Category: Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

We know that vaccine-preventable diseases can be life-threatening.

In the pre-vaccine era, when these diseases were much more common, way too many people died, but still, most people did recover.

They didn’t always survive without complications though.

Tragically, we are starting to see more of these complications as more kids are now getting some of these vaccine-preventable diseases again.

Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

That we can prevent these serious complications is another benefit of getting vaccinated!

How serious?

Have you ever seen someone who has survived a meningococcal infection?

Do they always have all of their arms and legs?

How about their fingers and toes?

"Baby" Charlotte survived her battle with meningococcemia and continues to take on new challenges!
“Baby” Charlotte survived her battle with meningococcemia and continues to take on new challenges!

There is a reason that we say that you have to earn your natural immunity. You have to survive these diseases to get it. And you want to survive without any long-term complications, which can include:

  1. chicken pox – shingles, secondary bacterial infections, pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, seizures, transverse myelitis, Reye syndrome, neonatal varicella, congenital varicella syndrome
  2. congenital rubella syndrome – neonatal death, heart problems, deafness, cataracts, intellectual disability, liver and spleen damage, glaucoma, thyroid problems
  3. diphtheria – myocarditis, heart failure, nerve damage, muscle paralysis
  4. Haemophilus influenzae type b – meningitis, epiglottitis, pneumonia, osteomyelitis, cellulitis, hearing loss, brain damage, loss of limbs
  5. hepatitis A – can rarely lead to liver failure
  6. hepatitis B – chronic hepatitis B, cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer
  7. HPV – genital warts, cancer
  8. influenza – parotitis, pneumonia, myocarditis, encephalitis, myositis, rhabdomyolysis, multi-organ failure
  9. measles –pneumonia, seizures, encephalitis, SSPE
  10. mumps – orchitis (inflammation of the testicles), oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries), pancreatitis, meningitis, encephalitis
  11. pneumococcal disease – pneumonia, mastoiditis, meningitis, bacteremia, sepsis, empyema, pericarditis, hearing loss, brain damage
  12. pertussis – pneumonia, seizures, apnea, encephalopathy, rib fractures
  13. polio – meningitis, paralysis, post-polio syndrome
  14. rabies – it is very rare to survive a rabies infection without treatment
  15. rotavirus – dehydration, intussusception
  16. rubella – arthritis, congenital rubella syndrome
  17. shingles – postherpetic neuralgia, pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, encephalitis
  18. tetanus – seizures, laryngospasm, fractures, pulmonary embolism, aspiration pneumonia
  19. typhoid fever – intestinal perforation, internal bleeding, peritonitis, hepatitis, osteomyelitis, arthritis, meningitis, myocarditis,
  20. yellow fever – pneumonia, parotitis, sepsis

Anti-vaccine folks rarely talk about the complications of vaccine-preventable diseases. For that matter, they also often push the idea that vaccines don’t even work and that these diseases aren’t even vaccine preventable, don’t they?

Don’t believe them. Vaccines work and they are safe and necessary, especially if you want to avoid these diseases.

More on Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Personal Stories About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Parents these days seem to get bombarded with vaccine injury stories and videos on Facebook.

Is that because vaccines cause so many bad reactions?

Of course not.

It’s because some folks think that everything that happens to their kids is a vaccine injury.

Personal Stories About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

If you are going to watch those videos and listen to their stories, getting scared in the process, be sure to also listen to the stories of parents who’s kids have suffered through actually getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

While it’s great that these diseases are much less common because most people vaccinate and protect their kids, one side effect of that progress is that we don’t have many reminders of just how terrible these diseases are anymore.Have you ever seen a baby with congenital rubella syndrome?

Or a child with tetanus or diphtheria?

Have you ever even seen photos of these diseases?

Will you read these stories of parents who have lost a child to a vaccine-preventable disease.

“Kimberly Coffey was buried three days before her high school graduation in the prom dress she didn’t get to wear. She didn’t have the opportunity to be vaccinated against Meningitis B.”

Kim’s Meningitis Story

In Kimberly‘s case, the Men B vaccine wasn’t yet available, but in many other cases, parents have shared their stories of unvaccinated children who suffered with a disease that was vaccine preventable at the time.

“From 2010 to 2016, young children continued to be at the greatest risk for influenza-associated pediatric deaths. Children without preexisting medical conditions accounted for half of all deaths. Vaccination coverage was low among influenza-associated pediatric deaths.”

Shang et al. on Influenza-Associated Pediatric Deaths in the United States, 2010–2016

Tragically, there are also many flu stories.

But the flu isn’t the only vaccine-preventable disease that still harms children.

This family didn't have a choice about their son getting sick - he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.
This family didn’t have a choice about their son getting sick – he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles

There are other diseases. Other stories.

Read these stories.

Listen to these parents.

Are the stories supposed to scare you into vaccinating your kids?

Of course not. Just like you shouldn’t let the myths and propaganda from the anti-vaccinate movement scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Instead of being motivated by fear, you should make your decision because you understand that the many benefits of vaccines are far greater than their small risks.

What to Know About Vaccine-Preventable Disease Stories

Reading stories of vaccine-preventable diseases are a good reminder that these diseases are not so mild as some folks suggest, and they are instead life-threatening diseases that are best avoided by getting fully vaccinated.

More Vaccine-Preventable Disease Stories

Do You Know What Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Look Like?

Odds are that you have never seen anyone with smallpox, but what about measles or mumps?

No?

Have you ever even seen someone with chicken pox?

Photos of Vaccine-Preventable Disease

Maybe if more folks knew what typical vaccine-preventable diseases looked like, then they wouldn’t be so quick to think about skipping or delaying their kids vaccines.

And they certainly wouldn’t think that these are mild diseases that they wanted their kids to get, thinking natural immunity would be better than the immunity that they could more easily and safely get from a vaccine.

Severe dehydration in a child with a rotavirus infection.
Severe dehydration in a child with a rotavirus infection.

Kids with diphtheria develop a bull neck and a thick pseudomembrane that covers their throat.
Kids with diphtheria develop a bull neck and a thick pseudomembrane that covers their throat. Photo by the Japanese Society of Tropical Medicine

Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury? Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

Newborns and infants have the highest rates of death from pertussis.
Newborns and infants have the highest rates of death from pertussis or whooping cough.

An infant with measles during the 2014 outbreaks in the Philippines.
An infant with measles during the 2014 outbreaks in the Philippines. Photo by Jim Goodson, M.P.H.

Mumps causes kids to have fever, puffy cheeks, and a painful, swollen jaw.
Mumps causes kids to have fever, puffy cheeks, and a painful, swollen jaw.

A baby with a congenital cataract and blueberry muffin rash - classic signs of congenital rubella syndrome.
A baby with a congenital cataract and blueberry muffin rash – classic signs of congenital rubella syndrome. (CC BY-NC-SA)

In addition to respiratory problems (think iron lungs), polio causes muscle atrophy.
In addition to respiratory problems (think iron lungs), polio causes muscle atrophy. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

This 2016 hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen strawberries led to 143 cases and 56 hospitalizations.
This 2016 hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen strawberries led to 143 cases and 56 hospitalizations.

Chronic hepatitis B is a silent killer.
Chronic hepatitis B is a silent killer.

A papilloma caused by HPV on the vocal cords of a child with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
A papilloma caused by HPV on the vocal cords of a child with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. (CC BY 4.0)

Even if they survive, kids can lose fingers, toes, or even arms and legs to meningococcemia.
Even if they survive, kids can lose fingers, toes, or even arms and legs to meningococcal disease.

In addition to pneumonia and meningitis, the Hib bacteria can cause epiglottitis, making it very difficult to breath.
In addition to pneumonia and meningitis, the Hib bacteria can cause epiglottitis, making it very difficult to breath. Seen here are the ‘thumb sign’ on X-ray and the cherry red epiglottis.

Before wide use of the Hib and Prevnar vaccines, infants with fever would routinely get spinal taps and you would hope for clear fluid (cloudy fluid could be a sign of a bacterial infection).
Before wide use of the pneumococcal vaccines, infants with fever would routinely a get spinal tap to make sure that they didn’t have bacterial meningitis.

If a mother get chicken pox late in her pregnancy, her baby will be exposed before he is born and will develop chicken pox, often severe, in his first week of life.
If a mother get chicken pox late in her pregnancy, then her baby will be exposed before he is born and will develop chicken pox, often severe, in his first week of life. (CC by 3.0)

Although rare, even infants can develop shingles, most commonly if their mothers had a chicken pox infection while pregnant.
Although rare, even infants can develop shingles, most commonly if their mothers had a chicken pox infection while pregnant. (CC by 3.0)

Never touch a bat that you find on the ground during the day, as it might have rabies.
Animals acting strangely may have rabies. Photo by Radu Privantu (CC BY 2.0)

As in most years, flu deaths in children mostly occurred in kids who weren't vaccinated.
As in most years, flu deaths in children mostly occurred in kids who weren’t vaccinated.

Two kids with smallpox - one vaccinated and one unvaccinated. Can you guess which is which?
Two kids with smallpox – one vaccinated and one unvaccinated. Can you guess which is which?

Surprisingly, treatments haven't changed much since this photo was taken of a patient with yellow fever in 1898.
Surprisingly, treatments haven’t changed much since this photo was taken of a patient with yellow fever in 1898.

Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary) was quarantined because she continued to work as a cook, spreading Salmonella typhi bacteria to other people.
Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary) was quarantined because she continued to work as a cook, spreading Salmonella Typhi bacteria to other people.

Japanese encephalitis is spread by mosquito bites.
Japanese encephalitis is spread by mosquito bites.

I know what some of you are thinking. And no, just because these vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t as common as they used to be doesn’t mean that any of these vaccines aren’t necessary.

Why not?

We don’t see them as much as we did in the pre-vaccine era simply because these vaccines work!

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

We all know what happens if we stop vaccinating.

And it is not just that we get a few updated photos of kids with measles, mumps, diphtheria, and other vaccine-preventable diseases…

More on Photos of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

 

Does Your Child with Parotitis Have Mumps?

Even though they might never have had or seen a kid with mumps, most people know the tell-tale signs and symptoms.

Classically, mumps is associated with parotitis, with swelling of the salivary glands.
Classically, mumps is associated with parotitis, with swelling of the salivary glands.

But mumps isn’t the only thing that causes parotitis, especially in the post-vaccine era.

Does Your Child with Parotitis Have Mumps?

So having parotitis doesn’t automatically mean that you have mumps.

“Mumps is diagnosed by a combination of symptoms and physical signs and laboratory confirmation of the virus, as not all cases develop characteristic parotitis and not all cases of parotitis are caused by mumps.”

Mumps Questions and Answers

What else can cause parotitis?

  • bacterial infections, including Staphylococcus aureus, especially when the swelling is just on one side of the child’s face
  • blockage of the salivary gland because of a stone in the duct that drains the glands (sialadenitis), again, would be more common on just one side of the child’s face
  • viral infections, including adenovirus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), CMV, coxsackie A virus, HHV-6, influenza A, parainfluenza virus types 1, 2 and 3, and echovirus
  • less common causes in children might include medications, benign and malignant tumors, and immunologic diseases

So how do you know if your child with parotitis has the mumps or some other infection or condition?

“Mumps infection is most often confused with swelling of the lymph nodes of the neck. Lymph node swelling can be differentiated by the well-defined borders of the lymph nodes, their location behind the angle of the jawbone, and lack of the ear protrusion or obscuring of the angle of the jaw, which are characteristics of mumps.”

Mumps for Healthcare Providers

There are an increasing number of mumps outbreaks being reported these days and many cases are in vaccinated teens, so it might be easy to just say it is the mumps and recommend that you wait it out, as there is no treatment for the mumps or most other viral infections.

The only problem with that strategy is that if your child has a bacterial infection that is causing their parotitis, then they will likely need antibiotics. Some even go on to develop abscesses that need to be drained. Getting diagnosed with mumps might delay their treatment. And kids with mumps get quarantined far longer than kids with other viral infections.

Fortunately, testing is available, either a real-time RT-PCR (rRT-PCR) or mumps virus culture from a parotid duct swab. You can also do titer testing, although testing for the mumps virus is considered to be more accurate.

So does your child with parotitis have mumps?

They likely do if they have acute parotitis lasting at least 2 days, and either:

  • a positive test for serum anti-mumps immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody,
  • a positive test for mumps virus with  the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test or culture
  • a link or exposure to someone else with mumps

Of course, there are other signs and symptoms of mumps besides parotitis. In fact, instead of the parotid gland, your child with mumps could have swelling of other salivary glands, like their sublingual or submandibular gland.

Confusing things, some kids with mumps do have parotitis on just one side of their face, or one side swells before the other. So you can’t say it isn’t mumps just because it is one side. And some kids with mumps never even develop parotitis, but may still have other symptoms and go on to develop complications of mumps.

“CDC recommends that a buccal or oral swab specimen and a blood specimen be collected from all patients with clinical features compatible with mumps.”

CDC on Collecting and Shipping Specimens for Suspected Mumps Cases

Still, many recent studies have confirmed few actual cases of mumps among kids with parotitis, especially among sporadic, non-outbreak cases. That makes it important to actually confirm that a child has mumps if you are going to diagnosis them with mumps.

And get your kids vaccinated and protected. The mumps vaccine isn’t perfect, but you are still much more likely to get mumps if you are unvaccinated.

What to Know About Mumps and Parotitis

While most kids with mumps have parotitis, not everyone with parotitis will have mumps, as there are many other things that cause pain and swelling of the parotid glands.

More on Mumps and Parotitis

Costs of a Measles Outbreak

The endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, but unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped us from having outbreaks of measles each year.

Since reaching a record low of just 37 cases of measles in 2004, other milestones in the measles timeline we should all know about include that there were:

  • 220 measles cases in 2011, a 15-year record and the highest number of cases since 1996 at least until 2014, when we had at least 667 cases
  • 58 cases in the 2013 New York City measles outbreak and for a short time, the largest outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States
  • 382 cases in the 2014 measles outbreak in Ohio and now the largest outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States
  • 170 measles cases in the first few months of 2015, including a large outbreak in California that was linked to Disneyland.
  • 188 cases and a measles death in 2015

That’s still far below where we used to be though, especially when you consider that before the first measles vaccine was licensed, there was an average of about 549,000 measles cases and 495 measles deaths in the United States each year.

Containing a Measles Outbreak

Several factors help to limit the measles outbreaks that we continue to see in the United States. Most important is that fact that despite the talk of personal belief vaccine exemptions and vaccine-hesitant parents not getting their kids vaccinated, we still have high population immunity.

In the United States, 90.8% of children get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine by the time they are 35 months old and 91.1% of teens have two doses. While not perfect, that is still far higher than the 81% immunization rates the UK saw from 2002 to 2004, when Andrew Wakefield started the scare about the MMR vaccine. Instead of overall low immunization rates, in the U.S., we have “clusters of intentionally under-vaccinated children.”

It also helps that the measles vaccine is highly effective. One dose of a measles vaccine provides about 95% protection against measles infection. A second, “booster” dose helps to improve the effectiveness of the measles vaccine to over 99%.

To further help limit the spread of measles, there are a lot of immediate control measures that go into effect once a case of measles has been suspected, from initiating contact investigations and identifying the source of the measles infection to offering postexposure prophylaxis or quarantining close contacts.

That’s an awful lot of work.

A 2013 measles outbreak in Texas required 1,122 staff hours and 222 volunteer hours from the local health department to contain.

Costs of a Measles Outbreak

In addition to requiring a lot of work, containing a measles outbreak is expensive.

A study reviewing the impact of 16 outbreaks in the United States in 2011 concluded that “investigating and responding to measles outbreaks imposes a significant economic burden on local and state health institutions. Such impact is compounded by the duration of the outbreak and the number of potentially susceptible contacts.”

We still don’t know what it cost to contain many big outbreaks, like the ones in New York City and Ohio, but we do know that it cost:

  • over $2.3 million to contain the 2017 outbreak in Minnesota – 75 people got measles, 71 were unvaccinated, and more than 500 people were quarantined over a 5 month period
  • up to an estimated $3.91 million (but likely much more) to contain the 2015 outbreaks in California
  • two unrelated cases in Colorado in 2016 cost $49,769 and $18,423, respectively to investigate
  • $50,758.93 to contain an outbreak at a megachurch in Texas
  • $150,000 to contain (13 cases) an outbreak in Cook County, Illinois
  • $223,223 to contain (5 cases, almost all unvaccinated) to contain another outbreak in Clallam County, Washington, an outbreak that was linked to the death of an immunocompromised woman.
  • more than $190,000 of personnel costs in Alameda County, with 6 cases and >700 contacts, it is estimated that over 56 staff spent at least 3,770 hours working to contain the outbreak
  • $5,655 to respond to all of the people who were exposed when a 13-year-old with measles was seen in an ambulatory pediatric clinic in 2013
  • $130,000 to contain a 2011 measles outbreak in Utah
  • $24,569 to contain a 2010 measles outbreak in Kentucky
  • $800,000 to contain (14 cases, all unvaccinated) a 2008 measles outbreak at two hospitals in Tuscon, Arizona
  • $176,980 to contain a 2008 measles outbreak in California
  • $167,685 to contain a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana – unvaccinated 17-year-old catches measles on church mission trip to Romania, leading to 34 people getting sick, including an under-vaccinated hospital worker who ends up on a ventilator for 6 days
  • $181,679 (state and local health department costs) to contain a 2004 measles outbreak in Iowa triggered by a unvaccinated college student’s trip to India
Ending with 667 cases, 2014 became the worst year for measles in the United States since 1994.
Ending with 667 cases, 2014 became the worst year for measles in the United States since 1994. How much did these outbreaks cost to contain?

It is important to keep in mind that these costs are often only for the direct public health costs to the county health department, including staff hours and the value of volunteer hours, etc. Additional costs that come with a measles outbreak can also include direct medical charges to care for sick ($14,000 to $16,000) and exposed people, direct and indirect costs for quarantined families (up to $775 per child), and outbreak–response costs to schools and hospitals, etc.

We should also consider what happens when our state and local health departments have to divert so much time and resources to deal with these types of vaccine-preventable diseases instead of other public health matters in the community. Do other public health matters take a back seat as they spend a few months responding to a measles outbreak?

There were 220 cases of measles in the United States in 2011. To contain just 107 of those cases in 16 outbreaks, “the corresponding total estimated costs for the public response accrued to local and state public health departments ranged from $2.7 million to $5.3 million US dollars.”

In contrast, it will costs about $77 to $102 to get a dose of the MMR vaccine if you don’t have insurance. So not only do vaccines work, they are also cost effective.

What to Know About the Costs of a Measles Outbreak

Containing a measles outbreak is expensive – far more expensive than simply getting vaccinated and protected.

More on the Costs of a Measles Outbreak

When Was the Last Time Someone Died from Being Bitten by a Rabid Dog in the United States?

Most people aren’t overly worried about rabies these days, at least not in the United States.

In the mid-1950s, rabies control programs began to get more and more dogs vaccinated against rabies.
In the mid-1950s, rabies control programs began to get more and more dogs vaccinated against rabies.

Is that because rabies isn’t around anymore?

Of course not. It is because a rabies vaccine has long been available both to prevent our pets from getting rabies from wild animals and to protect us if we are ever bitten by an animal that might have rabies.

Hopefully, especially after the recent rabies death of the 6-year-old in Florida, everyone understands that rabies is still around.

When Was the Last Time Someone Died from Being Bitten by a Rabid Dog in the United States?

Since 2008, at least 21 people have died of rabies in the United States, mostly after getting exposed to rabid bats.

There were more than a few exposures from dogs with rabies too. In fact, the last rabies death after a dog bite was not very long ago – it was in May 2017.

Exposure to rabid dogs typically happened while the person was out of the United States.
Exposure to rabid dogs typically happened while the person was out of the United States.

Does that mean that something isn’t working with our rabies prevention plans?

When you take a closer look at the statistics about rabies deaths after dog bites, it becomes clear where the problem is.

“In 1950, for example, 4,979 cases of rabies were reported among dogs, and 18 cases were reported among humans. Between 1980 and 1997, 95 to 247 cases were reported each year among dogs, and on average only two human cases were reported each year in which rabies was attributable to variants of the virus associated with indigenous dogs . Thus, the likelihood of human exposure to a rabid domestic animal in the United States has decreased greatly.”

Human Rabies Prevention – United States, 1999 Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

Most rabies deaths in the United States from dogs occur in people who get bitten while they are traveling outside the country.

So when was the last human rabies death from a rabid domestic dog in the United States?

A 7-year-old girl died after she was bitten by a rabid dog in Texas in June 1979. Before that, in 1968, a 13-year-old boy died after getting bit by a rabid dog in Kansas.

That’s a long time ago.

Does that mean the rabies vaccine isn’t necessary anymore?

Rabies Vaccines Work

Of course not! That means the rabies vaccines works!

Two Indonesian boys proudly show off their puppy and her vaccination record.
Two Indonesian boys proudly show off their puppy and her vaccination record. Photo by the rabiesalliance.org.

There are two reasons that we don’t see human rabies deaths from dog bites in the United States anymore, unless the bites occur in another country:

  1. Most of us vaccinate our pets – fewer dogs and cats with rabies means that there are fewer chances for us to get bit and get rabies.
  2. Most folks get proper treatment if they are exposed to an animal that could possibly have rabies, whether it is an unvaccinated dog or cat, or a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat. In fact, about 40,000 to 50,000 people in the United States get rabies post-exposure prophylaxis each year.

If you don’t believe this, just look back at what rabies was like in the pre-vaccine era, when dogs and cats would get rabies, and so would their owners. In the early 1960s and 1950s, rabies deaths from dog bites were more common, about 10 each year.

“The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the 1990’s. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful.”

CDC on Rabies in the U.S.

To understand just why rabies vaccines still so necessary,  you can also look at what is still happening around the world where rabies vaccines aren’t used as commonly as they are in more industrialized countries.

“Despite substantial gains in tackling this neglected disease, more than 20,000 people still die from rabies every year, mostly in Asia and Africa.”

Schneider et al on Substantial reductions in rabies, but still a lot to be done

In addition to the deaths from folks traveling outside the United States, there are many more rabies deaths in people, mostly children, who live in areas where rabies is still endemic.

Hopefully these deaths will end soon too, as experts from WHO, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) work together in the United Against Rabies collaboration to achieve “Zero human Rabies deaths by 2030.”

Because it has an animal reservoir, the rabies virus will likely always be around, and won’t be eradicated like smallpox, but hopefully we can one day control rabies by having fewer rabies exposures (vaccinate more of our pets) and we can eliminate dog-transmitted rabies deaths.

We won’t get there if folks continue to push myths and propaganda about rabies and the rabies vaccine.

What to Know About Controlling Rabies and Rabies Deaths

It has been a long time since someone in the United States died with rabies from a domestic dog bite, but that is simply a testament to the fact that vaccines work.

More on Controlling Rabies and Rabies Deaths

Why Did France Take the Rotavirus Vaccine off Their Schedule?

Have you heard that France took the rotavirus vaccine off their immunization schedule?

Why?

It was supposedly because two babies died of intussusception after being vaccinated.

Rotavirus Vaccines and Intussusception

Intussusception? Wasn’t that just a risk from RotaShield, the original rotavirus vaccine?

While the risk was higher with RotaShield, the current rotavirus vaccines do have a small risk of intussusception.

france-immunization-schedule
The French immunization schedule is published in the Bulletin épidémiologique hebdomadaire and has never included the rotavirus vaccine.

So did France take the rotavirus vaccine off of their schedule?

Technically, France hadn’t yet added the rotavirus vaccine to their schedule, but it had been available since 2006 and they did formally recommend infants get vaccinated beginning in November 2013.

That recommendation was suspended in April 2015, after they recorded 47 cases of intussusception over an 8 year period. This included 14 cases that required surgery and tragically, two deaths, including one child who died at home without getting any medical care. The other developed intussusception after the third dose of vaccine, which is not usually linked to any increased risk.

It is important to note that at least 80 other countries, including the United States, Finland, Germany, Norway, and the UK, haven’t stopped using the rotavirus vaccine.

Why not?

Because the risks of a natural rotavirus infection are much greater than the risk of intussusception. In other words, the benefits of the vaccine exceed its risks.

In France alone, for example, it is estimated that rotavirus vaccines could prevent 30,000 emergency room visits, 14,000 hospitalizations, and 8 to 17 deaths each year, all in children under the age of three years.

And even without the rotavirus vaccine, there are about 200 to 250 spontaneous intussusceptions each year in France. Fortunately, infants with intussusception can almost always be successfully treated, often without surgery.

Why Did France Take the Rotavirus Vaccine off Their Schedule?

It actually makes no sense that France stopped recommending that infants get vaccinated with one of the rotavirus vaccines.

The decision was widely condemned and there are calls to reassess the decision and put the rotavirus vaccine back on the schedule in France.

“After the surprising decision of the CTV-HCSP of April 2015 to suspend its own recommendation for widespread vaccination against Rotavirus (following a false and misleading pharmacovigilance report) against the international recommendations, we advise you to read the meta-analysis on efficacy (in comparative studies) and the effectiveness (field efficacy) of these vaccines.”

InfoVac Bulletin Novembre 11/2016

The benefits of the rotavirus vaccines far outweigh its risks.

“The estimated benefits of vaccination in our study greatly exceed the estimated risks and our results should contribute to provide further evidence for discussions around rotavirus vaccination in France.”

Larmrani et al A benefit–risk analysis of rotavirus vaccination, France, 2015

Why did France take the rotavirus vaccines off their schedule?

News of the Newark kids going to Paris to get Pasteur's rabies vaccine made the front page of the New York Times.
In 1885, four boys from New Jersey went all of the way to France to get Pasteur’s new rabies vaccine, which wasn’t yet available in the US.

That’s a good question.

Another good question? How many infants have died of rotavirus infections since they did? And when will they put the vaccine back on the schedule? Fortunately, the rotavirus vaccines are still available in France, they weren’t banned as some folks say.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that France impulsively suspended a vaccine.

In 1998, France suspended the routine vaccination of teens against hepatitis B because of the possible association of the vaccine with multiple sclerosis. This was done amid “pressure from anti-vaccine groups and reports in the French media have raised concerns about a link between HBV immunisation and new cases or relapses of MS and other demyelinating diseases,” even though “scientific data available do not support a causal association between HBV immunisation and central nervous system diseases, including MS.”

“In 1998, official concerns were first voiced over a possible association between hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination and multiple sclerosis (MS). Despite a number of studies that have demonstrated no such association, ten years on the French population’s confidence in the vaccine remains shaken and immunization rates of infants have stagnated beneath 30%. With a chronic carriage of the virus estimated at 0.68%, it seems unlikely that France will be able to control the circulation of the virus. ”

Marta Balinska on Hepatitis B vaccination and French Society ten years after the suspension of the vaccination campaign: how should we raise infant immunization coverage rates?

Do you know where all of this has left France now?

With high rates of vaccine-preventable disease (15,000 cases of measles in 2011, with 16 cases of encephalitis and 6 deaths) and a move towards vaccine mandates. As of January 2018, all infants and toddlers in France must receive DTaP, Hib, HepB, pneumococcal, MMR, and meningococcal C vaccines.

What to Know About France Taking the Rotavirus Vaccine off Their Schedule

In no longer recommending the rotavirus vaccines, officials in France actually put infants at greater risk for sickness and death.

More on France Taking the Rotavirus Vaccine off Their Schedule