Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

One extra consequence of the rise in cases of vaccine-preventable diseases we have been seeing lately, in addition to the fact that more kids are getting sick, is that we are seeing more kids being quarantined and kept out of school.

“The parents of 42 children affected by the ban at the school, the Green Meadow Waldorf School, sued the Rockland County health department, asking a federal judge to issue an injunction to allow the children to return.”

Parents Wanted Their Unvaccinated Children in School, but a Judge Said No.

And in a few cases, we are seeing lawsuits trying to get some of these kids, mostly intentionally unvaccinated kids, back into school.

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

While most outbreaks are related to measles, in Kentucky, a large outbreak of chickenpox at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton has led to the quarantine of a number of unvaccinated students.

A chickenpox quarantine sign

One student, a senior and the starting center on the school basketball team, is suing to get him back in school.

“The Kunkels filed their lawsuit Thursday in the Boone County Circuit Court alleging that the Northern Kentucky Health Department had violated Jerome’s First Amendment rights. Accepting the chickenpox vaccine would be “immoral, illegal and sinful,” they said, according to their Catholic beliefs. The lawsuit also alleges that the health department violated due process when officials enacted the extracurricular and school attendance bans without declaring an official emergency, which would have triggered the involvement of the state legislature.”

God, country and chickenpox: How an outbreak entangled one school in a vaccine showdown

So they are actually suing the health department, not his school, to get him back into school…

Wait a minute though?

Is the Catholic Church against vaccines?

“Since there is no Catholic teaching that the use of these vaccines is sinful, schools cannot allow Catholic parents to claim a religious exemption from the requirement of immunization.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center on Vaccines and Exemptions Granted by Schools

Are they against the chickenpox vaccine?

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center

No, they aren’t, which is why most Catholics vaccinate and protect their kids.

“In the event that the county health department or state health department declares an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease for which proof of immunity for a child cannot be provided, he or she may not be allowed to attend childcare or school for up to three (3) weeks, or until the risk period ends.”

Kentucky Parent or Guardian Declination on Religious Grounds to Required Immunizaitons

A judge will have to decide the merits of the case, but from a moral standpoint, it seems like they are on shaky ground.

More on Quarantines for Intentionally Unvaccinated Kids

False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

As more folks are calling out vocal vaccine deniers, many are also learning the role of the media in helping fuel the anti-vaccine movement.

“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

Believe it or not, there likely would not have been a big scare over the DPT vaccine in the 1970s and 80s or concerns about the MMR vaccine if the media hadn’t given so much attention to the anti-vaccine players involved.

False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

Folks in the media have learned their lesson though, right?

“Balance? There is no balance. There is mainstream, superstrong consensus about the value of vaccination, and on the other side … nothing else, since there is no other side. The media have made parents worry about vaccines in a lame effort to provide balance and all points of view.”

Arthur Caplan on There is no other side to the vaccine debate

Well, apparently not all of them…

If you are quoting anti-vaccine activists, then you are doing something wrong...
If you are quoting anti-vaccine activists, then you are doing something wrong…

Why would the Chicago Tribune devote nearly 20% of an article to a parent who is against vaccines, especially without correcting her misinformation?

Why haven’t they learned that spreading this kind of misinformation is what scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids in the first place?

Are vaccinations about parent choice or public safety? That’s the title of the Chicago Tribune article. And maybe that’s why Illinois is among top 5 states for measles as debate heats up, the rest of the title…

How about we give parents a chance to make informed choices without being influenced by propaganda and misinformation?

More on False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Need some advice about preparing for a public debate about vaccines?

That’s easy.

“If you are invited for a public discussion you must first decide whether or not to accept the invitation.”

How to respond to vocal vaccine deniers in public

Don’t do it.

Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Wait, why wouldn’t you want to have a debate about vaccines?

Remember, a good debate implies that there are two valid sides to the issue. Or at least that one side has some arguments that aren’t based on myths and misinformation.

What are you debating?

That vaccines are safe, with few risks, and that they are necessary.

What’s there to debate?

Don’t allow false balance to create a fake debate.

Think about it.

Should Robert F. Kennedy, Jr be given an opportunity to tell folks his opinions about the “perceived dangers” of vaccines, when those perceived dangers include that vaccines are associated with autism, have been untested on pregnant women, are sold by the CDC, and a lot of other conspiracy type stuff?

“They get the shot. That night they have a fever of 103. They go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr

Remember, Kennedy is the guy who published the retracted Deadly Immunity article. And he continues to focus on the dangers of mercury in vaccines, even though only a very small minority of flu shots still contain thimerosal and studies have shown that the thimerosal that kids have been exposed to in vaccines is not a danger.

He’s an environmental lawyer who continues to focus on vaccines in the age of climate change and as EPA regulations are being rolled back.

Neither Kennedy nor anyone else in the anti-vaccine movement should be given a stage to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

The debate was canceled because of negative attention.

Update – Fortunately, they weren’t. The “debate” was canceled.

More on Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Mistaking Subsequence for Consequence

Most parents understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary, but some are still scared to get their kids vaccinated and protected.

Some even get anxious at the idea of going to their next visit to their pediatrician, because it might mean their baby is going to get shots.

Why?

They have likely heard some of those vaccine injury stories and got to thinking – how could all of those parents be wrong?

Mistaking Subsequence for Consequence

It’s easy to make a hasty judgement about something.

We jump to conclusions and try to link things together when they occur at about the same time as each other.

It is incident to physicians, I am afraid, beyond all other men, to mistake subsequence for consequence.

That’s because we often mistake subsequence (the state of following something) for consequence (a result of an action).

For example, developing multiple sclerosis (the consequence) six weeks after (subsequent) getting a vaccine, doesn’t mean that the vaccine caused you to develop multiple sclerosis.

Although the source of the quote on subsequence and consequence is Dr. Samuel Johnson, an 18th century writer, it got new life when Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith used it in a DTP vaccine trial verdict.

“Where given effects, such as serious neurological disease or permanent brain damage, occur with or without pertussis vaccination, it is only possible to assess whether the vaccine is a cause, or more precisely a risk factor, when the background incidence of the disease is taken into account. The question therefore is, does the effect occur more often after pertussis vaccination than could be expected by chance?”

Sir Jeremy Stuart-Smith

What about chance and coincidences?

Instead of thinking that things could simply be the result of chance or a coincidence, we typically want more of an explanation when something happens, and sometimes, we simply want someone or something to blame.

“Establishing or disproving cause and effect, particularly for events of major consequence, proved difficult. Although the original allegations of causation were largely anecdotal and based on the fallacious assumption that subsequences and consequences were synonymous, they raised great concern and stimulated the search for an improved vaccine.”

Vaccines (Seventh Edition)

That leads us to fallacious thinking – post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore, because of this).

It shouldn’t though.

“Most of you will have heard the maxim “correlation does not imply causation.” Just because two variables have a statistical relationship with each other does not mean that one is responsible for the other. For instance, ice cream sales and forest fires are correlated because both occur more often in the summer heat. But there is no causation; you don’t light a patch of the Montana brush on fire when you buy a pint of Haagan-Dazs.”

Nate Silver

Remember, “correlation does not imply causation.”

Because polio outbreaks often came in summer months, some folks thought the virus must be spread at swimming pools, so they were often closed. It didn't help... Correlation did not equal causation.
Because polio outbreaks often came in summer months, some folks thought the virus must be spread at swimming pools, so they were often closed. It didn’t help… Correlation did not equal causation.

That maxim becomes easier to understand when you see all of the things that correlate together, like ice cream sales and forest fires, but once you think about them, there is no way that one could cause the other.

  • the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and deaths caused by lightning
  • the divorce rate in Maine and the per capita consumption of margarine
  • autism rates and organic food sales
  • autism rates and Jenny McCarthy‘s popularity?!?

Correlation does not imply causation.

“It is incident to physicians, I am afraid, beyond all other men, to mistake subsequence for consequence.”

Dr Samuel Johnson

Fortunately, it is not as “incident to” (likely to happen to) physicians these days to “mistake subsequence for consequence.”

There are certainly some vaccine friendly pediatricians who pander to the fears of parents and push so-called alternative, non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules, who seem to believe in anecdotal evidence above all else, but most doctors understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.

They also know that because correlation can sometimes equal causation, we don’t ignore possible vaccine injuries. And that’s why we have strong vaccine safety systems that can detect and warn us of true vaccine risks.

More on Mistaking Subsequence for Consequence

About Those Lawsuits That Almost Put Vaccine Manufacturers out of Business

So you likely know that there were a bunch of lawsuits against manufacturers of the DPT vaccine in the early and mid 1980s.

“As the number of lawsuits grew to hundreds during the early 1980s, the pharmaceutical companies making vaccines saw their liability insurance bills soar. Worried not only about multimillion-dollar settlements, but also even the legal costs of defending themselves successfully, several companies simply stopped making vaccine.”

How a Media Scare On Vaccine Started a ‘near-Epidemic’

That’s why the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act passed in 1986, creating the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and the Vaccine Court.

About Those Lawsuits That Almost Put Vaccine Manufacturers out of Business

But did those DPT vaccine lawsuits prove that vaccines aren’t safe?

Is that why vaccine manufacturers needed help to limit their liability?

“The total amount claimed in 1984 DTP vaccine suits ($1.3 billion) is more than 20 times the total value of 1984 sales of DTP vaccine at the market price of $2.80 per dose.”

Hinman on DTP Vaccine Litigation

Of course not!

While the older DPT vaccine did cause more local reactions, pain, and fever than the newer DTaP vaccine that replaced it, all of the serious reactions that triggered the lawsuits were later found to not be caused by the vaccine.

Most of the DPT lawsuits were thought to be frivolous.

That’s not surprising, as the same vaccine lawsuits that were succeeding in driving vaccine manufacturers out of business in the United States were failing in the UK and Canada!

This included the Loveday judgment in Great Britain’s High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division and the Rothwell judgment in the Supreme Court of Ontario, Canada, both decided in 1988, with justices ruling that there was “insufficient evidence to demonstrate that pertussis vaccine can cause permanent brain damage in children.”

Similar cases were succeeding in the US though..

“The number (and dollar value) of suits increased in 1982, a year when broadcast and print media began to devote considerable attention to the alleged hazards associated with the use of pertussis-containing vaccines. Most of the media coverage has emphasized alleged risks of pertussis vaccines and has given relatively little attention to the benefits of their use.”

Hinman on DTP Vaccine Litigation

Most experts knew that most of the lawsuits were frivolous, but they weren’t able to stop the damage that was to come, as:

  • the DPT: Vaccine Roulette special aired on TV
  • Barbara Loe Fisher, believing that her child was damaged by the DPT vaccine, formed the Dissatisfied Parents Together organization and wrote the book DPT: A Shot in the Dark, which later influenced Bob Sears
  • there were temporary shortages of DTP vaccine in 1984, as “two of the three American manufacturers of the product decided to halt or restrict its sales.”

What else happened? I mean besides all of the studies proving the DPT vaccine was safe?

Parents who had been scared by the DPT controversy were ready and primed when Andy Wakefield showed up and told them that they had something new to worry about – the MMR vaccine and autism.

And of course, pertussis is now returning, as more parents are scared to vaccinate their kids and the newer DTaP vaccine isn’t as effective as DPT.

More on Those Lawsuits That Almost Put Vaccine Manufacturers out of Business

Did Bob Sears admit that he doesn’t “waste my breath” talking about the benefits of vaccines?

Have you noticed the bias in the anti-vaccine movement?

His advocacy against vaccines??? And what about his "educational" writings?!?
His advocacy against vaccines??? And what about his “educational” writings?!?

It’s hard to miss…

The Bias in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Yes, that’s it.

You really only get one side from anti-vaccine folks.

But that’s not all.

In addition to never mentioning the benefits of vaccines, they make you think that:

  • you don’t have to worry about getting measles, chicken pox, and rubella, etc., anymore, because these diseases are rare, forgetting to mention that they are still relatively rare in many countries because most people are vaccinated and protected! When more folks skip or delay their vaccines, as they forget what these diseases are like and they listen to anti-vaccine propaganda, we get outbreaks, especially when they aren’t vaccinated and they travel to places where the diseases are more common!
  • everyone else overlooks the risks, when in fact, the risks of getting vaccinated and protected are just small and all of the so-called vaccine-induced diseases and other things anti-vaccine folks blame on vaccines aren’t real vaccine injuries
  • you don’t have to worry about getting measles, pertussis, or pneumococcal disease, etc., because those diseases are all mild, neglecting to mention that some people do have complications and some die when they catch them
  • if you don’t choose to vaccinate your kids on your own, someone is going to force you to get them vaccinated, overlooking that vaccine mandates don’t actually force anyone to vaccinate their kids – they are just about whether or not intentionally unvaccinated kids should be able to attend school
  • your choice to skip or delay your child’s vaccines won’t affect anyone else, failing to mention that most outbreaks are started by someone who is intentionally not vaccinated
  • if there is a risk, there must be a choice, but with their slogan, they overstate the risks of vaccines, never mention the risks of having the disease, and don’t mention the risk of your child getting other people sick, taking away their choice to keep their kids safe and healthy
  • you can always get vaccinated, but you can never get unvaccinated, neglecting to mention that you can indeed wait too long to vaccinate your kids

The biggest bias though, is not that these folks are against vaccines, but rather that everything they do and say scares parents and makes them feel that they should skip or delay their child’s vaccines, leaving them unprotected and at risk.

Stop listening to them and stop spreading their anti-vaccine propaganda.

More on the Bias in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Are Vaccine Laws a Form of State Sponsored Segregation?

Bob Sears doesn’t seem to like that more states are having to strengthen their vaccine laws, making it harder for kids to skip or delay their vaccines.

That seems rather ironic, as many parents likely were scared away from vaccinating and protecting their kids because of the misinformation folks like him continue to push.

Are Vaccine Laws a Form of State Sponsored Segregation?

What the latest?

The idea that vaccine laws are a form of state sponsored segregation…

“If you don’t see the historical parallels, and if it doesn’t concern you that State and now Federal Legislators think that discrimination and segregation are OK again, and you don’t realize that this is all a carefully-crafted PR campaign to sell the idea that some children are dirty and dangerous, when decades ago all kids were considered equal, then you are blind.”

Bob Sears

Bob Sears isn’t the first to try and conflate skipping vaccines into a civil rights issue, but he is certainly the one being the most obvious about it…

Now when were all kids really considered equal in the United States?

Was it the late 1980s, when Bob thinks everyone had it so great?

Remember, that was just before the big measles outbreaks from 1989 to 1991, when 123 people died. During those three years, there were also 28 deaths from pertussis, 6 deaths from mumps, 13 deaths from rubella and 77 cases of congenital rubella syndrome!

Life was good?

I was a little older than 10 in 1988 and remember that folks still died of all of these diseases, so added that to this nice infographic so you get the real perspective.

Is this the worst thing Bob has ever posted?

Well, there is that time he talked about unvaccinated kids wearing yellow stars

“…So I tell them they don’t have to whisper. They can say it loud and clear, with confidence. Ya, I guess you don’t want to advertise it around the neighborhood – that will come soon enough. Scarlet “V” anyone? No, not scarlet. Let’s make it yellow. And not a V – a star would be better. That way everyone can know at first glance who is safe to be around and who is not. That way, if your old doctor and his children are walking down the street, they can easily identify your kids and quickly cross to the other side before they get too close.

Ask your Assemblyperson which color and shape they think would be most appropriate.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended as a reference to a holocaust. Rather, it’s intended to raise the issue of prejudice and discrimination. Others have likenend vaccine injury to a holocaust. Instead, we are talking about families who choose to not vaccinate. No holocaust here.”

Dr. Bob Sears on The Vaccine Whisperers

So which historical parallel is Bob talking about this time?

Equating real problems of discrimination and segregation to the issue of parents wanting to keep their kids unvaccinated and unprotected is not only silly, but it is also offensive.

And for perspective, in 1988, not only did more people get vaccine-preventable diseases, more people died with vaccine-preventable diseases.

Did we freak out about it? Of course not. We worked towards an immunization plan to control and eliminate more of these diseases.

How can Bob Sears be blind to all of this?

More on Vaccine Laws and State Sponsored Segregation