Category: Blog

Peanut Butter or the Plague?

There are plenty of good arguments that parents make when advocating for vaccines.

This meme about peanut butter isn’t one of them.

Vaccinate your kids or I’ll expose them to a potentially deadly allergen?

Anyway, it’s Jif peanut butter.

Does jiffy pop make peanut butter flavored popcorn?

There is no such thing as Jiffy peanut butter.

Peanut Butter or the Plague?

And since it isn’t just unvaccinated kids who have peanut allergies, the whole idea of this meme really makes no sense.

Well, maybe the first part does. After all, sometimes we do things to protect others from getting sick.

Getting vaccinated and protected to promote herd immunity is one of them. In addition to protecting ourselves from life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases, if we don’t get sick, we avoid exposing those who can’t be protected by vaccines, including those who are too young to be vaccinated and those with immune system problems.

Of course, there is another reason the meme doesn’t make sense.

A peanut allergy is a medical condition. Sending your intentionally unvaccinated kid to school is a choice.

Stop sharing this meme.

It’s insulting to parents of kids with severe food allergies and does nothing to advocate for vaccines.

More on Peanut Butter or the Plague

If It’s Genetic, Where Are the Older Adults with Autism?

Remember when anti-vaccine folks used to ask why there were no autistic adults?

“Where are all the adults with classic autism? Where are the hand flapping, head banging, self-abusive, spinning, screaming, rocking, stimming, non-verbal and violent 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90 year olds wearing autism helmets and diapers? Where are the grown-ups at the mall experiencing violent tantrums, seizures and GI tract problems?”

Robert F Kennedy, Jr on Is the Autism Epidemic Real?

And we had to point out that there were?

If It’s Genetic, Where Are the Older Adults with Autism?

Well, not surprisingly, they have moved the goal posts.

What’s the new thing they are talking about?

Can Bob Sears sink any lower?
Sadly, most autistic adults don’t live into their 60s…

Where are the older adults with autism?

Where are the autistic senior citizens?

“I am different, not less.”

Temple Grandin (born August 29, 1947)

They are around, if you look for them.

Are they rarer than autistic children or autistic young adults?

Almost certainly, but that, tragically is because most of them have already died. Sadly, most don’t make it into their 60s.

It is well known that the mortality rates of autistic adults are much higher than the general population.

At least it is well known to those who aren’t trying to push anti-vaccine propaganda and who want to continue to make you think that vaccines are associated with autism.

More on Older Autistic Adults

Who’s Who in the Anti-Vaccine Movement – 2019 Edition

We know that there will always be some folks who won’t vaccinate their kids.

“Although many may characterize all individuals who eschew vaccines as “anti-vaccine” or “vaccine deniers,” in reality, there is a broad spectrum of individuals who choose not to have themselves or their children vaccinated.”

Tara C Smith on Vaccine Rejection and Hesitancy: A Review and Call to Action 

Who are these people?

Who’s Who in the Anti-Vaccine Movement – 2019 Edition

We used to conveniently call them anti-vaccine, but that doesn’t really work.

Well, it still does, as long as you understand who you are talking about.

The thing is, the folks who don’t vaccinate their kids exist on a spectrum, from those who just need a little extra reassurance (the worrieds) or a lot of extra reassurance (parents who are on the fence or vaccine-hesitant), to vaccine refusers (will likely vaccinate during an outbreak, etc.) and deniers who likely aren’t vaccinating their kids in any circumstance and who might try to persuade others to avoid vaccines too – the vocal vaccine deniers.

So you don’t really want to bunch them all up one big anti-vaccine group, especially when you are typically talking about the vocal vaccine deniers, many of whom believe that they have a child who was injured or damaged by a vaccine.

We are still missing some folks though…

No, I’m not talking about those who like to claim that they are pro-safe vaccines, pro-choice vaccines, or vaccine skeptics, just because they don’t want to be labeled as being anti-vaccine.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Remember when Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?”

We need to talk about the:

These are the folks who push misinformation about vaccines that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Who's to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?
Who’s to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?

Do you know who I’m talking about it? Have you noticed that these folks never seem to face any consequences?

Who else do we need to talk about?

I remember speaking with my mother about vaccines, and at one point in our discussion, she claimed a link existed between vaccines and autism. In response, I presented evidence from the CDC which claimed directly in large bold letters, “There is no link between vaccines and autism.” Within the same article from the CDC on their official website, extensive evidence and studies from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) were cited. Most would assume when confronted with such strong proof, there would be serious consideration that your views are incorrect. This was not the case for my mother, as her only response was, “that’s what they want you to think.”

Ethan Lindenberger

There are also the folks who are pushing an anti-science agenda, making you think that mainstream doctors are bad and that anything holistic and natural must be good. Until the damage these folks are doing is seriously addressed, it won’t matter if we get a few anti-vaccine folks off of Amazon, Facebook and Pinterest.

Learn to be more skeptical. Do real research. Vaccinate your kids.

More on Who’s Who in the Anti-Vaccine Movement – 2019 Edition

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

One extra consequence of the rise in cases of vaccine-preventable diseases we have been seeing lately, in addition to the fact that more kids are getting sick, is that we are seeing more kids being quarantined and kept out of school.

“The parents of 42 children affected by the ban at the school, the Green Meadow Waldorf School, sued the Rockland County health department, asking a federal judge to issue an injunction to allow the children to return.”

Parents Wanted Their Unvaccinated Children in School, but a Judge Said No.

And in a few cases, we are seeing lawsuits trying to get some of these kids, mostly intentionally unvaccinated kids, back into school.

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

While most outbreaks are related to measles, in Kentucky, a large outbreak of chickenpox at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton has led to the quarantine of a number of unvaccinated students.

A chickenpox quarantine sign

One student, a senior and the starting center on the school basketball team, is suing to get him back in school.

“The Kunkels filed their lawsuit Thursday in the Boone County Circuit Court alleging that the Northern Kentucky Health Department had violated Jerome’s First Amendment rights. Accepting the chickenpox vaccine would be “immoral, illegal and sinful,” they said, according to their Catholic beliefs. The lawsuit also alleges that the health department violated due process when officials enacted the extracurricular and school attendance bans without declaring an official emergency, which would have triggered the involvement of the state legislature.”

God, country and chickenpox: How an outbreak entangled one school in a vaccine showdown

So they are actually suing the health department, not his school, to get him back into school…

Wait a minute though?

Is the Catholic Church against vaccines?

“Since there is no Catholic teaching that the use of these vaccines is sinful, schools cannot allow Catholic parents to claim a religious exemption from the requirement of immunization.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center on Vaccines and Exemptions Granted by Schools

Are they against the chickenpox vaccine?

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center

No, they aren’t, which is why most Catholics vaccinate and protect their kids.

“In the event that the county health department or state health department declares an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease for which proof of immunity for a child cannot be provided, he or she may not be allowed to attend childcare or school for up to three (3) weeks, or until the risk period ends.”

Kentucky Parent or Guardian Declination on Religious Grounds to Required Immunizaitons

A judge will have to decide the merits of the case, but from a moral standpoint, it seems like they are on shaky ground.

More on Quarantines for Intentionally Unvaccinated Kids

False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

As more folks are calling out vocal vaccine deniers, many are also learning the role of the media in helping fuel the anti-vaccine movement.

“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

Believe it or not, there likely would not have been a big scare over the DPT vaccine in the 1970s and 80s or concerns about the MMR vaccine if the media hadn’t given so much attention to the anti-vaccine players involved.

False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

Folks in the media have learned their lesson though, right?

“Balance? There is no balance. There is mainstream, superstrong consensus about the value of vaccination, and on the other side … nothing else, since there is no other side. The media have made parents worry about vaccines in a lame effort to provide balance and all points of view.”

Arthur Caplan on There is no other side to the vaccine debate

Well, apparently not all of them…

If you are quoting anti-vaccine activists, then you are doing something wrong...
If you are quoting anti-vaccine activists, then you are doing something wrong…

Why would the Chicago Tribune devote nearly 20% of an article to a parent who is against vaccines, especially without correcting her misinformation?

Why haven’t they learned that spreading this kind of misinformation is what scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids in the first place?

Are vaccinations about parent choice or public safety? That’s the title of the Chicago Tribune article. And maybe that’s why Illinois is among top 5 states for measles as debate heats up, the rest of the title…

How about we give parents a chance to make informed choices without being influenced by propaganda and misinformation?

More on False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Need some advice about preparing for a public debate about vaccines?

That’s easy.

“If you are invited for a public discussion you must first decide whether or not to accept the invitation.”

How to respond to vocal vaccine deniers in public

Don’t do it.

Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Wait, why wouldn’t you want to have a debate about vaccines?

Remember, a good debate implies that there are two valid sides to the issue. Or at least that one side has some arguments that aren’t based on myths and misinformation.

What are you debating?

That vaccines are safe, with few risks, and that they are necessary.

What’s there to debate?

Don’t allow false balance to create a fake debate.

Think about it.

Should Robert F. Kennedy, Jr be given an opportunity to tell folks his opinions about the “perceived dangers” of vaccines, when those perceived dangers include that vaccines are associated with autism, have been untested on pregnant women, are sold by the CDC, and a lot of other conspiracy type stuff?

“They get the shot. That night they have a fever of 103. They go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr

Remember, Kennedy is the guy who published the retracted Deadly Immunity article. And he continues to focus on the dangers of mercury in vaccines, even though only a very small minority of flu shots still contain thimerosal and studies have shown that the thimerosal that kids have been exposed to in vaccines is not a danger.

He’s an environmental lawyer who continues to focus on vaccines in the age of climate change and as EPA regulations are being rolled back.

Neither Kennedy nor anyone else in the anti-vaccine movement should be given a stage to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

The debate was canceled because of negative attention.

Update – Fortunately, they weren’t. The “debate” was canceled.

More on Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Mistaking Subsequence for Consequence

Most parents understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary, but some are still scared to get their kids vaccinated and protected.

Some even get anxious at the idea of going to their next visit to their pediatrician, because it might mean their baby is going to get shots.

Why?

They have likely heard some of those vaccine injury stories and got to thinking – how could all of those parents be wrong?

Mistaking Subsequence for Consequence

It’s easy to make a hasty judgement about something.

We jump to conclusions and try to link things together when they occur at about the same time as each other.

It is incident to physicians, I am afraid, beyond all other men, to mistake subsequence for consequence.

That’s because we often mistake subsequence (the state of following something) for consequence (a result of an action).

For example, developing multiple sclerosis (the consequence) six weeks after (subsequent) getting a vaccine, doesn’t mean that the vaccine caused you to develop multiple sclerosis.

Although the source of the quote on subsequence and consequence is Dr. Samuel Johnson, an 18th century writer, it got new life when Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith used it in a DTP vaccine trial verdict.

“Where given effects, such as serious neurological disease or permanent brain damage, occur with or without pertussis vaccination, it is only possible to assess whether the vaccine is a cause, or more precisely a risk factor, when the background incidence of the disease is taken into account. The question therefore is, does the effect occur more often after pertussis vaccination than could be expected by chance?”

Sir Jeremy Stuart-Smith

What about chance and coincidences?

Instead of thinking that things could simply be the result of chance or a coincidence, we typically want more of an explanation when something happens, and sometimes, we simply want someone or something to blame.

“Establishing or disproving cause and effect, particularly for events of major consequence, proved difficult. Although the original allegations of causation were largely anecdotal and based on the fallacious assumption that subsequences and consequences were synonymous, they raised great concern and stimulated the search for an improved vaccine.”

Vaccines (Seventh Edition)

That leads us to fallacious thinking – post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore, because of this).

It shouldn’t though.

“Most of you will have heard the maxim “correlation does not imply causation.” Just because two variables have a statistical relationship with each other does not mean that one is responsible for the other. For instance, ice cream sales and forest fires are correlated because both occur more often in the summer heat. But there is no causation; you don’t light a patch of the Montana brush on fire when you buy a pint of Haagan-Dazs.”

Nate Silver

Remember, “correlation does not imply causation.”

Because polio outbreaks often came in summer months, some folks thought the virus must be spread at swimming pools, so they were often closed. It didn't help... Correlation did not equal causation.
Because polio outbreaks often came in summer months, some folks thought the virus must be spread at swimming pools, so they were often closed. It didn’t help… Correlation did not equal causation.

That maxim becomes easier to understand when you see all of the things that correlate together, like ice cream sales and forest fires, but once you think about them, there is no way that one could cause the other.

  • the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and deaths caused by lightning
  • the divorce rate in Maine and the per capita consumption of margarine
  • autism rates and organic food sales
  • autism rates and Jenny McCarthy‘s popularity?!?

Correlation does not imply causation.

“It is incident to physicians, I am afraid, beyond all other men, to mistake subsequence for consequence.”

Dr Samuel Johnson

Fortunately, it is not as “incident to” (likely to happen to) physicians these days to “mistake subsequence for consequence.”

There are certainly some vaccine friendly pediatricians who pander to the fears of parents and push so-called alternative, non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules, who seem to believe in anecdotal evidence above all else, but most doctors understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.

They also know that because correlation can sometimes equal causation, we don’t ignore possible vaccine injuries. And that’s why we have strong vaccine safety systems that can detect and warn us of true vaccine risks.

More on Mistaking Subsequence for Consequence