Anti-vaccine folks often claim that health officials only worry about measles and measles outbreaks.
They can’t understand why anyone gets concerned by a few measles cases here and there, not understanding that a lot of work goes into containing measles outbreaks and making sure that they don’t grow beyond a few cases.
We do get concerned about measles outbreaks though.
“Whenever measles strikes, it’s more than just an outbreak of a single disease, or an indication that children aren’t receiving their measles shots; it’s also a warning that immunization coverage in general, for all vaccine-preventable diseases, is lower than it should be.
To put it another way: When rates of routine vaccination—children receiving all their shots on schedule, as a preventive measure rather than a reaction to an outbreak—start to fall, the first sign is usually a measles outbreak.”
Seth Berkley on Measles Outbreaks Are a Sign of Bigger Problems
The measles vaccine is among the most effective vaccines we have, so if we are seeing outbreaks, even though measles is very contagious, it means there is a problem.
“A focus on measles surveillance can help detect populations unreached by immunization systems and, by extension, program weaknesses. Measles serves as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for detecting problems with immunization programs, a characteristic whose importance has recently been highlighted in the context of global health security.”
Orenstein et al on Measles and Rubella Global Strategic Plan 2012–2020 midterm review
As much as anti-vaccine folks like to try and minimize how serious measles can be, it is easy to see that measles is indeed a serious, life-threatening disease. We had good nutrition, proper sanitation, and modern health care in 1990, and still, a lot of people died with measles. Rates of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a late complication of measles, went up too, in the years after these outbreaks.
“Measles is a wholly preventable disease, and it was almost eradicated from the country in 1983, when only 1,497 cases were reported. But by 1990, after Federal budget cuts and the end of the Government’s monitoring of immunization programs, more than 30,000 cases of measles and more than 60 deaths were reported.”
Panel Ties Measles Epidemic to Breakdown in Health System
Those outbreaks were fixed, as we improved access to help kids get vaccinated and protected. Unfortunately, the issue with outbreaks today isn’t about access to vaccines, at least not in the developed world. It is about parents intentionally skipping or delaying vaccines.
Even if it’s your pediatrician, with the rise of holistic pediatricians, that doesn’t mean that you are getting good advice.
In general, if the advice you are getting lacks evidence that it is safe and effective, relies on anecdotes and testimonials, and is labeled as ‘alternative,’ then it is a safe bet that it is bad advice.
Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice
Some folks seem to be drawn to this type of advice though.
As long as they think it is natural, holistic, and is the opposite of what mainstream health experts say to do, some parents will jump at the chance of trying the latest fad, even if it has no benefits and lots of extra risks.
Take giving your kids raw milk for example. Health experts have been warning about the dangers of drinking raw milk for years and even work to keep selling it outlawed in most communities, but some parents still give it to their young children. This is despite the fact that it has no health benefits and isn’t even fortified with vitamin D!
What’s worse than giving your kids raw milk? How about skipping your baby’s vitamin K shot? Although it has no major risks, parents of many anti-vaccine and holistic type Facebook groups on the internet are often encouraged to skip this shot.
How come they never warn folks that their baby might die in agony if they skip the shot? After all, there is a very good reason that we started to give all babies vitamin K shots – to stop vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
Just like there is a reason that we started to pasteurize milk – to keep us all from getting critically ill from contaminated milk.
And why we take antibiotics for severe infections, and not essential oils.
“If one gets a cancer diagnosis, they need to detox the toxins that have accumulated in the body, minimize further exposure and boost the immune system to fight the cancer. This is done NATURALLY. Traditional medical approaches (drugs, chemo, radiation) only FURTHER damage the body and immune system.”
And why we take chemotherapy for cancer, and not coffee enemas.
And why most of us don’t think to try chiropractic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, reflexology, or other non-evidenced based therapies when our kids are sick.
Why don’t people get rabies very often any more? It’s not because folks are no longer at risk, although the risk is less because dogs and cats are now vaccinated. It is because the vast majority of people get treated if they are exposed to an animal that might have rabies.
It’s just like the reason kids don’t get stuck by lightning very often. It’s not because lightning doesn’t happen anymore. It’s because we get a lot of warnings about thunderstorms and we know to go inside at the first sign of lightning in the area. Lightning strikes are rare because we take steps to reduce our risk of getting hit.
Why don’t folks get tetanus that much anymore? Again, most people are vaccinated, and they get boosters if they have wounds that puts them at extra risk. While we know what happens when unvaccinated kids are exposed to tetanus and don’t get treated, that isn’t a risk that you will read about on anti-vaccine websites or Facebook groups.
That’s why the great majority of us get vaccinated, because we understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, and that skipping or delaying any vaccines simply puts our kids at risk to catch one of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent.
What to Know About the Risks of Following Bad Advice
You might get lucky and have a good outcome when you follow bad advice, but you should at least understand the risks of what might go wrong if you truly think you are making an informed decision.
Benjamin Franklin later wrote in his autobiography that:
“In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”
Fortunately, not all of the stories are quite so tragic.
“The doctors told my parents that little could be done for me, so my father prepared for my funeral. Fortunately, I recovered, except for the use of my right hand.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Vaccination’s Lifetime of Blessings
John Salamone – probably the only real pro-safe vaccine advocate there has been, as he fought to replace the OPV vaccine with the IPV vaccine, to prevent further cases of VAPP, like had happened to his son
And there are other fathers to recognize on Father’s Day.
As we wish a Happy Father’s Day to all dads, please take some time to take some time to learn why getting your kids vaccinated and protected is the best choice, because the overwhelming evidence shows that vaccines are safe and necessary.
The reason why Kat Von D won’t vaccinate her baby!
Actually, despite the hype, a new video from Del Bigtree, who works with Andrew Wakefield, never does reveal the reason why Kat Von D won’t vaccinate. That shouldn’t be a surprise from a guy who produced a movie about a whistleblower, but left the whisteblower out of the movie.
“We are not against vaccines. Just because we have hesitancies and valid concerns about injecting our baby with specific chemicals and toxins does not mean we are anti anything.”
Kat Von D
We don’t know… Most people assumed it was because she was vegan, but many vegan parents do vaccinate their kids.
“As a soon-to-be-parent [and especially as a first-time-mom] I do feel it my responsibility to have questions, and to listen to my motherly instinct to question things, and do my research.
What we have found is that sometimes it isn’t always so black and white.
While we believe medications, including vaccines, are not all bad – we also can’t dismiss the fact that some may not be good for everyone.
There are plenty of studies that show some vaccinations can work wonders. And there are also studies that show some people [including mothers, and babies] may be more susceptible to vaccine injuries more than others.
It’s unfair for anyone to expect me [or any parent] to take the word of the pharmaceutical companies who have much to gain from and industry worth billions without question – and then have to dismiss any concerns of my own.”
As a pediatrician who has always fully vaccinated and protected his own kids, I didn’t totally understand what it meant when my first parents told me that they were pro-safe vaccine.
If they were interested in safe vaccines, I thought, why not get their kids vaccinated and protected? After all, vaccines are safe! Their baby was due to get several very safe vaccines at her upcoming two-month checkup.
I eventually got an answer.
“You don’t have to dig far to know that vaccines have caused tremendous harm. Have they had benefits? Absolutely. Which is why I remain somewhat on the neutral side in saying that I am not anti-vaccine,” said Dr. Paul Thomas. “I’m pro-safe vaccines. I’ve progressed along to the point where I now don’t believe there is such a thing.”
Folks who say that they are pro-safe vaccines typically:
“Pro-Safe Vaccine” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means
Are you starting to see the problem with folks who say that they are pro-safe vaccines now?
“I’m not for starting an epidemic of another disease. We just want there to be some type of conversation, once. Sit down with our side, with our doctors and scientists, to take a look at what we’re talking about. We’re not an anti-vaccine movement. We’re pro-safe-vaccine schedule. Until we have that conversation, people are going to think it’s an anti- and pro- side.”
“In our community we say, “Yeah.” We firmly believe the cause of the epidemic of autism is due to a vaccine injury and/or other environmental exposures — pesticides also. But what on this earth we all kind of share the most is vaccines.”
Right. So she is not anti-vaccine, but she thinks that vaccines injure people and have caused and epidemic of autism?
And that’s where her pro-safe vaccine schedule comes in…
And we’re saying: “Delay them. Delay them till age 2. Skip some that you might not need.”
Like all of the other alternative vaccine schedules out there, Jenny McCarthy’s pro-safe vaccine schedule had no evidence that it was safe or effective.
And that gets to the root of the issue. We don’t know what causes autism, so it must be vaccines.
“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.”
J. B. Handley
But what about the folks who have moved beyond listening to Jenny McCarthy and being concerned about autism?
It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd. You don’t get vaccinated and you don’t vaccinate your kids, and instead, you simply rely on the fact that everyone else around you is vaccinated to protect you from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Of course, this is a terrible strategy, as we are seeing with the increase in cases of measles and pertussis, etc. It is much better to learn about the importance and safety of vaccines, get fully vaccinated, and stop these outbreaks.
But as they continue to tell you that vaccines don’t work, how about asking what they would do in these ten high-risk situations?
Amazingly, some folks continue to try and justify skipping vaccines and accept the risk of disease, even when that risk is much higher than usual and they could be putting their child’s life in immediate danger!
How will you do with our quiz?
Would you choose to vaccinate in these situations?
1. Baby born to mother with hepatitis B.
You are pregnant and have chronic hepatitis B (positive for both HBsAg and HBeAg). Should your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?
Many anti-vaccine experts tell parents to skip their baby’s hepatitis B shot, saying it is dangerous, not necessary, or doesn’t work (typical anti-vax myths and misinformation).
However, it is well known that:
from 10 (HBeAg negative) to 90% (HBeAg positive) of infants who are born to a mother with chronic hepatitis B will become infected
90% of infants who get hepatitis B from their mother at birth develop chronic infections
25% of people with chronic hepatitis B infections die from liver failure and liver cancer
use of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine series greatly decreases a newborn’s risk of developing a hepatitis B infection (perinatal transmission of hepatitis B), especially if HBIG and the first hepatitis B shot is given within 12 hours of the baby being born
Would your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?
2. Your child is bitten by a rabid dog.
Your toddler is bitten by a dog that is almost certainly rabid. Several wild animals in the area have been found to be rabid recently and the usual playful and well-mannered dog was acting strangely and died a few hours later. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies and unfortunately, the owners, fearing they would get in trouble, disappeared with the dead dog, so it can’t be quarantined. Should your child get a rabies shot?
Although now uncommon in dogs, rabies still occurs in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. These animals can then expose and infect unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets, etc.
To help prevent rabies, which is not usually treatable, in addition to immediately cleaning the wound, people should get human rabies immune globulin (RIG) and rabies vaccine.
The rabies vaccine is given as a series of four doses on the day of exposure to the animal with suspected rabies and then again on days 3, 7, and 14.
Although rare in the United States, at least 1 to 3 people do still die of rabies each year. The rabies vaccine series and rabies immune globulin are preventative, however, without them, rabies is almost always fatal once you develop symptoms. A few people have survived with a new treatment, the Milwaukee protocol, without getting rabies shots, but many more have failed the treatment and have died.
Although the first MMR vaccine is routinely given when children are 12 months old, it is now recommended that infants get vaccinated as early as age six months if they will be traveling out of the country.
Since the endemic spread of measles was stopped in 2000, almost all cases are now linked to unvaccinated travelers, some of whom start very large outbreaks that are hard to contain.
Would you both get vaccinated before making the trip?
4. Tetanus shot.
Your unvaccinated teen gets a very deep puncture wound while doing yard work. A few hours later, your neighbor comes by to give you an update on his wife who has been in the hospital all week. She has been diagnosed with tetanus. She had gotten sick after going yard work in the same area and has been moved to the ICU. Do you get him a tetanus shot?
Most children get vaccinated against tetanus when they receive the 4 dose primary DTaP series, the DTaP booster at age 4-6 years, and the Tdap booster at age 11-12 years.
Unlike most other vaccine-preventable diseases, tetanus is not contagious. The spores of tetanus bacteria (Clostridium tetani) are instead found in the soil and in the intestines and feces of many animals, including dogs, cats, and horses, etc.
Although the tetanus spores are common in soil, they need low oxygen conditions to germinate. That’s why you aren’t at risk for tetanus every time your hands get dirty. A puncture wound creates the perfect conditions for tetanus though, especially a deep wound, as it will be hard to clean out the tiny tetanus spores, and there won’t be much oxygen at the inner parts of the wound.
These types of deep wounds that are associated with tetanus infections might including stepping on a nail, getting poked by a splinter or thorn, and animal bites, etc. Keep in mind that some of these things, like a cat bite, might put you at risk because you simply had dirt/tetanus spores on your skin, which get pushed deep into the wound when the cat bites you.
Symptoms of tetanus typically develop after about 8 days and might include classic lockjaw, neck stiffness, trouble swallowing, muscle spasms, and difficulty breathing. Even with treatment, tetanus is fatal in about 11% of people and recovery takes months.
Would you get your teen a tetanus shot?
5. Cocooning to protect baby from pertussis.
Both of your unvaccinated teens go to school with a personal belief vaccine exemption. You are due in a few months and are a little concerned about the new baby because there have been outbreaks of pertussis in the community, especially at their highschool. Should everyone in the family get a Tdap shot?
Pertussis, or whooping cough, classically causes a cough that can last for weeks to months.
While often mild in teens and adults, pertussis can be life-threatening in newborns and infants. In fact, it is young children who often develop the classic high-pitched whooping sound as they try to breath after a long coughing fit.
In a recent outbreak of pertussis in California, 10 infants died. Almost all were less than 2 months old.
Since infants aren’t protected until they get at least three doses of a pertussis vaccine, usually at age 6 months, experts recommend a cocooning strategy to protect newborns and young infants from pertussis. With cocooning, all children, teens, and adults who will be around the baby are vaccinated against pertussis (and other vaccine-preventable diseases), so that they can’t catch pertussis and bring it home.
There is even evidence that a pregnancy dose of Tdap can help protect infants even more than waiting until after the baby is born to get a Tdap shot.
Would everyone in your family get a Tdap shot?
6. Nephew is getting chemotherapy.
Your nephew was just diagnosed with leukemia and is going to start chemotherapy. Your kids have never been vaccinated against chicken pox and haven’t had the disease either. Your brother asks that you get them vaccinated, since they are around their cousin very often and he doesn’t want to put him at risk.
Do you get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?
Kids with cancer who are getting chemotherapy become very vulnerable to most vaccine-preventable diseases, whether it is measles, flu, or chicken pox.
According to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, “We want to create a ‘protective cocoon’ of immunized persons surrounding patients with primary immunodeficiency diseases so that they have less chance of being exposed to a potentially serious infection like influenza.”
Would your get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?
7. Outbreak of meningococcemia at your kid’s college.
Background information: Neisseria meningitidis is a bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis and sepsis (meningococcemia).
Depending on the type, it can occur either in teens and young adults (serogroups B, C, and Y) or infants (serogroup B).
Although not nearly as common as some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles or pertussis, it is one of the more deadly. Meningococcemia is fatal in up to 40% of cases and up to 20% of children and teens who survive a meningococcal infection might have hearing loss, loss of one or more limbs, or neurologic damage.
Meningococcal vaccines are available (Menactra and Menveo) and routinely given to older children and teens to help prevent meningococcal infections (serogroups A, C, Y and W-135). Other vaccines, Bexasero and Trumenba, protect against serogroup B and are recommended for high risk kids and anyone else who wants to decrease their risk of getting Men B disease.
Would you encourage her to get vaccinated against meningococcemia?
8. Cochlear implants.
Your preschooler has just received cochlear implants. Should he get the Prevnar and Pneumovax vaccines?
Cochlear implants can put your child at increased risk for bacterial meningitis caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (pneumococcus).
Your child is going to have his spleen removed to prevent complications of hereditary spherocytosis. Should he get the meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines first?
Without a spleen, kids are at risk for many bacterial infections, including severe infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.
In addition to their routine vaccines, kids with asplenia might need Menveo or Menactra, Bexsero or Trumenba (Men B), and Pneumovax 23.
Would your child get these vaccines that are recommended for kids with asplenia?
Ebola is returning, but this time an experimental vaccine is available.
There were nearly 30,000 cases and just over 11,000 deaths during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
You are in an area that is seeing an increasing number of Ebola cases and there is still no treatment for this deadly disease. An experimental vaccine is being offered.
Do you get the vaccine?
How Anti-Vaccine Are You?
It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd – seemingly protected by all of the vaccinated people around you.
Have you ever heard that your child has more of a chance of getting hit by lightning than getting measles?
Since getting struck by lightning is rare, folks like to use it in comparisons to other things that they also think are low risk when trying to make a point.
There are problems with this type of argument though.
Understanding Risk Perception
In an age when many folks are overly anxious about things, it is important to understand the difference between real and perceived risks. Unfortunately, our biases often lead us to worry about the wrong things, sometimes with tragic consequences.
“No intervention is absolutely risk free. Even the journey to a physician’s office with the intention to receive a vaccination carries the risk of getting injured in an accident. With regards to risks of vaccination per se, one has to distinguish between real and perceived or alleged risks.”
Heininger on A risk–benefit analysis of vaccination
Comparing Lightning Strikes to Vaccine Preventable Diseases
How common or rare do you think it is to get hit by lightning?
odds of being hit by lightning – 1 in 1,171,000 (each year)
odds of ever being hit by lightning – 1 in 14,600 (lifetime risk)
on average, 26 people die after being struck by lightning each year (since 2007), which is down from a recent historical average of 45 deaths per year (30 year average) and way down from when we used to see 400 lightning strike deaths each year before 1950
on average, 252 people are injured after being struck by lightning each year
Although 26 people dying after lightning strikes sounds like way too many to me, especially since one recent death was a 7-year-old boy in Tennessee playing under a tree, with 1 in 1,171,000 odds of getting hit, it sounds like we are pretty safe.
But is it fair to use those odds to justify your decision to keep your kids unvaccinated?
Of course not!
Why is our risk of getting struck by lightning so low?
What happens when we hear thunder or see lightning?
When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!
What happens when a thunder storm approaches and you are at your kids soccer or baseball game?
“Postpone or suspend activity if a thunderstorm appears imminent before or during an activity or contest (irrespective of whether lightning is seen or thunder heard) until the hazard has passed. Signs of imminent thunderstorm activity are darkening clouds, high winds, and thunder or lightning activity.”
UIL on Lightning Safety
Many ball fields now have lightning detectors to alert officials of nearby storms. And just about everyone has access to weather apps on a smart phone that can alert them to an approaching thunder storm or nearby lightning strikes.
The point is that most of us understand that lightning is dangerous, so we go far out of our away to avoid getting hit. The risk of getting hit by lightning isn’t 1 in 1,171,000 with folks running around outside waving golf clubs in the air during thunder storms or sitting on their roofs under an umbrella watching the storm.
The risk of getting hit by lightning is 1 in 1,171,000 because most of us go inside once we know lightning is nearby.
“Based on the media reports of the fatal incidents, many victims were either headed to safety at the time of the fatal strike or were just steps away from safety. Continued efforts are needed to convince people to get inside a safe place before the lightning threat becomes significant. For many activities, situational awareness and proper planning are essential to safety.”
A Detailed Analysis of Lightning Deaths in the United States from 2006 through 2017
And the same is true with measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. They aren’t as common as they once were because most of us are vaccinated and protected.
Folks often misuse lightning strikes when they think about risks, not understanding that the risk of getting hit by lightning is low because we take a lot of precautions to avoid getting hit by lightning.