Tag: anecdotes

Six Degrees of Anti-Vaccine Separation

You know about the Kevin Bacon thing, right?

Six degrees of separation? The idea that most people are connected by six or fewer degrees of separation.

Six Degrees of Anti-Vaccine Separation

Not surprisingly, you don’t have to beyond a few degrees to see the connection between many anti-vaccine folks.

“Parents from around Southern California choose Gordon for his outspoken and controversial stance on vaccinations, driving from as far away as Santa Barbara and Long Beach.

They know he will lend a sympathetic ear to their concerns about the possible adverse side effects of childhood vaccinations — even though several large scientific studies have failed to find a connection.

His openness to alternative approaches has earned him an avid following. With thousands of patients, his practice is so busy that he no longer accepts new patients.”

Los Angeles Times on Doctor Contrarian

Especially the vocal anti-vaccine folks.

Few folks likely remember, but in 2000, just after Andrew Wakefield released his now retracted study, Dr. Jay Gordon and Cindy Crawford appeared on Good Morning America to discuss vaccines and how she had decided to delay vaccinating her baby.

After the segment, Dr. Gordon stated:

They edited the segment to make me sound like a vaccination proponent. We also have to understand the impact of a person as well-known as Cindy Crawford delaying vaccines for over six months.

March 1997 article in the LA Times describing how media savvy “skeptics” were attacking vaccines.

So while a lot of folks like to give credit to Bob Sears and Jenny McCarthy for starting the modern anti-vaccine movement, Dr. Jay and Cindy Crawford were on the scene far earlier.

Dr. Jay had even been featured in the LA Times before Wakefield published his paper!

Speaking of Jenny McCarthy, it is interesting to note that Jay Gordon was her pediatrician!

“Right before his MMR shot, I said to the doctor, I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it? And he said, “No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something on autism.” And he swore at me. . . . And not soon thereafter, I noticed that change in the pictures: Boom! Soul, gone from his eyes.”

Jenny McCarthy

Well, Dr. Jay is almost certainly not the pediatrician that swore at her after giving her child an MMR vaccine.

“Yes, there have been cases of Disney spread from Measlesland. I will give MMRs to kids 3 yrs+ if parents are worried.”

Jay Gordon

But it’s not hard to guess where she got some of her ideas about vaccines.

“Would any scientist give SIX vaccines at once to a baby? Asking for trouble. One at a time makes so much more sense.”

Jay Gordon

It probably makes even more sense if it is your pediatrician saying it…

“My name is Brittney Kara and my husband and I are parents who have chosen not to continue vaccinating our children. After thoroughly investigating and carefully weighing the risks and benefits of each vaccine, we have concluded that the current vaccines are not safe for our children and that they are not required for the optimum health of our children.”

Brittney Kara

Especially when you have a pediatrician who has said “I think that the public health benefits to vaccinating are grossly overstated” and who recommends that parents “Wait until a child is clearly developmentally “solid” before vaccinating because we just don’t know which children will react badly to immunizations.”

Is that where Brittney “Why Aren’t Vaccines Mentioned in the Bible?” Kara got her ideas about vaccines?

“I began researching vaccines in 2007 when I was pregnant with our first child. Dr. Jay Gordon was my pediatrician growing up and since I have always held him in a high regard he was the first person I turned to. He was very cautious about the current CDC schedule and his research inspired me to start my own. I began following the work of Dr. Russell Blaylock, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, and Dr. Suzanne Humphries, among others.”

Brittney Kara

What about Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik?

How many celebrities got their ideas about vaccines from Jay Gordon?

Suspicions about the DPT were not confirmed. In fact, it was found that the DPT vaccine did not cause any of the neurological problems that folks claimed, something that seemed to trigger the anti-vaccine feelings in some pediatricians.

How many other people have been influenced by the anti-vaccine celebrities that Jay Gordon has inspired?

More on Six Degrees of Anti-Vaccine Separation

Do Vaccines Cause Strabismus?

Vaccines can do a lot of things.

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.

These types of vaccine injury stories often scare other parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.
These types of vaccine injury stories often scare other parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

While, of course, vaccines aren’t risk free, they don’t actually cause most of the bad things you read about on the Internet.

What Causes Strabismus?

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
  • Brown syndrome
  • Duane syndrome

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?

No.

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.

So why do some folks think that strabismus is a vaccine injury? Mostly it is because some folks think that everything is a vaccine injury.

More on Strabismus


A Crazymother Visits Her Pediatrician to Talk About Vaccines

There is a new Crazymothers video floating around and it is everything that’s wrong with the modern anti-vaccine movement.

What is so shocking about a pediatrician educating a mother about the importance of vaccinating and protecting her child?
What is so shocking about a pediatrician talking to a mother about the importance of vaccinating and protecting her child?

On the fence parents are being told ‘this this and this’ by their pediatricians and then going to someone who has found Internet fame making Crazymothers videos to find out if they are true.

As you might expect, her videos include:

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

Crazymothers?

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?”

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:

Mostly they are scared. Hopefully this mom does some more research, gets more answers to her questions, and does change her mind soon.

Crazymothers Propaganda

The video, most which I have transcribed, also illustrates why it is important to be prepared when you talk to your pediatrician about vaccines.  After all, you can’t get your questions about vaccines answered if you don’t ask any questions.

“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?

It is actually very simple.

They are at increased risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

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.”

yeah

“And also keep in mind that in terms of autism, the study that was done in England years ago that supposedly linked autism to the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine was tainted. It was funded by anti-vaccine lawyers, was retracted by every single person that offered that study and because of that study, children didn’t get the MMR and many died.”

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.

Nobody died?

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.

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

But 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.”

Andrew Wakefield

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?

Herd immunity myth?

The idea that herd immunity is a myth because adults aren’t vaccinated is silly.

Adults were either born in the pre-vaccine era and likely have natural immunity or were born in the vaccine era and are vaccinated and immune, as many vaccines provide life-long immunity. That’s why adults get few boosters or catch-up vaccines.

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.

In 1951, during the first season of I Love Lucy, you can see that they had indoor plumbing. Surprised?
In 1951, during the first season of I Love Lucy, you can see that they had indoor plumbing. Surprised?

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.

In 1954, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz asked everyone to “give every dime and dollar” they could spare to fight polio.
In 1954, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz asked everyone to “give every dime and dollar” they could spare to fight polio.

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?

Polio.

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.

More on Crazymothers Propaganda

Hierarchy of Evidence and Vaccine Papers

Evidence is evidence, right?

Nope.

There is a hierarchy of evidence, from weakest to strongest, that help folks make decisions about science and medicine.

That’s why you can’t just search Google or PubMed, read abstracts, and say that you have done your research.

Hierarchy of Evidence

For any study, you have to review and judge the quality of the evidence it provides.

A meta-analysis with over 1.2 million kids found that vaccines were not associated with autism, while Wakefield's retracted case series included only 12 children.
A meta-analysis with over 1.2 million kids found that vaccines were not associated with autism, while Wakefield’s retracted case series included only 12 children.

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.

More on the Hierarchy of Evidence