As most folks know, Dr. Bob Sears has been put on probation by the California Medical Board.
Surprisingly, that hasn’t kept him from posting dangerous misinformation about vaccines, including his latest idea that “most vaccines don’t prevent the spread of a disease.”
Which Vaccines Don’t Prevent the Spread of a Disease?
If vaccines don’t prevent the spread of disease, then how did we eradicate, eliminate, and control so many diseases?
When was the last time you saw someone with small pox, rubella, diphtheria, or polio, for example?
It is true that vaccines don’t prevent the spread of some infections though.
There is tetanus, for example, but guess what?
Tetanus isn’t contagious.
Well, unlike most other vaccines, the meningococcal B vaccines are not thought to decrease nasal carriage of the meningococcal B bacteria. So if you are vaccinated and an asymptomatic carrier of the bacteria, you could theoretically spread it to someone else, as could someone who is unvaccinated.
Still, the MenB vaccines can protect you from getting actual meningococcal B disease, and if you don’t have meningococcemia or meningococcal meningitis, you won’t expose and spread it to someone else. That’s why the MenB vaccines are especially useful in outbreak situations.
Any others? After all, Dr. Bob did say that “most vaccines don’t prevent the spread of a disease.”
Vaccines That Don’t Prevent the Spread of a Disease
There are a few other examples of vaccines that don’t prevent the spread of a disease.
“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”
Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book
Of course, any vaccine that is delayed or skipped won’t work to prevent the spread of a disease.
Just like they are seeing measles outbreaks and deaths now, because of low vaccination rates, in Ukraine there were 17,387 cases of diphtheria and 646 deaths from 1992 to 1997. Also high, were cases of measles (over 23,000 cases in 1993) and pertussis (almost 7,000 cases in 1993).
And because of waning immunity, vaccines don’t do as good a job of preventing the spread of pertussis and mumps as we would like. Still, that’s only when the vaccines don’t work, and even then, as Dr. Bob says, they do work to reduce the severity of symptoms. During recent mumps outbreaks, the rates of complications are far below historical levels. The same is true for pertussis.
Have you ever seen or heard an unvaccinated child with pertussis? It is truly heartbreaking, especially when you realize how easily it could be prevented.
We typically see the same thing with flu. Even when the flu vaccine isn’t a good match or isn’t as effective as we would like, it still has a lot of benefits, including reducing your risk of dying.
“IPV induces very low levels of immunity in the intestine. As a result, when a person immunized with IPV is infected with wild poliovirus, the virus can still multiply inside the intestines and be shed in the faeces, risking continued circulation.”
Inactivated poliovirus vaccine
Does the fact that IPV, the inactivated polio vaccine, can sometimes lead to infections and shedding mean that it doesn’t prevent infections?
Of course not!
“IPV triggers an excellent protective immune response in most people.”
Inactivated poliovirus vaccine
Most people vaccinated with IPV will be immune, won’t get wild polio, and so won’t be able to get anyone else sick.
“Vaccines reduce disease by direct protection of vaccinees and by indirect protection of nonimmune persons. Indirect protection depends on a reduction in infection transmission, and hence on protection (immunity) against infection, not just against disease. If a vaccine were to protect only against disease, and not at all against infection, then it would have no influence on infection transmission in the community and there would be no indirect protection (vaccination of one person would have no influence on any others in the community). It would be possible to reduce disease with such a vaccine but not to eradicate the infection.”
But because IPV doesn’t provide indirect protection, we still use OPV in parts of the world where polio is more of a problem.
Vaccines work. Even the few that don’t prevent the spread of infections, still help to reduce disease.
What’s the Difference Between Infections and Disease?
Wait, is there a difference between infection and disease?
Yes there is, something that Dr. Bob, who actually wrote a book about vaccines, seems to have overlooked.
An infection is simply the presence of a virus, bacteria, or other organism in your body.
A disease, on the other hand, is a virus or bacteria in your body causing signs and symptoms.
All vaccines work to prevent disease, or at least they do when you actually get vaccinated.
A very few don’t prevent infections and the spread of infections, but that is not a good reason to skip or delay your child’s vaccines. In fact, it is one of the reasons why it is important to have high vaccination rates! Even natural infections don’t always keep you from becoming asymptomatic carriers that can infected others. Many people who have natural typhoid (remember Typhoid Mary?) and hepatitis B infections go on to become chronic carriers without any symptoms, but still able to infect others.
If you understand that a few vaccines don’t prevent the spread of infections, then you should understand that you can’t hide in the herd and expect to be protected, even though most folks around you are vaccinated.
What to Know About Vaccines and the Spread of Disease
Despite what Dr. Bob says, almost all vaccines work to prevent the spread of disease and infections, at least they do when you get your kids vaccinated.
More on Vaccines and the Spread of Disease
- Study – Contagious Diseases in the United States from 1888 to the Present
- Herd Immunity: How does it work?
- Vaccines Help Prevent the Spread of Disease
- Vaccines Protect Your Community
- CDC – 14 Diseases You Almost Forgot About (Thanks to Vaccines)
- WHO – Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide
- Study – Discordant Effects of Licensed Meningococcal Serogroup B Vaccination on Invasive Disease and Nasal Colonization in a Humanized Mouse Model.
- Study – Clinical presentation of pertussis in unvaccinated and vaccinated children in the first six years of life.
- Study – Meningococcal carriage and disease–population biology and evolution.
- 90 percent of children who died from flu not vaccinated
- Making sense out of the baboon pertussis study
- Epidemiological evidence for herd immunity induced by acellular pertussis vaccines
- Why Mumps And Measles Can Spread Even When We’re Vaccinated
- Inactivated poliovirus vaccine
- The sad inevitability of Ukraine’s measles outbreak
- Report – Diphtheria in the Former Soviet Union: Reemergence of a Pandemic Disease
- Report – Diphtheria in the Russian Federation in the 1990s
- Report – Epidemic Diphtheria in Ukraine, 1991–1997
- Disease considered as candidates for global eradication by the International Task Force for Disease Eradication
- Essential reading: A comprehensive takedown of Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book
- The Problem With Dr Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule
- Cashing In On Fear: The Danger of Dr. Sears
- Countering Dr. Sears
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