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Old 01-16-2015, 12:41 AM
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Default Flu vaccine not working well; only 23 percent effective

Flu vaccine not working well; only 23 percent effective
January 15, 2015
Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — As predicted, this year's flu vaccine is doing a pretty crummy job. It's only 23 percent effective, primarily because it doesn't include the bug that is making most people sick, according to a government study released Thursday.

That's one of the worst performances in the last decade, since U.S. health officials started routinely tracking how well vaccines work. In the best flu seasons, the vaccines were 50 to 60 percent effective.

"This is an uncommon year," said Dr. Alicia Fry, a flu vaccine expert at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was involved in the study.

The findings are not surprising. In early December, CDC officials warned the vaccine probably wouldn't work very well because it isn't well matched to a strain that's been spreading widely.

Each year, the flu vaccine is reformulated, based on experts' best guess at which three or four strains will be the biggest problem. Those decisions are usually made in February, months before the flu season, to give companies that make flu shots and nasal spray vaccine enough time to make enough doses.

But this year's formula didn't include the strain of H3N2 virus that ended up causing about two-thirds of the illnesses this winter. And that strain tends to cause more hospitalizations and deaths, particularly in the elderly, making this a particularly bad winter to have a problem with the flu vaccine.

Indeed, the flu season is shaping up to a bad one. Health officials are comparing it to the nasty flu season two winters ago, and this one may prove to be worse. Hospitalization rates in people 65 and older are higher than they were at the same point in the 2012-2013 season, according to CDC data.

The results from the preliminary study weren't large enough to show how the vaccine is working in each age group, although flu vaccines traditionally don't work as well in elderly people.

The study involved 2,321 people in five states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington — who had respiratory illnesses from November to early January. The researchers said vaccinated people had a 23 percent lower chance of winding up at the doctor with the flu.

The CDC began regularly tracking the effectiveness of the flu vaccine during the 2004-2005 season, but the results for the first few years were from smaller studies and are considered less reliable. Effectiveness has ranged from 47 percent to 60 percent in the last half-dozen years, when studies involved larger numbers of patients.

It's only in those last several years that "we really understand what's really going on" with the flu vaccines, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a University of Michigan flu expert and another author of the study.

CDC officials say people should still get a flu shot this year. Recently, the flu season in the U.S. has peaked in January or February, but people can continue to get sick for months. And they could get infected by the flu strains that were included in this year's version.

The vaccine's disappointing performance affected the family of a woman who worked on the flu study at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin. Kelly Mathews, of Wisconsin Rapids, said she makes sure her three sons get flu shots each year — especially after they got very sick in 2009, when swine flu was raging and vaccine was scarce.

But her 7-year-old son, Corbyn Lemper, developed a lasting cough and was diagnosed with the flu just before New Year's. Mathews said the flu shot might have at least kept him from becoming really sick.

"It's better to get it," she said.
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Old 01-16-2015, 12:58 AM
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Default Re: Flu vaccine not working well; only 23 percent effective

This years flu vax did very little to protect few people, because A was predominant this year.
Very much so.
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Now there's a flu vaccine patch...

Needle-Free Flu Vaccine Patch Works as Well as a Shot
Jun 28 2017 - A press-on patch that delivers flu vaccine painlessly worked as well as an old-fashioned flu shot with no serious side effects, researchers reported Tuesday.
People who tried out the patch said it was not difficult or painful to use, and tests of their blood suggested the vaccine it delivers created about the same immune response as a regular flu shot, the team reported in the Lancet medical journal. The hope is the vaccine will be cheaper, easier to give and more acceptable than a regular flu vaccine. “It was really simple. It’s kind of like a band-aid almost,” said Daisy Bourassa, a college instructor who tested the new vaccine for the study. “It’s not like a shot at all. If I had to describe it is maybe like pressing down on the hard side of Velcro. It is like a bunch of little teeny tiny stick things that you can feel but it’s not painful.”

The team at Georgia Tech, and a spin-off company called Micron Biomedical, have been working on the patch vaccine for years. This was the first test using real flu vaccine, and the results show it caused immune responses very similar to those elicited by vaccine administered by syringe. “There were no treatment-related serious adverse events,” Dr. Nadine Rouphael of the Emory University School of Medicine and colleagues wrote in their report. It was a phase 1 trial, meant mostly to show safety in just 100 volunteers. That’s not enough to show whether the vaccine actually prevented any cases of influenza. That will take a larger trial to demonstrate. “The results were great,” Rouphael told NBC News. “We were pleased to see that the immune response was excellent.” Rouphael’s team were the experts in vaccinating, and were recruited by the Georgia Tech team to actually test the experimental patch.

The tiny needle-like points on the patch are made out of the vaccine itself. When pressed into the skin, the needles dissolve, delivering the dried vaccine into the outer layer of the skin. This layer is loaded with immune system cells that are the first line of defense against invaders such as bacteria and viruses. These cells take up the vaccine and use it to prime themselves against a flu infection. The trial showed that people could use the patch without any help and liked it. It also showed they had an immune response to the patch, and did not have any serious side-effects from using it. If it continues to work well in tests, Rouphael said it might be possible to just let people buy the vaccine patches and take them home to use.

They’ll be much easier to ship around the country and the world than current vaccines, which must be carefully refrigerated. Bourassa is a fan of the idea. “I think it would be fantastic if this was something you could get and administer it yourself at home,” she said. “The reason why many years I don’t get a shot is that I don’t have time to wait in a line or whatever. It would be really awesome if I could order it and it would be delivered like Amazon Prime.” Biomolecular engineering professor Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Tech, who leads the team developing the patch vaccines, said the vaccine stayed stable for as long as a year at temperatures up to 100 degrees F. Conditions like that would completely spoil a regular flu vaccine. “It is also really neat how you can keep it at room temperature,” Rouphael said. “It really simplifies the way we do vaccines. This could be a game-changer.”

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Old 07-25-2017, 03:33 AM
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Lightbulb Re: Flu vaccine not working well; only 23 percent effective

Speeding up Vaccine Development with Test-tube Immune Systems...

Test-tube Immune Systems Can Speed Vaccine Development
July 24, 2017 | WASHINGTON — New technology allows scientists working on new vaccines to combat infectious diseases to test their products' effectiveness on a model immune system in a laboratory, without putting the upgraded vaccine into humans.
Researchers have begun building model immune systems using human cells, and this lab technique should make early vaccine trials quicker, safer and cheaper, according to scientists in the United States and Britain involved in this novel approach. The technology also has the potential to be used to mass produce antibodies in the lab to supplement real immune systems that are compromised, or battling pathogens like Ebola. A report announcing the new "in vitro booster vaccination" technique was published Monday in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, a prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal published by the Rockefeller University Press. The research project involved produced antibodies that attack strains of tetanus, HIV and influenza.

Selecting specific antibodies

When a pathogen invades the body, the immune system develops antibodies specific to that pathogen. The antibodies latch onto the pathogen and either flag it for destruction, disrupt the life cycle of the pathogen, or do nothing. Before now, when scientists tried to get immune cells in the lab to produce antibodies, the cells would do so indiscriminately, producing all sorts of antibodies, not just the relevant ones. Now scientists are able to get the antibodies they specifically desire by using nanoparticles that connect antigens, the active parts of a vaccine, with molecules that stimulate the immune system. "We can make these cells very quickly in vitro — in a Petri dish — to become antibody-producing cells," said a lead author of the new report, Facundo Batista. "This is quite important," he told VOA, "because until now the only way that this has been done is though vaccinating people."

A health agent prepares a vaccine during a campaign of vaccination against yellow fever in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Batista was one of a number of scientists involved in the study from the Ragon Institute, established in the Boston area by experts from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the goal of working toward development of an effective vaccine against HIV/AIDS. Others contributing to the new report were from the Francis Crick Institute in London and other institutions.

New technique saves time, money

The new laboratory technique will save time and money. After all the work of planning, funding and getting approval for a vaccine trial in humans, "you're talking at least about three years in a best-case scenario, if you have a very promising product," said Matthew Laurens, an associate professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Maryland who was not associated with the study. That lengthy process will now be shortened to a matter of months. This can eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, long and costly trials, and fewer volunteer subjects will be exposed to potentially dangerous vaccines. The ease of testing new vaccines will also allow scientists to tinker more and better understand how vaccines work. With better understanding, they may be able to develop more sophisticated vaccines that can be effective against more pathogens — those that differ as a result of genetic variations. This will be important in the fight against rapidly evolving pathogens like HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Outside of vaccine testing, immune systems in laboratories can lead to greatly improved methods for the mass production of antibodies. Scientists have been trying to identify antibodies that can attack all strains of the Ebola virus; this new technology will improve their chances of developing an effective therapy. Laurens, who studies malaria vaccine development at Maryland, called the research exciting. "This would allow vaccine candidates to be tested very early and very quickly," he told VOA, "with rapid turnaround and reporting of results to either advance a vaccine candidate or tell scientists they need to go back and look for other candidates."

See also:

Personalized Vaccines Hold Cancer at Bay in Two Early Trials
July 05, 2017 — A novel class of personalized cancer vaccines, tailored to the tumors of individual patients, kept disease in check in two early-stage clinical trials, pointing to a new way to help the immune system fight back.
Although so-called immunotherapy drugs from the likes of Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche are starting to revolutionize cancer care, they still only work for a limited number of patients. By adding a personalized cancer vaccine, scientists believe it should be possible to improve substantially the effectiveness of such immune-boosting medicines. Twelve skin cancer patients, out of a total of 19 across both the trials, avoided relapses for two years after receiving different vaccines developed by German and U.S. teams, researchers reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Larger studies are next

The small Phase I trials now need to be followed by larger studies, but the impressive early results suggest the new shots work far better than first-generation cancer vaccines that typically targeted a single cancer characteristic. The new treatments contain between 10 and 20 different mutated proteins, or “neoantigens,” that are specific to an individual's tumour. These proteins are not found on healthy cells and they look foreign to the immune system, prompting specialist T-cells to step up their attack on cancer cells. One vaccine was developed at the U.S.-based Dana-Farber Institute and Broad Institute and the other by privately-owned German biotech firm BioNTech, which uses so-called messenger RNA to carry the code for making its therapeutic proteins.

Roche, the world's largest cancer drugmaker, is already betting on BioNTech's technology after signing a $310 million deal last September allowing it to test the German vaccine with its immunotherapy drug Tecentriq. BioNTech's co-founder and CEO Ugur Sahin told Reuters that combination trials using Roche's drug were due to start later this year against a number of different cancers. Rival biotech firm Neon Therapeutics, which was formed to exploit the U.S. research, initiated tests of its personalized neoantigen vaccine in combination with Bristol-Myer's Opdivo drug last year.

Expensive treatment

New drugs like Opdivo and Tecentriq that enlist the body's immune system are improving the odds of survival, but their typical price tag of more than $150,000 a year is controversial and adding a personalized vaccine will jack costs up further. Sahin acknowledged such vaccines would be expensive at first but said costs could be brought down by economies of scale and automation. “In the mid to long term the cost will fall dramatically ... it is an individual treatment but it is a universal process,” he said. “We are at a very early stage at the moment but in the long-run this approach could change everything.”

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