The Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spotlights Vaccine-Averse Behavior And Generates Media Herd Narrative

By Keith Kloor | January 23, 2015 12:01 pm

I suppose you have heard about the recent Disneyland measles outbreak. The story is receiving wide coverage in the media, triggering a fresh wave of angst over the increasing reoccurrence of preventable diseases in the United States–and outrage over the small percentage of parents who do not vaccinate their children.

Last year, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there was a spike in measles cases in the United States, stemming, it seems, from unvaccinated travelers who brought the disease back with them from the Philippines, where a large outbreak has been occurring since 2013. A general media narrative taking shape now with the Disney outbreak story is informed by this CDC graphic from last year.


So what’s the latest news on the Disney-centered outbreak? Via the Associated Press (AP):

In a rash of cases that public health officials are rushing to contain, at least 70 people in six states and Mexico have fallen ill since mid-December, most of them from California. The vast majority of those who got sick had not gotten the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine.

Some of the media coverage has focused on “pockets” of unvaccinated children in certain California communities where vaccine-averse parents have clustered.

As the CDC notes of the three largest measles outbreaks of 2014, “transmission occurred after introduction of measles into communities with pockets of persons who were unvaccinated because of philosophical or religious beliefs.”

A new study (PDF) on these geographic clusters has just been published in the journal Pediatrics. A high concentration of unvaccinated children make these communities much more susceptible to outbreaks.

The Los Angeles Times, advancing a theme echoed in many media stories, writes that the Disneyland outbreak “has generated increased concern about the rise in the number of parents who do not immunize their children.” Similarly, the Washington Post wonk blog, referring to a 2014 survey, says that “only 51 percent of Americans were confident that vaccines are safe and effective, which is similar to the proportion who believe that houses can be haunted by ghosts.”

The two impressions you get from such articles is that more parents are not vaccinating their children and that many Americans are not confident in the safety of vaccines–and both these impressions would be dead wrong. Dan Kahan, a Yale researcher who studies science communication and risk perception, was dubious about the findings in that survey cited by the Wonk blog. In an email exchange with me, he said:

I don’t know what the survey item was, but I do know that if one constructs valid measures, one can easily show that there is overwhelming confidence in vaccine safety. Items that ask whether people are “concerned” about vaccine “side effects” are not a valid predictor of vaccine hesitancy among parents; even parents who make sure their children get every vaccine will say “yes” to that question — it’s simply not a valid indicator of vaccine hesitancy.

Indeed, no public opinion survey of the general public can give anyone useful information on vaccine risk concerns. The only valid evidence of that generally is the National Immunization Survey, which uses actual vaccine behavior to determine vaccination rates. It shows that there has been no drop off in vaccination rates in more than 10 yrs — & no measurable increase in people exempting from vaccination (that figure is below 1%).

Nonetheless, the recent spike in measles cases in the United States is the background context for the Disney/measles outbreak story. So, as the New York Times reports:

The latest outbreak has renewed a heated debate about an anti-vaccination movement championed largely by parents who believe discredited research linking vaccines to autism, or who believe that the risks of some vaccines, including the measles inoculations, outweigh any potential benefit.

This kind of narrative framing taps into the frustration of medical professionals on the frontlines of pediatric health, who lash out at vaccine-hesitant parents. Examples below.

From the AP:

“Some people are just incredibly selfish” by skipping shots, said Dr. James Cherry, a pediatric disease expert at the University of California, Los Angeles.

From the NYT:

Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the outbreak was “100 percent connected” to the anti-immunization campaign. “It wouldn’t have happened otherwise — it wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” he said. “There are some pretty dumb people out there.”

This soundbite was picked up by other journalists on Twitter:

To which Brendan Nyhan, a communications scholar and political scientist at Dartmouth, responded:

On the quotes in the AP and NYT highlighted above, I asked Nyhan via email to elaborate:

I’m concerned that some vaccine advocates and doctors have been labeling people who aren’t vaccinated as “selfish” or “dumb” during coverage of the Disneyland outbreak. We need to maintain and strengthen the consensus around vaccination, but the most effective way to do so isn’t by polarizing and dividing people. The vast majority of parents who don’t vaccinate are intelligent and well-meaning people who are trying to do what’s best for their children. We need to help them make better choices, not ridicule them.

There are communication studies from experts that point to more constructive approaches, some of which I wrote about last year. Meanwhile, it’s worth asking if the media, in its Disneyland/measles outbreak coverage, is 1) overstating the importance of the anti-vaccine movement, and 2) eliciting the kinds of reactions from public health professionals that are more likely to unnecessarily demonize and alienate vaccine-hesitant parents?

This is not to downplay the real consequences of misguided decisions made by vaccine resisters. Clearly, they are endangering their fellow citizens. But we should be careful about drawing the wrong conclusions from these episodes.

As Kahan also remarked to me:

I’m sure it’s true that outbreaks are more likely to occur in areas with undervaccination enclaves. But that’s been true forever; it’s not new. The claim that outbreaks are tied to declines in vaccination rates or growing parental resistance, etc., is not true.

The media narrative here is comparable to the one on whooping cough [in 2013], where media kept insisting that the outbreaks were caused by lower vaccination rates. Vaccination rates hadn’t dropped. It turned out the new booster shot–made with dead rather than live pertussis — was not as effective. Reporters ignored this for quite some time, but eventually the word got out.

Kahan thus cautions against jumping to the wrong conclusions again with the latest measles outbreak:

The low-vaccination enclaves *are* a public health problem. But attributing them to general anxiety over vaccine risks in public is not useful — and in fact is itself dangerous.

Misdirected concern also ends up confusing private funders, who are more likely to be suckered by advertising consultants into a “social marketing campaign” when what they ought to be doing is supporting the research of a guy like Doug Opel at the University of Washington, who has developed a very decent screening instrument to help pediatricians identify parents who are likely, out of fear or confusion (they aren’t marching around like Jenny McCarthy et al; they’d be easy to spot then!), to have their kids skip shots. With an instrument like that, doctors can focus attention strategically on parents who might well respond to counseling. Of course, one can use empirical methods to develop good counseling protocols too — if you can identify who the likely nonvaccinators are in an effective way.

That’s where the real public health attention should be: on supporting valid studies to designed targeted identification and counseling.

As this latest measles outbreak runs its course, perhaps some of my colleagues in the media will take a look at the emerging research that aims to foster more constructive engagement on vaccine issues.

UPDATE: Julie Leask, a social scientist at the University of Sydney, Australia is an essential source for anyone seeking insight into risk communication and vaccine-related issues. I queried Leask as I was writing this post. Below is her response, which, due to our different time zones, came in after my post went up. Please take a minute to read her perspective:

The extent of the Disneyland outbreak is a big concern because measles can be a very serious disease, causing pneumonia, convulsions, croup, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), which could result in hospitalisation and even death. But the way the problem is being explained in the media right now generally is unhelpful.

To be committed to the science of immunisation ideally comes with a commitment to the science of immunisation behaviour. Media often present this problem as refusal to vaccinate. But the evidence is clear and it’s more complex: under-vaccination is broadly about a lack of acceptance and a lack of opportunity to vaccinate fully or on-time. It’s not just the haves, but the have-nots who don’t fully vaccinate.

A typical measles outbreak will reveal this. There will be children whose parents refused vaccination; children whose parents were unwittingly not up to date for lack of access; affordability or awareness; adults and travellers who didn’t get a needed booster; and babies who are too young to be vaccinated.

Some of the solutions to under-vaccination are at our fingertips. For vaccines to reach people you need to have ‘well oiled’ systems, which include free and accessible vaccines, national registers, reminders, incentives and reasonable sanctions. Ensuring services are culturally respectful is important so people are not put off attending. If we keep focusing only on the active refusers alone, governments get off too lightly.

Having said that, active refusal of vaccines remains a real and persistent problem. The evidence base is very limited but there are some promising strategies. At a state level, exemptions that require the signature of a physician minimise the active non-vaccinators. In the physicians office, making a positive recommendation, spending time with hesitant parents (and less with entrenched decliners), building trust and rapport and even if they delay or don’t vaccinate, keeping the door open. We also need try out community based approaches first by better understanding the social norms and group commitments that lead parents to not vaccinate.

It’s a difficult one because it’s much harder to change motivation than to change the practical barriers. But there are researchers around the world committed to doing this.

To end, it’s probably appropriate to quote from our recent article here

Vaccine programs are underpinned by a rigorous science determining their efficacy and safety in populations. There needs to be a similar level of commitment to identifying and testing the interventions designed to increase uptake of vaccines among vaccine-hesitant parents.

Additional reading:

Dan Kahan: “Want to know what empirically *informed” vaccine communication looks like?”

Dan Kahan: “A risky science communication environment for vaccines.”

Brendan Nyhan: “Vaccine opponents can be immune to education.”

Julie Leask et al: “Communicating with parents about vaccination: A framework for health professionals.”

Julie Leask: “Parents’ decisions about vaccination and the gentle art of persuasion.”

  • John Barba

    I had the measles when I was a kid …. way not fun

    • Pat

      So did I and I survived with no after effects. I firmly believe those who vaccinate their children are putting them at risk for more serious issues such as the Autism Spectrum Disorder which is a lifelong debilitating issue.

      • Michael Cooney

        Pat, you may seriously believe, but foetnately, you are incorrect.

        • Pat

          And your source of information is?…

        • brian

          Please give us a peer-reviewed study that proves your source of information.

          • Michael Cooney

            Search for “MMR and autism” and pick the first entry or any number of journal entries (not all are journal papers). There is one from 2001 and another update from 2004 that examine evidence. There is one on recall bias further down page. If you sort by date, the first link is a paper from 21 days ago.

            I have no expectation that these will convince you, but I wanted to address the question.

          • JH

            There’s no point in giving you anything since you don’t accept anything but your own beliefs.

          • FC

            Why is research that is not confirming pro vaccine believes often looked upon with extra caution? Because it is not confirming a believe? Because there is too much at stake? Pro vaccination seems in some cases as much a believe as Anti vaccination. Look what happens in this scientific journal with a published serious reanalysis of data that reveals effect between MMR vaccine and autism: We need more serious, independent studies that study the negative effects of vaccination.

          • nikattack

            Right, we DO need more serious independent studies. Unfortunately, the one you posted is not one of them, and it was retracted. Please try again

      • skybluskyblue

        Many people do get after effects of measles. Why take the risk? The risk for a reaction to a vaccine is infinitesimal compared to the risk of complications from vaccine preventable diseases. Your fear is way off balance. Your risk calculations **for other people** are way off base! And why are you dissing autistics? So, theoretically, you would rather have people suffer several diseases and let a few die rather than have and autistic child? What are you reading? too much info from Autism Speaks? Autism is not scary. Get that idea out of your mind.

        • Pat

          I am willing to bet you do not have an autistic child. Mine will always require help in life. He is a wonderful kid but he was deprived of having a normal life because of the MMR vaccine. And perhaps you would like to ask those kids who contracted autism through the vaccine how they would vote on this issue.

  • mem_somerville

    I can see why it make people queasy to see the mockery and name-calling on this issue. So far I’ve seen 2 different articles interviewing the measles virus, one calling it “Idiocy”, and that was just this afternoon.

    But we have the evidence that shows that no amount of evidence matters to the hard-core anti-vaxxers.

    And maybe some public shaming works on a subset of the fence-sitters. Has anyone asked that? Maybe some people don’t want to be in the Venn diagram with people who put their kids at risk unnecessarily once they realize there is an actual threat. And that some people have really strong negative feelings about those that don’t vaccinate their kids.

    Now that I think of it, I can’t remember even seeing that asked in the papers. Do you remember anyone assessing that?

    • mem_somerville

      Yes, I’m talking to myself. But I was thinking last night if neighbor-shaming ever worked on me. And I decided that it had.

      My next-door neighbor manicures his lawn. You know, with nail clippers and rulers for precision, pretty much. Our lawn–well, let’s just say we prefer biodiversity. I love dandelions. And longer grass = more photosynthesis, right?

      So I rationalize myself into a crappy lawn. But eventually the glares from across the fence will get to me, and I will reluctantly pull out the weed-whacker.

      No single strategy works on everyone all the time. But maybe some people will be impacted by a little disdain.

      • JH

        Doesn’t seem to affect our neighbors. :)

        • skybluskyblue

          Once again you ignore community immunity and the vulnerable people that cannot get vaccines! Are you really that self-centered? Vaccines Do work. I can personally vouch for rabies vaccines –Those who are vaccinated do not die if exposed to rabies. Those that do not get the vaccine die in the tens of thousands every year across the world. “In 2010, an estimated 26,000 people died from rabies”

          • JH

            I’m not sure where you get the idea that I’m opposed to vaccination. I’m not. I strongly support it.

    • Joshua

      ==> “And maybe some public shaming works on a subset of the fence-sitters”

      Excellent point. Maybe we should start calling them “vaccination deniers.”

      Great idea!!!

      • mem_somerville

        I’m gonna ‘fess up right now: I am a lawn denier.

    • Michael Cooney

      You have a great point. The anti-vaxxers are lost and cannot be won over. We shouldn’t cater any public messages to them. However, their arguments are emotional and do affect their peers. There needs to be someway to quickly an decisively stamp out ther arguments before they catch hold in others. I’m not sure shaming of the hardcore is the best way to do this, but I haven’t seen it backfire either. People on the fence tend to be more rational about this particular topic, so I imagine calling one side ignorant of reality would have some traction.

      • mem_somerville

        Maybe if John Oliver did a skit that showed how many pediatricians affirmed the safety and efficacy of vaccines, people would think mockery is effective. For some reason it’s taboo on this issue.

    • Julie Leask

      This is a really good question. Vaccination is a social practice – parents are influenced by what they perceive their peers to be doing, what social norms are at play in their communities, whether vaccination symbolises good parenting (or not), and when they think others aren’t vaccinating.

      When parents in general see vaccination so strongly reinforced as a societal norm and the outrage at non vaccinators, perhaps this provides an extra ‘shield’ against being influenced. We don’t know but let’s imagine that shaming as a purposeful and condoned public strategy worked in preventing some tip over towards non-vaccination or even getting some selective/delaying vaccinators to change their minds. Would the ends justify the means? How much of an effect would public shaming need to have and what would be the unintended consequences, including stigmatisation of their children and polarisation and division in communities? As a researcher of vaccination behaviour I say it’s an empirical question. As a mother committed to civil society I say let’s find better ways.

      Regardless, it’s going to happen anyway, such is the emotion that active non-vaccination initiates. Highly recommend On Immunity by Eula Biss for a thoughtful take on the issues.

  • Ferit Tuzer

    wrong title then, it’s not “not tied” to low vaccination. it’s just that overall, vaccination rates haven’t dropped that much. however the current proportion of the unvaccinated may have and probably did cause the outbreaks.

  • JH

    The fact that vaccination rates haven’t dropped may not be relevant. The relevant factor might be that there although there is the same percentage of vaccinated people there are larger absolute numbers of unvaccinated people that can form a critical mass to cause an outbreak even if they aren’t sorting themselves into groups. No doubt there are far more daily visitors to Disneyland today than there were 30 years ago, meaning unvaccinated people are more likely to bump into each other there. High schools are also much larger, again making it more likely for unvaccinated people to meet even if vaccination rates are the same.

    • mem_somerville

      Yeah, I couldn’t figure out why nobody else was noting that–the absolute number of unvaxxed is now higher.

    • brian

      What they fail to mention in this article is that the people with the vaccination had contracted the disease. Vaccins do not make you immune! They never have and if things keep going like they are they never will. Do your research and the true stories behind vaccines will come to light.

      • Ross Silverman

        Here is some research: Fact noted in the LA Times story linked above: Of the 43 people who contracted measles from Disneyland for whom complete medical records were available, 37 were unvaccinated, 1 was underimmunized. That’s 88%.

        9 out of 10 unimmunized people who come in contact with measles will catch measles. An unvaccinated person is 35 times more likely to catch measles than one who is fully vaccinated ( No vaccine is 100% effective, but it’s way more effective at preventing illness in individuals and in preventing outbreaks than being unvaccinated.

      • skybluskyblue

        “Do your research” you mean on Google so you can run into antivaccer results that are often at the top or near the top when you type in “vaccines” or something related to vaccines? If you really want to “do research” take college classes on chemistry, physics, biology, human physiology at the very least. [BTW Google-U is not at all anything like a college course. You must have labs, physical labs in all of those courses, you cannot do them online.] Then Maybe you’d have the background to talk about this “issue”.

      • JH


        If you “did your research” you wouldn’t question the overall efficacy of vaccines.

        • MaryMoo

          So you are an expert in trial design and research methodology? You have managed clinical trials? If you did you would understand the gap in safety and efficacy of vaccines.

          • JH

            Is that the standard you hold yourself to? :))) Nooo…:)))

      • Andrew Lazarus

        So, the 5% of the population that is not vaccinated accounts for 75% of the sick people, not 100%. Explain very slowly why that is a win for antivax and a loss for the vaccine. I don’t get it.

        • Bernard Dijkstra

          Those of us who bother to read case definitions know there are two categories of diagnostic criteria: a broad one for the vaccine-rebels and a restrictive one for the vaccine-submissive. The fiddling is so obvious it hurts the eyes.

          • JH

            Oh, Andrew, look! “Bernard” doesn’t have an answer! I’m shocked…

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            Diagnosis bias is not an answer for you? Reason me why.

            Not surprising after all, for you preach about measles without EVER having read the case definitions of the WHO or the CDC. Ignorance is bliss!

    • Bernard Dijkstra

      “…The relevant factor might be that…”

      Have you considered these two factors?

      1) vaccines are not as efficient as they had the public believe.
      2) Increasing child malnutrition due to the economic crisis.

      Regarding (2) it’s been proven that vit, A reduces the incidence of measles by over 50%

      Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis.

      RESULTS: 43 trials with about 215,633 children were include … Vitamin A supplementation was associated with a reduced incidence of diarrhoea (0.85, 0.82 to 0.87) and measles (0.50, 0.37 to 0.67)

      A look at reality with the vaccine-gogles down reveals that hygiene, nutrition and sanitation are the true factors that stop the spread of the so-called “infectious” diseases.

      • Andrew Lazarus

        Why didn’t you mention many of these studies are in poor parts of Africa and other Third World countries where severe malnutrition is common? And that even the lower rates represent major mortality and morbidity?

        Nothing antivax cranks say can be taken at face value. Everything must be checked against the originals.

        • Bernard Dijkstra

          That’s precisely the point, Einstein, MALNUTRITION = MORE MEASLES. Now coming to a child near you in the US.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            The level of malnutrition in the children who benefited from Vitamin A is not found in children who visit Disneyland. You are just making a typically-dishonest attempt to apply results from seriously malnourished children who benefit from Vitamin A who still die at a much, much greater rate than vaccinated American children, even with the vitamin.

            Someone who wasn’t paying close attention might think you were talking about American children, which you aren’t, because in your quest to bring back measles (just to see if your personal nutrition will work as well as you think it will), you aren’t very honest.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “…The level of malnutrition in the children who benefited from Vitamin A is not found in children who visit Disneyland….”

            That’s your guess and it crashes with reality:

            Food Insecurity and Child Malnutrition in the United States

            “…Children and the elderly are at increased risk for malnutrition, an affliction that takes place when a patient’s body is deprived of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients….
            … The problem of food insecurity has gotten worse in the years since the official end of the Great Recession.”

            By denying the link between recession, increased malnutrition and increased measles you’re being obtuse.

            “..Someone who wasn’t paying close attention might think you were talking about American children”

            The intelligent reader understands that the effects malnutrition do not depend on geography, but on degree.

            Then again, vaccine pushers have no problem extrapolating the risk of “measles complications” from developing countries to the US in order to scare americans.

          • JH

            Reality check required.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            Compare this with malnutrition in Gabon and get back to us.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            A lot worse, and so is measles. Glad you admit vaccines fail where the basic human needs are not met… or rather they fail everywhere and it’s just those the needs what counts.

  • Ross Silverman

    Very nice piece. My sole contention with it is with Kahan’s interpretation of the NIS data, as it is at a minimum misleading to focus on statewide or national data (when, as you note, what is of most concern are pockets of high vulnerability). So saying that vaccination exemption rates are below 1% nationwide may be true, but considering that children are one of the most vulnerable and common vectors for vaccine-preventable illnesses, it is notable that exemption rates for children entering kindergarten were at 1% or lower in only 8 states nationwide in 2013, and was at or over 4% in 11 states ( In California, exemption rates for Kindergartners rose from 1.5% in 2007 to 3.1% in 2013. Oregon’s Kindergartner exemption rate was 7.1%. For a VPI as infectious as measles, that’s a significant vulnerability.

    • kkloor

      This distinction between national exemption rates and certain state or even county level rates is an important point. Another commentator raised it with me on Twitter. I’m going to delve into this more concretely later next week.

    • Michael Cooney

      I was a little surprised that Kahan would take that stance too. Oddly for his position, it shows only a surface reading of the issue and a reluctance to go in depth. One cannot present national (or any other combined) non-adjusted figures unless it’s been proven there is no effect-modification and confounding by location: it’s epi 101.

    • Chris Preston

      I agree. It is even more complex than that. You get small pockets with very high levels of non-vaccinating. We have seen this with whooping cough epidemics at Steiner schools in Boulder for example. So even at a state level, the number of exemptions can seem reasonable, but if those getting exemptions copy each other in other behaviours then an outbreak can easily occur.

  • Tony Stackpoole

    Overall none of you should ever have to worry about this. You all have your vaccine so you will never get the disease. Don’t worry about it.While my child will lead a better and healthier life without the vaccine.

    • skybluskyblue

      “You all have your vaccine so you will never get the disease”. Wrong! This is so tedious to keep having to answer this wide-spread myth created by pseudoscience websites! Vaccines are not 100% effective. Most are 95% effective so out of a population of one thousand 50 people will have vaccine failure for whatever reason. Then there are the people with naturally or medically induced compromised immune systems that can very easily and often [and often get a severe case of it]. Then there are the babies too young to get vaccines. There are people allergic to eggs that have a hard time finding non-egg-based vaccines.This is why community-immunity is very important. The smaller the amount of non-vaccinated the smaller the chance that a baby or immune compromised person will run into a vaccine-refuser [or someone unable to get it] that by chance could be carrying a vaccine preventable disease. So if your little “healthy child” happens to go with you on a vacation to areas a of the world where measles are out of control the could bring it back the the US and expose at least 50 unprotected people to measles it a town of 1000. Scale that up to Disneyland. Or even a fellow antivaccer could get it from traveling or even from another antivaccer because antivaccers tend to live in groups geographically-wise. There is data from California that shows several pockets of antivaccers in little enclaves like South Sacramento, Norther San Francisco, southern Marin County, etc. .

      • Tony Stackpoole

        well aware of your heard immunity bullshit. so go ahead and vaccinate you children and help the herd, I will stay un-vaccinated and be perfectly safe from it all.

      • Tony Stackpoole

        and don’t share your bullshit government website data, I know damn well that the government can not be trusted. Just think of the largest lab rat experiment in the world… it’s called the US military. The shots and experiments that they are given is unprecedented, and they do not have the option to opt out.
        My friend was not near the front lines in the Gulf War yet he came home with GWS. He has no idea what was in the vaccines he was given before he was sent over there.
        Oh yes, trust our government! they will never lie to us!

    • Chris Preston

      This, sadly is so ignorant.

      Not everyone is able to have the vaccine. Those too young to be vaccinated and those with compromised immune systems have to rely on the rest of us to create herd immunity to protect them.

      I find it a bit peculiar Brendan Nyhan was was saying we shouldn’t call anti-vaxers selfish, when you are a perfect example of the selfishness they indulge in.

      • Tony Stackpoole

        well aware of your heard immunity bullshit. so go ahead and vaccinate
        you children and help the herd, I will stay un-vaccinated and be
        perfectly safe from it all.

        Measles outbreaks happening across the country… know where that’s from? Didn’t obama open our borders to thousands of disease ridden children from central america that he then had shipped all over the country. yeah. logic is something you lack when the path is right in front of you!

        • Chris Preston

          Vaccination rates against measles are higher in Mexico and most of South America than they are in the US.

          So no, you are wrong. As well as selfish.

          And indulge in that strange practice of upvoting your own posts.

          • Tony Stackpoole

            bullshit they are higher

      • Tony Stackpoole

        and you have ZERO right to judge me nor my beliefs. My body is a temple from God. I put nothing bad in it including vaccines. That is none of your business!

  • Pat

    My son, receiving the MMR vaccine at the age of 1, went into convulsions a week after and was hospitalized for a week. This once healthy and happy child lost his ability to walk and spent months relearning this. He lost dexterity and several years later we discovered he had Aspergers Syndrome. Autism Spectrum Disorders have already been linked to the MMR vaccination.

    • Michael Cooney

      No, they have not. I’m sorry for your son.

      • Pat

        Perhaps you might like to read publications like What Doctors Don’t Tell You or speak with the millions of parents now dealing with autistic children who had perfectly healthy children before they were given the MMR vaccine. It may not affect most children in this manner but enough, or in my opinion, too many.

        • skybluskyblue

          “What Doctors Don’t Tell”Why would anyone want to listen to a crank group so far out of real medical circles and out of any semblance of medicine or science for information? Because it is exciting to think you are challenging the big bad establishment like hippies in the 1960s. You must be a baby boomer to have that drilled into your mind of things you admire. Ooooo You are such a rebel! So Maverick! Find another topic to be Maverick about OK? You are way out of your depth. Heh! But often only people with a good education in science can even **realize** when they are out of their depth in this area. So the Dunning-Kruger effect strikes again! I.e. You are so ignorant that you cannot know that you are ignorant[in this area]! LOL!!

          • MaryMoo

            a simple search on pubmed will yield numerous results about the links of vaccines to autism specifically concerning the adjuvants used to boost the immune response – neurotoxins.

  • Randolph Lievertz

    In the 1960’s one could not enter or re-enter the USA without proof of smallpox vaccination. Perhaps we should restart this policy for measles, mumps, rubella (mmr), diphtheria, & pertussis.

    • Kathryn

      Hmmm… that would actually mean we would need to secure our borders!

      • Randolph Lievertz, MD

        Or require proof of vaccinations for everyone entering the USA along with their passports as we did prior to the 1970’s.

    • Bernard Dijkstra

      Funny that polio and smallpox could be erradicated by vaccines at a time when coverage was much lower than it is today, but instead measles and pertussis persist in spite of 95%+ coverage rates.

      Either these vaccines are useless, or there have to be other factors driving these illnesses that infection alone.

      • Andrew Lazarus

        Please re-do your calculations including the fact measles is easier to catch than polio and smallpox (although, with respect to polio, why do you believe coverage was lower?).

        • Bernard Dijkstra

          Re-do your calculations including the fact that outbreaks among highly vaccinated populations are common and then revise the concept of “vaccine protection”.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            With the very large majority of the USA being vaccinated, it’s not surprising that we have some vaccine failures. The aggregate score, though, is that the unvaccinated are much, much more likely to be sick. Even with the mediocre pertussis vaccine, the unvaccinated are twice as likely to get sick. In this Disneyland outbreak, it’s something like 50 times as likely.

            How embarrassing for the antivax side.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “…the unvaccinated are twice as likely to get sick….”

            1. the unvaccinated enjoy a much better general health than the vaccine-submissive.

            A population-based cohort study of undervaccination in 8 managed care organizations across the United States.

            “…children who were undervaccinated because of parental choice had lower rates of outpatient visits (IRR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.93-0.95) and emergency department encounters (IRR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.88-0.94) than age-appropriately vaccinated children.”</blockquote

            2. the vaccine-submissive take 2x the risk: vaccine risk AND illness risk. Vaccine risk is cumulative

            3. as I explained for measles, diagnosis is skewed in favour of the vaccine-submissive (2 criteria v. 3). The same applies to pertussis.

            You tunnel vision is an embarrassment and a disservice to all the vaccine-submissive.

          • Proponent

            “1. the unvaccinated enjoy a much better general health than the vaccine-submissive.”

            / Your words.. certainly not those contained, nor, represented in the paper.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “..certainly not those contained, nor, represented in the paper…”

            According to the paper: “…children who were undervaccinated because of parental choice had lower rates of … emergency department encounters … than age-appropriately vaccinated children.”

            If unvaccinated kids were “sicker” and their parents “reluctant “of doctors, then how is it possible to observe less use of emergence services in this group?

            Your interpretation does not compute! The only rational explanation is better overall health among the vaccine-skeptic.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            Which indicates a more severe medical problem: an emergency department encounter (after which patient goes home), or an inpatient hospital admission?

            [Hint to the lurker: non-vaxed kids had more admissions.]

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “..non-vaxed kids had more admissions..

            I already had addressed that point.

            The difference was marginal and is fully accounted for by the medical bias to see more risk in unvaccinated kids, even if the symptoms are the same.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            In other words, when we look at the numbers, they show unvaxed kids are sicker, needing a higher level of care, but that is caused by medical bias. But the difference in outpatient visits, that can’t be caused by parental bias, that must be a real phenomenon. Real consistent there, guys.

            In this Disney outbreak, at least at one point, more unvaccinated people had been hospitalized than vaccinated got sick at all.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            You say:

            “..when we look at the numbers, they show unvaxed kids are sicker, needing a higher level of care..”

            But then you say:

            “…There is one alternative explanation: that they are not sicker, but doctors are extra worried about on-vaccinated kids and admit them with symptoms with which they would send a vaccinated kid home.”

            So which is it? I see an internal struggle taking place. [Hint: read the medical protocols.]

            You kow perfectly well what’s happening. Still you’re too indoctrinated about vaccines, but good to see the reality shock has made you begin to THINK!

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “…The aggregate score, though, is that the unvaccinated are much, much more likely to be sick….”

            1. the aggregate score has been studied and spells like this:

            A population-based cohort study of undervaccination in 8 managed care organizations across the United States.

            “…children who were undervaccinated because of parental choice had lower rates of outpatient visits (IRR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.93-0.95) and emergency department encounters (IRR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.88-0.94) than age-appropriately vaccinated children.”</blockquote

            therefore, the unvaccinated enjoy a much better general health than the vaccine-submissive.

            2. the vaccine-submissive take 2x the risk: vaccine risk AND illness risk. Vaccine risk is cumulative

            3. as I explained for measles, diagnosis is skewed in favour of the vaccine-submissive (2 criteria v. 3). The same applies to pertussis.

            You tunnel vision is an embarrassment and a disservice to all the vaccine-submissive.

          • Proponent

            This link is far better:

            “A Population-Based Cohort Study of Undervaccination in 8 Managed Care Organizations Across the United States

            (Source )

            Better why?

            Because it allows the interested readers the opportunity to peruse the entire contents and scope of the paper.

            Not just some cherry-picked, misleading snippet. As the authors also state;

            “Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements of the past 100 years. However, an increasing number of parents have expressed concerns about immunizations, and survey data1- 5 have shown that more than 10% of parents report delaying or refusing certain vaccinations for their children. These concerned parents often request alternative vaccination schedules that either increase the time between vaccinations or reduce the number of vaccinations in a single well-child visit. Despite their concerns, however, the safety of alternative vaccination schedules is not known.”

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “…Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements of the past 100 years…”

            That opening statement is a mere opinion, neither the purpose of the study nor a conclusion of the data that were acquired.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            You missed the next sentence. (Do you read your links?)

            In contrast, undervaccinated children had increased inpatient admission rates compared with age-appropriately vaccinated children (IRR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.18-1.23).

            The natural conclusion is the undervaccinating parents wait until their kids are really sick to see the doctors. This study is about parental behavior, not child health. (Antivax nuts graze mainstream publications looking for any random phrase that can be construed in their favor. They never bother to understand the situation as a whole.)

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “…The natural conclusion is the undervaccinating parents wait until their kids are really sick to see the doctors….”

            If parents would wait till kids are “really sick” it would imply a higher use of emergency services. Instead, the study showed the opposite.

            Your assumption of deviant parent behaviour is plain “hate bias” unsupported by the data.

            No surprise to see faulty logic and hate in a vaccine pusher though.

            Less visits to the doctor is simply what it seems to be: less need of doctor services (better health).

          • Andrew Lazarus

            Higher rates of emergency inpatient admission are another strange definition of “better health”.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            Again: “…children who were undervaccinated because of parental choice had LOWER RATES of outpatient visits … AND emergency department encounters … than age-appropriately vaccinated children.”

            First, learn to READ.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            I say that they had higher rates of inpatient admission, and you respond with outpatient visits and emergency department encounters. And then you say I can’t read?! That’s really funny. Just who can’t read here?

            Moreover, there is an obvious reason for all of these observations: non-vaccinating parents care less about their children and wait for them to be extremely sick before seeking medical intervention. That explains all three observed phenomena.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “..non-vaccinating parents care less about their children and wait for them to be extremely sick before seeking medical intervention. That explains all three observed phenomena.

            Obviously, waiting till the kid is “extremely sick” would result in a higher use of emergency services. Instead, non-vaccinated kids used them less. Your assumption is therefore a crock of sh-t.

            By your own reasoning, the ones getting “extremely sick” must be the vaccinated kids since they’re seen more often in the emergency room.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            Not at all. It means that vaccinating and non-vaccinating parents have different triage standards. Vaccinating parents bring their children to the hospital more often, so they have more outpatient visits and more emergency room encounters. Non-vaccinating parents wait until their snowflake is very, very sick (rather than admit the Badass Immune System has failed), so once they bring their child to the hospital, they are more likely to be admitted as inpatients. You are missing the key point: more non-vaccinated kids are so terribly sick, they get admitted. Vaccinated kids used more services, agreed. Non-vaccinated kids were sicker—more needed inpatient admission.

            [There is one alternative explanation: that they are not sicker, but doctors are extra worried about non-vaccinated kids and admit them with symptoms with which they would send a vaccinated kid home. That still doesn’t explain your inability to distinguish a visit, an encounter, and an admission.]

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “…It means that vaccinating and non-vaccinating parents have different triage standards…

            Not proven. Your assumption and your banging on a dead horse.

            More emergency visits mean parents of vaccinated kids wait longer till the kid feels really bad.

            It’s logical because they believe their kids are protected and worry less about disease.

            “..more non-vaccinated kids are so terribly sick, they get admitted.

            Rather so “terribly unvacccinated” that the medical protocols considered them at a higher risk. Selection bias written in stone.

            Vaccinated kids get admitted almost as much. Once you eliminate the selection bias it’s a bad thing for vaccinees.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “…There is one alternative explanation: that they are not sicker, but doctors are extra worried about non-vaccinated kids and admit them with symptoms with which they would send a vaccinated kid home.

            Congrats, you’ve finally seen the light! This difference in assessment is the guidelines by the way.

            Next, understand the bias in the “confirmation” procedure that allows less specific methods to be used on non-vaccinees, thereby exaggerating the preceived incidence of the disease in this group, thereby creating a false perception of efficacy for the vaccine.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            You are talking two different things here. Inpatient admissions is going to be based primarily on how sick the kid looks at triage. And you still haven’t dealt with the problem of parental bias. We already know non-vaxing parents don’t take their kids to the doctor for shots, why can’t we speculate they don’t take their kids to the hospital (as often) either. Very strange double standards.

            And, again, with wild measles almost unheard of, it’s reasonable to assume that an unvaxed kid with measles rash and measles antibodies has measles on the basis of the simplest test. Where else did he get antibodies? Contaminated kale? That test doesn’t work on vaccinated kids, so if they present with the same symptoms, we have to go to something else.

            You are positing a conspiracy to hide tens of thousands of cases of a disease every year, starting at a time that parents could recognize the symptoms from an extremely common disease that their older children probably had. Tinfoil hat too tight?

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            The rates of outpatient and emergency visits are more reliable and less biased that the inpatient rates. Lack of vaccination may influence a doctor’s decision to hospitalize earlier, whereas outpatient and emergency visits are parental decisions based exclusively on visible symptoms, not vaccination history.

          • Andrew Lazarus

            And you don’t think non-vaccinating parents make different decisions about how sick the kid is? While at the same time you say that professionally trained doctors do. Fail.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            “..And you don’t think non-vaccinating parents make different decisions about how sick the kid is?..

            Regarding doctors, medical protocols recommend different measures depending on the vaccination status of the children. This is factual, not my assumption.

            Regarding parents of unvaccinated children, it’s your unsupported assumption that they’re are less concerned by their children’s symptoms of illness. Since both groups of parents believe their decision regarding vaccination is in the best interest of their children, their motivation is the same.

          • sabelmouse

            you mean more likely to catch the measles that they’re NOT vaccinated for? makes sense and it’s [short, mild, infection] great payoff for being overall healthier.
            chronic illness isn’t fun.

      • Randolph Lievertz, MD

        The factors driving these infections are failures to vaccinate or complete all booster vaccinations. A complete Pertussis vaccinaction schedule only protects

      • Randolph Lievertz, MD

        (continued) individuals into their early adulthood. The new recommendation is to vaccinate parents with children, elderly individuals, and all medical workers.

  • Guest

    Brain inflammation has been observed in people with autism (check Hopkins study), brain inflammation is also called encephalitis, encephalitis is mostly caused by viral infection especially measles, chicken pox, flu and Herpes simplex. Signs of encephalitis and onset of autism are identical. Do your research! Giving a measles, rubella, mumps and chickenpox and flu vaccine (live viruses) to a 1 year old all in one day increases the wrist dramatically! Encephalitis and permanent brain damage is listed as a side effect on every vaccine insert! Calling is autism doesn’t make is less brain inflammation and encephalitis!
    Can we add 2 + 2????

    • skybluskyblue

      “Signs of encephalitis and onset of autism are identical.” This is totally wrong. Have you even been around an autistic person? I think not. Who the hell would come up with this statement but an ignorant and emotion-driven antivaccer. One or two reading of Wikipedia will clear this up. Autistic do not at all resemble a person with encephalitis! If you think Wikipedia is “part of the conspiracy against you” then look in any medical dictionary for both terms to see how wrong that statement is. If that statement is way, way, off-base I would stop trusting who ever fed you this fake information. Unsubscribe from them and study the thing with your own power, your own mind. Don’t be a sucker!

    • skybluskyblue

      The rise in autism diagnosis is due to the changes in the DSM and greater awareness of even the word “autism”, not due to any sinister outside forces or causes. You are making that bothersome old error in thinking called the “fallacy, that an event that follows another was necessarily a consequence of the first event, is sometimes described as post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”).

      We autistics have been around since the dawn of mankind. As long as no one tries genocide on us we will be around until humanity ends.

    • JH

      Is there some part of “Totally whacked out and wrong” that you don’t get?

  • Sherry Missaghi Eshraghi

    Brain inflammation has been observed in people with autism (check Hopkins study), brain inflammation is also called encephalitis, encephalitis is mostly caused by viral infection especially measles, chicken pox, flu and Herpes simplex. Signs of encephalitis and onset of autism are identical. Do your research! Giving a measles, rubella, mumps and chickenpox and flu vaccine (live viruses) to a 1 year old all in one day increases the risk dramatically! Encephalitis and permanent brain damage is listed as a side effect on every vaccine insert! Calling it autism doesn’t make is less brain inflammation and encephalitis! I am pro-vaccine but also pro safety! Reduce the amount and start later giving vaccines. Back to the 80ties!
    Can we add 2 + 2????

    • Christopher Denman Williams

      Correlation vs causation. In the summer, more people eat ice cream. In the summer, more people drown. Adding 2 + 2 then ice cream causes people to drown.

    • skybluskyblue

      That study says nothing about vaccines. Not only that autism, is genetic, not caused by vaccines and certainly not developed after a child is born. Just because we had inflammation [how many causes of inflammation are there in the world?] during those studies does not mean that in “causes” autism. Autism starts in the genes passed on from the parents, not when a kid gets vaccines! It is pretty obvious you are reading anti-vaccine websites rather than looking in research journals yourself. Why do you blindly follow what they say? Why do you blindly let them interpret the study to suit their needs? I do not think one person in the anti-vaccine movement is even qualified to interpret reputable journal articles. Think for yourself!! Take the same classes that medical doctors do to get up to speed on how to read those studies. Do not skip the labs in Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Microbiology, Human Physiology. You cannot learn this stuff “online” ever! Google-U is worthless to those without the relevant education that helps a person sort the wheat from the chaff.

  • Joshua

    A factor that I think should be considered is the not insubstantial effort from some on the right to dismantle and/or defund the current mechanisms we use to track disease and implement related public health policies. That effort includes, specifically, targeting our capacity for immunization programs..

    • Buddy199

      I knew this was coming somewhere in the comments.

      • Joshua

        Any particular reason why it shouldn’t be?

        It is a relevant factor Surprising to me that it wasn’t mentioned previously. As I recall, Keith has written a fair amount about the issue of vaccination.

        Why wouldn’t Republicans’ attempts to reduce our federal (and by extension local) capacity for vaccination be part of the discussion?

        Are you in favor of the initiatives to defund immunization programs?

        Are you in favor of the attacks against the CDC, and the calls for it to be defunded?

        Do tell.

        • Buddy199

          Yes, we all know republicans hate white haired grannies and big eyed little children. What a novel insight you bring to the scientific discussion.

          • Joshua

            Buddy –

            I don’t think that Republicans hate white haired grannies and big-eyed children.

            But powerful Republican politicians like Ron and Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan, have advocated for substantial cuts to the institutions that are responsible for developing and implementing public health policies – with the specific effect of limiting the capacity of those institutions for immunization programs. What about the 2011 budget proposal to cut CDC funding? Do you suppose that would have no impact on immunization services?

            Not need to go hyperbolic.

            Do you support the advocacy for those cuts?

            Do you think that they wouldn’t undermine the capacity of those institutions to provide immunization services, let alone conduct related research?

            Do you doubt that the attacks from the right towards the CDC during the American Ebola “outbreak” are indicative of a larger ideological issue that impacts upon issues related to immunization and vaccination?

            Do tell.

          • Jefft90

            You forgot puppies.

          • Joshua

            I don’t think they hate puppies either.

            Why the hyperbole?

            Do you agree with the powerful Republican politicians who are advocating that we defund the institutions that conduct public health research and that are responsible for immunization?

            If you do, why?

            If you don’t, then why are you not addressing the issue?

          • Jefft90

            Politicians have requested more direct and practical research by our institutions that are publicly funded.
            All things are permissible but not all thinks are beneficial so to speak.

          • Joshua

            They are advocating for major funding cuts to the institutions that conduct public health research and implement immunization programs.

            Do you think that’s a good idea? Do you think it is relevant to the post? Do you think that funding cuts are likely to (1) hamper immunization, (2) improve immunization, (3) make no difference?

          • Jefft90

            I think targeting are limited funds to more practical and higher impact research is a good idea.

          • Joshua

            Jefft90 –

            That’s pretty much a non-sequitur.

            I was asking about your reaction to the efforts on the part of powerful Republicans to make large-scale and undifferentiated budget cuts to the public health institutions that we rely on for immunization services.

          • Jefft90

            I’m not familiar with” large-scale and undifferentiated budget cuts to the public health institutions”.

          • Joshua

            Google is your friend, bro.

          • Jefft90

            You are “claiming large-scale and undifferentiated budget cuts to the public health institutions ” so it is difficult to search for what You believe amount to such cuts.

          • JH

            As usual you’re misrepresenting Republicans’ efforts to hold the line on wasteful spending.
            The “institutions that conduct public health research and implement immunization programs” spend the *vast* majority of their money other things.

          • Joshua

            JH –

            They are not targeting the spending in the way that you describe. They are advocating for large-scale budget cuts, in ways that will very likely result in less funding for immunization services.

            And that is on top of the more generalized rhetoric, such as we saw with the cynical exploitation of scientifically unsupported arguments about disease control, when a couple of people in the U.S. had Ebola.

            This is all part of a general rhetoric attacking the very existence of public health institutions – with Ebola, ironically because of their recommendations of science-based policies.

            Were you around during the whole Ebola scare? Have you noticed a dramatic reduction in the anti-CDC rhetoric now that there’s no proximate fears to exploit?

  • Buddy199

    The 1998 Lancet study originally linking measles vaccine and autism, which got this whole ball rolling in the popular imagination, was later withdrawn as fraudulent. In addition to gross data tampering, the author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was found to have received over $675,000 from lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers, which he never disclosed in flagrant violation of ethical research protocols. Wakefield’s medical license was stripped in 2004.

    In the years following the publication of the bogus study vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain to as low as 80% in 2004.

  • Kathryn

    Has there been any kind of study looking at the connection of all the people we allowed to flow into our country from Mexico, Central America and South America? Interesting, knowing that there is a high concentration of people in southern California that fit that profile. Has anyone considered that as a contributing factor? Seems odd to go after the ultra-health conscious minority of people who do not vaccinate while totally ignoring the influx of people that are flowing over our borders every day whom have not been checked for diseases that are rampant in poverty stricken communities.

    • Chris Preston

      Measles vaccination rates are higher in Mexico and much of South America than they are in the US.

  • swanndown

    I’m with the author in (and grateful for) the base contention that if the goal is an increase in vaccination rates, then the demonizing of vaccine-averse parents is not helpful. I do pause at the solution offered, namely that of persuasion. It depends what we mean by it. I’m a selectively vaccine-averse parent, one of those highly educated ones. Though the act has been mocked for the last two weeks, I actually do regularly test my reasoning and risk/benefit analysis for each of my kids for each of the vaccines we have yet to give them, against new information. The problem is that the information that I would most need to go ahead and commit myself to full vaccination is not being made available to me, or other parents. And its the most basic information someone doing a risk/benefit analysis for something as important as the health of their kids, needs. I want to know the number of serious injuries and deaths linked causally to vaccines given in the United States on a per vaccine, per year basis. I don’t want a generalization. I don’t want a claim. I don’t want an assurance. I want to see the facts for myself. I can get the equivalent in terms of the morbidity/mortality rates of all vaccine-preventable diseases with one minute of effort. The CDC provides this information in numerous formats on numerous pages. I’ve had to conclude that the statistics for vaccine-related injury/death are simply not available to the general public. The CDC could change that policy. I don’t mind being persuaded by facts. In fact, that’s just about the only way to persuade me. I would love to find out that my concerns are absolutely unfounded and that the rates of injury/death correlated with specific vaccinations obviously make full vaccination the better choice. However, I don’t wish to be “persuaded” if that simply means asking me to have faith in a claim rather than be shown the facts that prove the claim. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling stymied by this absence of basic information.

    • Chris Preston

      You should read the Vaccine Information Statements from the CDC. They give the frequency of mild, moderate and severe problems.

      I don’t know why you would want this information on a per year basis. That would be useless for performing a cost/benefit analysis. What you want is the average information over several years.

      As an example, the frequency of severe reactions (severe allergy) from MMR is less than 1 in 1,000,000 doses. Compare this with severe complications from measles occurring at a frequency of about 1 in 8 and death at about 1 in 1,000 it is a no-brainer. Unless there is a medical reason not to get the vaccine, get vaccinated.

      Hope this helps.

      • swanndown

        Hi Chris – I do appreciate your intention in responding, and its helpful in the sense that it perhaps points up the place where many people 100% comfortable with every vaccine on the schedule, and people not 100% comfortable, sort of blink at each other in blank bewilderment. I’ve been to those Statements pages many times. You seem satisfied and compelled by the statement of those risks as laid out by the CDC. Which is fine. But, what I see when I look at those statements is a claim unattached to any data. I would be much more persuaded if I was given the chance to look at the data that informs the claim. A simple table would suffice. I’d prefer year by year. An average can also be given. Also, your comparative risk calculation points to another one of those blinky blank bewilderment moments that occur between the 100% persuaded and the not-there-yet. Your comparative risk math calculation assumes that risks for complication is random. But vaccine-averse parents tend to be aware of the ways in which the risk of complications for various diseases is not random, but rise and fall depending on co-factors like underlying illness, poverty, malnutrition, living in crowded conditions, lack of access to health care, etc. One way the CDC and others seeking to persuade vaccine-averse parents to fully vaccinate might succeed in that goal would be to give more nuanced information that attempts to acknowledge and account for co-factors. To the extent that this doesn’t happen, it can inspire a feeling that there is an element of disingenuousness in the persuasion efforts directed at us.

        • Chris Preston

          Well, I could have pointed to the published research literature where the values came from. However, 1) that literature takes a certain skill to read and access to University libraries and 2) it would be highly unlikely to persuade you in any case, because your mind is already made up.

          If you are not going to be convinced by the average 125,000-fold difference in risk, you are not going to be convinced by large differences in risk for small specific groups. Indeed, there are simply so few serious adverse reactions to many vaccines that it is impossible to assign a risk of the vaccine to sub-groups.

          As to disease risk, the values I gave are for first world countries with modern health systems. That is the best case scenario. For poor third world countries the risk of death from measles in young children is closer to 1 in 10.

          • swanndown

            We seem to be speaking past each other. My point in posting was to add to the discussion of what vaccine-averse parents are thinking, and what makes us hesitate, when we hesitate. My mind is not made up. You’ve made an assumption.

            To my point about the lack of nuanced information, consider the known effect of low levels of Vitamin A on the likelihood of contracting and suffering complications from Measles. And not just in developing countries. (I’ll add links to studies that look at Vitamin A deficiency in the U.S. at the bottom of the post).

            Vaccine-hesitant parents would be more likely to view the CDC’s risk/benefit analyses with less uneasy mistrust, if it provided risk/benefit analyses that acknowledge known co-factors rather than only providing one-size-fits-all risk/benefit analyses that seems to occlude these differences. A highly vaccine-confidant person might not need that degree of detailed information, but if the concern is reaching vaccine-hesitant parents, then why not move in the direction of greater transparency?

            Here are those studies: One of the conclusions of the Oxford Journals article was that Vit A was a factor in the US: “Hospitalized US measles patients frequently have deficiencies in vitamin A; these children are more likely to have pneumonia or diarrhea after measles.”

            other sources:
            “Among these children with measles in an urban United States community, retinol concentrations were depressed, and the degree of depression was associated with illness severity.”

            “We studied 20 children with measles in Long Beach, Calif., and found that 50% (95% confidence interval; 28% to 72%) were vitamin A deficient. This frequency among presumably well nourished American children supports evaluation of vitamin A status as a part of acute management of measles in the United States.”

            “Our data show that many children younger than 2 years in New York City have low vitamin A levels when ill with measles, and that such children seem to have lower measles-specific antibody levels and increased morbidity.”

            “Larger percentages of underweight and overweight children and a significant degree (32%) of inadequate vitamin A status were found in this group of socioeconomically disadvantaged children.”

    • Julie Leask

      Check out the MMR decision aid. It’s not giving the raw numbers for the US but it gives rates for vaccine adverse events and directly compares those with the rates of serious effects from measles, mumps and then rubella. This link takes you straight to the measles and vaccine comparison screen.

      • swanndown

        Thank you, Julie. I’ll check it out.

  • Bernard Dijkstra

    The author perhaps is not aware of how measles is “confirmed” differently in the vaccinated vs. the not vaccinated. The difference is so overwhelmingly skewed that it accounts, all by itself, for the perceived lower incidence of measles among the vaccinees.

    The different criteria are spelled out in this paper, for example:

    Large Outbreak of Measles in a Community with High Vaccination Coverage

    Materials and Methods

    “…Cases in persons who had undergone recent VACCINATION (i.e., vaccination ≤45 days prior to the onset of rash) were considered to be confirmed cases on the basis of genotype D4–positive results of PCR of urine specimens or by epidemiological link to a confirmed case”

    “…Laboratory-confirmed cases were defined as suspected cases in which a virological diagnosis was confirmed by presence of IgM and/or detection of measles virus genome in a urine specimen.
    Epidemiologically confirmed cases were defined as suspected cases that had been epidemiologically linked to a confirmed case.

    Thus the general criteria of a “confirmed” measles case includes either of 3 options:

    – antibodies, or
    – pcr, or
    – epidemiological link

    whereas.. for vaccinated persons the criteria is restricted to either of 2 options:

    – pcr, or
    – epidemiological link

    Thus a more stringent criteria is applied to vaccinees. This necessarily implies less “confirmed” measles in the vaccinated population even if the vaccine doesn’t work! The diagnostic is biased in favor of the vaccine.

    • Andrew Lazarus

      I’m fascinated by the way antivaxers graze mainstream publications looking for magic bullets. They share this charming tendency with their cousins Creationists, Tax Protestors, and Holocaust Deniers.

      Why do you suppose testing for antibodies is not done with people who got the vaccine? Because if the vaccine worked (95% of the time), they have the antibodies from the vaccination.

      The real way we know the vaccine works is that most young doctors have never seen a case of measles, so much so that they are having trouble recognizing it. But antivax cranks want to bring measles, polio, and smallpox back, just show they can test whether their careful tooshie-wiping and organic food are as good against these dread diseases as their narcissist leaders promise.

    • Chris Preston

      I can’t believe the ignorance of anyone who would write such a comment.

      People who have been vaccinated for measles carry measles antibodies. Therefore, it is impossible to confirm measles exposure in vaccinated people by detecting antibodies.

      • Bernard Dijkstra

        Look, the justification for using different diagnostic criteria is irrelevant to the fact that, by restricting criteria for one group, any comparison of the incidence of the disease in the vaccinated vs. the not vaccinated is bogus. It is called JUNK SCIENCE.

      • Bernard Dijkstra

        Whatever the justification for restricting diagnostic criteria in the vaccinated group is, the result remains the same: comparison of the incidence of the disease between the groups is bogus. It is called JUNK SCIENCE.

        • Chris Preston

          What rubbish.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            Restricted criteria = less confirmed cases. The manipulation is obvious it hurts the eyes.

          • Chris Preston

            What rubbish.

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            How obtuse!

          • Bernard Dijkstra

            How obtuse. In order to compare incidence between two groups the same diagnostic criteria must be used. Adding insult to injury, you acknowledge yourself that antibodies are unreliable. Junk science in its crudest form.

  • Mary Lee

    I find the majority of people who operate motor vehicles are FAR more dangerous than Measles, and more detrimental to society than parents who don’t vaccinate…are we willing to throw THOSE ‘selfish, irresponsible, dumb’ bastards under the bus, so to speak? My children are at far greater risk walking through ANY parking lot, to say the least, whether or not they’ve been immunized. Are we rallying against “anti responsible drivers” as we are against anti vaxxers?

    • bobito

      You are on to something here. To continue your narrative…

      We should setup a system of fines for people who do not vaccinate their children just like we do with drivers who don’t drive according to the safety standards set forth by society. And if one violates the vaccination laws multiple times they should be restricted from having children just like drivers who violate the laws repeatedly lose their ability to drive…

      • Mary Lee

        I mean it sort of from the other way around. I don’t think people should be penalized for not vaccinating their children, more so that there are things going on every day in the world that are much worse and more detrimental to society. I used the driver example because it’s a very real danger. You can argue for both sides of the vaccine issue, but why not shift the focus to the real dangers? You can literally be killed or injured in the blink of an eye while innocently driving your car, at a far greater risk and frequency than any of these infectious diseases, or from the lack of vaccinations.

        • bobito

          Everything has a cost/benefit involved. Society finds the benefits of driving outweigh the risk, but with that, mandates things like seatbelts, airbags, speed limits, etc… I would hope that everyone understands the risks of driving to oneself and others.

          The reason why infections diseases are not a great threat anymore is because of vaccination. Just like how seat belts, speed limits, etc have made driving less of a threat to life and limb…

          Imagine how great it would be if driving laws were as effective as vaccinations in promoting public safety! We would have basically 0 injuries or deaths due to driving!

  • ione murphy

    Numerous animal tissues are used to grow vaccines; they are called growth media. Technically, the term is “Vaccine Production Media.”

    Animal tissues can transfer viruses and trigger diseases in humans

    According to the 2011 CDC’s PinkBook, here’s a listing of some vaccine production media:

    Bovine protein,Calf skin
    Chick embryo ,Chicken embryo (fertilized egg)
    Fenton media containing bovine casein
    Human diploid tissue culture, MRC-5 [aborted human fetal cell line]
    Human diploid tissue culture, WI-38 [aborted human fetal cell line]
    Lathan medium derived from bovine casein
    Linggoud-Fenton medium containing bovine extract
    Monkey kidney tissue culture, Vero (Vervet or African green monkeys)
    Mouse brain culture
    Rhesus fetal lung tissue culture


    Contamination of vaccines by animal micro-organisms has been plaguing vaccine production from the very start and has been implicated in a number of serious diseases, leukaemia, cancer, SSPE (subacute sclerosing pan encephalitis). A journal called Vaccine published an article which stated that “Virus-contaminated cell cultures are a major problem in the bio-industry… Cell cultures can be permanently virus-infected, or can become infected, usually through the use of contaminated sera.”

    The best characterized stealth-adapted virus arose not from human CMV but from CMV of African green monkeys. These stealth-adapted viruses entered the human population as contaminants of live polio virus vaccines. Stealth-adaptation can conceivably occur with any cytopathic virus, not only herpesviruses of human or animal origins, but also other DNA and RNA viruses.

  • ione murphy

    Evidence of Pestivirus RNA in MMR Vaccines

    Genotypes of pestivirus RNA detected in live virus vaccines for human use.-

    Virus contaminations of cell cultures – A biotechnological view

    Bovine viral diarrhea disease (BVDV) associated with a contaminated vaccine.This suggests that BVDV RNA detected in human live viral vaccines represents passive carry over of BVDV from contaminated FCS rather than active virus replication in human diploid cells. Our results indicate that contamination with BVDV of FCS used in vaccine production does not appear to be of immediate concern to human health.

    The first known outbreak of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) took place during 1934-1935 at the Los Angeles County Hospital and affected 198 doctors and nurses during a polio outbreak. 300 doctors and nurses at the Los Angeles County Hospital were given an early polio vaccine developed by Dr. Maurice Brodie, as well as approximately 7,000 children. (Active Immunization Against Poliomyeleitis, American Journal of Public Health, February 1936) The vaccine was passaged multiple times through mouse brain tissue. (Attempts to Produce Poliomyelitis in Refractory Laboratory Animals, March 1, 1935, doi: 10.3181/00379727-32-7876)

    New evidence linking mouse virus and chronic fatigue-A federal study published Monday raises further questions about a possible link between chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and a mouse virus.

    The researchers found that the blood of 32 of 37 patients (86.5 percent) diagnosed with CFS contained murine leukemia virus-related viruses (MLVs). But when they looked at healthy blood donors, they found that just three of 44 (6.8 percent) had the viruses, which can cause leukemia or cancers in mice._

    Simian Virus 40 in Polio Vaccine-
    In July 2002, the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine (IOM) Immunization Safety Committee convened a study into SV40 and cancer which culminated in a report published in October 2002. According to the IOM report “SV40 Contamination of Polio Vaccine and Cancer”:
    The committee concludes that the biological evidence is strong that SV40 is a transforming [i.e., cancer-causing] virus, . . . that the biological evidence is of moderate strength that SV40 exposure could lead to cancer in humans under natural conditions, [and] that the biological evidence is of moderate strength that SV40 exposure from the polio vaccine is related to SV40 infection in humans..

    Related citations in PubMed

    Review Is there a role for SV40 in human cancer?[J Clin Oncol. 2006]
    Poulin DL, DeCaprio JA. J Clin Oncol. 2006 Sep 10; 24(26):4356-65.

    Review Simian virus 40 and human disease.[J Infect Dis. 2004]
    Shah KV. J Infect Dis. 2004 Dec 15; 190(12):2061-4. Epub 2004 Nov 16.

    Virology. Monkey virus link to cancer grows stronger.[Science. 2002]Ferber D. Science. 2002 May 10; 296(5570):1012-5.

    Review Simian virus 40, poliovirus vaccines, and human cancer: research progress versus media and public interests.[Bull World Health Organ. 2000] Butel JS. Bull World Health Organ. 2000; 78(2):195-8.

    Simian virus 40 and lymphoproliferative disorder.[Haematologica. 2005

    Investigation of porcine circovirus contamination in human vaccine-

    Two additional rotavirus vaccines, a pentavalent human–bovine reassortant vaccine and a monovalent naturally occurring less virulent human strain, were each extensively tested in more than 60,000 children before their licensure in 2006 and 2008, respectively, to be certain that they were not associated with intussusceptions. In 2010 DNA fragments of porcine circo- virus (a single-stranded DNA virus that naturally infects pigs) were detected in one vaccine and then the second vaccine. After extensive review, the FDA determined that it was still safe to use both vaccines.

  • ione murphy

    Simian cytomegalovirus-related stealth virus isolated from the cerebrospinal fluid of a patient with bipolar psychosis and acute encephalopathy.

    Martin WJ 1 . Author information Pathobiology. 1996;64(2):64-6.

    Abstract A cytopathic ‘stealth’ virus was cultured from the cerebrospinal fluid of a patient with a bipolar psychotic disorder who developed a severe encephalopathy leading to a vegetative state. DNA sequencing of a polymerase chain reaction-amplified product from infected cultures has identified the virus as an African green monkey simian cytomegalovirus (SCMV)-related stealth virus. The virus is similar to the SCMV-related stealth virus isolated from a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome. The findings support the concepts that stealth viruses can account for a spectrum of dysfunctional brain diseases and that some of these viruses may have arisen from live polio viral vaccines.

    PMID 8888270 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    STEALTH VIRUSES ISOLATED FROM PATIENTS WITH SEVERE ENCEPHALOPATHY Since beginning these studies, many patients have been identified with complex neuropsychiatric and rheumatic illnesses that exceeded the normal bounds of existing medical specialities. The finding of a positive stealth viral culture in such patients may help unravel the true cause of their illness and provide a fresh approach to therapy and disease prevention.
    Children with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders have also shown consistent evidence for stealth viral infection. Clinical observations and interviews with many of the neurologically affected patients, lend support to the concept of a spectrum of potentially infectious neuropsychiatric illnesses. The distinction between patients labeled as having different illnesses may simply reflect infection of different regions of the brain and varying psychological reactions to the resulting dysfunctions.

  • ione murphy

    UGA researcher developing new vaccine to fight resurging mumps virus

    “The virus is always evolving and mutating, and new viruses will emerge,” He said. “It’s only a matter of time until the old vaccine we have doesn’t work.”

    The current vaccine is commonly called the Jeryl Lynn strain and is named after the daughter of inventor Maurice Hilleman. It is based on a specific genotype of the mumps virus called genotype A. However, the 2006 and 2010 mumps outbreaks were caused by another strain, genotype G.

    Even more troubling is that most of the people who contracted mumps during the 2006 and 2010 outbreaks had received the recommended two-dose vaccination in their early childhood, meaning that the virus was spreading even among the vaccinated population


    The genetic basis for interindividual immune response variation to measles vaccine: new understanding and new vaccine approaches

    The live-attenuated measles vaccine is effective, but measles outbreaks still occur in vaccinated populations.This review summarizes recent advances in our understanding of measles vaccine immunogenetics relative to the perspective of developing better measles vaccines.

    Although effective, the current live-attenuated measles vaccines have limitations. Vaccine failure (i.e., the failure for the individual to either mount or sustain a protective immune response) occurs despite the receipt of two doses of vaccine [6–13,201]. Measles elimination has failed primarily due to failure to vaccinate, but also in part due to vaccine failure, allowing the accumulation of susceptible individuals and the occurrence of outbreaks when exposure occurs [9–11,14,15]. As a result, even in highly vaccinated populations, substantial proportions of those infected in an outbreak will have been previously vaccinated [9,12–14,16]… need for research on determinants of measles vaccine response, and the development of improved measles vaccines.

    However, measles eradication is unlikely as population immunity of 96–98% is required to prevent persisting measles endemicity [7,8,27,201]. In a recent study of measles-vaccine efficacy from 1960 to 2010, median efficacy was only 94% [28]. While the current measles vaccine used in the USA and many other countries is safe and effective, paradoxically in the unique case of measles, it appears to insufficiently induce herd immunity in the population. This relates to a combination of factors including: higher than observed rates of primary and secondary vaccine failure in clinical practice versus that seen in clinical trials

    Pneumonia, meningitis evolving to evade vaccines

    (Excerpts): “…these life-threatening pathogens are capable of evolving rapidly and developing genetic decoys that serve to disguise them from even the most powerful drugs..Bowden found that the pathogen switched genetic material with other bacteria, but predominantly for the part of the genome responsible for making the cell coating, which is the area targeted by the vaccine.”…


    CDC admits whooping cough vaccine causing mutation:

    Rapid Increase in Pertactin-deficient Bordetella pertussis Isolates, Australia
    Excerpt): “This pattern is consistent with continuing evolution of B. pertussis in response to vaccine selection pressure

    (Excerpt): “This pattern is consistent with continuing evolution of B. pertussis in response to vaccine selection pressure

    these adaptations of B. pertussis have decreased the period in which pertussis vaccines are effective and thus enhanced the waning of immunity. We plead for a more integrated approach to the pertussis problem which includes the characteristics of the vaccines, the B. pertussis populations and the interaction between the two…

    Vaccinated kids account for 90 percent of child whooping cough cases in Vermont. Patsy Kelso, a DOH epidemiologist, said the vaccination regimen isn’t producing the desired results.“The current thinking is that the pertussis vaccination is just not as effective as we’d like it to be,” she said. “Even if you’re vaccinated, it’s efficacy wanes after a few years. Although no vaccine is perfect, this vaccine is less good than we’d like”..

    According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the booster shot to counteract waning immunity for pertussis came out five years ago. Now, there’s concern about how long the booster shot provides protection, because many kids who are up-to-date on immunizations, including the booster shot, still have contracted whooping cough. Public health officials agree on one thing: “We need a better vaccine for pertussis”, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.

  • ione murphy

    Vaccines effectively prevent many infectious diseases, but they also exert powerful selection pressure on microbes, and evolving vaccine resistance suggests that it may be time to alter our strategy from biological whack-a-mole to chess.

    Our immune system imposes a powerful selection pressure. If we didn’t mount a response, there would be little if any naturally occurring selection pressure on viruses. The result is an evolutionary triumvirate: high rates of reproduction, genetic variability, and strong selection pressure. Rapid evolution is inevitable. All of which raises some potentially troubling questions about vaccination: if immunity drives virus evolution naturally, could vaccination also drive evolution? And, since pathogens and immunity evolved in tandem, could vaccination somehow alter the development of immunity? Read more:


    Vaccination; a driver of virus evolution? Moderated by Andrew Read and Mary Poss –

    Andrew Read

    Andrew F. Read is a Professor of Biology and Entomology at Pennsylvania State University and director of PSU’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. His research focuses on the ecology and evolution of infectious disease research, particularly evolution driven by drugs, vaccines and insecticides that undermines human and animal wellbeing.

    Best known for his controversial views on malaria evolution, Read argues that the logic of natural selection has profound implications for public health that have yet to be realized. He is a passionate advocate for evolution-proof medicine. This involves the development of medical practices and products that will not be rapidly undermined by pathogen evolution. Just as important, it means identifying evolutionary mismanagement where short-term thinking creates so-called superbugs.

    Researchers at the University of Exeter’s conducted experiments to manipulate a virus to see if it could evolve the ability to switch its behaviour according to how many other viruses infect a host.

    Previous research has focussed on trying to force harmful microbes to become less threatening to human health as they evolve. But the new research, which was carried out in collaboration with the University of Oxford, proves viruses can readily develop the ability to adjust their behaviour to maximise their spread, in response to whether they are infecting as a single entity or in combination with other viruses.

    Helen Leggett, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Exeter, was the lead scientist on the work, which is published online Dec. 13 in the journal Current Biology. She said: “Scientists are constantly searching for ways to limit the damage viruses can cause, to help reduce the impact of illnesses like winter flu and to respond to the next pandemic. Our work proves that regardless of how we try to manipulate viruses, they will always switch their behaviour to serve their own purposes and kill as many cells as possible. This study involved a relatively simple virus. If it can evolve so quickly, it’s reasonable to assume that a lot of other viruses and parasites can, too.”

    2007-Hepatitis B: Immunologists discovered mutated vaccine-resistant viruses were causing disease

    Selection of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Vaccine Escape Mutants in HBV-Infected and HBV/HIV-Coinfected Patients Failing Antiretroviral Drugs With Anti-HBV Activity..

    2013-Whooping cough may be becoming resistant to vaccines

    2014-Vaccine-resistant polio strain discovered

    2014-A controversial researcher who in the past had replicated the deadly Spanish flu of 1918 has done it again, this time cooking up in his lab an especially resilient strain of the H1N1 virus. Dr Yoshihiro Kawaoka, professor of virology at University of Wisconsin at Madison, has reportedly tweaked the 2009 strain of pandemic influenza responsible for some 500,000 deaths worldwide to make it resistant to the human immune system’s antibodies.

    Kawaoka’s many critics have said that his latest provocative experiment has essentially rendered the world’s population defenseless against the virus.

    Ostensibly, his goal is to perfect the design of the flu vaccines of the future, but in order to achieve it, the scientist has enabled the virus to ‘escape’ the human immune system..

    The widespread use of vaccinations may trigger bacterial adaptations leading to antibiotic-resistant bacterial diseases and vaccine-resistant viral diseases.

    This can happen through several mechanisms. These include mutation (Hepatitis B vaccine), reversion to virulence (Oral Polio vaccine) or strain replacement (Prevnar 7). Strain replacement, in the case of Prevnar 7, meant that following widespread vaccination with Prevnar 7, other pneumococcal strains that were not included in the vaccine became much more likely to cause pneumococcal infections. One of these, 19S, was known to be multi-antibiotic resistant.

    Hemophilus influenzae cases also increased, filling in the niche that had been created by Prevnar, and about 40% of these infections are multi-drug resistant.

    When Prevnar, a vaccine used against pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections, was first introduced, it protected against seven pneumococcal strains, but was soon linked to an increase in rates of antibiotic-resistant infections due to 19S pneumococci and hemophilus influenzae. The vaccine was then modified to include 13 pneumococcal strains to combat the 19S problem. However, the new vaccine will not improve the increase in hemophilus infections, and may make that problem worse.

    In the United States ear infections, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and meningitis, which are often caused by pneumococcal bacteria or hemophilus, have become much harder and more expensive to treat because of increasing resistance to antibiotics. This is due in part to the widespread use of the Prevnar vaccine.

    • Chris Preston

      This is basically spam. Copying and pasting large chunks of content from elsewhere.

      If you have a salient point to make, make it.

  • Bernard Dijkstra

    There’s nothing irrational about distrusting vaccines when stories like these come out every day:

    “…The Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
    recommends that vaccination with Pandemrix vaccine is discontinued until an explanation is found for the observed rise in cases of narcolepsy
    among children and adolescents.”
    (Source: Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare)

    • Chris Preston

      Except stories like these do not come out every day.

      • Bernard Dijkstra

        In the last ten years there have been 1,564 cases of measles in the US and zero deaths. There have been 83 deaths reported from measles vaccine.

        • Apocalypse

          According to the WHO 5.2 million deaths from measles are prevented yearly due to vaccinations.

  • Bernard Dijkstra

    In the last ten years there have been 1,564 cases of measles in the US and ZERO deaths. There have been 83 deaths reported from measles vaccine.

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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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