Who's Not Vaccinating?

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | October 20, 2010 4:22 pm


Matthew Lacek become stricken with a rare bacterial infection, which is prevented through vaccines.

Must read from CNN:

The rate of vaccination for kids covered under private insurance fell 4 percentage points in 2009, according to a nonprofit association that certifies health care organizations. It was the first time a drop had been seen.

There are theories that the recent whooping cough epidemic, which has killed ten in California, is a result of lagging vaccinations. In California, 320 new whooping cough cases have been reported this week. Health authorities urge booster shots for everyone 10 years or older who has not yet received it, especially women of childbearing age and health care workers who are in contact with pregnant women or infants.

A small subset of the population, typically well-educated, white and in the upper-middle class, have grown skeptical of immunizations, said Jason Glanz, a senior scientist and epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Research.”

There is no conspiracy over vaccines. The often cited paper by Andrew Wakefield from 1998 involved just 12 children and had conflicts of interest. It was later retracted and may have been fraudulent.

The real research? A recent study of 70,000 children born between 1994 and 1999 confirmed that there is no link between vaccines and autism. For more information see Nestor Lopez-Duran’s terrific blog post about this study*.

The dangerous storm of misinformation and pseudoscience regarding vaccines infuriates and saddens me because we are losing children to diseases that had been mostly eradicated. Short and simple, vaccinate your kids.

* Citation:  Price, C., Thompson, W., Goodson, B., Weintraub, E., Croen, L., Hinrichsen, V., Marcy, M., Robertson, A., Eriksen, E., Lewis, E., Bernal, P., Shay, D., Davis, R., & DeStefano, F. (2010). Prenatal and Infant Exposure to Thimerosal From Vaccines and Immunoglobulins and Risk of AutismPEDIATRICS, 126 (4), 656-664 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-0309.


Comments (30)

  1. Walker

    Huffington Post is ground-zero for vaccine denialists. Say this stuff over there and the commenters will beat you down.

  2. If CNN were really interested in giving us the whole story here they wouldn’t focus solely on a child with Hib disease. They would also show us photos of children who were healthy, normally developing kids who suddenly regressed into autism after routine vaccinations. They would tell us about Hannah Poling, a young GA girl who was recently awarded a lifetime settlement from the government because medical experts from Health and Human Services recognized that vaccines caused her autism.

    Most of all, CNN wouldn’t discount autism with only two mentions of the word and a quick dismissal. Maybe someday soon CNN will show a trace of concern for the one percent of children who now have a diagnosis of autism in this country. Maybe CNN will be able to tell us how we as a nation will support 700,000 children with autism as adults. Right now, no one is really alarmed over the autism epidemic. Media sources continue to call autism a mystery whose cause is unknown. The only thing they’re sure of is that the mandated vaccine program isn’t to blame. I expect that will change when one percent of young adults as well as children also have autism.

    Anne Dachel
    Media editor: Age of Autism

  3. Gaythia

    Why are science journalists and science bloggers so focused on a small group of antivaxxers, when there are plenty of other issues of access and medical care that are more directly a problem in encouraging full community immunity by vaccination ?

    Is this just a Blog topic to raise comment volume on slow days, or do we really want to do something to improve public health?

    As Dr. Isis pointed out last June: http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist/2010/06/kerfuffle_i_love_kerfuffles.php:

    ” Poorer, darker parents would be happy to take those pesky vaccines off their hands. And while vaccine refusniks sit discuss vaccines over $4 lattes, Latino babies are the ones dying”

  4. JT

    Pseudoscience and feelings are what’s really important. Vaccines have a PROVEN benefit for all members of society and they don’t work unless the vast majority of people receive them. The link between vaccines and autism is sketchy at best and all recent studies are showing no correlation. Just because kids get vaccines and later develop autism is not proof that the vaccines are responsible. As for the Hannah Poling case please check this link from the New England Journal of Medicine.


  5. Rich

    What you left out was Hannah Poling had an underlying condition.

  6. Pat

    It seems CNN isn’t the only place that like to leave out part of the story. Is there any more to the case of the girl from GA?

    I’m also a little curious about what the number of cases of Autism has to do with proving vaccines are the cause. An increase in the age of autistic people does not change the cause.

  7. towns like ashland, ouija, and mendocino are hot spots of this. it’s a problem for older people too, since these kids can incubate :(

  8. Maurine Meleck

    What Rich left out was the fact that a very high number of children on the autism spectrum have mitochondrial dysfunction. Even Hannah’s mother did, but she never got autism.
    Vaccines do not have a proven benefit for all society. You forget that tens of thousands of our children were developing normally and lost all language, other skills they had attained following vaccinations.
    Many of you seen to forget since you call us anti-vaxers-that we did vaccinate and that’s why our children suffer from oxidative stress, immune dysfunction, inflammatory bowel disease, encephalopathy, failure to thrive etc.
    We are not anti-vaccine BTW-but we are safe vaccines. When they make them safe and test them properly and remove all the thimerosal etc. we can reconsider.
    Did you know that in a recent survey-more than 75% of the parent population considers the safety of vaccines their first health concern?

  9. Gaythia

    I think that scientists, bloggers and the public need to look at the bigger picture here.

    In the case of pertussis (whooping cough), deaths have been mainly Latino infants, and frequently those contracting the disease are too young to be fully immunized. It is now being realized that a major line of defense is to focus on parents, relatives, childcare workers, and other adults who come into direct contact with babies. See:

    In the case of HiB vaccine supply has been an issue:
    “Scarce supplies of the vaccine starting in 2007 prompted U.S. health authorities to recommend dropping the booster shot, which is typically given to children at 12 to 15 months who were not at high risk of infection.”
    “Health officials believe the outbreaks here and elsewhere likely were triggered by a vaccine shortage that removed just enough of the protective effect of widespread immunizations to make unvaccinated children more vulnerable.”

    As I said above, why are science journalists and science bloggers so focused on a small group of antivaxxers, when there are plenty of other issues of access and medical care that are more directly a problem in encouraging full community immunity by vaccination ?

    And furthermore, why can’t we unite as a society to see that all children with disabilities receive an appropriate education to maximize their potential? Why aren’t we as a society stepping up to ensure that all persons with disabilities receive appropriate support and care? And seeing to it that medical research funding is based not on lobbying clout but need and building the necessary scientific expertise?

    This vaxxer/antivaxer squabble is a sideshow that is actually impeding progress for all.

  10. JT

    Let me get this straight. Vaccines cause autism, oxidative stress, inflammatory bowel disease, encephalopathy AND failure to thrive. When loved ones become ill all reason goes out the window and people will resort to just about anything. How much money and time is wasted in the US each year on unproven, ineffective pseudoscience. Accupucture, chiropractors, mega-vitamins, dietary supplements, magnet therapy, chelation, homeopathy …. Most of these diversions are harmless, but if you do not vaccinate your child, you can kill other innocent people who depend on herd immunity. 50 years ago 100% of parents were terrified that their children would get polio.

  11. Bob

    JT says: “Vaccines have a PROVEN benefit for all members of society ..”

    JT .. you capitalized the WRONG word in your statement. It should have read: “Vaccines have proven a benefit for SOME members of society ..”

    After all .. both Science and Common Sense agree .. the creation of a “one size fits all vaccine” has proven impossible to date. That is why the mantra of public health officials is “vaccines have more benefits than RISKS”. That is why Congress has awarded “product liability” protection to the vaccine industry .. to protect them from being sued by the parents of vaccine injured children who did suffer severe consequences of that “KNOWN RISK”

    While they have no problem speaking about the “benefits” .. they are less than forthcoming when it comes to the NUMBER of those at “risk”?

    So .. the question becomes .. how many children are public health officials willing to “risk” suffering life-threatening, often life-long damaged caused by vaccines? Would 1% be acceptable? If so .. do the math yourself .. the annual birth rate in the United States over the last ten years has flucuated between 3-4-5 million children born each year.

    Let’s take the lowest number and ask: 1% of 3 million a year .. over the first five years of life .. is 15 million children at risk every year.

    That 1% is considered “collateral damage” in our “War Against Infectious Diseases”.

  12. Maurine Meleck

    Gaythia and J.T. Methinks if it were your child that was vaccine injured, you’d be singing a different tune. It’s always easier to speak for silly herd immunity when you feel unaffected by a lifelong disease like autism.

  13. JT

    Getting out of the bed has risk. The risk of vaccines is minuscule. If vaccines did not exist, I assure you, the ” War Against Infectious Diseases” would become much more real to everyone. Yes, we all benefit from what vaccines do for society. Congress/lawyers do many irrational things to get elected. Maybe one day we will vote to decide if vaccines cause autism or if global warming is real. The physicians have never denied that there is a small chance of adverse reaction to vaccines. Every single medicine/treatment has risk.

  14. Joe

    Sheril, you can have yourself injected with anything you want. Just keep this crap away from me.

  15. WB

    Sure Joe, as long as you keep your disease-carrying body away from everyone’s kids who are too young or too ill to be vaccinated themselves.

  16. Maurine Meleck

    well, if one considers 1 in every 58 boys will be diagnosed with autism now(that’s almost 2 per cent of the child male population) miniscule—–personally I don’t at all.
    Again, I repeat “If your child is one of that 2% -you wouldn’t be speaking like JT.” I would be willing to bet that JT doesn’t have a child with autism. What says you?
    to WB–hide because we’re coming and we’re coming with our kids.(play the Jaws music to this).

  17. RJ

    The picture above looks just like my child who ended up in the emergency room and almost died. He was there due to seizures following vaccination!

  18. Perry

    Hey Sheril, I see you’re a scientist at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy. Wonder if you care to comment on these scientific facts;

    2 ppb mercury = U.S. EPA limit for drinking water (http://www.epa. gov/safewater/ contaminants/ index.html# mcls).

    20 ppb mercury = Neurite membrane structure destroyed (Leong et al., Neuroreport 2001; 12: 733-37).

    200 ppb mercury = level in liquid the EPA classifies as hazardous waste based on toxicity characteristics.

    25,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose, Hepatitis B vaccine vials, administered at birth from 1991-2001 in the U.S. but no other industrialized country.

    50,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose DTaP and Haemophilus B vaccine vials, administered 8 times in the 1990’s to children at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 months of age and currently “preservative” level mercury in multi-dose flu, meningococcal and tetanus vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials.

  19. Maurine #16 says: “If your child is one of that 2% -you wouldn’t be speaking like JT. I would be willing to bet that JT doesn’t have a child with autism. What says (sic) you?”

    I agree with JT. What say you, Maurine?

  20. Perry, the FDA limits on drinking water are not applicable. First of all, water is something you drink everyday. Nobody is vaccinated every day for their entire life.

    Second, ppb only refers to the concentration, not the total volume. 10 ppb would be more dangerous than 100 ppb, if you drink more of the former than the latter.

    This is an old trick played by anti-vaccine folks who either don’t understand the difference between concentration and volume, or else hope that other people don’t.

  21. JT

    Maurine, if vaccines caused autism, your argument would be valid. Every well done study shows no link between vaccines and autism. That is how the scientific method works. You form a hypothesis and then you test it. If the studies do not support the hypothesis, it is rejected. Just because it appears one way in a few selected instances does not constitute proof.

    Perry, I certainly hope you consume much more water in your lifetime than you receive in vaccine injections. The concentrations are going to multiplied by the amount you ingest. Water = huge volume. Vaccine = tiny volume. The total amount is what is important. Not the concentration.

  22. Bob

    JT .. you use the word “miniscule” .. rather than give me the number I asked .. which is: 1% of 15 MILLION CHILDREN.

    I don’t blame you .. after all .. Thomas Insell .. M.D. … Director of the National Institute of Mental Health .. as well as Chairman of the IACC .. was asked what the “risks” of vaccines are on a recent PBS FRONTLINE program “Vaccine Wars” .. and .. he stated .. the number of children at risk was .. and .. I quote: “very, very, very, very, very few”.


    Do YOU think parents should accept “very, very, very, very, very few” or “miniscule” as their answer?


    I sometimes wonder if YOU and INSELL .. have any idea what the word “utilitarianism” means?

  23. Keep on with the good work, Sheril, getting the word out.

  24. In addition to the failure to disclose the cost of the collateral damage (in terms of killed, maimed, and injured per 100,000 doses of vaccine) for each vaccine, the vaccine apologists continue to support vaccination programs that are NOT cost-effective, NOT effective, and, in some cases (e.g., the vaccination program for herpes varicella zoster) clearly cause more long-term harm than disease (about $700 million annually in increased costs according to a 2009 study).

    As a scientist, I support those vaccination programs in which the vaccines are “reasonably” safe (low risk of harm or death), in-use effective in preventing disease in the long term, and are in-use cost effective. For individual vaccines not inclused in any mass “prophylactic” vaccination programs, all that is needed is proof that the vaccines are “reasonably” safe and in-use effective (e.g., the human rabies vaccines).

    Based on a dispassionate examination of the outcomes-based facts (see: http://dr-king.com/docs/081017_DrftRevuPrt1ofSept2008FLDoHReprt-b.pdf and http://dr-king.com/docs/081017_DrftRevuPrt2ofSept2008FLDoHReprt-b.pdf) for most of the vaccines in the current childhood mass vaccination programs and understanding that the influenza vaccines are, based on the least biased studies and meta-analyses of studies, nor at all in-use effective and, for those still preserved with Thimerosal, properly proven to be “safe” to the applicable standard minimums set forth for preserved biological durg products, it is scientifically certain that most of the current vaccines and vaccination programs fail to meet one or more of the criteria (safety, in-use effectiveness, and, for mass vaccination, cost-effectiveness) for their continued use in the United States of America.

    If any can refute the in-use-based findings in my reviews for the childhood vaccination programs studied or in published independent studies of influenza vaccine effectiveness or meta-analyses of all available studies, please send me the independent studies or, if the studies are conducted by those with an interest in preserving the current vaccination realities, the studies and all of the personal-information blinded raw data collected in a electronically reviewable electronic format and if my review of those documents finds your refutations are valid, then I will appropriately update my views and revise those publications that need revision.

    Until then, I will leave you with reality as expressed by a fellow scientist , Dr. Thomas Jefferson of the Cochrane group:
    “‘The vaccine doesn’t work very well at all. Vaccines are being used as an ideological weapon. What you see every year as the flu is caused by 200 or 300 different agents with a vaccine against two of them. That is simply nonsense.’ (4) Indeed, he commented, ‘What you see is that marketing rules the response to influenza, and scientific evidence comes fourth or fifth.’ (5)”
    as reported in an article titled, “Flu Shots For The Elderly Are Ineffective”,
    where the respective references are:
    “(4) Gardner A. Flu vaccine only mildly effective in elderly. HealthDay Reporter, Sept 21, 2005” and “(5) Rosenthal E. Flu vaccination and treatment fall far short. International Herald Tribune, September 22, 2005” [posted on-line at: http://www.doctoryourself.com/flushot.html in October of 2010].

  25. JT

    Bob, the risk of serious adverse reactions to childhood immunization is a tiny fraction of 1%. As I said. Every medicine has potential complications. The potential complications of vaccines are being blown way out of proportion and conspiracy theories are running wild on the internet. Physicians truly have no interest in harming children. There is a mountain of factual information on all vaccines at the CDC website. Please review it here


    Spreading disinformation about vaccines puts peoples lives in real danger.

  26. Resources for a general audience (and for all of us!):

    Science in the News started off its 11th annual lecture series with the topic of evidence-based medicine and addressed the issue of vaccination. Check it out: http://vimeo.com/album/1431708.

    Sense About Science also addresses vaccines (http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/143/) and evidence-based medicine (http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/264/)

  27. Dear Dr. Kirshenbaum,

    I wanted to clarify that I am not the author of the study discussed on this post. I was mentioned in the linked SEED magazine article as a scientist who recently reviewed the Pediatrics study. See here:


    but I was not involved with the original study. Thank you for making the necessary correction.

    Nestor L. Lopez-Duran PhD.

  28. Bob

    JT .. asking a question regarding the numbers of children at “risk” from vaccines is NOT “spreading disinformation about vaccines”.

    While it may be an “inconvenient question” to public health officials .. it is .. none-the-less .. merely an attempt to provide parents critical information so THEY can make INFORMED CONSENT decisions that are in the best interest of THEIR child.

    Jeepers .. that is what parents are supposed to do.

    If you know .. how many children were found to be harmed by recent “baby cough medicines” that led to these products being pulled from shelves of major outlets .. where they had been sold for over 30 years? Was it less than 1%?

  29. JT

    Bob, I agree that all parents should research the risks involved in vaccinating their children. I would just like to point out that all information is not created equal. There is no vast conspiracy cooked up by the government, physicians or pharmaceutical companies to harm children and cause disease. It is difficult for parents to sort out the scientifically sound information from the pseudoscience. Having a famous spokes person and having parents state “my child got a vaccine and then developed autism” does not rise to the same level as controlled peer reviewed studies published in major medical journals. Parents should find a pediatrician they know and trust and discuss vaccination for their kids. Reading random blogs and listening to celebrities is not a good way to make medical decisions for yourself or your children.

  30. Bob

    JT, I agree there is “no vast conspiracy cooked up by government, physicians or pharmaceutical companies to harm children and cause disease”.

    However, there are just too many instances where “government, physicians or pharmaceutical companies” appear to act in their own best interests .. rather than in the best interests of the children being vaccinated.

    There are MANY examples I could cite .. but .. I will only give you the most recent .. which was the failure of government (CDC-FDA) to recall rotovirus vaccines they KNEW contained “pig viruses” .. allowing physicians and pharmaceutical companies .. to continue administering these contaminated vaccines to unsuspecting parents.

    My friend, if “pig viruses” found in vaccines is not enough to cause “government” to act in the “best interest of children” .. by banning those vaccines until they have been CLEANED .. what would? Surely a recall of these vaccines would have “cost” both physicians and pharmaceutical companies dearly.

    So…. I ask YOU …

    Do you think the government acted in the “best interest of the children” by refusing to ban these contaminated vaccines .. or .. in the “best interest of physicians and pharmaceutical companies” administering them?


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


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