Category: Immunization News

The Vaccine Extremists in the Modern Anti-Vaccine Movement

In 1721, someone through a bomb through the window of the Reverend Cotton Mather’s house in Boston because he was actively promoted smallpox inoculation during a local epidemic.

The vaccine extremists in the modern anti-vaccine movement.

Do we have to be concerned about what the modern anti-vaccine movement might do to folks who advocate for vaccines?

The Vaccine Extremists in the Modern Anti-Vaccine Movement

Before you dismiss the idea, let’s take a look at what they have been doing recently…

Calling for second amendment remedies? Is that a thing in the modern anti-vaccine movement?

“Then I can imagine those same conversations were happening in Nazi Germany amongst the Jewish people. Let’s not talk about it. I don’t want to bring it into my reality. It’s still 20 miles away. I’m still allowed in this theater and not that one. All I have to get is this little star. All I have to do is sign this little thing saying I accept that… that I’m not going to vaccinate because I think that they’re dangerous. And they are dangerous. I’m just going to sign this paper. I’m going to let them put me on a log.

At some point, we have gone too far.

Do you think that it’s a good idea to let the government own your baby’s body. And right behind it, your body. That is the end. To me.

Anyone who believes in the right to bear arms. To stand up against your government. I don’t know what you were saving that gun for then. I don’t know when you planned on using it if they were going to take control of your own body away.

It’s now. Now’s the time.”

Del Bigtree

To many of us, it seems very obvious that anti-vax folks have gone too far.

They don’t seem to get the message though.

Vaccine extremists blocking the entrances to the State Capital in California.
Protestors blocking the entrances to the State Capital in California.

Protesting for a good cause is noble.

But what is it called when you are protesting while holding signs pushing propaganda and misinformation?

The "red liquid substance" was later confirmed to be human blood.
The “red liquid substance” was later confirmed to be human blood.

Remember when a protestor in California threw blood from a menstrual cup at legislators on the Senate floor?

Pretty extreme, right?

Austin Bennett assaulted Richard Pan during a Facebook video he conveniently filmed.
Austin Bennett assaulted Richard Pan during a Facebook video he conveniently filmed.

Or when Austin Bennett assaulted Senator Richard Pan as he walked to lunch?

Of course, the usual response from most anti-vax folks is that these are outliers who don’t represent them. Or they are part of the controlled opposition

Vaccine extremists called a boycott of a local store because their senator was going to speak at their grand opening.
Vaccine extremists called a boycott of a local store because Richard Pan was going to speak at their grand opening.

Not surprisingly, it seems that the denials come from the same folks who set out to ambush, stalk, and attack vaccine advocates.

Senator Richard Pan was harassed at the March For Science in Washington D.C. on Earth Day  in 2017.
Senator Richard Pan was harassed at the March For Science in Washington D.C. on Earth Day in 2017.

Advocates who have done nothing except make sure kids get vaccinated and help protect us from the misinformation that is so often pushed on the Internet and on the signs they hold during their protests.

A finger gun pointed at a shirt covered with "blood everywhere."

Yes, Senator Richard Pan, a pediatrician in California has been a big target in recent years.

Of course, vaccines are tested in placebo controlled trials, some of which even included a saline placebo. Which makes the Stormtrooper an appropriate costume. Remember, they have such bad aim, they never hit their target…

He is not the only one though.

Paul Offit has been a very frequent target of anti-vax critics.
Paul Offit has been a very frequent target of anti-vax critics.

Paul Offit has been a common target.

Protesters banged on the glass during as ZDogg filmed an interview with Paul Offit.
Protesters banged on the glass during as ZDogg filmed an interview with Paul Offit.

Other pediatricians have also been attacked, with protestors showing up at their offices and harassing their patients.

Pediatricians in New York have been targeted too.
“They went up to 3-4 of the morning patients as they walked in, asked them if they vaccinate and when my patients replied yes, one said “Good luck with that!” They gave anti vaccine literature to all the patients and placed flyers on every car in the parking lot.”

But it is not just pediatricians and legislators who are getting harassed.

Who could ever describe Kristen Bell as hateful???
Who could ever describe Kristen Bell as hateful???

Celebrities who advocate for vaccines are also getting harassed and targeted.

Kristen Bell was targeted at Comic Con too.
Kristen Bell was targeted at Comic Con too.

As bad as this kind of harassment has been though, their messaging might be worse.

Fighting to skip or delay your kid's vaccines and keep them in school is not the new civil rights movement.
Fighting to skip or delay your kid’s vaccines and keep them in school is not the new civil rights movement.

Comparing not wanting to vaccinate and protect your kids to the civil rights movement?

That’s pretty extreme, isn’t it?

That they would invoke the Holocaust when talking about vaccines and autism, and compare doctors and lawmakers to Nazis, tells you a lot about the modern anti-vaccine movement.

And you know you are in extreme territory if you are getting called out by the Auschwitz Museum

What else have they been up to?

Defacing public property.

University of Michigan students quickly covered up all of the anti-vax propaganda on this rock.
University of Michigan students quickly covered up all of the anti-vax propaganda.

But do you want to know what maybe the very worst thing that they are doing these days?

How about harassing parents whose children have recently died, trying to make them think that vaccinations were the cause?

Killy did not die from a vaccine injury. He had meningitis.
Killy did not die from a vaccine injury. He had meningitis.

Yes, this is the modern anti-vaccine movement.

It should be clear that the anti-vaccine movement has “shifted its tactics” as they continue to try and scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“Upon close inspection, the anti-vaccination movement is not about vaccines. It’s an anti-government conspiracy theory. In order to believe the anti-vaccination line, you have to believe the government is working proactively to harm your children (by protecting them from deadly and debilitating diseases). It’s paranoid thinking, and a very small but vocal minority of Americans fervently embrace the irrational fear of immunization.”

The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board on Activism or Terrorism? Anti-vaccine movement must use facts, not violence, to argue

From getting doctors to write unnecessary medical exemptions, misusing religious exemptions, harassing vaccine advocates, targeting minority communities, using racist attacks, and pushing misinformation and conspiracy theories, many in the anti-vaccine movement have clearly moved into extremist territory.

Still, it is very important to remember that these folks are indeed a very small minority, even if they are very vocal and sometimes hard to ignore, especially as they trigger some of the largest outbreaks in recent history and expose high risk kids and adults to life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases.

And that’s because the great majority of people understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and very necessary.

Make the right choice. Vaccinate and protect your family.

More on the Vaccine Extremists in the Modern Anti-Vaccine Movement

Did New York’s New Vaccine Law Kick 26,000 Students Out of School?

A lot of people seem to think that New York’s new vaccine law ended up kicking 26,000 students out of school.

New York's new vaccine law didn't kick 26,000 students out of school.
New York’s new vaccine law didn’t kick 26,000 students out of school.

What else do they think?

That's their choice - keeping their kids out of school because they don't want to vaccinate and protect them.
That’s their choice – keeping their kids out of school because they don’t want to vaccinate and protect them.

No medical exceptions? Have they read the new law?

New York’s New Vaccine Law

Of course, none of what these folks believe is true.

Let’s look at a timeline of what did happen in New York.

On June 13, lawmakers in New York passed A02371A, which “Relates to exemptions from vaccinations due to religious beliefs; and repeals certain provisions relating to exemption from vaccination due to religious beliefs.”

And the bill was quickly signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Public Health Law 2164 and Section 66-1.4 of the regulations require that a child shall not continue to attend school for more than 14 days (30 days may be granted for children from out of the state or out of the country) unless the school has received a certificate of immunization, documentation that the child is “in process,” or a medical (exemption).”

School Survey Instruction Booklet Questions and Answers

What is not in New York’s new vaccine law?

There are no forced injections.

Everyone still has a choice on whether or not to vaccinate their kids. They simply can no longer to choose to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school if they don’t have a valid medical exemption anymore.

What about adults? There are no plans for mandates for most adults, besides maybe the requirements for flu vaccines for some health care providers.

Yeah, but the part about 26,000 kids being kicked out of school must be true, right?

Actually no, it isn’t.

That number is simply the count of kids with religious exemptions in 2017-18, over a year before New York’s new vaccine law went into effect.

But they would all have been kicked out of school if they didn’t get vaccinated, wouldn’t they?

Sure.

“While some parents who had religious exemptions plan to unenroll their kids, more are expected to bring their kids into compliance with the vaccine schedule. Karen LaCelle, a community health nurse with the Tompkins County Health Department, said their vaccine clinic has been busier than usual this summer as kids get caught up with requirements.”

More than 200 kids in Tompkins impacted by New York’s vaccine requirement change

But many did get vaccinated.

“In Saratoga Springs, the district excluded 66 students as of Sept. 20 but that number was down to about 10 students by Oct. 10, according to a district spokeswoman.”

Holding fast to vaccine objections, families grapple with unplanned homeschooling

And stories of kids leaving to be homeschool are few and far between.

“In Schenectady, over 300 students showed up at the start of the school year without all of their vaccines, and more students have joined the district since the start of school without all of the vaccines. But most, if not all, of those students have since fulfilled the vaccine requirements, said district spokeswoman Karen Corona.”

Holding fast to vaccine objections, families grapple with unplanned homeschooling

Anyway, it wasn’t Governor Cuomo or any other politician that would have been keeping these kids out of school.

The police aren't keeping this child out of school, her parents and their vaccine choice are.
The police aren’t keeping this child out of school, her parents and their vaccine choice are.

Parents have the choice to get them vaccinated and protected if they want to keep them in school.

Did New York’s New Vaccine Law Kick 26,000 Students Out of School?

Still, no where near 26,000 kids have been kept from going to school this year in New York because of their new vaccine law.

So how many were affected?

Although no official numbers have been released, it will almost certainly be closer to 260 or 2,600 than 26,000.

It seems that most parents in New York ended up vaccinating and protecting their kids and keeping them in school.

More on New York’s New Vaccine Law

About That Amish Vaccine Exemption Lawsuit in New York

An Amish family has filed a lawsuit against a new vaccine law in New York that eliminated religious vaccine exemptions.

An Amish family has filed a lawsuit against a new vaccine law in New York that eliminated religious vaccine exemptions.

Folks who know that Amish do indeed vaccinate their kids are likely surprised by the lawsuit…

About That Amish Vaccine Exemption Lawsuit in New York

Wait, what?

The Amish vaccinate their kids?

While many Amish don’t vaccinate according to the recommended CDC schedule and get all vaccines, many do get at least some of them.

For example, when a large measles outbreak went through Amish communities in Ohio, many got in line to get vaccinated and stop the outbreak, which ended up getting at least 383 people sick.

That wasn’t the only outbreak among the Amish though.

Remember the last cases of wild polio in the United States?

“The 1979 outbreak occurred in unvaccinated Amish persons living in Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Overall, 15 cases of illness caused by wild poliovirus type 1 occurred among U.S. citizens: all 10 paralytic cases occurred among unvaccinated Amish persons; three cases of transient paralysis occurred among unvaccinated Amish persons; and two nonparalytic cases occurred among unvaccinated members of the Mennonite church who were in frequent contact with Amish persons. Epidemiologic and virologic evidence indicated this outbreak resulted from importation of poliovirus from the Netherlands through Canada (Ontario), where outbreaks had occurred during 1978 in members of religious groups with objections to vaccination.”

Poliomyelitis — United States, Canada

It was in 1979.

It was among the Amish.

And many Amish got vaccinated to help eliminate the endemic spread of polio in the United States.

“Immunization campaigns for the Amish are continuing; at least half of the nation’s Amish have now received 1 or more doses of oral poliovirus vaccine.”

Poliomyelitis — United States, Canada

So the Amish are clearly not against vaccines.

In 2004, there was an outbreak of pertussis (345 cases) in an Amish community in Kent County, Delaware.

“Of the 96 households interviewed in which a pertussis case was discovered, a total of 43 (45%) reported not vaccinating any children in their household, 40 (42%) households reported vaccinating at least some children, and 13 (14%) did not provide this information. Of the 43 households not vaccinating children, 19 cited “fear of side effects” as the reason, 13 reported that they “didn’t think about it,” and 11 did not provide specific reasons for nonvaccination. Of the 40 respondents who reported that their children had received vaccinations, 29 (64%) reported vaccination at vaccine clinics set up at Amish homes by DPH nurses.”

Pertussis Outbreak in an Amish Community — Kent County, Delaware, September 2004–February 2005

Although many of the kids weren’t vaccinated, religion didn’t seem to be what drove that decision.

“Religious factors and access to care were not among reasons most reported. “

Kettunen et al on Evaluation of low immunization coverage among the Amish population in rural Ohio.

It is usually fear, rather than religion that keeps the Amish from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“The findings from the data analysis demonstrated that fear, especially concern over too many recommended immunizations and immunizations overwhelming the child’s system, was the most frequent reported reasons for not having children immunized according to recommendations.”

Kettunen et al on Evaluation of low immunization coverage among the Amish population in rural Ohio.

Unfortunately, this has meant that their children get a high rate of vaccine preventable diseases and that they end up getting hospitalized at higher rates than other children.

“The outcome of pregnancy was determined for the 94 Amish mothers who reported illness or had serologic evidence of maternal rubella (Table 1). CRS occurred in 10 infants, all of whom were born to mothers who had histories of rubella-like illness in the first trimester; seven had possible manifestations of CRS; nine were miscarried/stillborn; and 68 infants appeared normal at birth. During the study period, medical personnel identified one additional infant with CRS from Lancaster County whose mother was a conservative Mennonite. “

Congenital Rubella Syndrome Among the Amish — Pennsylvania, 1991-1992

So not only do the Amish get sick, they get sick for the same reason as typical anti-vaxxers – misinformation and fear of vaccines.

Is that what’s driving this lawsuit in New York?

I don’t know, but if it was just about religion, why does it include typical anti-vaccine talking points about:

  • fetal DNA contaminating our vaccines
  • that unvaccinated children were not responsible for the 2018-19 NYS measles outbreak, going so far as to cite an affidavit from Lawrence Palevsky, who said that “a measles infection in first world countries such as the United States, in 2019, is not deadly.”
  • how the 2018-19 NYS measles outbreak might not have been “true wild-type measles infections.”
  • that the theory of herd immunity is flawed
  • that vaccinated children pose more of a risk to other vaccinated children than the unvaccinated

More than anything though, how can the lawsuit say that New York’s vaccine law unreasonably burdens his “sincere religious beliefs without a compelling state interest,” when we know that the Amish aren’t really against vaccinating and protecting their kids?

You have to wonder what method his lawyer’s used to pick their “examples” of schools with religious exemptions.

About that compelling state interest…

As many parents have come to abuse religious exemptions, using them as personal belief exemptions, we have ended up in a situation in which over 30 schools in New York had religious exemptions rates of at least 50%, including 14 schools in which each and every student had a religious exemption for all vaccines.

All that even though no major religion is against vaccines!

With such a weak case, forum shopping might be his only strategy that could work…
With such a weak case, forum shopping might be his only strategy that could work…

What happens next?

More court stuff, but in the end, it hopefully means that more kids will be vaccinated and protected and we will #StopTheOutbreaks.

More on the Amish and Vaccines

Are Kids With Religious Exemptions Spreading Disease?

One common anti-vax talking point is that kids who are unvaccinated can’t spread disease because they aren’t sick. One lawsuit against New York’s new vaccine law went so far as to say that “there has not been one instance of a child with a religious exemption spreading disease in a school.”

Did Assemblymember Colton look for evidence?

Is that true?

I’m guessing it isn’t, but let’s do a little research…

Are Kids With Religious Exemptions Spreading Disease?

Before I considered the latest measles outbreak in New York and how many of those cases occurred in unvaccinated kids in school with religious exemptions, I found a few other examples.

“During April 4-May 17, 1994, the largest U.S. measles outbreak since 1992 occurred among students in two communities that do not routinely accept vaccination. This report summarizes the investigation of and control measures for this outbreak. The outbreak began in a 14-year-old Christian Science high school student who developed a rash on April 4, 2 weeks after skiing in Colorado where a measles outbreak was occurring. The student lived with her family in a community associated with a Christian Science college in Jersey County, Illinois, and commuted approximately 30 miles to a Christian Science boarding school (kindergarten through grade 12 {K-12}) in St. Louis County, Missouri.”

Outbreak of Measles Among Christian Science Students — Missouri and Illinois, 1994

At least 189 people got measles in these communities during this outbreak, including a student in New York.

“Eighteen prospective students from outside St. Louis County attended a carnival at the boarding school on April 16; eight developed measles after returning home (three to Maine, two to California, and one each to Missouri, New York, and Washington).”

Outbreak of Measles Among Christian Science Students — Missouri and Illinois, 1994

During another measles outbreak among Christian Scientists in 1985 in Illinois, there were at least 136 cases, including 3 deaths.

There were even more deaths during a measles outbreak in Philadelphia in 1991.

“According to Assistant Health Commissioner Robert Sharrar, four victims from Philadelphia – two girls 9 years old and two girls 11 and 13 – were affiliated with the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, which shuns medical treatment. The children, who attended the church’s school, had not been vaccinated. “

Philadelphia’s Measles Death Toll Rises

By the end of the 1991 Philly outbreak, 9 children were dead.

Back to New York, during a 2009 mumps outbreak in New York and New Jersey, even though many were vaccinated, “the outbreak primarily has affected members of a tradition-observant religious community.”

Are there any other examples?

Four children in Florida with a religious exemption developed measles in 2012 and although they didn’t get anyone at school sick, they did likely expose someone at an Orlando-area theme park who did later get sick.

Also in Florida, in 2013, in a charter school where 84% of kids had religious exemptions, 316 students developed pertussis, with attack rates of 57%!

What’s the usual attack rate for pertussis?

In another Florida outbreak in 2013, this one at a preschool, attack rates ranged from 23% for kids who were up-to-date on their pertussis vaccinations to 40% if they had fewer than three doses of a pertussis vaccine.

At the Asheville Waldorf School in North Carolina, at least 36 students got sick with chickenpox in 2018. The school had the highest rate of religious exemptions in the state.

And there was an outbreak in Alaska linked to religious exemptions.

“Among the 30 who were not vaccinated, 24 (80%) were eligible to be vaccinated (i.e., aged ≥ 12 months and born on or after January 1, 1957); of the 24 who were eligible to be vaccinated, all 12 school-aged children had religious exemptions, and two of nine children aged 1–4 years were siblings of these unvaccinated schoolchildren. Although no source case was identified, this outbreak coincided with a measles outbreak associated with the Seattle-Tacoma (Washington) airport, the major airport gateway to Juneau.”

Measles Outbreak Among School-Aged Children — Juneau, Alaska, 1996

Remember the last imported case of vaccine associated paralytic polio?

In 2005, an unvaccinated 22-year-old U.S. college student from Arizona became infected with polio vaccine virus while traveling in Costa Rica in a university-sponsored study-abroad program. She had never been vaccinated because she had a religious exemption.

How about the last cases of wild polio in the United States?

“The 1979 outbreak occurred in unvaccinated Amish persons living in Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Overall, 15 cases of illness caused by wild poliovirus type 1 occurred among U.S. citizens: all 10 paralytic cases occurred among unvaccinated Amish persons; three cases of transient paralysis occurred among unvaccinated Amish persons; and two nonparalytic cases occurred among unvaccinated members of the Mennonite church who were in frequent contact with Amish persons. Epidemiologic and virologic evidence indicated this outbreak resulted from importation of poliovirus from the Netherlands through Canada (Ontario), where outbreaks had occurred during 1978 in members of religious groups with objections to vaccination.”

Poliomyelitis — United States, Canada

It was in 1979.

It was among the Amish and may have been linked to religious exemptions, although many Amish got vaccinated to help eliminate the endemic spread of polio in the United States.

Before that, in 1972, there was an outbreak of paralytic polio at Daycroft, a Chris­tian Science boarding school in Greenwich, Connecticut. At least 12 students, all unvaccinated, were affected in the first polio epidemic in the US in seven years.

11 kids got paralytic polio at a Christian Science school in 1972.

Also among the Amish, an outbreak of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 1991, including 16 cases in New York.

“The outcome of pregnancy was determined for the 94 Amish mothers who reported illness or had serologic evidence of maternal rubella (Table 1). CRS occurred in 10 infants, all of whom were born to mothers who had histories of rubella-like illness in the first trimester; seven had possible manifestations of CRS; nine were miscarried/stillborn; and 68 infants appeared normal at birth. During the study period, medical personnel identified one additional infant with CRS from Lancaster County whose mother was a conservative Mennonite. “

Congenital Rubella Syndrome Among the Amish — Pennsylvania, 1991-1992

There have also been cases of tetanus among the Amish.

“In 1997 a 12-year-old Amish boy in Pennsylvania contracted tetanus. His medical bills were $600,000. The Amish community refused to apply for Medicaid because of their religious opposition to accepting government assistance and were able to pay only $60,000 of the bill.”

Some Outbreaks of Vaccine-Preventable Disease in Groups with Religious or Philosophical Exemptions to Vaccination

More recently, the measles outbreaks in New York occurred almost exclusively among completely unvaccinated children, including many school aged children.

“Persons who claim exemptions from immunizations for any reason may be at increased risk of contracting a VPD compared with immunized persons. In addition, persons who claim philosophical and/or religious exemptions (exemptors) may create some risk to the community because unvaccinated or undervaccinated persons may be a source of transmission.”

Salmon et al on Health Consequences of Religious and Philosophical Exemptions From Immunization Laws

Remember diphtheria?

You probably think that it has been a long, long time since a child has died from diphtheria in the United States, especially since we have had an effective vaccine for well over one hundred years.

Well, it has been a long time since anyone who was vaccinated has died…

Tragically, in 1982, a 9-year-old girl died after getting diphtheria at a Christian Science camp in Colorado.

Even more recently, an unvaccinated 4-year-old boy died in Massachusetts died with diphtheria. His mother was a Christian Scientist.

It should be very clear that kids with non-medical exemptions, including religious exemptions, are getting sick and are spreading disease.

We should have acted in 2007, instead of waiting for more and more kids to get sick in outbreaks, as non-medical exemptions to continued to increase.
We should have acted in 2007, instead of waiting for more and more kids to get sick in outbreaks, as non-medical exemptions to continued to increase.

Increasing in the post-Wakefield era, religious exemptions from immunizations put our kids at risk.

More on Kids With Religious Exemptions Spreading Disease