Antivaxxers and the media

By Phil Plait | August 6, 2008 8:30 am

I have said this before, and I will say it again many times in the future: antivaxxers are potentially the Number One health hazard in America.

These are people who (very incorrectly) think that vaccines are linked to autism. It has been shown, conclusively, that no such link exists. Every time an antivaxxer is shown this data, they move the goalposts, claiming it’s some other vaccine feature causing autism, or cite outdated and flawed studies. The problem (for them) is, you can show that the number of autism cases diagnosed is totally unrelated to vaccines. They deny this, they spin, they distract, but in the end this simple fact proves them wrong.

We need vaccines. We have stopped smallpox cold with vaccines. Rubella, measles, and pertussis can be stopped. Where antivaxxers have sown distrust in vaccines, these diseases have been making a comeback, and kids have died.

Let me repeat that: children have died because they haven’t been vaccinated. And when a large enough segment of the population doesn’t get vaccinated, we lose our herd immunity, and more people die. This type of antiscience thinking is getting people killed.

Yet on they go. There is a push to vaccinate babies being sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the antivaxxers, led by Jenny McCarthy, planned to protest the press conference. Amanda Peet — who, in my mind, is a hero — was there, as well as other people who have an actual grasp on reality. I hope they’re ready for the vicious lies some of these antivaxxers will spread. Ms. Peet has already had a taste of it.

The Science Based Medicine blog has more on another line of attack by antiscience people including antivaxxers. This time, it’s a mainstream medical news site that has been infiltrated by this nonsense, printing already-disproven claims attacking Gardasil, the vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer in millions of women.

If you think this is a harmless group of cranks, think again. Cervical cancer kills thousands of women every year, and with vaccination it is almost entirely preventable (the vaccine protects against Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, which is responsible for the cancer).

Antivaxxers claim they care about people, especially, children — and I am very sure they do. But by being blinded by antiscience their effect is exactly the opposite. Antiscience kills. Educate yourself.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience

Comments (203)

  1. ShaneC

    I understand that many of those opposing vaccinating against HPV are doing it on “moral” grounds, since HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. The rationalization is that if they aren’t vaccinated they will abstain.

    History shows: fat chance.


    Shane

  2. Chris

    The Science Based Medicine blog is currently experiencing technical difficulties (angry critics, perhaps?) so here’s a Google cache: http://tinyurl.com/hpvmisinfo

  3. Protesilaus

    NJ is dealing with a active group attempting to get Vaccination Choice into the election:
    http://njvaccinationchoice.org/

    The major problem with the movement (for us) is it sounds good. You actually have to have knowledge about the subject to see how serious this is.

  4. Todd W.

    Phil, you may want to include a link to a source citing the death of children as a direct result of not being vaccinated. I’m sure someone is going to bring it up at some point in the thread.

    Also, a couple points of clarification: first, many of the anti-vax crowd claim that they are not against vaccines, but just against the current schedule of vaccines. That’s fine, in my book, but the way that they go about spreading their message (suggesting that the current schedule shoots too many vaccines into a kid at once, thereby leading to autism or other injuries) can have the effect that people will avoid vaccinating their kids altogether. So, they can lobby to get the schedule changed all they want, but they need to be extremely careful in how they do it.

    Second, on Gardasil. If I recall correctly, it protects against just one strain of HPV. Not the most spectacular performance, but, I think, better than nothing at all.

    Keep up the good work, Phil. I appreciate these posts that show up bad science.

  5. Todd W.

    @ShaneC

    Agreed regarding the moral objection stance. The funny thing is, though, quite apart from whether people abstain or not, is that once they get married, shouldn’t they still benefit from the protection offered?

    I know, this argument will be countered with the statement that adult women should feel free to get the vaccine, but it shouldn’t be given to teenage or younger girls.

  6. Ken P.

    While antivaxxers are certainly a concern, I think it is a massive overstatement to say that they’re “the Number One health hazard in America”. Seriously, aren’t smoking, obesity, and drug/alcohol abuse all far bigger issues?

    Nobody likes to see children die from illnesses that could be prevented by routine vaccination, but the numbers are (relatively) small. I think we need to tackle the big fish first.

  7. Jim

    “Seriously, aren’t smoking, obesity, and drug/alcohol abuse all far bigger issues?”

    In terms of absolute numbers perhaps, but they are far more localized effects, only hurting one or a few people in each individual case. Vaccination affects everybody via the protection that herd immunity confers — or fails to, if the numbers aren’t there.

  8. Ken: “Seriously, aren’t smoking, obesity, and drug/alcohol abuse all far bigger issues?”

    If you smoke, you’re only killing yourself. If you don’t vaccinate your child, it puts my child at risk. I think the issue here is that other people can make their own choices regarding their health, but when it starts to affect my health or my families health, we have a problem.

  9. I say they are Number 1 because of the potential of what they are trying to do. If they are totally successful, and vaccines are stopped in their entirety, how many people will die from that? The reason the number of deaths from non-vaccination is small is because most people get vaccinated. If no one does, the numbers will increase. Smallpox killed hundreds of millions of people, and from what I’ve seen was the number one killer of humans in the 20th century, more than wars, more than smoking, more than anything else.

    Those other factors — smoking, drinking, and so on — kill a lot of people now, but we have education programs, advertising, and so on to counter them. No matter what, people will die from these factors. But if the antivax movement gains strength, the number of deaths will increase.

    It’s possible that this is a repeat of something like the Salem witch hunts, and will die on its on in a few years. But it may also turn into something far more deadly, which is why we must stop it now.

    However, I added the word “potentially” to the first sentence, to make this clearer.

  10. Phil and Todd:

    If I remember correctly, the Guardasil vaccine protects against a few strains of HPV (but not all). Cervical cancer can also occur in women who have not been exposed to HPV. However, the strains of HPV Guardasil is effective against are responsible for something like 80% of cervical cancers.

    Protection against 80% of one of the largest cancer killers of women is indeed pretty spectacular performance.

  11. madge

    Thanks for this timely post Phil. I am currently researching the cervical cancer vaccine that will be offered to my own daughter in a couple of years (along with all other twelve year old girls) Unlike the antivaxers I like to have facts and not the hearsay and scaremongering which they seem to deal in.

  12. Todd W.

    Oh, and before any anti-vax people show up saying “Well, if you get your kid vaccinated, it shouldn’t matter whether I vaccinate my child or not.”

    Well, actually, yes it does. See, some people have preexisting conditions that prevent them from receiving certain vaccines. If you don’t vaccinate your kid, it puts these people at risk.

  13. Katrina

    In Ontario, Gardasil has been offered to Grade 8 girls, free of charge, with parental consent (if I wanted to get it, it would cost me about $600). It does not protect everyone, and not all strains, as previously mentioned (HPV types 16 & 18 only).

    What is needed is better sex-ed also, since HPV affects sexually active women AND men.

    In terms of vaccinations, I usually try to make an informed choice, but usually trust my MD’s recommendations. There was a recent measles outbreak in downtown Toronto for example, and pubic health was informing folks that we needed to check our immunity, to prevent being sent home from work. I had the blood work done, and am fine. But would have had the measles shot if I needed to. Last year, I did NOT get the flu shot, since after doing some research, found the the strain of flu going around was not covered by the flu shot.

    I still haven’t made up my mind about Gardasil, to be honest. Merck only did about 4 years of testing on this drug apparently (long term effects?), and the mass advertising that I see for this drug makes me slightly cynical.

  14. TheBlackCat

    @ Phil: I think that is an important point. The reason that tobacco, obesity, and drug-alcohol abuse are such serious problems today is because we have become so effective at combating infectious diseases that they have been losing their prominent place as killers. Instead things like heart disease and cancer, problems that are generally internal rather than external, are what we are seeing. People are living longer so diseases that previously did not have as much of a chance to manifest are becoming common.

    Second, on Gardasil. If I recall correctly, it protects against just one strain of HPV. Not the most spectacular performance, but, I think, better than nothing at all.
    It guards against several strains, two of which account for about 70% of cervical cancer cases. There are other strains that cause cervical cancer, and other causes of cervical cancer, but the vaccine reduces the numbers substantially. It also is highly effective against a number of other diseases caused by HPV.

  15. Cheyenne

    The delusionment of the Antivaxxers is frustrating and sad. I think the only way to combat their ignorance and their protests is with what Phil is doing here.

    And Amanda Peet is my new favorite actress!

  16. Todd W.

    @TheBlackCat

    Thanks for the clarification.

  17. JennyW

    Another difference between the people not vaccinating their children and things like smoking and drinking alcohol is that when you smoke or drink, you’re making the decision for yourself (I’m not talking about people who then choose to drive drunk). When you don’t vaccinate your children, you’re making the decision for someone else.

  18. C

    Amanda Peet does, indeed, rock the party that rocks the party.

    As a child I suffered from pertussis. It was harrowing. There is no reason for a child to go through that now. The suffering is enough to warrant the vaccines, not to MENTION the risk of death.

    I understand that having a child with autism is an incredible heartache, and if I were in that situation, I would be searching for answers, too. It’s very sad, however, that this anti-vax movement has taken such a hold in the popular culture (I hear people discussing it in public places as if it were fact) because it takes resources away from legitimate research that might find the true cause and ultimately some kind of cure.

  19. kuhnigget

    Antivaxxers = yet another example of the sorry state of education in this country. Who would have thought there would be such a divide among the population? Now, in addition to the have/have-not abyss that’s growing ever wider, we have the know/know-not chasm. And worse: the know/know-not and don’t care bottomless pit!

  20. Michelle

    Ignorance can be a crime sometimes. If your child dies from smallpox because you didn’t vaccine him, HOW is that not a crime?!

  21. Richard Wolford

    So the idea, regarding the anti-vax-HPV people, is that if a girl is so “evil and immoral” to have sex then, well, she deserves to get cancer? True Christian Values (TM) there for ya. And why the hell is anyone taking Jenny McCarthy seriously? What a pathetic society that we actually care what a celebrity thinks and damned the evidence. These people need their heads checked. She’s simply another tool with good intentions and no ability to think/reason/learn.

  22. Todd W.

    @Richard Wolford

    Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity who has a child with autism. Appeal to Authority fallacy.

  23. Oooh, you were doing so well until Gardasil.

    Diseases which are air/moisture borne are essential to guard against. Polio, measles, etc. are perfect examples of vaccines which are proven to work and have very low risk.

    However, new vaccines aren’t necessarily something everyone should jump on right away. For instance, we vaccinated our older daughter against chicken pox (recommended by her pediatrician), but now we find out the vaccine might not last very long, so she might get chicken pox at an older age, which is more dangerous. Schools push this vaccine just because they don’t want the kids out for a week so they don’t lose the ADA (average daily attendence). They don’t care about the health of the kids.

    As for HPV, it is very controllable — keep it in your pants. Give people time to think about the risks and consequences before jumping in to satisfy Merck’s bottom line.

  24. HolfordWatch

    There may not be a simple dividing line such as know/know not. Anna Pearce and her colleagues recently reported on the results of their analysis of the factors affecting the take up of MMR vaccine in the UK. One of the most surprising and unsettling findings was that:

    [n]early three quarters (74.4%, 1110) of parents who did not immunise with MMR made a “conscious decision” not to immunise.

    There was an association between higher levels of education and choosing not to vaccinate.

    Pearce A, Law C, Elliman D, Cole TJ, Bedford H; Millennium Cohort Study Child Health Group. Factors associated with uptake of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) and use of single antigen vaccines in a contemporary UK cohort: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2008 Apr 5;336(7647):754-7

  25. amphiox

    Smoking, obesity, drugs/alcohol abuse BECAME the biggest health issues BECAUSE vaccination eliminated the previous number 1 – infectious diseases of children.

    The health issues related to smoking and obesity are primarily problems of middle and later age (unfortunately becoming less so for obesity). And as a major health problem, they increased in importance because more people were living to such age, thanks at least in part to the fact that fewer of them were dying as children from infectious diseases.

    So if vaccination were completely stopped, and infection and death rates climb back up to anything approachig what they were pre-vaccine (it would probably be a little less, because of other advances in the care of infectious diseases over the years), the number of life-years lost, and only considering economic factors with regards to individuals’ lost potential contributions to society, not even adding in the emotional issues around young children dying, would be astronomical. It would easily outstrip any health issue of older people. Probably even all of them combined.

    Now this is a worse case scenario, and unlikely to happen. If there is only a partial reduction of herd immunity then perhaps the damage will be less. But as Phil has said, this issue is 100% preventable, whereas the issues involving smoking, drugs, alcohol and obesity are less so. (Ameliorable, yes, but completely preventable? No.)

    Also, for young adults I would humbly suggest that preventable trauma is a bigger health issue than drug/alcohol abuse, though of course the one contributes significantly to the other, and vice versa.

    Of all the major advances in public health, in terms of lives saved and benefits derived, the only thing that has done more good than vaccines is sanitation. If some group out there was using ignorance and pseudoscience to turn back the clock on public sanitation, it would be a more egregious offense than what the anti-vaxxers are doing now. But I can think of nothing else.

  26. steve_1

    Steven Novella of the excellent podcast “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” has an excellent post up concerning how difficult it can be to counter the arguments of the antivax crowd: http://www.theskepticsguide.org/sgublog/?p=295#more-295

    It’s below the bit about Gish (but that’s a good read, too).

  27. Todd W.

    @MarkP

    “Diseases which are air/moisture borne are essential to guard against.”

    This is not a valid argument against Gardasil, as it breaks down when you consider the tetanus vaccine. Tetanus is a serious, often deadly disease that is not transmitted by air or moisture.

    Second, some HPV cases can be controlled by abstaining. But, what about married couples? What about rape victims? I’m not saying people should run out and get the vaccine, but your argument seems flawed to me, when considering these other aspects.

  28. >>Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity who has a child with autism. Appeal to Authority fallacy.

    And, of course, Jenny McCarthy’s life of porn and drugs prior to becoming a C-list mainstream celebrity had no impact whatsoever on her having an autistic child. Had to be the vaccinations.

    I agree with the commenter above… how is it that ANYONE can take JM seriously about anything scientific or health-related?

  29. Richard Wolford

    @Todd W.

    Yeah, I was being snarky :) I’m just still amazed. I feel so bad for her having an autistic child, but she’s not an expert on autism. I have a nice car in the garage, but I’m not a mechanic. If she would just listen and learn then she could devote her time and celebrity status towards funding for real research into the causes. Hell, maybe there is a potential vaccine against autism? (Crap! forgot to tell everyone to shut down the irony meter before I said that!).

  30. My wife worked on the information/marketing info that Merck was sending to the doctors about Gardasil. She saw all of Merck’s research data.

    We got our daughters vaccinated as soon as it was available to the gen’l public.

  31. Todd W.

    On a side note, I heard on the news recently that tuberous sclerosis may play a role in autism. However, the research is still in infancy, I think, so we can’t really jump to any conclusions yet.

  32. Todd W.

    @Daryl Cobranchi

    Merck doesn’t happen to be looking for entry-level Regulatory Affairs people, are they? :)

  33. Steve H

    I don’t know how much I agree that antivaxxers are as unholy as many people would have you believe. 1- They have succeeded in getting thimerasol out of most vaccines. 2- They are putting pressure on manufacturers and the government to make vax’s safer. 3- I haven’t reviewed all of the studies, but I would take each individual study with a grain of salt, as I read “Doubt is their product” this summer and now place much higher scrutiny on posthoc epidemelogical studies. The collective body of research does not suggest a correlation between vaccines and autism or other diseases, but that does not mean any correlation does not exist. If there is one, it is not strong enough to be detected by these studies, or the studies may have not have the proper the design to detect a correlation.

    On the other hand, the situation now is much for the worse, as we have essentially two camps – the antivaxxers and the “trust us because we’re professionals.” For instance, our pediatrician’s office is littered with a photocopied article proclaiming that there is no threat of autism from vaccines, and we have the impression, with some of those in the office, that we’d be labeled bad parents for even asking about it. Conversely, our first pediatrician was much more open to discussing the matter with us during our interview of her, and recognizing our concerns and informing us on her take of the sci data and that she will not use any vax with Hg. What I am trying to get at is the community that labels the antivaxxers as loonies may be doing just as much harm by trying to silence the other group, as they polarize the issue to a much greater extent. This polarization leaves concerned parents in a bind as they may not feel comfortable speaking with their ped about the issue, lest they be considered ‘unfit’. My wife is fearful of the label every time the dr prescribes an antibiotic that we won’t use until our kids have been sick for five days or have an unresponding high fever. I know there is essentially no risk to a vax, and the little risk there may be is far outweighed by the benefits. But the medical community in our current city really has a problem with talking down to patients, and my fear is that people who have a propensity for not trusting science would be more likely to make a poor decision to not vax, when they should be able to engage their dr in a conversation regarding the issue, so that the dr can have a change to persuade the parent to vax.

  34. kuhnigget

    @HolfordWatch

    Good point. Maybe I should have snarked about the THINK/THINK NOT crowd??

  35. Just out of curiosity, how many of the people who believe the antivaxxers are complete loons have had to actually vaccinate their infants in the last few years. And how many have spent a significant amount of time with an Autistic child. For new parents the prospect of Autism is frightening, and when people are frightened they don’t always take the rational path. When you are a new parent and you hear someone telling you how their child was perfectly normal until the day they got vaccinated, suddenly they spike a fever and become autistic. That is scary as hell. And if that happened to any of you, how sure would you be that it was mere coincidence. You add that to the fact that pharmaceutical companies have not always had the best track record with regulating the safety of their products, nor for presenting fair an unbiased test results. That the Government, FDA and CDC has made there fair share of safety flubs over there years. It is also natural to wonder how forthcoming anyone would truly be if it was only a small causal connection i.e. if it causes thousands of cases of autism but saves millions of lives. It is only natural that people wouldn’t want there children to end up being in the scarified for betterment of the whole pile. When we took our child for his vaccinations last year, we researched and discussed it with our pediatrician. He said the same thing we found in the research, there is no statistical evidence of an Autism MMR link. And I kept remembering the phrase statistics don’t apply to individuals. While we never would have opted out of the vaccine, we did elect the split up the MMR into its three separate vaccinations. Did that actually do anything other then give us the illusion of control, probably not, but I certainly don’t regret the choice nor would I consider myself to be anti-vacination.

  36. Timothy from Boulder

    A note about Gardasil: Testing has not yet determined the frequency of booster shots necessary for Gardasil to maintain efficacy over a woman’s life. And Merck does nothing in its advertising to dissuade the implication “Three shots and you’re vaccinated for life.”

  37. Protesilaus

    Corey, Anti-vaxxers are not complete loons, they are scared. They have Dr’s (from the research I have seen its DC (Chiropractors) with Dr’s in from of their names) telling them that vaccines are deadly and they believe them because they don’t want to harm their kids. The problem is, if one in a handful of parents choose this, then soon (and very soon by the looks of it) we are going to have outbreaks, and kids are going to die. There is no link between Autism and Vaccines, period, and that has to be stressed. No one is going to hurt their child by doing this. The parents are not loons, but people like Jenny McCartney are. If you actually look deeply into the people who are propagating these myths, and not the parents, you are looking at people who are reality challenged; conspiracy theorists or energy medicine practitioners.

  38. Is it bad of me to like this to some extent? The stupid ones die off, natural selection, right? Seems perfectly OK to me. I just hope Ben Stein doesn’t read this comment…

  39. Professor Margaret Stanley recently reported these findings for the UK and measles:

    Measles is a dangerous disease: there were 2 measles related deaths last year in the UK and in the Lambeth area of London in May/June more than 120 children were in intensive care as a consequence of complications from measles. These children had not been vaccinated and therefore not protected.

    So, there have been some drastic consequences in the UK as a result of the vaccination uptake falling below the necessary levels.

    Implausibly, the Daily Mail is infamous for its antagonism to MMR but recently published a good article that explored the costs of biomedical interventions: The great autism rip-off … How a huge industry feeds on parents desperate to cure their children.

    In the absence of solutions, desperate parents are increasingly turning to the world of alternative medicine in their search for a cure.

    In this burgeoning market, private doctors and clinics have sprung up across the UK claiming they can treat or even ‘reverse’ the disorder.

    Recent research published in the Journal Of Developmental And Behavioural Paediatrics found that a third of parents of autistic children have tried unproven ‘alternative’ treatments.

    Worryingly, the study claims one in ten has used what the experts class as ‘a potentially harmful approach’.

    I still haven’t recovered from learning how fabulously wealthy biomed had made DAN! doctor Kalpana Patel.

  40. Adela

    Mark P,

    I know virgins who on their first pre sex pap tested positive for HPV. It is not exclusively a STD. Virus has ways to get around without sex.
    More ignorance to think all you have to do is keep it in your pants.

  41. Todd W.

    @Copache

    (Warning: Un-PC comment ahead) Well, we could take a cue from Stein and “Expel” the anti-vaxers from the society of the vaccinated. “Intelligent culling”.

    On a serious note, though, I agree that a lot of the people in the anti-vax crowd are scared, frustrated and angry. They have been affected very deeply by some rare adverse effect from a vaccine or by autism. They want to place the blame somewhere, and they don’t want what happened to them to happen to others. I can respect that. However, before making claims like “Thimerosal causes autism,” “MMR causes autism,” or “Something in the vaccines causes autism,” they need to really do their homework to find multiple, valid, well-conducted studies to support their position. And even then, they must deliver their message carefully, lest people only only hear “Vaccines cause autism.”

  42. Darth Curt

    My two month old daughter is getting her first round of Vax shots today. We have a friend who doesn’t vax her kids because “if everyone else does it, we don’t need to.” I shake my head at that logic.

  43. Steve H:

    “1- They have succeeded in getting thimerasol out of most vaccines”

    Yeah, thanks to them, vaccines now have a shorter shelf life, while thimerasol has *never* been linked to autism. Thanks a lot, anti-vaxxers. Thanks a *ton*.

    “2- They are putting pressure on manufacturers and the government to make vax’s safer.”

    And they’re doing it through lies and misinformation. Thanks, but no thanks.

    “The collective body of research does not suggest a correlation between vaccines and autism or other diseases, but that does not mean any correlation does not exist.”

    Umm… if there’s no correlation in the “collective body of research”, then there is *no* link (correlation is not a sufficient condition for causation, but it *is* necessary), unless your argument is that all existing studies are flawed. So, in reality, all anti-vaxers have done is increase distrust in the scientific community. Once again, thanks a lot anti-vaxers… because of you, AGW deniers, and the rest of quack science, now have more doubts and fears to play upon.

    As for the rest, 1) doctors shouldn’t talk down to their patients. That’s plain and simply true. That said, doctors should make the research clear, and *strongly* encourage parents to vaccinate. Why? Because all current research shows there *is no “issue”*.

    In short, the scientific community should become better at communicating. Doctors shouldn’t be condescending jerks. And anti-vaxers have done *far* more harm than good.

  44. Todd W.

    @Darth Curt

    If you feel up to it, you might want to mention the effect that has on people that aren’t able to get vaccinated.

  45. @Protesilaus Changing the schedule of the MMR or splitting it up is not going to lead to a world wide epidemic. Most antivaxxers aren’t anti-vaccination, just suggesting there may be safety and scheduling issues.

  46. Todd W.

    @Corey

    There’s no problem with them calling for changes in the schedule or calling for the multi-vaccines to be split up. However, they need to use valid arguments to support it, rather than preying on fears or suggesting links where the evidence just doesn’t support it.

    In the anti-vax community (including those who aren’t really anti-vaccination, but rather against the current schedule or multi-vaxes), what is the reason that is typically used to support a change in the schedule or to split up the multi-vaxes? “Because it causes autism.” When that is refuted, the argument becomes, “Well, it can’t be good to overload such a tiny, developing body.” Neither of these arguments is supported by valid research.

  47. Protesilaus

    @Corey

    I wasn’t claiming that splitting up the MMR schedule will lead to an epidemic. I was talking more about the whole “to loony or not to loony” thing that had come up.

  48. Corey – “Most antivaxxers aren’t anti-vaccination, just suggesting there may be safety and scheduling issues.”

    But those suggestions must be backed up by evidence, which, as I understand it, they do not have. Just because it’s a mere “suggestion” does not mean it’s at all rational.

  49. @Brett Are you suggesting blind trust in the scientific community? The community that said Thalidomide was safe. The community that said Viox was safe. The community that thought smoking was beneficial. The community who thought radiation was harmless. Or the community that said oral administration of the Polo vaccination was safe. And when you say scientific community, do you mean the pharmaceutical companies that sponsor many of the studies. Or do you mean the Government Scientists that never cave or pander to political pressure and/or lobbyists, and who often eventually end up working for pharmaceutical companies.

  50. RL

    There is another thing that I think is related to this issue and that is what seems to be a deteriorating relationship between doctors and patients. For a multitude of different reasons, patients trust and like their doctors less and less. Complaints range from not spending time with them to arrogance. There was just a round of news stories about this. One factor that can help with vaccination education (and other topics) is improvement in this area. Perhaps improved training for doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers can help improve patient confidence and education. Pediatricians and their staff really are the contact people for most parents. They have their work cut out for them.

  51. The problem is this shouldn’t be looked at as an all or nothing issue. There is evidence that not all vaccinations and schedules are made equal. Ignoring this is just as dangerous as going to opposite direction.

  52. Todd W.

    @Corey

    A couple points:

    1) The scientific community also questioned Thalidomide. It was an FDA employee who called into question its safety in pregnant women and ultimately kept it from being approved in the U.S.

    2) Vioxx has risks, but, depending on the individual (e.g., those with severe pain, who are not at risk for high blood pressure/heart disease, and who will not use it long-term), it is a useful drug and should be considered. I just finished a class that looked at Vioxx as one of the case studies, so I’ve seen both sides of the argument. Definitely something that should be used with care, and the maker should have handled it way differently, but I think it was a mistake to remove it from the market completely.

    The system has its faults, and conflict of interest is a really big issue that faces nearly every endeavor in the medical arena. But I think you go a bit too far in your accusations of pharma companies, the FDA and other researchers. Many of the people who work for pharma companies, believe it or not, actually want to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

  53. Nyx

    I am not an anti-vaxxer by any means. I am a biologist and an advocate of science-based medicine. And my son was vaccinated with all the appropriate things at all the recommended times. That said, however, I have some issues about the Gardisil vaccine. I find that it is being pushed onto the public as a routine childhood vaccine without the public being given the complete story.

    First of all, there are about 130 strains of HPV. Gardasil immunizes against only the two strains most likely to contribute to cervical cancer. It has a minimal effect on a few other strains. These two strains of HPV are linked to 70% of cervical cancer cases. (You can look up HPV on Wikipedia to verify my numbers.) But a woman can get cervical cancer without ever having HPV. And a woman can have HPV without ever getting cervical cancer. The truth is Gardasil is neither a complete vaccine against HPV nor cervical cancer. Calling it either one is a lie of omission. Gardasil guards against certain human papillomaviruses that contribute to many cases of cervical cancer. That is a significant truth, but its limitations should not be hidden.

    Secondly, HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and is primarily a concern for those who engage in sexual behavior with multiple partners. It is not a childhood disease that is spread by casual contact as with measles, mumps, rubella, etc; or even tetanus which exists in the environment at large. Individuals who are conservative about their sexual behavior, that is monogamous, are at minimal risk for HPV. You are primarily at risk for HPV under circumstances you can control. I understand the argument that you can never be entirely sure of your partner, that you not only sleep with him/her but everyone else who came before. But that is a straw man argument. Monogamous couples are, and always have been, at low risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Children and non-sexually active teens and adults are at zero risk for this disease.

    Thirdly, Gardasil is recommended only for girls, thereby clearly ignoring one half of the population that contributes to the spread of the disease!

    Fourth and finally, when considering the efficacy of preemptive medicine, one has to take into account something called the NNT, the Number Needed to Treat, to prevent one case of the disease. I do not have that number at hand, but all things considered, I would expect that number to be high. When NNT is high and cost is high, and Gardasil is expensive, the logic of making this vaccine a matter of public policy is low. (I cannot subscribe to the belief that preventing even one case of a disease is worth all costs involved. There are always costs of adverse reactions to consider as well as cost in dollars. Though Gardasil has shown to be quite safe.)

    Eradicating all instances of HPV is like eradicating all instances of the flu. It is just not in our power to do that, yet. But like the flu vaccine, it makes sense to vaccinate those who are most at risk. I am not arguing against the Gardasil vaccine as such. I am arguing against making it mandatory for all school aged children.

    So what have I told my son who is fifteen? We have discussed the same points as above. We have discussed the riskiness of promiscuous sexual behavior, that it is a lot like playing Russian roulette with your health. We have discussed that when he becomes sexually active, I want him to take all the precautions he is able. And if he finds himself at risk for HPV then I would want him to get the Gardasil vaccine. If I had a daughter, I would tell her the same.

  54. Andeberg, Chevalier and Wadsworth recently put up a lengthy but absorbing analysis: Anatomy of a Health Scare: Education, Income and the MMR Controversy in the UK (ftp and pdf warning).

    Among many interesting observations, they highlighted the 2000 Pareek and Pattison study: The two-dose measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) immunisation schedule: factors affecting maternal intention to vaccinate. They revealed that:

    Mothers consulted a wide variety of sources to obtain general information about the MMR vaccine, including health professionals, friends, family, and the media…In contrast, mothers predominantly acquired their information about the side effects of the MMR vaccine from various sections of the media rather than from health professionals, with television the most commonly cited source of information about side-effects (31.4% in Group 1 and 37.9% in Group 2).

    TV is disproportionately powerful in propagating health scares and exaggerating the risks.

    This is a reasonable response to the science has been wrong before gambit.

    Pareek M, Pattison HM. The two-dose measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) immunisation schedule: factors affecting maternal intention to vaccinate. Br J Gen Pract. 2000 Dec;50(461):969-71.

  55. infidel

    There you go again, Phil, citing a report that “mercury/thiemerosal does not cause autism” and conflating that into “vaccines do not cause autism”. Every time this topic comes up you do the same thing. You even did it with that post that superimposed the rate of autism with the use of thiemerosal. Does anyone have a graph that compares vaccine rates to autism rates? I haven’t seen one, but I bet it will be a lot more interesting than the thiemerosal vs. autism graph.

    There are regularly scheduled “well visits” nowadays for months-old infants where they want to cram no less than FIVE vaccines in all at once. It’s just the “normal” thing to do and if you’re a typical new parent its easy to be intimidated or pressured into going along with whatever the pediatrician or nurse says. Often they don’t even ask, they just hand you a paper and say “sign this” and then go and jam god-know-what-else cocktails into your tiny baby.

    And why are hours-old infants routinely given a vax for an STD? Because it’s just faster/easier to give it to everyone that way rather than screening the mother or waiting until later.

    I am not an “antivaxxer”, but I know and respect many people who are. I’m a skeptic, however, and hardcore Vaccine Fanboys like yourself worry me just as much as the hardcore Antivaxxers do. Mix in my developed cynicism of Government and the Pharmaceuticals and the whole issue really disturbs me. Where is the middle ground? We need more people like Corey I think

  56. Todd W. wrote:

    This is not a valid argument against Gardasil, as it breaks down when you consider the tetanus vaccine. Tetanus is a serious, often deadly disease that is not transmitted by air or moisture.

    Ooh, good point. Tetanus shots guard against accidental contact which can happen in childhood. Adults rarely keep their tetanus shots up to date. The key point is to protect children who are likely to accidentally be exposed.

    Second, some HPV cases can be controlled by abstaining. But, what about married couples? What about rape victims? I’m not saying people should run out and get the vaccine, but your argument seems flawed to me, when considering these other aspects.

    Rape victims make the most compelling argument IMO. Married couples can be tested to see if either are carrying a strain that can be protected against. However, that’s a reasonable decision adults can make for themselves, and it’s silly (and unscientific IMO) to lump the HPV vaccine in with, say, measles.

  57. Protesilaus

    @Corey

    Corey, what is your argument, that the research doesn’t exist or that it cannot be trusted? If you are arguing that the research cannot be trusted, then what will convince you, since obviously we are not there now. There will always be noise in any research paper, and there will always be anti-vaxxers, nothing will convince everyone. You are stating that this is not black and white, but are throwing information at us as if they are black and white, (Thank you Todd for pointing out the gray). I understand not wanting to trust the government, and I can understand apprehension if the research is new, but not when it is old, and there are thousands of studies showing safety and efficacy.

    As you stated above:
    “Did that actually do anything other then give us the illusion of control, probably not…”
    but you seem to be convinced that it was safer, and not an illusion, what is convincing you of this?

  58. kuhnigget

    Seems to me that the very emotional nature of this whole issue, and the parental decision making that it necessarily affects, is one more reason to be disturbed by the lack of interest that huge numbers of our population seem to show in rational thought processes.

    Celebrity experts, fear-based reactions, not bothering to get the facts – and the idiotic pandering of the media that leverages off all this to sell more sensationalist bunk – is a sign of a society that is not educating its population in the basics of how to think.

    One doesn’t have to hold an advanced degree in science, or anything, to know how to use your brain. Are critical thinking skills even taught anymore? What happens when one uncritical generation raises another?

  59. 6 hours after my daughter’s 4 vaccinations there was blood in her diaper. Blood. Her intestines were bleeding. My understanding is that the vaccine she had the reaction to was the Dtap. I believe in education before vaccination. When your doctor tells you they have taken the mercury/thimerosal out of the vaccines they are half right. Of course they are referring to the legal term removal. THis means that thimerosal/mercury can be (and often is) used in the production process of your child’s vaccine. It is to be filtered out. My questrion is how do you filter out a vaccine filler/preservative that is half its weight in mercury? HOW?
    I believe the legal term that they are trying for now is Elimentated.
    And for the second part of my question -why do the doctors act as if it was a law to remove the mercury. It was only a recommendation.

    I also think of this fact : China is number one in the world for producing vaccines- Do you know where your vaccine orginated?

    I just had to put my two cents worth in this discussion. I saw vaccine injury first hand. I watched my 8mth old baby girl convulse, vomit, and lay lifeless on the gurney in the e.r. room. All because I wanted her to be
    “SAFE”.
    Angela : you can find me on myspace. Myspace.com/preventvaccineinjury

    On a last note : I do not believe all autism is caused by a vaccine injury. Autism was the last of my worries that cold Febuary day-I only wanted my daughter to survive her vaccinations. Autism that was nothing compared to it.

  60. Protesilaus

    @Kunhnigget

    I think it relates to the whole, Santa Claus was fake honey, but God is real, disconnect that the majority is faced with. We have to make a media push to get this way of thinking out to the public as well as educating children on this, and I am happy that Phil is now the president of an organization which will have the power to do just that, and I will take this time to congratulate Phil on that.

  61. Corey – is there really that evidence though (regarding vax schedules)? If so, I’m certainly interested, and I’m sure millions of doctors, researchers, and parents are as well.

    And in any case, the word “antivaccination” and its derivatives cannot be assumed to be applied to someone who expresses doubts about vax schedules. You’re very correct to point out the difference (IMO), but you’re incorrect to assume that Phil, or anyone else railing against anti-vaxxers, is casting that wide of a net.

  62. First things first: I sometimes joke that stuff like is this is proof that ID/creationism is wrong; after all, would an omnipotent and omniscient god be capable of making so many stupid people? I know some folks will laugh at that; but actually, it’s also pretty sad to be able to say it. :(

    As a child I was diagnosed with mild autism at the age of three; naturally, I was interested when the whole spiel started up. But I also know what I am looking at: the number of cases is rising NOW, while the mercury was removed from the vaccines years ago. If there ever was a link, it was only for a short while, and can’t be said to continue today.

    The problem with these people is they are “believers.” Just like with creationists, you can argue with them until you run out of breath, and it won’t even register on their radar screen.

    Want to know what a lack of vaccinations can do? I live in New Mexico, and we are probably dead last in vaccinations. The reasons why aren’t so much related to the whole autism thing; actually, it’s a lack of health coverage, plus a lot of illegal immigrants from Mexico don’t vaccinate their kids because vaccination requirements in Mexico are nowhere near the U.S. (please try and understand that I’m not trying to push any stereotypes here, just throwing out some facts), and the result? We still have our share of autism cases, but we also have (every year) a few cases of measles and mumps and whatnot. Sometimes the kids die from it. Sometimes adults do too. But autism hasn’t exactly been “stopped cold” in our state. Must be why the antivaxxers don’t use our under-vaccinated state as an example.

    As for HPV, that purely a case of a pack of fools. Remember when AIDS first hit the scene, and the Religious Right tried to say that we should not develop treatments for it because AIDS is “god’s death sentence on gays?” Then we found out it came from Africa and a bunch of racists said it was god’s punishment on blacks and mixed couples? Remember also, the same Religious Right who cares Oh-So-Deeply about fetuses cares nothing about kids once they are born? (i.e., Bush vetoing children’s health care coverage, opposition to increased food stamps and minimum wage increases, calling universal health care “socialist” and “communist”) I don’t know; maybe it’s time we as a people stop listening to folks who wave a bible and then forget to care about their fellow man…

  63. Todd W.

    @Nyx

    “Children and non-sexually active teens and adults are at zero risk for this disease.”

    Careful about absolutes like this. Unless, by some miracle, child-molestation/rape suddenly ceases completely the world over, there is always a >0% risk.

  64. @Todd W. I am not arguing against medicine, science, vaccinations or any specific vaccinations and/or schedule. And I agree, many people get into research to do the right thing, and many do do the right thing. But I don’t think I am going too far in my questioning the fact that blind trust in a community that has well documented cases of conflict of interest, leading to bad science, can be dangerous. Portraying people as lunatics because they are not confident in the current scientific data, doesn’t help anyone case. There are plenty of intelligent, well educated rational, people that have concerns with the science. You don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to see the mistakes that have happened in terns of medical safety, nor the problems arising out of conflicts of interest.

  65. Also Corey, I just noticed this: “Most antivaxxers aren’t anti-vaccination…”

    You’ve contradicted yourself here. If someone’s not actually against vaccination, then by definition, they cannot be labelled an “anti-vaxxer”.

  66. kuhnigget

    @SourBlaze

    The problem with these people is they are “believers.

    Heh heh. The true believers are over on the UFO thread… :)

  67. Corey said:
    “…The [scientific] community that thought smoking was beneficial. The community who thought radiation was harmless…”

    Can you provide references for these claims?

  68. @jtradke Are you asking if there is evidence that there are different safely levels for different vaccinations? Which is what I said, then yes then it is very widely known and accepted that not all vaccinations are equally safe.

    @Protesilaus yes I used the word illusion purposefully. I am not saying there is a causal connection between vax and vax schedules with Autism. Simply that when it comes not my own child, I was not going to accept research with a know bias, blindly. By spreading out the out the injections, I added no real risk to my child, but did help easy my very normal fears. And yes, I think there are major issues with medical research today, and they should be questioned.

  69. Andy Beaton

    Mark P. – As for HPV, it is very controllable — keep it in your pants. Give people time to think about the risks and consequences before jumping in to satisfy Merck’s bottom line.

    Ah, there’s a health solution for you – moralizing and finger wagging. The same one I hear for abstinence only sex ed. Frankly, I wouldn’t be willing to risk the lives of teenagers based on their ability to refrain from having sex. Sometimes, and I know this is a big shock to you, teenagers do irresponsible things . And I don’t believe sex is a crime that merits a preventable death.

  70. Todd W.

    @Corey

    I don’t think you will find anyone here that says that vaccines are completely without risk, or that all vaccines have the same risk profile. The question, I think, was regarding whether there is proof to support questioning the schedule of the vaccines. As far as I’ve seen so far, the argument is based more on a lack of knowledge, rather than any specific, valid research that the current schedule presents unreasonable risks.

  71. Ah, there’s a health solution for you – moralizing and finger wagging.

    Well, it’s true. The danger is completely controlled by behavior. You don’t “accidentally” have sexual contact (except in the case of rape, addressed above).

    And yes, sexual mores are indeed in the scope of morals. Parents need to decide which morals to teach their children, and moralizing and fingerwagging by you isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. Give people the information and let them decide.

    This is what I mean when I talk about James Randi’s style. I’ve never seen him dismiss someone’s morals or beliefs. He simply shows how some thinking is falsified.

    In the case of the HPV vaccine, no one is saying that it doesn’t work. It’s a different issue from the anti-vaxxers who say all vaccines are dangerous, etc. It’s informed people making choices about how to apply their knowledge. This leaves the realm of skepticism and enters the realm of morals, ethics, etc.

  72. @ Mark P.

    Give people the information and let them decide.

    Isn’t that what “sex ed” is for? Giving teens the information so that can decide (fully informed)?

    Oh riiiiiiiiight, but that’s not what you meant, is it? You meant “tell parents that there’s a drug company out there making vaccines so that teens can have sex all day every day” so they can go t their churches and feel persecuted…

    Like I said… people like that are proof god does not exist.

  73. Todd W.

    @MarkP

    Regarding the moral means of controlling HPV infection as an argument against mandatory vaccination with Gardasil, as I understand it, the argument runs something like this: If an adolescent is vaccinated, they will more likely have sex because of the reduced risk of HPV infection.

    Before this argument can be accepted as a sound one, evidence must be produced that shows a clear, causal link that getting the vaccine does, indeed, lead to higher rates of sexual behavior.

    I’m not trying to discount your statement that “keeping it in your pants” will help control infection in a lot of cases, but rather that it is not necessarily a rational reason for avoiding the vaccination.

  74. amphiox

    Even if there were a real link between vaccines and risk of autism, the risk-benefit ratio still favors vaccination. By a long, long, long, long shot.

  75. infidel

    @ Todd: shouldn’t we question everything until we’re satisfied with the answers? Why should we hold something above questioning until such time as someone “proves” it is valid to question it? Isn’t that totally backwards? How could anyone prove that its valid to question something without having questioned it first and discovered an unsatisfactory answer? I’m confused

  76. Monkey

    @MarkP

    I take offence at your earlier comment about schools not caring about childrens health. Not every school board, district, … , relies on Daily Attendance to qualify their role in society. I work at a school, albeit a highschool, but health concerns, immunizations, and the like, are driven by best choices for the individual, not keeping kids in class for monetary reasons.

    Keeping kids in class will definitely be a benefit through better education and better class strucutre and dynamic flow, but I would never suggest thta I want my kids to show up each day because the school board needs their attendance.

  77. Monkey

    “my naturopath told me the vaccine was bad for my kids”

    …most common defence I hear when I get into these discussions…and I DO get into them a lot!!

  78. Todd W.

    @infidel

    I’m confused. Where did I say that we should not question things?

  79. MarkP: “The danger is completely controlled by behavior.”

    Except it isn’t. Previous commenters have pointed out that there’s at least some members of the population who have contracted HPV via means besides sexual conduct. To ignore that fact is, well, ignorant.

    “Parents need to decide which morals to teach their children”

    Parents can teach their children morals until they’re blue in the face, but (I can’t believe I need to point this out) children will still do whatever they want. It’s called rebellion, and it’s a standard feature of every child. Additionally, given their lack of experience, children/teens are notoriously bad at risk-assessment. So, give them all the information you want, moralize, finger-wag, but they’re still going to make bad decisions.

    The question then becomes, how do we prevent transmission of HPV when, despite your best efforts, they went ahead and fornicated anyway? This vaccination is one answer.

  80. Angela, I’m sorry this happened to your daughter, but what evidence do you have that the vaccine caused this? How often does this sort of reaction happen, and how often does it happen without a vaccine?

    Just because an event follows another does not mean one caused the other. And even if it did, no one has said vaccines are 100% safe. But the incidence of reactions is extremely low, and on average the benefits far outweigh the risks.

  81. Argh, all the anti-Gardasil crap makes me madder than anything. All it takes is one sexual partner, who may have only had just one before, who only had one before you. Even when being as conservative as that, you can be hit without warning. Also, you cannot just get tested for HPV like you would for HIV or other STDs. You only find out when you (or your girlfriend) goes for a pap smear that comes up troublesome. According to the CDC, “The HPV test on the market is only used as part of cervical cancer screening. There is no general test for men or women to check one’s overall ‘HPV status.’ ” And even that test is recent.

    And for those parents who honestly think that keeping their children away from the vaccine will encourage abstinence. Just wait until they are 17 and hopelessly in love and think that condoms will protect them against anything harmful. The CDC will tell you that “50% of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives.” Good, moral, monogamous people. Guess what, ladies and gentlemen, we don’t all enter into marriage without any sexual contact, and that doesn’t make us all the whores of Babylon. You can be all wonderfully monogamous until you and “The One” break up, and you need to start all over again.

    If you can prevent 80% of cervical cancers, then why not? If your little darling still has a 50% chance of contracting HPV in their adult lives, wouldn’t you want them to be informed and protected?

    Inform yourselves: http://www.cdc.gov/STD/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm

    Of course that’s not the only resource, but study after and study and webpage after webpage will concur on many of these facts. Get informed before you get up on your moral high horse.

    Ugh. /rant

  82. M

    This is going to sound diabolically cold, but I just plain don’t see the problem.

    The ones who DO get vaccinated will live. And if not… well diseases will mutate anyway. Anti-Vaxxers or not. There are ALOT of people on the planet, in fact there’s some six to twelve times to many. So there’s ample opportunity for ANY disease to adapt to us. And they will, thats how nature works. It’ll eventually succeed somehow at culling our numbers anyway. Thats what happens with overpopulation and medical science and cleanliness helps, but it doesn’t completely STOP things to begin with. Life is resilient… and that includes lifeforms that cause diseases. Even the Black Plague seems to be making a comeback here and there. and thats been centuries.

    Sides, anti-vaxxers are often fundies or near fundies, and fundies and the like are often not very bright. Why stop them from weeding themselves and their offspring out of the genepool on a planet that is both overpopulated, and where stupid people already outbreed smart people? I’d say by killing themselves off their doing us all a favour. And they DO have a choice you know. Their doing it to themselves.

    Its not like someone is all meanly killing them, they are stupidly killing themselves. I say let the idiots choke on their own stupidity. Saving people from injustice is a good thing (And even then only when its actually our business. Iraq for example was not. And lo, it was a great disaster. Of course when it IS our business we don’t do it… New Orleans and all…), But saving people from their own idiocy seems more counterproductive then anything else to me. Those kids who died? Far more likely to have grown up as creationists then scientists you know. Seriously, I’ve dealt with anti-vaxxers, not much lost on them.

    Sooo, I guess I can’t really care. If kids die the smart people will start vaxxing. And the rest, no loss there. All those idiots are the ones who actually are behind things like Iraq. Less of them around consuming resources and voting? I’m all for it. ;)

  83. Sorry Monkey, but from what I’ve seen here in CA, the school as a whole doesn’t give a damn about the children. Individual teachers, etc.: yes. The system as a whole: no.

  84. Except it isn’t. Previous commenters have pointed out that there’s at least some members of the population who have contracted HPV via means besides sexual conduct. To ignore that fact is, well, ignorant.

    I see one claim about someone about virgins. Are you claiming that HPV is air- or water-borne?

  85. Todd W.

    @Angela

    I am very sorry for your loss and for what happened. Maybe I can answer part of your question:

    why do the doctors act as if it was a law to remove the mercury. It was only a recommendation.

    FDA mandated that all single-use vaccines in the U.S. (with the exception of flu vaccine and I think one other that escapes me at the moment) be supplied without thimerosal due to public concern and research that at the time was inconclusive as to whether there was an increased risk of injury or not.

    Past research on thimerosal has shown that it is safe for use as a preservative, though those studies, I believe, did not examine the accumulation, elimination from the body, or effects of thimerosal when multiple drugs were delivered in a short span of time. Quotes comparing the levels of mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and EPA guidelines for mercury levels are comparing apples and oranges: methylmercury (the EPA guidelines) and ethylmercury (in thimerosal), which the body handles in different ways. Because of this, going by the EPA guidelines is misleading and inaccurate.

    And a note on preservatives in drugs. They prevent the growth of bacteria and some other sources of contamination in the drugs. This helps to keep the drug safe for use and extends the usable life of the drug.

  86. Todd W.

    This link talks about methods of HPV transmission other than through sexual contact:

    http://www.health-science-report.com/alotek/topics1/article51/

  87. wonderfulforhisage

    “It has been shown, conclusively, that no such link exists.”

    Jee whiz, so it is possible to prove a negative after all. Bugger, bugger, bugger, and I’ve believed all these years that it’s impossible.

    That’s progress I suppose.

  88. wondeffulforhissage, there is no evidence — none — for a link between vaccines and autism. You can’t prove the nonexistance of something, but you can falsify a claim showing no correlation.

  89. amphiox

    wonderfulforhisage:
    There are no absolutes in science (or anything else of consequence in the real world), but we are dealing in risk ratios here. As the negative evidence accumulates the risk goes ever lower, until it reaches a point where we can say, for practical purposes, that we may as well act as if were a proven negative, because the risk that it actually is positive is so low that it is no longer of practical concern.

    Now when we consider something like vaccination, with a well proven (and enormous) benefit, this ever diminishing risk only has to become lower than the known benefit (a proven positive) before it is no longer of any practical value to investigate it any further. The practical question, ie to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, has already been answered in the affirmative.

    And as I previously posted, even in the hypothetical situation where there is a real causative association with autism that turns out to be 100% real, the net benefit of vaccination still far outweighs that risk of harm.

    And for anyone tempted to say “you don’t know what it’s like to have a child with autism” and argue that somehow a risk for autism is a greater danger than a risk for childhood death from infection, because of the suffering involved, I would suggest to them to go read up on the infections children are vaccinated against: measles, mumps, rubella, diptheria, tetanus, polio, N. meningitidis, etc, and do a search on their neurological sequelae. Then come back and we can debate if those are or are not worse than autism.

  90. Michael Parmeley

    This post and some comments seem to suggest that we should not do any research on our own about the contents of vaccines and trust the government and medical establishment that they have the perfect vaccine schedule. I thought this was a skeptic site?

    I have 2 month old twins and I fully intend to get all recommended vaccines except at a different schedule, why am I doing this? Because I educated myself by reading The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears, M.D. F.A.A.P who on pages 199-202 specifically says that the amount of aluminum that is toxic to an infant is 30 micrograms and some combination vaccines put over 100 micrograms of aluminum in the body at once. Albeit not all of that is absorbed into the blood all at once, but he says there have been NO STUDIES regarding the absorption rate and subsequent expulsion via urination of aluminum done on infants. So I am following a different schedule that gives them all needed vaccines but spread out ones that have aluminum in them (a schedule from his book).

    Also, if I hadn’t educated myself I wouldn’t have known that there are some brands of vaccines that don’t have aluminum in them and you can request those brands.

    There really is no harm in educated yourself about the contents of vaccines and acting accordingly.

  91. Phil, I’ve been waging the war against antiscience since way back in highschool days. I thought you might enjoy some good news from the front lines.

    I used to work with a fellow, nice guy. He was the opposite of me though. He bought into just about everything. He was a young earth creationist, believed in astrology, angels, etc. I did my best to show him the beauty of science. It was a long road, and we eventually went different directions.

    He never abandoned his Christian faith (hey, we don’t want to take away the knitting needles, right?) but I left the seed of critical thinking. I recently ran into him, and his new baby girl. After some brief catching up, he recounted the stories of all the anti-vaxxer stuff he ran into. Well, something must have rubbed off, because he went and did [u]real[/u] research. At the end of his quest, he concluded that the facts lent strength to the pro-vaccine crowd, and decided to get his daughter fully vaccinated.

    Just one story like that makes all the work worth while. Thanks for keeping it up on the top, and I promise Ill keep working from the bottom.

  92. Brian Hodges

    can anybody explain why my comments aren’t posting. i’ve tried like a dozen times. Has my IP somehow been blocked.

  93. Brian Hodges

    oh so of course that one goes through. Well let’s try my real post. Perhaps it was too long? I’ll break it into two parts:

    I know I’m coming into this discussion late but hopefully you haven’t gotten weary of beating each other over the head yet.

    When I made the decision to not vaccinate my kids, Autism was quite seriously at the bottom of my list of worries. (I’ve said before that I think the anti-vax camp has gotten in its own way with this whole autism thing.) And from doing my research, I knew Mercury wasn’t really an issue either. I can’t speak for the entire anti-vax camp, but I can only assure you that I was NOT one of those people who kept changing what I thought was bad about vaccines as studies came out showing no links between one suspected toxin and Autism or whatever.

    For me, the concern has always been over just the idea that we are shoving so much crap ALL AT ONCE into babies. I’m not talking about mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde or any of that stuff. I’m talking about the actual DISEASES in the vaccines themselves. It just seems to me that that has to be an absolute shock to a baby’s system getting that many contagions all at once, and that has GOT to have some kind of side-effects – both short and long term. I don’t know if there have been any studies on the negative immunological impacts of vaccines. All the reports I find seem to always focus on Autism.

    I have recently started re-examining my decision to not vaccinate my kids thanks in part to a recent lively discussion on this very blog. I feel like I’m starting from scratch again, but with the added burden of once again not knowing WHO to believe. Because while the anti-vax info out there IS coming largely from a standpoint of fear, it seems like the medical community is coming from a standpoint of its own infallibility without conflicts of interest. And if you live in this country and don’t believe EVERY controversial issue has a spin to it, you’re crazy.

  94. Brian Hodges

    And part 2:

    Some questions I still have about vaccines:

    1. Since none of these vaccines provide lifelong immunity aren’t we setting ourselves up for trouble down the line? We give kids chicken pox vaccines now. But when we were kids, didn’t our parents WANT us to get chicken pox as soon as possible so that we DIDN’T get it as an adult. What are our kids to do when they turn 25 and their CP immunity wears off? As George Carlin once said, an immune system needs a lot of practice. And if you rob it of practice by vaccinating against everything what are you going to do when some super virus comes along and turns your vital organ into liquid s—? (just a whimsical illustration, I’m not considering George an authority here, so lay off :-) )

    2. The anti-vax camp tells us that the only documented cases of polio in the last 20 years or so have been as a direct result of the vaccine. Basically the only people who got the disease were kids who had just gotten the vaccine or younger children in the same house had not yet been immunized against it.

    3. As always the stats can be used to confuse. The anti-vax camp will whip out graphs showing how the rate of DEATHS from these diseases was already declining BEFORE the vaccines were introduced. The pro-vax people will show you graphs indicating that the number of CASES of these diseases only dropped AFTER the vaccines were introduced. In retaliation, the anti-vax people say that the number of cases didn’t really drop but that the diseases were just “re-labeled.” Somewhere between these polar opposites in thought the truth must lie. Because a “case” just means anybody who got it, whether it really affected their health drastically or not. Are there graphs out there showing the decline of DEBILITATING CASES of these diseases in comparison to when the vaccines came out? Seriously, which stats are the more true?

    4. And as I said before, has anyone examined the possibility that vaccines in the immense volume that they are administered actually wreak havoc with the growing immune system.

  95. LTaylor

    @M: [i]This is going to sound diabolically cold, but I just plain don’t see the problem.[/i]

    If only it was a simple as stupid people being harmed by stupid decisions.

    The main problem here is that our kids are not born with immunity. The schedule for vaccines is such that they are at risk until they have completed their vaccinations. For instance: Pertussis (Whooping Cough) vaccines start at 2 months, but do not confer their full effect until the final dose at 4 months.

    Until these vaccinations are complete children are placed in jeopardy because of the actions of every parent who refuses to vaccinate.

  96. This changes the tone of this discussion a bit, but I think one of our major responsibilities as scientists in arguing the pro-vaccination side of this issue is to avoid ad hominem arguments. I realize this is extremely difficult, because antivaxxer propaganda specializes in extensive ad hominem put-downs of established scientists. (Witness the current attempt to discredit Dr. Paul Offit.) Nevertheless, I think the ideal is to stick to science when explaining these issues.

  97. Ijon Tichy

    Ah the (largely) irreducible complexity of the human body! I’d hate to be a professional skeptic in this area. Astronomy is so much simpler.

  98. Let’s put this in a nice blunt way.

    Complications of measles: Blindness, encephalitis (a dangerous infection of the brain causing inflammation), severe diarrhea, ear infections and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia, fatality rate generally in the range of >1% to 5%, but may be as high as 25% in populations with compromised immune systems.

    Complications of pertussis: Seizures, encephalopathy, severe ear infection, anorexia (severe restriction of food intake), dehydration, pneumonia is the most common complication and cause of infant pertussis-related deaths. In adolescents and adults, whooping cough can cause severe coughing that can make it hard to breathe, eat, or sleep, and can result in cracked ribs, pneumonia, or hospitalization.

    Complications of polio: Paralytic polio can lead to temporary or permanent muscle paralysis, disability, and deformities of the hips, ankles and feet. Other complications pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), pneumonia, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, intestinal obstruction, myocarditis (inflamation of the heart).

    Complications of diptheria: Diptheria toxin can cause permanent damage the heart, lungs, kidneys, and nervous system.

    I could keep going but just those four should give a good idea of the risks here. Autism is terrible but not life-threatening.

  99. Autumn

    @ Brian Hodges,
    The number of “DEBILITATING CASES” of smallpox was reduced to zero, zilch, nada, by the intensive efforts of a group of individuals who realised that the answer was universal vaccinations.
    Polio? Only still extant in the wild because of, set your irony meter to it’s least sensitive level, groups spreading fear of vaccination!

  100. As someone who has had a lot of experience with autism I am utterly appalled by the amount of bozos who spout this BS. It sickens me because these people spend their time, energy, and resources on blaming vaccines for autism instead of supporting research for better treatments and earlier diagnosis. These people are spawned from the same sort of thinking that is taking science out of our science classes. It is disgusting to me.

    In response to Noadi, I know we are on the same page here, but having a child with Autism is just as devastating as having a child with a Polio. I know you weren’t trying to minimize autism, just saying.

  101. anon

    phil,

    anti-science is now a label you put on those who don’t want forced immunization?

    anti-science eh?

    with you throwing around lame terms like “herd immunity” .. I think you’re doing a find job of presenting the “anti-science” aspect…

    stick to what you know phil, when you venture out into the unknown, you start looking more and more foolish … and MUCH less “scientific”…

    and I suppose it never dawned on you, that if you and your family, friends, etc.. are immunized, then what does it matter to you (or anyone else for that matter) if “other people” aren’t immunized?

    Spreading “fear” when the “science” isn’t fully in on the subject… i.e. 10 or more years of hard core scientific studies, papers etc…

    From what I’ve seen … there is AT BEST about 3-4 years of studies… most of which were paid for by the drug companies themselves.

    The few “independent” studies surely aren’t enough to base a “scientific” conclusion upon…

    lol… “herd immunity” …

    astronomers… *sheesh… they think they know everything about everything!

  102. Kevin

    The “antivaxxers” give me a sort of strange respect for people like Christian Scientists, who at least admit that they are leaving their children in the hands of God, instead of coming up with a bunch of pseudo-scientific non-explanations for their decisions.

  103. @Brian Hodges
    I’m no vaccine expert, but AFAIK the biggest risk for most vaccines (MMR, etc.) is high fever, and that risk is very low. The polio vaccine IIRC is a dead vaccine, which means that the virus isn’t actually alive, yet your body develops immunity anyway.

    The traditional vaccines Noadi lists have been in production for decades. Comparing the risks against the possible infections brings me down on the side of vaccinations. I’m a bit angry about the chicken pox vaccine because it seems to be short-lived and the disease itself isn’t life-threatening when young anyway.

  104. erlando

    If only the anti-vaxxers could experience some of the nastyness of i.e measels up close and personal.

    When I was 3 I got the measels. That put me in intensive care for 2 weeks. I had double-sided pneumonia and a fever of 41C (that’s 106F for the metrically challenged). My parents were told that I might not survive.

    Why anyone would risk their child getting the measels is incomprehensible.

    When I get kids they’re getting their shots.

  105. Brian Hodges

    @erlando

    you said (When I was 3 I got the measels. That put me in intensive care for 2 weeks. I had double-sided pneumonia and a fever of 41C (that’s 106F for the metrically challenged). My parents were told that I might not survive.)

    Just playing devil’s advocate here, but isn’t this just the same kind of “fear mongering” story that the anti-vaxxers try to do with the horror stories of kids who were fine until they got their vaccines? As I understand measels, your case was an extremely rare one. Most people who get the measles are bedridden for a few days and then they’re fine. Looking at the scenarios that Noadi talked about, my impression is that those are the WORST case scenarios if you catch the disease but that most people don’t get that bad. I suppose the question could arise, “well why would you even take that small risk,” but as you know that would be answered by “well why would you take even a small risk by giving your kid a shot when there is so much anecdotal evidence that something could go wrong.”

    It’s enough to make my head spin. I really do hear both sides, but it just seems like there’s always a “yeah but.”

  106. Jose

    @Michael Parmeley
    This post and some comments seem to suggest that we should not do any research on our own about the contents of vaccines and trust the government and medical establishment that they have the perfect vaccine schedule.

    How do you get that? The post simply states that misinformation about vaccines has the potential to cause a health crisis. It doesn’t say or imply anything about scheduling, or blindly trusting the government.

  107. isles

    A good resource for people with misconceptions about childhood vaccines:

    http://www.vaccinateyourbaby.org

    It is a new media campaign by the nonprofit Every Child By Two.

    (Kevin – I think similar to you – I have always felt like the only people with a rational basis for refusing vaccination are the ones who argue that it gets in the way of natural selection. Chilling, but rational.)

  108. @jtradke There is no contradiction, that was my point. If you actually read both sides of the argument you will find most people labeled as antivaxxers aren’t actually anti vaccination

    @hyperdeath The Tobacco industry long relationship with the AMA is pretty well documented. It wasn’t until Fishbein was ousted as head of the AMA that JAMA first began to publish damning studies about tobacco use.

  109. Nick

    I can’t help but smile when I see so called skeptics drinking the Kool-Aid. I used to believe everything doctors told me, and figured they always knew best. They don’t. Vaccines aren’t the medical wonder everyone here seems to be kneeing and offering thanks to.

    There are side effects. Bad side effects. Kids die. I believed in them till my child was damaged by them, then I started my own research. Too late for my son, but if I can save one child and set of parents from the hell I’ve been through it will be worth it. There are wackos on both sides of the issue and blanket statements either way show ignorance. Vaccines can be helpful, but there are MANY that are simply acting as a cash cow for pharmaceutical companies. See, I’m a reborn skeptic and anything I hear from them, the FDA, the CDC I look at and see who profits, who’s ass gets covered, and how any studies were conducted.

    The current vaccine schedule is fed more from greed than concern.

  110. Jose

    @Brian Hodges
    Just playing devil’s advocate here, but isn’t this just the same kind of “fear mongering” story that the anti-vaxxers try to do with the horror stories of kids who were fine until they got their vaccines?

    Not quite. The difference is that the threat of measles is very real, whereas anti-vaxxers, autism stories are based on fantasy. It may be rare for people with access to good healthcare to die from measles, but it’s still pretty awful. And for people without access to good healthcare, it’s still very deadly.

  111. Todd W.

    @Michael Parmeley

    I have to second Jose, the main point of the post and the comments is not that we should not do research or that we should not question things, but rather that we not jump to conclusions or make claims that are not supported by the evidence.

    You (general “you”, not you specifically) want a different vaccination schedule? Fine. You claim that the current schedule is dangerous? Show the evidence to back that up.

    You don’t want preservatives in the vaccines? Fine. You claim that the preservatives cause X malady? Show the evidence to support the claim.

    You don’t want the combination MMR vaccine? Fine. You claim that the combination MMR vaccine causes X malady? Show the evidence to support the claim.

    That is the difference we’re trying to point out here. The issue is that a number of people in the anti-vax camp (and I’m including people who aren’t completely anti-vax, but are clamoring about the schedule/MMR/thimerosal because their actions tend to shift people toward avoiding vaccines) blur the lines between what they want and what they believe to be true. They are generally making claims that are not supported by valid evidence, and the manner in which they make their stance known tends to carry a strong “Vaccines are bad” tone to them. They tend to ignore or play down the role that vaccines have had in combatting disease.

    Now, the pro-vax crowd has some people that will say that vaccines are 100% safe and effective. They are just as extreme as the anti-vaxers that Phil is targeting. Vaccines, like all drugs, carry certain risks. The majority of those risks, however, have a significantly lower chance of occurring than the complications from the diseases that they prevent. As with any other drug, one must weigh the benefits against the risks. For the majority of the population, the benefits from being vaccinated outweigh the risks associated with the vaccines.

  112. Jose

    @Nick
    I can’t help but smile when I see so called skeptics drinking the Kool-Aid. I used to believe everything doctors told me, and figured they always knew best.

    Everyone agrees that vaccines have risks associated with them, but Autism is not one of those risks. The potential benefits of vaccines far outweigh the actual risk.

    Vaccines can be helpful, but there are MANY that are simply acting as a cash cow for pharmaceutical companies.

    Which ones are just cash cows for pharmaceutical companies?

  113. Todd W.

    @Nick

    “The current vaccine schedule is fed more from greed than concern.”

    I’m interested in the evidence you have that supports this claim.

  114. amphiox

    Micheal Parmeley: I don’t have any major problems with what you’ve done. Altering the schedule is not the same as refusing to vaccinate, in my book. However, I would point out to you that there is a reason why the vaccines are given when they are given, and it isn’t just the whim of some stuffed shirt working in a government office. The vaccines are generally given just before the age of maximum risk for the disease it targets, both in terms of the prevalence of the disease and the age-related severity of the infection. A large number of vaccines are given at a young age because the first year of life is the most vulnerable period! There is a balance struck between the maturity of the patient’s immune system (hence we don’t vaccinate for many things immediately after birth), the time for immunity to develop, and the window of greatest vulnerability. This was all determined through years of painstaking research. If you change the schedule significantly, you are potentially reducing the benefit you receive from the vaccination.

    Brian Hodges: The above applies to your comments as well. All those vaccines are given at the same time because, guess what, all those diseases strike children at the same time, with the most devastating consequences for children in that age group, compared to older children and adults. Other vaccines, such as the MMR, were combined in the hope of sparing young children the trauma of multiple repeated administrations in a very close span of time.

    The issue of immunity fading with time for many of these diseases is less important because the sequelae for adults are less severe, and treatment more effective when the patient is older with a more mature immune system.

    This is not to say that all vaccines are created equal, nor that it would be wise to vaccinate children for all potentially severe childhood diseases. I personally am somewhat skeptical about routine administration to children of the chickenpox vaccine, because unlike measles and its ilk, chickepox is actually less severe in children than in adults, and a childhood infection of chickenpox provides lifelong immunity, whereas with the vaccine it has not been out long enough for us to know for sure. So it is possible that the best use of the chickenpox vaccine is for adults to take electively.

  115. Brian Hodges

    @amphiox

    This is not to say that all vaccines are created equal, nor that it would be wise to vaccinate children for all potentially severe childhood diseases. I personally am somewhat skeptical about routine administration to children of the chickenpox vaccine, because unlike measles and its ilk, chickepox is actually less severe in children than in adults, and a childhood infection of chickenpox provides lifelong immunity, whereas with the vaccine it has not been out long enough for us to know for sure. So it is possible that the best use of the chickenpox vaccine is for adults to take electively.

    Thank you, you are the first pro-vax person I’ve talked to who has actually said that. Too many that I’ve talked to have had an “all good” or “all bad” view of vaccines.

    @Jose

    The difference is that the threat of measles is very real, whereas anti-vaxxers, autism stories are based on fantasy.

    As I’ve said before, I seem to be the rare anti-vaxer who has never really believed the hype over the connection between vaccines and autism. Or vaccines and ADD for that matter. Toxins like mercury or aluminum have always been minor concerns of mine. I get the whole “the dose makes the poison” mantra or however it goes. For me it’s always been a fear that jacking with a kids immune system with so many contagions all at once is going to somehow mess up their ability to fight things off both in the short term and in the future. The focus always seems to be on autism, but have there been any studies to examine if artificially screwing with a kids develping immune system has any unintended side effects?

  116. amphiox

    One more point. Vaccines are certainly NOT a cash cow for any pharmaceutical. NO medication that is only given once, or a few times, to a single individual, who then is provided longterm protection such that he/she need not take the medication again, is a wise financial investment from a drug company’s self-interested point of view.

    In the early days, mass production of vaccines were done with government subsidies because doing so for a drug company meant taking a LOSS. The development of new vaccines has always been hampered by the fact that many drug companies are reluctant to invest significant funds into researching them, because the return on the investment is small.

    If you want a real cash cow, you want a medication that must be taken regularly, for life, in repeated frequent doses, for symptomatic control of chronic, lifestyle related problems (And never try to cure the disease if you want to make money selling a drug for it!). Think blood pressure meds, cholesterol meds, heartburn meds, viagra, and others like them. Go to a drug store and just look at how many versions of these kinds of meds are being produced by how many companies, multiple ones in each drug class, all only slightly different from each other chemically, all essentially exactly the same with regards to their action in the human body. From a doctor and patient’s point of view, all interchangeable outside of a few minor peripheral features. Drug companies pour money into making more and more new versions of these drugs, and advertising their minuscule differences, because it is lucrative.

    Vaccines? Not so much. For most vaccines, there are one or two versions on the market. Many have been developed once, and no new ones ever made ever again, because no one sees any profit in trying to make and market a new version. For example, for polio, there are basically two: the Salk and the Sabin, and both were developed decades ago.

  117. Todd W.

    @Brian Hodges

    For me it’s always been a fear that jacking with a kids immune system with so many contagions all at once is going to somehow mess up their ability to fight things off both in the short term and in the future.

    I’m going to admit right off the bat that this touches on differing modes of administration, but, how many contagions do you think an infant comes in contact with on a daily basis, just by touching the ground, pets, furniture, cars, shopping carts, public transportation, other kids, other adults, etc., then putting their hands, toys or pacifiers in their mouths?

    I’m not saying that this argument cancels out yours, nor do I present it as trying to prove that vaccines do no more to overtax the immune system than any of those other sources, but I do think that it is something to consider. I can understand having concerns that it puts a strain on the system, but I would also be interested in hearing if there is any evidence that the current vaccine schedule actually does overburden infants’ and toddlers’ immune systems.

  118. Brian Hodges

    @ Todd W.

    Oh no, I do realize that kids come into contact with contagions every day. In fact, since we don’t vax we’re kind of in the mindset of “Let the kid eat dirt. Let him be around kids who are sick. Let him come into contact with germs NATURALLY the way nature kind of intended him to.” It’s the direct injection of disease into the tissue that bypasses all the other modes of defense that worries me. Perhaps it’s completely unfounded. But I haven’t heard of any studies that have looking into this.

    Also, does anyone have an answer to what I posted previously about these things:

    2. The anti-vax camp tells us that the only documented cases of polio in the last 20 years or so have been as a direct result of the vaccine. Basically the only people who got the disease were kids who had just gotten the vaccine or younger children in the same house had not yet been immunized against it.

    3. As always the stats can be used to confuse. The anti-vax camp will whip out graphs showing how the rate of DEATHS from these diseases was already declining BEFORE the vaccines were introduced. The pro-vax people will show you graphs indicating that the number of CASES of these diseases only dropped AFTER the vaccines were introduced. In retaliation, the anti-vax people say that the number of cases didn’t really drop but that the diseases were just “re-labeled.” Somewhere between these polar opposites in thought the truth must lie. Because a “case” just means anybody who got it, whether it really affected their health drastically or not. Are there graphs out there showing the decline of DEBILITATING CASES of these diseases in comparison to when the vaccines came out? Seriously, which stats are the more true?

  119. Jose

    The focus always seems to be on autism, but have there been any studies to examine if artificially screwing with a kids develping immune system has any unintended side effects?

    Sort of. If someone is doing a study to find a link between vaccinations and autism, they’re going to be monitoring the health of the children in general, not just looking for signs of autism. If a high number of kid started developing non autism related symptoms, there’s a good chance it would be spotted. Studies often discover unanticipated things. Viagra comes to mind. It was designed to treat high blood pressure (or something like that.), which it wasn’t very good at. However, it did have a surprising side effect.

  120. Todd W.

    @Brian Hodges

    I don’t have any answers off the top of my head for the two questions you posed, but have you taken a look at the CDC’s web site to see if they have anything on the polio question?

    As for the graphs, I would need to do some research, and I don’t have access to all of the pertinent sources (like a journal on infectious diseases or epidemiology).

  121. Not to take a position one way or the other, but we must be careful not to muddle issues here

    It’s one thing to object to a group who are ignoring and misrepresenting evidence and science, as appears to be the case for those who insist on a link between autism and vaccines. Morals don’t come into this.

    It is a very different thing when the objection to something is based, at least partly, on morals, as is the case for many who object to HPV treatments. The opinions I have personally heard against Gardisil come from people who accept the science at face value (that vaccinating schoolgirls will prevent a significant number of cervical cancers and prevent deaths). However, they feel a gut reaction to the idea of vaccinating pre-pubescent girls against a mostly sexually-transmitted disease, and this gut reaction makes them ask if it’s worth it. You can come up with corner cases (e.g. non-sexual transmission and rape), but you can’t easily come up with a watertight, science-based argument to convince the rational individual who has moral concerns.

  122. @amphiox you comment that vaccinations aren’t a large profit center for pharmaceutical companies has no basis in fact. It does not take into consideration production cost or the obvious fact that there are millions of babies given the vaccinations every year.

  123. Todd W.

    @anon

    “and I suppose it never dawned on you, that if you and your family, friends, etc.. are immunized, then what does it matter to you (or anyone else for that matter) if “other people” aren’t immunized?”

    Hmm…concern about the risk posed to friends or family who may not have been vaccinated because of pre-existing medical conditions that prevented it? Concern about the negative effects on society if vaccination rates drop significantly?

    Also, what’s your problem with the term “herd-immunity”?

  124. Tom Marking

    “Sides, anti-vaxxers are often fundies or near fundies, and fundies and the like are often not very bright.”

    Hmmm, the major proponents against childhood vaccinations are 2 organizations:

    ASA (Autism Society of America)
    DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!)

    Bernard Rimland – founder of ASA (now deceased), M.D.
    Andrew Wakefield – original proponent of autism/MMR linkage, M.D.
    Bryan Jepson – colleague of Wakefield, M.D.
    Stephanie Cave – autism and mercury guru, M.D.
    .
    .
    .
    (the list goes on and on)

    There are hundreds of people with medical degrees who are pushing the anti-vaccination movement. Where did you get the idea that they are all fundies and therefore not bright? They were bright enough to get through medical school.

  125. passionlessDroene

    Hi Todd W –

    I’m not saying that this argument cancels out yours, nor do I present it as trying to prove that vaccines do no more to overtax the immune system than any of those other sources, but I do think that it is something to consider. I can understand having concerns that it puts a strain on the system, but I would also be interested in hearing if there is any evidence that the current vaccine schedule actually does overburden infants’ and toddlers’ immune systems.

    Well, we certainly do have evidence that you can modify the toddler’s immune system depending on the type of vaccine they get.

    Modulation of the infant immune responses by the first pertussis vaccine administrations.
    Mascart F, Hainaut M, Peltier A, Verscheure V, Levy J, Locht C.

    Many efforts are currently made to prepare combined vaccines against most infectious pathogens, that may be administered early in life to protect infants against infectious diseases as early as possible. However, little is known about the general immune modulation induced by early vaccination. Here, we have analyzed the cytokine secretion profiles of two groups of 6-month-old infants having received as primary immunization either a whole-cell (Pw) or an acellular (Pa) pertussis vaccine in a tetravalent formulation of pertussis-tetanus-diphtheria-poliomyelitis vaccines. Both groups of infants secreted IFN-gamma in response to the Bordetella pertussis antigens filamentous haemagglutinin and pertussis toxin, and this response was correlated with antigen-specific IL-12p70 secretion, indicating that both pertussis vaccines induced Th1 cytokines. However, Pa recipients also developed a strong Th2-type cytokine response to the B. pertussis antigens, as noted previously. In addition, they induced Th2-type cytokines to the co-administrated antigen tetanus toxoïd, as well as to the food antigen beta-lactoglobulin. Furthermore, the general cytokine profile of the Pa recipients was strongly Th2-skewed at 6 months, as indicated by the cytokines induced by the mitogen phytohaemagglutinin. These data demonstrate that the cytokine profile of 6-month-old infants is influenced by the type of formulation of the pertussis vaccine they received at 2, 3 and 4 months of life. Large prospective studies would be warranted to evaluate the possible long-term consequences of this early modulation of the cytokine responses in infants.
    Vaccine. 2008 Jul 4;26(29-30):3551-5

    The problem with this type of conversation is that ‘overtaxed’ is much too simplistic. What has been shown here is that we’ve modified the immune system. Are the changes permenant for all childrern? For some? What would be the impact? No one knows, the answers to these questions. Asking them seems to be enough to get you branded as anti science. Nice.

    You might be interested in knowing that TH2 shifts like this are found in things like childhood ashtma, which has grown unexpectedly in the past few years, as well as autism.

    – pD

  126. Brian Hodges

    @Todd W

    Hmm…concern about the risk posed to friends or family who may not have been vaccinated because of pre-existing medical conditions that prevented it?

    Again, devils advocate, don’t you take that same risk whenever you get one of your OTHER children vaccinated since they tend to be contagious for a few days following their shots, putting all non-vaccinated people in the house at risk?

  127. Jose

    @Tom Marking
    Where did you get the idea that they are all fundies and therefore not bright?

    That’s not what he said.

    Sides, anti-vaxxers are often fundies or near fundies, and fundies and the like are often not very bright

    Just because you have a medical degree, doesn’t mean you practice good science. In fact, there are thousands of people with medical degrees that don’t practice good science.

  128. passionlessDroene

    Hey everyone –

    What surprizes me to no end about discussions like this is the fact that apparently intelligent people are unwilling to acknowledge the dirty little secret of autism and vaccine research; namely that the studies are all of epidemiological nature and involve either a single insult (i.e., MMR or no MMR) or a single preservative (i.e., thimerosal).

    Imagine a population where everyone smoked Kools, Parliments, and Camels. Would a study where in one segment stopped smoking Kools give us any information regarding the impact of smoking? What a study wherein everyone smoked tar free cigarettes give us enough information to make valid conclusions?

    This is analogous to what we have in the autism / vaccine research arena. This statement is simple to disprove; just provide a study wherein one population was fully vaccinated, the other was not vaccinate, and neurological outcomes were evaluated.

    Here is one for everyone who is so sure that vaccines cannot cause autism: Getting the flu shot while pregnant can affect your childs neurological outcome. But it isn’t the mercury; but rather, the maternal response.

    Consider:

    Epidemiology has shown that in years of particularly virulent flu, more children are born later to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

    Several recent studies have implicated maternal antibodies with autism. In fact, one set of researchers found that a single dose of interluekin 6 at critical time could cause significant behavioral changes in an animal model. To be sure, the researchers created knockout mice, which showed no impact.

    Maternal Immune Activation Alters Fetal Brain Development through Interleukin-6
    Stephen E. P. Smith,1 Jennifer Li,1 Krassimira Garbett,2 Karoly Mirnics,2 and Paul H. Patterson1
    The Journal of Neuroscience, October 3, 2007, 27(40):10695-10702; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2178-07.2007

    (WordPress is eating posts w/links)

    Getting a flu shot is a surefire way to increase your interluekin 6 levels:

    Effect of influenza vaccine on markers of inflammation and lipid profile.
    Tsai MY, Hanson NQ, Straka RJ, Hoke TR, Ordovas JM, Peacock JM, Arends VL, Arnett DK.
    J Lab Clin Med. 2005 Jun;145(6):323-7

    The CDC currently recommends all pregnant women get the flu shot.

    Of course, the notion that maternal anti bodies could have an impact on neurological outcomes is a very new discovery. Without a true population study that actual looks at th schedule as opposed to individual components of it, our only ability to be ‘sure’ that vaccines cannot cause autism is to assume there are no more surprizes out there like this. I don’t think we are nearly smart enough about the finer workings of the immune system we are tinkering with to have such confidence. What makes everyone here so positive?

    – pD

    ps – WordPress ate this earlier. Please delete if duplicates arrive (this one has no links) / sorry

  129. Tom Marking

    “One more point. Vaccines are certainly NOT a cash cow for any pharmaceutical”

    Hate to rain on your parade but…

    http://www.taxtyranny.ca/images/HTML/Vaccines/178Vaccines.html

    “But analysts reckon the vaccine market will grow much faster than the market for prescription drugs. “We’re in a period where pharmaceutical sales are growing at 5% to 6% a year,” says Novartis Chief Executive Daniel Vasella. “In contrast, the vaccine industry is looking at nearly 20% annual growth over the next five years.”
    .
    .
    .
    PROFIT MACHINES. Today, the vaccine business is undergoing something of a renaissance. That’s feeding an explosion of biotech startups targeting opportunities in everything from new methods of delivery to so-called therapeutic vaccines that treat diseases patients already have. In 1989, there were fewer than 10 biotech vaccine companies, but today there are nearly 200. The number of new vaccines in development also has more than tripled over the last decade, to 150 today. “It’s proof that the business is waking up and becoming much more interesting,” says Joerg Reinhardt, CEO of Novartis’ newly-created vaccines and diagnostics business.”

  130. Jose

    @Brian
    I actually posted this response a while ago, but it appears I’ve discovered a word the filters don’t like. I’ll replace that word with something else, and you can try and guess what the word is. It’ll be fun.

    The focus always seems to be on autism, but have there been any studies to examine if artificially screwing with a kids develping immune system has any unintended side effects?

    Sort of. If someone is doing a study to find a link between vaccinations and autism, they’re going to be monitoring the health of the children in general, not just looking for signs of autism. If a high number of kid started developing non autism related symptoms, there’s a good chance it would be spotted. Studies often discover unanticipated things. “Dinglehoo erector drug” comes to mind. It was designed to treat high blood pressure (or something like that.), which it wasn’t very good at. However, it did have a surprising side effect.

  131. Tom Marking

    “That’s not what he said.

    Sides, anti-vaxxers are often fundies or near fundies, and fundies and the like are often not very bright”

    Please provide some evidence for the association between anti-vaccination sentiment and Christian fundamentalism. I’ve yet to see any.

  132. Andy Beaton

    In fact, since we don’t vax we’re kind of in the mindset of “Let the kid eat dirt. Let him be around kids who are sick. Let him come into contact with germs NATURALLY the way nature kind of intended him to.”

    Let him run the odds of 30% child mortality the way nature intended him to?
    You do know why infant mortality is down this past century, right?

  133. Nick

    From Bloomberg.com:
    “Sales of Merck vaccines more than tripled to $903 million from $272 million a year earlier, helped by sales of Gardasil and the Rotateq vaccine to protect against rotavirus. Merck raised its forecast for vaccine sales this year by $500 million to $3.3 billion to $3.7 billion.”

    That’s quite a chunk of change for two questionable vaccines. Put your skeptic cap on and tell me you really think altruism is at the top of the flowchart for vaccine recommendation.

  134. Tom Marking

    “WordPress is eating posts w/links”

    Yeah, I posted one yesterday with several links that went into the bit bucket. Just posted one with a link that went through although I’ve had some that appeared and later disappeared (probably censorship but you never know with this new Discover blogging software).

    Deleting posts with links will do much to improve the level of debate on this blog since those posts with actual evidence backing them up will be rejected in favor of those posts with no evidence. Wonderful system.

  135. Todd W.

    @PassionlessDroene

    “Getting the flu shot while pregnant can affect your childs neurological outcome.”

    I thought that doctors generally recommended not getting vaccinated while pregnant, due to a couple factors: 1) I’m not positive off the top of my head, but I think that few, if any, vaccines have been tested in pregnant populations and therefore are not recommended for use in pregnant women and 2) because of the lack of studies in pregnant women, the potential for harm to the fetus is not well-characterized. Therefore, err on the side of caution.

  136. Todd W.

    Oops…should’ve been clearer. Few, if any, vaccines have been tested by their manufacturers in pregnant populations…

  137. Jose

    @Tom Marking

    Please provide some evidence for the association between anti-vaccination sentiment and Christian fundamentalism. I’ve yet to see any.

    I have no clue if it’s true. You originally responded to something that was never said. I was just pointing that out.

  138. Brian Hodges

    @Andy Beaton

    Let him run the odds of 30% child mortality the way nature intended him to?
    You do know why infant mortality is down this past century, right?

    Yes I do know that and most anti and pro-vaxxers attribute the decline in death largely to better knowledge about cleanliness and hygiene, better plumbing and water treatment and better treatment of diseases that we also vaccinate against with things like antibiotics. If you’re talking DEATHS, there are plenty of charts that show the deathrates from diseases were already sloping down by the time the vaccine came out. If we’re talking CASES where somebody got sick and then got better, well now we have a debate as to whether it was the vaccine or natural immunity that caused that shift. Which is where lately I honestly don’t know which side I believe.

  139. Tom Marking

    Yeah, It seems to have a limit of 1 link. I tried posting:

    hypertexttransportprotocol colon forwardslash forwardslash www dot yahoo dot com

    hypertexttransportprotocol colon forwardslash forwardslash www dot cnn dot com

    and it didn’t go through. If you have only 1 link it goes through. 2 links and up and it rejects it.

  140. passionlessDroene

    Hi Todd W –

    From the CDC web site. I would link, but apparently this is blogger software won’t support it.

    Is it safe for pregnant women to receive an influenza vaccine that contains thimerosal?
    Yes. A study of influenza vaccination examining over 2,000 pregnant women demonstrated no adverse fetal effects associated with influenza vaccine. Case reports and limited studies indicate that pregnancy can increase the risk for serious medical complications of influenza. One study found that out of every 10,000 women in their third trimester of pregnancy during an average flu season, 25 will be hospitalized for flu related complications.

    Additionally, influenza-associated excess deaths among pregnant women have been documented during influenza pandemics. Because pregnant women are at increased risk for influenza-related complications and because a substantial safety margin has been incorporated into the health guidance values for organic mercury exposure, the benefits of influenza vaccine with reduced or standard thimerosal content outweighs the theoretical risk, if any, of thimerosal.

    Googling cdc flu vaccine pregnant should give you this on the first hit (or first few hits).

    – pD

  141. Tom Marking

    BTW, what is Dinglehoo erector drug? I’ve never heard of that. Are you sure you’re not talking about Lower Thingamajigee straightener drug? LOL.

    Silly blogging software. Do they think they can outsmart us?

  142. Todd W.

    @passionlessDroene

    Thanks for the quote. Quick note on hyperlinks. If you have one or more links in your post, it will be caught by the spam filter and wait for moderation.

    I’m still interested, though, if the manufacturers’ labeling includes anything about flu vaccine use in pregnant women. When I have a spare moment, I’ll see if I can find anything.

  143. Tom Marking

    “If you have one or more links in your post, it will be caught by the spam filter and wait for moderation.”

    Phil is actually doing the moderation himself? Or does Discover have a staff of people doing it? And are they actually deleting posts after they are accepted too? I’ve seen that happen a couple of times.

    Did Phil announce any of these changes when he moved to Disover blogs? I don’t remember any announcements about these changes.

  144. Paul G. King

    Suggest that all who are interested in science-based assessments of the issues being addressed in this blog should visit http://www.mercury-freedrugs.org and read the 2008 reviews posted in the “Documents” section that address the issues of vaccine safety, vaccine effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and the vaccinate-not vaccinate discussion with the scientific evidence that supports the factual realities encompassing the current vaccination programs and the realities of vaccination.

    Hopefully, after reading these reviews and checking the data provided, all will have a better understanding of the facts.

    Respectfully,

    Dr. King

  145. amphiox

    Tom Marking: interesting. It seems the pharmaceuticals are stumbling onto a new business model for vaccines, which makes my prior comment less applicable in the short term.

    I’m skeptical about the longterm profitability of vaccines though, or any other medication that is essentially once per lifetime or once per many years in administration.

  146. amphiox

    I would also point out that the antivaxxers are making it much easier for pharmaceuticals to profit from vaccines.

    Now they can market new vaccines without thiomersal or whatever other component someone has implicated, or new vaccines with this or that new component added to “remove” the risk. Or they can split the MMR into three and charge triple. Or market a new set “dosage-optimized” for an altered schedule of administration.

    All this is possible because now there’s a market created by the spreading of doubt about the established vaccines and their schedules.

    One could almost assemble a conspiracy theory out of it.

  147. These are people who (very incorrectly) think that vaccines are linked to autism. It has been shown, conclusively, that no such link exists. Every time an antivaxxer is shown this data, they move the goalposts, claiming it’s some other vaccine feature causing autism, or cite outdated and flawed studies. The problem (for them) is, you can show that the number of autism cases diagnosed is totally unrelated to vaccines. They deny this, they spin, they distract, but in the end this simple fact proves them wrong.

    These people must use the same playbook as the creationists when they deny the simple fact of evolution.

  148. Dr Unkenoaf

    @nyx, way further up.

    Gardasil, a HPV vaccine, given to protect against the strains that cause most of the cases of cervical cancer. And your problem is that boys aren’t receiving it? Well, I suppose having HPV can’t be nice, and assuming most girls are vaccinated, they can give hpv to other boys through the usual routes… But do you think their cervixes (?) need protecting?!

    Perhaps the girls only approach is the sensible anti-cancer one after all…

  149. Chanda

    “Ignorance can be a crime sometimes. If your child dies from smallpox because you didn’t vaccine him, HOW is that not a crime?!”

    Small pox has BEEN eradicated. So I think maybe there is a little lack of education on both sides.

    I’m all for controlling diseases such as small pox. But the vax’s are now moving into diseases that are NOT in general deadly. For example chicken pox. Yes some people die but in general is NOT deadly. In 1992 100 people died of it and most of them were adults. So not wanting that vax is risk assessment not anti-science. Moreover, the vax for chicken pox is not lifetime. It has to be “boosted” every 10years or so. If you are exposed to chicken pox, it is MUCH more likely to be a lifetime immunity. And if the exposure is controlled and treated quickly it is usually very mild.

    On the other hand, if you get vax’ed now you have to continue to get vax’ed for the rest of your life for the “herd” immunity. I hear chaching sounds do you? Also, if you don’t for some reason get boosted, say we find out after 20yrs that there is a problem with the vax that we didn’t anticipate, now men are vulnerable to sterility and pregnant women can loose their babies.

    I believe that the chicken pox vax is totally unnecessary for children under the age of 10. Moreover, it may prove to endanger more than it protects just because the vaccine doesn’t work nearly as well as an exposure to the disease. And now it is harder to GET exposure to the disease.

    And then there is shingles to consider. And yes, I HAVE had shingles and I don’t EVER want to have that again. But I don’t believe for a minute that the vaccine has been studied enough to understand all the intricacies that are involved here. And so my child will not get the vaccine UNTIL say about the age of 10 when getting the disease becomes more dangerous.

    I guess the point I’m making is that not all vaccines are created equal. And I, for one, am completely skeptical of the pharmaceutical companies and I’m NOT going to jump in line to get their latest invention. IF it was really science, I’d be all for it. But right now, they are still VERY much trial and error. You can trial and error with your child if you like on something as benign as chicken pox but personally, I’ll just give good old mother nature a chance to do what she does best.

    And to another topic. The HPV vaccine. First, why only women? It is spread by men too? Why not vaccinate them too? If you are SERIOUS about that herd immunity theory, expose your cute little cheeks to the shot too. Matter of fact, why not ONLY men? My suspicion is that the men are more likely to have multiple sexual partners than women so that would be MUCH more effective.

    “Without a requirement that all girls and young women – and, eventually, boys and young men, too – be vaccinated, HPV cannot be eradicated.” This is from Laborer’s Health and Safety Fund of North America’s website. (I won’t link so it won’t be censored.) I chose this site because it didn’t seem to have have any clear bias in the text.

    And why must this be required to go to school? I mean, are they ANTICIPATING sex AT school? I almost understand requiring chicken pox to go to school–you can get that while being in a classroom. But last I checked, sex during school was a no-no. That is so illogical it is MIND blowing.

    Finally, according to my research a whopping 3700 people die of cervical cancer each year. While I feel for each one of them, those numbers aren’t huge.

    Some antivaxxers are not anti-science. Some are comfortable with risk assessment. Statistics. Plain and simple.

    The vaccines I’ve mentioned are not worthy of being required. They are perfectly fine for people to chose to take, but don’t force them on me and mine.

    While on most subjects I think you walk on water, Phil, on this, you are leagues under the sea.

  150. MartinM

    Imagine a population where everyone smoked Kools, Parliments, and Camels. Would a study where in one segment stopped smoking Kools give us any information regarding the impact of smoking?

    As long as the rates of smoking other brands were either unchanged or controlled for, yes. Of course it would.

    This statement is simple to disprove; just provide a study wherein one population was fully vaccinated, the other was not vaccinate, and neurological outcomes were evaluated.

    No such study will ever take place; witholding potentially life-saving care is highly unethical. The methods applied to test any potential link between vaccination and autism are perfectly legitimate, and have found precisely nothing. But pseudosceptics will always argue for one more study, no matter what else is found.

  151. amphiox

    Chanda, you make a good point about the chickenpox vaccine, which is why I mentioned in a prior post that I was skeptical about it. Routine use of the HPV vaccine is also something I am not yet ready to endorse.

    Routine use of the chickenpox vaccine may even have the potential to do harm, because chickenpox is mildest in young children, and infection provides lifelong immunity, while far more severe in adults. We may end up seeing in ten or twenty years young adults vaccinated for chickenpox forgetting to get their boosters developing severe and devastating chickenpox infections.

    There is no doubt that pharmaceutical companies have been pushing some of these new vaccines on flimsy grounds for profit motive. One should not assume that just because the older vaccines are beneficial that the same routine use of newer ones will be too. This, however, is irrelevant to the autism debate. It is another issue entirely.

    It is the antivaxxer’s attacks on the old vaccines which is the problem for me. These are long established to be beneficial in preventing devastating infections, and have a proven track record of safety and endurance of immunity stretching over decades.

    (My prior comments on money issues were also in reference to these old vaccines. I was not considering the new vaccines when I made them.)

  152. HCN

    I thought this thread needed some data. It is interesting to compare the difference in just 50 years. So I went to the CDC Pink Book and compiled some of the numbers. The underscores to help keep the table format, since blog software tends to collapse spaces.

    Numbers from:
    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/appdx-full-g.pdf

    This is for pertussis:
    Year____Cases____Deaths__Year____Cases____Deaths
    2000_____7867______ 12___1950___120718____1118
    2001_____7580______ 17___1951____68687_____951
    2002_____9771______ 18___1952____45030_____402
    2003____11647______ 11___1953____37129_____270
    2004____25827______ 27___1954____60886_____373
    2005____25616______ 39___1955____62786_____467
    2006____15632______ 16___1956____31732_____266
    Total__103940______140__________426968____3847

    The death figures for 2004 through 2006 are from the pertussis slide set of the CDC Pink Book (where the above appendix is from, sticking to the one URL limit), Slide 9. Of the 82 deaths from pertussis during 2004 through 2006, 69 were of infants under the age of three months, while the remaining 13 were older than three months.

    Now for tetanus:
    Year____Cases____Deaths__Year____Cases____Deaths
    2000_______35______ 5____1950_____486_____336
    2001_______37______ 5____1951_____506_____394
    2002_______25______ 5____1952_____484_____360
    2003_______20______ 4____1953_____506_____337
    2004_______34______ NA___1954_____524_____332
    2005_______27______ NA___1955_____462_____265
    2006_______41______ NA___1956_____468_____246
    Total_____219______19 or more____3436____2270

    Now for measles:
    Year____Cases____Deaths__Year____Cases____Deaths
    2000_______86______ 1____1950___319124____468
    2001______116______ 1____1951___530118____683
    2002_______44______ 0____1952___683077____618
    2003_______56______ 1____1953___449146____462
    2004_______37______ NA___1954___682720____518
    2005_______66______ NA___1955___555156____345
    2006_______55______ NA___1956___611936____530
    Total_____460______3 or more___3831277___3624

    Now for mumps (no data before 1960):
    Year____Cases____Deaths
    2000______338______ 2
    2001______266______ 0
    2002______270______ 1
    2003______231______ 0
    2004______258______ NA
    2005______314______ NA
    2006_____6584______ NA
    Total____8261______3 or more

    Total of cases of those four disease over the seven year period of 2000 though 2006 is 112880, with at least 165 deaths. This does not include the 16 cases of Congenital Rubella Syndrome listed in the table for the years 2000 through 2006.

    Now if we eliminated the DTaP and the MMR we will go back to the numbers that are listed for the 1950s (the return of pertussis is already happening, and measles and mumps have returned to Japan and the UK, the USA is not far behind). The number of measles cases were in the millions for the seven year period fifty years ago, with deaths of over 3500.

    During the years 1950 to 1956 for the three diseases that there is data, the total cases were 4261681 with at least 9741 deaths. And I left out polio.

    So do we really want to go back to the “good ol’ days” of no DTaP or MMR vaccines?

  153. isles

    Dr. Unkenoaf – The link, discovered last year, between HPV and head/neck cancers is one good reason for using it in men.

  154. Wounded King

    @Brian Hodges

    2. The anti-vax camp tells us that the only documented cases of polio in the last 20 years or so have been as a direct result of the vaccine. Basically the only people who got the disease were kids who had just gotten the vaccine or younger children in the same house had not yet been immunized against it.

    Do you mean just in the US? There was a small outbreak in an amish community in Minnesota in 2005. I don’t know whether you would consider it a ‘direct’ result of vaccination but the strain was one derived from the oral polio vaccine. The initial patient was an immune-deficient 7 month old but the strain had diverged significantly from the oral strain, suggesting it had been circulating for at least 2 years before the infant was infected. There were also a number of other children in the community who were infected. For more details see the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MWWR), which I would link to if links with posts weren’t being eaten, the report’s pubmed ID is 16237378 .

    So does the strain being vaccine derived make it a ‘direct’ result?

    Outside the US there was an outbreak in the Netherlands in 1992 that led to 71 paralytic cases. Again this occurred in a religious population that rejected vaccination. I have seen some anti-vax claims try and link this to vaccination ( http://www.whale.to/vaccines/polio7.html ) but as far as I can tell there is absolutely no reason not to think it was wild polio virus (Mulders et al, 1995, pubmed ID 8586711 ).

    It sounds to me that the anti-vax line that it is only in ‘kids who had just gotten the vaccine or younger children in the same house had not yet been immunized against it’ is just a lie, even if you only consider the US.

    Cheers,

    WK

    P.S. apologies if this ends up being some sort of double post, I tried a version with links in before.

  155. passionlessDroene

    Hi HCN –

    Nice job with the statistics, but I do think that it makes clear an unintended side effect of mass vaccinations; making things like measles more deadly.

    Take a look at the death ratios in the 50’s. It was about one in a thousand. In the 2000’s, it approaches one in a hundred. Has measles itself suddenly gotten more dangerous? No. But the people who do get exposed to it now are more likely to be adults who have a poorer immune response. In the past, getting measles as a child left you with true life long immunity.

    It occurs to me that in an important way, we are boxed into continuing measles vaccinations precisely because we now have a large population of adults who are particularly succeptible to actually encountering the virus.

    An interesting component that hand’t occurred to me previously.

    – pD

  156. passionlessDroene

    Hi MartinM –

    As long as the rates of smoking other brands were either unchanged or controlled for, yes. Of course it would.

    Hm. If instead of having three brands of cigarettes, we had twenty, and removed one, what does that do to the needs of our statistical model in order to determine come to valid conclusions? Likewise, if the types of cigarettes differed widely in terms of content; i.e., some filtered, some not, some were cloves, would this have any impact on our ability to draw conclusions?

    No such study will ever take place; witholding potentially life-saving care is highly unethical.

    Your argument is based on the false premise that such populations do not already exist to be evaluated. Considering that it is a matter of labor to identify such people, we need not worry ourselves of the ethical choices people have already made for themselves.

    – pD

  157. Brian Hodges

    @passionlessDrone

    Take a look at the death ratios in the 50’s. It was about one in a thousand. In the 2000’s, it approaches one in a hundred. Has measles itself suddenly gotten more dangerous? No. But the people who do get exposed to it now are more likely to be adults who have a poorer immune response. In the past, getting measles as a child left you with true life long immunity.

    That’s a very good point. And is one of my own personal biggest reasons for still being on the anti-vax side of the fence. There’s part of me that actually worries that my kids, because of mass immunization, WON’T have the chance to be exposed to diseases like measels and such, in the natural way, while they’re still young. If you catch it in the natural way it seems like, sure you may increase the statistics of the number of CASES, but the detrimental effects of the disease won’t hurt you as badly… compared to if you got immunized and then your immunity wore off and you got the same disease as an adult.

  158. Todd W.

    @passionlessDroene and Brian Hodges

    The problem with making conclusions based on the statistics shown by HCN is that it does not show the age range breakdown for the cases or the deaths, so you cannot conclude that the more recent cases or deaths were in adults. Furthermore, you cannot see whether the cases or deaths occurred in those who were vaccinated or unvaccinated.

    Your arguments about those statistics are flawed, unless you have some other evidence to support your contentions.

  159. passionlessDroene

    Hi Todd W –

    Your arguments about those statistics are flawed, unless you have some other evidence to support your contentions.

    Why not just look at the rest of the world? There are still large swaths of the developing world where there is no measles vaccination efforts in place.

    If what we are experiencing here is a result in increased danger from the virus, as opposed to changes in the populations succeptibility, shouldn’t the death rate from measles be more like one in a hundred in places where measles vaccination is not in place?

    – pD

  160. Todd W.

    @passionlessDroene

    Not necessarily. There are a couple factors to keep in mind.

    First, the state of medical care. Is there a medical care facility reasonably close to all inhabitants? Does the facility have the tools and training to deal with measles (or other preventable infectious diseases) cases? Does the state of medical care allow for responsive, timely treatment?

    Second, the patients involved in those cases. What are the ages of the patients in those cases? What are their overall health statuses? Were they healthy or did they have other underlying conditions? Did they or their family/friends seek out treatment? Were they able to get treatment in a timely manner?

    Third, the state of medical reporting. Any statistics gathered are only going to be representative of populations that actually seek out treatment and where the medical facilities/researchers keep accurate records. If people are contracting the disease, but are not seeking treatment, their case will likely not be reported, and, if they succumb to the disease, their death will pass unattributed to the disease, as far as the statistics go.

    For all we know, those 3 deaths from measles between 2000 and 2006 may have been infants who had not received any vaccinations and for whom medical treatment was not delivered in time to save them. It may also have been adults who had never been exposed to either the disease or the vaccine.

    To look at those statistics and make the leap to the claim that measles in the US is more dangerous…that’s just not supported. All you have is a hypothetical or guess. Without knowing the details of the cases, it’s impossible to say if they are out of the ordinary or if they were more virulent/dangerous strains.

  161. Brian Hodges

    @ Todd W.

    The problem with making conclusions based on the statistics shown by HCN is that it does not show the age range breakdown for the cases or the deaths, so you cannot conclude that the more recent cases or deaths were in adults. Furthermore, you cannot see whether the cases or deaths occurred in those who were vaccinated or unvaccinated.

    You’re absolutely right and here again is one of my frustrations in trying to get to the bottom of this issue. Statistics don’t lie by they can confuse. Even with this one chart given by HCN. HCN used it to forward a PRO-vax idea (i think) and then PD used the very same data to forward an ANTI-vax idea. The fact is, you’re right, by stats alone you have no idea how old any of these cases were, whether they had been vaxed or not, or what their state of health had been BEFORE they came down with measles. Perhaps they had other immuno deficiencies that made them more prone to getting the disease. Perhaps they were the beacon of good health. That’s why stats drive me nuts, or more appropriately the people on BOTH sides who think they tell the whole story.

    As an example, something the anti-vax crowd does that drives me crazy is when they mention an outbreak and say that 95 percent of the people who got sick had been vaccinated! Sounds pretty damning until you remember well duh, the majority of the people in this country HAVE been vaccinated, so of course there’s going to be higher numbers of them. What they probably don’t tell you is that ONE HUNDRED percent (or some other high number) of NON-vaccinated people probably got the disease, which kind of turns those stats on their heads. I’m ON their side and even I can see the misleading nature of their stats.

  162. Todd W.

    @Brian Hodges

    Cool! We agree on something!

  163. HCN

    I’m confused… Is it conceivable that pD thinks that it is a good thing to have a lower percentage of people dying from measles just because it was a time when everyone got infected, even though the deaths numbered in the hundreds (at a time when the US population was much less than it is now)? He does not think preventing measles is a good thing, and that we would be better off withOUT a measles vaccine?

    Even still, those numbers do not reflect what happened to those that survived, from http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/160/3/302 …”Approximately 1 in 1000 children with clinical measles develops encephalitis. Although most children with encephalitis recover without sequelae, approximately 15% die and 25% of survivors develop complications such as MR. We assumed that approximately 1 in 5000 cases of measles leads to MR.”

  164. passionlessDroene

    Hi Todd W –

    First, the state of medical care. Is there a medical care facility reasonably close to all inhabitants? Does the facility have the tools and training to deal with measles (or other preventable infectious diseases) cases? Does the state of medical care allow for responsive, timely treatment?

    You are missing the forest because of the trees. Unless medical care facilities have gotten worse since the 50’s, we should see the opposite, improvement of outcome. Likewise, if you would like to argue that there is the possibility that medical facility accessibility is better in Burma than in America, that is a very difficult argument to make.

    Second, the patients involved in those cases. What are the ages of the patients in those cases? What are their overall health statuses? Were they healthy or did they have other underlying conditions? Did they or their family/friends seek out treatment? Were they able to get treatment in a timely manner?

    This could have an impact; but what reason do we have to believe that the groups of people catching measles now are different than those catching it in the 1950s? Articles on the latest ‘outbreak’ indicate that about 1/4 of the people who got measles were infants to young to vaccinate.

    Third, the state of medical reporting. Any statistics gathered are only going to be representative of populations that actually seek out treatment and where the medical facilities/researchers keep accurate records. If people are contracting the disease, but are not seeking treatment, their case will likely not be reported, and, if they succumb to the disease, their death will pass unattributed to the disease, as far as the statistics go.

    If reporting is inaccurate, and this is responsible for the changes, we have a situation where the old values were off by a factor of ten; people have been dying at ten times (conservatively) the rate, for forever, and we just haven’t been tracking it appropriately. If I am guilty of hypthosizing, then this is a pretty big one too.

    What is to keep someone from turning this argument on its head; and claim that the ‘old’ values from the developing world, and the 1950’s are inaccurate, and therefore we cannot gauge the danger of a non vaccinated population efficiently? I am not making this argument, but there does seem to be a tendency to trust records selectively in this kind of discussion. Tough one.

    For all we know, those 3 deaths from measles between 2000 and 2006 may have been infants who had not received any vaccinations and for whom medical treatment was not delivered in time to save them. It may also have been adults who had never been exposed to either the disease or the vaccine

    Fair enough. Doesn’t this still mandate a highly unusual clustering of measles in the 2000 population as compared to 1950 populations, however? The information we have is incomplete.

    All you have is a hypothetical or guess. Without knowing the details of the cases, it’s impossible to say if they are out of the ordinary or if they were more virulent/dangerous strains.

    OK. But what isn’t hypothetical is that getting the measles as an adult is much more dangerous than as a child (but perhaps, not quite as dangerous as getting it as an infant). What also is not hypothetical is that natural immunity from getting the measles does not require a booster shot; once you survived the original measles infection, your immune system developed a robust response; one that was frequently triggered by additional natural exposure because everyone was getting it.

    We have disrupted a balance that has existed for tens of thousands of years in a very short span; with laudable goals and wild success when viewed in terms of immediate reduction in sickness and death. The bottom line is that getting measles as an adult is very dangerous; this is not something that has been a worry until the recent past; or perhaps, sometime in the future.

    BTW – I do not consider myself (‘anti vax’), but do consider the science regarding autism / vaccines incomplete at this time. I am mostly of the opinion that we are not nearly as smart as we think we are in terms of modifications to the very complicated interactions of the immune system and the environment; but that the immediately observable success in terms of disease erradication has blinded us to the possibility of unforseen, and potentially very harmful effects, of breakneck speed additions to the vaccine schedule. I include myself in this categorization of not being all that smart.

    I appreciate the civility of your arguements.

    – pD

  165. Todd W.

    @passionlessDroene

    “I appreciate the civility of your arguements.”

    Likewise.

    One other thought I just had regarding those statistics, is that they don’t show what kinds of complications, if any, arose in these cases.

    I do agree, though, that we do not know everything, and I don’t think anyone is claiming that we do. However, regarding the autism-vaccine thing, the anti-vax contingent appears very sure in their conviction that there is a clear connection. The abundance of well-designed research, however, has yet to find any such clear connection. Because this lack of connection keeps building up, the likelihood that there is a strong connection gets smaller and smaller. There may be some rare cases where vaccines play a role, but they certainly aren’t the spectre that the anti-vax contingent make them out to be.

    “But what isn’t hypothetical is that getting the measles as an adult is much more dangerous than as a child (but perhaps, not quite as dangerous as getting it as an infant).”

    I don’t think anyone here is disputing that. And actually, in a well-vaccinated population, where measles is unlikely to occur and spread thanks to herd immunity, a lapse in vaccination suddenly poses a big risk to those adults who have not been immunized. So, while it is possible, though unlikely with proper health care, for the protection of a vaccine to wear off, the potential harm is greater from such lapses.

    Another aspect that I haven’t really seen brought up, yet, is the social and financial burden of treating measles. With a vaccine, this is kept to a minimum. No time missed from school/work. Fewer beds taken up in hospitals due to outbreaks, making more room and resources available for other, non-preventable conditions. This also affects insurance costs, by keeping payments for measles treatments down. There is a pretty big ripple effect through many aspects of society, besides just potential individual benefits from natural infection.

  166. passionlessDroene

    Hi Todd W –

    However, regarding the autism-vaccine thing, the anti-vax contingent appears very sure in their conviction that there is a clear connection.

    Agreed and this is ultimately not useful, IMO. Likewise the singleminded focus on mercury, I think, is not fruitful as a straight up cause of autism. I do think we have some evidence that it may be worse for kids with autism than without, but not as a causal mechanism.

    There may be some rare cases where vaccines play a role, but they certainly aren’t the spectre that the anti-vax contingent make them out to be

    We are in agreement on this. My position is also that the number of affirmative cases is likely larger than the ‘pro vax’ contingent makes them out to be.

    I do agree, though, that we do not know everything, and I don’t think anyone is claiming that we do.

    The OP here claims quite clearly that the science on autism and vaccination is conclusive. “It has been shown, conclusively, that no such link exists.” Patently untrue; especially considering the quality of the existing research. To paraphrase a quote I’ve seen quite often, the plura of poor research is not good research.

    The abundance of well-designed research, however, has yet to find any such clear connection.

    I would have to disagree with you that the research thus far, has been well designed. Two of the largest studies, from Denmark, included wild diagnostic changes over the course of the study; and indeed, the authors acknowledge that this may have artificially inflated the rates during the analysis timeframe. The large CDC report also involved changing criteria, a mysterious loss of a source information, without which a linear relationship was found, and some very debatable dataset aggregations.

    And again, most importantly, they are a matter of testing single immune challenges, or single ingredients in an environment comprised of many immune challenges, many ingredients, and staggered timing of vaccinations. Because crafting a study to take this kind of thing into account is difficult does not, in my mind, mean it should not be undertaken.

    I will also be first in line to admit that most (all?) of the studies purporting to show a relationship are of poor quality, and often times, written by individuals with financial interests. I generally don’t trust anyone.

    Fun discussion. Take care!

    – pD

  167. Chanda

    Well and there is another much more extreme thing to consider. Actually a couple. Yes I realize this is “off the deep end” stuff but where else but here is a good place for a mental exercise?

    IF (and this is a point I don’t wish to debate HERE) global warming occurs who knows what the ultimate impact of that could be. I can imagine, though I’m hoping this is ludicrous, another dark age. In that circumstance, all the people without their booster shots are, um, *vulnerable* to put it politely. Yeah this is way out there but history shows weirder things have happened. Who in ancient Rome would have ever imagined the colossally backward step humanity took during the middle ages? Amazing amounts of knowledge were lost not to be recovered for hundreds of years. And it seems to me, the more you have, the more you have to loose.

    I just REALLY believe that we should intervene as little as possible with these complex systems until we know sooooo much more. I SEE value in the small pox vaccine. I see value in the polio vaccine. But measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc. seem like we are tinkering too much. Death of a few is not the end of the world. It is terrible for those who suffer yes but I feel like we are sacrificing our TRUE herd immunity.

    Which brings me to another point that lingers in the back of my mind . . .
    I have heard theories that the reason why Africa is hard hit by AIDS (one reason of course because clearly there are many factors here) is that it, meaning Africa, never experienced the Bubonic plague like Europe did. There is genetic evidence that the odd person who was exposed to the plague and did not die from it had mutant genes which were (through our beloved survival of the fittest theory) passed down to the next generation. And that same mutant gene is protecting some people which DO have sexual relations with AIDS patients from acquiring the disease. And thus preventing such rampant spreading of the disease in that tested stock of genes. We have seen this phenomenon in the past, colonialist destroying the natives with help from disease is a perfect example. It does happen. Whether the AIDS/Bubonic plague theory is definitely true or not is not really important.

    What if we are suppressing this same process now just to expose ourselves to the next plague that our immune system has no capability to fight it with? And what if, at that time in history, we are going through a scientific drought (as mentioned above) where our ability to react quickly is hampered.

    Mother nature has this all worked out if we don’t tweak it too much. I just wonder why we are SO terrified of losing hundreds of people (out of MILLIONS) to diseases. Sure it is preventable but at what cost? We think evolution is the greatest thing ever but we fight it tooth and nail. It is really ironic, I mean truly ironic, that the “fundamentalists” that don’t subscribe to Darwin’s theories are the exact ones that will be the Darwinian experimentalists in this situation.

    If you want to prevent unnecessary deaths, lets focus on safer transportation (talk about deaths in the 10 of thousands!), cleaning up the environment (another system we ought to tinker with just a tiny bit less), etc. Notice war is not on my list. I’m afraid war might be evolutionarily important to our species. Sigh.

    Or at least let those of us (people WITH our brains engaged whether you want to believe it or not) participate in this little experiment called life a little differently than you’d like to. Some day you might even thank us.

    I trust you enough to let you take your vaccines, and advance the science, if you want to. I’m completely comfortable with the concept that I might be wrong. It is being right that I’m afraid of.

    Diversity–embrace it. It is the statistical answer to our unsolved problems.

  168. Wonk411

    @passionlessDroene
    One further possible confounder is that the choice not to vaccinate might be correlated with a choice not to seek prompt medical care if both choices emanate from a distrust of doctors and/or science. As a purely hypothetical example, suppose a large proportion of the incidence and of the deaths correlate with a belief in so-called ‘christian science.’

  169. Chanda

    “Articles on the latest ‘outbreak’ indicate that about 1/4 of the people who got measles were infants to young to vaccinate.”

    You know this worries me a lot. And I think the solution is to recognize the vulnerability of our infants. A TEMPORARY vulnerability. We should keep infants OUT of daycare. OUT of pediatrician offices except for infant offices and even then as little as possible. We need to recognize that children need to be apart from society for a while. It is theorized that humans gestation is really 18mo but our heads became so large that we are born before we are fully ready. Just give the baby a chance to finish developing before thrusting them out into the world. Keep them CLOSE to mom and dad.

    I just want to SHOUT: HOW did those babies get exposed?

    It is a short 4mo or so when they are really really vulnerable. Why can’t we just slow down and care for these children properly? AT HOME with BREASTMILK. I don’t give a flying flip how much work is missed or what people imagine will happen to their overvalued boobs. GET OVER IT. Either you want to care for your children or you don’t. 4mo months. This should be important enough to get right.

    Ok, I’m going to stop here because this conversation has be wonderfully civil. And I’m not going to help the conversation flow by shouting. :)

    Carry on.

  170. wewillfixit

    Apologies if these points have already been made, I haven’t had time to read the whole thread.

    Firstly a point directed to those who think it isn’t a prblem for anyone except those who choose not to vaccinate. Actually other people not vaccinating a a problem for several groups of people – especially if the numbers of them become great enough that herd immunity breaks down. It is a problem for babies too young to get the relevant vaccine. It is a problem for those who have the vaccine but do not get immune from it (no vaccine is 100% successful) and finally it is a problem for those children who cannot be vaccinated. My niece has recently had a heart ransplant, so has to take immunosuppressants. This means she cannot get live vaccines like MMR and it would be particularly dangerous for her if there were to be an outbreak of measles in her vicinity. Luckily she lives in a part of the UK where MMR vaccination levels are high.

    Another point directed to those who think that multiple vaccines overload the immune system. In actual fact, even though we are vaccinating against more diseases than in the past, we are actually using fewer antigens (the part of the vaccine which stimulates the immune response) in these vaccines than was previously the case.

  171. HCN

    Chandra said “I just want to SHOUT: HOW did those babies get exposed?”

    The latest babies to be infected in San Diego, CA with measles were waiting at a doctor’s waiting room when an unimmunized kid infected with measles in Switzerland went to the doctor. Some of the babies were younger siblings of the unimmunized classmates of the charter school of the same family who imported measles from Switzerland. These babies were all too young to be vaccinated with the MMR, which is given after they turn a year old.

    It does not matter if their mothers were staying at home when they were at least four months old, the MMR is still given only after one year of age. Plus even if a mother stays home, the baby still needs to be seen for well baby checks. Plus, it doesn’t help when older siblings bring home the infection.

    I’d link to the article, but one of my comments is still in moderation with one link. Just check out the news stories on the measles outbreak in San Diego caused by one family after a trip to Switzerland.

  172. HCN

    Chandra said “. OUT of pediatrician offices except for infant offices and even then as little as possible.”

    Do those kind of infant medical care clinics actually exist?

  173. passionlessDroene

    Hi HCN –

    I’m confused… Is it conceivable that pD thinks that it is a good thing to have a lower percentage of people dying from measles just because it was a time when everyone got infected, even though the deaths numbered in the hundreds (at a time when the US population was much less than it is now)? He does not think preventing measles is a good thing, and that we would be better off withOUT a measles vaccine?

    First off, the thing that ought to scare you is that it is a much higher percentage of people who got measles that actually died. Incidence decreased; virulence increased.

    If we want to have a realistic discussion over the risks and benefits of a global vaccination program, we have to understand all of the risks; not just those that are evident within the three week timeframe covered by most adverse event tracking systems. Do you disagree?

    It isn’t about the percentage of people who died; it is also very clearly about the ratio of people that got infected. Take a look at what happened in 1988 – 1990; one quarter of those infected and fatailities were adults. Likewise, infants under one year of age comprised a quarter of the cases. This is much, much different than what we see in developing countries. Why? Because once infected, an adult has true lifelong immunity, but immunity via vaccination wanes over time. A mother who is naturally infected provides protection to her child much longer than a mother who was vaccinated.

    We have created a population of super succeptible adults for whom measles is much more dangerous than children. Likewise, mass vaccination has resulted in a population of infants less than a year old who carry less protection from their mothers when compared to mothers who were naturally infected. None of these things were considered at the time the measles vaccination program was implemented, and in fact, it has taken an entire generation for some of them to become understood. The position of many of the ‘pro vax’ side of this argument is that we can quantify the risks and benefits of continuous additions to the vaccine schedule; my position is that we aren’t nearly that clever, this is just an example of some of the unintended consequences of our actions. I, for one, don’t beleive for a single second this is the last one we will figure out.

    I am simply recognizing the facts.

    FYI- I think comments are being lost, deleted, or taking a long time to post.

    – pD

  174. passionlessDrone

    Hi Wewillfixit –

    Another point directed to those who think that multiple vaccines overload the immune system. In actual fact, even though we are vaccinating against more diseases than in the past, we are actually using fewer antigens (the part of the vaccine which stimulates the immune response) in these vaccines than was previously the case.

    The most tired, over used, and gross over simplification of an argument in the defense of the current schedule is that of ‘reduced antigens’. Take a look at the information provided by the oft quoted Paul Offit in regards to antigen levels in, “Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?”

    What you will see is that the ‘reduction’ in antigens is comprised in reductions in a single vaccine, the move to the DTaP vaccine. Then take a look at the abstract I posted above, “Modulation of the infant immune responses by the first pertussis vaccine administrations”, wherein researchers found that children getting DTaP showed a distinct shift in their immune system cytokine production when getting DTaP vs DTP.

    What are the potential complications of such a shift? No one knows! But we do know that we have exposed chidren to fewer antigens. Whew!

    But hey, maybe I’m off base. Can you provide some insight into how we can adequately judge the risks of increasing pro inflammatory cytokine production in infants versus a reduction in antigen exposure?

    – pD

  175. Todd W.

    @passionlessDroene

    Quick note on comments: if you have a hyperlink in your post, it will get held up for moderation. I’m not sure, but I think that Phil is the one who checks them and approves them, to make sure that there isn’t any NSFW content and such before letting them through. And, with him in the Galapagos right now, it might be a couple days before the posts appear. Then again, someone from Discover might moderate them.

    “Incidence decreased; virulence increased.”

    Minor note, but just looking at the numbers of cases and deaths, you cannot conclude this. You would actually need to do a lab assay of the particular virus involved in the outbreak/cases to determine if it was indeed more virulent. There are a number of factors, as has already been pointed out, that can affect what is behind the numbers. Try not to jump to conclusions based solely on the statistics HCN posted.

    I would agree that having a vaccination program in place for MMR (or even just measles) results in greater potential harm for an unvaccinated adult (or one where the vaccine was not effective). Against that, though, I would weigh the risk of actually getting the disease. If vaccination rates are kept high, then that risk is actually quite small.

    Also, we shouldn’t just be looking at death as a determining factor for vaccinating or not. What are the complications involved with the diseases? What impact do they have, not only for the individual patient, but also for the greater society around them? The reality is that a lot of these disease, while carrying a pretty decent risk of death, more often have complications that are debilitating, rather than fatal. And yes, the number of people that get through unscathed is going to be higher than those who get complications. However, what is the relative risk of complications from the disease vs. complications from the vaccine? Safety studies on the vaccines indicate that the risk of adverse effects is significantly lower than the risk for complications from the disease being prevented.

    No one who has a brain to think will say that vaccines are 100% safe. Nor will they conclude that we know everything there is to know about vaccines and the diseases they prevent. We know a lot, though, and we continue to increase that knowledge. We will continue to advance, just as we will continue to miss something in the big picture. But our medical progress has been much more “two steps forward, one step back” than “one step forward, two steps back”.

  176. HCN

    Todd W. said “Also, we shouldn’t just be looking at death as a determining factor for vaccinating or not. What are the complications involved with the diseases?”

    Which is why I attempted to post a link to a study on the impact of medical interventions on levels of mental disabilities, which is held up in moderation (forgetting that all of those JREF folks are cruising and partying off the South American coast). It is:
    Impact of Specific Medical Interventions on Reducing the Prevalence of Mental Retardation
    Jeffrey P. Brosco, MD, PhD; Michael Mattingly, BS; Lee M. Sanders, MD, MPH
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:302-309.

    It states “Approximately 1 in 1000 children with clinical measles develops encephalitis. Although most children with encephalitis recover without sequelae, approximately 15% die and 25% of survivors develop complications such as MR. We assumed that approximately 1 in 5000 cases of measles leads to MR.”

    Another article looks at the costs of hospitalization and dealing with disabilities from selected vaccine preventable diseases:
    Economic Evaluation of the 7-Vaccine Routine Childhood Immunization Schedule in the United States, 2001
    Fangjun Zhou, PhD; Jeanne Santoli, MD, MPH; Mark L. Messonnier, PhD; Hussain R. Yusuf, MBBS, MPH; Abigail Shefer, MD; Susan Y. Chu, PhD, MSPH; Lance Rodewald, MD; Rafael Harpaz, MD, MPH
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159:1136-1144.

    In the 1950s specialized schools and institutes for the deaf, blind and other disabilities were very common. They have almost all closed. There is a bit in the book “Train Go Sorry” by Leah Hager Cohen that discusses this. One thing that filled up those schools was the rubella epidemic in the early 1960s, an event that precipitated the reason for the book “Deaf Like Me” by the Spradley brothers. Some of the institutions that housed disabled children were used to test vaccines, which is discussed in both “Polio, An American Story” by David M. Oshinsky and the biography of Maurice Hilleman, “Vaccinated” by Paul Offit. Since I am avoiding URLs, just look for “Willowbrook State School for the Retarded” and “Fernald School for the Mentally Retarded”.

    Though, I am sure with pD’s logic vaccination has made us stronger against tetanus, since the survival rate went from less than 50% to 75%, and the odds were even better for pertussis.

  177. Josh

    Don’t be so hard on the anti-vaxers. As other people have said they have SUCCEEDED in making vaccines safer for everyone.

    Second point, perhaps they aren’t reasoning properly, but ya know what? Their generation (mine) lost an average of 5 IQ points to the chemical they were worried about – Ethel Mercury. I don’t get where this “Trust us ethel is safe” comes from. That is an unproved assertion that sounds more and more like a lie or like incompetence or like misplaced trust. It is something that came out of a twisted self poisoned chemist’s mouth in previous generations.

    Ethel mercury has a history here in America. We used to have it as gasoline additive. It went from there to all of our environment to eventually into a generation’s bloodstream. It’s sad that we went through so much work to clean it up and outlaw its use only to find it directly injected into another generation. There is a reason the FDA had guidelines for it. If it’s not safe for gasoline – is it safe for a kid’s bloodstream? There is a corporation in my city named Ethyl, they are not allowed to sell their product here in the USA but like true amoral scum they sell it and consult to all these third world countries, showing them that a lack of engine knock and some milage efficiency for backward motors is totally worth sacrificing an environment and a generation of healthy brains. Trust us – ethel is safe.

    Third point, do you know the whole schedule of recommended vaccines for your state? There are classic effective vaccines like the MMR series and then there are newer questionable ones. Chicken pox? What else? How about instead of recommended lets have, required, essential and non-essential schedules?

    Last point, what is heard immunity? Is that what we were going for? The point of vaccines is for individual immunity isn’t it? I have vaccinated my child (full schedule). I believe in vaccines as much as you, especially the older well tested generation. I’m outraged when there are outbreaks. When an unvaccinated child spreads a nearly extinct disease to babies and young day care kids before they were supposed to get their shots. It’s totally tragic when that happens, it is disgusting. But you know what there is another story going around (and supposed to make me take angry at the anti-vaxers) the story is unvaccinated kids spreading disease to vaccinated kids? WTF is going on there? Are these vaccines effective or not? Do they work or not? What has happened to medicine if our vaccines are not working?

  178. passionlessDrone

    Hi HCN –

    Though, I am sure with pD’s logic vaccination has made us stronger against tetanus, since the survival rate went from less than 50% to 75%, and the odds were even better for pertussis.

    It is precisely this type of gross over simplification that causes people to believe that studying children who got the MMR versus those that did not can give us valuable information as to the impact on an entire battery of immune insults. It is also why I am becoming increasingly skeptical.

    Presumbaly you are aware of the differences in transmission between tetanus and measles? Likewise, are there any differences in health outcome of getting pertussis for an adult versus an infant?

    There is no doubt that measles vaccination has resulted in large scale reductions in hospitilizations; but I’ve never argued against that point. My only point, in regards to measles vaccination and the values you posted is that mass vaccination has created an adult population with a dangerously different immune profile than the adult populations of the last forty thousand years. We have clinical analysis to prove this point, as well as much larger populations that seem to confirm this.

    What is so funny is that I’m being painted as ‘anti vax’ for this thread, but the conclusion I am coming to is that a continued vaccination for measles is absolutely essential; not because it will cause us to return to the bad old days of the 1950’s, but instead, to a much, much worse place, where measles strikes young and old alike, as a result of our actions.

    Until we perform quality studies comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations; how can we hope to understand if our tinkering, regardless of the observable short term benifits, is having other, unintended effects?

    – pD

  179. passionlessDrone

    Hi Todd W –

    There are a number of factors, as has already been pointed out, that can affect what is behind the numbers. Try not to jump to conclusions based solely on the statistics HCN posted.

    If ever posted through moderation, we have much larger population sets, as well as clinical analysis that speaks well to my points.

    I would agree that having a vaccination program in place for MMR (or even just measles) results in greater potential harm for an unvaccinated adult (or one where the vaccine was not effective). Against that, though, I would weigh the risk of actually getting the disease. If vaccination rates are kept high, then that risk is actually quite small.

    I’d add adults whose immunization wanes to your list, but OK. The kicker is your last sentence.

    Safety studies on the vaccines indicate that the risk of adverse effects is significantly lower than the risk for complications from the disease being prevented.

    In the short term, I would definitely agree with you. If we want to understand the risks over time horizons beyond several weeks, this gets increasingly complicated; especially if we never look.

    We will continue to advance, just as we will continue to miss something in the big picture. But our medical progress has been much more “two steps forward, one step back” than “one step forward, two steps back”.

    We are in agreement!

    – pD

  180. Josh

    I had posted earlier and had a great rant. Unfortunately in my rant I confused Ethyl Mercury with the old gasoline additive Tetra Ethyl Lead. Not quite the same thing.

    I’m sorry, I was wrong, all that.

    My point still stands that the authorities who say ethyl is safe creep me out. They are making an assertion and don’t have toxicology to back it up. If they were honest they would say “We think ethyl mercury is safe” and if we were diligent we would reply, prove it.

  181. Wounded King

    @Josh

    No vaccine is 100% effective. There is always going to be a risk that any given individual, despite their vaccination status, may contract an infection when they come into contact with it. You say ..

    But you know what there is another story going around (and supposed to make me take angry at the anti-vaxers) the story is unvaccinated kids spreading disease to vaccinated kids? WTF is going on there? Are these vaccines effective or not? Do they work or not? What has happened to medicine if our vaccines are not working?

    Medicine advocates widespread immunisation precisely because it is recognised that vaccines are not 100% effective. The point is not to just protect immunised individuals but to protect whole populations and effectively eradicate the disease. What has happened to medicine is that people have ignored it and decided that they know better.

    The principle benefit of herd immunity is that it reduces the rate at which an infection can spread, up to the point of effectively halting that spread. It therefore affords a significant degree of protection to individuals who have not yet been, or for some reason cannot be, vaccinated or those in whom the response to vaccination was weaker and who have a lower degree of resistance. It also drastically reduces the scope for mutation in the disease vector by not allowing it a large pool of unvaccinated individuals to circulate in.

    Cheers,

    WK

  182. Todd W.

    @Josh

    I’ll add a couple notes to what Wounded King said. As far as the unvaccinated transmitting diseases to the vaccinated, what we don’t hear is whether the “vaccinated” had received the full series of shots for that disease. If they had not yet received their followup shots, they are very likely to have been susceptible, still.

    Also, you said that the anti-vaxers have succeeded in making vaccines safer. I would question that assertion because I have yet to see any data suggesting a change in the safety profile of any of the vaccines from before the anti-vaxers started up to now. I’m willing to be shown, but until I see the data, I’m hedging my bets. A couple questions along those lines: What were the injuries from vaccines that occurred before? What changes resulted in the reduction of the rate or severity, or even elimination, of those injuries?

    Finally, another note on thimerosal. This chemical has a pretty long history and well-developed profile. In small quantities, it does not pose a risk to the majority of people. Yes, it is still used for some U.S. vaccines (flu) and in vaccines in other countries, particularly less developed ones, where drug storage facilities are less than adequate. In these situations, the thimerosal helps to keep the vaccines free from contaminants, like bacteria or fungi. The removal of the substance from the majority of U.S. vaccines was more of a public relations move, rather than being based on sound science. Did it make vaccines safer? For some people whose bodies cannot clear it efficiently, perhaps, but I suspect that it has had little impact on the overall safety of our vaccines.

  183. I was just forwarded an article from a friend about the dangers of mammography. I am wondering if this has the same level of believability as the anti-vaccine stuff, or if there is something to it? The crux of the argument was that the doses of radiation from mammography could potentially induce cancer since breast tissue is particularly sensitive to radiation, and mammograms only detect late stage cancer anyhow. They were advocating thermography instead. Anyone know anything about this?

    Here are some anti-mammogram links:
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/03/06/mammography-dangers.aspx
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/03/06/mammograms-part-three.aspx

  184. M. Jones

    Your anti-science. Seriously.

    To be clear, I am not against immunizations. I am against the way that they are currently manufactured, marketed and mandated. Vaccines unnecessarily contain ingredients like aluminum, formaldehyde and thimerosal. There are ways to manufacture these vaccines without these ingredients but these changes are simply are not cost effective to the pharmaceutical companies.

    Many of the vaccines are also developed from animal ingredients including cell cultures of chick embryos, monkey kidney cells, fetal bovine serum, and embryonic guinea pig cell cultures. Xenotransplantation is so controversial and moratoriums for it exist because it is a public health risk due to possible viral transmissions. Yet very few in the medical community seem concerned with the development of vaccines using animal cell cultures.

    Further, according to the manufacturers own product inserts, they have not been “evaluated or tested for their carcinogenic potential, mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility” or “reproductive capacity.” There have been no long term studies on the cumulative effect on the child’s developing immune system of combining all these vaccines together. All studies are in the short term, week and months, not years.

    As far as the mandated schedule, one serious issue I have is Hepatitis B, it is primarily transmitted through injection drug abuse and unprotected sex. Why we inject one day old infants with this vaccine is beyond me. Why we inject infants with known carcinogens, neurotoxins and cell cultures from various animals is also beyond me. The science and techniques are there for the companies to manufacture these vaccines differently. But, profit margins matter more than people apparently. And the medical community isn’t exactly taking a stand against their current practices.

    If you haven’t read it, here is Robert F. Kennedy’s Jr.’s investigation in to the government cover-up of the mercury/autism scandal. Let me guess, Robert F. Kennedy’s Jr. is anti-science too.

  185. M. Jones: you don’t have to guess. Kennedy is grossly, hugely anti-science. His rails against vaccinations are based on bad logic, bad evidence, and all manners of wrongness. Here’s a good place to start.

  186. Doctors Will Admit It

    I’m surprised that no one here has mentioned Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), which has been caused by several vaccines, most notably the 1976 Swine Flu vaccine and the current Menactra vaccine, which supposedly prevents bacterial meningitis. It is more likely that children will contract GBS from the Menactra vaccine than will die from bacterial meningitis. GBS causes ascending paralysis that can lead to respiratory failure.

    In its ad, the company that makes Menactra states that if someone has had GBS, they cannot take the vaccine. This is because it is strong enough to cause GBS, which usually goes into remission, to return.

    My daughter had GBS when she was 4. Up until then, I diligently vaccinated all my children. However, after she got GBS her doctors – experienced specialists, not just general practitioners – warned me of all the real dangers of vaccines, and told me to never vaccinate her again, and to reconsider vaccinating any of my other children. When one is no longer able to take a vaccine, doctors are surprising candid about their safety.

    GBS is rare, but it is a horrible thing to live through. Many of the diseases “prevented” by vaccines are less damaging to the body than GBS.

  187. Dave B

    I believe in the value of vaccinations but am concerned about a possible misrepresentation, in the blog above, about the capabilities of science:

    “It has been shown, conclusively, that no such link exists.”
    I am not an expert, but my understanding is that science has difficulty proving conclusivley that links between one variable and another do not exist. Often the best that can be said is that no link has been found despite extensive investigation. This might seem like a small point; however, it is important that science experts in the media help the public fully understand both the strengths and weaknesses of science.

  188. John Flushing

    In all seriousness, I find it to be both disgusting and offensive that ANY government would require a cervical cancer vaccine for ANYONE. Despite what world governments may think, not everyone is “doing it.” I for one have never even concerned myself with dating and relationships, and I know plenty of young men and women who are the same way.

    How can a person such as myself have any need for Gardasil when I am not sexually active, and never will be until the date of my wedding? For me to be sexually promiscuous before marriage would be for me to act in such a way as to violate my character, as well as to violate any and all Biblical standards of right and wrong.

    Contrary to what some politicians may think, NOT ALL teenagers are at the mercy of their hormones; furthermore, I have not been a teenager in years.

    The fact that the stereotypical teenager chooses to be in a relationship does NOT give the government the right to shove that stereotype down the throats of all teenagers. If people other than myself choose to date around/sleep around, then THOSE PEOPLE should be the ones who get vaccinated (if they get some kind of disease because they were not vaccinated, then they really have no one to blame but themselves). Those of us who remain single, on the other hand, should be LEFT ALONE.

  189. Cindy

    The question no one is asking or bringing up isn’t about whether we need vaccines. WE NEED THEM. And my thoughts on this subject are that they do indeed contribute to autism…the ones that have mercury and other toxic soup in them. But what is the REAL problem (and I DO BELIEVE this is ALL about money, PERIOD) is WHY was it that back in the 60’s and 70’s we got vaccinated…we ALL got an oral live polio and we got MMR….and whatever else was available. Then we got ONE booster shot before we went to school. NONE…I REPEAT NONE OF us got the diseases. We were and ARE protected with antibodies against these diseases. They can do a blood test on you right NOW and they will find that you are immune if you even got ONE vaccine. So then why did it change in the 80’s and 90’s that children suddenly needed three…four…five doses of these things and then boosters and then more different kinds of vaccines?? And concurrently in following years we started seeing a MAJOR spike in autism that NEVER existed. Why is NO ONE ASKING WHY SO MANY KIDS ARE SUDDENLY COMING DOWN WITH AUTISM. Instead they just give the statistics instead of asking why…and instead just saying there’s “no cure”. Um. Sorry…there IS a “conspiracy” going on with Big Pharma. Are the doctors and researchers evil? NO WAY. Are the parents?? NO WAY. But who do you think is FUNDING the education everyone gets?? Who do you think pays for the trials and “results”?? Do we need vaccines? 100 percent YES. But do we need them in the amounts given for protection?? 100 percent NO. I had my ONE dose and booster of each back in the 60’s and even NOW…YES NOW…I had blood work done and the doctor knew I was immune to the diseases. If they “lose their effectiveness over time” then why do I still have antibodies. These are the questions parents need to be asking.

  190. Autism Mom of Elias

    Have you ever really listen to Jenny McCarthy? She’s not against vaccines…She just wants them to be safe. It is a scientific fact that there are toxins in these vaccines, right? Why can’t we make them safe? These children with autism are physically sick. The scientific community doesn’t have any answers for us, therefore, we have to look somewhere else to find the answers to help our babies. Once we get our children to physically feel better, their autisic behaviours improve. What’s making them so sick? Can we please find a way to test our babies to make sure they have strong immune systems before we inoculate them? Is this so ‘loony’?

    I know if you don’t have a child with autism, it’s going to be hard for you to understand where we’re coming from. Trust me, if you had a child with autism, you would be asking for answers too. But you calling us the #1 health hazzard is just as ‘loony’ as us questioning vaccines. And please, don’t call us anti-vaxxers…..Seriously, that is not what we are about. Vaccines are very important, but there are some questions that need to be answered. Until they find the gene that causes autism, we are still going to ask why?

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