Category: Vaccine Misinformation

Myths About Polio and Acute Flaccid Paralysis

Polio is one of the most well known causes of acute flaccid paralysis.

Although most people with polio infections have no symptoms at all ,or just have a very mild illness, with a sore throat and a low grade fever, a small percentage can develop:

  • a loss of superficial reflexes
  • severe muscle aches and spasms in their limbs or back
  • an asymmetrical flaccid paralysis with diminished deep tendon reflexes

This acute flaccid paralysis only affects the child’s strength in the affected muscle groups – there is no loss of sensation. The severity of the symptoms and the disease depends on which muscles are affected the most. If it is just your legs, then you will have trouble walking. On the other hand, if affects your chest, then you might not be able to bring unless you are put on a ventilator (iron lung).

Acute Flaccid Paralysis

Thinking about it in the context of polio, it becomes easy to understand acute flaccid paralysis or AFP.

It is the sudden onset (acute) of a flaccid (floppy or poor muscle tone) paralysis (weakness or inability to move) of one or more muscles.

But what many people don’t understand, is that in addition to polio, there are many more non-polio causes of AFP.

Non-Polio AFP

Many of us got a crash course in non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NP-AFP) a few years ago when we started hearing reports of kids developing polio-like paralysis in 2014. Now thought to be caused by enterovirus D68 infections (EV-D68), the paralysis followed respiratory tract infections in many of the affected children. All together, at least 120 children in 34 states developed acute flaccid paralysis that year.

Interestingly, EV-D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. The virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease, coxsackievirus A16, is another. Others cause pinkeye, meningitis, or encephalitis.

Keep in mind that many other viruses and conditions can cause non-polio AFP though, including:

  • Guillian-Barré syndrome
  • toxins (botulism)
  • tumors
  • transverse myelitis
  • traumatic neuritis
  • other infections, including novel enterovirus C105, a non-polio enterovirus, and even tick-borne (Lyme disease) and mosquito-borne (Japanese encephalitis) infections

How do you determine the cause and how do you know it isn’t polio?

These kids with AFP typically have extensive testing to determine what is causing their AFP, including an MRI, antibody tests, and testing of their cerebrospinal fluid, etc. Although it isn’t always possible to identify a cause, you can at least rule out many potential suspects, like trauma, polio, and other infections.

Myths About Polio and Acute Flaccid Paralysis

Some folks don’t believe in non-polio AFP.

They believe that polio never really disappeared because vaccines don’t really work and that polio was simply renamed to, you guessed it, acute flaccid paralysis.

“Unbeknownst to most doctors, the polio-vaccine history involves a massive public health service makeover during an era when a live, deadly strain of poliovirus infected the Salk polio vaccines, and paralyzed hundreds of children and their contacts. These were the vaccines that were supposedly responsible for the decline in polio from 1955 to 1961! But there is a more sinister reason for the “decline” in polio during those years; in 1955, a very creative re-definition of poliovirus infections was invented, to “cover” the fact that many cases of ”polio” paralysis had no poliovirus in their systems at all. While this protected the reputation of the Salk vaccine, it muddied the waters of history in a big way.”

Suzanne Humphries, MD on Smoke, Mirrors, and the “Disappearance” Of Polio

What’s there evidence?

A rise in cases of non-polio AFP in India since 1997.

How do we know that there has been a rise in non-polio AFP cases in India since 1997?

It’s very simple and explains why there isn’t any data on before that 1997. As part of the strategy to eliminate polio in that country, starting in 1997, all cases of AFP started getting tested for polio. It was a way to track the effectiveness of the immunization program. If you were seeing too many cases of AFP caused by polio, then not enough people were getting vaccinated. On the other hand, if you weren’t seeing any cases of AFP in an area, then the testing and surveillance probably wasn’t getting none, since there will always be some cases of non-polio AFP.

Unfortunately, they found many cases to track. And the cases kept increasing, although more and more, they weren’t being caused by polio. At least not by live polio virus.

Were they caused by the polio vaccine?

In some cases, yes. It is well known that the live polio vaccine can rarely cause VAPP and cVDPV.

By 2015, after polio was declared free of polio (the last case was in 2011), none of those cases of AFP were found to be caused by wild polio though. And India hasn’t had a case of cVDPV since 2010.

Why the increase in cases of non-polio AFP? It certainly isn’t because of Suzanne Humphries’ polio virus renaming conspiracy or any other anti-vaccine conspiracy involving the polio vaccine itself.

The 'data' that Susanne Humphries uses to try and make her case about AFP neglects to mention that in the pre-vaccine era, polio paralyzed 500 to 1,000 children in India each day! Those 180,000 to 365,000 cases of paralysis wouldn't fit on her chart though...
The ‘data’ that Susanne Humphries uses to try and make her case about AFP neglects to mention that in the pre-vaccine era, polio paralyzed 500 to 1,000 children in India each day! Those 180,000 to 365,000 cases of paralysis wouldn’t fit on her chart though…

If we simply renamed polio to non-polio AFP, why did the numbers drop for so long and then slowly start to increase? Shouldn’t it have been a rapid crossover?

More importantly,  why are the case of paralysis from non-polio AFP so much lower than the pre-vaccine era cases of AFP from polio?

And how come we rarely see large outbreaks of AFP like we did in the pre-vaccine era?

Sure, 120 kids in the EV-D68 non-polio AFP outbreak of 2014 is way more than any of us would like to see, but it is tremendously less than what we used to see in the pre-vaccine era from polio.

“Poliomyelitis is one of the important emergent viral diseases of the twentieth century… At its height, from 1950–1954, poliomyelitis resulted in the paralysis of some 22,000 U.S. citizens each year… Many thousands were left permanently disabled by the disease, while many others suffocated as a consequence of respiratory paralysis.”

Barry Trevelyan on the The Spatial Dynamics of Poliomyelitis in the US

While anti-vaccine conspiracy theories about AFP are as easy to dismiss as all of the rest they bring up,  what is behind the rise in AFP in some areas of the world?

Although one study that was published in Pediatrics, “Trends in Nonpolio Acute Flaccid Paralysis Incidence in India 2000 to 2013,” did find a correlation between the use of the OPV vaccine and the incidence of non-polio AFP, many experts think the rise is a result of better screening. Also, once polio gets under control, other more neglected diseases start getting more attention, like enteroviral infections. Not surprisingly, other parts of the world have had the same experience.

There is also the fact that in 2005, the Global Poliomyelitis Eradication Initiative began “to cast a wider net for poliovirus detection and to maximize sensitivity so that every poliomyelitis case is detected.” Why? If even a single case was missed, it could lead to continued outbreaks and would get in the way of polio elimination in the country.

“This large increase in NP-AFP cases, which represent AFP cases caused by agents other than poliovirus, probably reflects the excellent implementation of the expanded definition of AFP and highly sensitive surveillance and detection methods used by NPSP in India from 2005 onwards…”

C. Durga Rao on Nonpolio Acute Flaccid Paralysis in India

So did the polio vaccine recently cause 53,000 paralysis victims in India?

No. The polio vaccine has worked to get us on the brink of eradicating polio though.

What To Know About Acute Flaccid Paralysis

Acute flaccid paralysis can be caused by the polio virus, but non-polio acute flaccid paralysis becomes a more important cause once polio is eliminated in a region.

More About Acute Flaccid Paralysis

Challenging the Concept of Herd Immunity

Before we talked about clusters of unvaccinated children, experts warned about pockets of susceptibles.
Before we talked about clusters of unvaccinated children, experts warned about pockets of susceptibles.
The idea of herd immunity has been around since at least 1923 and became used to describe “the indirect protection afforded to individuals by the presence and  proximity of others who are immune.”

That’s not much different from how the CDC defines herd immunity today:

A situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely. Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and those with chronic illnesses) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.

Also called community immunity, it is often misunderstood by folks in the anti-vaccine movement.

Challenging the Concept of Herd Immunity

That the idea of herd immunity is being challenged is not new.

“Along with the growth of interest in herd immunity,  there has been a  proliferation of views of what it means or even of whether it exists at all.”

Paul E. M. Fine Herd Immunity: History, Theory, Practice

If you get educated about vaccines and understand how herd immunity works, it is easy to refute these challenges, especially the idea that herd immunity isn’t real just because we still have outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases among highly vaccinated communities.

Why do we still have outbreaks then?

It is mostly because we live in open communities that don’t mix randomly.

Keep in mind that the best model for herd immunity is a randomly mixing closed community – “one in which the probability of contact within any time interval is the same for every choice of two individuals in the population.”

Again, that doesn’t mean herd immunity doesn’t work.

It just means we can expect to see some outbreaks when someone in a well vaccinated community visits another community with lower vaccination levels and more disease, gets sick, and returns.

“However,  within the population of a community,  there may be pockets of  susceptibles, either because prior epidemics have failed to spread into the group or because they have not accepted immunization.”

John P. Fox Herd Immunity

You must also consider the size of the community when thinking about herd immunity, for example, a family, school, neighborhood, or city, versus the entire state. So you can have herd immunity levels of protection at the state or city level because of high average vaccination levels, but pockets of susceptibles who live in the same neighborhood or go to the same school can mean that you don’t have herd immunity in those places, leading to outbreaks.

“Hib vaccine coverage of less than 70% in the Gambia was sufficient to eliminate Hib disease, with similar findings seen in Navajo populations.”

RA Adegbola Elimination of Hib disease from The Gambia after…

Lastly, there is not one herd immunity level for all diseases. It is a separate threshold for each and every disease, depending on how easily it spreads, how many people are already immune, how long immunity lasts, if there is a vaccine, and the effectiveness of the vaccine, etc. That means that a community can have herd immunity for Hib and polio, but not the flu, and for rubella and measles, but not pertussis.

What happened in The Gambia is a great example of herd immunity. After introducing a three dose primary Hib immunization schedule (no booster dose), rates of Hib meningitis quickly went from 200 per 100,000 to none. A few years later, there were 6 cases of Hib meningitis in mostly vaccinated children (no booster dose) and in the majority of cases, “close contacts had a history of frequent or recent travel to Senegal, a neighboring country with strong kinship links with The Gambia and where vaccination against Hib was not introduced” until the following year.

With a Hib meningitis rate of 3 per 100,000, they are still far below pre-vaccine levels of disease, and their situation doesn’t mean that herd immunity isn’t real, as you will understand once you review these myths about herd immunity.

Myths About Herd Immunity

What are some common myths about herd immunity?

  • that natural immunity is better than getting vaccinated. Not True. Natural immunity often comes with a price. Remember, many vaccine-preventable diseases are life-threatening, even in this age of modern medicine.
  • you can just hide in the herd. Not True. “Freeloaders” can gamble and hope that their intentionally unvaccinated kids won’t get a vaccine-preventable disease, but it won’t always work. There is a risk to “free-riding, in which individuals profit from the protection provided by a well-vaccinated society without contributing to herd immunity themselves.”
  • most adults aren’t immune because they haven’t been vaccinated or don’t get boosters, but since we aren’t seeing that many outbreaks, herd immunity itself must be a myth. Not True. Adults were either born in the pre-vaccine era and likely have natural immunity or were born in the vaccine era and are vaccinated and immune. But again, herd immunity is disease specific, so when we talk about herd immunity for measles, it doesn’t matter if they have immunity against hepatitis A or Hib. And adults get few boosters or catch-up vaccines. Also, some vaccines, like Hib and Prevnar, have indirect effects, protecting adults even though they aren’t vaccinated because vaccinated kids are less likely to become infectious.
  • most vaccines wear off too soon to provide long lasting protection for herd immunity to be real. Not True. While waning immunity is a problem for a few diseases, like pertussis and mumps, and you need boosters for others, like tetanus, vaccine induced immunity is typically long lasting and often life-long.
  • herd immunity wasn’t developed by observing immunized people, it was all about natural immunity. Not True. The first experiments about herd immunity by Topley and Wilson in 1923 involved vaccinated mice. Ok, they weren’t immunized people, but it wasn’t just about natural immunity! And much earlier, in 1840, it was noted that “smallpox would be disturbed, and sometimes arrested, by vaccination, which protected a part of the population.” That’s herd immunity he was talking about.
  • herd immunity is not a scientifically validated concept. Not True. It has been well studied for almost 100 years.
  • if herd immunity was real, diseases would be eradicated once you reached herd immunity levels. Not True. Reaching herd immunity levels simply starts a downward trend in disease incidence. A little more work has to be done at the final stages of eradication, like was done for smallpox and is being done for polio.
  • natural immunity causes much of the decrease in mortality from a disease in the developed world, even before a vaccine is introduced. Not True. While it is certainly true that there was a big drop in mortality in the first half of the 20th century for most conditions because of improvements in sanitation, nutrition, and medical science, it was not a consequence of natural herd immunity. And we continue to see significant levels of mortality and morbidity for many diseases in the modern era, especially for those that can’t yet be prevented by a vaccine, like RSV, West Nile Virus, and malaria, etc.
  • vaccines aren’t 100% effective, so herd immunity can’t really work. Not True. Part of the equation to figure out the herd immunity threshold for a disease takes into account the effectiveness of a particular vaccine.
  • folks with medical exemptions for vaccines put the herd at risk just the same as those who intentionally skip vaccines. Not True. Children and adults with medical exemptions, including immune system problems, those getting treatments for cancer, and other true medical exemptions don’t have a choice about getting vaccinated.

So, like other anti-vaccine myths, none of the herd immunity myths you may have heard are true.

That makes it hard to understand why Dr. Russel Blaylock goes so far as to say “that vaccine-induced herd immunity is mostly myth can be proven quite simply.” Does he just not understand herd immunity? That is certainly a possibility, because “although herd immunity is crucial for the elimination of infectious diseases, its complexity and explicit relationship to health politics cause it to remain under-explained and under-used in vaccine advocacy. ”

He is also really big into pushing the idea that adults have no or little immunity, because when he was in medical school, he was “taught that all of the childhood vaccines lasted a lifetime,” but it has now been discovered that “most of these vaccines lost their effectiveness 2 to 10 years after being given.”

The thing is, Blaylock graduated medical school in 1971, when the only vaccines that were routinely used were smallpox (routine use ended in 1972), DPT, OPV, and MMR (it had just become available as a combined vaccine in 1971). Of these, it was long known that smallpox, diphtheria, and tetanus didn’t “last a lifetime,” and the live vaccines OPV and MMR, except for the mumps component, actually do.

Blaylock, like most anti-vaccine folks who push myths about herd immunity, is plain wrong. And like most anti-vaccine myths, using herd immunity denialism to convince parents that it is okay to skip or delay vaccines puts us all at risk for disease.

What To Know About Herd Immunity Myths

Herd immunity is not junk science or a false theory. Herd immunity is real, it works, and explains how people in a community are protected from a disease when vaccination rates are above a certain threshold.

More About Herd Immunity Myths

What is the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute?

What do folks discuss at a CMSRI sponsored vaccine conference?
What do folks at a CMSRI sponsored vaccine conference discuss?

The Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI) was created by and is funded by the Dwoskin Family Foundation.

The Geiers, well known for doing studies that misuse VAERS data, are regularly funded by the CMSRI.
The Geiers, well known for doing studies that misuse VAERS data, are regularly funded by the CMSRI.

It provides grants to folks who will do research on “vaccine induced brain and immune dysfunction” and on what they believe are other “gaps in our knowledge about vaccines and vaccine safety”, including:

While they claim that they are not an anti-vaccine organization, it should be noted that  Claire Dwoskin once said that “Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems.”

And while most folks talk about the many benefits of vaccines, in fact calling vaccines one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century, Claire Dwoskin thinks that CMSRI funded research proves the “costs for harm caused” by vaccines and that her organization needs to raise “public awareness about the true cost of vaccines” to change “attitudes about vaccine safety.”

CMSRI Funded Scientists

The Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute funds the work of many scientists whose work is used by the anti-vaccine movement to help push misinformation about vaccines:

  • Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld – an immunologist, he now heads the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases, and claims to have discovered a novel vaccine-associated autoimmune disease
  • Dr. Christopher Shaw – a neuroscientist in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia, his focus is on the ALS-parkinsonism dementia complex and also on the role of aluminum as a neurotoxin
  • Dr. Lucija Tomljenovic – a post doctoral research fellow that works in Dr. Shaw’s lab in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Anthony Mawson – an epidemiologist, he is a visiting professor at the Jackson State University School of Public Health and has “special interests in the evolutionary-adaptive origins of health disparities, the perinatal origins of chronic diseases, and the role of psychosocial factors in health and disease”
  • Dr. Martha Herbert – a pediatric neurologist, she was once an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital (maybe she still is, but she isn’t listed on their websites and no good response from either institution about her status), and has written a book about biomedical treatments for autism
  • Dr. Stephanie Seneff – a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, she does research to try and show that glyphosate (Roundup) causes modern day diseases, such as Alzheimers and autism
  • David A. Geier and Dr. Mark R. Geier – have long misused the VAERS database to try and show that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism
  • Brian Hooker – most well known for secretly taping CDC Whistleblower and his retracted papers, he also does research with the Geiers for the CMSRI

Have these scientists changed any attitudes about vaccine safety? Certainly not among those who have really done their research about vaccines, but their studies do seem to throw fuel on whatever fire there is in the anti-vaccine movement.

It should be clear why few people take the work of these scientists seriously.

“At present, there is no evidence to suggest that ASIA syndrome is a viable explanation for unusual autoimmune diseases.”

David Hawkes Revisiting adverse reactions to vaccines

While some of their studies have been retracted, others have been published in what experts describe as predatory open access journals, have been published in journals on which the researchers may sit on the journal’s editorial board, a potential conflict of interest, or are simply poorly done.

You seem to hear the term “junk science” a lot when folks review their studies…

This paper on aluminum adjuvants and the HPV vaccine was withdrawn by the journal Vaccine.
This paper on aluminum adjuvants and the HPV vaccine was withdrawn by the journal Vaccine.

Most recently, the quickly retracted study on the health status of vaccinated vs unvaccinated homeschoolers, was partly funded by the CMSRI.

Many of the scientists have also been involved in lawsuits involving vaccines, sometimes testifying about the very cases that they write about in their papers!

Other CMSRI Activities

The Dwoskin Family also helps support its scientists and their work by sponsoring a number of “vaccine safety conferences,” including the:

  • 2011 Vaccine Safety Conference in Jamaica that featured Andrew Wakefield
  • 2012 2nd International Symposium on Vaccines
  • 2013 3nd International Symposium on Vaccines
  • 2016 4nd International Symposium on Vaccines

And they provided the funding for the Greater Good movie, which has been described as “Pure, unadulterated anti-vaccine propaganda masquerading as a “balanced” documentary”.

What to Know About the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute

The Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, through the Dwoskin Family Foundation, funds the work of many scientists that are said to be anti-vaccine, which can then used by the anti-vaccine movement to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

More About the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute

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About Those Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link

Have you heard about the ever growing list of research papers that ‘support’ a link between vaccines and autism?

Over 1,000 studies support the fact that vaccines do not cause autism.
Over 1,000 studies support the fact that vaccines do not cause autism!

They don’t.

Are you surprised?

On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that vaccines do not cause autism.

Research Papers ‘Supporting’ the Vaccine/Autism Link

The list of research papers that supposedly support a link between vaccines and autism has now grown to 131.

That is a lot of research.

“Even though anti-vaccers claim to have lengthy lists of papers supporting their position, most of those papers are irrelevant, used weak designs, and had small sample sizes.”

The Logic of Science

So what’s wrong with the list?

Why doesn’t it really support a link between vaccines and autism?

As pointed out in this review, “Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence,” the papers on the list include:

  • papers that aren’t about vaccines!
  • papers that aren’t about autism!
  • papers that are about research done on cells or tissues in a petri dish (in vitro trials)
  • animal trials (how do you show that an animal has autism?)
  • papers about elemental mercury or methyl-mercury, even though thimerosal, which was removed from almost all vaccines in 1999, is ethyl-mercury
  • conference abstracts (these haven’t made it into a medical journal yet)
  • case reports (basically a story about a patient)
  • opinion papers
  • non-research papers
  • reviews that “are deceptively only showing the papers that support their position while ignoring all of the papers that refute it”
  • a few that were retracted!

What’s wrong with animal trials and in vitro studies? They are simply among the weakest type of study you can do. The evidence is considered to be much stronger if you can a meta-analysis or systemic review or a randomized control trial.

So they are left with about a dozen studies that are about vaccines and autism, including:

  • SeneffEmpirical Data Confirm Autism Symptoms Related to Aluminum and Acetaminophen Exposure – misuses the VAERS database, so the reports of autism are unconfirmed
  • DeisherImpact of environmental factors on the prevalence of autistic disorder after 1979 – has a ton of problems with the way it analyzed its data
  • NevisonA comparison of temporal trends in United States autism prevalence to trends in suspected environmental factors – tries to correlate autism rates with a list of environmental factors, from maternal obesity, pollution, and glyphosate on foods to aluminum adjuvants in vaccines
  • Tomlejenovic and ShawDo aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism? – “yet another association study. It cannot demonstrate causation,” with tons of other problems
  • Gallagher and GoodmanHepatitis B triple series vaccine and developmental disability in US children aged 1–9 years – a small study that used parental surveys, and although the study found higher levels of early intervention or special education services in vaccinated boys than in unvaccinated boys, it found significantly lower levels of early intervention or special education services in vaccinated girls than in unvaccinated girls?!?
  • Gallagher and GoodmanHepatitis B vaccination of male neonates and autism diagnosis, NHIS 1997–2002 – used a “weak experimental design with a tiny sample size,” just 33 autistic kids
  • Singh – Serological association of measles virus and human herpesvirus-6 with brain autoantibodies in autism – a poorly done paper with so many problems that it has been labeled “fraudulent” and which found “no significant difference in viral levels in the autistic and non-autistic group (which is the opposite of what you would expect if exposure to the virus caused autism)”
  • Singh – Abnormal Measles-Mumps-Rubella Antibodies and CNS Autoimmunity in Children with Autism – discredited by several papers which found No Evidence of Persisting Measles Virus in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells From Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Kawashti – Possible immunological disorders in autism: concomitant autoimmunity and immune tolerance – while trying to link autism to the formation of autoantibodies to casein and gluten antibodies and the immune response to the MMR vaccine, they state that “at this stage, we can conclude that M.M.R. vaccine may not be a cause of autism”
  • MumperCan Awareness of Medical Pathophysiology in Autism Lead to Primary Care Autism Prevention Strategies? – a poorly done “retrospective study with no control group” with a very small sample size
  • KawashimaDetection and sequencing of measles virus from peripheral mononuclear cells from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and autism – a study that was done with Andy Wakefield
  • DeisherEpidemiologic and molecular relationship between vaccine manufacture and autism spectrum disorder prevalence – the study talks about residual human fetal DNA fragments in vaccines and that somehow “fetal DNA in these vaccines can recombine with infant DNA to cause autism.” It can’t.

What about any new studies they say supports a link between vaccines and autism?

Are they about vaccines?

Are they about autism?

What kind of study was it?

What journal was it published in? A predatory, pay-to-publish journal with a low impact value or a real, peer-reviewed, medical journal like PLos One, Lancet, JAMA, or Pediatrics?

Although 6 or 7 studies were recently added to their list, most get excluded right off the bat using the above criteria (not about vaccines or autism, animal studies, in vitro studies, etc.). The one that gets included (and has already been retracted)?

  • MawsonPilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12- year old U.S. children – published at Open Access Text (is that really a journal?) after it was retracted at another journal last year, this survey of homeschoolers is being billed as the “First Peer-Reviewed Study of Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated Children,” which is strange, as this study was done in 2011!

What were you expecting?

Do you really think that you will first read about a real study proving a link between vaccines and autism will be found on an anti-vaccine website or list?

What To Know About Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link

There is still no research supporting a link between vaccines and autism.

More About Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link

Updated on May 21, 2017

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The Leicester Method and Smallpox Eradication

Did you know that the Leicester Method helps prove that the small pox vaccine didn’t really help eradicate small pox?

It’s true – well, at least it’s true among “mythical history of vaccination” types.

A Brief History of Smallpox

First developed in the 1870s in Leicester, England to help control smallpox, many people don’t have a good understanding of how it worked, or they wouldn’t use it as an anti-vaccine talking point.

“There is very good reason why the “Leicester Method” is so often quoted by those who are opposed to compulsory vaccinated; for the essential characteristic of the “Method” – that which indeed constitutes its most distinctive feature – is that it professes to suffice for the control of small-pox without resort to universal vaccination, the one measure which is regarded as all-important in most places.”

C. Killick Millard, MD – Medical Officer of Health for Leicester 1904

To understand the Leicester Method, it is important to understand the history of smallpox and smallpox eradication:

  • 2nd millenium BC – earliest evidence of smallpox infections
  • 10th-18th Century – use of variolation
  • 1746 – London Small-Pox and Inoculation Hospital established
  • 1796 – Edward Jenner‘s smallpox vaccine (using cowpox virus)
  • 1840 – 1871 – Vaccination Acts in Great Britain made smallpox vaccination increasingly compulsory
  • 1898 – Vaccination Act of 1898 in Great Britain adds a conscientious objector clause
  • 1967 – Intensified Eradication Program
  • 1977 – last case of wild smallpox
  • 1980 – smallpox declared eradicated

On the way to eradication, some folks fought first inoculation and then smallpox vaccination – the birth of the anti-vaccine movement.

Although the Anti-Vaccination League and Anti-Cumpulsory Vaccination League had been protesting vaccination for years, Leicester had become “a stronghold of anti-vaccination.”

Those anti-vaccine feelings were evident in the Leicester Demonstration March of 1885, which has been described as “one of the most notorious anti-vaccination demonstrations. There, 80,000-100,000 anti-vaccinators led an elaborate march, complete with banners, a child’s coffin, and an effigy of Jenner.”

The Leicester Method and Smallpox

So does the Leicester Demonstration March help prove that folks in Leicester refused to have the vaccine any more?

The Leicester Method never attempted to do entirely without smallpox vaccination.
The Leicester Method never attempted to do entirely without smallpox vaccination. Adapted from Wellcome Library

Did the people in Leicester simply rely on good sanitation and a system of quarantine?

Not exactly.

Originally formulated in 1877, The Leicester Method was modified by Dr. C. Killick Millard, the Medical Officer of Health for Leicester, who tells us that the patients were quarantined in the Leicester Small-pox Hospital, where all of the staff were vaccinated so that they wouldn’t get smallpox!

And most people in Leicester were already vaccinated. That changed in 1883, when it went changed a “well-vaccinated town” to a “Mecca of the anti-vaccinationists” after a new Board of Guardians was elected on an “anti-vaccination ticket.” So even though vaccination dropped after that point, most people in town were already vaccinated and protected against smallpox.

Another thing that people don’t discuss about the Leicester Method? The fatality rate in Leicester in the late 19th century and early 20th century was 1 to 2% for those who were vaccinated. What was it for folks who were unvaccinated? It was 8 to 12%!

Why are both so low? That is because, at the time, it was “the mild type of of small-pox which has prevailed and still prevails in Leicester.” Historically, smallpox had a fatality rate of 30% or higher. But that was for variola major, not variola minor – the mild type of smallpox.

What else do folks leave out about the Leicester Method? That in addition to relying on good sanitation and a system of quarantine, they also “induced” contacts to get vaccinated!

The Vaccination of Contacts part of the Leicester Method is usually left out by anti-vaccination folks.
The Vaccination of Contacts part of the Leicester Method is usually left out by anti-vaccination folks.

The Leicester Method is starting to sound more familiar.

It sounds an awful lot like the ring vaccination method that was ultimately used by the Intensified Smallpox Eradication Program to eradicate smallpox.

Other Myths About Smallpox

Have you heard any of these other myths about smallpox?

  • Getting Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine would turn you into a cow.
  • Edward Jenner’s eldest son did not die after his father vaccinated him with his smallpox vaccine – he died of tuberculosis.
  • Smallpox vaccination campaigns caused smallpox outbreaks. They didn’t. The smallpox vaccine doesn’t even contain the smallpox virus – it is made with the vaccinia virus.
  • Smallpox was a mild disease. It wasn’t. As late as 1900, 894 people died of smallpox in the United States. Globally, at least 300 million people died of smallpox during the 20th century.
  • Vaccine experts wanted to reintroduce the smallpox vaccine in 2002 in response to bio-terrorism threats after 9-11. While some did, others, like Dr. Thomas Mack and Dr. Paul Offit, didn’t.
  • Dr. Thomas Mack didn’t think the smallpox vaccine helped eliminate smallpox. He did, stating that “Prophylactic vaccination of contacts is an important containment strategy,” and just didn’t think we needed mass vaccination campaigns.

And of course, there is the myth that the smallpox vaccine didn’t work to eradicate smallpox, which is ridiculous. Vaccines work.

What To Know About the Leicester Method and Smallpox

The Leicester Method of dealing with smallpox does not support the idea that smallpox was eradicated solely with good sanitation and quarantine folks with smallpox. They used vaccines too.

More Information on the Leicester Method and Smallpox

Johns Hopkins Hospital Warns Patients about Vaccine Shedding

The original Johns Hopkins Hospital Patient Guide did warn immunocompromised patients about contact with those who were recently vaccinated.
The original Johns Hopkins Hospital Patient Guide did warn immunocompromised patients about contact with those who were recently vaccinated.

Are recently vaccinated people causing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases?

Should kids be put in quarantine after they get their vaccines?

Of course not, but some anti-vaccine folks continue to push outdated information that hospitals, including Johns Hopkins, warn cancer patients to avoid children who were recently vaccinated.

Although vaccine shedding is a concern with some live vaccines, like the oral polio vaccine and the small pox vaccine, it is important to keep in mind that neither has been used in the United States for some time now.

Hospitals no longer warn patients about restricting exposure to people who have recently been vaccinated.

Were websites scrubbed of information about shedding as part of some conspiracy?

Of course not.

They were simply updated to keep up with the latest guidelines.

Can Immunocompromised Patients Have Visitors?

These guidelines about kids with cancer aren’t that new though.

As far back as 2001, an article in the journal Pediatrics & Child Health, “Practical vaccination guidelines for children with cancer,” recommended that household contacts of immunosuppressed children should receive:

  • all routine, age-appropriate vaccines, including DTaP, IPV, Hib, MMR, and Tdap,  and that no special precautions are necessary because transmission of disease from these vaccines does not occur.
  • the varicella vaccine and that even in the event of a vaccine-associated vesicular rash, the transmission risk is low and the consequences of infection are limited by the attenuated nature of the vaccine virus.
  • an annual flu vaccine

These recommendations for household contacts of immunosuppressed children are based on the 2000 Red Book: Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases.

The recommendations in latest (2012) edition of the Red Book  state that household contacts of people with an immunologic deficiency should also:

  • receive the rotavirus vaccines if indicated
  • receive either the inactivated influenza vaccine or live attenuated influenza vaccine, giving preference to the inactivated influenza vaccine only if the immunosuppressed person is a hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) recipient in a protected environment.
The revised Johns Hopkins Hospital Patient Information Guide no longer warns about contact with children who were recently vaccinated.
The revised Johns Hopkins Hospital Patient Information Guide no longer warns about contact with children who were recently vaccinated.

So hospitals should no longer be warning patients about restricting exposure to people who have recently been vaccinated.

In fact, the latest guidelines from the Immune Deficiency Foundation Advisory Committee state that except for the live oral poliovirus vaccine, close contacts can receive other standard vaccines because viral shedding is unlikely and these pose little risk of infection to a subject with compromised immunity.

The Immune Deficiency Foundation also warns that, “The increased risk of disease in the pediatric population, in part because of increasing rates of vaccine refusal and in some circumstances more rapid loss of immunity, increases potential exposure of immunodeficient children.”

In other words, they are concerned about the risk of disease from intentionally unvaccinated kids and not from those who were recently vaccinated!

So, what about visitors?

“Tell friends and family who are sick not to visit.  It may be a good idea to have visitors call you first.”

The Johns Hopkins Hospital Patient Information Guide

Although you can’t prevent every cough and cold that might keep you from visiting a friend or family member who is being treated for cancer or has another immune system problem, keeping up to date on all vaccines can help to make sure that you don’t spread a vaccine-preventable disease, like measles or chickenpox, to them.

What To Know About The Johns Hopkins Vaccine Warning

Not only is Johns Hopkins Medical Center not telling cancer patients to avoid contact with children who recently received vaccines, they have gone out of their way to correct that misinformation from anti-vaccine websites.

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

Some folks haven’t gotten the message though and continue to push the idea that Johns Hopkins and other Hospitals warn cancer patients to avoid contact with recently vaccinated children.

Science Has Been Wrong Before

Frances Kelsey, MD, while working at the FDA, refused to approve thalidomide, sparing many US children the tragic birth defects the drug caused in other countries.
Frances Kelsey, MD, while working at the FDA, refused to approve thalidomide, sparing many US children the tragic birth defects the drug caused in other countries.

Doctors sometimes get things wrong.

Anti-vaccine folks like to bring that up as an argument.

They like it a lot.

And if doctors were wrong before, like about treating people with leeches, smoking cigarettes, or prescribing thalidomide, then why can’t they be wrong about vaccines?

Science Was Wrong Before Fallacy

It’s not just doctors though.

Science, in general, sometimes does get things wrong.

After all, we used to think that the earth was flat (some people still do), that we could figure out how to turn mercury into gold (alchemy), and that the earth was the center of the universe.

But scientists kept working on these issues, came up with new ways to think about them, confirmed them using the scientific method, and put things right.

“It’s not so much about being right or wrong, it’s about how you deal with the evidence that is available, and how you resolve uncertainty. Good scientists and doctors seek out new evidence when there is uncertainty, using good quality methods to answer important questions. Then, when the results are in, they don’t put their hands over their ears and eyes: they look at the new evidence, and change their minds if the evidence warrants a change.

What distinguishes quackery is not so much the kind of intervention being used, but rather, a disregard for those simple, fair principles. And to be clear, plenty of doctors and scientists are slapdash with respect to those principles, but it’s a matter of degree. Doctors can be slow off the mark to change, sometimes. There might be a degree of politics, especially in what questions get researched. But it’s unusual to find a doctor screaming outright in your face that night is day and black is white, when the evidence is right there; in the realm of quackery, that level of fruitcakery is much more common. ”

Ben Goldacre, MD

Of course, doctors and scientists aren’t always going to be right.

But whenever someone brings up thalidomide (but fails to mention that it was a pediatrician who first noticed it was causing birth defects or that Frances Oldham Kelsey, M.D., while working at the FDA, made sure that it was never even approved in the US), maybe mention all of the things doctors and scientists have gotten right – antibiotics, chemotherapy, food safety, fortification of foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies, seat belts and car seats, and of course, vaccines.

And when they bring up how doctors were wrong about smoking cigarettes, lead paint, or radiation exposure, bring up that:

  • John Lockhart Gibson was a doctor in Australia who noticed an association between lead paint and lead poisoning in 1904 and led a campaign to have most lead paint banned from inside homes in Australia in 1920 and later, with Sir Thomas Morrison Legge, by members of the League of Nations in 1922. And Dr. Alice Hamilton warned about lead paint and leaded gasoline as early as 1925, in a meeting with the Surgeon General, even if it would take many decades for other researchers to overcome the powerful effects of the industry backed research of Robert Kehoe and Dr. Joseph Aub. While lead in paint wasn’t banned in the US until the 1970s, the amount of paint in lead was reduced in the 1950s. And thanks to a pediatrician, Herbert Needleman, lead in gasoline was eventually banned too.
  • the first research that linked smoking and cancer came out in the 1950s and the the Surgeon General report warning about smoking followed in 1964
  • while scientists once thought that radiation wasn’t harmful and that X-ray machines could even be used as a way to get the best fitting shoes (the shoe fitting fluoroscope), there were many efforts to encourage safe use of medical radiology during the Golden Age of Radiology, from 1915 to 1940.

Doctors were also wrong about the dangers of sitting too close to the TV (the roots of that warning is probably about radiation from the first TVs though, which was kind of real), that stress was the main cause of stomach ulcers (it’s H. pylori bacteria instead), and that you should avoid peanut butter and other foods when you start your baby on solids.

Dr. Spock even recommended that mothers put their babies to sleep on their stomachs, which defies everything we now know about reducing a babies risk SIDS (safe to sleep)!

“As well as being a flawed argument, it also shows ignorance of how science works. Yes, science has been wrong, but the scientific method is self-correcting. And it is always scientists who have unearthed new evidence who do the correcting, never people who ignore the scientific method.”

Skeptico

Unlike most in the anti-vaccine community, when given new evidence, in all of these situations, most doctors changed their minds and the way they practice medicine.

And it was science and doctors who figured out they were wrong.

Contrast that with all of the times that the alternative medicine community have been wrong – secretin shots for autism, Lupron injections (chemical castration) for autism, laetrile for cancer, and shark cartilage for cancer, etc. Even though there was no science to support their initial use and they were proven to be ineffective, and in some cases dangerous, some still push their use. Just like they push the use of chelation as a treatment for autism.

Again, more often than not, science gets it right.

Just like when another doctor in Australia, Norman McAlister Gregg, discovered the link between rubella infections and congenital rubella infections way back in 1941. We soon had a vaccine which helped put an end to decades of rubella epidemics, miscarriages, neonatal deaths, and babies being born with severe birth defects, and yet, many in the anti-vaccine community still get it wrong about the need for the MMR vaccine.

What about the idea that science will always be wrong because their studies are biased and influenced by money and not by real science? That seemed to be how the cigarette and lead industries kept going for so long, and there are likely some effects of that in some nutrition guidelines, but that is all before medical journals required researchers to disclose any conflicts of interest they might have. So, whatever conspiracy folks might think, Big Pharma isn’t hiding the cure for cancer and isn’t using chemtrails to control people so they buy more vaccines and prescription drugs.

And the idea that science might eventually be proven wrong about a link between vaccines and autism? There is already overwhelming evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism.

The ‘science’ behind the anti-vaccine movement is also clear and it explains why they have been getting things wrong for over two hundred years.

What To Know About The Science Was Wrong Before Fallacy

Using the argument that science or medicine was wrong before, common among anti-vaccine folks, is a logical fallacy and a good way to lose a debate with someone who knows what they are really talking about.

More On The Science Was Wrong Before Fallacy

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