Mumps outbreak in Brooklyn

By Phil Plait | December 20, 2009 10:13 am

Brooklyn, New York is suffering a large outbreak of mumps right now. There have been 600 cases either confirmed or suspected in the past few months. Compare that to the fewer than 300 cases total on average in the entire United States over the course of a whole year and you’ll see that this is clearly a major outbreak.

Interestingly, the population affected is overwhelmingly comprised of orthodox Jews. That surprised me; I didn’t know of any prohibitions against vaccinations in Jewish culture, and after some research have determined that there is none — in fact, vaccinations appear to be taken very seriously in Jewish teachings, and there have been times that rabbis have allowed people to get vaccinated even on the Sabbath! However, the report linked above indicates vaccination rates in that area of NYC are lower than the national average, about 80%. It’s not clear why.

[UPDATE: I have been informed of an article online that indicates that many of the parents did not vaccinate their children…

…because of their religious beliefs. But local religious leaders said there is nothing in Jewish law that prohibits vaccination. “That’s ridiculous,” said Rabbi David Eidensohn, a frequent Orthodox Jewish commentator on family issues. “Any parent who doesn’t get their child vaccinated is being foolish and endangering the entire community.”


A similar outbreak occurred in a Jewish community in Antwerp, Belgium in 2007-2008. In that case, a large number of the parents of unvaccinated children all went to the same physician, who "was opposed to vaccination". Nice work, doc! A vaccination campaign was quickly set up to prevent the outbreak from spreading; together with a high overall rate of vaccination in Antwerp (94%!) this appears to have worked in stemming the tide of the outbreak there.

Most vaccination rates need to be at 90% or higher to provide herd immunity — where enough people are vaccinated that the potentially infectious disease in question basically doesn’t have a place to live. Lower rates mean more people can host the bug, and an outbreak can occur. Worse, the mumps vaccine (usually given together with a measles and rubella vaccination, the so-called MMR shot) has a somewhat lower immunization rate of 80% effectiveness after one dose (that is, 80% of people receiving the shot develop immunity after that one dose — which is why two doses are recommended). That means herd rates must be higher to prevent outbreaks.

The outbreak in NYC has been traced to an infected child who was visiting the area from the UK. Vaccination rates in the UK are lower, in large part due to the antivax scare started by Andrew Wakefield and his now-discredited study linking vaccines to other illnesses. There have been over 6000 cases of mumps in the UK this year so far (not even including the last quarter of 2009) — 6000, more than twenty times the cases we get in the US, and we have five times the population here.

All those thousands of kids suffering through mumps — and potential deafness, encephalitis, meningitis, orchitis in boys, and ovarian swelling in girls — because of the antivaxxers and their misinformation campaign.

The good news here is that enough people are vaccinated in the Brooklyn area to prevent this from becoming an epidemic. It’s clear there would be many more cases if that weren’t the case.

As always, don’t listen to the lies of the antivax movement. Go to your board-certified physician an ask them about vaccinations, and do the research yourself. Get the truth.

Tip o’ the syringe to BABloggee Cristiana Senni and to arclight and geekosaur (for the update).

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience
MORE ABOUT: antivax, mumps

Comments (94)

  1. Ibeechu

    This is just ridiculous. What is this, the Dark Ages?

    All hyperbole aside, this just really frustrates me to no end. Ugh. Hopefully humanity will continue to evolve and maybe, MAYBE, in a few years or so the antivax movement will have collapsed.

  2. The question is, will this new data about outbreaks sway the anti-vaxers? Sadly, I suspect it won’t. But maybe fewer people will listen to them.

  3. Michele

    I’ve always been surprised that I haven’t gotten measles, mumps, or rubella. I’ve had the MMR vaccine 3 times now and within a couple of years of getting each one, I show no immunity. I wonder why they can’t develop a more effective vaccine?

  4. Sean

    We just had our daughter’s first series of vaccines last week. It was a great relief; I am literally breathing easier around her now that I am less likely to exhale some live virus in her vicinity that her new immune system is unprepared for. There are more shots to come, but she’s off to a good start. She cried for less than a minute after the injections (three), and slept most of the following twenty four hours. Our health insurance covered this under the regular premium!

  5. So, do we want to send the anti-vaxxers in there to do charity work on them (and make sure the anti-vaxxers are not vaccinated either)? … Man this just pisses me off!

    And don’t forget Todd’s updated verssion that I haven’t had a chance to get to…

  6. MartinM

    There have been over 6000 cases of mumps in the UK this year so far

    IIRC, that’s high enough that the expected number of deaths should be non-zero, though it depends on exactly how the cases are distributed. Not good. And all because of a few despicable liars, and a large number of gullible people who are apparently terrified by the notion that people like me exist. Bloody brilliant.

  7. pelican

    I suspect that if enough of those kids now suffering with the mumps end up sterile, this will be the last outbreak in that community. Word travels fast among the Orthodox.

    Here in Canada, there has been a huge press from the rural Northern Native Peoples for quick and comprehensive access to the H1N1 vaccine. It’s framed as a human rights issue. Those communities sure remember 1918. I wish we as a species didn’t need to rely on tragedy to change our health-related behaviors.

  8. I felt relieved to get my child the H1N1 vaccine, after about two months of calling about it. I can’t understand people who don’t want the flu vaccine, let alone polio or tetanus!

  9. Sir Eccles

    That’s one of the great things about Judaism compared to some other religions out there. Even with the Ultra Orthodox they will break the laws if it is to save life.

  10. Chris Caprette

    One of the childcare workers at our daughter’s daycare cheerfully reported that she wasn’t going to get the swine flu vaccine because she had the swine flu back in the 70’s. I pointed out to her that the current virus is different and that even if it were the same her immunity probably was incomplete. I don’t know if it sank in. Luckily, my daughter received both seasonal and swine flu vaccines, despite extreme difficulty in obtaining the latter.

  11. QuietDesperation

    I’ve always been surprised that I haven’t gotten measles, mumps, or rubella.

    I caught everything as a kid. Thank goodness for vaccinations or I don’t think I’d have lived past age 4. I don’t think I even had an immune system until my teens. :-( Now I don’t seem to catch anything. I suspect it was the encyclopedic knowledge my immune system gained in the early years. 😉

    CDC info:

    Patient Zero appears to be a 11 year old who returned from a trip to the UK where there was a mumps outbreak.

  12. John Keller

    When I was five I had the mumps, because the vaccine had not yet been developed. All I remember is that I was sick for a week and my throat/neck felt like someone jammed cotton into it.

  13. WildSoul

    I really don’t understand how anyone can look at the hard evidence and think that getting a vaccine to protect against a contagious, harmful disease is worse than the disease itself or it’s long-lasting effects. It seems absolutely backwards to me.

  14. featheredfrog

    #1 “What is this, the dark ages”

    In the dark ages the population had no information. These people do. It’s the dork ages, I guess.

  15. DrJen

    @Kathy…In practice, I do see many folks swayed by news of outbreaks. You should see, for example, the surge in demand for flu vaccine whenever a child’s death has been reported in the media. As for the hardcore antivaxxers…well, many are unreachable. With a little extra time and willingness to explain true benefits and risks of vaccines, however, I find that most of my patients who were on the fence will decide to do the routine vaccines. Those pediatricians who abdicate their responsibility to educate parents are missing a chance to have a real impact. Both pro vaccine folks who “refuse to even discuss it” or those who claim to be neutral with their “whatever the parent wants is fine with me” miss some patients who would change their mind with a bit of discussion.
    @Michael…unfortunately, you’re one of a relatively small minority. The MMR has a 98-99% efficacy rate for those kids who get both doses. This is much better than, for example, pertussis vaccine which only induces immunity about 85% of the time…one of the reasons it’s been added to the adult tetanus booster is to try to increase the herd immunity. The MMR vaccines have gone through multiple incarnations over the years, with increasing efficacy and decreasing side effects. It sounds like you have been the beneficiary of some good herd immunity. Stay outta Brooklyn : )

  16. Chris


    I show no immunity. I wonder why they can’t develop a more effective vaccine?

    I am sorry, Michele, it may not be the vaccine, it might be you. You have an immune system that is off a bit. Don’t worry, you are not alone. I actually had mumps twice (old enough to have before there was a vaccine). I am unable to become immune to mumps. (When there was a mumps outbreak in the Midwest three years ago I heard a news report about a doctor who kept getting mumps, and could not become immune, but I cannot find an online news report, so it is just an evidence free anecdote).

    It is because of folks like us that makes herd immunity so important.

  17. DrJen

    Oops…I meant @Michele, not @Michael…

  18. A doctor? An actual physician that is opposed to vaccination?

    This person should have their medial license pulled. Are there other doctors that are opposed to the setting of broken bones or suggest twinkies as treatment for cancer?

    Truly mindblowing.


    Sir Eccles:

    That’s one of the great things about Judaism compared to some other religions out there. Even with the Ultra Orthodox they will break the laws if it is to save life.

    Maybe that’s why the other religions out there don’t like the Jews.

  20. Daniel J. Andrews

    There’s a small outbreak in my hometown.

    While the number infected may seem small (ok, is small) compared to NYC, the population of North Bay is about 50,000. About 60% of people infected had a mumps vaccination. It seems the virus, as above, came in from someone who had traveled overseas.

  21. I wonder if I could translate this post into Spanish to publish it in Club de la Razon (, a nonprofit skeptic website in Argentina. Here this madness is starting to catch up so I would like to publish this informative and well written post.

  22. @DrJen,
    It’s good news if people are swayed by facts. Maybe people want accurate data a lot more than the media thinks they do.

  23. Real, Live Orthodox Jew

    You have to understand that, despite common misconception, the term “Orthodox Jew” is a *very* broad umbrella term covering a wide variety of groups whose only commonality (albeit not a small one) is observance of halacha (Jewish law, i.e Sabbath, kosher, etc.).

    What that means is the term “Orthodox” applies to me, a highly educated guy who reads and enjoys the blog of a JREF bigwig, and also to the Hassidim at the heart of this story, most of whom speak broken English (at best) and whose formal secular education hovers around a 5th grade average[*]. The label “Orthodox” tells you remarkably little: there are Orthodox Jewish colleges in Manhattan whose professors, dressed in typical Western professorial attire, teach all the stuff you’d think fundamentalists would have trouble with, and there are Orthodox Jewish enclaves in Israel where, dressed totally out of sync with the weather in a conservative attempt to maintain styles evolved in a cold East European climate, they raise kids with shaved heads in schools that teach YEC in languages intentionally other than the native Hebrew.

    Therefore, when you says that “rabbis have allowed people to get vaccinated even on the Sabbath” and that you don’t “know of any prohibitions against vaccinations in Jewish culture,” you’re overlooking the fact the observant Jewish culture is wildly diverse. True, my wife and I, both Orthodox Jews who fully vaccinated our kids, were horrified by the story, but the mumps outbreak took place among Orthodox Jews far more different from us than you realize.

    These Hassidim operate far more from a received folk traditions than strict halacha than you might expect. So while halacha allows and perhaps even requires vaccination, they are a pocket within Orthodoxy that rejects that in favor of a basically superstitious attitude towards it. It’s a weird brew of piety (vaccinations as lack of faith), anti-modernism (science as enemy), anti-assimilation (vaccinations are government-required), medical ignorance (your belief in the efficacy of vaccines is subconciously informed by beliefs and knowledge they lack), and more. They inhabit a world where talking fish stories are widely taken seriously (and I mean talking *today*, not in the Bible, or long, long ago), and prayers from miracle rabbis really work. Half my father’s side of the family is Hassidic, and I’ve lived among Hassidim for years, so I know of what I speak.

    So just because halacha “says one thing” does not mean that all “Orthodox” Jews will automatically behave a certain way. This played out as a low vaccination level among the Hassidic sects in those communities, leading to the current tragedy.


    [*] Read Teacha! Stories from a Yeshiva by Gerry Albarelli for a revealing view into the Hassidic education system

  24. ND

    Real, Live Orthodox Jew,

    “they raise kids with shaved heads in schools that teach YEC in languages intentionally other than the native Hebrew.”

    I’m totally curious what languages they’re teaching in and why?

    Thanks for the informative post. My picture of Orthodox Jews was narrower than what you described.

  25. “Vaccination rates in the UK are lower, in large part due to the antivax scare started by Andrew Wakefield and his now-discredited study linking vaccines to other illnesses.”

    It is positively hilarious seeing anti-safe vaccinationists falling into their own discouraged trap of conspiracy mongering, claiming that those who raise safety concerns about the MMR are merely part of a scheme to discredit vaccines. Don’t tell me, let me guess: Today the MMR, tomorrow the schedule! lol

  26. Real, Live Orthodox Jew

    “I’m totally curious what languages they’re teaching in and why?”

    Typically Yiddish.

  27. Real, Live Orthodox Jew

    And the why is social isolation.

  28. Ray


    Do not assume that someone’s religious belief is the only reason they don’t vaccinate.

    Stupidity knows no religion.

  29. Lisa

    I went to a local “clinic” for autistic kids to hear a talk about vaccines. It was all very cleverly done and I can see how some people can be deceived. I was fuming by the time I left. It’s one thing to read about these people, but it really hits home when you actually hear it in person. She also treated kids with homeopathic crap.

  30. Chris

    Young Master Crosby:

    claiming that those who raise safety concerns about the MMR are merely part of a scheme to discredit vaccines. Don’t tell me, let me guess: Today the MMR, tomorrow the schedule! lol

    Do tell what real research shows that the MMR is riskier than measles, mumps and rubella. Please do not quote Wakefield, lawyer paid research is not acceptable. Also remember that the MMR vaccine has been around since 1971, and has never contained mercury or aluminum.

    Also, please name some real immunologists who will support your vaccine schedule changes.

  31. azrfl

    Soo.. any studies on the autism levels in that area for the same period of time? j/k :)

  32. @Sir Eccles,

    In fact, it’s considered a sin to *NOT* break the law to save a person’s life. If someone needs to get to the hospital and the only way is for someone to drive on Shabbat, they are *REQUIRED* to break the laws of Shabbat as much as is needed to save that person’s life. I think the only time when life comes after Jewish law is desecrating God’s name. So, for example, if someone told a Jew to do something vile to a Torah scroll while cursing God, they should refuse even if it means they would be killed. Luckily, that situation doesn’t happen much nowadays.

    @Real, Live Orthodox Jew,

    Thanks for pointing out that “Orthodox” isn’t really one single movement (unlike Conservative and Reform). I’ve been a member at two Orthodox shuuls in the past. (One Lubavitch, the other I’d guess was Hasidic.) The Lubavitch rabbi was pretty good. He’d tell you what he believed but would leave it up to you as to what you actually did (and wouldn’t judge either way).

    The other guy turned me off big time. He would preach about how Orthodox Judaism (by which he meant his brand) knew everything, science knew nothing, the world was only 6,000 or so years old, etc. I bit my tongue at the time, but never liked being there. (I was living with my parents back then and only went because they were members.) I might see him opposing vaccinations for one reason or another (all completely wrong, of course), but I couldn’t picture the other rabbi opposing it.

    BTW, totally off topic, but “raise kids with shaved heads”? Aren’t we forbidden from “rounding the corners” of our head? (Thus sideburns on Reform/Conservatives and beards on many Orthodox.) I wonder how they justify that.

  33. @Larian

    Thanks for the plug.

    @Everyone else
    We need to step up the education effort. Talk to your friends and family about this story and others like it. Explain why vaccines are needed. Send them to Science-Based Medicine, antiantivax, Respectful Insolence and the like.

  34. Dawn

    @Chris and Michele…I, too, am a non-immune, had the disease, had the vaccine, had the vaccine…(etc) person. Had Rubella: Immune Had measles: Nonimmune Had Mumps (very mild though) NonImmune. Had MMR in HS. Tested later: Nonimmune. Had MMR as a 30-something. Nonimmune. Some of us just have wacky immune systems and thank goodness for herd immunity. (My kids got 2 mmrs. Haven’t had titers done on them so don’t know if the wacky nonimmune is hereditary or not. guess I should…)

  35. Tony

    Had a parent discussing not getting their kids vaccinated, saying it was against their religious beliefs. What confused me is they are Roman Catholic like me and I told them that I knew of no restriction against getting vaccinated. She then said, “well, it is how my husband and I interpret it, and besides, we just don’t believe in it.”

    My response, “Well, it is good you don’t believe in it, because you are not suppose to believe in things which are fact, like vaccinations help people, you just know these things are true.” I got a bad look and a “hrmph!” and then she walked away.

    I think some people use the religious belief excuse as a cop out. They don’t want to look like fool, and they do not believe strongly enough in their own personal convictions, so they say they are not allowed.

    There is a shortage of the Swine Flu vac in my area, but since both my boys are asmatics, we were able to get it for them.

  36. Andy I

    There are few more staunch pro-vaccination people than me. However, I read about this outbreak in Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Repoort about a month ago and was a bit shocked at how many of these people coming down with the mumps *were* vaccinated against mumps.
    According to that report, something like 70-80% of the infected kids received age-appropriate mumps vaccinations:

    It seems to me that the mumps vaccination needs to be looked at. How is it that so many vaccinated kids are getting the disease? I’m not at all sensitive to the concerns of the anti-vaxers, I just don’t think that’s necessarily the issue here.

    As an aside, I was thrilled to get my H1N1 shot this weekend. :-)

  37. Lawrence

    @Andy – this is what happens when “herd immunity” starts to break down. Vaccinations aren’t 100% effective – so when a disease starts spreading, even people who have received the vaccine in the past can still be infected. The purpose of the herd immunity is to ensure that these diseases don’t spread – they don’t have a place to set down roots & put everyone at risk.

    This is what those who don’t vaccinate (by choice) don’t understand. When they don’t vaccinate they are putting everyone at risk, not just themselves. We need 80 – 90% vaccination levels to prevent these diseases from regaining a foothold in the general population. If and when that happens (herd immunity breaks down completely), it won’t matter if you’ve been vaccinated in the past – you are now at risk.

  38. @Andy I

    Correction, according to the table showing age group and vaccination status, 63% of individuals with known vaccination status received the full, age-appropriate shots. Also note that for the 1-6 yr group and the 19-52 yr group, age appropriate means they have received 1 dose (not necessarily 2), so they are still at greater risk than individuals who have received 2 doses.

    So, we actually have the following percentages for individuals who were infected:

    Fully immunized (2 doses): 84 (47%)
    Partially immunized (1 dose): 38 (21%)
    Not immunized and old enough to be immunized: 19 (11%)
    Not immunized and too young or too old to be immunized: 5 (3%)
    Vaccination status unknown: 32 (18%)

    These numbers are only part of the story, though. If we went solely by this, it would seem that being fully vaccinated doesn’t help much. However, we need to know how many people were exposed and what was their vaccination status. The report indicates that among the vaccinated at the camp, it appears this outbreak managed to infect only about 6%.

  39. @Chris (Mooney?):

    I have a question for you, if your son or daughter had regressive autism after the MMR and had vaccine-strain measles in their intestines, would you be concerned?

  40. @Jake Crosby

    You didn’t answer Chris’ question. Show the evidence that supports your contention.

  41. Andy I

    @Todd W.

    I don’t understand your correction. Here’s a quote from the CDC report:
    “Of those patients in this outbreak whose vaccination status was known, 72% had received 2 doses of mumps-containing vaccine[….]” Doesn’t this mean that of the people who were infected and that we have knowledge of if they were vaccinated or not, 72% received 2 doses of vaccine? My assumption, perhaps wrong, is that if you don’t know someone’s vaccination status you can’t fairly include them in these comparison calculations. That was implied in the CDC statement I thought.

    Thanks for pointing out the reference to “attack rate”. Not being an epidemiologist, I don’t necessarily understand these terms. The 6% attack rate suggests that vaccines were effective, but does attack rate mean that 6% of vaccinated people were infected or that 6% of all people there were infected? Is there such a thing as an “attack rate” of just non-vaccinated people? It’d be interesting to compare vaccinated and non-vaccinated attack rates. Regardless, I agree that it does suggest that being vaccinated can provide protection. (Duh)

    Finally, thanks to Lawrence for his herd immunity explanation. I didn’t realize that herd immunity provided protection to the immunized. I thought the beneficiaries were limited to the non-immunized. That’s an important piece of information–I tend to think that immunization of the individual is sufficient to protect that individual.

  42. Gary Ansorge

    I nursed my Son, Eldest daughter and wife thru mumps in 1971. Since there was no mumps vaccine then, I was not vaccine immunized however, I never caught the mumps. I HAVE had chicken pox and measles, of course, because I am old enough to predate those vaccines however, I was immunized against polio, tetanus, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever and diphtheria (The biggest killers of children AND adults when I was a tyke).

    I expect we all have different protein complexes in our cells, some of which are specific to mumps, etc. Guess I have my parents to thank for immunity, though I’m fairly sure that didn’t come from dad, since HE had mumps as a teenager.

    Thanks Mom,,,

    Now, if we can just develop a tuberculoses vaccine,,,

    GAry 7

  43. @Andy I

    The text seems to differ slightly from the table. It is possible that some of the individuals in the 1-6 yr group or the 19-52 group had 2 doses. It’s unclear from the table, which I was using for my numbers.

    As for the attack rate, my understanding, after a little further reading, is that it is the ratio of the number of people infected to the number of people exposed. So, at the camp, 400 people were exposed, with 25 becoming infected. It would be nice to know, then, how many individuals at the camp received vaccination vs. how many did not. Then we could find out what percentage of the vaccinated population got sick and what population of the unvaccinated got sick.

  44. Andy I

    @Todd W., et al,

    Check out this week’s MMWR: the first imported case of a filoviral hemorrhagic fever in the United States (i.e. Marburg virus).

  45. Antaeus Feldspar

    It is positively hilarious seeing anti-safe vaccinationists falling into their own discouraged trap of conspiracy mongering, claiming that those who raise safety concerns about the MMR are merely part of a scheme to discredit vaccines.

    Jake, you have added 2 + 2 and gotten 7. You quote the following sentence: “Vaccination rates in the UK are lower, in large part due to the antivax scare started by Andrew Wakefield and his now-discredited study linking vaccines to other illnesses” and immediately start sneering about “conspiracy mongering” that is to be found nowhere in the sentence you quote. Nowhere. Andrew Wakefield put forth a study linking vaccines to other illnesses, and because of that, vaccination rates went down. Simple cause and effect; not a word in there about a conspiracy. You apparently hallucinated whatever words you read about “part of a scheme to discredit vaccines,” making this whole side trip of yours both a red herring and a straw man. Wakefield’s scientific misconduct certainly had the effect of making vaccination rates plummet but whether that was his intent, as seems probable, or not, is irrelevant to the current discussion.

  46. adrian

    My brother lives in Brooklyn and got mumps not too long ago. He is vaccinated, but got it from someone who wasn’t. He didn’t really have any plans to have children, but now he doesn’t have that choice.

  47. Chris

    Young Master Crosby, I asked for scientific evidence, did you forget about that?

    If you had read the thread I am one of at least three persons who posted that they need herd immunity for mumps. I also have a child with multiple health issues who has been injured by a read disease, and for a while required herd immunity for protection.

    I find your comments disingenuous, disrespectful and idiotic.

    Do try to find those studies that definitely show that the MMR is more dangerous than mumps and measles. It has been used in the USA since 1971 (there may be a possibility your parents received at least one dose of the MMR), and does not have “teh ebil toxins.”

  48. amphiox

    #29: “Stupidity knows no religion.”

    It is more accurate (and consistent with your point) to say “Stupidity knows ALL religions.” (and all other forms of ideology, too).

  49. MJBUtah

    Tony @37 My favorite response to “I just don’t believe in it” :

    It’s not Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, you don’t have to believe in it for it to exist. It’s real, the diseases are real, the risk is real to your child and mine, whether you believe it or not.

    I try to say it nicely, and keep the contempt out of my voice. I had someone tell me once that they “didn’t believe in television” I was truly speechless at that one.

  50. C.

    @Tony – Tsk on your friend. It’s not for the laity to interpret anything related to doctrine. :)

  51. D A

    My son just came down with the mumps and he is fully vaccinated.

  52. where’s louis pasteur when u need him?

  53. Chris

    D A, I am so sorry, he can join us as yet another who cannot get immunity from vaccines (and he may be like me, from the disease!). This shows again the importance of herd immunity.

  54. Be kind

    Antaeus: You can’t expect an antivaxxer not to make things up; if you take away lies and willful misreading, they won’t have anything left…

  55. Kate

    @Thomas #18

    Unfortunately, an advanced degree doesn’t equal a good thinker.

    I always wondered, if Dr. Duesberg was so confident with his position why has he not proved it to the world by injecting himself with HIV and not treating the infection?

  56. @Antaeus:

    The debate here is not about all vaccines, the debate is about a combined-triple live virus vaccine. No other routinely-recommended vaccine exists like this. To call those who oppose the MMR vaccine, “anti-vaccine,” is to insinuate that the reason why they oppose it is because they are against vaccines instead of the nasty side-effects like measles in the intestines that have been attributed to it. It is especially disingenuous to blame those opposed to the MMR vaccine on outbreaks of cases like Measles and Mumps when individual vaccines for those illnesses are unavailable.

  57. I wonder if NYC shows a 20% rate decrease in autism against the national average?

  58. Chris

    Jake Crosby, again, I repeat, the MMR has been around for almost forty years. You have yet to present any real evidence that it causes any more harm than the actual diseases.

    What is your evidence that MMR causes “nasty side-effects like measles in the intestines that have been attributed to it”? Do please share the papers you got that from, plus all of the papers that have replicated that finding. Something like this (which shows the opposite of your contention):
    Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study.
    Hornig M et al.
    PLoS ONE 2008; 3(9): e3140 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003140
    *Subjects: 25 children with autism and GI disturbances and 13 children with GI disturbances alone (controls)

    Note that it includes many more children than what was in Wakefield’s now discredited research.

  59. Chris

    What is ironic is that the Age of Autism acolyte, Jake Crosby, would pull up problems with intestines, because they are the same ones who demonize a co-inventor of a vaccine that prevents a severe intestinal viral infection.

    Because it really is not about the conditions or diseases that the vaccines prevent, it is all about the vaccines. If Age of Autism actually cared about autism they would ignore all the vaccines given to older children (Tdap and HPV). There should be no articles on Gardisil on Age of Autism, since autism is often diagnosed before age 12, and mostly in boys, not girls. But there are.

    For more information on how the Age of Autism works, download the 228th Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast from Dec 2, 2009. Apparently when confronted for facts and data, the AoA posts doctored pictures. It seems they also dislike Dr. Steven Novella, a neurologist.

  60. @Jake Crosby

    As Chris already said, provide your evidence. You’ve yet to do so.

    Also, in general, those who are against MMR are also against all other vaccines, usually giving a variety of reasons about supposed “toxins” in the vaccines. When they are shown to be wrong, they shift to something else in the vaccine. So, yes, a lot of the people who are anti-MMR are, in fact, anti-vaccine. There may be exceptions, but they are not the rule.

  61. Chris

    Jake Crosby, please show your evidence that counteracts the following papers:

    Measles Vaccination and Antibody Response in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
    Baird G et al.
    Arch Dis Child 2008; 93(10):832-7.
    Subjects: 98 vaccinated children aged 10-12 years in the UK with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); two control groups of similar age: 52 children with special educational needs but no ASD and 90 children in the typically developing group

    MMR-Vaccine and Regression in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Negative Results Presented from Japan.
    Uchiyama T et al.
    J Autism Dev Disord 2007; 37(2):210-7
    *Subjects: 904 children with autism spectrum disorder
    (Note: MMR was used in Japan only between 1989 and 1993.)

    No Evidence of Persisting Measles Virus in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells from Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
    D’Souza Y et al.
    Pediatrics 2006; 118(4):1664-75
    *Subjects: 54 children with autism spectrum disorder and 34 developmentally normal children

    Relationship between MMR Vaccine and Autism.
    Klein KC, Diehl EB.
    Ann Pharmacother. 2004; 38(7-8):1297-300
    *Literature review of 10 studies

    MMR Vaccination and Pervasive Developmental Disorders: A Case-Control Study.
    Smeeth L et al.
    Lancet 2004; 364(9438):963-9
    *Subjects: 1294 cases and 4469 controls

    Age at First Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Children with Autism and School-Matched Control Subjects: A Population-Based Study in Metropolitan Atlanta.
    DeStefano F et al. Pediatrics 2004; 113(2): 259-66
    *Subjects: 624 children with autism and 1,824 controls

    Neurologic Disorders after Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination.
    Makela A et al.
    Pediatrics 2002; 110:957-63
    *Subjects: 535,544 children vaccinated between November 1982 and June 1986 in Finland

    A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism.
    Madsen KM et al.
    N Engl J Med 2002; 347(19):1477-82
    *Subjects: All 537,303 children born 1/91–12/98 in Denmark

    Relation of Childhood Gastrointestinal Disorders to Autism: Nested Case Control Study Using Data from the UK General Practice Research Database.
    Black C et al.
    BMJ 2002; 325:419-21
    *Subjects: 96 children diagnosed with autism and 449 controls

    Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Bowel Problems or Developmental Regression in Children with Autism: Population Study.
    Taylor B et al.
    BMJ 2002; 324(7334):393-6
    *Subjects: 278 children with core autism and 195 with atypical autism

    No Evidence for a New Variant of Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Induced Autism.
    Fombonne E et al.
    Pediatrics 2001;108(4):E58
    *Subjects: 262 autistic children (pre- and post-MMR samples)

    Measles-Mumps-Rubella and Other Measles-Containing Vaccines Do Not Increase the Risk for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Case-Control Study from the Vaccine Safety Datalink Project.
    Davis RL et al.
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2001;155(3):354-9
    *Subjects: 155 persons with IBD with up to 5 controls each

    Time Trends in Autism and in MMR Immunization Coverage in California.
    Dales L et al.
    JAMA 2001; 285(9):1183-5
    *Subjects: Children born in 1980-94 who were enrolled in California kindergartens (survey samples of 600–1,900 children each year)

    Mumps, Measles, and Rubella Vaccine and the Incidence of Autism Recorded by General Practitioners: A Time Trend Analysis.
    Kaye JA et al.
    BMJ 2001; 322:460-63
    *Subjects: 305 children with autism

    Further Evidence of the Absence of Measles Virus Genome Sequence in Full Thickness Intestinal Specimens from Patients with Crohn’s Disease.
    Afzal MA, et al.
    J Med Virol 2000; 62(3):377-82
    *Subjects: Specimens from patients with Crohn’s disease

    Autism and Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine: No Epidemiological Evidence for a Causal Association.
    Taylor B et al.
    Lancet 1999;353 (9169):2026-9
    *Subjects: 498 children with autism

    Absence of Detectable Measles Virus Genome Sequence in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Tissues and Peripheral Blood Lymphocytes.
    Afzal MA et al.
    J Med Virol 1998; 55(3):243-9
    *Subjects: 93 colonoscopic biopsies and 31 peripheral blood lymphocyte preparations

    No Evidence for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine-Associated Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Autism in a 14-year Prospective Study.
    Peltola H et al.
    Lancet 1998; 351:1327-8
    *Subjects: 3,000,000 doses of MMR vaccine

    MMR-Vaccine and Regression in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Negative Results Presented from Japan
    Authors: Uchiyama T, Kurosawa M, Inaba Y
    Source: J Autism Dev Disord, February 2007; 37(2):210-217

    Impact of specific medical interventions on reducing the prevalence of mental retardation.
    Brosco JP, Mattingly M, Sanders LM.
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:302-309.

    Encephalopathy after whole-cell pertussis or measles vaccination: lack of evidence for a causal association in a retrospective case-control study.
    Ray P, Hayward J, Michelson D, Lewis E, Schwalbe J, Black S, Shinefield H, Marcy M, Huff K, Ward J, Mullooly J, Chen R, Davis R; Vaccine Safety Datalink Group.
    Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2006 Sep;25(9):768-73.

  62. Todd W., before I even begin to address anything else, I want to address this point of yours:

    “Also, in general, those who are against MMR are also against all other vaccines”

    Wow! ALL other vaccines? That’s a new one. I’m not going to rise up and speak for anyone else, but speaking for myself, I am only against that one vaccine, and believe it should be replaced by three separate shots that should be spaced out. Such an option does not even exist anymore. At the very least, I feel people deserve to have this option.

  63. Chris

    Jake, what evidence shows that the MMR is riskier than measles, mumps or rubella? Your emotional feelings towards a vaccine is not valid evidence. What shows that it is riskier than getting the separate vaccines? Do you have any evidence in the forty years of MMR use?

    A more recent study shows it is safer than getting the separate vaccines, and that it is protective against autism:
    Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2009 Dec 1.
    Lack of Association Between Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination and Autism in Children: A Case-Control Study.
    Mrożek-Budzyn D, Kiełtyka A, Majewska R.

    If your evidence is based on Jenny McCarthy, remember her son had his very terrible seizure over a year after his MMR vaccine. Epilepsy predates vaccines by several centuries, so it is nothing new (and Ms. McCarthy seems to be young enough to have received the MMR herself). Also, in regards to stories like Ms. McCarthy, it is important to remember the plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.

    So you really need to bring forth something more solid than “because I said so” or “because I feel” as evidence for you to be against the MMR vaccine. There are over forty years worth of real research in the medical literature (there are several before the MMR was approved in 1971), so there is no excuse for you not to produce something to back up your statements.

  64. Chris

    Just a quick reminder: that one study is not the end all of research, you actually have to look at the whole body of research, and how each piece relates to the other. As it stands the preponderance of evidence shows that the MMR is safe (look at the list I provided earlier above).

  65. Hey, I published a response, where is it?

  66. Chris

    All URL links go into moderation.

  67. Chris

    Just post the journal, title, date, and author of the scientific evidence that shows that the MMR vaccine has a more a than one in 999 risk of a bad outcome (because we know that measles causes encephalopathy at a rate of about one out of a thousand times, which does not even go to the one in 500 chance of death experienced in the USA from measles between 1987 nad 1991), just like the papers I posted above (which were often taken from PubMed).

  68. Chris

    Jake, are you sure you really posted some actual evidence that the MMR does what you claim it does? Because I would really like to see it. Is it hidden with Dr. Krigsman’s replication of Wakefield’s study?

  69. jonathan

    FYI. many children and adults who have gotten the mmr vaccinations are still getting the mumps.
    they say it may be a new strain and not with entirely the same symptoms as the old mumps.(not as severe)

  70. Chris

    Jake, are you still looking for that lost information?

  71. It was not “lost.” I submitted it as a comment, so it went through, but was never posted.

    It was edited out.

  72. Chris

    So how come you can’t submit the journal, title, author and date of the paper in question? How about the PubMed ID number?

    I should tell you that random websites are not acceptable as scientific evidence.

  73. Chris

    Of course, it is a college kid’s new version of the “dog ate my homework” ploy, only using the excuse it was deleted. Try again, but just put the pertinent information so that we can find it in PubMed.


    Jonathan, in the comment linked above, you make a series of claims.

    1. “Many children and adults who have gotten the mmr vaccinations are still getting the mumps.”

    Questions you must answer to be taken seriously:

    Percentage of persons immunized with MMR since 1971 who subsequently contract “Epidemic parotitis” or mumps

    Source of the percentage

    2. “they say it may be a new strain”

    Identify “they” and those persons capacity to comment with authority on the nature of the virus

    3. and not with entirely the same symptoms as the old mumps.(not as severe)”


    Otherwise you are just blowing hot air.

  75. Dear Real Live Orthodox Jew:

    Thanks! You don’t know what you don’t know. Heretofore I’d assumed that the world of Orthodox Jewry was uniform.

  76. “Of course, it is a college kid’s new version of the “dog ate my homework” ploy, only using the excuse it was deleted.”

    More like some troll’s excuse for why my comment was edited out. I’m not going to waste my time all over again posting them only to not seeing them go through yet again, especially not for trolls such as yourself. Looks like the only thing to Discover at Discover Blogs is that they delete what you write after you’ve gone through the effort of posting information. No wonder blogs like these say there is “no evidence” MMR causes autism, they delete all the evidence that it does!

  77. Chris

    Then why didn’t you post the information in a new format. I posted a link, and it got in? Why didn’t you use the form “dub dub dub dot URLname dot com” that is commonly used to get around this site’s silly s p a m b o t ?

    Actually, the real question is why you did not do what I suggested to you more than once; post the journal, title, author and date of the paper that proves your point? Is it because it is not a real paper? Is it a description of Krigsman’s claim that his research has confirmed Wakefield’s discredited conclusions, something he has been saying since 2002, yet has not produced one iota of evidence?

    Your refusal to even try, but to still play on the “blog ate my link” story just proves you have nothing.

    Really, you have nothing.

  78. “I posted a link, and it got in”

    Of course you did, you’re “Science”/Discover Blogs’ handy troll.

  79. Chris

    A “troll” defined by you is someone who insists on actual science and evidence. Nice.

    How come you have yet to post even the link in a munged form, or at least the journal, title, author and date of the paper that has your evidence?

  80. Chris

    I see, Jake, you still have nothing.

  81. Jake #79: Your ability to jump to conspiracy doesn’t exactly strengthen your already weak (or nonexistent) arguments. There is a spam filter with this blog, and apparently if what you say is true it got flagged. I never saw it in the queue to be moderated, so it must have gone straight into the spam filter.

    I have no fear from vocal antivaxxers getting on here and posting comments. The evidence is so hugely overwhelming against you that there is nothing to fear. And this blog is not the Huffington Post or some other venue where you can sway people with emotions while spouting nonsense. If you can’t back your claims up, you’ll metaphorically have your head handed to you. As it has been.

  82. Saying that people who want the MMR replaced with three separate shots are actually “anti-vax” is jumping to conspiracy.

    Moderating comments out of a blog is not:

    And a character assassination attempt from some conflicted “journalist” isn’t evidence, either.

  83. Jake (85): So you are saying I deleted your comment on purpose? I assume you have evidence of this?

    Perhaps instead of linking to the word “conspiracy” on an online dictionary, you can do some actual research into how spam filters work.

  84. Chris

    Phil, I gave him several suggestions on how to get this mysterious link posted, but he never even tried.

    Jake, again, just post the journal, title, author and date of the paper that supports your idea. Until then you have nothing.

  85. Chris

    And Jake still has nothing.

  86. reasonablehank

    I don’t understand why Jake won’t just post his paper. It’s not that hard, is it? I’d like to see this new evidence.

  87. Rony

    You’re right in that orthodox Judaism has nothing against vaccination per-se.

    The problem is that the closed and insular orthodox community is easily mislead by word-of-mouth, as they’ve no access to, nor respect for, scientific facts.

    So once a rumor starts spreading, there’s nothing to counteract it unless a rabbi decides it’s against the religion.


  88. Chaim

    My child was vaccinated and got the mumps anyway. The doctor told me the vaccination turned out to be not strong enough. He has seen hundreds of patients with mumps that WERE vaccinated.

  89. T. R.L.

    Case are occurring in individuals that have been vaccinated. It is quite possible that there is waning immunity and that the vaccine is not as effective as the years go on. If you look at the ages of the cases that are occurring it is in the young adults which have had vaccine over 10 years ago. So before you start accusing people of not being vaccinated get your facts.

    All those that said that Judaism doesn’t have anything against vaccination is correct. However, there is a passage that states that nothing can be added or subtracted from a person. In this case, vaccine is introducing a foreign substance into the body and therefore there are those that might believe that the passage is referring to this type of thing. Although there is also the passage that states that you cannot put yourself in harms way; those that don’t believe in vaccine may not believe that they are being harmful.

    In other words, everyone has the right to decide how they will live their lives. You cannot judge a person unless you understand all the facts.

    I saw someone mention herd immunity. This concept does not apply here since many of the cases actually have documented 2 doses. There are many others in the community that are already vaccinated and therefore would not be considered susceptible. The only way you use herd immunity is when the population is poorly vaccinated which isn’t the case if the above is correct and vaccine is approximately 80%. That is a pretty good vaccination rate.

  90. Marcus

    Probably there is a genetic deformity in these people that make them susceptible regardless of vacination. Perhaps something needs to be done.

  91. Tay

    I agree with TRL on the vaccination information. There are people who have been vaccinated for things and still got them. I know everybody in my family (except my parents who had already had it) ended up contracting something we had all be vaccinated for. Beyond that point, every person should have a right to choose whether or not they receive vaccinations without people jumping on some religious bashing wagon. Whether they did it for religious reasons or not it was their choice to do so. I wonder how many people who have not been vaccinated managed to not get it anyway.


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