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Why Vaccines Didn’t Work For Half the Teens Born With HIV

Published
Health News
3 min read
Why Vaccines Didn’t Work For Half the Teens Born With HIV
Snapshot
  • Study done by CDC Atlanta found that more than 50% of children born HIV+ in the 90s are not protected against any childhood disease
  • Reason: Vaccines don’t work if the immune system is compromised.
  • In the 90s, antiretroviral therapies for HIV were not widespread
  • Is this the reason why India tops the global measles deaths and rubella still infects nearly half the school going rural kids?

All those shriek-inducing pokes are to protect your child against diseases like measles and mumps starting from infancy. But vaccines can’t work, if the body is not able to produce the proper immune response.

A new study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
in the US, has found that despite getting all their shots, more than half the young adults who were born HIV positive in the 90s, are not protected against any childhood diseases, like polio, diptheria, measles and mumps.

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Why More Than 50% Teens Born with HIV Are Exposed to Other Diseases

The research found that the key to getting high rates of immunity in people born with HIV infection is making sure they get MMR shots after they get on good HIV treatment (Photo: iStock)

For a vaccine to work, the body has to have a proper immune response. But in the 90s, use of antiretroviral therapies was not widespread, and children were vaccinated without the HIV infection being under control. As a result, nearly half of the teenagers, across the world, are not protected against diseases like, polio, TB, measles, mumps and whooping cough.

This study looked at young adults who were born between 1992 and 2000 in the US, and studied their rates of protection against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). Compared with healthy teens, 95% of whom were protected against measles, only 57% of the HIV-infected teens were successfully immunized against measles, the study found. Similar numbers applied for mumps and rubella. But the experts note, that the results don’t just apply to MMR, they will be true for all childhood vaccines.

But the results broke down even more clearly once the researchers looked at the years in which kids got immunized. HIV-positive teens who had gotten either two of their MMR shots after beginning antiretroviral treatment were more likely to be protected against the diseases.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, and can cause, rashes, diarrhea, pneumonia, and even death. Even today, the disease breaks out in big clusters in our country. Could ineffective childhood vaccination be the possible reason why India accounts for 47% of measles deaths worlwide?

Serious Health Problem For Developing Countries

Though most of the world has eliminated rubella, or the German measles (not the same as measles), the disease is still endemic in India

Nearly half the school going children in rural India get infected with rubella, a disease similar to measles, before the age of 15 years. (Source: Avert Foundation)

More than 21,000 children are born with HIV every year in India. (Source: NACO)

In new-borns, HIV progresses at a much faster rate than adults. More than a-third of these children die within the first year. The survival rate of these positive children becomes more difficult if the essential childhood vaccination hasn’t kicked in, and treatable diseases like MMR compromise the immune system further. Annually, India records around 65,000 deaths from measles alone.

The problem is much worse in Africa, which is home to 90% of the world’s HIV positive children, and less than one-quarter of them are on antiretroviral treatment.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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