They can prevent you from getting a life-threatening disease, sometimes even after you have been exposed. And if you do get sick when vaccinated, the vaccine can often help to make sure the disease isn’t as severe as it might have been if you were unvaccinated. They can also keep you from getting sick and exposing others, including those who are at extra risk for severe disease.
Vaccines also get blamed for doing a lot of other things, namely for causing vaccine injuries.
Strabismus isn’t a disease. It is simply a term that describes a misalignment of your child’s eyes.
“At birth, an infant’s eyes cannot always focus directly on objects. They may appear to move quite independently at first, sometimes crossing, and sometimes wandering outward. But by the age of three to four months, an infant’s eyes should have the ability to focus on small objects and the eyes should be straight or parallel. A six-month-old infant should be able to focus on both distant and near objects.”
Prevent Blindness America on Is Strabismus Present at Birth?
To be more specific, children with strabismus can have:
esotropia – the eye turns inward
exotropia – the eye turns outward
hyertropia – the eye turns upward
hypotropia – the eye turns downward
And we get especially concerned when strabismus leads to amblyopia – decreased vision in the affected eye.
Some specific things that cause strabismus include:
third nerve (III) palsy
fourth nerve (IV) palsy – superior oblique muscle
sixth nerve (VI) palsy – lateral rectus muscle
Often, we don’t know why kids have strabismus, although it is thought that at least 50% of them are born with it, even if it isn’t recognized until they are older.
“Most strabismus is the result of an abnormality of the neuromuscular (including brain) control of eye movement. Our understanding of these control centers in the brain remains incomplete. Less commonly, a problem with the actual eye muscle may cause strabismus.”
AAPOS on What causes strabismus?
Kids with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, and brain tumors are thought to be at higher risk for developing strabismus.
Do Vaccines Cause Strabismus?
And because we don’t always know what causes strabismus, that leads some folks to want to blame vaccines.
Interestingly, one study, Prevalence of Amblyopia and Strabismus in White and African-American Children Aged 6 through 71 Months: The Baltimore Pediatric Eye Disease Study, found that strabismus was rare in infants and that while higher in older kids, “there was no clear trend for increasing or decreasing prevalence after age 12 months.”
If strabismus was caused by vaccines, wouldn’t you expect to see more infants with strabismus and a consistent rise in cases as kids continued to get vaccines until they go to kindergarten?
Do any studies support the idea that vaccines do cause strabismus?
There are a few case reports, but it is important to remember that a case report is basically a gloried anecdote. It is not the kind of high quality evidence you really want if you are trying to make a case trying to prove causality.
The biggest evidence against vaccines causing strabismus?
Strabismus isn’t new.
The first cases were reported over 3500 years ago and the first surgical repairs were being done in the early 19th Century.
She even defends Andrew Wakefield and doesn’t believe that people died of measles once MMR vaccination rates went down after Wakefield’s study was published.
A Crazymother Visits Her Pediatrician to Talk About Vaccines
As someone who is mindful that language can promote stigmas and stereotypes, it is not a term that I chose.
It is the name of a parenting group.
Wait until you hear what this pediatrician has to say when a Crazymother informs her she will no longer be vaccinating!
“Ok, today is just a hepatitis vaccine.”
I have made the decision that I no longer want my kids to be vaccinated.
At all. So, I know that’s not what you want to hear.
“It isn’t. It scares me. It scares me a lot.”
I know. I hear that, but I also have to do what I feel is best.
“Is there a specific concern that you have?”
Oh, there is a lot of things.
“What are they?”
There’s a lot. I’m worried about a lot. I wasn’t planning on having this conversation today. I didn’t know he was getting a shot. I wasn’t prepared. I thought he coming in for a blood test today. There’s a lot of reached out and met a lot of other moms who just have a lot of really sad stories and I just kind of started doing my own research and I just don’t feel like it is best for my kids and … I’m very concerned for his health and him getting vaccinated with all of these problems that he already has isn’t going to benefit him right now so I may change my mind down the road.
That last paragraph says an awful lot about why some parents are choosing to delay or skip their children’s vaccines:
“So my job at every visit is to let you know what you are declining and what we’re trying to protect against. It’s also very important if you decide not to immunize to remember that he’s at risk for a lot of other things so if he gets a fever its going to mean something different to mean than a child who is fully immunized as a fever… so if you call us after hours and he has a fever, make sure you tell us, oh by the way, he isn’t immunized…”
How does it mean something different if a child is intentionally not vaccinated?
While a vaccine-preventable disease should be in the back of your mind for any kid if their symptoms fit the disease, since vaccines aren’t 100% effective, they move higher up your list of possibilities if you know the child is unvaccinated and unprotected.
“I also just want to tell you that there’s a very big difference between anecdotal evidence and population based evidence, so just because someone has a sad story doesn’t mean that what happened to them is truly related to the vaccine.”
Crazymothers – OMG, I can’t even with this… She said that children didn’t get the MMR and many died. That’s not true. If you look at the cases of measles after 1998 when the Lancet study was published the measles cases actually went down. Nobody died. Nobody has died in America for years and years from the measles. It is completely silly.
Measles cases went down?
“Between 2001 and 2013 there was a sharp rise in the number of UK measles cases, and three people died.”
Current measles risks in the UK and Europe
As most folks now, before Wakefield was stripped of his medical license, he practiced in the United Kingdom, and not surprisingly, that’s where we saw a big effect on MMR rates. They went down and measles cases went up.
But even as measles cases and deaths have gone down globally, measles outbreaks and measles deaths have been much worse in the rest of Europe.
Even in the United States, cases have gone way up since we hit a record low of 37 cases in 2004 and there have been deaths, with the last in 2015.
“Again, this was very contentious and you would not get consensus from all members of the group on this, but that is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.”
It is amazing how many times you hear the phrase “that’s not true” in this video about things that are so easy to confirm as facts.
“Continue to give it some thought because to me vaccines are modern miracles and it scares me to death to have people not getting vaccinated… He’ll probably be okay, but that’s because I’ve vaccinated my kids the other day, so we’re protecting your kid… The more people who stop doing it, forget about it, it’s going to go back to the old days where people are dying all of the time.”
Crazymothers – There’s that herd immunity myth. She says that your kid is going to be okay because I’m doing the right thing. I’m vaccinating my child. And anybody who studies this knows that’s not true! Herd immunity is a myth. Go outside and talk to a 30-year-old, 40-year-old, 50-year-old, who hasn’t been recently vaccinated and you can clearly see, plain as day…
As far as I know, we have indoor plumbing, we have sewage systems, we have clean water, and we have access to whole foods, we have ways to supplement with vitamins and minerals, we have all of these amazing things and that is what actually brings disease rates down.
Proper sanitation, sewage systems, all of the modern things that we take for granted – that is what is actually bringing the disease down, because clearly, in under-developed countries, we still see the diseases rampant, right?
But herd immunity is disease specific, so when we talk about herd immunity for measles, it doesn’t matter if someone has immunity against hepatitis A or Hib. Also, some vaccines, like Hib and Prevnar, have indirect effects, protecting adults even though they aren’t vaccinated, because vaccinated kids are less likely to become infectious.
There is only clearly one modern thing that that anti-vaccine folks take for granted – vaccines.
My uncle got polio around 1950, in Brooklyn, just before the first polio vaccine was developed.
You know what?
They had indoor plumbing, sewage systems, clean water, whole foods, vitamins and minerals, and medicine – he was hospitalized for six months – yet many people still died of polio.
At that time, during the pre-vaccine era, many people also died of measles, tetanus, pertussis, chicken pox, and many other diseases that are now prevented with vaccines.
And unfortunately, many under-developed countries still don’t have proper sanitation, sewage systems, or good nutrition, but do you know what they also don’t have?
We are very close to eradicating polio all over the world. Only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan still have cases of wild polio today. And so far this year, there have only been 11 cases. Did every other country in the world suddenly get proper sanitation, sewage systems, and good nutrition? Is that why we are so close to eradicating polio?
Of course not. It’s the polio vaccine.
Vaccines work. Vaccines are safe and necessary. They have few risks and many benefits. You won’t learn any of that from the Crazymothers group and that’s likely why you have made the decision that you no longer want your kids to be vaccinated.
What to Know About Crazymothers Propaganda
Don’t let Crazymothers propaganda scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.
For any study, you have to review and judge the quality of the evidence it provides.
Is it a case report (a glorified anecdote), case series, or animal study (lowest quality evidence)?
Or a systemic review or meta-analyses (highest quality evidence)?
“The first and earliest principle of evidence-based medicine indicated that a hierarchy of evidence exists. Not all evidence is the same. This principle became well known in the early 1990s as practising physicians learnt basic clinical epidemiology skills and started to appraise and apply evidence to their practice. Since evidence was described as a hierarchy, a compelling rationale for a pyramid was made.”
Murad et al. on the New Evidence Pyramid
What about case control studies, cohort studies, and randomized controlled trials?
They lie somewhere in between on the hierarchy of evidence scale or pyramid.
And there are other factors to consider when judging the reliability of a study.
“Ultimately, the interpretation of the medical literature requires not only the understanding of the strengths and limitations of different study designs but also an appreciation for the circumstances in which the traditional hierarchy does not apply and integration of complementary information derived from various study designs is needed.”
Ho et al. on Evaluating the Evidence
For example, you might also have to take into account the sample size of the study.
A study can be underpowered if it doesn’t have enough subjects. Unfortunately, even an underpowered study will give you results. They likely won’t be statistically significant results, but folks don’t always realize that.
Even a meta-analysis, usually considered to be at the top of the hierarchy of evidence pyramid, can have problems that make their results less useful, such as not using appropriate inclusion criteria when selecting studies and leaving out important studies.
All in all, there are many factors to look at when reading a medical paper and considering if the results are valid and should influence what you do and how you think. This is especially true when looking at low quality vaccine papers, many of which the anti-vaccine movement uses to scare people, even though they are often poorly designed, and several of which have been retracted.
What to Know About the Hierarchy of Evidence
Learning about the hierarchy of evidence can help you better evaluate medical studies and vaccine papers and understand that there is more to doing your research about vaccines than searching PubMed and reading abstracts.
“…it is important to recognise that the balance of media reporting does not necessarily reflect the balance of the argument among the involved professionals – by this is meant that equal weighting might be given by the media (and thus the lay community) to those for and against the vaccine although opponents of vaccination might be a very small number, as for example happened with both pertussis and MMR.”
David Baxter on Opposition to Vaccination and Immunisation the UK Experience – from Smallpox to MMR
understand the hierarchy of evidence and that a small study done in mice or a case report is probably not newsworthy, whereas a systemic review or meta analyses, especially if it was published in a high impact journal, is something we might need to hear about
Are you ready to cover your next story about vaccines or the next measles outbreak?
What to Know About Reporting on Vaccines
The way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.
Dr. Taz is on a mission “to transform the way we do medicine and empower and equip you with the best tools so you can live your healthiest life.”
While that sounds very nice, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that she seems like every other anti-vaccine quack we run across these days.
Who Is Dr. Taz?
Dr. Tasneem Bhatia MD (Dr. Taz) describes herself as a nationally recognized “wellness expert” who became a “pioneer and trailblazer” after overcoming her own personal health problems.
With multiple office locations and membership packages, Dr. Taz is pleased to offer many non-evidenced based services for you and your child, and she will even file your claim forms from your insurance company, although, as expected, she doesn’t actually participate in any insurance plans.
What about vaccines?
“My journey in medicine began with pediatrics, so I am well aware of the importance of vaccines and the incredible history and success of vaccination programs in reducing infant and child mortality.
Yet as my journey continues, I have had to listen to patient after patient describe a change or a shifting in their children once vaccines were administered. I experienced this as a parent. I will never forget the day that my son received a combination vaccine. Within 24 hrs., his mild reflux became severe, his weight gain over the next few months slowed and we continue to play catch up, trying to analyze our next steps. My son, however, is not autistic. He is brilliant, hilarious, and an absolute charmer.
My patients and my own children have forced me to rethink this vaccine controversy.”
Dr. Taz on Back to School Survival Series Part Two, The Vaccine Debate Continues
And parents can get a detox screen “which will directly correlate with your child’s early ability to detox and process chemicals.” That’s probably just MTHFR testing, which you don’t need and which doesn’t correlate with much of anything, besides homocystinuria.
Now, I understand that these types of holistic docs push the idea of “pulling from conventional, integrative, holistic, functional and Chinese medicine to create the best customized treatment plans possible,” but if any of these alternative therapies worked, whether it was acupuncture or Ayurveda, or homeopathy, then why do they need to integrate them all?
So what services does Dr. Bhatia offer to bring her patients to “whole health”? It’s a veritable cornucopia of quackery. Homeopathy? Check. Acupuncture? Check. (Obviously.) IV vitamin therapy? Check. Oh, and of course Dr. Bhatia offers thermograms. She even offers mobile thermograms. Never mind that thermography remains an unvalidated test for the early detection of breast cancer, much less for all the other conditions for which Dr. Bhatia recommends it, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, back injuries, digestive disorders, “and more…”
A commercial for acupuncture masquerading as news
And how does someone go from teaching medical students and residents at Emory University to being one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop experts, along with Kelly Brogan?
Multiple Sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, with symptoms typically starting when you are between 20 to 40 years old.
“MS symptoms are variable and unpredictable. No two people have exactly the same symptoms, and each person’s symptoms can change or fluctuate over time. One person might experience only one or two of the possible symptoms while another person experiences many more.”
National Multiple Sclerosis Society on MS Symptoms
From fatigue, weakness, and problems walking to vision problems, including the onset of blurred vision, MS can have many different symptoms.
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
Some people may be surprised that doctors have known about Multiple Sclerosis since the 1870s. They recognized people with the symptoms of MS even earlier.
Unfortunately, we still don’t know what causes it.
Can Vaccines Cause Multiple Sclerosis?
Without a known cause, it is easy to understand why some folks blame vaccines.
We see the same thing with many other conditions.
Remember though, just because you don’t know what causes something doesn’t mean that you can’t eliminate things that don’t cause it.
“Concern about hepatitis B vaccination arose from France in the mid 1990s. Following a mass hepatitis B vaccination program in France there were reports of MS developing in some patients a few weeks after receiving the vaccine. In 1998, the French government stopped the school-based hepatitis B component of the vaccination program while they investigated a possible relationship between hepatitis B vaccine and demyelinating disease. When studies of the French vaccine recipients were completed they showed that there was not a significant increase in the number of vaccinated people who developed MS as compared with those who had never received hepatitis B vaccine.”
Hepatitis B and multiple sclerosis FactSheet
And more than a few studies have shown that vaccines do not cause Multiple Sclerosis.
It has also been shown that vaccines don’t increase the risk of relapses for people who already have MS.
“…vaccines are able to prevent some infections in MS patients known to accelerate the progression of the disease and increase the risk of relapses.”
Mailand et al on Vaccines and multiple sclerosis: a systemic review
And yes, since new infections may trigger MS relapses, vaccines have an added benefit for MS patients.
And that’s why it is recommended that patients with MS follow the standard Centers for Disease Control immunization schedule. They may need to avoid getting live vaccines while taking specific MS medications though, as some of these can suppress their immune system.
“In the last few years a number of MS-focused vaccines have shown promising results in early phase clinical trials, and with each success the technology is closer than ever to offering a viable treatment option.”
Dr. Karen Lee on MS vaccines: Thinking outside the box for new treatments
While everyone hopefully now understands that any talk about MS being associated with vaccines is just another myth or scare tactic of the anti-vaccine movement, vaccines may one day really be associated with MS – therapeutic vaccines are in development that can treat people with Multiple Sclerosis!
What to Know About Vaccines and Multiple Sclerosis
Although it is still not known what does cause Multiple Sclerosis, we do know that it is not vaccines, which may actually reduce the risk of relapses for folks who already have MS.
“In POTS, the lightheadedness or fainting is also accompanied by a rapid increase in heartbeat of more than 30 beats per minute, or a heart rate that exceeds 120 beats per minute, within 10 minutes of rising.”
NIH Postural Tachycardia Syndrome Information Page
POTS or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome was first identified in the early 1990s and can cause many debilitating symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches, and fatigue.
“The term “POTS” was coined in 1993 by a team of researchers from Mayo Clinic, led by neurologist Dr. Philip Low. However, POTS is not a new illness; it has been known by other names throughout history, such as DaCosta’s Syndrome, Soldier’s Heart, Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome, Neurocirculatory Asthenia, Chronic Orthostatic Intolerance, Orthostatic Tachycardia and Postural Tachycardia Syndrome.”
Dysautonomia International on POTS
Well, we know that POTS is caused by a malfunction of the patient’s autonomic nervous system (dysautonomia), but we don’t know always know what causes or triggers that malfunction.
Sometimes we do though, as POTS has been associated with other types of dysautonomia, like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Mast Cell Disorders.
And genetics may play a role in some people with POTS.
“Anyone at any age can develop POTS, but the majority of individuals affected (between 75 and 80 percent) are women between the ages of 15 to 50 years of age.”
NIH Postural Tachycardia Syndrome Information Page
As more people were becoming aware of POTS, some of them were getting vaccinated for HPV.
But that correlation certainly doesn’t mean that vaccines cause POTS.
“POTS is a condition that causes lightheadedness or fainting and a rapid increase in heartbeat upon standing. The cause is unknown, but doctors think POTS may be associated with a number of risk factors and syndromes, including: a recent viral illness, physical deconditioning, chronic fatigue syndrome and nervous system problems.”
In 2015, the European Medical Association confirmed evidence that HPV vaccines do not cause complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
A review of VAERS reports that “did not detect any unusual or unexpected reporting patterns that would suggest a safety problem” with HPV vaccination, including extra cases of POTS
A study in the UK using the MHRA’s Yellow Card passive surveillance scheme found no increase in reports of chronic fatigue syndromes following the introduction of Cervarix
A large, nationwide register-based study from Norway found no indication of increased risk of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis following HPV vaccination
A large cohort study of over 2 million young girls in France found no risk for autoimmune diseases (including neurological, rheumatological, hematological, endocrine, and gastro-intestinal disorders)
A large cohort study of girls in Sweden with pre-existing autoimmune diseases found that HPV vaccination was not associated with increased incidence of new-onset autoimmune disease (49 types of autoimmune diseases)
“There is currently no conclusive evidence to support a causal relationship between the HPV vaccine and POTS. It is of utmost importance to recognize that although temporal associations may be observed, conclusions of causality cannot be drawn from case reports and case series due to the small sample size and lack of control population inherent to this type of scientific literature. If POTS does develop after receiving the HPV vaccine, it would appear to do so in a small subset of individuals and would be difficult to distinguish from the normal prevalence and incidence of the disorder.”
Butts et al on Human Papillomavirus Vaccine and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome: A Review of Current Literature
What about other vaccines? Could they cause POTS?
While the focus has been on the HPV vaccines, an issue with other vaccines causing POTS would have been picked up with our current vaccine safety systems.
But why has the focus been on the HPV vaccines?
It is an easy association to notice, after all POTS begins to occur right around when the HPV vaccines are given (teen years) and the HPV vaccines are given in many different countries. Most other vaccines that we give to teens in the United States, including Tdap and the meningococcal vaccines, aren’t as widely used in other countries.
But remember, POTS isn’t a new diagnosis. That anti-vaccine groups are latching onto it to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids is.
What to Know About Vaccines and POTS
There is no evidence that vaccines, especially the HPV vaccines, cause POTS.