Category: Blog

Why Is RFK, Jr Pimping out the Kennedy Compound to Anti-Vaxxers?

Folks who know the history of the Kennedy family and vaccines are likely surprised that RFK, Jr is holding a contest for his own organization using a visit to the Kennedy compound as a prize.

The Children’s Health Defense is ironically named, as all it seems to do is scare folks away from vaccinating and protecting their kids, something the Kennedy family once championed.

Can someone ask his mom?

Does she plan to go and does she support his work?

Do other members of the Kennedy family?

Why Is RFK, Jr Pimping out the Kennedy Compound to Anti-Vaxxers?

Before we look at the work of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, let’s review what the Kennedy family has done to help get vaccine-preventable diseases under control.

“Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is also the anniversary of the announcement that a vaccine has been discovered to prevent paralytic polio. Today over 90 million Americans have been vaccinated with the Salk vaccine. Over 80 million remain unvaccinated. Almost 4,800,000 children have not been vaccinated, and the majority of these are under five years of age. I hope that the renewed drive this spring and summer to provide vaccination for all Americans, and particularly those who are young, will have the wholehearted support of every parent in America. I hope that they, knowing some of the long range suffering which comes from an attack of polio — with this miraculous drug I hope that everyone takes advantage of it.”

President John F. Kennedy News Conference 9, April 12, 1961

In 1962, John F. Kennedy signed the Vaccination Assistance Act (Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act). It started as a three year program to help get kids vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, and has been continuously reauthorized ever since.

What else do we know about the Kennedy family and vaccines?

“Rose and maternal health and the health of her children were paramount for her as those children were growing up. She took great pride in getting them out into the countryside, getting them outside and walking through Brookline when they lived there, and getting them fresh air and getting them whatever medical needs they had. But she would say how fearful she was in the days before vaccines of how a child could pass away so quickly.”

Barbara Perry on The Life of Rose Kennedy

Why was she afraid if measles was so mild, as some folks still claim?

“Or take German Measles. We know German Measles during the first three months of pregnancy almost surely will deform the unborn child. Within the last few weeks, a new vaccine has been tested and preliminary results show it is 100% effective. It should be available within a year. Within our proposed clinics this new vaccine can be administered to children, immunizing them forever against a disease which can cause retardation in future generations. “

Eunice Kennedy Shriver speech before the Citizen’s Committee on Mental Retardation

Concerns about congenital rubella syndrome and German Measles (rubella) led many people to get vaccinated as soon as a vaccine was available.

Remember the rubella epidemic of 1964-65, when there were 12.5 million rubella virus infections, which “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome?”

“It is most encouraging to learn that 28 million children have been vaccinated. This is a wonderful record. But in the great enthusiasm over the rubella program, attention has been removed from the effort to eradicate the common measles. As a result, the 22,231 reported common measles cases in 1968 have risen to 72,000 reported cases for 1971. All children between the ages of 1 and 12 should be immunized. You can help. Keep interest alive in both the common measles and German measles program.”

Speech by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy March 1972

Maybe we simply need more folks like this advocating for vaccines today.

“Many of you perhaps may or may not know that old-fashioned measles can cause brain damage in children. Here in California as well as in other states, there are thousands of children who have not been vaccinated against this common childhood disease.”

Speech by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy March 1972

How many people have Sargent Shriver’s Peace Corp volunteers help get vaccinated and protected around the world?

“We already have the ability to eradicate red measles, responsible for brain inflammation and mental retardation in one in a thousand cases affected by the disease. The measles vaccine and other vaccines are being administered in increasing numbers today, but we are still far from the kind of universal vaccination program that is necessary. Measles vaccines ought to be administered to every infant from nine months of age on.”

Sargent Shriver at the Special Convocation of George Peabody College (1965)

How many people are vaccinated and protected because of the work of the Kennedy family?

Senator Edward Kennedy’s bill would have helped get more adults vaccinated and protected if it had passed.

How many kids aren’t getting vaccinated because Robert F Kennedy, Jr is scaring their parents?

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”

Robert F. Kennedy

An environmental lawyer, you really have to wonder why he hasn’t championed climate change, instead of going after vaccines, which have been found to be safe, with few risks, and necessary.

More on Why Is RFK, Jr Pimping out the Kennedy Compound to Anti-Vaxxers?

Is January Usually a Big Measles Month?

This year is just getting started, but we already have reports of 86 92 94 measles cases in 7 states, and we haven’t even reached the end of January.

Is that a lot?

Well, let’s compare to previous years…

Is January Usually a Big Measles Month?

Classically, in the pre-vaccine era and in parts of the world that still have endemic measles, rates of this vaccine-preventable disease are highest:

  • during the late winter and early spring (temperate climates, like the United States)
  • after the rainy season (tropical climates)

In the post-vaccine era, measles season seemed to shift a little later, to the spring and early summer. In 1994, for example, when we had 963 cases of measles in the United States, 79% of those cases occurred between April and July.

January is not typically a big month for measles.
January is not typically a big month for measles.

Similarly, in 2011, we had only seen 15% of the year’s total measles cases by April 1. By August 1, that was up to about 70%.

We do see measles cases year round though, we just seem to see more of them in the spring and early summer months. Since most measles outbreaks in the United States are imported from other parts of the world, you might expect that we would see more cases when folks are traveling more and when there are big outbreaks in other parts of the world.

Unfortunately, measles is on the rise in many parts of the world right now.

And that is likely why we have already seen more cases this month than in the entire year of 2000 (86 cases), 2002 (44 cases), 2003 (55 cases), 2004 (37 cases), 2005 (66 cases), 2006 (66 cases), 2007 (55 cases), 2009 (71 cases), 2010 (61 cases), and 2016 (86 cases).

YearJanuary Measles CasesTotal Cases
19915969,643
1992492,200
199317312
19946963
199522309
19962508
20081140
20118220
20137187
201415667
2015108188
20188355
201994?

As you can see from the above table, January is not typically a big month for measles.

But what happened in 2015? There were a lot of measles cases in January, but we ended the year with only a moderate amount of cases.

That January spike was the California outbreak that had begun in December 2014. By February 2015, there were at least 125 cases, but fortunately no other large outbreaks the rest of the year.

Could that happen this year?

Could the ongoing outbreaks in New York and the Pacific Northwest stop and we then end up with only a moderate amount of cases?

Let’s hope so.

Let’s hope that having the second highest number of measles cases in January since 1991 ends up being the only record we set this year.

More on Measles Season

Why Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Panicking over the Measles Outbreaks?

Do you sense something in the air?

No, it’s not measles.

Ever notice that it is folks who don't vaccinate who use words like epidemic and panic whenever we have large measles outbreaks?
Ever notice that it is folks who don’t vaccinate who use words like epidemic and panic whenever we have large measles outbreaks?

It is talk of panic about measles.

Why Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Panicking over the Measles Outbreaks?

I’m not panicking.

I am definitively concerned about these outbreaks, because I understand that they put a lot of folks at unnecessary risk for getting a life-threatening disease. And I understand that these outbreaks are getting harder and harder to control, but ultimately, since more and more people get vaccinated during an outbreak, they will eventually end.

So why are anti-vaccine folks panicking?

Yes, your immune system gets to a whole new level after a natural measles infection - it resets.
Yes, your immune system gets to a whole new level after a natural measles infection – it resets.

It’s easier to be anti-vaccine and leave your kids unvaccinated and unprotected when you don’t think that you are taking much of a risk.

You likely still know it’s wrong, so cognitive dissonance pushes you to believe that vaccines don’t work, vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t that bad, vaccines are full of poison, or that you can just hide in the herd.

It gets much harder during an outbreak, when you realize that it is almost all intentionally unvaccinated kids getting sick. And typically an intentionally unvaccinated child or adult who starts the outbreak.

Why wait until an outbreak starts to get your kids vaccinated and protected or to start recommending that your patients be vaccinated and protected?
Why wait until an outbreak starts to get your kids vaccinated and protected or to start recommending that your patients be vaccinated and protected?

Is my child going to start an outbreak?

If measles is so mild, why do so many of these folks go to the ER multiple times and why do some of them get hospitalized. Why do people still die with measles?

Full Stop! Someone did die during the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington.
Full Stop! Someone did die during the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington.

That’s when the panic starts to set in.

Are you really doing what’s right for your child?

Who are these people I’m getting advice from and what’s their motivation?

The only "mass hysteria" is in anti-vaccine Facebook groups. Is Larry Cook using it to raise money for himself?
The only “mass hysteria” is in anti-vaccine Facebook groups. Is Larry Cook using it to raise money for himself?

Am I really supposed to skip my kid’s MMR because they did a Brady Bunch episode about all of the Brady kids getting measles?

Will I regret not vaccinating my child?

Why don’t any of the people in my Facebook groups who talk about how marvelous measles used to be in the old days talk about how they called it a “harmless killer?”

Of course, there is an easy way to stop worrying and panicking about measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases – get your kids vaccinated and protected. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on Measles Panic

What Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Saying About the Measles Outbreaks?

If your kids are intentionally not vaccinated and you live in an area where there is a big measles outbreak, then you are hopefully saying, “where can I get an MMR for my child.”

There were 23 measles cases in Orange County in 2014 and an additional 35 cases in 2015.

And you hope that your “vaccine friendly” pediatrician has vaccines and will actually vaccinate your kids…

What Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Saying About the Measles Outbreaks?

And while many parents change their minds and ending up vaccinating their kids when faced with an outbreak, you likely won’t be surprised about what some folks think or say during an outbreak of measles.

Actually, the CDC said that there was no ongoing, single, multi-state outbreak of measles. Instead, there were lots and lots of little outbreaks.

Yes, these are the things anti-vaccine folks say to try and reassure themselves that they made a good decision to intentionally leave their kids unvaccinated and at risk for a life-threatening disease. One that their kids are even more at risk of getting, because there is an outbreak in their community.

Of course, most folks in measles outbreaks are unvaccinated. It isn’t spread by those who are vaccinated.
And these outbreaks are never caused by shedding or a vaccine strain of measles.
Reporting about outbreaks to help get them under control is not media hysteria. And yes, measles made the headlines in the pre-vaccine era.
That’s because measles didn’t kill everyone who got sick. But there were about 500 measles deaths each year in the United States in the pre-vaccine era. Those folks all had stories, whether or not you ever heard them.
Vitamin A as a treatment for measles is typically helpful if you have a vitamin deficiency. It is probably not going to be very helpful in a developed country.
And yet measles was referred to as a harmless killer, because while many kids didn’t recover, others died or had complications, like encephalitis.
Measles is not a deadly disease if you don’t ever get it. And are you really not going to vaccinate your kids because the Brady Bunch had an episode about the measles?
This copypasta links to a post that left out the part of the article that told folks to get vaccinated…
God I hope that measles parties aren’t going to become a thing.
What scares folks about measles? Anti-vaccine misinformation about vaccines.

While you’re researching measles, do a little research about vaccines too.

Yes, a woman who got caught up in the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington died.
Yes, a woman who got caught up in the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington died.

Your kids will feel better if they are vaccinated and protected and don’t have measles.

More on What Anti-Vaccine Folks Are Saying About the Measles Outbreaks

Are Parents Faking Their Child’s Vaccine Records?

In 2015, California passed a vaccine law that removed all non-medical exemptions to getting vaccinated.

What was the response?

More kids got vaccinated.

Are Parents Faking Their Child’s Vaccine Records?

Not all of them though.

Shortly after the passage of SB277 we quickly learned of one way that parents were trying to get around the law – fake vaccine exemptions.

That’s right. Some doctors were selling fake vaccine exemptions using bogus medical symptoms, histories, and conditions.

And apparently, now that fake vaccine exemptions are getting harder to come by, some parents are simply trying to fake their child’s immunization records.

While I doubt a lot of people are faking their records, some probably are.

Some have already been caught forging their child’s vaccine records because their intentionally unvaccinated kids (who were supposed to be vaccinated) were involved in outbreaks!

Are those really your only vaccine choices? What about opting to vaccinate and protect your child?

Some others were caught writing fake vaccine exemptions, using forms from one of the doctor’s who notoriously sells fake medical vaccine exemptions!

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

This is the modern anti-vaccine movement.

More on Fake Vaccine Records

People with Cancer Are at Risk from Unvaccinated Kids

We know that kids with cancer aren’t at risk from shedding if someone has recently been vaccinated.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, which includes the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System went out of their way to correct this anti-vaccine misinformation.
Johns Hopkins Medicine, which includes the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System went out of their way to correct this anti-vaccine misinformation.

The real risk comes from those who are unvaccinated.

People with Cancer Are at Risk from Unvaccinated Kids

Confused on how that works?

Kids with cancer typically have a compromised immune system, so are at greater risk for getting sick and catching infectious diseases. This includes a risk from vaccine-preventable diseases because they often can’t be vaccinated and any vaccines they had in the past might no longer provide protection.

Don’t believe me?

Want some examples?

  • a 6-year-old girl who was in remission for ALL and had just received her final dose of chemotherapy was admitted with fever and neutropenia, found to have measles, and died after 28 days of intense therapy (1989)
  • an 8-year-old being treated for leukemia developed chicken pox and died two weeks later (1998)
  • a partially vaccinated 4-year-old girl who was being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was exposed to a cousin with chicken pox and later developed multi-organ failure and died (2012)
  • a 26-year-old man who was being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia died in Switzerland after he became infected with measles (2017)
  • a 6-year-old boy with leukemia died in Italy after catching measles from his intentionally unvaccinated sibling (2017)

Of course, there are many more, including many kids with cancer who get exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease and have to get treated with immunoglobulin and hope they don’t get sick. And many more who do get sick and are treated in the hospital for weeks and months and thankfully, get better.

And there are even more who get caught up in quarantines because they have true medical contraindications to getting vaccinated, and so have to stay home from school with the intentionally unvaccinated kids whenever there is an outbreak of measles or chicken pox, etc.

What can we do about this?

Vaccinate our kids! We have a choice. These kids with cancer don’t.

More on People with Cancer at Risk from Unvaccinated Kids

Flu Season Predictions

No, I can’t see into the future…

I predict that I will continue to get a flu shot each year, at least until they come out with a universal flu vaccine.
I predict that I will continue to get a flu shot each year, at least until they come out with a universal flu vaccine.

But some things are very easy to predict.

Flu Season Predictions

Here are some predictions for this year’s flu season.

  1. We will have a flu season epidemic in the United States this year. Surprised by that prediction? Don’t be. Flu activity reaches epidemic levels each and every year. What we don’t always have are flu pandemics, during which flu activity is very high in multiple parts of the world. By definition, flu season is an epidemic.
  2. Almost all states will eventually report having widespread influenza activity as flu season peaks. Again, this is not a bold prediction. It happens every year. How severe is flu season going to be? No one can really predict that, but we can look at the proportion of people seeing their health care provider for influenza-like illness (ILI) and laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalization rates as flu season moves along to get some idea. Remember, measures of the geographic spread of the flu don’t really tell you anything about the severity of flu activity.
  3. Dozens of kids will die with the flu – most of them unvaccinated. Remember, 37 kids died in the mildest flu season we had.
  4. A little under half of adults will get a flu vaccine, even though the current recommendation is that everyone who is at least six months old without a true contraindication get vaccinated each year.
  5. A little over half of parents will get their kids a flu vaccine.
  6. Some people who get a flu vaccine will still get the flu. You know the flu vaccine isn’t the most effective, but it still has plenty of other benefits, so even if you did still get the flu, hopefully you got a milder case, weren’t hospitalized, and didn’t die.
  7. Some people who get a flu vaccine and get the flu will blame their flu shot, even though it is well known that the flu shot can’t give you the flu.
  8. Many people who aren’t high risk will be prescribed Tamiflu. Or Xofluza, because it is new.
  9. Tens of thousands of adults will die with the flu. Even in a mild flu season, the flu is very deadly.
  10. Some folks will continue to push the idea that there is a vaginal spermicide in flu shots, even though that anti-vaccine talking point has been refuted a thousand times already.

What else can you predict about flu season?

Some folks will think it is too late to get a flu shot.

It isn’t.

Get your flu shot if you haven’t and get protected for the rest of flu season.

Another bold prediction? Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum are not going to help prevent or treat your flu symptoms.

More Flu Season Predictions