Americans are experiencing the full wrath of the flu this year, with the CDC reporting that all ten of their administrative regions are experiencing elevated levels of influenza like illness. There’s a few reasons for that. The big one is that this year’s strain is one of the particularly nasty ones; it gets more people sick and makes those people sicker. Plus, this year we got unlucky with the vaccine: it’s only proven to be about 30% effective this year. But hey, at least we’re doing better this flu season than Australia did. Their vaccine only managed to protect 10% of users. Don’t let those rates worry you though, officials are still encouraging getting vaccinated. What else are you gonna do, wrap dirty socks around your neck?
Measles vaccine effectiveness:
Source: Centers for Disease Control
Sometimes you conduct a study, and the results suck, but you still have to report them. That’s what the authors of an influenza safety study found last week, when they discovered an association between miscarriage and flu vaccination. It’s bad enough that this gives more ammo to antivaxxers, but it also sucks because flu vaccines are particularly important for expecting mothers. Flu symptoms can be more severe for this population, and can lead to pre-term births and miscarriages all on their own. Plus, the vaccine is the only way for developing babies to receive long-term flu protection since infants younger than six months can’t receive it. So please, protect yourself, your kids, and the rest of us too.
We’ve done a full 360 on Zika. In early 2016, the WHO declared Zika to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Less than two years later we’re just injecting it into brains willy-nilly to see what it does. To be fair, it does seem to kill glioblastomas pretty effectively, so we’ll give mad scientists a pass this time. Still, the Zika crisis did seem to peter out quickly in the Americas, at least quicker than US government investors expected. Without any real epidemic threat from the virus forthcoming, funding for the government and Sanofi’s vaccine development partnership has dried up. There are still two vaccine candidates from GSK and Takeda in development, but the decision has been criticized as short-sighted.
No, we’re not talking about Twitter bullying, we’re talking about shots. Not cheap shots, or gun shots, but vaccine shots. Two studies published in Nature detail how DNA sequenced from melanoma tumors (the most deadly type of skin cancer) and an RNA-based vaccine were used to create personalized vaccines to treat cancer. Both showed promising Phase I results, with 4 of 6 patients in the first study showing no recurrence after 25 months, and 8 of 13 patients in the second study tumor-free after 23 months. The vaccines successfully stimulated an anti-tumor response from one’s own immune system. The downside? It took about four months between study admission and starting treatment, which may be too long for those with advanced stages of melanoma.
We soon may have one less to worry about… the flu shot. A new patch with hundreds of hair-like follicles that inject the flu vaccine directly through your skin has passed safety tests in its first human trials. The patch could revolutionize how flu vaccines are distributed in the future because not only does it offer a painless alternative to shots, it can also be safely stored up to a year without refrigeration. So not only does this drug-device combo eliminate a 1st world owie, but its storage benefits could become a game changer in getting flu vaccines into the developing world. How did this headline make it past the editor? We’ll launch an internal investigation and report back.