MMR vaccine has no relationship with autism. Case closed: the MMR vaccine has no relationship with autism.

Monday’s medical myth: the MMR vaccine causes autism

Few medical myths have spread as feverishly and contributed to so much preventable illness than the theory that the triple measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine might be linked to autism. The tale…
Michelle Bachmann is not an authority on HPV vaccination but may negatively influence the vaccine’s uptake in the United States. Michelle Bachmann is not an authority on HPV vaccination but may negatively influence the vaccine’s uptake in the United States. Gage Skidmore

Michele Bachmann and vaccines: if only we could vaccinate against HPV rumours

Michele Bachmann’s unfounded statement about HPV vaccination and mental retardation couldn’t be further from the truth. But the damage her statements may cause is even more disturbing than what she says…
Chiropractors may be good at what they do but immunisation is not their field. Chiropractors may be good at what they do but immunisation is not their field. Planetc1/Flickr

Having a crack: what do chiropractors know about vaccinations?

The publication by Australian Doctor of a controversial public lecture given earlier this year by Sydney chiropractor, Nimrod Weiner, has created a flurry of criticism about the lecture, particularly regarding…
We’re still a while away from a vaccine for the type of flu virus that causes pandemics such as swine flu. We’re still a while away from a vaccine for the type of flu virus that causes pandemics such as swine flu. TreintagenariO -Serie B/Flickr

Don’t hold your breath for universal pandemic flu vaccine

Have you ever wondered why you need to get an influenza vaccination each year to protect yourself? Or even why it seems like another pandemic threat is announced before every flu season? Well, it’s all…
People with chronic medical conditions and others in high-risk groups should get a flu shot. People with chronic medical conditions and others in high-risk groups should get a flu shot. mcfarlandmo/Wikimedia Commons

Flu is on the rise, Australia … and that’s not to be sniffed at

The number of people suffering from influenza in Australia this year has soared compared to recorded numbers from previous years, with nearly 8,000 cases so far compared to about 2,000 last year. We don’t…
Preventing infection with the Hendra virus remains the most effective measure against the virus. Preventing infection with the Hendra virus remains the most effective measure against the virus. AAP

Hold your horses: Hendra treatment is no panacea

Queensland authorities came under attack yesterday for being unprepared for a Hendra virus outbreak after it was found that they’d only stocked 15 doses of virus antibodies. But the case for stocking up…
Vaccines are history’s best public health tools but developing countries give low priority to health in their budgets. Vaccines are history’s best public health tools but developing countries give low priority to health in their budgets. AAP

Gus Nossal: we can win the war against infectious disease, and here’s how

The Lancet, one of most prestigious medical journals in the world recently published a series of five papers on “the new decade of vaccines”. These were followed by a sixth paper – A call to action for…
With a bacterial base, liquid vaccines could be produced quickly and at low cost. With a bacterial base, liquid vaccines could be produced quickly and at low cost. Flickr/hdptcar

Edible vaccines could help eradicate disease in the developing world

Twenty years after his discovery that peptic ulcers were caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, Nobel Prize winner Barry Marshall is using the same bacteria as the base of an edible vaccine that…
A person harmed while helping the community attain herd immunity should be compensated. A person harmed while helping the community attain herd immunity should be compensated. AAP

Ending the vaccine blame game: time for a no-fault compensation scheme

When someone is adversely affected by a vaccine in Australia, their only way to receive compensation is through the courts. But this is not the case worldwide. Vaccines undergo rigorous testing to ensure…
The vaccine – which will be given to horses – is currently 18 months away. The vaccine – which will be given to horses – is currently 18 months away. AAP

Hope for Hendra virus vaccination … but not this year

As Queensland authorities confirm the third outbreak of Hendra virus within a week, researchers are moving to fast track a horse vaccination for the deadly virus, which can spread from horses to humans…
If most people in a community are vaccinated, others are also protected. If most people in a community are vaccinated, others are also protected. Sanofil Pasteur

Braving the jab for community immunity

Let’s be clear: immunisations matter. They matter a lot. We all have a complex and ever-changing ecology of microorganisms and parasites inside our bodies and in our community. A recent fatal case of diphtheria…
Measles is one of the few infectious diseases for which elimination is possible. Measles is one of the few infectious diseases for which elimination is possible. USACE Europe District/flickr

A persistent spot of bother – why vaccinations haven’t stopped measles

Despite high vaccination rates, Australia and other developed countries periodically have small outbreaks of measles, as seen in the recent scares in Victoria and New South Wales. Until about 40 years…
Active surveillance would provide reassurance about the safety of the flu vaccine. Active surveillance would provide reassurance about the safety of the flu vaccine. AAP

Eyes wide open: better monitoring can stop adverse reactions to vaccines

Today the Gillard Government released an independent assessment of Australia’s management of vaccine adverse events. Commissioned by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King, the…
The Nanopatch has potential to change the way vaccines are delivered. The Nanopatch has potential to change the way vaccines are delivered. AIBN

Don’t look away, injections could be a thing of the past

A couple of facts: 1) At least 10% of the world’s population are “needle phobic”, which means they’re missing out on being vaccinated and/or have a horror of receiving jabs of any kind. Several studies…
Vaccinating all boys would offer greater protection to girls and gay men. Vaccinating all boys would offer greater protection to girls and gay men. AAP

The case for vaccinating boys (as well as girls) against HPV

Data just released by the Australian Government show that many girls are not completing the full course of the cervical cancer vaccine. It’s another very good reason towards an already compelling case…

Research and News (12)

Research Briefs (11)

DIY flu vaccine takes form of painless patch

A painless do-it-yourself injection device may make the flu vaccine more popular, research shows. The patch contains a micro-needle…