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CDC: U.S. infant vaccination rates high yet unvaccinated remain vulnerable

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON — The vast majority of parents are making sure that their children get vaccinated against potentially serious diseases, according to data from CDC’s "2013 National Immunization Survey (NIS) – Children (19-35 months)" recently published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. However, while vaccination coverage increased or remained stable for all routinely recommended childhood vaccines in 2013, coverage varied by state, and low coverage levels can leave states and communities vulnerable to outbreaks of potentially serious vaccine preventable diseases.



In 2013, vaccination coverage increased or remained stable for all routinely recommended childhood vaccines. Vaccination coverage remained more than 90% for the vaccines that prevent measles, mumps, and rubella; poliovirus; hepatitis B; and varicella. And it increased slightly for rotavirus vaccine, from 69% in 2012 to 73% in 2013, and for one or more doses of hepatitis A vaccine, from 82% in 2012 to 83% in 2013. Administration of the birth dose of hepatitis B rose from 72% to 74%.  The percentage of children who received no vaccines remained low, at less than 1% of children in 2013.



“I want to personally recognize the hard work of doctors and nurses coping with many challenges in the course of clinical work, and commend parents who, despite competing responsibilities, continue to prioritize immunization to keep their children healthy and safe,” stated Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “These people are central in keeping young children healthy by ensuring they receive the recommended vaccines on schedule.”



While overall immunization rates remain high, state immunization programs, clinicians, and parents are still challenged in getting all the recommended doses during the second year of life, according to the report. There are three vaccine series that include a booster dose in the second year of life: the vaccines that prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP); Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib); and Pneumococcal disease (PCV).  Coverage of these boosters remained at similar levels in 2012 and 2013. 

There was lower coverage for these booster doses among children living in poverty, compared with children living at or above the poverty line. These children also had lower coverage with the vaccines for poliovirus, rotavirus, and the hepatitis B series.  In addition to the booster doses, coverage was lower for black children compared with white children for the vaccine that protects against rotavirus.

Immunization coverage also varied by state, both for individual vaccines and for the series measure, which provides a shorthand assessment of overall performance by looking at the completion of immunizations against 11 different diseases (four doses of DTaP, three doses of poliovirus vaccine, one dose of measles-containing vaccine, full series of Hib vaccine, three doses of Hep B vaccine, one dose of varicella vaccine, and four doses of PCV). In that series measure, the range was from 82% in Rhode Island to 57% in Arkansas. The most critical coverage variation was the 17 states that had less than 90% coverage with the MMR vaccine.



National coverage of children 19 months to 35 months old with at least one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is 92%.  While seemingly high, 1-out-of-12 children did not receive their first dose of MMR vaccine on time, underscoring a sizeable proportion of children that remain susceptible, the report stated. As of Aug. 22, 592 measles cases had been preliminarily reported in the United States, the most cases of any year since 1994. Measles is most frequently brought to the United States by unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from abroad, and it can spread quickly in communities with groups of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated people.


 

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Pfizer gains fast track designation for investigational C. difficile vaccine

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Pfizer last week announced that the Food and Drug Administration has granted fast track designation to the company’s investigational Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) vaccine candidate (PF-06425090). 
 
Currently in Phase 2 clinical development, the vaccine candidate is designed to prevent C. difficile-associated disease, which can include life-threatening diarrhea and pseudomembranous colitis.
 
“C. difficile is a growing, difficult-to-treat healthcare-associated infection,” stated Emilio Emini, SVP Vaccine Research and Development for Pfizer. “No vaccine is currently available to prevent the infection-associated disease. In the United States alone, there are approximately 250,000 cases of C. difficile-associated disease, resulting in approximately 14,000 deaths each year.”
 
The FDA’s fast track approach is a process designed to facilitate the development and expedite the review of new drugs and vaccines intended to treat or prevent serious conditions and address an unmet medical need.
 
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CRNF releases report touting the important heart-healthy benefits of phytosterols

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The Council for Responsible Nutrition Foundation on Thursday released a report touting the important heart-healthy benefits of phytosterols — compounds found in plants that can lower cholesterol. The report also indicated that taking phytosterol dietary supplements at preventive intake levels may have a beneficial impact on healthcare costs by reducing the potential for a coronary heart disease-related medical event.
 
The report, “Smart Prevention — Health Care Cost Savings Resulting from the Targeted Use of Dietary Supplements,” conducted by Frost & Sullivan through a grant from the CRNF, found that if the targeted population — U.S. adults over the age of 55 years with CHD — takes phytosterol dietary supplements at the preventive intake levels identified in the report, it can lead to individual and societal healthcare savings by reducing risk of CHD-related medical events by more than 11%.
 
“According to the economic report, for those currently suffering from CHD, it’s financially prudent to include phytosterols to help prevent medical events associated with the disease," stated Steve Mister, CRNF president. "Medical events are expensive; this report tells us it’s worth considering the 15 cents per day it costs to take phytosterols to help prevent these kinds of events in the first place.” 
 
According to the report, if U.S. adults over the age of 55 years with CHD take phytosterol dietary supplements, nearly 2.3 million CHD-related medical events could be avoided between 2013 and 2020, totaling $34 billion in avoided expenditures over the same time period. Less than 1% of adults over the age of 55 years take phytosterol dietary supplements, meaning almost 100% of this group still has yet to benefit. The number of adults ages 55 years and older with CHD is expected to rise 13% between 2013 and 2020.
 
According to Duffy MacKay, SVP scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition: “Elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Daily consumption of phytosterols can prevent cholesterol build-up in the body by inhibiting its absorption in the intestine.”
 
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