Remember 2009? The H1N1 pandemic we were all waiting for? I do. I was pregnant; H1N1 was particularly risky for pregnant women. The vaccine wasn’t available until after I had my baby, but when they held a clinic an hour north of where I live, I brought my husband there so we could both get our shots. My infant son was too young to be vaccinated, so I wanted to protect him through herd immunity.
A study came out recently on twitter messages from that time. How did pro-vaccine sentiments spread, versus anti-vaccine ones? Which messages were more contagious?
I talked to one of the authors, Marcel Salathe, today. He’s an infectious disease researcher studying the spread and transmission, not (just) of disease, but of information. “We assume people infect each other with opinions about vaccinations,” he said, and the H1N1 scare was a good opportunity to put some of his group’s theories to the test.
They collected nearly half a million tweets about the H1N1 flu vaccine. In 2009, H1N1 wasn’t included in the regular flu shot, and became available partway through flu season as a separate dose. With a possible pandemic looming, people had plenty of motivation to get the vaccine and encourage others to get it—butanti-vaccine sentiments were in circulation too.
The result, striking but perhaps not surprising: negative opinions were more contagious than positive ones. (Specifically, someone who read a lot of anti-vaccine messages was more likely to follow up by tweeting or retweeting negative messages of their own.)
Continue reading “Twitter Study of Vaccine Messages: Opinions Are Contagious, But In Unexpected Ways”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Facebook, Google, H1N1, public health, Social Media, Twitter, vaccines
Apr 8, 2013
The theory of preventative care, including inoculations, is that we spend a little money now to offset big expenses later in life. But sometimes behavioral friction keeps this from happening, even when the technologies and approaches are proven. We are witnessing such a failure right now with regard to Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Here’s the story, from MGH’s James Michaelson, PH.D., arguably one of the most thoughtful, trustworthy, and sensible researchers in the field of analysis of cancer survival. Jim and his team develop sophisticated mathematical methods for predicting the risk of local, regional, and distant recurrence. He says:
There are a couple of good papers about Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and the coming epidemic (yes, an overused term, but truly applicable here) of head and neck cancer. As Chaturvedi et al say in a recent paper: “If recent incidence trends continue, the annual number of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers is expected to surpass the annual number of cervical cancers by the year 2020.”
I get to see this problem from two angles: From my work as the the manager of the MGH/MEEI Head and Neck Cancer Database, and from my experiments in using computer telephone messages to get patients in for preventive health services, such as the fabulous HPV Vaccines: Cervarix (from GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (from Merck). The vaccines are incredibly underutilized. Only about 1% of eligible boys and only 50% of eligible girls get one shot. Only about 25% of girls get all three shots.
Continue reading “How to Stop a Future Cancer Epidemic”
Filed Under: THCB, The Insider's Guide To Health Care
Tagged: Cancer, Human Papilloma Virus, Paul Levy, prevention, vaccines
Oct 29, 2012
My aunt Marion is in the hospital dying of liver and kidney failure, the result of her 20-year struggle with heroin use. I was told of her imminent death the same day news broke about a vaccine against the drug. “Breakthrough heroin vaccine could render drug ‘useless’ in addicts,” one headline read. “Scientists create vaccine against heroin high,” proclaimed another.
Meanwhile, my aunt finds temporary relief in the ever more frequent administration of opiate pain medication — the very kind of drugs she used illegally.
The idea of an anti-addiction vaccine is not new. For nearly 40 years scientists have been working on vaccines against all kinds of addictions, including nicotine, marijuana and alcohol. There are even trials of vaccines to prevent obesity. None of the anti-addiction vaccines has yet received Food and Drug Administration approval, however, and most of the studies are still in their early stages.
The headlines trumpeting a heroin vaccine were based on a finding that the drug had proved to be effective on mice during trials in Mexico (a nation that could use some good news related to drugs). Scientists now plan to test the patented vaccine in humans. If all goes well, the vaccine could be available in five years — too late for my aunt but providing a glimmer of hope for the estimated 1 million heroin addicts in the United States. Perhaps.
Six years ago, when I was a doctoral student researching heroin addiction in northern New Mexico, I received an email from a scientist studying a possible vaccine against the drug’s use. The study was in rat models, but early results were promising and suggested the likelihood of a therapeutic effect for humans. Aware of the devastating heroin epidemic in New Mexico, which had the highest rate of heroin-related deaths in the Unites States, and of my work trying to understand it, the scientist wanted to offer some hope. He wrote that he could imagine a time when heroin addiction, in New Mexico and around the world, would be a thing of the past. I wanted to believe him, but I was less optimistic.
Continue reading “Heroin Vaccine Won’t Cure What Ails Addicts”
Filed Under: Pharma
Tagged: addiction, Drug abuse, FDA, Heroin, Poverty, vaccines
Apr 19, 2012