Six People Who Should Be Vaccinated

Even the staunchest anti-vaccine advocates, even if they want to believe that some vaccines are optional, must admit that there are some kids that really need to be vaccinated.

After all, there can’t be anyone so anti-vaccine that they wouldn’t allow their child to get the rabies vaccine after they were bitten by a rabid dog, right?

Optional Vaccines

Wait, some vaccines are optional?

“The main reason I feel that vaccines should be optional for parents is that every vaccine has the potential to cause a fatal reaction… And no government should be able to force parents into putting their child through something that puts that child at risk of dying. I think that’s just a fundamental right that every parent should have.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears on Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

Parents do sometimes ask about optional vaccines.

Which vaccines can they safely skip or delay?

That’s easy to answer.

Which disease do you want to risk your child getting?

Which disease, if more and more parents decided to make that vaccine optional, would you like to see come back?

“And if parents want to accept the disease risk because they don’t trust the vaccines, I think they have the right to make that choice.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears on Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

All vaccines are important and none are optional, despite what you might read on those so-called alternative immunization schedules that have been pushed by ‘vaccine friendly’ or disease friendly pediatricians for years.

Of course, parents do have the option of skipping one or more vaccines, even if the great majority of pediatricians advise against them doing so. That’s the fundamental flaw in Dr. Bob’s reasoning. The government, even with mandates to attend daycare and school, isn’t forcing parents to vaccinate their kids.

It’s not the only flaw though…

Essential Vaccine Situations

Do parents who delay or skip vaccines worry that their kids might get sick?

Some likely do, especially those who have been on the fence about vaccinating their kids.

For others, it is likely easier to be anti-vaccine when you think that you are hiding in the herd – you don’t get vaccinated and you don’t vaccinate your kids, and instead, you simply rely on the fact that everyone else around you is vaccinated to get protection from vaccine-preventable diseases.

That gamble doesn’t always work though.

“I think our Constitution guarantees parents the right to make health care decisions for their children, as long as they’re not putting their children’s life in danger. And by not vaccinating, you’re not putting your children’s life in immediate danger. Yes, you are taking some risk with diseases, but it’s not such a high risk where that should counteract or take away your freedoms as a parent to make your own health care decisions.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears on Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

So how high a risk are you taking by not vaccinating your kids?

It depends, but there are certainly special situations in which you would be putting your children’s life in more immediate danger if you didn’t get them vaccinated, including:

  1. a child bitten by a rabid dog, coyote, or bat – needs HBIG and a rabies vaccine series
  2. a completely unvaccinated teen who gets a deep puncture wound while playing in a field – needs TBIG and a tetanus vaccine (keep in mind that a child might still need a booster if they are up to date, but it has been more than five years since their last tetanus shot)
  3. an unvaccinated older teen living in a dorm on a college campus where there is an ongoing outbreak of meningococcemia – needs the meningococcal vaccine
  4. a preschooler with a cochlear implant – needs the pneumococcal vaccines because of an increased risk of pneumococcal meningitis
  5. an unvaccinated 1st grader who’s sibling is starting chemotherapy for leukemia – needs to get caught up on all age appropriate vaccines, including live vaccines
  6. unvaccinated kids traveling out of the country to parts of the world where vaccine-preventable diseases are still endemic – needs to get caught up on all age appropriate vaccines, but especially the MMR vaccine and likely needs more travel vaccines depending on the destination

What if a family member with chronic hepatitis B was going to be visiting or moving in with you? What if you had hepatitis B and you were having a baby? Would you get your baby vaccinated?

Polio Vaccine - don't wait until it's too late.
Who are you going to listen to?

Would you still skip or delay your child’s vaccines in any of these situations?

If you believe one or more anti-vaccine talking points or believe in any of the “experts” of the anti-vaccine movement, then you might.

Of course, none of the vaccines on the childhood immunization schedule are optional and delaying or skipping any of them increases your child’s risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

The problem is that many vaccine hesitant parents greatly underestimate the risk of getting a disease and overestimate the risks of side effects from the vaccines.

And often, the immediate danger isn’t so obvious.

So instead of a dog who is obviously rabid, foaming at the mouth, what if your child was scratched by a stray cat that had never been vaccinated against rabies, or:

  • instead of a deep puncture wound, what if he just gets pricked by a thorn and gets tetanus?
  • instead of a possible exposure in an ongoing outbreak, what if your child is exposed before the outbreak of meningococcemia is widely known to be happening?
  • your unvaccinated child gets chicken pox and exposes a classmate who is immunosuppressed because they are being treated with chemotherapy?
  • your unvaccinated child gets measles after being exposed to an unvaccinated friend who had recently traveled to Europe, where there are many ongoing outbreaks?

The bottom line is that you can wait too long to get your child vaccinated and you may end up regretting your decision to skip or delay those vaccines. Partial vaccinations aren’t the answer.

The answer is to get educated about vaccines and to understand that vaccines are safe and necessary and that vaccines work.

What To Know About Kids Who Should Be Vaccinated

Whether you are anti-vaccine, on the fence, or a vaccine advocate, you should understand that there are some high risk situations in which kids can be in immediate danger if they weren’t vaccinated. And many other situations in which you may regret skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines.

More About Kids Who Should Be Vaccinated

Vaccines on TV and in the Movies

No, this isn’t another review of Wakefield’s anti-vaccine movie VAXXED.

And it isn’t about vaccine scare stories in the media.

It is about how vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases have been depicted on TV and in the movies.

Tale of a Dog
A 1944 Our Gang short comedy film had the Little Rascals scaring the town into thinking that a smallpox epidemic was coming.

From doctors in the future creating vaccines for plagues from alien worlds to today’s doctors fighting the plague of parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids, there are more than a few different story lines when it comes to vaccines on TV and in the movies.

Vaccines on TV

The go-to show for vaccines on TV?

It’s The Simpsons, with at least 15 episodes with references to vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases.

It isn’t the only show though. Others include:

  • Little Rascals “Tale of the Dog” (1944) – the gang gets the whole town scared that an epidemic is coming when they overhear Buckwheat talking to his friend Big Shot about giving smallpox to the gang. Smallpox is name they came up with for Buckwheat’s dog, because it had a lot of spots.

    It takes a while, but the doctor finally figures out that the only smallpox in Greenpoint is the gang's new dog.
    It takes a while, but the doctor finally figures out that the only smallpox in Greenpoint is the gang’s new dog.
  • The Adventures of Jim Bowie “The Quarantine” (1957) – Bowie has to recover a stolen shipment of smallpox vaccine.
  • Wagon Train “The Daniel Barrister Story” (1958) – Flint rides into Johnsonville and finds that they are in the middle of a smallpox epidemic, an epidemic that had already wiped out half the town. “I guess a little vaccination never hurt anybody,” says Flint, as he gets vaccinated, since the town doctor isn’t convinced that he has had smallpox already.
  • Have Gun – Will Travel “The Return of Dr. Thackeray” (1958) – The cook at Barton Ranch has smallpox and everyone needs to be vaccinated, if they can get a supply of vaccine from nearby Fort Landon and keep the men at the ranch until they can be vaccinated.
  • Rawhide “Incident at Red River Station” (1960) – Gil and Rowdy get exposed to smallpox and leave the herd to find vaccine. They instead find a town that believes in Asafoetida bags, leeches and herbal tea, pushing the real doctor out of town to care for patients in a pest house. “There are very few people around here who believe in vaccination,” says Dr. Flood, at least until people start dying of smallpox and they line up for the batch of vaccine he makes from the cowpox of a nearby herd.

    Folks lined up to get vaccinated against smallpox in Red River Station, at least they did once more and more people started dying of smallpox.
    Folks lined up to get vaccinated against smallpox in Red River Station, at least they did once more and more people started dying of smallpox.
  • The Avengers “The Deadly Air” (1961) – An experimental vaccine is stolen from a top secret lab.
  • Dr. Kildare “Immunity” (1961) – Dr. Kildare works to prevent a smallpox epidemic by trying to identify and vaccinate contacts, which is made difficult, as they don’t know the patient’s name, only that he is a Polish immigrant, who they later learn was a part of the resistance that fought the Nazis.

    Dr. Kildare interrupts a wedding reception to get everyone vaccinated and protected against smallpox.
    Dr. Kildare interrupts a wedding reception to get everyone vaccinated and protected against smallpox.
  • The Rifleman “Quite Night, Deadly Night” (1962) – the town prepares for a  outbreak as someone new arrives with symptoms of smallpox and the doctor sends out a request for vaccine.
  • The Andy Griffith Show “The County Nurse” (1962) – Andy and Barney help the county nurse talk Rafe Hollister into getting his tetanus shot.
  • Ben Casey “Preferably, the Less-Used Arm” (1962) – Dr. Ben Casey has a hard time finding people who may have been exposed to smallpox because his patient can’t talk.
  • The Wild Wild West “The Night of the Amnesiac” (1968) – Agent West loses his memory after he is shot protecting a stagecoach transporting the state’s only supply of smallpox vaccine.
  • The Virginian “Ride to Misadventure” (1968) – A stage coach with anthrax vaccine gets robbed and the Virginian has to track them down.
  • Petticoat Junction “Sorry Doctor, I Ain’t Takin No Shots” (1969) – Dr. Janet Craig, with nurses Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo, gets everyone in the valley vaccinated against the flu to prevent an epidemic, including Jasper Tweedy and his whole clan.

    Sam Drucker gave everyone free flu shots at his general store to prevent a flu epidemic in Petticoat Junction.
    Sam Drucker gave everyone free flu shots at his general store to prevent a flu epidemic in the valley (Petticoat Junction).
  • That Girl “The Subject Was Rabies” (1969) – Ann’s (Marlo Thomas) father is bitten by a dog that might have rabies and Dr. Priddy talks about giving him “the Pasteur anti-rabies vaccine series” if they can’t find the dog.
  • Dragnet “Juvenile: DR-32” (1969) – Detective Joe Friday and Officer Bill Gannon have two hours to find a dog that had bitten a little girl on the neck five days earlier because she is allergic to the anti-rabies serum that would be given with the rabies vaccine. The little had survived a polio infection just a few years before the dog bite incident.
  • Marcus Welby, M.D. “Epidemic” (1970) – Dr. Welby’s works to control a flu epidemic.
  • The Carol Burnett Show “Episode #10.15” (1977) – included a skit about a group of scientists working on a vaccine for swine flu.
  • Quincy, M.E. “By the Death of a Child” (1979) – Quincy goes to San Christos to investigate if a diphtheria vaccine is killing children in the small country.
  • The Campbells “Desperate Remedy” (1989) – Dr. Campbell searches for a sick cow to make vaccine after Harriet gets exposed to smallpox.
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman “Father’s Day” (1993) – Dr. Quinn works to convince folks in town to get vaccinated against smallpox.
  • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood “Brave and Strong” (1996) – It’s a beautiful day to get a flu shot! Mister Rogers takes us on a trip to the Center City Health Center so that kids would understand what happens when they get an immunization.

    Mister Rogers gets a flu shot.
    It’s a beautiful day to get a flu shot!
  • South Park “Chicken Pox” (1998) – The kids have a sleepover at Kenny’s house because he has chicken pox
  • ER “A Walk in the Woods” (2001) – Carter takes care of an unvaccinated child with measles. A child who later dies.
  • ER “Lockdown” (2002) – Everyone in the ER is quarantined as they think two patients have smallpox.
  • ER “Kisangani” (2003) – Carter visits Luka in the Congo, when he is initially away at another clinic giving people vaccines.
  • House MD “Paternity” (2004) – House diagnoses a teen with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE is a late complication of a natural measles infection) and also treats a baby who hasn’t received any vaccines because her anti-vaccine mother thinks they are a BigPharma conspiracy theory.

    House M.D. talking to a mother who thinks vaccines are part of a Big Pharma scam.
    House M.D. talking to a mother who thinks vaccines are part of a Big Pharma scam.
  • Deadwood “Suffer the Little Children” (2004) – people line up to get the smallpox vaccine.
  • Law & Order “Fluency” (2005) – a con man is selling fake flu shots and it leads to the death of 16 people who end up getting the flu.
  • Family Guy “Stewie Loves Lois” (2006) – Peter goes to his doctor to get a flu vaccine.
  • Saturday Night Live “Melissa McCarthy/Lady Antebellum” (2011) – the episode includes a parody commercial for Lil’ Poundcake, a doll that gives little girls an HPV shot.
  • Private Practice “Contamination” (2009) – Dr. Freedman takes care of an intentionally unvaccinated child who got measles when his mother took him and his siblings to Switzerland to treat their brother’s autism. The child dies and Dr. Freedman vaccinates the youngest child against the mothers wishes.
  • Nurse Jackie ” Super Greens” (2014) – Zoey Barkow, one of the nurses at All Saints recruits others to go to a gay bar to give out free meningitis vaccines.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit “Granting Immunity” (2015) – an unvaccinated child  who’s mother may have falsified his immunization records gets the measles and starts an outbreak, hindering an investigation into an underage sex party and the circulation of pornographic images of teenagers online.
  • Call the Midwife “Christmas Special” (2016) – Sister Julienne and a group of midwives work to keep a mission hospital in South Africa open as it works to start a polio vaccination program in the early 1960s.
  • Family Guy “Hot Shots” (2016) – Lois and Peter cause a measles outbreak, after they convince other parents to not vaccinate their kids and Peter destroys every vaccine in town.

    Lois and Peter are alone at their anti-vaccine rally, but still manage to trigger a measles outbreak at Stewie's daycare.
    Lois and Peter are alone at their anti-vaccine rally, but still manage to trigger a measles outbreak at Stewie’s daycare.

Not surprisingly, vaccines come up in science fiction shows a lot too:

  • Star Trek “Miri” (1966) – Dr. McCoy works on a vaccine to cure a disease that had killed all of the adults on the planet and is starting to affect the landing party, including Captain Kirk.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation “Code of Honor” (1987) – Captain Picard and the Enterprise-D go to Planet Ligon II to get a vaccine to prevent more people from getting Anchilles fever on the Federation planet Styris IV.
  • Star Trek Voyager “Heroes and Demons” (1995) – The Doctor tells a story of developing a vaccine to stop the spread of Parinisti measles among the crew of the USS Voyager.
  • The Outer Limits “The Vaccine” (1998) – After most of the people in the world are killed by a man-made virus, a nurse has to decide who gets a limited supply of a new vaccine.
  • The X-Files “The Red and the Black” (1998) – we learn more about the Purity Control vaccine that can provide resistance against black oil, an alien virus.
  • The X-Files “One Son” (1999) – more on the experiments by the Syndicate that led to the creation of a black oil vaccine
  • Enterprise “Dead Stop” (2002) – not finding evidence of live microorganisms from a recently administered Rigelian fever vaccine in his bloodstream helps the Enterprise crew realize that Ensign Mayweather was replaced with a near-perfect replica.
  • What did the vaccine on Lost even do?
    What did the vaccine on Lost even do?

    Lost  (2004-2010) – multiple episodes of Lost mention a vaccine, CR 4-81516-23 42 or RX-1 GND, that was given every nine days.

  • Stargate SG-1 “The Fourth Horseman: Part 2” (2006) – Work continues on a vaccine for the plague that is spreading across the earth by the Priors of the Ori.
  • Battlestar Galactica “A Measure of Salvation” (2006) – The Cylons are sick with a virus. Should they create a vaccine or work to destroy the Cylon race?
  • Smallville “Oracle” (2006) – Milton Fine creates an alien virus to destroy mankind, while Lex develops a vaccine to protect them.
  • Eli Stone “Faith” (2008) – The first episode of this show includes a legal case about vaccines and autism.
  • V “It’s Only the Beginning” (2009) – The flu vaccine the visitors want to give mankind isn’t what it seems.
  • Get Well Soon “How Do Injections Help You?” (2015)  – Dr Ranj gives Deep an MMR injection, after explaining why shots are important.
  • The X-Files “My Struggle II” (2016) – Scully develops a vaccine, using her own DNA, to protect people from the Spartan Virus, that has infected most people already and is wiping out their immune systems.

There are more TV shows that are about vaccine preventable diseases, but don’t mention vaccines, like when Marcus Welby, M.D. had a few episodes about congenital rubella syndrome in 1972 and Olivia got polio on the Waltons.

Vaccines in the Movies

Haven’t seen many of those TV shows that mentioned vaccines?

You might be more familiar with these movies:

  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) uses his own blood as a vaccine to cure people who after a plague turns most people into vampires. (Based on the book I Am Legend)
  • The Omega Man (1971) – Robert Neville (Charlton Heston) creates a vaccine to cure the disease that is affecting the survivors of a nuclear war between China and the Soviet Union. (Based on the book I Am Legend)
  • The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998) – Only the Syndicate vaccine can protect everyone from the alien virus.
  • Star Trek (2009) – Captain Kirk has a reaction to a vaccine that Dr. McCoy gives him to protect him from getting infected with Melvaran mud fleas.
  • I Am Legend (2007) – Robert Neville (Will Smith) creates a vaccine to cure the man made disease (was supposed to be a cure for cancer) that wiped most people on earth and turned the survivors without natural immunity into Dark Seekers. (Based on the book I Am Legend)
  • World War Z (2013) – Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) tries to find the origin of the zombie plague virus so that a vaccine can be made. A “camouflage” vaccine is eventually made to hide survivors from the zombies.

Am I missing any?

Probably.

I’m a doctor, not a TV historian!

More on Vaccines on TV and in the Movies

 

Vaccines – The Simpsons Did It

From chicken pox parties and conspiracies about using flu shots to control our minds to vaccine injury stories, The Simpsons did it.

The Simpsons on Vaccines and Vaccine Preventable Diseases

The Simpsons have been on the air since 1989 – just before I started medical school.

Since then, as with many other topics, they have done ahead of their time when it comes to vaccines.

Mr. X let everyone know about that flu shots were being used to control people's minds!
Mr. X let everyone know about that flu shots were being used to control people’s minds!

Consider that the episode “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes,” in which Homer creates a fake conspiracy website (Mr. X) and gets kidnapped by a mysterious group for stumbling upon a secret about how flu shots are given to control people’s minds, first aired on December 3, 2000. That’s long before Alex Jones and other folks started pushing these very same types of conspiracy theories about vaccines!

Jenny McCarthy appeared in The Man Who Grew Too Much episode to endorse an anti-GMO movie and make Lisa realize being against GMOs was unscientific.
Jenny McCarthy appeared in “The Man Who Grew Too Much” episode to endorse an anti-GMO movie and make Lisa realize being against GMOs was unscientific.

And the episode about chicken pox parties, “Milhouse of Sand and Fog,” came out way back on September 25, 2005. That’s before Jenny McCarthy appeared on Oprah and before Bob Sears wrote his “vaccine” book!

Vaccines – The Simpsons Did It

How many episodes of The Simpsons have mentioned vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases?

  1. An unvaccinated Lisa gets the mumps.
    An unvaccinated (the kids don’t get caught up on their shots until season 12) Lisa gets the mumps.

    “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” – sixteenth episode of Season 2 in which Lisa gets the mumps.

  2. “Lisa’s Pony” – eighth episode of Season 3 in which Homer comes up with a way to save money on luxuries – “Well, you know, we’re always buying Maggie vaccinations for diseases she doesn’t even have!”
  3. “Kamp Krusty” – first episode of Season 4 in which Lisa visits Dr. Hibbert “to get boosters for malaria, German measles, encephalitis, and Hansen’s disease” before heading to camp.
  4. “Lisa’s First Word” – tenth episode of Season 4 in which Dr. Hibbert, at Lisa’s checkup, holds up a giant needle and gives him a “rubella inoculation” when he asks for a lollipop.
  5. “Marge in Chains” – twenty-first episode of Season 4 in which a man is looking for a cure and eats a bee, thinking it is a vaccine.
  6. “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” – twenty-first episode of Season 5 in which everyone sings the Armour Hot Dogs jingle at Maggie’s first birthday party and Milhouse, with spots on his face, sings “even kids with chicken pox” love hot dogs.
  7. “Much Apu About Nothing” – twenty-third episode of Season 7 in which Cotton Mather is the first thing that Apu reads from Homer’s history notes from 9th grade.
  8. “Take My Wife, Sleaze” – eighth episode of Season 11 in which Homer and Marge go to a 1950s-themed restaurant that sell polio dogs.
  9. “Homer vs. Dignity” – fifth episode of Season 12 in which Homer, after coming into some money, is able to get his kids caught up on “six years’ worth of inoculations,” including an “anti-polio shot,” which was much bigger than the “regular” polio shot.
  10. “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes” – sixth episode of Season 12 in which Ned Flanders reads a fake post from Homer on his Mr. X website about how flu shots are given as a form of mind control and he says “They’re controlling our minds with flu shots. I knew it. Well, kids, now aren’t you glad that we don’t believe in inoculations?” as his kids are shivering because they are sick and have fever. Homer is later kidnapped and taken to a secret island for revealing the conspiracy.
  11. “Bart-Mangled Banner” – twenty-first episode of Season 15 in which Lisa and Bart go see Dr. Hibbert (“Children, you should be grateful you live in a country where childhood diseases have been practically…”) to get their vaccines, but Bart escapes. Bart eventually gets his shots, but has a temporary side effect, his ‘earholes’ swell shut…
  12. “Sleeping with the Enemy” – third episode of Season 16 in which Milhouse has the measles.
  13. Free cat flu vaccinations at Springfield General Hospital!
    Free House Cat Flu vaccinations at Springfield General Hospital!

    “Milhouse of Sand and Fog” – third episode of Season 17 in which Homer has a chicken pox party for the kids in the neighborhood after Maggie gets chicken pox.

  14. “The Fool Monty” – sixth episode of Season 22 in which everyone in town waits in line to get a vaccine for the House Cat Flu.
  15. “The Town” – third episode of Season 28 in which after moving to Boston, Marge asks someone if they vaccinate their kids (“of course!”) to make sure that they are progressive, “but not stupid progressive.”

The Simpsons isn’t the first show to include messages about vaccines and vaccine-preventable in their episodes.

Remember the Brady Bunch measles episode?

Like other TV shows, they are consistently sending a message about vaccines that is helping folks understand that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary.

What to Know About The Simpsons and Vaccines

While some of the humor and jokes in The Simpsons are rather subtle, their message about getting vaccinated and protected against chicken pox, mumps, measles, rubella, and other vaccine preventable diseases certainly isn’t.

More on The Simpsons and Vaccines

Vaccine-Driven Resistance of Bacteria and Viruses

It is well known that bacteria and viruses can become resistant to antibiotic and anti-viral drugs.

From amoxicillin for Streptococcal pneumonia infections to amantadine for the flu, resistance is a growing problem that is limiting how easily we can treat many infections.

Vaccine-Driven Resistance of Bacteria and Viruses

Since bacteria and viruses seem to have such an easy time developing resistance against commonly used drugs, do we see the same thing with vaccines?

Fortunately, no.

We do not see bacteria or viruses creating resistance in our vaccines so that they no longer work.

For example, despite what you may hear, the MMR vaccine still prevents all wild strains of measles.

What about the pertussis vaccine and the fact that we are finding more and more strains of pertactin-negative pertussis bacteria? Doesn’t that mean that the Bordetella pertussis bacteria have mutated and are causing a pertussis resurgence because they are resistant to the vaccine?

While an interesting theory, pertactin is only one of the components (antigens) of the pertussis bacteria that are in pertussis vaccines that help them to induce immunity. Others can include filamentous hemagglutinin, chemically or genetically detoxified pertussis toxin, and fimbrial-2 and fimbrial-3 antigens.

So no, pertactin-negative pertussis bacteria are not driving outbreaks of pertussis or whooping cough, and they have not become resistant to pertussis vaccines.

Vaccine-Induced Pathogen Strain Replacement

What about the fact that we sometimes seen a rise in new bacteria once a vaccine wipes out the bacteria it works against?

While this type of vaccine-induced pathogen strain or serotype replacement can happen, it is not because the bacteria develop any kind of resistance. Some vaccines can only target specific strains of a virus or bacteria. The latest version of Prevnar, for example, can prevent the 13 strains of Streptococcal pneumonia that are most likely to cause disease in children. That leaves out over 75 other strains.

And the Hib vaccine only prevents Haemophilus influenzae type b infections. There are five other H. flu serotypes (a-f) and other non-typeable strains that aren’t covered by the Hib vaccine.

The same goes for the meningococcal vaccines. None of them cover all meningococcal serotypes.

Isn’t it just as bad if one of those other strains starts growing after your kids are vaccinated?

While it certainly sounds bad, as it seems like you are just replacing one bacteria for another, it really isn’t.

Rates of invasive pneumococcal disease have decreased dramatically since Prevnar was introduced.
Rates of invasive pneumococcal disease have decreased dramatically since Prevnar was introduced. Photo courtesy of the CDC.

Why not?

Because the replacement bacteria are often much less likely to cause invasive disease and the levels of disease they do cause don’t come anywhere close to pre-vaccine levels.

Vaccines work, even when something like vaccine-induced pathogen strain replacement happens.

Vaccines Can Help Prevent Drug Resistance

If you are really concerned about antibiotic resistance, you would want more people vaccinated.

Not only do vaccines not lead to an increase in vaccine or drug resistant bacteria or viruses, but they can help us fight the growing problem of drug resistance.

“Vaccinating humans and animals is a very effective way to stop them from getting infected and thereby preventing the need for antibiotics.”

WHO on Why is vaccination important for addressing antibiotic resistance?

Consider all of the people who take Tamiflu or antibiotics when they get the flu because they didn’t get a flu shot?

Or how many antibiotic prescriptions haven’t been written because kids did get vaccinated with Prevnar and never got an ear infection, pneumonia, or meningitis?

Vaccines in the pipeline could help even more.

What to Know About Vaccine-Driven Resistance

Vaccines are not causing an increase in vaccine-resistant bacteria or viruses and can actually help us fight the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

More About Vaccine-Driven Resistance

Vaccine Testing and Development Timeline and Myths

New vaccines must go through a long journey before they are finally approved by the FDA and get added to the recommended immunization schedule.

vaccine-dev-testing

Vaccine Testing and Development Myths

There are many myths and much misinformation surrounding vaccine testing and development that is used to scare parents away from vaccinating their kids.

Have you heard that vaccines aren’t tested together?

Or that flu vaccines or Tdap were never tested on pregnant women?

Then there are the myths about fast-tracking, and that important steps are skipped when a vaccine is on fast track for FDA approval, or that the whole vaccine testing and development process happens very quickly.

Vaccine Testing and Development Timeline

The vaccine development process is anything but quick.

“Vaccine development is a long, complex process, often lasting 10-15 years and involving a combination of public and private involvement.”

The History of Vaccines on Vaccine Development, Testing, and Regulation

During this time of the exploratory and pre-clinical stage research and then phase 1,2, and 3 trails, vaccines are:

  • tested on animals
  • tested on small groups of people
  • tested on larger groups of people
  • tested alone
  • tested together with other vaccines
  • tested for safety
  • tested for efficacy (to make sure they work)

This often includes double-blind, placebo controlled vaccine trials.

Fast tracking does speed the process up, but not because any of the testing is skipped. The researchers just get more frequent meetings and communication with the FDA and “Eligibility for Accelerated Approval and Priority Review, if relevant criteria are met.”

“Vaccine development is a complex multidisciplinary activity, combining understanding of host-pathogen interactions at the molecular level, with clinical science, population-level epidemiology and the biomechanical requirements of production.”

Anthony L. Cunningham, et al on Vaccine development: From concept to early clinical testing

Testing doesn’t stop once a vaccine is approved by the FDA and is added to the immunization schedule either. We often continue to see testing for vaccine safety and efficacy using phase 4 trials and with our post-licensure vaccine safety system, including VAERS and the Vaccine Safety Datalink.

And of course testing continues long after we begin using vaccines to see how long their protection will last. For example, because of continued testing, we now know that Gardasil and Cervarix are providing protection that lasts at least 8 and 9 years.

What To Know About Vaccine Testing and Development

From pre-clinical studies and years of phase 1, 2, and 3 trials to continued monitoring after a vaccine is approved and added to the immunization schedule, the vaccine testing and development process helps make sure that vaccines are safe and that they work.

More About Vaccine Testing and Development

Is the Anti-Vaccine Movement Growing?

Boston Reverend Cotton Mather  actively promoted smallpox inoculation during a local epidemic.
Boston Reverend Cotton Mather actively promoted smallpox inoculation during a local epidemic.

We often have to remind people that the anti-vaccine movement didn’t start with Bob Sears, or Jenny McCarthy, or even with Andy Wakefield.

Did you know that the Reverend Cotton Mather’s house was bombed in Boston in 1721? Well, someone through a bomb through his window. Fortunately, it didn’t go off.

That’s 77 years before Jenner developed his smallpox vaccine!

What was Mather doing?

He had started a smallpox variolation program. He was trying to protect people in Boston from smallpox during one of the most deadly epidemics of the time.

So essentially, the anti-vaccine movement started before we even had real vaccines…

Is the Anti-Vaccine Movement Growing?

You see reports of more and more outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, hear about new vaccine laws and mandates, and depending on who your friends are, may see a lot of anti-vaccine articles and vaccine injury stories getting shared on Facebook.

You have probably even heard about pediatricians firing families who refuse to vaccinate their kids.

So what’s the story?

Is the anti-vaccine movement growing?

Is there a growing resistance among parents to getting their kids vaccinated?

“Parents are taking back the truth. It is my expectation that this crack in the dam will serve to sound an alarm. To wake women up. To show them that they have relinquished their maternal wisdom, and that it is time to wrest it back.”

Kelly Brogan, MD

Is the world finally “waking up to the dangers of vaccines,” like many anti-vaccine experts have been claiming for years and years?

The Anti-Vaccine Movement is not Growing

Many people will likely tell you that the anti-vaccine is in fact growing.

You can read it in their headlines:

  • The worrying rise of the anti-vaccination movement
  • Will 2017 be the year the anti-vaccination movement goes mainstream?
  • Pediatricians calling anti-vaccine movement a growing problem
  • There’s Good Evidence That The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Growing
  • I was skeptical that the anti-vaccine movement was gaining traction. Not anymore.

But the anti-vaccine movement is not necessarily growing.

The overwhelming majority of parents and adults are fully vaccinated.

What we do have is a very vocal minority of people who do their best to push misinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines and vaccine dangers, and not surprisingly, they have some new ways to do it. Unfortunately, they use their anti-vaccine talking points to scare vaccine hesitant parents and those who might now be on the fence about vaccines to sometimes delay or skip some vaccines.

Most parents do their research though, don’t jump on the anti-vaccine bandwagon, and know that vaccines work, vaccines are safe, and vaccines are necessary.

The Anti-Vaccine Movement is Changing

A lot about the anti-vaccine movement hasn’t changed over the last 100 plus years.

Many early critics of vaccines were alternative medicine providers, including homeopaths and chiropractors, just like we see today. And like they do today, they argued that vaccines didn’t work, vaccines were dangerous, and that vaccines weren’t even necessary.

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The big difference?

Unlike when Lora Little, at the end of the 19th century, had to travel around the country to distribute her anti-vaccine pamphlet, Crimes of the Cowpox Ring, anti-vaccine folks can now just tweet or post messages on Facebook. It is also relatively easy to self-publish an anti-vaccine book and sell it on Amazon, put up your own anti-vaccine website, post videos on YouTube, or even make movies.

“Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media.”

Ben Goldacre on The MMR story that wasn’t

Fortunately, all of that is balanced by something they don’t have anymore.

No, it’s not science. That was never on their side.

It’s that the media has caught on to the damage they were doing and isn’t as likely to push vaccine scare stories anymore.

Explaining the Popularity of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

The anti-vaccine movement has always been around and they are likely not going anywhere, whether or not they are growing.

Looking at the history of the anti-vaccine movement, it is clear that they have their ups and downs, times when they are more or less popular, but they are always there.

“By the 1930s… with the improvements in medical practice and the popular acceptance of the state and federal governments’ role in public health, the anti-vaccinationists slowly faded from view, and the movement collapsed.”

Martin Kaufman The American Anti-Vaccinations and Their Arguments

Why so many ups and downs?

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks.
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Chart by WHO

It is easily explained once you understand the evolution of our immunization programs, which generally occurs in five stages:

  1. pre-vaccine era or stage
  2. increasing coverage stage – as more and more people get vaccinated and protected, you pass a crossover point, where people begin to forget just how bad the diseases really were, and you start to hear stories about “mild measles” and about how polio wasn’t that bad (it usually wasn’t if you didn’t get paralytic polio…)
  3. loss of confidence stage – although vaccine side effects are about the same as they always were, they become a much bigger focus because you don’t see any of the mortality or morbidity from the diseases the vaccines are preventing. It is at this point that the anti-vaccine movement is able to be the most effective.
  4. resumption of confidence stage – after the loss of confidence in stage three leads to a drop in vaccine coverage and more outbreaks of a vaccine-preventable disease, not surprisingly, more people understand that vaccines are in fact necessary and they get vaccinated again. It is at this point that the anti-vaccine movement is the least effective, as we saw after outbreaks of pertussis in the UK in the 1970s and measles more recently. You also see it when there is a report of an outbreak of meningococcal disease on a college campus or a child dying of the flu on the local news, etc.
  5. eradication stage – until we get here, like we did when smallpox was eradicated, the anti-vaccine movement is able to cycle through stages two to four, with ups and downs in their popularity,

So the anti-vaccine movement is able to grow when they have the easiest time convincing you that the risks of vaccines (which are very small) are worse than the risks of the diseases they prevent (which are only small now, in most cases, because we vaccinate to keep these diseases away, but were life-threatening in the pre-vaccine era).

“As vaccine use increases and the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases is reduced, vaccine-related adverse events become more prominent in vaccination decisions. Even unfounded safety concerns can lead to decreased vaccine acceptance and resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, as occurred in the 1970s and 1980s as a public reaction to allegations that the whole-cell pertussis vaccine caused encephalopathy and brain damage. Recent outbreaks of measles, mumps, and pertussis in the United States are important reminders of how immunization delays and refusals can result in resurgences of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Paul Offit, MD on Vaccine Safety

Fortunately, most parents don’t buy into the propaganda of the anti-vaccine movement and don’t wait for an outbreak to get their kids vaccinated and protected. They understand that you can wait too long.

The bottom line – except for pockets of susceptibles and clusters of unvaccinated kids and adults, most people are vaccinated. If the anti-vaccine does grow, it eventually gets pulled back as more kids get sick.

What to Know about the Growing Anti-Vaccine Movement

Although they may have an easier time reaching more people on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and with Amazon, the overwhelming majority of parents vaccinate their kids and aren’t influenced by what some people think is a growing anti-vaccine movement.

More on the Growing Anti-Vaccine Movement

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Anti-Vaccine Heroes and Experts

Every movement has heroes and villains.

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Who are the heroes of the anti-vaccine movement?

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.”

J. B. Handley

In addition to Wakefield, there is:

  • Meryl Dorey – founder of the AVN, she has compared vaccinating a child to rape, has harassed the parents of a newborn who died of pertussis, and suggested the name “Shaken Maybe Syndrome” as a campaign slogan to help associate vaccines with shaken baby syndrome
  • Mayer Eisenstein, MD  – now deceased, he was the founder of Homefirst, a medical practice in Chicago which claimed to have no autistic kids among their unvaccinated patients. He also used Lupron to treat autism and filed bankruptcy several times to escape paying malpractice settlements.
  • Barbara Loe Fisher – wrote DPT: A Shot in the Dark, which influenced Bob Sears and she founded the NVIC
  • Mark and David Geier – this father and son pair are infamous for pushing a chemical castration treatment (Lupron) for autistic children, a treatment that led to Mark Geier losing his medical license (he’s a geneticist) in several states.
  • Suzanne Humphries, MD – a nephrologist who became a homeopath and now pushes anti-vaccine talking points, including that vaccines don’t work and that polio never really disappeared, instead we don’t see it anymore because we changed its name to acute flaccid paralysis
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr – continues to push the idea that thimerosal in vaccines is causing an autism epidemic
  • Jenny McCarthy – one of the most famous anti-vaccine celebrities who’s anti-vaccine/anti-autism rhetoric hurts autistic families
  • Neil Z. Miller – a psychologist who has written many anti-vax books, he also gives lectures at chiropractic associations.
  • Tetyana Obukhanych, MD – the Harvard trained immunologist who believes that Immunology has no theoretical or evidence-based explanation for immunity
  • Tim O’Shea, DC – a chiropractor, he speaks at anti-vax conferences and wrote an anti-vaccination book called The Sanctity of Human Blood: Vaccination is not Immunization. Dr. O’Shea does not believe that germs make us sick (germ theory denialism), thinks that vaccines cause peanut allergies, and he sells supplements and seminars.
  • Viera Scheibner – the micropaleontologist who thinks that getting a vaccine-preventable disease is good for kids, that vaccines are contaminated with amoebas, and that they cause SIDS and shaken baby syndrome
  • Yehuda Shoenfeld, MD – an immunologist who heads the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases and is on the scientific advisory board for the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute. He is the latest to blame adjuvants for causing disease – his Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants (ASIA), which describe as “basically a made-up syndrome that isn’t generally accepted.”
  • Robert Sears, MD, FAAP – a pediatrician who thought he could get more parents to vaccinate their kids by telling them that vaccines are dangerous, vaccine preventable diseases aren’t that big a deal, and it is okay to space out and skip some vaccines that are less important than others
  • Stephanie Seneff – the MIT doctor (she has a doctorate in electrical engineering) who thinks that half of kids will have autism in 8 years and that glyphosate causes everything from autism to school shootings and terrorist bombings
  • Sherri Tenpenny, DO – described as anti-vax “expert” whose advise is “chock full of vaccine pseudoscience.” Once board certified in emergency medicine, Dr. Tenpenny now sells DVDs and supplements on her website, speaks at chiropractic health events, and provides holistic medical care. In a rant about freedom of choice in vaccination, she talks about General Robert E. Lee feel, Southern war hero and postwar icon of the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy,” the extinction of humanity, and about slavery and eight veils that must be pierced if you want to see what is really going on in the world – that the Illuninati and other secret organizations control us and that they are being controlled by time traveling dragons, lizards, and aliens.
  • Lawrence Palevsky, MD – an holistic pediatrician, he was an “expert” for the anti-vaccination movie The Greater Good and he links to and quotes other notorious anti-vax “experts.” He even appears on the Gary Null Show – in addition to being anti-vax, Gary Null is among the alternative medicine folks who actually denies that HIV causes AIDS.
  • Lawrence D. Rosen, MD – an integrative pediatrician who has endorsed flexible immunization schedules and has given talks at anti-vax conferences.
  • Russell Blaylock, MD – a retired neurosurgeon who thinks that he is an expert on vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases among other things that are not related to neurosurgery. In addition to believing that vaccines are dangerous and don’t work, Dr. Blaylock also thinks that mercury in dental fillings and fluoride in water are dangerous, among many other conspiracy theories. And while decrying BigPharma and telling people to avoid vaccines, including flu shots, he sells his own “wellness report” and his own supplements to help you “repair your brain.” He even offers ‘natural strategies’ for cancer patients.
  • Joseph Mercola, DO – like Dr. Blaylock, Dr. Mercola is against fluoride in water, vaccines, mercury fillings, and he is even against giving newborns vitamin K shots. He also sends out a “health” newsletter to paying subscribers and sells supplements, many of which have caused the FDA to issue warnings based on Mercola making illegal claims on what they can do.
  • Christina England – the “high priestess of vaccinology,” Ms England seems to specialize in the vaccines causes shaken baby syndrome conspiracy theory.
  • Stephanie Cave, MD – board certified in Family Medicine, Dr. Cave now practices integrative medicine. She wrote one of the first anti-vaccination books I ever read (2001) and came up with her own alternative immunization schedule. She appeared as an “expert witness” in some of the cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings.
  • Kelly Brogan, MD – a holistic psychiatric who warns about stuff like “A veritable body-bomb, the MMR contains recombinant human albumin, fetal bovine serum, and chick embryo fibroblasts, and the potential for interspecies activation of unknown retroviruses, molecular mimicry, and reactivation of the virulence of the infectious virus itself – a completely unstudied and medically unacknowledged risk.”

These are the heroes and “experts” in the anti-vaccination community.

Whether you are on the fence, delaying a few vaccines, or skipping them all, it is often their conspiracy theories and ideas that you buy into when you believe that vaccines aren’t safe, aren’t necessary, or don’t work.

What To Know About Anti-Vaccine Heroes

The heroes and so called experts of the the anti-vaccine movement includes celebrities, some doctors and scientists who are practicing way out of their field of expertise when they talk about vaccines, and others whose work is not supported by the great majority of experts in their field.

More About Anti-Vaccine Heroes