NEWS SCAN: Cost jump for ag defense lab, pneumococcal vaccine in kids, Olympics measles warning

Mar 20, 2012

Latest cost estimate for US ag defense lab tops $1 billion
The cost estimate for the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) has jumped to more than $1 billion, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said during a recent teleconference. The estimate came from Tara O'Toole, DHS under secretary for science and technology, according to a Mar 16 report from KCUR, the National Public Radio affiliate in Kansas City. Previous estimates for the facility have ranged from $550 million to $850 million, the story said. The facility, planned for Manhattan, Kan., would include a biosafety level 4 lab to study the most dangerous animal and plant diseases. O'Toole said the project remains a critical priority for DHS and the US Department of Agriculture, but its high cost is a major problem, as DHS's science and technology budget has been cut 50% since fiscal year 2010, according to the report. It said she has asked the National Academy of Sciences if the government could replace the project with a smaller, cheaper one and if upgrading the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York—which the NBAF is supposed to replace—is an option. Last month a Science magazine report said the NBAF was left out of the Obama administration's proposed FY 2013 budget and that DHS planned to reevaluate whether it is really needed.
Mar 16 KCUR story
Feb 15 CIDRAP News item on NBAF

Childhood pneumococcal vaccine coverage may aid seniors, too
Current pneumococcal vaccines used in children may be working so well that they may weaken the case for recommending them for older adults, according to a Canadian Press (CP) article yesterday. Pfizer's Prevnar 13 conjugate vaccine, which protects against 13 serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae, and its earlier iteration, Prevnar 7, appear to have reduced invasive pneumococcal disease not only in the children who received them but also in older adults. This could be possible through herd immunity, which refers to protection in a large group of people when enough members have gained immunity (through vaccination or previous infection) to make disease spread difficult. "The childhood vaccination program may have such positive indirect effects on adult invasive pneumococcal disease that the rationale for vaccinating adults is much less strong," said Jeffrey Duchin, MD, of Seattle, a member of the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Pfizer this year sought an ACIP recommendation for Prevnar 13 in older adults, but the committee opted instead to wait to analyze data from ongoing studies about the herd immunity effects of the vaccine in that age-group. A 23-valent pneumococcal vaccine for seniors has been used for years, but it doesn't work in the developing immune systems of children.
Mar 19 CP article

CDC: Americans bound for Olympics warned about measles
American travelers to this summer's Olympic games in London or Euro 2012 soccer cup in Poland and Ukraine could come home with an unwelcome tagalong—measles. The measles virus is much more prevalent in Europe than in the United States, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is concerned that unvaccinated travelers could bring the disease back with them, according to a USA Today story today. Although measles vaccination stopped the routine spread of the disease in the United States in 2000, infrequent cases still occur each year and last year reached a record of more than 200, says the article; most US cases occur in unvaccinated travelers to other countries. England and Wales, by contrast, had more than 1,000 cases last year, and an outbreak is occurring in Ukraine right now. An infamous study published in 1998 in the British journal The Lancet falsely purporting a link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine caused vaccination rates to fall there, although they have started to rise again since the faked study was retracted in 2010. The most important thing travelers can do to avoid bringing measles back is make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations, the story reports the CDC as saying.
Mar 20 USA Today story

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