What Ever Happened to the Lyme Disease Vaccine?

A Lyme disease vaccine, LYMErix, was approved by the FDA in 1998.

Unfortunately, the manufacturer stopped making it a few years later.

What Ever Happened to the Lyme Disease Vaccine?

Although Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection, the bacteria is transmitted to people through tick bites. Not surprisingly, the original Lyme disease vaccine didn’t attack ticks, it attacked the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in those ticks, before they could cause an infection.

A new Lyme disease vaccine would be welcomed in the 14 states where the majority of Lyme disease cases are reported.
A new Lyme disease vaccine would be welcomed in the 14 states where the majority of Lyme disease cases are reported.

After three doses, LYMErix was found to be 78% effective at preventing Lyme disease.

Unfortunately, unverified reports of vaccine side effects, especially arthritis, were hyped by the media and anti-vaccine groups and led folks to avoid the vaccine.

In their article, “Concerns Grow Over Reactions To Lyme Shots,” The New York Times even gave equal time to doctors from the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, who push the idea that folks need treatment for chronic Lyme disease.

Another vaccine, ImuLyme, didn’t even bother applying for FDA licensure at the time.

“In 2002, in response to low vaccine uptake, public concern about adverse effects, and class action lawsuits, SmithKline Beecham withdrew the vaccine from the market despite the fact that both pre- and post-licensure safety data showed no difference in the incidence of chronic arthritis between those who received the vaccine and those who had not.”

The History of the Lyme Disease Vaccine

Interestingly, a more current article in The New York Times, “Lyme Disease Is Spreading Fast. Why Isn’t There a Vaccine?,” doesn’t mention the media’s role in bringing down the vaccine.

“But the company took it off the market less than four years later, citing low sales, amid lawsuits from patients who said the vaccine caused severe arthritis and other symptoms… The high cost of the vaccine and confusion over who should get it and how many doses were needed didn’t help its prospects.”

Lyme Disease Is Spreading Fast. Why Isn’t There a Vaccine?

And that’s likely why we continue to see false balance in their reporting, as we see them interview a group who is “skeptical about the new vaccine.”

A new vaccine that hasn’t even made it into phase II trials yet!

“Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media.”

Ben Goldacre on The MMR story that wasn’t

The media’s role in scaring folks about vaccines isn’t new.

Unfortunately, the impact of the media on the anti-vaccine movement has been felt far beyond Andrew Wakefield, the MMR vaccine and measles outbreaks.

“As we ask how to weigh public health benefits of interventions against potential risks (notably incurred by identifiable individuals), the LYMErix case illustrates that media focus and swings of public opinion can pre-empt the scientific weighing of risks and benefits in determining success or failure.”

The Lyme vaccine: a cautionary tale

Hopefully, folks have learned their lesson though. How many people have developed Lyme disease since LYMErix was withdrawn from the market? After all, Lyme disease should still be a vaccine-preventable disease.

More on the Lyme Disease Vaccine

Anti-Vaxxers Should Be Able to Answer These Questions Correctly

There is a new meme going around suggesting that folks have no business telling anyone to vaccinate and protect their kids unless they can answer a series of questions.

I bet answers from anti-vaccine folks aren't the same as the answers from the rest of us...
I bet answers from anti-vaccine folks aren’t the same as the answers from the rest of us…

While it is certainly good to be educated about vaccines, their questions seem rather loaded.

Anti-Vaxxers Should Be Able to Answer These Questions Correctly

Since it is immoral and dangerous to push misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids, it would be nice if anti-vaccine folks would answer these questions before they tried to persuade anyone to not get vaccinated:

  1. Name 5 vaccine ingredients that you think are toxic and how exactly they can be toxic at the amounts present in vaccines.
  2. Name 5 possible complications of a vaccine-preventable disease.
  3. Are doctors and alternative health care providers who push non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules able to be held liable if their intentionally unvaccinated child suffers a vaccine-preventable disease or starts an outbreak, infecting other people?
  4. How many children died of vaccine-preventable diseases in the early 1980s, before the vaccine schedule grew to include the new vaccines we give today?
  5. Is it true that no one can force you to get vaccinated?
  6. What percentage of reports to VAERS are actually caused by vaccine reactions?
  7. How many doses of vaccines have been given since the Vaccine Court began paying for vaccine injury cases?
  8. Which vaccines must be avoided because of shedding or other concerns if you have a child with an immunodeficiency in your home?
  9. Why do some folks think that many vaccines still contain thimerosal?
  10. If today’s vaccines already contain far fewer antigens than they did in the old days, what would be the extra benefit of splitting them up even further into separate shots for each vaccine-preventable disease?
  11. Have you read all of studies on the safety and effectiveness of combination vaccines, including those that are double-blinded and placebo controlled, and the current vaccine schedule?
  12. Can you give me one other interesting fact about vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases that was not already asked or discussed?

What’s my interesting fact?

Many on-the-fence and vaccine hesitant parents do change their mind about vaccines and decide to make the right choice and get their kids vaccinated and protected.

More Things Anti-Vaxxers Should Know

Does Having Measles Protect You from Cancer?

Anti-vaccine folks often try to tout the benefits of natural immunity.

So that's why Big Pharma wants you to get measles! So you will get cancer.
So that’s why Big Pharma wants you to get measles! So you will get cancer.

That measles reduces your risk of cancer is probably one that you haven’t heard.

Neither are you likely to have heard of the conspiracy theory that Big Pharma wants you to get vaccinated and protected so that you don’t get measles, just so you are at increased risk of cancer later.

Does Having Measles Protect You from Cancer?

The idea of a viral infection protecting you from cancer doesn’t make much sense, after all, many viral infections actually cause cancer.

That’s why we have vaccines to protect us against hepatitis B and HPV infections! So much for the idea that Big Pharma wants you to get cancer. If they did, then why did they develop vaccines that prevent cancer?

But Brandy Vaughn has evidence for her claim, doesn’t she?

Kind of. She has a study, “Febrile infectious childhood diseases in the history of cancer patients and matched control,” that was published 20 years ago in the journal Medical Hypothesis. A study that consisted of a questionnaire that was sent to cancer patients who were seen by anthroposophic general practitioners in Switzerland.

Anthroposophic general practitioners? Think Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf Schools.

Understand the connection with vaccines now?

That’s right, a “study” done by alternative health providers who are against vaccines found a benefit to getting febrile infectious childhood diseases, many of which are vaccine preventable.

What Are the Benefits and Risks of Measles?

Not surprisingly, few other people talk about any benefits to having a natural measles infection.

Unfortunately, we also don’t hear enough about the complications of these infections either, mostly because they are rather uncommon these days since most folks are vaccinated and protected.

Not uncommon enough though, as we still do have outbreaks.

Measles Benefits Measles Risks
natural immunity death
can miss 7-10 days of school or work encephalitis
SSPE
seizures
pneumonia
7 to 10 days of high fever and irritability
can trigger an outbreak
a few years of immune amnesia

Immune amnesia?

That’s a risk that you might be unfamiliar with, but it is the increasing popular theory that a natural measles infection resets your immune system to that of a newborn, so that you are once again susceptible to many infectious diseases. That’s likely why mortality rates from other diseases besides measles goes down when folks start to get vaccinated against measles.

Measles and Cancer Risks

What about the association of measles and cancer?

Unlike the idea that a natural measles infection might be protective against cancer, there are more than a few studies that actually associate measles with a risk of developing cancer, including:

  • lung cancer
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • endometrial cancer
  • breast cancer

Are these associations real?

Probably not, after all, why don’t rates of these cancers go way down after measles gets under control or eliminated?

Still, most of us know that measles isn’t a mild disease and don’t need any extra benefits to getting vaccinated and protected.

We know what life was like when measles was a common childhood disease and see what is happening in parts of the world where measles is still much more common than it is in the United States.

And we understand the most dangerous association between measles and cancer that affects the most people – when unvaccinated people get measles and expose children and adults on chemotherapy who are immunosuppressed and can’t be vaccinated.

More on Measles and Cancer

Fake News About Measles Outbreaks?

Many news organizations ran with a story about a multi-state measles outbreak recently.

The CDC tweeted a correction about the multi-state measles outbreak story.
The CDC tweeted a correction about the multi-state measles outbreak story.

They got something wrong though.

There is no ongoing, single, multi-state outbreak of measles this year.

Fake News About Measles Outbreaks?

Is it understandable that some media outlets would have been confused by recent CDC reports?

Not really.

The CDC Measles Cases and Outbreaks page hadn’t been updated since late-July and is still reporting case numbers that are “current as of July 14, 2018,” so there really was no recent CDC report to generate all of this extra attention.

“From January 1 to July 14, 2018, 107 people from 21 states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington) and the District of Colombia were reported to have measles.”

CDC on Measles Cases and Outbreaks

Although it has been changed to say “107 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 21 states,” there was nothing to indicate it was a single outbreak that the CDC was monitoring as many sites reported:

Few sites were immune to using a click-bait title to scare folks about the "outbreak."
Few sites were immune to using a click-bait title to scare folks about the “outbreak.”

Unfortunately, many of these reports are still online.

How did it happen?

It’s likely because you have reports from organizations and websites that seem to want to push out content, but don’t have much of a budget to pay health or medical writers to make sure it is accurate.

2018 Measles Cases and Outbreaks

It’s also unfortunate that some of these sites, in trying to correct the idea of a single, nation-wide outbreak, are now trying to minimize this year’s measles outbreaks.

No, there isn’t one large outbreak that is spreading across the United States, but there are a lot of smaller outbreaks, some of which are still ongoing.

And these outbreaks are not something that should still be expected, as we have had a safe and effective measles vaccine for over 50 years and measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000!

There is also something very much different about 2018, that not surprisingly, no one is reporting about.

With over 107 cases, things seem very similar to last year right, when we had about 118 cases?

The thing is, in 2017, there was one large outbreak, in Minnesota, with 79 people.

In 2015, at least 139 of 189 cases were from just three large outbreaks, in California (Disneyland), Illinois, and South Dakota.

See what’s different?

This year seems to have more individual cases in more states, each with the potential to grow into one of those big outbreaks.

Why?

You can blame the rise in measles outbreaks in Europe and other parts of the world. And some folks not getting vaccinated and protected and exposing the rest of us when they get sick.

Putting us at risk even though measles is a life-threatening infection, a safe and effective vaccine has been available for 50 years, and every anti-vaccine myth that scares folks has been refuted a thousand times.

That’s the story.

Who’s telling it?

More on Reporting on Measles Outbreaks

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