Who is Alexander Langmuir?

Alexander Langmuir is typically described as a hero or titan of public health.

Then why do some folks think he was against the flu and measles vaccines?

Who is Alexander Langmuir?

Dr. Alexander Langmuir has been called the father of infectious disease epidemiology.

Why?

In 1949, he established the CDC’s Epidemiology Program. Actually, at the time, the CDC was still called the Communicable Disease Center.

Dr. Alexander Langmuir and his Polio Surveillance Unit at the EIS in 1955.
Dr. Alexander Langmuir and his Polio Surveillance Unit at the EIS in 1955.

Dr. Langmuir, as Chief Epidemiologist at CDC for 21 years, also:

  • founded the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS)
  • instituted a malaria surveillance system
  • established national disease surveillance system for the United States
  • was involved in resolving the Cutter incident
  • brought the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report to CDC
  • investigated the swine influenza virus vaccine incident, when it was thought that some people developed GBS after getting the new swine flu vaccine in 1976

His work saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Don't believe any propaganda or quotes without sources attributed to Alexander Langmuir.
Don’t believe any propaganda or quotes without sources attributed to Dr. Alexander Langmuir.

Did he ever tell folks to not get a flu shot?

Was he ever concerned about mercury in flu shots?

Considering that Dr. Langmuir died in 1993, before folks became concerned about thimerosal in vaccines, that’s unlikely. That’s especially so considering that the only place you can find these types of quotes are on anti-vaccine websites.

Still, Langmuir was critical of flu shots.

“From this appraisal of the experience in the past three and one-half years, it is apparent that progress in the control of influenza has not been impressive.”

Langmuir et al. on The Epidemiological Basis For The Control Of Influenza

He didn’t think that they worked well enough. Or more importantly, he didn’t think we had enough information about how well they worked.

“Our information regarding the occurrence of influenza is largely qualitative. Schools close, absenteeism increases, medical services become taxed, virus isolations and serological identifications are made in great numbers, and daily accounts appear in our newspapers and on television. We know we have an epidemic and we know its specific cause, but we have few quantitative measures of incidence, age- and sex-specific attack rates, and character and severity of complications. Further- more, we have only crude data regarding mortality. We do not know what proportion of excess deaths occurs among reasonably active and productive citizens in contrast to deaths among persons who are already invalids suffering from severely debilitating pre-existing disease. Despite this serious deficiency we base our recommendations for vaccine use largely on mortality experience. We undertake major efforts to produce influenza vaccine in large amounts, but we have no meaningful information regarding its actual distribution. We do not know to what extent it actually reaches persons at highest risk.”

Langmuir et al. on A Critical Evaluation of Influenza Surveillance

But he wasn’t anti-vaccine.

And he never said that flu shots weren’t safe.

“The availability of potent and effective measles vaccines, which have been tested extensively over the past 4 years, provides the basis for the eradication of measles in any community that will raise its immune thresholds to readily attainable levels.”

Langmuir et al. on Epidemiologic Basis For Eradication Of Measles In 1967

And concerning all that he did in the field of public health, he is certainly not someone that anti-vaccine folks should be quoting.

More on Alexander Langmuir

Kids Getting Shots – Are You Prepared?

Most kids have a favorite cartoon or show that they like to watch.

When I was a kid, it was Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Are You Prepared for Your Kids Getting Shots?

Although we often complain about kids overdoing it with screen time, there are some circumstances when a little screen time might be a good thing.

A little distraction helped Elmo get his shot.
A little distraction helped Elmo get his shot.

For example, if your kids are nervous about an upcoming visit to their pediatrician when they will get shots, having things explained by a well known character will almost certainly be helpful.

How else can you prepare your kids?

Remember to be honest. Don’t lie and say that they aren’t getting a shot or that it won’t hurt at all, only to have their pediatrician tell them that they need a vaccination during the visit.

Going to the Doctor.Books on going to the doctors can also be helpful. Many include a section or story on getting vaccines.

Going To The Doctor by T. Berry Brazelton, MD has always been a favorite of mine, but there are many others:

  • Leo Gets a Checkup
  • The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor
  • Corduroy Goes to the Doctor
  • Nicky Goes to the Doctor
  • Daniel Visits the Doctor
  • Froggy Goes to the Doctor
  • My Friend the Doctor
  • The Big Blue House Call

And have your kids play with a Doc McStuffins medical kit.

Vaccines are safe and necessary and you can help to make sure your kids are ready to get them at their next appointment.

More on Preparing Kids When Getting Shots

Measles on a Plane, Train, and a Cruise Ship

What to most folks worry about when they go on a cruise?

That’s right. Norovirus…

While it isn’t as common as most folks think, norovirus is still often thought of as the cruise ship disease.

Measles on a Plane, Train, and a Cruise Ship

Not surprisingly, many of the same conditions that put you at risk for getting norovirus, including that it is very contagious and you are in close quarters with a lot of other people on a ship, puts you at risk for getting other diseases.

Even measles?

Especially measles.

In 2014, 136 people got measles after an unvaccinated person developed measles on a cruise ship, including 28 people on the cruise.

More recently, an unvaccinated teenager exposed others to measles on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship while visiting Alaska. It seems like the same person also exposed folks to measles on a few planes and trains too.

How did they get measles? In Thailand.

This is almost certainly the same person who arrived at Vancouver International Airport from Tokyo on an Air Canada flight (July 30), leaving for Portland on Air Canada Jazz that same day.

While in Portland, they exposed people to measles at multiple locations:

  • Leno Medoyeff Bridal, 710 NW 23rd Ave., Portland, 3:30—5:30 p.m. (July 31)
  • Tom’s Pancake House, 12925 SW Canyon Rd., Beaverton, 7—9:30 a.m. (Aug. 1)
  • Max Red Line, Beaverton Transit Center to Pioneer Square, 12:30—1 p.m. (Aug. 2)
  • Max Red Line, Pioneer Place to Beaverton Transit Center, 5:30—6 p.m. (Aug. 2)
  • Verde Cocina, 5515 SW Canyon Ct., Portland, 2—4:30 p.m. (Aug. 5)

They weren’t done yet though.

You really shouldn't have to worry about measles when you board a plane, train, or cruise ship with your kids.
You really shouldn’t have to worry about measles when you board a plane, train, or cruise ship with your kids.

They then traveled back to Vancouver International Airport on an Alaska Airlines flight (August 6) and boarded a Norwegian Jewel cruise ship to Alaska.

Fortunately, the teen was placed in medical isolation shortly after boarding the ship and may have left the typically 7 day cruise early, as they were transferred to PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center on August 8.

How can you protect yourself?

Get vaccinated. You never know when someone who is unvaccinated is going to expose your family to measles or put them at risk for other vaccine-preventable disease.

More on Measles on a Plane, Train, and a Cruise Ship

Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

We know that vaccine-preventable diseases can be life-threatening.

In the pre-vaccine era, when these diseases were much more common, way too many people died, but still, most people did recover.

They didn’t always survive without complications though.

Tragically, we are starting to see more of these complications as more kids are now getting some of these vaccine-preventable diseases again.

Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

That we can prevent these serious complications is another benefit of getting vaccinated!

How serious?

Have you ever seen someone who has survived a meningococcal infection?

Do they always have all of their arms and legs?

How about their fingers and toes?

"Baby" Charlotte survived her battle with meningococcemia and continues to take on new challenges!
“Baby” Charlotte survived her battle with meningococcemia and continues to take on new challenges!

There is a reason that we say that you have to earn your natural immunity. You have to survive these diseases to get it. And you want to survive without any long-term complications, which can include:

  1. chicken pox – shingles, secondary bacterial infections, pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, seizures, transverse myelitis, Reye syndrome, neonatal varicella, congenital varicella syndrome
  2. congenital rubella syndrome – neonatal death, heart problems, deafness, cataracts, intellectual disability, liver and spleen damage, glaucoma, thyroid problems
  3. diphtheria – myocarditis, heart failure, nerve damage, muscle paralysis
  4. Haemophilus influenzae type b – meningitis, epiglottitis, pneumonia, osteomyelitis, cellulitis, hearing loss, brain damage, loss of limbs
  5. hepatitis A – can rarely lead to liver failure
  6. hepatitis B – chronic hepatitis B, cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer
  7. HPV – genital warts, cancer
  8. influenza – parotitis, pneumonia, myocarditis, encephalitis, myositis, rhabdomyolysis, multi-organ failure
  9. measles –pneumonia, seizures, encephalitis, SSPE
  10. mumps – orchitis (inflammation of the testicles), oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries), pancreatitis, meningitis, encephalitis
  11. pneumococcal disease – pneumonia, mastoiditis, meningitis, bacteremia, sepsis, empyema, pericarditis, hearing loss, brain damage
  12. pertussis – pneumonia, seizures, apnea, encephalopathy, rib fractures
  13. polio – meningitis, paralysis, post-polio syndrome
  14. rabies – it is very rare to survive a rabies infection without treatment
  15. rotavirus – dehydration, intussusception
  16. rubella – arthritis, congenital rubella syndrome
  17. shingles – postherpetic neuralgia, pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, encephalitis
  18. tetanus – seizures, laryngospasm, fractures, pulmonary embolism, aspiration pneumonia
  19. typhoid fever – intestinal perforation, internal bleeding, peritonitis, hepatitis, osteomyelitis, arthritis, meningitis, myocarditis,
  20. yellow fever – pneumonia, parotitis, sepsis

Anti-vaccine folks rarely talk about the complications of vaccine-preventable diseases. For that matter, they also often push the idea that vaccines don’t even work and that these diseases aren’t even vaccine preventable, don’t they?

Don’t believe them. Vaccines work and they are safe and necessary, especially if you want to avoid these diseases.

More on Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Does Congress Really Agree About Vaccines?

Believe it or not, Congress has a lot to do with whether or not folks get vaccinated.

“As Members of Congress, we have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly disease.”

Sens. Lamar Alexander et al Dear Colleague Letter

We saw what happened in the mid-1980s when Federal funding for vaccine programs went down – we got measles outbreaks.

Congress and Vaccines

But it isn’t just that members of Congress have their fingers on the purse strings.

Over the years, while the great majority of lawmakers do agree that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary, a few have created unnecessary fear about vaccines and have likely scared parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Remember when Michele Bachmann went on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and told her HPV vaccine story?
Remember when Michele Bachmann went on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and told her HPV vaccine story?

And then there are the Congressional hearings…

Remember Dan Burton?

The former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana (1983-2013) has been described as being “antivaccine through and through” and “organized quackery’s best friend in Congress.”

Dan Burton held over 20 Congressional hearings trying to prove that there was a link between vaccines and autism.

Because he thinks that his grandson developed autism from vaccines, Dan Burton continues to believe that vaccines are associated with autism.
Because he thinks that his grandson developed autism from vaccines, Dan Burton continues to believe that vaccines are associated with autism.

Hearings that gave a high profile platform to Andrew Wakefield and are best described as:

“carefully choreographed to generate as much negative feeling toward the vaccination system as possible.”

Arthur Allen on Vaccine The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver

Who replaced Dan Burton?

It seems to be U.S. Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), who has been described as “vying to take over the title of the most antivaccine legislator in the U.S. Congress since Dan Burton retired.”

He got a little help from Rep. Darrell Issa, who conducted a meeting of the Subcommittee of Government Operations in 2014, Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“Okay. Let’s stop it right there. Because every time we have ever talked about doing one of those studies, some idiot in the media says I am suggesting that children intentionally don’t get vaccinated. And I don’t know that anybody ever has ever proposed that. But there are plenty of children whose parents will not allow them to be vaccinated. There are plenty of cultures where children are not vaccinated. And there are other reasons children are not vaccinated. And there are children who take large doses of vaccination, and children whose parents decide to have them take one vaccination at a time to avoid thimerosal. And I have not been able to ascertain that there has actually been a legitimate study done that wasn’t tainted by the touch of the international colossal scumbag Poul Thorsen.”

Rep. Bill Posey questioning NIH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. in the Congressional hearing on Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders

Who else might be joining him?

Since the verbal evidence she hears says kids are getting too many vaccines, Rep Maloney asks the CDC Director why we can't just space out the vaccines kids get...
Since the verbal evidence she hears says kids are getting too many vaccines, Rep Maloney asks the CDC Director why we can’t just space out the vaccines kids get…

There is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

Maloney also spoke at a 2012 hearing planned by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on the federal response to rising autism rates.

“Are you looking at vaccination? Is that part of your studies? I have a question. Are you looking at vaccination? Are you having a study on vaccination and the fact that they’re cramming them down and having kids have nine at one time. Is that a cause? Do you have any studies on vaccination?”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in a hearing on Rising Autism Rates

Rep. Carolyn Maloney was also a co-sponsor of Rep. Bill Posey’s 2015 Vaccine Safety Study Act bill, which called for “a comprehensive study comparing total health outcomes, including risk of autism, in vaccinated populations in the United States with such outcomes in unvaccinated populations in the United States, and for other purposes,” even though many experts have long pointed out the problems with using intentionally unvaccinated folks as a comparison group.

But Rep Maloney got her start long before Bill Posey ever came to Congress…

In 2006, in response to a series of articles by Dan Olmstead, who later created the website, Age of Autism, Rep Maloney held a briefing at the National Press Club where she proposed the Comprehensive Study of Autism Epidemic Act of 2006, a bill that sounds awfully similar to Posey’s Vaccine Safety Study Act.

Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) was another co-sponsor.

But we shouldn’t forget Rep. Dave Weldon MD (R-Fl), who introduced the Mercury-Free Vaccines Act of 2004 and the Vaccine Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act of 2007. Weldon also sent a number of letters to Julie Gerberding questioning a study about thimerosal by Thomas Verstraeten, a study that was investigated and cleared by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in 2005. Because he was a doctor, Rep. Burton also had Weldon do a lot of the questioning during his hearings.

And there is also Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), who was a cosponsor when  Maloney reintroduced the Vaccine Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act in 2009.

Not surprisingly, many of these members of Congress have been getting donations from anti-vaccine organizations.

Henry Waxman was a featured speaker at the 2015 AAP Legislative Conference.
Henry Waxman was a featured speaker at the 2015 AAP Legislative Conference.

In contrast to all of the folks above, there was Rep. Henry A Waxman (D-CA), who retired after 40 years in Congress, but not before:

  • fighting back against Dan Burton’s misinformation in his hearings about vaccines
  • introducing the Vaccine Access and Supply Act of 2005
  • authoring the stand-alone Vaccines for Children legislation that was included in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 that created the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program
  • introducing the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986

But his work on vaccines has probably been the most low-profile thing that Waxman did, which is why he is often described as “one of the most important Congressman ever.”

You’ll never hear that said about Dan Burton, Bill Posey, Dave Weldon, or Carolyn Maloney…

More on Congress and Vaccines

Update on the Samoa Vaccine Tragedy

Many people remember that two young children died in Samoa in early July, shortly after getting an MMR vaccine.

Two toddlers died after being vaccinated at Safotu Hospital in Samoa.
Two toddlers died after being vaccinated at Safotu Hospital in Samoa.

Both incidents happened on the same day in the same hospital on the island of Savai’i.

“Until the investigations have been completed and reported on we cannot say what did happen.

However, given the batch of vaccine involved had been in use in that country since August last year, and given the same batch of vaccine has been used in South American countries and the Caribbean island nations without incident, it seems unlikely that there was anything wrong with the vaccine.

The reports from the parents of the children affected on Friday indicate the reactions occurred within minutes after vaccination. This would preclude a response to the vaccine viruses as this takes at least a week. While anaphylaxis occurs within minutes and can be fatal when not treated the odds of seeing this twice in a day at the same place, given a chance of 1 in a million doses, is literally astronomical.”

Dr. Helen Petousis Harrison on What happened in Samoa?

And while many people have speculated on what had happened, we haven’t heard anything since then.

Until now, when the Attorney General Lemalu Herman Retzlaff issued a press statement:

It can be confirmed that one of the nurses involved with the vaccination injections of the two babies who passed away 6th July 2018, was charged by police on Saturday 4th August 2018. She is set to appear in Court 14th August 2018, where the charges will be confirmed publicly.

According to AG Lemalu, “the file was referred to this office for advice last week, after swift and hard-working investigations by the CID section of the Ministry of Police both in Apia and Savaii, which is to be commended.”

“And the decision to charge was thereafter supported by advice; and it is also confirmed by Police, that investigations are still active and on-going.”

Unfortunately, the latest update from Samoa still leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

  • What is the nurse being charged with?
  • What have the autopsy reports from the two infants revealed?

Apparently, the investigation into the deaths of the two toddlers has been adjourned until September 12, as  they are still waiting on the the post mortem reports from the pathologist in Australia.

So, we still don’t know what happened. Were the vaccines contaminated somehow? Was an error made?

“This particular vaccine batch lot arrived to Samoa in August 2017 and has been in use since then. The same vaccine batch lot used in Samoa is also in use in a number of South American and Caribbean countries (Belize, Ecuador, St. Vincent, Trinidad Tobago, Chile, Aruba, Dutch Antilles, St. Kitts & Nevis and Cuba) with no reports of adverse events from those countries.”

Government of Samoa – Ministry of Health Press Statement

Whatever happened, it is important to remember that these kinds of tragedies are very rare and vaccines are safe.

More on Samoa Vaccine Tragedy

Making the Right Choice About Vaccines

Most parents vaccinate their kids.

For them, it is an easy choice. They know that vaccines work, that vaccines are safe, and that vaccines are necessary.

Making the Right Choice About Vaccines

Some folks aren’t so sure though. They may either be against vaccines or might still be on the fence, not knowing for sure what to do.

“When my third child was born, I had more questions than answers and a huge reluctance to choose immunizations without certainty that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Suzanne Walther on A Parent’s Decision on Immunization: Making the Right Choice

Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo when he took his daughter to their pediatrician for vaccines.
Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo when he took his daughter to their pediatrician for her vaccines.

Parents can be confident that all of the evidence points to the facts that:

  1. Vaccines are effective at preventing disease. Vaccines work.
  2. Our kids do not get too many vaccines and do not get them at too early an age. The current immunization schedule helps protect young children from life-threatening diseases. Vaccines are necessary.
  3. Vaccines are safe and are extensively tested before they are approved.
  4. After they are approved, there are ongoing clinical trials and safety systems in place to rule out the possibility that vaccines could cause diseases later in life.
  5. Claims of adverse reactions are well investigated and easily disproved. Vaccines are not associated with SIDS, ADHD, eczema, autism, peanut allergies, or any other so-called vaccine induced diseases.
  6. There are plenty of places to go to get truthful, clear answers to questions about vaccines.
  7. Everything you hear that scares you about vaccines is likely not true, especially things about toxins, shedding, herd immunity, and package inserts, etc.

With all of the anti-vaccine information that is regularly posted on Facebook and anti-vaccine books listed on Amazon, it is no surprise that some parents would be scared though.

“I have discovered along the way that it is easy for parents to be misinformed. It is a real challenge to be well informed.”

Suzanne Walther on A Parent’s Decision on Immunization: Making the Right Choice

Make the effort to be well informed about vaccines.

More on Making the Right Choice About Vaccines