Category: Vaccine Misinformation

Why Are You Still Worried About the MMR Vaccine?

We know why most folks got scared of the MMR vaccine.

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

And most of us remember when most folks welcomed the MMR vaccine the end of endemic measles in the United States.

Why You Were Worried About the MMR Vaccine

Of course, that all changed when Andrew Wakefield spoke at the press conference for his 1998 Lancet paper and said:

“And I have to say that there is sufficient anxiety in my own mind of the safety, the long term safety of the polyvalent, that is the MMR vaccination in combination, that I think that it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines, that is continued use of the individual measles, mumps and rubella components… there is no doubt that if you give three viruses together, three live viruses, then you potentially increase the risk of an adverse event occurring, particularly when one of those viruses influences the immune system in the way that measles does. And it may be, and studies will show this or not, that giving the measles on its own reduces the risk of this particular syndrome developing… the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines…. People have been saying for some time, people on the periphery of autism, have been saying for some time that this may well be related to bowel damage.”

Although there was no evidence for any of that, vaccination rates went down and measles rates went up – the Wakefield Factor.

MMR vaccination rates had dropped below 80% by 2003, when the first measles outbreaks in the UK began. They didn't fully recover until 2012.
MMR vaccination rates had dropped below 80% by 2003, when the first measles outbreaks in the UK began. They didn’t fully recover until 2012.

But no, it wasn’t one person at a press conference that us lead down a decade of worry about the MMR vaccine.

“And then the nurse gave my son that shot. And I remember going, “Oh, God, no!” And soon thereafter I noticed a change. The soul was gone from his eyes.”

Jenny McCarthy on Oprah

Andrew Wakefield had plenty of help!

Not only from anti-vaccine celebrities, but from the media and their scare stories.

Why Are You Still Worried About the MMR Vaccine?

But that is all old news.

Over and over again, we see new studies that show that the MMR vaccine is safe and is not associated with autism.

Andrew Wakefield’s work was never replicated.

The MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal and doesn’t even contain aluminum, which I mention only because those are ingredients that some folks get scared about, not because they are harmful.

Vaccines are safe. The MMR vaccine is safe.

And more and more, as predicted, we are seeing why vaccines are necessary – more and more outbreaksOutbreaks that are proving to be deadly.

Why are you still worried about the MMR vaccine?

Because anti-vaccine folks are still scaring you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids!

Don’t listen to them!

More on MMR Vaccine Fears

How Do Anti-Vaccine Folks Think?

Does it sometimes seem like anti-vaccine folks are speaking a foreign language?

It definitely seems like they misunderstand and misuse a lot of scientific terms, like evidence, research, and toxin, doesn’t it?

Anti-Vaccine Glossary

The first step to understanding someone who is truly anti-vaccine and unnecessarily puts their kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, might be to understand how they misunderstand most things about vaccines…

Measles is highly contagious, which is likely why all of the Brady kids got sick.
Anti-vax folks get the message of the Brady Bunch measles episode all wrong…

For example, many of them believe that anecdotes and case studies are strong evidence and on par with the preponderance of evidence that has shown that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

What other terms do they get wrong?

When you say… Anti-Vaccine folks think…
research I googled it and found something on an anti-vaccine website that confirms what I already thought
peer review I had my anti-vaccine friends, some of whom are actually in charge of the journal, take a look at it
personal stories can only be anecdotal vaccine injury scare stories, but never about regretting a skipped vaccine or personal stories about vaccine-preventable diseases
aluminum mercury
consensus my anti-vaccine friends on Facebook
shills anyone who supports vaccines
pediatrician a vaccine pusher
science pseudoscience
learn the risk learn the exaggerated risks of vaccines that I’m going to scare you about
expert anyone who agrees with me
unavoidably unsafe vaccines can’t ever be safe to anyone in any circumstance ever
toxin anything and everything that sounds sciency
placebo pure saline
chemical anything that isn’t natural, not understanding that everything is a chemical
scientist anyone who took a science class in high school or college
doctor typically a chiropractor
medicine non-evidence based therapies that don’t involve Big Pharma, aren’t covered by insurance, and are likely very expensive
risk can only come from a vaccine, never from skipping or delaying a vaccine or from a vaccine-preventable disease
shedding what happens when someone gets a vaccine
vaccine injury anything and everything bad that happens to you in the days, weeks, months, and years after you get vaccinated or in the days, weeks, months, and years before you were born because of the vaccines your parents or grandparents received
religious vaccine exemption I just don’t want to vaccinate and protect my kids, so will lie and say it is about religion
vaccine preventable disease since many anti-vaccine folks don’t really think that vaccines work, they might act more confused if you use this term
informed consent when I tell you all of the bad stuff about vaccines, most of which isn’t true, and leave out any talk of benefits
leaky gut explains every major problem kids have after getting vaccinated
MAPS doctors the new DAN doctors
VAERS a list of vaccine-injuries
herd immunity doesn’t exist, but can only happen from natural immunity
hiding in the herd what used to protect unvaccinated kids, until more and more folks started listening to us to our anti-vaccine propaganda
package inserts can be used to scare parents about SIDS and autism
do your research go to an anti-vaccine forum or website
cherry picking what does picking cherries have to do with vaccines???
natural immunity easy life-long immunity without any consequences
vaccine choice I want to do it my way, no matter how many choices I have
germ theory germs don’t cause disease and if they did, vaccines didn’t stop them, it was better nutrition and sanitation
homeopathy vaccines don’t work, weekly chiropractic adjustments can keep you healthy, and natural immunity is best, but buy some homeopathic vaccines anyway
essential oils definitely not being sold as part of a multi-level marketing scheme
monkey pox just smallpox renamed
Guillain-Barré Syndrome just polio renamed
roseola just measles renamed
SIDS a vaccine injury
vitamin K a vaccine to be avoided
cognitive dissonance how we sleep at night after skipping or delaying vaccines and leave our kids unnecessarily unprotected from life-threatening diseases
Andrew Wakefield “…Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.”

Get it?

It’s why many people have a hard time talking to friends and family members who are anti-vaccine. And even visits to the pediatrician to talk about vaccines don’t always go so well.

More on the Anti-Vaccine to Science Translator

Do They Really Just Guess at Which Strain to Put in the Flu Vaccine?

Every year we hear experts telling us to get vaccinated against the flu.

And more often than not, we hear critics telling us that the flu vaccine isn’t going to work that well because it isn’t a good match.

Is that because they just guess at which flu strains to put into the flu vaccine each year, as some folks say?

Do They Really Just Guess at Which Strain to Put in the Flu Vaccine?

Of course they don’t guess at which vaccine strain to put in the flu vaccine!

“Flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine composition is reviewed each year and updated as needed based on which influenza viruses are making people sick, the extent to which those viruses are spreading, and how well the previous season’s vaccine protects against those viruses.”

CDC on Selecting Viruses for the Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

There are over 100 flu centers in over 100 countries that are involved in testing thousands of flu virus samples each year. Representative samples from these centers then go to the five major World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centers for Reference and Research on Influenza.

The directors of these centers review these samples and other available information and make a recommendation on which vaccine strains to include in the flu vaccine for the next flu season. Each country then considers this recommendation and decides which flu strains to include in their flu vaccine.

“The influenza viruses in the seasonal flu vaccine are selected each year based on surveillance data indicating which viruses are circulating and forecasts about which viruses are the most likely to circulate during the coming season.”

CDC on Selecting Viruses for the Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

Although they don’t have a crystal ball and so can’t know exactly which flu strains will be making us sick each flu season, it is hardly a wild guess.

How often are they right?

“During seasons when most circulating influenza viruses are closely related to the viruses in the influenza vaccine, the vaccine effectiveness estimate has ranged from 50-60% among the overall population.”

WHO on Vaccine effectiveness estimates for seasonal influenza vaccines

Actually, they are right in most years! So if it is a guess, than the folks who choose which strains to include in the flu vaccine are very good guessers!

Except for a few years when their was a poor match, the flu season is typically between 37 to 60% effective.
Except for a few years when their was a poor match, the flu season is typically between 37 to 60% effective.

There have actually only been a few times in recent years when we have had mismatched flu strains. And in one of those years, they picked the right strain, but then the strain changed or drifted before the start of flu season.

“One hundred fifty-six (22%) of the 709 influenza A(H3N2) isolates were characterized as antigenically similar to A/Wyoming/3/2003, which is the A/Fujian/411/2002-like (H3N2) component of the 2004-05 influenza vaccine, and 553 (78%) were characterized as A/California/7/2004-like.”

2004-05 U.S. Influenza Season Summary

Not surprisingly, flu vaccine effectiveness goes way down during a mismatch year. During the 2004-05 flu season, for example, the overall vaccine effectiveness of the flu vaccine was just 10%.

Of course, in most years, flu vaccine is typically much more effective than that.

How effective will flu vaccines be this season?

Will this year’s flu vaccine be a good match?

We won’t know until flu season is well under way, not that you should wait for an answer to get your flu vaccine. The benefits of the flu vaccine extend beyond preventing the flu, so it is a good idea to get vaccinated even in a year when there might not be a good match.

More on Selecting Flu Vaccine Strains

Why Do Some Folks Wear a Mask During Flu Season?

Wearing a surgical mask is very common when people are sick and want to avoid spreading their germs to others. They are also commonly worn when people are healthy and are just afraid of getting sick.

Why Do Some Folks Wear a Mask During Flu Season?

Is that why you see some folks wearing masks during flu season?

If you are worried about your privacy, why announce something on Facebook?
If you were worried about your privacy, would you talk about it on Facebook?

Maybe, but some folks actually have to wear a mask during flu season.

Well, they have to because they decide they don’t want to get a flu vaccine, but still want to keep their job that could put others at risk if they got sick with the flu. So basically, it is unvaccinated health care personal and others who work around sick and vulnerable people who might have to wear a mask when they are at work.

Why don’t they just get vaccinated and protected against the flu?

That’s a good question…

Some other questions to consider as you think about flu vaccine mandates include:

  • Do unvaccinated health care workers pose a risk to others in the course of their jobs? Of course they do. Health care personal are at high risk to get the flu, since they are often around people who are sick with the flu, and are at higher risk to get the flu if they are unvaccinated.
  • Does wearing a mask protect anyone? – Yes, they actually do and recent studies have concluded that “surgical face masks worn by infected persons are potentially an effective means of limiting the spread of influenza.”
  • Does getting a flu shot prevent you from catching the flu? – Flu shots aren’t the most effective vaccine we have, but they are the best way to avoid catching the flu, being 10 to 60% effective since 2004.
  • Does getting a flu shot prevent you from spreading the flu to others? Yes, and several studies have shown lower rates of nosocomial cases among hospitalized patients as more health care personal get vaccinated!
  • Does getting a flu shot just cause you to have milder symptoms? The flu vaccine does has many benefits besides preventing the flu, but it is certainly not limited to just causing milder symptoms.
  • Does wearing a mask violate your HIPAA rights? No. Unless you announce it, no one knows why you are wearing a face mask. Maybe you have herpes or a cold or are just afraid of getting sick. And the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act only protects patients, not employees.

So why don’t all health care personal get a flu vaccine each year?

Most do.

And while some people seem to be against the idea of mandates for health care workers getting flu shots, most think it is a great idea.

“I support this requirement. I think it is a good idea. Ethically, it makes total sense. First, every doctor, nurse, and HCW knows that they are supposed to put patient interests ahead of their own interests. Whatever you think about flu shots, it is good for patients that their healthcare providers are vaccinated against the flu, particularly among patients who cannot themselves be vaccinated, such as some of the elderly, babies, people with immune diseases, and people who just received transplants or are getting cancer treatment. Vaccination does not help them. They are all immunosuppressed.”

Art Caplan on The Law: Get a Flu Shot or Wear a Mask, Healthcare Workers!

In fact, most think that there is both an ethical and a legal rationale for flu vaccine mandates for health care workers.

“Doctors and other healthcare providers have an ethical obligation to make decisions and take actions that protect patients from preventable harm. 5 Many patients are highly vulnerable to flu, so choosing not to be vaccinated is choosing to do harm—a choice that has no place in healthcare.”

Doctors choosing not to be vaccinated is choosing to do harm

It is hard to imagine that some doctors and nurses not only skip getting vaccinated, putting others at risk, but then don’t even want to wear a mask.

More on Wearing Masks During Flu Season

Can Flu Shots Cause the Flu?

Most folks get a flu shot each year.

Most, but not all.

Some people still think that getting a flu shot will cause them to have the flu.
Some people still think that getting a flu shot will cause them to have the flu.

Why do some people skip it?

Can Flu Shots Cause the Flu?

Yes, some people think that getting a flu shot will actually cause them to get the flu.

It’s not hard to see why though.

The flu vaccine is not the most effective vaccine we have, so it is certainly possible that you can still get sick with the flu even though you have had your flu vaccine. Of course, that’s not a good reason to skip getting a flu vaccine, as they have lots of benefits.

Some other reasons you might still think that the flu vaccine can cause the flu include that:

  • side effects after a flu shot can include a soreness, low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches, which some people might confuse with a mild case of the flu
  • many other respiratory viruses can make you sick during cold and flu season, none of which the flu vaccine protects you against
  • since the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to work, if you got sick shortly after being vaccinated, you may have already been exposed and developed the flu before the vaccine became effective

But why can’t the flu shot cause the flu?

That’s easy.

It’s because the flu shot is an inactivated vaccine. The influenza virus is killed or inactivated, the viral particles are purified and split up, with only the HA and NA surface glycoproteins remaining. Those glycoproteins can not cause a natural flu infection.

What about Flumist, the nasal spray flu vaccine?

While Flumist is a live virus vaccine, it is made with attenuated or weakened strains of the flu that are cold-adapted, unable to replicate at the warmer temperatures that are found in the lungs and other areas of our bodies.

So Flumist doesn’t cause the flu either.

Hopefully this is one vaccine myth that folks will stop spreading. Remember, flu vaccines don’t cause you to get sick with the flu. Get vaccinated. Flu vaccines are your best protection against the flu.

What about those folks who say that they are going to skip the flu shot because they never get sick with the flu?

They are gambling.

It is estimated that about 5 to 20% of people get the flu each year. Unless you are rarely around other people during flu season, the chances are that you will eventually get the flu, especially if you are unvaccinated and unprotected.

More on the Myth that Flu Shots Cause the Flu

Vaccine Fast Tracking

Like a few other vaccines, Gardasil underwent Fast Track approval by the FDA.

“This is the first vaccine licensed specifically to prevent cervical cancer. Its rapid approval underscores FDA’s commitment to help make safe and effective vaccines available as quickly as possible. Not only have vaccines dramatically reduced the toll of diseases in infants and children, like polio and measles, but they are playing an increasing role protecting and improving the lives of adolescents and adults.”

Jesse Goodman, MD, MPH, Director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research

But that doesn’t mean that any corners were cut in getting it quickly approved or that the vaccine isn’t safe.

Vaccine Fast Tracking

The Fast Track process can help get new drugs and vaccines approved more quickly by the FDA because they have:

  • more frequent meetings with the FDA to discuss the drug’s development plan and to help ensure the collection of appropriate data needed to support drug approval
  • more frequent written communication from the FDA about such things as the design of the proposed clinical trials and the use of biomarkers
  • eligibility for Accelerated Approval and Priority Review, if relevant criteria are met
  • a Rolling Review, which means that a drug company can submit completed sections of its Biologic License Application (BLA) or New Drug Application (NDA) for review by FDA, rather than waiting until every section of the NDA is completed before the entire application can be reviewed. BLA or NDA review usually does not begin until the drug company has submitted the entire application to the FDA.

In very simple terms, it is kind of like having a VIP pass at an amusement park. It gets you a guide and helps you jump to the front of many of the lines, but you still don’t get to operate the rides yourself.

Vaccine fast tracking doesn't mean that a vaccine gets approved too fast.
It is a myth that vaccine fast tracking means that a vaccine gets approved too fast.

Which vaccines have had Fast Track approval?

They include Gardasil, Vaxchora, a cholera vaccine, the MenB vaccines, and FluBlock, the flu vaccine that is made in insect cells.

Others that have Fast Track designation include vaccines for  anthrax (NuThrax anthrax vaccine adsorbed with CPG 7909 adjuvant), chikungunya, Clostridium difficile (Clostridium difficile toxoid vaccine), malaria, RSV, Zika, Ebola, Invasive
Staphylococcus aureus infections in surgical populations, Shigella (Flexyn2a), and Lyme disease. None are approved yet though.

And that all of these vaccines have Fast Track designation is a good reminder that it isn’t a guarantee of approval.

“With Fast Track designation, early and frequent communication between the FDA and the biopharmaceutical company is encouraged throughout the entire drug development and review process to help to quickly resolve any questions or issues that arise, potentially leading to an earlier approval and access by patients.”

Encouraging Vaccine Innovation: Promoting the Development of Vaccines that Minimize the Burden of Infectious Diseases in the 21st Century

It just puts them on a Fast Track to get approved if they meet all of the FDA requirements for safety and efficacy.

The ability to develop and approve new vaccines quickly is also important as we continue to face new emerging disease threats. Faced with a deadly global pandemic, everyone will be glad that we have the ability to Fast Track vaccines and other drugs.

More on Vaccine Fast Tracking

Does the FluMist Vaccine Shed?

Anti-vaccine folks like to talk a lot about shedding.

Where do they get the idea that vaccines shed?

Well, there is the fact that some live vaccines, like the rotavirus and oral polio vaccine, do actually shed.

Does the FluMist Vaccine Shed?

Remember, shedding occurs when an infectious agent, typically a virus, can be found in urine, stool, or other bodily secretions. Shedding is not specific to vaccines though. Shedding occurs very commonly after natural infections too, which is one reason they are so hard to control.

So does the Flumist vaccine shed?

Yes, it does, and it isn’t a secret.

There is actually a warning about shedding and Flumist – to avoid contact with severely immunosuppressed persons (e.g., hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients in a protected enviornment) for seven days after vaccination because of the theoretical risk that their severe immunosuppression might allow the weakened flu strain to somehow cause disease.

This warning obviously doesn’t apply to the great majority of people though.

And it shouldn’t be surprising that it sheds, after all, it is a live virus vaccine that is squirted in your nose!

Why isn’t it usually a problem?

Flumist contains attenuated viral strains of the flu that are temperature-sensitive, so even if you did get infected with the weakened flu strains from Flumist via shedding, they wouldn’t cause disease.

Another way to think about it is that the folks who actually get the Flumist vaccine don’t get the flu, so why would you get the flu if you were simply exposed to the vaccine virus by shedding?

Shedding from the Flumist vaccine doesn't cause disease.
Anti-vaccine folks are sharing this table like they uncovered some secret, but it is important to understand that shedding from the Flumist vaccine doesn’t cause disease. And this table is in package insert for Flumist!

The real concern with shedding is when it leads to folks actually getting sick.

Trying to scare folks about Flumist shedding is just like when they talk about the MMR vaccine, pushing the idea that the rubella vaccine virus might shed into breast milk or measles vaccine virus into urine. Either might happen, but since it won’t cause infection or disease, it certainly isn’t a reason to skip or delay your child’s vaccines.

What to Know About Shedding and Flumist

The Flumist vaccine does indeed shed, but unless you are going to have contact with someone who is severely immunocompromised in a protected enviornment, this type of shedding isn’t going to get anyone sick and isn’t a reason to avoid this vaccine.

More on Shedding and Flumist