Roundup: Health Officials Target Troubling Lag in Routine Child Vaccinations; Potentially Harmful Gummies Sold as Melatonin Supplements; and More News

U.S., Global Public Health Officials Warn About Reduced Routine Childhood Vaccinations

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with other public health organizations worldwide, have joined forces this week to observe National Infant Immunization Week (April 24-30), a  yearly campaign highlighting the importance of protecting children two years and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases.

A lag in routine vaccinations for children that began during the COVID-19 pandemic – including the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shots — has been concerning to family physicians and public health officials --  and may result in vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks, they warn.

CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that children stay on track with their well-child appointments and routine vaccinations – following disruptions from COVID-19,” states the CDC this week. “Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two.

Globally, measles vaccination coverage has steadily declined since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, a record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose, according to a recent report from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO).

States the WHO in a new statement: “We need to act now to catch-up the millions of children who missed out on vaccines during the pandemic, restore essential immunization coverage to at least 2019 levels and strengthen primary health care to deliver immunization.”

A global initiative was launched this week by the WHO, UNICEF, the GAVI vaccine alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and others. It will focus on increasing vaccination rates in 20 countries, which account for 75 percent of the children who missed vaccinations in 2021.

A new report from UNICEF warns that “several factors suggest the threat of vaccine hesitancy may be growing. These factors include uncertainty about the response to the pandemic, growing access to misleading information, declining trust in expertise, and political polarization.”

Study Finds Gummy Melatonin Supplements Have Significantly Different Doses Than Advertised

An analysis of 25 different over-the-counter gummy supplements claiming to contain melatonin for better sleep found that 22 of the brands contained significantly different amounts than were claimed on their labels, according to new research at the Cambridge Health Alliance and the University of Mississippi.

The 22 mislabeled products were found to have melatonin quantities ranging from 74 percent to 247 percent of the amounts listed on the bottles, states the new study published in JAMA NetworkOne product contained no melatonin at all.

"Melatonin products are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," researchers state. "Instead, they are sold over the counter as dietary supplements or food, and some products include prohibited drugs such as cannabidiol (CBD). Given that children might intentionally or unintentionally ingest melatonin gummies, we assessed the actual quantity of melatonin and CBD in these products compared with the quantities declared on the labels."

Over the past decade, poison control centers across the U.S. have seen a more than five-fold surge in reports of young children “unintentionally” ingesting melatonin, according to a study last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The sleep-aid supplement is sold in pill, liquid or gummy form. Melatonin sales have jumped 150 percent in the U.S. between 2016 and 2020, says the CDC.

Physicians who specialize in sleep health, neurologists and sleep psychologists agree that relying on these over-the-counter drugs or supplements is not a viable or long-term solution to sleep disturbance problems, and they certainly are not the answer if you have serious disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or insomnia.

Consumption of Sugary Drinks Linked to Heart Disease, Premature Death Among Diabetics, New Study Finds

Consuming too many sugar-sweetened beverages, also known as sugary drinks, on a regular basis is detrimental to overall health. But researchers have found that such a habit is much riskier for diabetics, raising their risks of developing heart disease and premature death.

Previous studies have linked consumption of sugary drinks to poor cardiometabolic health, weight gain, and diabetes. But those studies have primarily included participants among the general population. The new study led by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health specifically looked at consumption of different beverages among patients with type 2 diabetes. The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ.

They reviewed an average of 18.5 years of health data from 9,252 women participating in the Nurse’s Health Study and 3,519 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All of the participants had diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at baseline or at some point during the study. Every two to four years, the participants reported how often they consumed sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), including sodas, fruit punch, lemonade, fruit juice, coffee, tea, low-fat cow’s milk, full-fat cow’s milk, and plain water.

“The findings showed higher all-cause mortality (premature death), and higher incidence of and mortality from cardiovascular disease, among those who regularly consumed SSBs,” said a news release from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Every additional daily serving of a SSB was associated with an 8 percent higher all-cause mortality.

“People living with diabetes should be picky about how they keep themselves hydrated,” said lead author Qi Sun, associate professor in the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard, in a statement “Switching from sugar-sweetened beverages to healthier beverages will bring health benefits.”

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