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Vaccine Misinformation from Bob Sears is Not Harmless

The latest from Bob Sears helps illustrate exactly why his vaccine misinformation is far from harmless.

Misinformation about febrile seizures from Bob Sears.
Misinformation about febrile seizures from Bob Sears. He neglects to mention that if fewer kids are vaccinated, more will get vaccine-preventable diseases that actually cause febrile seizures!

What’s he talking about?

Vaccine Misinformation from Bob Sears is Not Harmless

He is talking about a study, Childhood seizures and risk of psychiatric disorders in adolescence and early adulthood: a Danish nationwide cohort study, which looked at “the relation between childhood seizures and the risk of psychiatric disorders in adolescence and early adulthood.”

Wait, so this isn’t a study about vaccines?

No, not directly.

“Children with epilepsy and febrile seizures—with and without concomitant epilepsy—are at increased risk of developing a broad range of psychiatric disorders in later life.”

Dreier et al on Childhood seizures and risk of psychiatric disorders in adolescence and early adulthood: a Danish nationwide cohort study

Vaccines come into the discussion because they are one of the causes of febrile seizures.

Kids are more likely to get a febrile seizure after a natural infection though, including many that are vaccine-preventable, such as the flu, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and pneumococcal disease, etc.

In fact, we have seen a protective effect against febrile seizures caused by rotavirus infections since the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine!

Bob Sears doesn’t mention any of that…

And whether or not febrile seizures can rarely be dangerous and cause long-term harm, we know that vaccine-preventable diseases are life-threatening and their complications can definitely cause long-term harm.

“In our study, we have shown that children with febrile seizures do seem to be at slightly higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders as teenagers and young adults, even in the absence of subsequent epilepsy… We noted that the association with mental illness was strongest in individuals with recurrent febrile seizures and with onset of febrile seizures after the age of 3 years.”

Dreier et al on Childhood seizures and risk of psychiatric disorders in adolescence and early adulthood: a Danish nationwide cohort study

Bob Sears also doesn’t mention that the small extra risk was mostly in kids with complex febrile seizures, which aren’t as common as the single, simple febrile seizures that most kids get.

Not surprisingly, Bob Sears also doesn’t mention that vaccines typically cause simple febrile seizures.

Misinformation is Not Harmless

The bottom line is that you should be more worried about anti-vaccine misinformation than febrile seizures…

Instead of being worried about your child getting a febrile seizure after the MMR vaccine, you should be even more concerned about febrile seizures, epilepsy, encephalitis, SSPE, and death after a natural measles infection.

Anti-vaccine misinformation is not harmless.

If you knew that skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines could put them at increased risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease and THAT would increase your child’s risk of febrile seizures and a host of lifelong mental health disorders, would you have wanted your doctor to warn you about that risk?

“This means for the average pediatrician, who may care for 1000 children younger than 5 including 3 to 500 between 6 and 24 months of age annually, one could expect to see at most 1 child who experiences a febrile seizure every 5 to 10 years due to administration of these vaccines together in the first 2 years of life. This would be in addition to the 30 to 75 patients in each birth year cohort in a practice that would experience a febrile seizure from other causes given the background rate of 2% to 5%.”

Sawyer et al on Vaccines and Febrile Seizures: Quantifying the Risk

Learn about the true risks of vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, the benefits of vaccines, and the risks of skipping or delaying any vaccines as you make a truly informed choice about vaccinating and protecting your kids.

More on Vaccine Misinformation from Bob Sears is Not Harmless

Is Vaccine Discrimination a Thing?

Hopefully everyone understands that discrimination is still very common these days. From race and religion to age and sex based discrimination, even with protective laws and regulations, many people face discrimination each and every day.

Is Vaccine Discrimination a Thing?

We should start by saying that vaccine discrimination is not really a thing. After all, no one is discriminating against children and adults with true medical exemptions to getting vaccinated.

Is a physician or nurse being nosy or bossy if they ask about vaccines when you go to a clinic or ER with your sick child?
Is a physician or nurse being nosy or bossy if they ask about vaccines when you go to a clinic or ER with your sick child?

It is only folks who intentionally skip or delay vaccines who think they are being discriminated against.

How does that work?

If their intentionally unvaccinated kid without a medical exemption can’t go to camp, play in a baseball tournament, or has to find a new pediatrician, they are now crying discrimination.

Which type of person is Bob Sears?
Which type of person is Bob Sears?

Bob Sears goes as far as saying that the discrimination against parents whose children are intentionally unvaccinated is worse than the treatment of blacks in the Jim Crow era!

“In my opinion, this is a new type of discrimination at its worst. It’s taking a new class of vulnerable children — the vaccine-compromised — and saying that because they refuse to finish their damn shots, they don’t get school. Forget separate but equal. This is separate … and NOTHING! No school at all. Soon it’s going to be no playgrounds and no drinking fountains either. Hey, the last time our government did this to a group of people, at least they GOT drinking fountains. They even got to ride buses, as long as they sat in the back. Because our government said “those people” were not safe for the rest of us to be around, and our society stood by and let it happen. And the discrimination we perpetrated on our equals so many years ago is one of the great evils our country is still guilty of. Is that what this article, and the California SB 276 bill it’s supporting, is asking us to go back to?”

Bob Sears

I would say that this is the worse thing that he has ever written, but I remember his post about how we were going to start making unvaccinated kids wear yellow stars

This isn’t even the first time that Bob Sears has written about vaccines and discrimination.

Life was good in 1988... if you weren't affected by discrimination, segregation, or any of these now vaccine-preventable diseases.
Life was good in 1988… if you weren’t affected by discrimination, segregation, or any of these now vaccine-preventable diseases.

Bob was right about one thing… There is a carefully crafted PR campaign going on. It’s full of propaganda to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

This isn’t discrimination though.

These are the consequences of their vaccine choice. Unfortunately, it is typically the kids who get stuck with the consequences of the choices their parents make.

Equating real problems of discrimination and segregation to the issue of parents choosing to keep their kids unvaccinated and unprotected is not only silly, but it is also offensive.

“We shouldn’t accept the idea that there is an ounce of discrimination when we are confronted with these bogus accounts of abuse. By conceding some degree of unfair treatment, when unwarranted, we undermine the real meaning of discrimination. Providing a soundboard to advantaged phonies who are unable to discern between a privilege and right only emboldens those at the top.”

Time to Fight Fake Discrimination

It subverts the work of all of those who are trying to end true discrimination.

More On Vaccine Discrimination

Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

Do many parents homeschool their kids because they don’t want to get them vaccinated and comply with vaccination laws?

Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

Opponents to a vaccine law in California that removed personal belief vaccine exemptions, SB277, claimed that it would lead all children currently receiving personal belief exemptions to leave those schools and become homeschoolers.

One problem with this idea is that even though 32 states don’t allow personal belief vaccine exemptions, avoiding vaccines laws is not a top reason for why most parents choose to homeschool their kids.

“Parents cite a number of different reasons for choosing to homeschool, including concerns about the school environment and desires to provide religious/moral instruction.15 In fact, a Department of Education study says that 38.4 percent of respondents claim they are homeschooling for religious reasons,16 while Christopher Klicka suggests in his book, The Right to Home School, that it is closer to 85 percent.”

Khalili et al on Off the grid: vaccinations among homeschooled children

Instead, most parents homeschool because of:

  • academic reasons – thinking they can provide a better education for their kids at home and dissatisfaction with public or private school
  • family reasons – such as a child with special needs, not being able to get into the right school, transportation issues, or simply wanting more family time
  • religious reasons – including providing religious instruction at home
  • social reasons – including negative social activity and exposures at public and private schools

The availability of virtual education, cyber schools, and charter homeschools has likely also been a factor in some parents choosing to homeschool their kids.

What about vaccines?

In one article, Homeschooling parents’ practices and beliefs about childhood immunizations, only five parents (4%) included a desire not to vaccinate children as a reason for homeschooling.

Also, homeschooling rates are about the same in every state, just over 3% of students. A few outliers include Delaware (2.1%), North Carolina (7.7%), Pennsylvania (1.1%), West Virginia (4.6%), and Wisconsin (1.6%).

Of these states, only West Virginia doesn’t allow non-medical exemptions. But neither does Mississippi, which has very average homeschooling rates (3%).

Are Anti-vaxxers Turning to Homeschooling?

If anti-vaxxers are truly turning to homeschooling to avoid getting their kids vaccinated, we might have expected to see it happen in 2015, when California passed SB 277. That law eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions and has been in effect since the 2016-2017 school year.

Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.
Orange County was the site of several large measles outbreaks before SB 277 took effect.

Although California is dealing with fake medical exemptions, there has not been a lot of evidence that many folks are homeschooling, leaving schools, or leaving the state after SB277 because they now have had to vaccinate and protect their kids.

“The law, however, does not apply to children who are home-schooled, a loophole that parents seem to be increasingly exploiting. Over the past three years, the number of kindergartners who were home-schooled and did not have their shots quadrupled, according to a Times analysis of state data.”

Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show

While there were more homeschoolers last year in California (3%), the rise in homeschooling in California is also being seen in many states without new vaccine laws.

“Home-schooling mothers were concerned about SB-277 but did not report that it was directly impacting their children, their vaccine decisions, or reason to home school.”

McDonald et al on Exploring California’s new law eliminating personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccines and vaccine decision-making among homeschooling mothers in California

And, according to the Los Angeles Times, only “1.2% of the state’s kindergartners were home-schooled and unvaccinated in the last school year.”

The Homeschool Vaccine Loophole

It is also important to note that many states already have laws requiring homeschooled students to be vaccinated!

So yes, it is correct to say that the parents who are switching to homeschooling to avoid vaccinating and protecting their kids are exploiting a loophole.

“Submit proof of vaccination and receipt of any health services or examinations as required by law.”

Home Schooling in Tennessee

Interestingly, North Carolina, with one of the highest rates of homeschoolers, requires that homeschooled children be vaccinated.

Is being able to homeschool without vaccines a loophole that will have to be closed?

“And though most of their schooling may take place at home, many are part of programs that meet several times a week with other students. If one contracted a disease such as measles, they could still spread it at the park, or the grocery store, or anywhere they come into contact with other people, said Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA expert on pediatric infectious diseases.”

Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show

It will likely depend if we end up seeing outbreaks among clusters of unvaccinated homeschoolers…

“During the six weeks after the gathering, a total of 34 cases of measles were confirmed. Of the patients with confirmed measles, 94 percent were unvaccinated, 88 percent were less than 20 years of age, and 9 percent were hospitalized. Of the 28 patients who were 5 to 19 years of age, 71 percent were home-schooled. “

Parker et al on Implications of a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana for sustained elimination of measles in the United States.

Few people will remember the 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana that occurred mostly among intentionally unvaccinated homeschoolers and cost over $167,000 to contain. At the time, it was “the largest documented outbreak of measles in the United States since 1996.”

And it is likely that few people know about the two unvaccinated homeschooled kids in Oklahoma who got tetanus in 2012, including an 8-year-old who was in the ICU for 18 days…

What to Know About Vaccines and Homeschooling

Parents who homeschool their kids should get their kids vaccinated and protected on time and on schedule and follow all of the other AAP recommendations for preventative health care.

More on Vaccines and Homeschooling Myths

Does the CDC Determine Medical Exemptions for Vaccines?

California’s new vaccine law has some folks arguing about medical exemptions again.

Yes, the CDC does not determine medical exemptions for vaccines. That's not news.
Yes, the CDC does not determine medical exemptions for vaccines. That’s not news.

Some want very broad guidelines and are confused about how doctors determine who should get a medical exemption.

Does the CDC Determine Medical Exemptions for Vaccines?

Bob Sears even thinks he has a bombshell revelation that clears everything up.

An email from the CDC!

You can be sure that the "medical provider's prerogative" does not include any reason they think up, even those that have no evidence to back them up.
You can be sure that the “medical provider’s prerogative” does not include any reason they think up, even those that have no evidence to back them up.

The thing is, no one has ever said that ACIP contraindications and precautions to vaccination are the one and only factor that should determine whether or not a child should get a medical exemption.

“If a child has a medical exemption to immunization, a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State must certify that the immunization is detrimental to the child’s health. The medical exemption should specify which immunization is detrimental to the child’s health, provide information as to why the immunization is contraindicated based on current accepted medical practice, and specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated, if known.”

Dear Colleague letter regarding guidelines for use of immunization exemptions

So no one should really be surprised by an email that says the CDC does not determine medical exemptions.

What Qualifies as a Vaccine Medical Exemption?

What are the other big factors, in addition to ACIP contraindications and precautions?

“A medical exemption is allowed when a child has a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a vaccine.”

What is an Exemption and What Does it Mean?

Medical exemptions for vaccines should be based on AAP and ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence based medicine.

“Medical exemptions are intended to prevent adverse events in children who are at increased risk of adverse events because of underlying conditions. Many of these underlying conditions also place children at increased risk of complications from infectious diseases. Children with valid medical exemptions need to be protected from exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases by insuring high coverage rates among the rest of the population. Granting medical exemptions for invalid medical contraindications may promote unfounded vaccine safety concerns. Although states may wish to allow parents who make decisions based on poor science or perceptions to withhold vaccines from their children, these exemptions should be distinguished from valid medical exemptions.”

Salmon et al on Keeping the M in Medical Exemptions: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Children

For example, in addition to kids who may have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine, there are often children with immune system problems or who have a moderate or severe illness who can’t get one or more vaccines, at least temporarily.

These are among the common conditions that the AAP says should NOT delay vaccination and which are often mistakenly thought to qualify someone for a medical exemption.
These are among the common conditions that the AAP says should NOT delay vaccination and which are often mistakenly thought to qualify someone for a medical exemption.

Medical exemptions for vaccines should not be based on anecdotes or simply because a vaccine-friendly doctor has scared a parent away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

There are very few family history issues that would make a child have to skip or delay getting a vaccine.
There are very few family history issues that would make a child have to skip or delay getting a vaccine.

They should rarely be done based on family history of reactions or what some people think are vaccine reactions.

This is what a fake medical exemption will get you - a life-threatening disease.
The child’s medical exemption was for “cytotoxic allergies secondary to immunization,” without any evidence that it was necessary. In addition to a fake medical exemption, he got tetanus.

In general, they should rarely be given, as the AAP states in their policy statement, Medical Versus Nonmedical Immunization Exemptions for Child Care and School Attendance, “only a very small proportion of children have medical conditions prohibiting specific immunizations…”

That’s why rates of medical exemptions should be low.

“Between the 2009-2010 and 2016-2017 school years, the national median prevalence of medical exemptions has remained constant, between 0.2% to 0.3%, with state-level ranges showing little heterogeneity over time, never exceeding the range of 0.1% to 1.6% over this period.”

Bednarczyk et al on Current landscape of nonmedical vaccination exemptions in the United States: impact of policy changes

And why you shouldn’t have schools with high rates of medical exemptions or doctors writing a lot of medical exemptions.

More on Vaccine Medical Exemption Guidelines