Pertussis can kill, and you can help stop it

By Phil Plait | June 16, 2011 7:00 am

Pertussis, known commonly as whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease. It’s bad for anyone to get, but in infants it can result in death.

We have a vaccine that inoculates people against the bacterium. Yet, because not enough people get this vaccine, we’re seeing pertussis (and measles) outbreaks in many, many places. And who suffers? Babies too young to be vaccinated.

I want you to watch the following video. It’s a segment on the Australian 60 Minutes program, which deals with this issue plainly and truthfully. It’s an extremely difficult video to watch, as you’ll see (I had to turn my head several times, to be honest) but it’s also extremely important that everyone sees it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJbc9Xw3yHc

Pay close attention to antivaxxer Viera Schiebner. Watch her demeanor, her manner, her attitude. This is a leader in their movement? To say her view of medicine, of reality, is skewed is to seriously understate the case. Barbara Holland Bronwyn Hancock, who works with Schiebner, justifies not getting vaccinated by making the outrageous statement that diseases can be beneficial.

I fail to see how exposing infants to potentially fatal infections is beneficial in any way.

Mia Freedman has written an excellent article about this. Apparently, only 11 8% of adults in South Australia, are vaccinated against pertussis [the 11% number is an average for all of Australia, my apologies for any confusion]. It’s tempting to blame the antivaxxers for this, but I wonder. I know a lot of my readers here are not antivax, but how many have had their Tdap booster?

I have. As much as I talk about this issue, I didn’t know I needed a booster shot for tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis until recently. As soon as I found out I went to my doctor and got the vaccination. Pertussis is spread by unvaccinated adults carrying the bacterium, so getting the booster shot will help lower the reservoir of hosts.

Getting the booster may not save your life, but it could very well save the life of an innocent infant too young to be otherwise protected. Go see your doctor, ask them about it, and if they recommend it, get the booster.

My thanks to Richard Saunders for the video, and to David McCaffery — who appears in the above video with his wife Toni — for the link to Ms. Freedman’s article. David’s daughter Dana would have been over two years old now if she hadn’t succumbed to pertussis at the age of just four weeks.


Related posts:

- Pertussis and measles are coming back
- The AVN falsehoods keep on a-comin’
- More truth-based weapons against the antivaxxers
- BREAKING: BMJ calls Andrew Wakefield a fraud

Comments (93)

  1. ntsc

    My mother was a nurse, I had every vaccine as it became available. About age 8 when the original polio vaccine first reached the general public.

  2. Technically exposure to very weak and easily fought off diseases is good for you. That’s basically how vaccines work. The rest of what she says though…

    Maybe the media should start to treat scientists as politicians? CNN and Fox News both ignore just anyone who simply calls themselves a politician. They all tend to focus on the half dozen who are actually important. Yes I know that’s not how science operates, but science isn’t how the media works – and they’re the ones with the loudspeaker. Coukdn’t make it worse.

  3. Ethyachk

    I had my Tdap booster last week. My sister is having a baby, so it seemed like a good idea. I had what may have been a bad reaction to the shot, but if that’s the price I pay to help protect the life of my niece or nephew, it’s a price I gladly paid.

  4. Kirk Aplin

    Well, one argument for not vaccinating is to let evolution take it’s course.

  5. G

    It seems to me that part of the antivax stance, that it’s somehow more healthy to contract the disease and suffer through it, may be related to the idea that suffering is good for the soul. Getting a vaccine is taking the easy way out! You can find throughout a number of media types this idea that it’s purifying, or strengthening, or otherwise good for a person to suffer. It’s not usually stated outright, but it’s prevalent enough that there’s a sort of unconscious acceptance of the idea in a lot of people.

    Risking a disease and suffering through it is therefore a kind of self-induced martyrdom, I think.

    It’s terrible that someone’s own (religious or non) martyrdom has to endanger others as well.

  6. Mitch

    If only the willfully ignorant were the only ones effected by their decisions, but it is the newborn and the very young who tend to bear the burden.
    I am immunized as is my son, but I see people everyday who have fallen under the spell of the alt med and anti-science fear mongers and it is both maddening and depressing.

  7. Michael H

    ^- is vaccinated

  8. Lars

    Well, one argument for not vaccinating is to let evolution take it’s course.

    Do you believe evolution needs our help? Seriously?

  9. Kirk Aplin (#4), I would agree with you if it wasn’t for the fact that people who DO want to vaccinate are also suffering. If only the nutters and the willfully ignorant paid the price, I wouldn’t be as distraught by this, but many people are paying the price (to include those who aren’t nutters and willfully ignornat, but just plain ignorant due to a poor exposure to facts).

    I have been posting quite a bit of this type of news this week on the Facts, not Fantasy blog. I think I even have this video in the queue for this week.

  10. Sadly, they used to do exposes like this here. Until they figured out that by giving that jackass Jenny McCarthy “equal time,” they could get better ratings. So much for “service journalism.” But thank God for programs like Frontline (which the vast majority of Americans don’t watch because it uses too many big words and requires some level of attention and concentration to process).

    Depressed by this…

  11. Nigel Depledge

    Kirk Aplin (4) said:

    Well, one argument for not vaccinating is to let evolution take it’s course.

    How is this an argument?

    I await your next comment – expounding this view in detail – with considerable interest.

  12. Terry Emberson

    @4. Kirk Aplin Says:

    Well, one argument for not vaccinating is to let evolution take it’s course.

    Evolution is taking its course WHEN we get vaccinated too. It’s proving that intelligence is an adaption that works.

    There is a false belief that natural selection and unnatural selection work by different processes. They don’t. Both are survival of the fittest, its just in one fitness is decided by the mountain lion that eats the least fit horse for being too slow and the other is decided by the human that doesn’t breed the least fit horse for being too slow.

  13. Mike

    Viera is arrogant and condescending, just what you expect of people who cannot defend their positions logically. They just turn to bullying tactics, like when she left the room after being asked a logical question. What a moron.

  14. I got my TDaP booster when I went for my 30-year physical (got my H1N1 vaccine at the same time). As a healthy individual, it’s extra important for me to get my vaccines and boosters because while I am unlikely to suffer lasting effects from certain diseases, my young nieces and nephews and my immune-compromised mother could DIE if they caught something from me. I get vaccinated for myself, but also for them, and for my best friend who is allergic to the pertussis shot. I get vaccinated because it’s the right (and only logical) thing to do.
    Hug me!! :-)

  15. Trebuchet

    Last physical the doc gave me what he described as a “tetanus shot”. Can I assume it was actually the full Tdap booster? Guess I’d better ask.

  16. I’ll admit I skipped ahead to hear what Viera Schiebner had to say. At the 2:30 mark, she says that vaccines are bad because “natural immunity” is gained from getting diseases like measles, whooping cough, mumps and rubella. It really makes me question her medical degree if she doesn’t realize that vaccines provide the same kind of immunity as diseases do. Granted, vaccines might need a booster or two, that’s a down-side to be sure, but on the upside you don’t have such bad side effects as disfigurement, paralysis and death. Call me crazy, but I don’t want my kids (or anyone else’s kids) to die because they’re trying to get “natural immunity” when a vaccine shot could have done the same job.

    EDIT: At 8:29, Schiebner admits that she’s not a medical doctor but a “Doctor of Natural Sciences.” Don’t know what that is, but I’m betting it wasn’t in any way for medicine.

  17. Old Rockin' Dave

    Adults CAN have pertussis infections, and while it is usually less dangerous in adults than in children, it is still a serious and miserable disease in adults. A pulmonologist I knew described in detail his wife’s case to me and the next day I had my booster.

  18. Cathy

    My graduate school just sent me a reminder that I can’t actually register for classes until I have proof I’m up to date on immunization. I’m glad that the university systems enforce that policy!

  19. @Trebuchet

    Don’t assume that the tetanus booster you got was Tdap. Most likely, it was Td. Recommendations for adults, until recently, has been to only get the tetanus and diphtheria boosters, but not pertussis. With the outbreaks we’re seeing, particularly in California, and the knowledge coming out that it is actually non-immune adults largely responsible for spreading the disease, that is changing.

    It’s important to point out that whether you are naturally infected or you get the vaccine, your immunity will wane after anywhere from 3-20 years.

    Thanks for posting this, Dr. Plait! It’s also been shared at Respectful Insolence, Just the Vax and Harpocrates Speaks.

  20. Oh my… It gets better. At 7:23 Schiebner’s cohort says that the body only catches a disease if it needs to. So I guess those babies who died from whooping cough and other vaccine preventable diseases needed to die. Right?

    And then she says getting a disease is like getting exercise. When my son got had a febrile seizure and was laying grey and lifeless on my bed with my mother-in-law performing rescue breaths, my heart was racing. Personally, though, I’d rather run twenty miles than go through anything like that again! (My son was ok in the end. This was caused by a simple ear infection. He’s had 4 more seizures since then, including one a few weeks back.)

  21. Red

    The thought that kept recurring to me while watching this video was that we have failed as a species. How people can get away with thinking such idiotic things is very disheartening.

  22. And now Dr. Schiebner claims to have medical training because she took a course on nursing when she was young. I guess that makes me a physicist (since I minored in that in college) and an expert in quantum mechanics (yup, took a course on that in college) and Native American literature (another college course). Wait, I’m also a biology and chemistry expert thanks to some high school courses and I’m fluent in Russian, Hebrew and Italian thanks to various courses I took. Thank you, Mrs. Schiebner, I never realized what a huge expert in various fields I was!

  23. Gavin

    I spent most of the first half of this trying not to cry. I have a 10 month old boy and he means the world to me, I could not live if something happened to him. I can’t even imagine the pain these families feel. The anti vaxx movement has a lot to answer for.

  24. Schiebner and Holland sound like every fanatic I’ve ever heard. They are entirely invested in a dogma, whether it be religious, political, economic, or in this case medical. That’s putting it nicely. Less nicely, Schiebner is an evil, lying woman and I hope she dies of pertussis.

  25. Tracy

    My son has autism and I had a nasty reaction to my last Tdap booster. I’m also a scientist. Vaccinations are SO important. Phil, thanks for posting this. Tomorrow I am taking my son with autism to get his Tdap booster for high school.

  26. AndyD

    FYI, the uneducated assistant is Bronwyn Hancock, not Barbara Holland.

  27. #2 ANTIcarrot.: “Technically [snip] ADAPTIVE IMMUNITY to [snip] diseases is good for you. That’s basically how vaccines work.”

    Fixed that for you.

    Disease is not good for you. What’s good for you is the improved immunity you might get to that particular disease, if you survive it.

    A vaccine gives you improved immunity to the disease without giving you the disease. This is precisely why we vaccinate instead of simply exposing ourselves to sick people: disease is not good for you.

  28. Vanessa

    Viera Schiebner is a quack of the highest degree. All that stuff about how vaccines are dangerous because they don’t give your body the chance to to fend off disease and develop immunity? Does she even know how vaccines work?? Ugh, the whole antivax movement makes me sick.

  29. Messier Tidy Upper

    I fail to see how exposing infants to potentially fatal infections is beneficial in any way.

    [Gallows humour]

    Well , I s’pose you could note that a spike in infant mortality might help with the population explosion – the whole overpopulation, too many humans on the planet issue. Hell of a nasty “solution” but.

    [/Gallows humour.] :-( ;-) :-(

  30. ND
  31. Messier Tidy Upper

    @28. Vanessa :

    Does she [Viera Schiebner] even know how vaccines work??

    Nup.

    Ugh, the whole antivax movement makes me sick.

    Yup.

    That it surely does. Me too – but not as sick as the babies & families the anti-vaxxers cause to suffer needlessly.

  32. Yojimbo

    BA, thanks for posting. I just checked with my doctor and confirmed the booster I got a few months ago was Tdap. I wouldn’t have thought to ask if I hadn’t read this post.

  33. Michel

    Maybe it´s time to sue everyone in your surrounding who isnñt vaccinated when your kids gets sick.
    People hate to pay “the price” in real money.
    More than loosing their own kid.
    So if your kids dies because your neighbour isn´t vaccinated.
    Take his house.
    Or whatever.
    But that´s just my anger speaking. Not be able to have kids thanks to the mumps.
    Thanks to the “exposure is good for him” method.
    Never really got it till much much later.
    I really really really hate antivaxxers.

  34. @Messier Tidy Upper

    [Gallows humour]

    Well , I s’pose you could note that a spike in infant mortality might help with the population explosion – the whole overpopulation, too many humans on the planet issue. Hell of a nasty “solution” but.

    [/Gallows humour.]

    Except that high infant mortality would most likely have the opposite effect. People would be more likely to have more kids, since they would be counting on losing at least one or two. That’s part of the problem in many poorer countries, and what Bill Gates was talking about when he said that vaccines would help with overpopulation (meaning that lower child mortality would mean people don’t need to have as many kids, not some eugenics program).

  35. Keith Bowden

    I’ve come to realize that I visit Bad Astronomy not just for Phil but to look for MTU’s comments. Cheers!

  36. Chris Winter

    An important story — Thanks for posting it.

    Who is the reporter in the piece? She does a great job under trying conditions.

  37. Liath

    The vaccination that is often overlooked is the one for shingles. If you ever had chicken pox you can get shingles when you get older. As far as I know shingles are in no way contagious so you need not worry about infecting someone’s child. You get to keep them all to yourself.

  38. Mike

    It’s all well and good to advocate getting the shots but how about making it affordable for those too poor to afford it now. The cost of any medical is outrageous, a simple physical left me over 2 grand in debt and I’m STILL paying it off. Yeah, I’m all for vaccinations but I’m not in favor of going in hock yet again. If you have good insurance you’re lucky, most of us can only afford crappy coverage.

  39. Keith Bowden

    Now that I’ve had time to sit down and watch this… wow. Powerful stuff. Very hard to watch, but oh so necessary. I’ve forwarded this on Facebook and to family.

  40. kash

    Not a doctor, But I do send their children through college. Tell your doctor that you’re planning a trip out of the country and would like to be immunized to the hilt. I told mine that I’d be visiting some farms in Central and South America and he turned into a virtual acupuncturist.

    Dr says, “Have you ever been immunized for ”
    I say, “I don’t recall, if you don’t have it on record, I assume not.”
    Dr.
    repeat as needed…

  41. Sir Craig

    To watch that sanctimonious <expletive deleted> Schiebner state that she is smarter than all the doctors, simply because she took a nursing course AND has hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper reinforcing her beliefs made me furious. For her to question how those babies died, thinking SHE could come up with the entire medical history of those families with a few simple questions, made me even angrier. Perhaps if they were “micro-fossils” and not recent newborns…

    Vaccinated constantly while in the military, including TDaP (thanks to all those fun-filled trips to far off exotic lands). Keep us informed, Phil.

  42. Gary Ansorge

    22. TechyDad

    “This was caused by a simple ear infection”

    My Son had ear infections almost continuously up to the age of four. My Doctor suggested his inflamed tonsils were likely to blame and we could either have the tonsils removed,,,or try a 30 day round of anti-biotics. The anti-biotics knocked out the tonsil infections AND he had no more ear infections either. Just a suggestion,,,

    I asked my personal physician about a dpt booster and she said her office only gave tetanus boosters. For the dpt I would have to go to the county health center.

    Gary 7

  43. DaveB

    I’m an extreme needle-phobic but given enough time and an understanding doc I can use meditative and autohypnotic techniques to get to the point that I wont experience an extreme defensive/panic reaction when somebody pokes a needle in me. It’s still not a pleasant experience but at least I can hold still for it.

    For things like this, it was worth it.

  44. Jeffersonian

    You get the boosters before you travel.

  45. T-storm

    So if a body only catches a disease if it needs to then explain HIV.

    But that would probably play into the religious nuts who think that people deserve to get HIV because of their behavior.

  46. neutron tamper

    From the introduction by the reporter “[O]nce they tap in to the bottomless pit of misinformation swirling around the internet; fears are fueled, minds are made up and they may just say no to needle.”

    I wonder how many children will be sacrificed on the altar of non-immunization before our fellow humans who espouse these views quit their positions. To see the fresh anguish on the faces of the family that lost their infant son to whooping cough . I don’t have children but it made me weep. The temerity of Ms. Scheibner, Mr. Wakefield and others who are complicit in the deaths and injury of….children.

  47. Jim Shaver

    I got my TDP booster last week after I scraped my leg pretty good, and the doc thought it would be a good idea to get a tetanus shot. Thanks to reading your blog, BA, I told her to make sure I got the whole TDP booster, since I could not remember the last time I received one. Oh, and the shot didn’t hurt one bit, not during or after. (The leg, well, that still hurts.)

  48. RobertC

    I tried to not even blink while watching that.

    I want my anger to flourish and focus against the anti vaccine people and those taken in by them.

    A fierce burn, down deep.

  49. Lisa R.

    @ Mike #40 – Assuming you’re in the US, we really don’t have a great system for making sure adults have low-cost access to vaccines, but try getting in touch with your local health department (usually the county level) – some places have vaccine programs for uninsured or underinsured adults. Alternatively, in most states, pharmacists can give adults some or all vaccines without the expense of a doctor visit. You’d have to pay the cash price if you’re uninsured, but they’re not horribly expensive.

    Thanks for this post, Dr. Plait.

  50. ausduck

    @TechyDad #18

    Viera Scheibner has a PhD in micropaleontology. From some time ago (she is in her 70s now). She studied minature fossils. Yep, that’s right. Apparently it also makes one an expert in immunology, medicine, epidemiology and public health.
    Viera is also on the editorial board of Medical Veritas. Yep.
    She is one of the antivax stalwarts here in Aus, and her ‘research’ is referred to by all sorts of antivax groups across the world. She is one of the first persons to put forward the idea that Shaken Baby Syndrome is caused by vaccines. She is despicable, and dangerous.
    There is a catalogue of her ‘opinions’ on Peter Bowditch’s excellent site: http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/scheibner.htm

  51. @advodiaboli

    You may be interested in Meryl Dorey’s “explanation” of this “farce” as per The Australian (anti) Vaccination Network’s Facebook page. Her prior comment was she knew it’d be one sided so didn’t appear. In truth she was advised not to. This woman is presently in the supreme court of NSW fighting that states health care council over a ruling to place anti-vax warnings on her site. Strangely, my favourite lie is para’ 1 suggesting that reporters would keep her in the loop so to speak. Ego.

    “I wanted to add something to this debate here. I gave the journalist at 60-minutes the names of two very intelligent, articulate and experienced medical doctors to contact to interview for the pro-choice side of this story. They told me that they tried to contact both of them but that they were both sick. I think that is very ‘convenient’ and tomorrow when it is not the holiday, I will be getting in touch with those doctors to see if that was the truth.

    60 Minutes had a barrow to push. They were not interested in a balanced story. They were just interested in supporting their advertisers and the owners. Do you know who owns ninmsn – the station that airs 60 minutes in Australia?

    Well, it’s a joint venture between Microsoft (yes, Bill Gates – and we know what he thinks about vaccines – they are ‘magic’ according to his latest interview) and PBL whose chairman, James Packer, sits on the board of major vaccine and drug maker, Glaxo Smithkline. Do you REALLY think that a station with their hands in that much dirty money would even THINK about doing a fair story on this issue?

    They don’t care about your children or my children. They don’t care if they live or die. So long as they can make money doing what they are doing and protect their financial interests in the meantime, they are satisfied. Never think for a minute that you are getting anything close to the truth from the media. To quote Jack Nicholson – They can’t handle the truth!

    MD”

    http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=189468894435690&id=55142201924

  52. Naomi

    Got my TDaP booster last year, before I went overseas. I only really NEEDED the tetatnus booster to enter the US, but the last TDaP I had was when I was about twelve, and I’m twenty-four now. Time for a full booster, then!

  53. I’m taking my daughter for her 6 month old booster this afternoon.

    In various forums, including the comments linked to Mia’s blog mentioned above, antivaxxers always bring up the perceived risk of vaccination vs risk of not vaccinating. They have no idea of the numbers involved. One frightening stat I read was that 1 in 15 people who contract diphtheria die. 1 in 15!
    http://www.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook-quickguides-sideeffects

  54. ausduck

    @#54:

    Of course, and as usual, Meryl Dorey’s assertions are full of inaccuracies.
    Bill Gates doesn’t actually have anything to do with ninemsn other than the fact of his association with MicroSoft. James Packer is NOT on the board of the company (PBL) that is the majority shareholder in Channel Nine – he sold his shares in 2006 and in fact now has shares in a rival TV station here in Aus. And James Packer has never been on the board of GSK.
    All made up, just to sensationalise the supposed conspiracy.
    This is how Meryl Dorey rolls. Much like the rest of the anti-vax movement, as so eloquently illustrated by Viera and Bronwyn :)

  55. Old Rockin' Dave

    In #39, Liath says that “As far as I know shingles are in no way contagious so you need not worry about infecting someone’s child.”
    I used to work with immunocompromised patients before there was a varicella vaccine, and if one had shingles, no one who hadn’t had chicken pox was allowed to enter the room.

  56. Chemmomo

    Re shingles: when my MIL had them a few months back, we were told that they are contagious, but through direct contact with the rash – it’s not airborne. Therefore, my husband with no immunity to chickpox could be in the same room as his mother, but not give her a hug.

  57. Tinkerbellv

    The reporter’s name is Ellen Fanning. How she restrained herself from reaching across and throttling Viera and Bronwyn I’ll never know. I don’t think I could bear to be the same room with them.

  58. Nigel Depledge

    Mike (40) said:

    It’s all well and good to advocate getting the shots but how about making it affordable for those too poor to afford it now. The cost of any medical is outrageous, a simple physical left me over 2 grand in debt and I’m STILL paying it off. Yeah, I’m all for vaccinations but I’m not in favor of going in hock yet again. If you have good insurance you’re lucky, most of us can only afford crappy coverage.

    Yeah, sounds like you need to live in a civilised nation with some form of national health service. Perhaps you should write to your representatives about making sure that such a system gets set up.

    I assume you live in the USA.

    Over here in Europe, we’ve had national health services (of one kind or another, depending on exactly where in Europe you live) for about 50 – 60 years.

  59. Nigel Depledge

    T-Storm (48) said:

    But that would probably play into the religious nuts who think that people deserve to get HIV because of their behavior.

    Yup, those haemophiliacs needing blood transfusions, and those babies born to HIV-positive parents, will be the end of civilisation as we know it.

    [/blackly ironic humour]

  60. Nigel Depledge

    Ausduck (53) said:

    Viera Scheibner has a PhD in micropaleontology. From some time ago (she is in her 70s now). She studied minature fossils. Yep, that’s right. Apparently it also makes one an expert in immunology, medicine, epidemiology and public health.

    Wow, I guess that makes me even more of an expert, because my PhD is in biochemistry, and I did a year of pharmacology as an undergrad.

    Oh, and a postdoc in a Virology department (where, oddly, I worked on enzyme kinetics, but still).

  61. Nigel Depledge

    Advodiaboli (54) said, quoting Meryl Dorey:

    To quote Jack Nicholson – They can’t handle the truth!

    Apparently, Dorey does not even know the difference between a quote and a paraphrase.

    Nicholson’s character (in A Few Good Men) said “You can’t handle the truth!”.

    But then, Dorey seems to have a great deal of difficulty understanding the word “truth” anyway, so that kinda fits together.

  62. Nigel Depledge

    @ Ausduck (57) -

    What?!

    You mean an antivaxxer just made some stuff up? :o

  63. gia

    Listening to Schiebner is an almost surreal experience. Throwing around unsupported accusations, absolutely refusing to prove them with actual facts and at the same time having that kind of influence. It’s monstrous.

  64. @Nigel Depledge

    Wow, I guess that makes me even more of an expert, because my PhD is in biochemistry, and I did a year of pharmacology as an undergrad.

    Oh, and a postdoc in a Virology department (where, oddly, I worked on enzyme kinetics, but still).

    Ah, but do you have a large room in which to house all the pieces of paper that you cherry picked to support your biases? Oh, and a parsnip box?

  65. @Gary Ansorge,

    Sadly, susceptibility to febrile seizures has a hereditary component. I had them when I was a baby as did my wife. My oldest had them when his fever spiked due to a viral infection*. Basically, any fever can trigger them if the fever goes up or down too quickly. When any of my kids show any signs of a fever developing, we put them on alternating doses of Motrin and Tylenol to keep the fever down.

    * As per doctor’s orders, he was in a lukewarm bath trying to get the fever down when the seizure began. He turned blue and stopped breathing. When my youngest got his fever and we were told to put him in a lukewarm bath, I insisted my wife be at the ready in case it happened again. Sure enough, it happened again. I know the whole correlation/causation thing, but hopefully people will understand why I’m skittish about putting my kids in tubs when they have fevers.

  66. @ausduck,

    She definitely seems like a quack of the first order. There’s a complete disconnect between her and reality. It would actually be funny listening to her “theories” on how a baby who died of pertussis was actually killed by vaccines if she wasn’t a) putting so many lives in jeopardy and b) hurting people who have just lost their babies by blaming them for the babies’ deaths (when, in reality, people like her are probably more to blame).

  67. Nigel Depledge

    @ Todd W (67) -
    Oh, man, I have only a tiny room full of bits of paper. And no parsnip box (where I come from, parsnips grow in the ground, not in boxes). So I’m clearly not such an expert after all. ;-)

  68. Vert Rewq

    I was vaccinated in the 60s as a baby and had a very bad reaction, nearly died, and I caught whooping cough when I was 14.

    When my son was born he was given the MMR but not this vaccine. After much consultation we found out that I was given attenuated virus and the current vaccine is different,. He was vaccinated and had no side effects.

  69. @Nigel Depledge

    You also need an appropriately religiously inspired wardrobe. That gives credence to one’s words among the faithful. Just look at Ms. Scheibner’s lovely monk-like robey garment and penitent chain about her neck.

  70. Chris

    Vewt Rewq:

    When my son was born he was given the MMR but not this vaccine.

    That is interesting, especially since the MMR is not given until a child is more than a year old in most countries. And even where it is given early (like India), never to newborns.

  71. Kit R.

    The “how to prevent whooping cough” website says to talk to your doctor. Which is great, if you have one, and medical insurance.

    Time for me to go bothering people at social service outlets!

  72. Jen

    Something similar happened to me when I was a baby–I caught the measles from a friend of my parents, who’d been vaccinated in the early days of measles vaccines, and hadn’t gotten a booster later in life. Because of this, he caught the measles, and before anyone realized what it was (since measles are now so rare that doctors don’t even recognize it anymore), I and another infant who was also too young for a vaccine had both caught it. Thankfully, both of us were fine, but the doctor who treated me and the other baby said that it could have been much worse.

  73. Kurt

    My daughter turned two months old yesterday, and I proudly brought her to the pediatrician for her first major round of vaccinations today – including her DTAP. Had anyone approached me in the hallway and tried to convince me otherwise, I would have straight-up Falcon Punched them back to the 18th century. All the semi-literate mouth-breathing morons for whom ‘science’ is a thing spoon-fed to them by Dr. Oz or Deepak Chopra or other purveyors of woo and anti-intellectual nonsense can go take some homeopathic sleeping pills and shut the f##k up.

  74. Zoey

    Among the things I’ve heard antivaxers claim is that more people die of reactions to the vaccines than would die if everyone just went unvaccinated, because the elimination of these diseases is correlated mainly with the improvements in public sanitation and nutrition over the last century. Sure, it’s easier to point out the biggest whackjobs for what they are, but it might be helpful to address the claims that might sound vaguely plausible to people with no background in epidemiology. (I’ll cop to not having done much in the way of homework on how tenuous this particular claim’s connection is to reality, but judging from the recent outbreaks, it’s probably complete crap – and in general I’m skeptical of anything the alt-med side says because they have this attitude that you can never trust scientists… unless what they’re saying agrees with your preconceptions. Then, there’s no way they could be wrong, and “their methodology isn’t flawed! It’s just your perception of reality that’s flawed!”)

  75. Messier Tidy Upper

    @37. Keith Bowden :

    I’ve come to realize that I visit Bad Astronomy not just for Phil but to look for MTU’s comments. Cheers!

    Aw, shucks! [Blushes, feels head swelling.] Thankyou Keith. Much appreciated. :-D

    @36. Todd W. :

    @Messier Tidy Upper …[SNIP] … Except that high infant mortality would most likely have the opposite effect. People would be more likely to have more kids, since they would be counting on losing at least one or two. That’s part of the problem in many poorer countries, and what Bill Gates was talking about when he said that vaccines would help with overpopulation (meaning that lower child mortality would mean people don’t need to have as many kids, not some eugenics program).
    [Emphasis original but shifted emphasising method for clarity.]

    Good point – there is that. So, yeah, even that gallows humour “benefit” is gone. :-(

  76. Dave

    Look up ‘homeopathic medicine futurama’ on youtube. It sums up why I can’t help but laugh (in despair) when I see Scheibner say she has a doctorate in Natural Sciences as if it means something. Yep, and I’m a professor of Fartology and Donutessenology from the University of My House.

  77. Gary Ansorge

    ,,,and here we have evidence that, in fact, humans are about as smart as we can get. I suppose it would help if ALL humans could be as smart as possible, rather than spread all across the bell curve however, even the most powerful computer ever built is just a useless pile of metal if the programming is sloppy.

    Teaching people how to think is a thankless task,,,literally, since governing is easiest if the sheep don’t know they’re in for a good shearing and I have observed politicians are pretty darn lazy. Sound bites are easy. Thinking is hard.

    Gary 7

  78. Chemmomo

    @Zoey #77
    Here’s a resource for you from the CDC addressing what would happen if we stop vaccinating:

    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/whatifstop.htm

  79. @Zoey

    In addition to what Chemmomo said, there are some diseases that the best sanitation or nutrition in the world won’t do one jot to prevent. These are largely respiratory illnesses, like pertussis, measles, rubella, influenza, etc.

  80. Messier Tidy Upper
  81. Thanks for posting this Phil.

  82. Wayne on the Plains

    My daughter was born two weeks before Dana McCaffrey, just thinking about all they’ve missed in the last 2+ years breaks my heart. I certainly understand why they are taking no chances with their youngest.

  83. Maybe some strong rhetoric is called for. Would it be too much to suggest that those who oppose mandatory vaccination are aiding and abetting murder?

  84. msjetbn

    Last year at about this time, my husband was just getting over a bout of pertussis. I had somehow contracted pertussis before him. Neither of us, both being in news and very well-informed on health issues, had a clue that we needed a booster. I was 56 and he was 63 at the time. I thought I was coming down with my first big cold in many years. Yes, I have been cold-free since 2002, probably because I had immunity from experiencing all 200 viruses that make up rhinovirus. I work at home and, due to financial constraints, minimize my public contact. Who wants to go out if you can’t spend anything at all? At a meeting with my publisher, I continued to feel worse. After seeing my doctor, I was placed on a breathing machine three times a day for three weeks in addition to several other asthma-type medications. I refused to be hospitalized. I was sick like I had never before been sick. I could not easily move from one chair to another. I could not stop coughing and eventuallymy chest muscles caused extreme pain every time I coughed. It was like that for 6 weeks and took several more weeks to get back to speed. My husband came down with the identical symptoms during my final week, although he didn’t have as much trouble breathing. For the first time in his life, he missed 3 entire weeks of work. This was never reported to health officials by our doctor so our dalliance with pertussis went unreported, as I suspect many other cases were also left unreported. Thank goodness we figured out early in my illness that it was something very bad and we should remain in quarantine as much as possible. Certainly nowhere near infants or sick people. We were completely blindsided by this and it was before all of the reports of pertussis had been released to the media. Please, please understand the value of vaccines. Please do what is right not only for your family but for innocent folks who might be standing in line at the grocery store with you. Or who may be sitting at the table next to you in a restaurant. Or are on a flight with you. We are always walking the razor’s edge of some new pandemic. Don’t let it be a preventable infectious disease.

  85. flip

    #88, msjetbn

    Just wanted to say you have my sympathies. I’m experiencing pretty much the same as you (only it turns out, I don’t have pertussis at all) and I can comprehend just how awful you must have felt.

    When I get better, the first thing I’m doing is getting booster shots for everything. I’d hate to treat my underlying problem only to get pertussis later and deal with the coughing/wheezing/inability to breath all over again.

    Hope you are feeling much better now!

  86. Last year more than 9,000 pertussis cases were reported in California, the most cases reported in 63 years. Disease activity remains high in 2011 with more than 1,100 whooping cough cases reported to public health officials.

    The California Medical Association (CMA) and CMA Foundation have produced TV public service spots, in English and Spanish, to educate parents and their adolescent children about the new requirement to be vaccinated for pertussis before starting 7th through 12th grades. The TV spots can be viewed by going to http://cal.md/psa-tdap. Ron Lopp, CMA, rlopp@cmanet.org

  87. HSQ

    I had pertussis as an adult. I spent two nights in and out of the ER before my primary care doc heard me cough (from 100 yards away) and figured it out. I spent over ten work weeks out of the office, worried my whole family sick, and spent thousands of dollars on doctor visits (not including the cracked rib). All because I didn’t get a booster shot that would have cost me no more than $35… GET THE SHOT!

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