Vaccination update

By Phil Plait | May 12, 2008 3:30 pm

BABloggee Bret Hall sent me a note linking to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article following up on my earlier diatribe against antivaxers. The article talks about a new outbreaks of measles, and people could potentially die:

The disease – which is completely preventable through vaccination – can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis and death. It is most dangerous to the very young, the very old and people with compromised immune systems, such as chemotherapy patients.

While no one has died in this latest outbreak, 20% were hospitalized. An outbreak in Milwaukee in 1989-’90 killed five children.

Since 2000, one in every 250 Americans who got the disease died.

I’m very glad no one has died, but there is a very ominous implied use of the word "yet" in that article. Five kids died earlier? One in 250 overall die?

And why would someone not immunize their child?

In this latest outbreak, two-thirds of children between 16 months and 19 years old had not been immunized because of religious or personal beliefs.

Perfect. This is what Jenny McCarthy is advocating. This is what our Presidential candidates may cause (especially if they purposely ignore the advice of experts, who are of course too "elite").

Do I sound angry? Duh. Bad science kills, and some people are all-too-willingly embracing it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science

Comments (87)

  1. I’m glad you’re speaking out against this nonsense Phil. I know that these parents are genuinely concerned for their children. But if they would only stop and look at the evidence they would see they are actually putting their children in danger. And that should make us all angry.

  2. Taking the key from the anti-evolutionists, there are some people here in the UK proposing we talk about the controversy of the MMR jab and why its not for every child.

    Obviously someone has shares in the single vaccine versions or has a book to sell.

  3. Funkopolis

    Don’t get carried away… It doesn’t always _kill_.

    Sometimes it leads to a lifetime of paralysis and blindness. Giving the parents ample opportunity to explain to their children why not vaccinating them is in their best interests.

  4. Cl

    I have been trying to convince a friend of mine that there is no link between vaccines and autism, and even sent him the last article you had about this. Their reply was that studies are only focusing on one type of vaccine, and he believes multiple vaccines delivered at once may cause autism…is there a study that I can shove in his face that will finally tell him to stop whining?

  5. davidlpf

    Between Expelled, autism, and some other isuues my brain is overloading on stupid.

  6. The ironic thing is, if encephalitis occurs and damages just the right part of the brain in just the right way, it can actually CAUSE autism.

    In fact, that’s one of the few ways that autism can happen post-natally. Poisoning is NOT one of them, since poisoning doesn’t do targeted brain damage.

  7. davidlpf

    Chinese proverb I just saw “A rat who gnaws at a cats tail invites destruction”.

  8. Tom Marking

    Phil, you are ignoring one important component to this and that is the large group of illegal immigrants who are afraid to seek medical services because they do not want to be deported. It is not just parents who have been scared by the supposed autism-vaccine connection.

    http://www.themonitor.com/news/immigrants_7587___article.html/border_illegal.html

    One of Flores’ clients, a 25-year-old mother from Mexico named Claudia, can’t send her 8-year-old daughter to school because she hasn’t had the necessary vaccinations. A number of medical clinics in the area provide healthcare to illegal immigrants, but Claudia said she is scared Border Patrol agents might be waiting outside.

    Asked what she would do if one of her children were to become seriously ill, she buried her face in her hand.

    “I don’t want to think about it,” she said.

  9. “Bad Science Kills” Maybe a t-shirt with a list on one side and the phrase on the other?

    I’d buy some.

  10. Kevin

    See my comment on your “Vaccines do not cause autism!” post. I think I was comment number 91.

    Just keep an open mind. That’s what critical thinkers are supposed to do, right?

  11. Really 1 in 250? I’m old enough to have been born before vaccination, so is my sister. We had to get through measles and whatnot. Being a dane, I beg the privilege of not knowing what I failed to die from :)

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for vaccination, as it’s to much of a bother having to be sick. In my case I even manged to get Rubella a second time – don’t ask me how – at te age of 25, which was definitely unpleasant. But given that measles is deadly in 0.4% of the cases, statistically I ought to have experienced at least one such death a my childhood school. But I did not. Neither do I recall tat any of my cousins have ever talked about such in their schools. So what am I missing here? Have the odds changed dramatically recently, or is there some kind of link between stubborn/gullible/devout parents and a weak immune system?

    I am really curious, and I’d like to be educated.

  12. Sili

    Bob Kowalski,

    Is this close enough?

    http://badscience2.spreadshirt.net/en/GB/Shop

    From the inimitable Ben Goldacre.

  13. Tom Marking

    “Just keep an open mind. That’s what critical thinkers are supposed to do, right?”

    Who was it who said “I try to keep an open mind, but not so open that my brains fall out.” ?

  14. Hmm… there’s a measles epidemic in the Tucson School system right now. Any guesses as to why?

    Add that to the list of things Americans don’t understand about science. Yeesh.

  15. LaCreption

    Another thing, refusing vaccination gives creepy germs the opportunity to sustain, offering lots of chances to adapt when meeting hosts that have been vaccinated. I know that evolution is just a fantasy and goddidit, but unfortunately germs do adapt. The idea of vaccination is not to keep an individual healthy but to exterminate nasty little critters altogether from society.

    Adapting germs, here is an excellent TED Talk on that topic.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/259

  16. HCN

    Anders, the number of deaths from measles come from the last large outbreak in the USA between 1989 – 1991. It seems the number of fatalities was quite surprising. Some speculate it is because of the lack of health services in the USA to some populations (poor and uninsured), and the large loss of life in Philadephia were from families belonging to a pair of churches that refused any medical interventions.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15106092?

    Kevin, I have an open mind. All you have to do is present the evidence. Mostly what I saw in your rant was a bunch of bolding, but no evidence. Just show me some real evidence. For instance, if your claim is that the MMR (a vaccine that has been in use in the USA since 1971 and has never contained thimerosal) is more dangerous than mumps, measles or rubella — just show me the peer reviewed paper that gives us the data and analysis (remember, measles has lately put several Americans in the hospital, and in 2006 an outbreak in the American Midwest of less than 3000 made at least four people deaf: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5520a4.htm).

    If you then claim that the DTaP is more dangerous than diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis, just give me the evidence. Do try to keep in mind that pertussis kills about a dozen infants in the USA each year (still!, see http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/dis-faqs.htm).

    My mind is open, fill it with evidence.

  17. Todd A

    “Just keep an open mind. That’s what critical thinkers are supposed to do, right?”

    After years of critical thinking, I’ve come to the conclusion that people who want me to keep an open mind are either con artists, tin foil hatters, or religious nuts. Your post doesn’t do much to dissuade me of that conclusion.

  18. HCN

    Oops, I forgot to clarify that it was an outbreak of mumps in 2006 that caused at least four people to lose their hearing (and possibly several young men to become sterile).

  19. My father-in-law had a bad spotty-rash disease as a child; his parents believed it was measles, and believed he was therefore immune to it. He never got vaccinated against measles (although he got all others typical for a kid in the 50’s).

    He became a pediatrician as an adult. One day (seventeen years ago now), a child with measles came in, ended up sneezing right in his eye. Hey, no big deal — and he’s immune, right?

    Three days later, he’s very sick and has a bad rash. He doesn’t believe it could possibly be measles, but his wife and sons convince him to get to the hospital… in time to save his life, but not in time to prevent some nasty gastrointestinal paralysis that will be with him for the rest of his life. (On a lighter note, this has resulted in a variety of strange diets that are constantly changing, meaning that dining out with him is always an adventure!) Measles is not something to screw around with. He got off lucky.

    Both from my common sense and from this family experience, there is no way I would leave my children unprotected. It terrifies and infuriates me to realize that short-sighted anti-vaccination advocates are putting them at risk and there’s nothing I can do about it.

  20. defectiverobot

    I hate to be snarky here as I know this is a serious issue and a serious thread, but I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how “Jenny McCarthy,” “advocates,” and “people listen” can even be used in the same context. Just when my optimism was on a upswing…

  21. defectiverobot

    Spot on, Todd A. It seems that everytime I end up in a conversation that somehow has me admitting to my athiesm (it’s not something I openly volunteer just to be controversial), I’m admonished to “keep an open mind.” Wait…I have to keep an open mind? Not the guy who can’t even concieve of a universe with no god. I have to keep the open mind. It boggles my open mind!

  22. Aurimas

    Why do you need a vaccine for anything when there is “the force”?
    Go jedi go! :)

  23. Kevin

    @Todd A.

    So to you, there is no conceivable way something might not be found.

    Wow, it must be daunting to be perfect, and omniscient.

    I usually back what is said on this site all of the time. But this time I must shake my head at the lack of critical thinking in this area.

  24. Todd A

    “So to you, there is no conceivable way something might not be found.”

    At least with creationists and 9-11 twoofers, I get shoddy evidence full of holes. You want me to keep an open mind without any evidence whatsoever. Nice.

  25. Kevin the difference is that there are no credible studies that show any link . If a study done by credible sources then that is how you start the dialog. So far the Anti-Vaxers have shown themselves to be nearly (but not quite) as dishonest as the creationists. Willing to move the goal posts at nearly every chance. First it is the Thimerosol, when that was removed it’s the number of vaccines, then its the mercury in the atmosphere, then its aluminum (and I’m missing a number of goalpost shifts here) Every time they are shown to be wrong with the best science of the day they move to another cause for autism. That’s right the best science of the day shows there to be no link. As soon as someone comes up with a viable study not tainted by the types of gymnastics we constantly see from the anti-vaccinationists that shows a link then it will be considered. So far The CDC and the AAP find nothing that comes close and many studies that show the opposite.

    It’s not being a closed mind, it being one who require evidence for an assertion before they accept it as viable.

    So far all the evidence given by the anti-vaxers is tainted, confused, misleading, distorted or straight up lying.

  26. Yikes. Ignore the horrible typos and punctuation and choppiness.

  27. What I find puzzling is that many of these people think that the power of prayer can cure or prevent disease. Has it ever occurred to them that maybe that’s the whole reason God gave us vaccines in the first place?

  28. JB

    My child has been injected with all sorts of stuff since she was born.

    Minutes after she was born, the midwife injected something (I forgot what it was).

    1 month later she had her first vaccination. She is 4 now and she has completed all her vaccinations (BCG, Polio, Mumps, etc). Most of these were from vaccines supplied by the government here in the Philippines.

    Following the anti-vaxers’ logic my child would be a zombie by now. But here she is, reading off of Doctor Seuss correctly pronouncing words that even I can’t pronounce. She gets sick at most once a year, the worst she has had was a cold.

    As for Jenny McCarthy, perhaps she should not have gone to those rave parties while she was pregnant. Sorry, but I have no sympathy for those who choose to elide science for faith when it comes to child care. I feel sorry for her child though, being bandied around by her mother as “proof” of the anti-vaxers’ claims.

  29. Pat

    Dear Kevin:

    There is no link shown between vaccination and autism. There is a link between disease and death. There is a link between keeping “pure” and an increase in vulnerability to allergies. Challenging an immune system means less athsma, less allergic reaction, and might even prevent other autoimmune disorders.

    Keeping a child protected from known pollutants is one thing; “holistically” keeping them in green plastic wrap is something else entirely, and where parenting becomes irresponsible. Children need exposure to other children, to environmental irritants, or their microscopic army starts ignoring posse comitatus. There’s some research to show some infestations of lung or stomach nematodes help keep off athsma, and that sheltered children have a higher incidence of autoimmune disease.

    And those charts: I can make anything look like a downward trend if I cherry-pick charts from an arbitrary date and focus only on mortality. Mortality in general went down when doctors stopped putting their infected hands in patient after patient.

    Now we just have to stop Jenny McCarthy from doing the same with her infected mind.

  30. Kevin said:

    “I usually back what is said on this site all of the time. But this time I must shake my head at the lack of critical thinking in this area.”

    I don’t see where I’m lacking in critical thinking. There have been dozens of studies showing no link between vaccines and autism. There is not a single study that shows any connection.

    So where have I gone wrong?

    Your comment on the other thread is actually the example of uncritical thinking. You’re using a logical fallacy that is basically a god-of-the-gaps, that vaccines may just possibly have a teensy weensy chance of causing autism, and we simply don’t know.

    That is, quite simply, wrong. If vaccines caused autism we’d see it in the data. We don’t. The conclusion is therefore obvious.

  31. It’s not vaccines that worry me, it’s prescription drugs. The human body is perfectly capable of healing itself, yet we’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to take harmful, addictive and mind-altering pills so that some people somewhere can get rich. I’ll keep my physiology the way it is and stick to my Chiropractor, thanks.

    Did you hear that people still think cholesteral causes heart disease? Wasn’t that disproven 15 years ago?

  32. autumn

    Damon, the human body is not at all “perfectly capable of healing itself”.
    Modern medicine, including lots and lots of prescription drugs, is the only reason (well, the nutritional sciences get a nod, but I’ll just conflate knowledge of nutrition and its proper ingestion with physiology) most of us don’t die before puberty.
    Sure, those who lasted past adolescence had a fairly good chance of a long life, provided they didn’t catch one of the hundreds of diseases that their bodies are actually quite bad at healing, but the simple fact that most of us has not had a sibling or six die before the age of twelve is a rather stunning refutation of your thesis.

  33. Tod

    davidlpfon wrote earlier:
    “Between Expelled, autism, and some other issues my brain is overloading on stupid.”

    Now that’s great! Just the way I feel.

    I was born in 42 and I can recall houses where kids had measles – the local health authority posted quarantine signs warning of contagious disease within. Any cough at school was treated as a possible case of measles. Those of us who had them had special cards on file in the nurse’s office (now when was the last time a public school had a nurse on duty?).

    People who would deny vax to kids are nothing better than murderers.

  34. autumn

    I am also aware (WARNING, ANECDOTE FOLLOWS) of a recent case, here in the backwoods of Florida, of a measles outbreak. It was small, thankfully, involving only five individuals, none of whom came to any lasting harm that I am aware of (of course sterility may still be in their future).
    The relevant point is, they were Hare Krishnas who had opted out of their children’s vaccines as being against what they believed.
    Some would seem to be arguing that a tiny percentage opting out does not influence herd-immunity, but in this particular case all of the infected children were, despite the modern medicine of vaccines being anathema to them, rushed to the local ER when fevers began to spike.
    Who else was in the ER when these infected children were brought in, you may ask?

    Mothers and fathers with infants.
    Infants too young to have been vaccinated.
    Infants who may have found themselves in the hospital on a floor with other infants after their potential exposure.

    If you have some religion which suggests that modern medicine is horrible, please go die in some corner where the intelligent people aren’t forced to endanger ourselves by your presence.

  35. Trevor

    I just wish all you well-meaning people would stop trying to mess with natural selection … now all the sabre-toothed tigers are gone we have to rely on alcohol, drugs, and automobiles and often they don’t work until after the negative traits have been passed on. At least childhood diseases will work early on the unfortunate children of the dumb and lazy, while those of the scientifically literate will have a better chance, and everyone’s basic rights will be protected.

  36. Bas

    Well fortunately I can give you some good news. In the Netherlands couples may only adopt a child when the child gets vaccinated, it doesn’t matter what religion the parents believe in..the child’s health comes first.

    However over here we have a small group of people in our ‘bible belt’ that refuse to vaccinate children and unfortunately a small measles outbreak is now going on in that area. Those parents would rather see their own child then do something against their beliefs, that is something I absolutely can not understand. Maybe this is why I’m so strongly against religion, it takes away reason in man..

  37. It is not that parents are anti vaccination, in the UK at least, they just want to have the choice to do all three seperately instead of combined, as it is believed the act of combining the three that may be the problem.

    There were also in the 1990’s ethical concerns in that one vaccine, (possibly MMR), was initially produced using material from an aborted foetus. This lead to one Catholic school banning it, as to use it would be tantamount to benfiting from abortion which was against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Which I suppose brings up right up to date with the proposed ban on all stem cell research on ethical grounds.

  38. Dunc

    It’s not vaccines that worry me, it’s prescription drugs. The human body is perfectly capable of healing itself, yet we’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to take harmful, addictive and mind-altering pills so that some people somewhere can get rich.

    Which is why disease was pratically unknown until the advent of modern medicine in the late 19th century.

    No, wait, that’s not right….

  39. The fact that the US seems to lack the capability to build an immune system against this kind of repeated memetical infections, bears witness of a retarded country.

    I’m sorry, and I hope things get better for you after the fall and breakup of your empire.

  40. Michael Edmundson

    Ignorant nutjobs won’t vaccinate their kids? It’s natural selection in action.

  41. It’s not vaccines that worry me, it’s prescription drugs. The human body is perfectly capable of healing itself, yet we’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to take harmful, addictive and mind-altering pills so that some people somewhere can get rich. I’ll keep my physiology the way it is and stick to my Chiropractor, thanks.

    Mr. Cruise is that you?

  42. The fact that the US seems to lack the capability to build an immune system against this kind of repeated memetical infections, bears witness of a retarded country.

    I’m sorry, and I hope things get better for you after the fall and breakup of your empire.</blockquote?

    While I agree that there are some that haven’t, some of us have built strong immunity against memetical infections.

  43. bah botch blockquote tag sorry

  44. Did you hear that people still think cholesteral causes heart disease? Wasn’t that disproven 15 years ago?

    No, it wasn’t disproven. The attempt to disprove it (in 2000) was disproven, however; perhaps that’s what you’re thinking of :-)

  45. K

    So? Humans aren’t an endangered species and I’m all for chlorine in the gene pool.

  46. So to you, there is no conceivable way something might not be found.

    Wow, it must be daunting to be perfect, and omniscient.

    I usually back what is said on this site all of the time. But this time I must shake my head at the lack of critical thinking in this area.

    My irony meter just exploded. Your statement is about as excellent an example of no critical thinking as I’ve seen in a long time. The scientific and clinical evidence is overwhelming that there is no detectable link between vaccines and autism. It is such that the likelihood of finding such a link in the future is vanishingly small, because if a link existed it almost certainly would have been found in the currently existing studies, some of which looked at tens of thousands of children–each. Is it possible that some rare situation in which a vaccine might contribute to autism might be found? Sure, it’s possible, but it would have to be rare enough that it fell under the level of random noise in the multiple large clinical trials. Yet you’re telling us we should take antivaccinationists seriously because there’s a tiny chance that there might be a tenuous link in a few patients between vaccines and autism that slipped through the cracks of large clinical trials. It’s irrational to make policy decisions and health recommendations based on tiny chances that there might be a link in a small number of children that was missed before the benefits of vaccination are clear and compelling.

    There’s keeping and open mind, and then there’s having a mind so open that your brain falls out.

  47. Liesele

    At least one earlier poster asked for a list of articles or a definitive article on the subject. I don’t have anything definitive or even a full bibliography, but I do have a holding list on my blog. I can send you the URL if you want it (don’t want to go blog fishing here for what’s really more of a personal/book/needlework blog).

    The real answer is more than this though. If your friend is really concerned, he should double check the local statistics, where he’ll likely find that the number of children being diagnosed and receiving special education services for “autism” have gone up while those receiving those same services for “mental retardation” and “other health impairment” have gone down at pretty much the same rates. In other words, it’s not only that the use of diagnostic criteria and specificity have improved, but that correct diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders has improved as opposed to lumping the kids who fit on the spectrum under other headings.

    Similarly though not so spectacularly, decades ago I understand (though cannot cite for it) many children who were actually deaf were identified as mentally retarded. Today with newborn hearing tests and developmental screenings, we quickly and properly identify the children who have hearing related problems and can teach them properly without mis-diagnosis.

  48. Doc

    Funny, I had the measles, the mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and I’m not dead. Neither are any of my classmates from grade school (as far as I know, except for that one who died in a diving accident).

    I’m not anti-vaccination, but I am concerned about certain aspects of the current vaccination program.

    Take the varicella vaccine for example. When some of the states passed laws adding it to the list of required vaccines, the reasons they cited were all economic (lost wages for parents who had to stay home to care for their child). The health and well-being of the children didn’t enter into it.

    Now it turns out that the varicella vaccine is only about 70% to 80% effective, and may wear off (they just don’t know yet). Chicken pox is a minor risk for children, but when contracted as an adult it is often life threatening. It used to be nearly universal that all kids would get chicken pox and (normally) be permanently immune. Now because kids are being vaccinated against it, there’s less of a chance to catch it as a child, and when exposed as an adult (because of the limited efficacy of the vaccine) they are *more likely* to have a severe case.

    Similarly, the hepatitus B vaccine is required in childhood by law, not because babies are at high risk for the disease (sexually active or intravenous drug users) but because the powers that be feel that they have a better chance of getting you to vaccinate your child early on instead of later in life.

    I do think the current childhood vaccination schedule is too agressive. It now requires a disturbing number of vaccinations and boosters within the first years of life, and this is at a time when the child’s immune system is still forming. I feel that spreading some of the vaccinations for the “less threatening” diseases out over a longer time would still cover the population effectively and may be more healthy in the long run.

    On the flip side, MMR and DTaP before school – yeah, I think that’s reasonable. Polio? Interesting case – recent studies have found that something like 10 times as many people got polio that previously thought, but their cases were so mild that no one noticed. If there were an outbreak of “wild” polio then it would be worthwhile. Smallpox? Nope, no point (I know someone who wanted to get their child vaccinated against it) – aside from no cases in the wild, this is one of the few diseases where the vaccine worked even *after* exposure.

    Vaccination should be looked at rationally and by the numbers. It does *not* cause autism, but there may be a link between high fevers in children with certain mitochondrial disorders and autism, and reactions to vaccines can cause high fevers.

    However, just as we shouldn’t let irrational fear of “big pharma” scare us away from vaccination, we shouldn’t let love of “modern medicine” make us blindly accept everything that is offered.

  49. Funny, I had the measles, the mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and I’m not dead. Neither are any of my classmates from grade school (as far as I know, except for that one who died in a diving accident).

    Which of course translate to them not being dangerous to others.

  50. Brian

    Funny, I had the measles, the mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and I’m not dead. Neither are any of my classmates from grade school (as far as I know, except for that one who died in a diving accident).

    I was hit head-on by a drunk driver going 75 mph and I’m not dead. None of my classmates from school have been killed by drunk drivers. Conclusion: drunk driving is harmless!

  51. tussock

    That 1 in 250 thing is pretty bogus, and it’s stuff like that put the proles off their diet of sound scientific advice.

    People who don’t partake of modern medicine in any way are pretty screwed if measles gets to them as adults, but those who rely on herd immunity aren’t greatly in danger if they seek immediate medical help when that doesn’t pan out for them. It’s not like there’s a plan to wipe out measles that they’re ruining for the rest of us.

    OK, it messes with the herd immunity thing, but such is freedom. Surely there’s some useful life lesson for the rest of us when a religious cult willfully succumbs to infectious disease. I’ll bet it put the vaccination rates up for a while.

    Oh, and Doc, the use of vaccines at a young age is to get best bang for your buck. The developing immune system is targeted as it holds the immunity best. Most likely to become immune and will stay that way longer.

  52. Tom Marking

    “I do think the current childhood vaccination schedule is too agressive. It now requires a disturbing number of vaccinations and boosters within the first years of life, and this is at a time when the childâ??s immune system is still forming.”

    The current vaccination schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics can be found at:

    http://www.cispimmunize.org/IZSchedule_Childhood.pdf

    It covers birth to age 6. I count 29 regularly scheduled vaccinations (black and yellow) excluding yearly flu shots. If you include flu shots then that’s 35 vaccinations from birth to year 6 which are routinely recommended. The purple ones are for high risk groups and that adds at least 3+ to this number.

    But you’re not finished. There is also the adolescent schedule at:

    http://www.cispimmunize.org/IZSchedule_Adolescent.pdf

    This covers ages 7 through 18. Tdap, 3 doses of HPV, and MCVR are routinely recommended, plus yearly flu shots of course. Adding up all the yellow and black ones from birth to year 18 including flu shots is a grand total of 52 vaccinations.

    On the main American Academy of Pediatrics web site:
    http://www.aap.org

    and on the immunization page:
    http://www.cispimmunize.org

    no information at all is provided concerning how the 52 vaccinations was arrived at. There are no links to peer-reviewed journals which support this number as the optimal number for health and safety. Since this is such an evidence-based group of folks here on Phil’s site I’d like someone to provide me with peer-reviewed research showing that 52 vaccinations is optimal.

  53. BaldApe

    It used to be nearly universal that all kids would get chicken pox and (normally) be permanently immune.

    Until the virus re-emerged as shingles.

    My mother and my father-in-law have both had shingles. I hope I never do.

  54. Doc

    I did *not* state, nor did I mean to imply, that these diseases are “harmless”. The statement has been made repeatedly though that these diseases “kill” – I was pointing out in as simple a way as possible that this isn’t *necessarily* the case.

    There are statistics that show a certain number of children who catch the measles will die (either from the disease or from complications). There are also statistics that show a (smaller?) number of children who are vaccinated against the measles will also die (from a reaction to the vaccine).

    Again, I am *not* opposed to vaccination per say. I do have concerns though that the current vaccination schedule (those vaccines required by state law) may have been heavily influenced for political and business reasons, and may be contrary to the health of the public in general and to individual children.

    Anyone remember when fluoroscopes were used in shoe stores to make sure children’s shoes fit correctly? Just because something is widely regarded as “safe” does not guarantee that it is.

    @tussock
    “The developing immune system is targeted as it holds the immunity best. Most likely to become immune and will stay that way longer.”

    This is contrary to what I have read and observed. The reason I have been given for the need for multiple shots of the same vaccine for children is that their immune systems are not fully developed, and that the vaccine will otherwise wear off. Can you point me to any references that support the assertion that vaccinations to a developing
    immune system are more effective than those for an adult?

  55. @Tom Marking:

    “Since this is such an evidence-based group of folks here on Phil’s site I’d like someone to provide me with peer-reviewed research showing that 52 vaccinations is optimal.”

    I have a better idea. Why don’t you provide us with solid data demonstrating that said schedule is harmful.

  56. Doc

    @BaldApe

    Shingles is not a re-infection of chicken pox. Shingles occurrs when the varicella virus has remained in a person in latent form, and re-appears at a later time – usually when that person has a suppressed immune system.

    In other words, shingles aren’t a second case of the chicken pox. It’s having the first case come back.

  57. “I do have concerns though that the current vaccination schedule (those vaccines required by state law) may have been heavily influenced for political and business reasons, and may be contrary to the health of the public in general and to individual children.”

    Well, then I can only assume you have data to back those concerns, right? I mean… these beliefs of yours aren’t just mindless gutfeel, are they?

  58. Doc

    Brett,

    The current practice of the FDA is to have new therapies tested in clinical conditions before being rolled out to the general public in order to show that they’re “safe and effective”. Normally therapies consisting of multiple drugs over a given time period are tested as a whole (e.g. anti-HIV “cocktails”).

    The stacking of multiple vaccinations – given as a preventative treatment for childhood – has not been tested in this manner. Instead each vaccine (or combination vaccine like the MMR) is tested on its own. I would be thrilled to see a study of the combined effects of the full vaccine schedule – regardless of what it showed.

  59. So you don’t have evidence, in the form of studies or data (heck, even a research paper or some other publication addressing the issues you’ve highlighted) backing your concerns.

    Thanks, that’s what I suspected.

  60. Doc

    Brett,

    I do not have data to back up my concerns, just as you have no data that contradicts them. That’s precisely what I would like to see – data.

    I do have the current understanding (or lack thereof) of the human immune system though, and that is what has lead me to this concern.

    The effect of one or two vaccines isn’t in question, it’s the combined effect of so many vaccines in such a short amount of time. The human body is not normally exposed to so many diseases at one time (at least not if it’s expected to survive), so there’s reason to wonder if the immune system can cope properly with that many vaccinations.

    Failing to look into this is not very different from failing to look into the combined effect of pollutants on air quality, or into questions on global warming.

    [appeal to authority follows – not to prove my point, but to demostrate that questioning the status quo is valid]

    “I would challenge any colleague, clinician or research scientist to claim that we have a basic understanding of the human newborn immune system. It is well established in studies in animal models that the newborn immune system is very distinct from the adolescent or adult. In fact, the immune system of newborns in animal models can easily be perturbed to ensure that it cannot respond properly later in life.” [Testimony was given verbally to the United States Senate on May 12, 1999 by Dr Bonnie Dunbar, Professor of Immunobiology with specialise work in vaccine development and autoimmunity for over 25 years, the past 17 at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.]

  61. “so there’s reason to wonder if the immune system can cope properly with that many vaccinations. ”

    With the end result being what? If there is some sort of problem, you’d expect to see some undesirable effect from the vaccinations, no? And as has already been pointed out, they aren’t the cause for Autism (if a study shows no correlation, then that’s proof there is no link… the reverse is not true, of course).

    So are you suggested there is some as-yet-unnoticed harmful side-effect of the current vaccination schedule?

  62. Todd W.

    @Brett and Doc

    I think the autism-vaccine link is not really in question between the two of you. The issue remaining, and I think what Doc is getting at, is that some of the other negative side effects that are seen with vaccines could possibly be the result of the administration of multiple vaccines in short duration (or the same day).

    To that I say, convince someone to do a study into it, comparing the results of the current schedule versus a scattered schedule. If there are issues arising out of the current schedule, then we should see a clear difference, and the matter can rest.

  63. Doc

    Brett,

    I am stating that the current vaccine schedule has not been proven to be safe and effective, and that there may be harmful, long-term side effects. Look how long it took before “gulf war syndrome” was determined to be a real medical issue – and the conclusions on it are still pretty murky.

    -=-

    Todd W.,

    Exactly. Thanks.

  64. Tom Marking

    “I have a better idea. Why don’t you provide us with solid data demonstrating that said schedule is harmful.”

    Nope, I’m not the person asserting anything. The person/organization/blog/government that asserts that 52 vaccinations is optimal is the entity that is required to provide the evidence.

  65. Their reply was that studies are only focusing on one type of vaccine, and he believes multiple vaccines delivered at once may cause autism…is there a study that I can shove in his face that will finally tell him to stop whining?

    The problem with the anti-vaccine people is that they keep shifting hypotheses, so long as they have something to do with vaccines. First it was the MMR, then thimerosal, then some suggested aluminum; now it’s mito-PDD caused by vaccine-induced fever. In vaccine court, they are now saying only 10% or 15% of autism cases are caused by thimerosal, so the epidemiology is no good to disprove an association.

    You see, they are basically shifting goalposts such that the broad hypothesis becomes nearly unfalsifiable.

  66. Amanda

    autumn:

    Who else was in the ER when these infected children were brought in, you may ask?

    Mothers and fathers with infants.
    Infants too young to have been vaccinated.
    Infants who may have found themselves in the hospital on a floor with other infants after their potential exposure.

    Don’t forget pregnant women and people with suppressed immune systems, too. Whether suppressed due to disease or due to having to be on immunosuppressing drugs like Prednisone. Many people in that category have to go to emergency rooms too.

    I was on Prednisone for several months last year. At one point during that time I ran into a kid in public who seemed to have chicken pox. I had to forgo a meal that day because he was in the only place I could get that meal, and I didn’t want to risk getting infected. I didn’t have a way of communicating at that time how pissed off I was, but I was very pissed off that people were bringing their very obviously sick kids into cafeterias.

    Oh, by the way, speaking of Prednisone, did anyone hear how there are now quacks trying to promote its use for autistic children in a pretty long-term manner (it’s normally used, in cases of severe conditions that can kill you, far more minimally than they’re recommending for these kids with non-lethal conditions)? So, great, I bet soon we’ll have a bunch of immunosuppressed kids running around with all the rest of the damage Prednisone does to growing bodies as well. I seriously wonder how long till an autistic kid dies on that stuff.

    Speaking of which, I have a friend who is on Prednisone long-term for legitimate reasons. Probably for the rest of her life. This is her post about the results of antivaxxers leaving their kids unvaccinated around her. I fear that some day it could be worse — for her, for me, for any of my friends who sometimes or always end up on immune-suppressing drugs (to save our lives), for anyone who takes them, or has an immune-suppressing condition already.

    Nobody seems to think of us when they refuse their vaccines.

  67. Todd W.

    @Amanda

    Thanks for the post.

  68. @Doc

    “I am stating that the current vaccine schedule has not been proven to be safe and effective”

    You’re saying the millions and millions of people who have been vaccinated *don’t* qualify as proof that it’s safe and effective?

    My point is this: unless you can identify particular side-effects that have been linked to vaccinations, the idea that vaccinations are unsafe is, plain and simply, scaremongering. I say this based on the fact that vaccinations have been in mainstream use for *decades*, and the only thing anti-vax people have come up with is a non-existent connection to autism.

  69. I’ve often heard the “I had X, Y and Z (vaccine-preventable diseases) and I didn’t die – neither did any of my classmates.” argument often enough to think that it needs a response.

    If you look at the demographics of the people who are killed or injured by vaccine-preventable diseases, you will notice a few trends:

    [1] Generally, it is the youngest and the oldest who die. Since – in the case of diseases that give life-long immunity – the older members of society are either already immune (or already dead), the largest group of fatalities is among very young children who have lost the passive immunity the received from their mothers (usually happens after about 6 months).

    By the time a child reaches school age (or even pre-school age), they have either been exposed or have reached a size where the viral infection is less likely to kill them. This accounts for the perception that these diseases are benign illnesses of childhood (that, and the general tendency to see the past with less clarity than the present).

    [2] However, certain vaccine-preventable illnesses are more dangerous and deadly to adults. These include (but are not limited to) herpes zoster (“chickenpox”/”shingles”), polio, mumps and possibly measles (“rubeola”). Rubella is a special case because it is not necessarily more dangerous to the adult, but it causes terrible damage to an unborn foetus.

    So, the elementary school years are the “Golden Years” for vaccine-preventable illnesses (except for diphteria and tetanus, which are equal-opportunity killers). Children in these years are, however, marvelous vectors for spreading these diseases to the more vulnerable members of society.

    As a result, none of your classmates may have died or been crippled by measles, mumps, rubella or chicken pox, but their infant siblings, cousins and neighbours may well have.

    Finally, when someone admonishes me to “keep an open mind”, I find that most of the time what they really mean is “Suspend skepticism and reason – just believe what I tell you!” What they really want is for me to give them a “break”, to “cut them some slack”. In other words, to hold their claims to a lower standard than all others.

    But why should I give an outlandish or “unconventional” claim more “slack” than I give the more mundane day-to-day claims (e.g. “Whiter teeth in 30 days!” or “Lose weight while you sleep!”)? If the claim is valid, it will eventually have data to support it. When that data is presented, I will be eager to hear it.

    Until then, I’m going to “keep an open mind”, which, to me, means that I don’t believe it or reject it until I have some data.

    The “We’re giving our kids too many vaccines!” hypothesis is a perfect example. Originally based on a very loose temporal correlation (i.e. autism prevalence started to go up at the same time that more vaccines were introduced), this hypothesis still lacks adequate to support it.

    This is a problem because the same temporal correlation applies for Internet access, cell-phone usage, and Brittney Spears (although we have been seeing less of Ms. Spears lately). And, while I am sympathetic to those who claim that the assertion that the current vaccination schedule also lacks data to support it, the biological plausibility of the vaccines-cause-autism (or asthma or ADHD or…) requires that it have better data before it is accepted.

    Keeping an open mind….

    Prometheus

  70. Todd W.

    @Prometheus

    Well stated. Nice summation of the topic.

  71. Tom Marking

    “Youâ??re saying the millions and millions of people who have been vaccinated *donâ??t* qualify as proof that itâ??s safe and effective?”

    I don’t happen to personally subscribe to the autism/vaccine connection. Perhaps that’s because in my own case my 5-year old autistic son never exhibited any regressions associated with vaccinations. But concerning the safety of vaccines you are aware, are you not, of the existence of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?

    http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/statistics_report.htm

    Why did a totally safe system pay out $809,677,609 in injury compensation between 1990 and 2008?

    Also, there is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System:
    http://vaers.hhs.gov

    According to VAERS in 2007 there were 23,875 events reported. 132 of them were deaths, 401 were life threatening, 377 caused a permanent disability, 10,883 involved a visit to the emergency room.

  72. @Tom

    Yes, congratulations, you’ve demonstrated there are known risks associated with the administration of vaccines. Nobody is claiming otherwise. What I’m disputing is the idea that vaccines are somehow responsible for other “mysterious” illnesses (such as autism), due to their individual action, or “the combined effect of so many vaccines in such a short amount of time”, which Doc seems so concerned about. These claims are not, to my knowledge, borne out by the millions upon millions of vaccine recipients that are ailve and well, today.

    Now, is it possible that current vaccination regimes are unnecessarily aggressive, thus increasing the chance of harmful, immediate side-effects? Sure. But I’m in exceedingly skeptical of any claims that vaccinations are responsible for other, unrelated syndromes, unless there is data to support such connections.

  73. Todd W.

    @Tom

    “Why did a totally safe system “

    Who’s saying the vaccination system is “totally safe?” Certainly not the manufacturers or the government.

  74. Doc

    @Amanda

    About 30% of the children I personally know who received the varicella vaccination went on to contract chicken pox. In two cases (brother and sister) the doctor said they got a lighter case than they would have, though it looked pretty much like the average case I saw when I was young. Even by the estimates of the vaccine manufacturers, vaccines aren’t 100% effective.

    Just something to consider.

    @Brett

    Millions of people take homeopathic “remedies” every day and insist they work, but that doesn’t prove they’re effective.

    Tobacco manufacturers argued for decades that smoking wasn’t harmful, and presented scientific studies to back it up.

    Several drugs have been approved in the past by the FDA and were widely prescribed, only to later have been found to have serious side effects (e.g. Viox, Celebrex). These drugs went through lengthy pre-approval studies.

    I’ve heard some say that if aspirin were invented today, the FDA would never approve it for use because of safety concerns (e.g. ulcers, Reyes syndrom).

    Some of the vaccines that used to be in mainstream use are no longer being used because of later revealed safety concerns (e.g. cellular Pertussis, rotavirus). These were vaccines that had been approved as being safe by the FDA.

    You know (or at least you should) that in medical studies it can take years of sifting through mountains of data to find the correlations, and that the lack of evidence because no one looked is not evidence of safety.

    I am *not* stating that people should stop vaccinating their children.

    I simply would like to see a long-term safety study on the current vaccination schedule. Since there are a large number of people in the population who have not been vaccinated for whatever reason, a careful meta-study should be sufficient to see if there is any further reason for concern. Find a couple good-sized health studies were the patients’ vaccination history was recorded, group them according to number of vaccines received (make sure to control for things like residence patterns, socioeconomic status, ethnic background, etc.), and see if any unusual correlations pop out.

    What would I look for? Probably not things like autism or cancer or the like. I’m more curious about immune-related disorders. But in general you’d just collate the data and look for the anomalies that can’t be explained. Y’know, science.

    Of course, if you find scientific inquiry threatening then I can see why you’d have a problem with this.

  75. @Doc

    I have no problem with that at all. Sounds like a great idea.

    What I have a problem with is people using unfounded fears as a basis for creating a significant, *known* health problem: the transmission of diseases easily prevented by vaccines.

    But, since you are “*not* stating that people should stop vaccinating their children”, nevermind! :)

  76. Doc

    Promethius,

    You are mischaracterizing my viewpoint. My statement to the effect that “I had X and didn’t die” was a response to earlier statements that “X kills”, and was intended only to show that “X kills” isn’t 100% true.

    I do understand the basics of epidemiology, biology, and the immune system, and overall I think vaccines are one of the greatest inventions of modern medicine (right up there with antibiotics).

    I am one of those who questions the lack of scientific support for the current immunization schedule. I also don’t feel enough research is being done in this area.

    You stated that sooner or later if a claim is valid the data will come to light to support it, but who is going to fund research on the long-term effects of administering combinations of vaccines? No single vaccine manufacturer is going to perform the study because it’s not required by the government, and it is also in their financial best interest *not* to perform such a study. No individual or small organization would have the resources for such a study, nor would they benefit from it.

    The government could do it (or require the vaccine manufacturers to do so), but they won’t until forced to by the public (the corporate world certainly won’t ask). I suppose some blood-sucking parasitical trial lawyers might be interested, but their unlikely to pony up money for original work (they’d only want in on it after the fact).

    Well, it’s an election year … maybe I’ll send a note off to a congresscritter and see if it gets a response.

  77. Todd W.

    @Doc

    Agreed that manufacturers probably are not going to do the studies unless some big tragedy happens involving their product in combination with something else. With enough public pressure, NIH might look into it, but only as long as such pressure is not tied to the anti-vax autism fanatics. Epidemiologists may be interested in doing it, particularly those whose work focuses on immunological or autoimmune diseases. Depends on the likelihood of such inquiry panning out to a valid study.

    Bottom line, if it looks like the study will not produce a significant outcome one way or the other, people either will not do it, or it isn’t likely to get published.

  78. CR

    My parents were vaccinated, I’ve been vaccinated, my children have been vaccinated.

    Heck, we even vaccinated the children against chicken pox when it bacame available, because I suffered greatly through that malady at age 22, and didn’t want my children to suffer the same at any age.

    Sure, we have been concerned about the possible side effects, the one-in-a-hundred-thousand chance of adverse reactions, that sort of thing (but never worried about autism), but the risk of diseases the vaccinations prevent far outweighed the possible risk of a bad reaction (especially given our family histories that showed no adverse effects for generations).

    Vaccinate? Yes, done!

  79. isles

    Tom Marking:

    Something you should consider is that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was designed with the knowledge that it would provide compensation in many cases where there was no real connection between the vaccine and the injury which was said to follow from it. Petitioners in “table cases” don’t have to prove causation at all – only that they received a vaccine and experienced something which, according to the “table,” is believed to be a possible consequence of that vaccine within a specified time period. Clearly, some of these phenomena would have occurred with or without the vaccine, but the point of the system is that the petitioner doesn’t have to establish but-for causation. Thus, some of the payouts are not really justified, and that’s OK.

    Are vaccines 100% safe? No. Is taking a bath 100% safe? Petting a dog? Crossing the street? Eating a doughnut?

  80. squid

    I rarely post on such a topic but in this case I have to.

    I have 8 children and 6 of them are autistic or borderline autistic. In our case, it is most likely genetic. (Yes, we are involved with at least 3 different study groups on autism, all of them very scientific, no fringe cult groups, all associated with universities or other well-respected agencies.) The one thing that hasn’t been addressed here is not that vaccines cause autism but that they can make the symptoms much worse. I stopped vaccinating with the first diagnosis of autism. Most of my children have been at least partially vaccinated. My youngest has not. She has an overactive immune system to begin with (food allergies diagnosed at 3 weeks when I was breastfeeding her), vaccinating her just might have killed her.

    No, I’m not advocating that no one should vaccinate. I am advocating that parents should have the right to decide for them and their children what is best for their situation. I have a pediatrician who agrees with my decision not to vaccinate.

    When my children are older, it is their option whether or not they pursue further vaccination. My 20yo son chose to have multiple vaccinations a year ago. His autistic symptoms practically paralyzed him socially for over three months, to the point where he rarely talked and wouldn’t leave the house. Is it worth it? Probably not.

    Last time I had a flu shot, I spent two months in bed with fibromyalgia symptoms. Last time I had the flu, I spent three days in bed.

    Vaccination is not for everyone in every circumstance. Stop judging and belittling those of us who have made informed decisions regarding this.

  81. My 20yo son chose to have multiple vaccinations a year ago. His autistic symptoms practically paralyzed him socially for over three months, to the point where he rarely talked and wouldn’t leave the house. Is it worth it? Probably not.

    Regression at 20? That’s a new one. Let me suggest this is probably a nocebo effect. I assume your son is well aware of your views regarding his way of being being to an extent the result of vaccine damage.

  82. I am advocating that parents should have the right to decide for them and their children what is best for their situation.

    With rights come responsibility. How can parents with little or no scientific training judge whether to vaccinate their children? How do we help parents understand that Jenny McCarthy is not a reliable source of medical information? How do we help parents understand that personal anecdotes are not reliable, or that correlation is not the same as causation?

  83. Hey, everybody, look at the bright side! Going to the pre-Jenner era means disease becomes a Malthusian control with some teeth again. Sure, there’s some human suffering involved, but there’ll still be vaccinations for animals and the surplus population will go down (especially coupled with a right proper famine should, say, foreign food aid get banned or otherwise stopped). Population pressures decrease, pollution decreases, the environment wins.

    Net gain at little cost of anything worthwhile!

    [/sarcasm]

    Well, one’s got to wonder. We can’t save everyone from every disease [i]and[/i] continue feeding everyone who can’t/won’t manage to feed themselves [i]and[/i] maintain economic growth [i]and[/i] maintain (much less save) environmental health all at the same time. Something’s got to give.

    Now, I’m an idealist. Therefore, this situation sucks for me. Overpopulation is a problem, but when people talk of “culling” I suggest that perhaps they should lead the way by taking a Smith & Wesson mouthwash. Population reduction by natural attrition (okay, noneuphemistically: watching people die by not helping them out of random acts of Nature), while still grim, is at least more acceptable. Looking at this situation, people are [i]opting out of artificial survival benefits[/i]. At least it respects free will and independent moral agency.

  84. Todd W.

    @squid

    The issue is not with people who carefully weigh the decision and, due to valid medical and health reasons (e.g., the vaccine is likely to kill or serously injure the person). The issue is with all the people screaming rather fanatically that vaccines (or thimerosal or MMR or…or…or…) causes autism.

  85. BaldApe

    shingles aren’t a second case of the chicken pox. It’s having the first case come back.

    I understand that, Doc, but if a child is immunized, and never gets the original infection, there is no latent virus to cause problems later, right?

  86. Clair

    My gf and I have an on-going conversation about required vaccination (especially when it’s required to allow attendance in school), but we end up mostly agreeing on one thing — I’ll mention that in a minute.

    I think not getting vaccinations for your children is borderline abuse, but only vaguely. Just because your kid isn’t vaccinated doesn’t mean that the child WILL catch the disease for which your child isn’t vaccinated against. If the child catches a communicable disease for which there is a vaccionation, its effects could be equal to that of the “common cold”, they could be severely debilitating, or they could kill the child.

    I think the parent has a right to do what they think is in the best interest of the child. Her stance is this: “You should have the choice whether or not to vaccinate your child, and it should not keep your child from receiving an education. In many cases both are required, giving parents no choice. On the flip side, you get to take the responsibility for what happens. And if one non-vaccinated child contracts one of the communicable diseases and brings it to school and another non-vaccinated child contracts it, too. The parents of both children made the choice to not vaccinate their children. The vaccinated children should not suffer the disease.” Boiled down to… you have the choice; you suffer the consequences. However…

    I think that the choice (which is the part we agree on) is fine and dandy, but then the child potentially suffers. While the child is healthy, no action can be taken towards the parents because no harm has been done, but then when something does happen to the child, who is unable to take responsibility for his/her own health, suffers. So, then you punish the parents, which, if this is the only way the parents have “abused” the child (NO parent is perfect), in turn punishes the child along side the potentially crippling/life-threatening disease. I just realized this is a point I have not brought up into the conversation.

    Where do we draw the line? Where is it parental rights in protecting their children (however misguided) and the government overstepping its bounds?

    She also thinks that initially the current anti-vaccination crowd may have initially had reason to cry out against vaccination. And I tell her, that may be true, which is why studies are constantly being done on these types of things. I thought it, but I didn’t say anything with regards to those who continue harp on incorrect thought (e.g. vaccination == autism). I’m still trying to work out her entire thought process on this, and it’s been difficult for me to put into words what I think about this on the spot. This may be a poor analogy, but… Sure, I have heard I might get mugged if I walk down the street, but it isn’t going to stop me from doing so if I know that if I am aware of my surroundings, which streets to walk down, what times to walk, and how to carry myself, the chances of me getting mugged will probably drop. We can only go on what we know now and make corrections when new information is received. Even if the studies show chances of something say autism were to be higher with vaccination, would the vaccination saving my child’s life may be worth the risk? I guess it would depend upon what the specific disease the vaccination is for.

  87. Calli Arcale

    “Oh, by the way, speaking of Prednisone, did anyone hear how there are now quacks trying to promote its use for autistic children in a pretty long-term manner (it’s normally used, in cases of severe conditions that can kill you, far more minimally than they’re recommending for these kids with non-lethal conditions)? So, great, I bet soon we’ll have a bunch of immunosuppressed kids running around with all the rest of the damage Prednisone does to growing bodies as well. I seriously wonder how long till an autistic kid dies on that stuff.”

    Prednisone???? Good lord. It’s amazing (and extremely irritating) to see people on the one hand railing against modern medicine for “causing” autism with all of these toxic injections, only to see people then turn around and recommend considerably more dangerous medicines to somehow “treat” the autism.

    The first of the really toxic ones I heard about was chelation. Chelation is nothing to mess around with; the stuff is lethal, and so it should only be used in life-or-death cases and in a hospital setting (i.e. there should be a crash cart on hand in case the person goes into cardiac arrest — a very real risk that somehow doesn’t get mentioned to parents of autistic kids). Then it was Lupron, a powerful testosterone-suppressing drug. Good grief. I’d hate to see the parents trying to explain *that* to their kid in fifteen years. And now Prednisone? *shakes head*

    My grandmother has taken huge amounts of prednisone through the years. She has severe asthma, and until the recent advent of new drugs, oral (or in some cases intravenous) prednisone was the only option. Her skin is paper-thin, and crinkled like tissue paper. She is covered in bruises, because it’s so fragile. When she bangs her shin on coffee tables, she needs to see a plastic surgeon to repair the damage. A well-meaning nurse once put a band-aid on her before she could stop him; she needed a skin graft after it was removed. She’s had repeated surgeries to try to correct the damage after she had a melanoma removed, because it’s been so difficult to get a cosmetically acceptable result. (It was on her forehead, and the initial surgery resulted in her eyebrow sagging down over her eye and obstructing her vision.)

    It is obvious that the people peddling these cures are not telling the parents the real risks. They are overstating the risks of vaccines while completely ignoring the much greater risks of their “therapies”. High dose prednisone for a kid who is completely healthy apart from a behavioral problem…. Wow.

    Of course, there is good news. This therapy cannot possibly succeed in curing autism or ADHD. On the contrary, it will most likely greatly exacerbate the child’s symptoms. Prednisone makes people jittery. Very jittery. I believe my grandma has ADD. When she’s on Prednisone, she bounces off the *walls*. It gets so much worse. She’ll change topics five times in one sentence.

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