Tag: autism studies

Vaccines – Year in Review 2018

Another year has passed and although anti-vaccine folks keep talking about those 300 vaccines in pipeline, there were few new developments in the vaccine world in 2018.

Bob Sears got in trouble with the Medical Board of California over vaccine exemptions.
This happened in 2018.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.

Vaccines – Year in Review 2018

So what can we say about 2018 when it comes to vaccines?

Well, we did get some new ones!

  • approved by the FDA in late 2017, a new hepatitis B vaccine for adults, Heplisav-B, the formal recommendation for its use from the ACIP came on February 21, 2018
  • although it was both approved by the FDA and formally recommended by the ACIP in late 2017, Shingrix, the new shingles vaccine, became more widely available in 2018 – well kind of – there have been a lot of shortages due to high demand for the vaccine
  • Vaxelis, a hexavalent vaccine that combines DTaP-IPV-Hib-HepB into one shot was FDA approved on December 21, 2018, but likely won’t be available for a few more years
  • FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine, returned

And we lost one… Last year was the first full year that Menomune, an older meningococcal vaccine, was no longer available. It was discontinued because of low demand, as we began to use the newer vaccines, Menactra and Menveo instead.

In other immunization news:

  • a 2017 shortage of yellow fever vaccine continued into 2018
  • a shortage of monovalent pediatric hepatitis B vaccine will continue into 2019 (doesn’t affect combination vaccines with hepatitis B)
  • Gardasil 9 received an expanded recommendation – women and men between the ages of 27 and 45 years can now get vaccinated and protected with this HPV vaccine
  • the hepatitis A vaccine got a lower age recommendation – at least in special situations – “HepA vaccine be administered to infants aged 6–11 months traveling outside the United States when protection against HAV is recommended.”
  • the recommendation to use a third dose of MMR to control outbreaks of mumps was formally approved
  • the WHO updated its recommendations for use of the dengue fever vaccine (Dengvaxia) to makes sure that only dengue-seropositive persons are vaccinated, as they found an increased risk of severe dengue in seronegative people who were vaccinated
  • Of the 163 million to 168 million doses of flu vaccine that will be distributed in the United States for the 2018-2019 season, more than 80% will be thimerosal free.
  • China had an issue with substandard DTaP vaccines made by one company in one part of the country
  • India had an issue with contaminated polio vaccines made by one company in one part of the country – bivalent oral polio vaccines (two strains) still contained all three strains of polio vaccine virus
  • Measles cases and deaths spiked globally because of gaps in vaccination coverage

If you didn’t hear about any of those things in the news, you may have heard about the death of two young children in Samoa after they received an MMR vaccine. That tragedy almost certainly was caused by an error in administering/mixing the vaccines, and not because there was anything wrong with the vaccines themselves.

Need help getting educated about vaccines? Despite continued outbreaks, 2018 was a good year for vaccine advocates and vaccine education.

Several good books about vaccines were published, including:

And in case you missed it, we found out that:

Of course, for most of us, none of this is really news. We know that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

And sadly, Betty Bumpers died. We can honor her legacy by continuing her work and helping to make sure that every child gets vaccinated and protected.

More on Vaccines Year in Review 2018

Who Is Mark Green?

Have you heard of Mark Green?

For those of us who grew up watching ER, Mark Green is a household name.

But that’s not the Mark Green I’m talking about…

Who Is Mark Green?

Mark Green is a soon-to-be congressman, recently elected for Tennessee’s Seventh Congressional District.

A Republican, he is also a doctor. Specifically, he became a Army special operations flight surgeon after completing a residency in emergency medicine.

Dr. Hotez was one of the many people who called out Rep Mark Green for his anti-vaccine comments.

Of note, Dr. Green has also made horrible statements about transgender people, saying that they have a disease and that they are an evil that must be crushed.

Although his previous statements led him to withdraw as Trump’s pick for Army Secretary, that didn’t keep folks in Tennessee from sending him to Congress.

And now we have his comments about vaccines and autism…

At a recent town hall meeting in Tennessee, Green said:

“Let me say this about autism,” Green said. “I have committed to people in my community, up in Montgomery County, to stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines. Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines.

“As a physician, I can make that argument and I can look at it academically and make the argument against the CDC, if they really want to engage me on it,” Green said.

Has he apologized?

Mark Green's statements will hurt autistic families.
Mark Green’s statements will hurt autistic families.

Despite some saying that he has walked back those claims, his main response has been that his comments had been “misconstrued” and that “I’ve vaccinated my kids and let others know they need to vaccinate theirs too.”

Nothing about vaccines and autism.

“There appears to be some evidence that as vaccine numbers increase, rates of autism increase,” Green said. “We need better research, and we need it fast. We also need complete transparency of any data. Vaccines are essential to good population health. But that does not mean we should not look closely at the correlation for any causation.”

Except for when he doubled down on his statements trying to associate vaccines with autism…

So just what did Rep Mark Green mean to say about vaccines and autism?
So just what did Rep Mark Green mean to say about vaccines and autism?

Statements which seemed to cause the Tennessee chapter of the AAP and the Tennessee Department of Health to issue statements of their own.

“Vaccines do not cause autism.”

Tennessee Department of Health Statement on Immunizations

So, is he going to really apologize for his comments, and perhaps learn a bit more about vaccines, vaccine-preventable disease, and autism?

More on Mark Green

Alleged Fraud in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Autism Proceedings

Have you heard about the alleged fraud in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Proceedings?

Alleged by who?

Guess?

Alleged Fraud in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Autism Proceedings

Yup. The usual suspects.

The usual suspects are alleging fraud during the in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Proceedings.

Most folks remember that the Vaccine Court Omnibus Autism Proceedings were a series of cases that were used to test theories that vaccines could contribute to or cause autism.

The conclusion?

Vaccines are not associated with autism.

So what’s the problem?

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Chairman of Children’s Health Defense (CHD), and Rolf Hazlehurst, parent of a vaccine-injured child, petitioned the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the Senate and House Judiciary Committees today to investigate actions taken by federal personnel during the “Vaccine Court” Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP).”

Kennedy and Hazlehurst claim to have evidence of “obstruction of justice and appallingly consequential fraud by two DOJ lawyers who represented the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2007.”

What evidence?

Kennedy and Hazlehurst claim that “that the leading HHS expert, whose written report was used to deny compensation to over 5,000 petitioners in the OAP, provided clarification to the DOJ lawyers that vaccines could, in fact, cause autism in children with underlying and otherwise benign mitochondrial disorders.”

Who is this expert?

It is Andrew Zimmerman, MD, a pediatric neurologist.

There is also a claim that Dr. Zimmerman, along with Dr. Richard Kelley, who was also an expert witness in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Autism Proceedings, served as expert witnesses in a medical malpractice case against a pediatrician who vaccinated a child, supposedly causing him to become autistic.

Which child?

Yates Hazlehurst, who was the second test case in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Proceedings.

Confused?

Dr. Zimmerman settles any fraud issue when he answers this clear question in his deposition in a malpractice against Yates Hazlehurt's pediatrician.
Dr. Zimmerman settles any fraud issue when he answers this clear question in his deposition in a malpractice against Yates Hazlehurt’s pediatrician.

Dr. Zimmerman admits that there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, but also believes that there are some exceptions, and that vaccines can cause regressive autism in some kids with mitochondrial disorders.

Dr. Zimmerman also clarified that it is not just immunizations, but infections, fever, and other inflammatory responses that can lead to regressive autism.

Dr. Zimmerman clarified that infections can lead to regressive autism too - not just vaccines.
Dr. Zimmerman clarified that infections can lead to regressive autism too – not just vaccines.

And Dr. Zimmerman would have testified to it in the Cedillo case (the first test case in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Proceedings), if he had been allowed to.

Except that upon review of the Cedillo case, Dr. Zimmerman had concluded that “there is no evidence of an association between autism and the alleged reaction to MMR and Hg, and it is more likely than not, that there is a genetic basis for autism in this child.”

Apparently, he had changed his mind later, even though he continues to say that all evidence points to the fact that vaccines don’t cause autism.

“Dr. Zimmerman subsequently submitted a second expert opinion on behalf of Hannah Poling, which in effect states that she suffers autism as a result of a vaccine injury. The same government officials, who submitted and relied upon Dr. Zimmerman’s first expert opinion as evidence in the O.A.P., secretly conceded the case of Hannah Poling and placed it under seal so that the evidence in the case could not be used in the O.A.P. or known by the public.”

Memorandum Regarding Misconduct By The United States Department Of Justice And The United States Department Of Health And Human Services During The Omnibus Autism Proceeding As To The Expert Opinions Of Dr. Andrew Zimmerman

But what about the “second expert opinion” from Dr. Zimmerman?

Zimmerman deposition on Hannah Poling.

According to Poling’s mother, “Dr. Zimmerman was not an expert nor was he asked to be an expert on Poling’s case. The government conceded her case before ANY opinion was rendered or given.”

What about Dr. Richard Kelley?

“As noted above, an important consideration for treatment of AMD is that “normal” inflammation can impair mitochondrial function. Although most infections cannot be avoided, certain measures can limit the risk of injury during infection or other causes of inflammation… We believe it is much better to immunize with DTaP than risk infection with highly inflammatory and potentially damaging community-acquired pertussis.”

Dr. Richard Kelley on Evaluation and Treatment of Patients with Autism and Mitochondrial Disease

While he seems to believe that vaccines can trigger regressive autism in some kids with mitochondrial disease, he admits that other kinds of inflammation can do it too, including vaccine-preventable diseases.

“We believe it is much better to immunize with DTaP than risk infection with highly inflammatory and potentially damaging community-acquired pertussis.”

Andrew Zimmerman

And again, so does Dr. Zimmerman, to the point that in many cases, he thinks that even kids with mitochondrial disorders should be vaccinated.

“…the MMR vaccine has been temporally associated, if rarely, with regressions — with regression in AMD and other mitochondrial disease when given in the second year. Doubtless some of these regressions are coincidental, since the usual age for giving the MMR falls within the typical window of vulnerability for AMD regression.”

Andrew Zimmerman

If rarely associated…

Coincidental…

That doesn’t sound very convincing.

Although a lot of Dr. Zimmerman’s deposition makes it into J.B. Handley’s new autism book, what’s missing is that there were many other experts that testified against the idea that vaccines could be associated with autism during the Vaccine Court Omnibus Proceedings and that their testimony and their reports were relied upon more than Zimmerman’s.

“The undersigned has reviewed and considered the filed reports from these experts and finds that the opinions of the experts lend support to the conclusions reached in this decision. In reaching the conclusions set forth in this decision, however, the undersigned relies more heavily on the testimony and reports of the experts who were observed and heard during the hearings.”

Hazlehurst v. Secretary of HHS

So where is the fraud in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Proceedings?

Is it that the Poling case files have been kept under seal and hidden from public view?

“Finally, and perhaps for purposes of Rolf’s request that Poling’s records be released to the public, Jon and I have not allowed the release of Hxxxx’s records nor will we ever willingly allow third parties to tear apart her medical history which includes other close family members as well as things that should have never been in the record to begin with.”

Terry Poling

While we should all care about fraud in our court system, we should all also care about folks who push misinformation about vaccines and try to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids, especially when they use autistic kids to do it.

Don’t believe them.

It is telling that Dr. Zimmerman, the hero in this story, discredits the other heroes of the anti-vaccine movement, from the Geiers to Andrew Wakefield.

“I do think that — that there was much information — misinformation brought about by Dr. Wakefield and it’s — this has set the field back. I think that — that we — we have worked very hard to try to reassure the public  and I agree with doing that because I am very supportive of vaccinations, immunizations in general.”

Andrew Zimmerman

While Dr. Zimmerman truly believes that future research might find a way to identify a very small subset of kids with mitochondrial disorders that worsen after they get their vaccines (or infections or other types of inflammation), this doesn’t apply to the great majority of autistic kids or even the great majority of kids with regressive autism.

Different answers to a very similar question? They are from different lawyers in the Zimmerman deposition...
Different answers to a very similar question? They are from different lawyers in the Zimmerman deposition…

Even Dr. Zimmerman only seems to speak of an “uncommon relationship” that “is not evident in studies that have been done to date.”

And none of the researchers he mentions, including Richard Frye, Shannon Rose, Joe (Jill?) James, or Dmitriy Niyazov seem to have actually studied vaccines, only possible relationships between autism and mitochondrial conditions.

“The claims by RFK Jr. and Handley draw on something that was not, in fact, a fraud, that is misrepresented as having a dramatic impact on the Omnibus Autism Proceedings when it had little to no effect.”

Plus ça change – anti-vaccine activists revive the Hannah Poling case

So there is nothing really new here.

And while it might be news to folks like Bob Sears, vaccines are safe and necessary and still don’t cause autism.

More on the Alleged Fraud in the Vaccine Court Omnibus Proceedings

What is Mitochondrial Autism?

Ready for latest autism controversy?

Wait, are we done with any of the previous ones?

Vaccines? Biomed treatments?

Nope. But get ready for a new one.

Well an old that has come back yet again…

What is it?

It is autism secondary to mitochondrial disease or AMD.

What are Mitochondrial Diseases?

Since the mitochondria are considered the power houses of our cells, when you have a problem with them, your cells may not have enough energy to do their jobs.

“The parts of the body, such as the heart, brain, muscles and lungs, requiring the greatest amounts of energy are the most affected. Mitochondrial disease is difficult to diagnose, because it affects each individual differently. Symptoms can include seizures, strokes, severe developmental delays, inability to walk, talk, see, and digest food combined with a host of other complications. If three or more organ systems are involved, mitochondrial disease should be suspected.”

What is Mitochondrial Disease?

It is important to understand that there are actually many different kinds of mitochondrial diseases or mito and they cause many different symptoms. Some even cause different symptoms in the same person over time.

There also isn’t one quick and easy test that you can do to diagnose someone with mito.

And for most people, mitochondrial disorders are thought to be genetic.

A genetic condition that causes a range of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe – a spectrum if you will, which usually begin to appear in toddles and preschoolers, at least when they affect children.

Starting to understand that mito disorders might be caught up with an autism controversy?

What is Autism Secondary to Mitochondrial Disease?

Especially since the Poling decision, some folks have gotten the impression that it has been confirmed that vaccines are associated autism, at least for kids with mito.

“As of now, there are no scientific studies that say vaccines cause or worsen mitochondrial diseases. We do know that certain illnesses that can be prevented by vaccines, such as the flu, can trigger the regression that is related to a mitochondrial disease. More research is needed to determine if there are rare cases where underlying mitochondrial disorders are triggered by anything related to vaccines. However, we know that for most children, vaccines are a safe and important way to prevent them from getting life-threatening diseases.”

Mitochondrial Disease – Frequently Asked Questions

It hasn’t.

Dr. Zimmerman clarified that infections can lead to regressive autism too - not just vaccines.
Dr. Zimmerman who believes that vaccines can cause autism in some specific cases clarified that infections can lead to regressive autism too.

Even those who are actively studying mitochondrial disease and regressive autism admit that any inflammation can lead to regression and that it is better to get vaccinated and protected, so that these kids don’t worsen after they get a vaccine-preventable disease.

“As noted above, an important consideration for treatment of AMD is that “normal” inflammation can impair mitochondrial function. Although most infections cannot be avoided, certain measures can limit the risk of injury during infection or other causes of inflammation… We believe it is much better to immunize with DTaP than risk infection with highly inflammatory and potentially damaging community-acquired pertussis.”

Dr. Richard Kelley on Evaluation and Treatment of Patients with Autism and Mitochondrial Disease

In fact, in one of the few studies on vaccines and autism secondary to mitochondrial disease, Fever Plus Mitochondrial Disease Could Be Risk Factors for Autistic Regression, the authors found that the great majority of children either   regressed after fever WITHOUT vaccination or regressed without fever.

Very few regressed with fever and vaccination.

“In our patients with mitochondrial disease and autistic spectrum disorders, the vaccines did not appear related to the neurologic regression.”

John Shoffner et al on Fever Plus Mitochondrial Disease Could Be Risk Factors for Autistic Regression

And despite some folks saying that all kids should be tested for mito and treated with supplements, it is very important to keep in mind that most autistic kids and adults do not have a mitochondrial disorder.

“Most patients who have autism have a genetic non-mitochondrial etiology for their symptoms.”

Understanding Mitochondrial Disorders

What about the UC Davis study that so many folks use to say that 80% of children with autism enrolled in their study had blood tests that showed mitochondrial disease? There were only 10 kids in the study…

So why do we continue to see so many people pushing the idea of autism secondary to mitochondrial disease is so common and that it could be triggered by vaccines?

For one thing, it gives them a chance to scare folks away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Plus, they get to sell more supplements, mito cocktails, and lab tests…

Mito was in the news
Mito was in the news “again” ten years ago. The above post was on August 13, 2008. Why is it back now?

And many people have forgotten that this was all old news ten years ago…

More on Autism Secondary to Mitochondrial Disease

 

Does Japan have the Lowest Infant Mortality Rate Following a Ban on Mandatory Vaccinations?

Vaccines don’t affect infant mortality rates as much as you would expect, because there are many other things that kill infants besides vaccine-preventable diseases. Things like birth defects, prematurity, injuries and complications during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, that gives anti-vaccine folks lots of opportunities to misuse statistics about infant mortality rates.

Does Japan have the Lowest Infant Mortality Rate Following a Ban on Mandatory Vaccinations?

The latest propaganda about vaccines and infant mortality rates relates to Japan.

“It may come as no surprise to many that the Japanese Government banned a number of vaccines that are currently mandatory in the United States and has strict regulations in place for other Big Pharma drugs and vaccines in general.”

Jay Greenberg on Anti-Vaccine Japan Has World’s Lowest Child Death Rate, Highest Life Expectancy

Most folks will understand why this is simply propaganda.

Japan never banned any vaccines.

The 2016 routine and voluntary immunization schedule in Japan.
The 2016 routine (Hib, Prevnar, hepB, DTaP, IPV, BCG, MR, Varicella, Japanese Encephalitis, DT, and HPV) and voluntary (mumps, rotavirus, hepA, meningococcal) immunization schedule in Japan.

Japan is not anti-vaccine. Although their immunization schedule is certainly a lot more complicated than ours, they give many of the same vaccines as every other developed country.

“Following a record number of children developing adverse reactions, including meningitis, loss of limbs, and even sudden death, the Japanese government banned the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine from its vaccination program, despite facing serious opposition from Big Pharma.”

Was the MMR vaccine banned in Japan?

The MMR vaccine was introduced in Japan in 1989, and four years later, the government withdrew its recommendation for the vaccine.

Why? Reports of aseptic meningitis. This was likely due to the Urabe strain of the mumps component in their MMR vaccine, which was not used in the United States.

“The data up to now have revealed low rates of aseptic meningitis and no cases of virologically proven meningitis following the use of Jeryl–Lynn and RIT 4385 strains.”

WHO on Safety of mumps vaccine strains

They didn’t ban the vaccine or vaccination though.

They returned to giving children separate measles, rubella, and mumps (optional) vaccines. Tragically, because many kids didn’t get vaccinated against mumps, the rate of aseptic meningitis from people who actually got mumps was 25 times higher than the rate from the MMR vaccine!

When comparing risks vs benefits, it clearly favored getting vaccinated.

“Due directly to these gaps in ‘herd’ immunization resulting from politicized transitions in vaccination policy by the government, there were outbreaks of rubella with 17,050 cases reported between the years of 2012 and 2014, and 45 cases of congenital rubella syndrome reported to the National Epidemiological Surveillance of Infectious Diseases from week 1, 2012 to week 40, 2014.”

Yusuke Tanaka on History repeats itself in Japan: Failure to learn from rubella epidemic leads to failure to provide the HPV vaccine

The switch over also lead to outbreaks of rubella and increased cases of congenital rubella syndrome.

That’s no surprise to those who remember what happened in 1975, when routine pertussis vaccinations were halted in Japan following the deaths of two children. That eventually lead to epidemic cases of whooping cough in the country and at least 41 deaths in children (in 1979) before the vaccine was restarted.

Unfortunately, once they moved to DTaP vaccines, they started to see an increase in allergic reactions after kids got their MMR vaccine. Why? Their version of the DTaP vaccine contained poorly hydrolyzed bovine gelatin, which likely sensitized infants, who then developed an allergic reaction after getting an MMR vaccine with gelatin. While gelatin was removed from their DTaP vaccines, these extra side effects likely scared some folks in Japan.

Japan’s Vaccine Problem

Japan has more vaccine-preventable diseases than many other industrial countries.

Is it because Japan is anti-vaccine?

Of course not.

By impulsively halting and withdrawing vaccines, the Japanese government has done a good job of scaring folks though. They have also been very slow to introduce new vaccines, although they are catching up, as hepatitis, B, rotavirus, Hib, pneumococcal, meningococcal, HPV, and the chicken pox vaccine are all now available in Japan.

Have there been any benefits?

Nope.

They might have lower infant mortality rates, but that has nothing to do with vaccines.

There is no correlation between the number of vaccines that a country gives and their infant mortality rate.

If infant mortality rates are linked to vaccines, how do you explain Finland?
If infant mortality rates are linked to vaccines, how do you explain Finland?

Just look at the immunization schedules in Finland, Portugal, and other countries.

What about autism?

Rates of autism have increased in Japan, just as they have in other countries. So much for the idea that the MMR vaccine is associated with autism, right?

It should be obvious now that if anti-vaccine folks did any research at all, they wouldn’t use Japan as an example when they talk about vaccines.

With higher rates of vaccine-preventable disease and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases, especially right after they impulsively halt a vaccine, Japan’s vaccine history simply demonstrates that vaccines work and that they are still very necessary.

One thing is true though. Japan’s infant mortality rate has been dropping, but then so has the infant mortality rate in almost all other countries, including the United States, which is at record low levels.

It certainly isn’t true that Japan’s infant mortality rate started to drop following a ban on mandatory vaccinations. How do we know that? Like many other countries, Japan has never had mandatory vaccinations. And not surprisingly, their infant mortality rate has continued to drop as they have added more vaccines and improved their immunization rates.

More on Vaccines and Infant Mortality Rates

Why Are You Still Worried About the MMR Vaccine?

We know why most folks got scared of the MMR vaccine.

Who's to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?
Who’s to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?

And most of us remember when most folks welcomed the MMR vaccine the end of endemic measles in the United States.

Why You Were Worried About the MMR Vaccine

Of course, that all changed when Andrew Wakefield spoke at the press conference for his 1998 Lancet paper and said:

“And I have to say that there is sufficient anxiety in my own mind of the safety, the long term safety of the polyvalent, that is the MMR vaccination in combination, that I think that it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines, that is continued use of the individual measles, mumps and rubella components… there is no doubt that if you give three viruses together, three live viruses, then you potentially increase the risk of an adverse event occurring, particularly when one of those viruses influences the immune system in the way that measles does. And it may be, and studies will show this or not, that giving the measles on its own reduces the risk of this particular syndrome developing… the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines…. People have been saying for some time, people on the periphery of autism, have been saying for some time that this may well be related to bowel damage.”

Although there was no evidence for any of that, vaccination rates went down and measles rates went up – the Wakefield Factor.

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 no, it wasn’t one person at a press conference that us lead down a decade of worry about the MMR vaccine.

“And then the nurse gave my son that shot. And I remember going, “Oh, God, no!” And soon thereafter I noticed a change. The soul was gone from his eyes.”

Jenny McCarthy on Oprah

Andrew Wakefield had plenty of help!

Not only from anti-vaccine celebrities, but from the media and their scare stories.

Why Are You Still Worried About the MMR Vaccine?

But that is all old news.

Over and over again, we see new studies that show that the MMR vaccine is safe and is not associated with autism.

Andrew Wakefield’s work was never replicated.

The MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal and doesn’t even contain aluminum, which I mention only because those are ingredients that some folks get scared about, not because they are harmful.

Vaccines are safe. The MMR vaccine is safe.

And more and more, as predicted, we are seeing why vaccines are necessary – more and more outbreaksOutbreaks that are proving to be deadly.

Why are you still worried about the MMR vaccine?

Because anti-vaccine folks are still scaring you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids!

Don’t listen to them!

More on MMR Vaccine Fears

Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences

Believe it or not, some folks don’t think that coincidences are real.

Not believing in coincidences is a well known trope of the anti-vaccine movement.
Not believing in coincidences is a well known trope of the anti-vaccine movement.

Is it a coincidence that these folks are the ones who are the most likely to believe that vaccines cause a lot of injuries and vaccine induced diseases?

Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences

Thinking about vaccine side effects and coincidences is not new.

“When I undertook the study with the current vaccine strain on my own two triple-negative children and their three playmates, also triple- negatives, I thought: “I am going to do this very carefully now,” and, like Dr. Gear, I set up certain time schedules. I said: “I am going to start to give the vaccine now.” Every time I said “I am going to start to give it” and did not give it, two to three or four days later they came down with either pharyngitis, vomiting and abdominal pain, or a little fever.

I waited for approximately six weeks for those children to stop having some sort of febrile episode. I finally gave up. It so happened that after they got the vaccine they did not have any such episode.”

Albert Sabin on Recent Studies And Field Tests With A Live Attenuated Poliovirus Vaccine

When Albert Sabin was first researching his oral polio vaccine, he understood the problem. How could he really know if any signs or symptoms that occurred after he gave someone his vaccine were really caused by the vaccine, or just a coincidence?

“However, a report later to be given by Dr. Smorodintsev will deal with approximately 7,500 children who had received the vaccine and were carefully followed, as compared with another group, in similar number, who had not, for various types of illnesses which were occurring during the period.”

Albert Sabin on Recent Studies And Field Tests With A Live Attenuated Poliovirus Vaccine

The solution? They studied kids who had not gotten his vaccine.

But you don’t need an unvaccinated group to uncover coincidences.

You can just look at the background rate of a symptom or condition, and compare the periods before and after you start using a vaccine.

For instance, consider this study from Australia about using the HPV vaccine in boys, in which they made some predictions of what would happen after introducing the HPV vaccine.

Assuming an 80% vaccination rate with three doses per person — which equates to about 480 000 boys vaccinated and a total of 1 440 000 doses administered nationally per year in the first 2 years of the program — about 2.4 episodes of Guillain-Barré syndrome would be expected to occur within 6 weeks of vaccination. In addition, about 3.9 seizures and 6.5 acute allergy presentations would be expected to occur within 1 day of vaccination, including 0.3 episodes of anaphylaxis.

Clothier et al. on Human papillomavirus vaccine in boys: background rates of potential adverse events.

Wait. Are they saying that the HPV vaccine is going to cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, seizures, allergic reactions, and anaplylaxis?

Of course not. When the study was done, the kids hadn’t gotten any vaccines yet!

That was the background rate of those conditions.

They happened before the vaccine was given, and you can expect them to continue to happen after these kids start getting vaccinated – at that same rate.

What if they start happening more often after kids get vaccinated?

Then it makes it less likely to be a coincidence and more likely that the vaccine is actually causing an increase in the background rate. And vaccine safety studies look for that, which is how we know that vaccines don’t cause SIDS, transverse myelitis, multiple sclerosis, and many other conditions.

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 on The Signal and the Noise

Of course, when we are talking about coincidences, we are also talking about correlation and causation.

When correlation doesn’t equal causation, then it’s probably a coincidence. Or it’s at least caused by some other factor.

And coincidences happen all of the time.

Is It a Vaccine Injury or a Coincidence?

That something could be a coincidence is not typically want parents want to hear though, especially if their child has gotten sick.

What does it mean that something happens coincidentally?

“Most sudden cardiac deaths that remain unexplained after necropsy are probably caused by primary cardiac arrhythmias.”

Sudden death in children and adolescents

Often it just means that it is unexplained. And that it is chance alone that it occurred as the same time as something else.

“In the absence of a specific etiology for ASDs, and a tendency among parents of children with a disability to feel a strong sense of guilt, it is not surprising that parents attempt to form their own explanations for the disorder in order to cope with the diagnosis.”

Mercer et al on Parental perspectives on the causes of an autism spectrum disorder in their children

Again, when folks blame vaccines, it is often because they have nothing else to blame.

“In some fraction of the American population, however, the belief in a link remains. One reason is a coincidence of timing: children are routinely vaccinated just as parents begin to observe signs of autism. Most vaccines are administered during the first years of life, which is also a period of rapid developmental changes. Many developmental conditions, including autism, don’t become apparent until a child misses a milestone or loses an early skill, a change that in some cases can’t help but be coincident with a recent vaccination.”

Emily Willingham on The Autism-Vaccine Myth

Think that it is too big of a coincidence that some infants develop spasms shortly after their four month vaccines?

Dr. William James West first described these types of infantile spasms in the 1840s!

And the “Fifth Day Fits,” seizures that began when a newborn was five days old, was described in the 1970s, well before we began giving newborns the hepatitis B vaccine.

But SIDS was only discovered after we began vaccinating kids, right?

“But, with millions upon millions of doses given each year to infants in the first 6 months of life across industrialized countries and with sudden infant death syndrome being the most common cause of infant death among infants 1 month or older, the coincidence of SIDS following DTP vaccination just by chance will be relatively frequent. When the two events occur, with SIDS following vaccination, well-meaning and intelligent people will blame the vaccine. They seek order out of randomly occurring events.”

Jacobson et al. on A taxonomy of reasoning flaws in the anti-vaccine movement

Of course not.

Cases of SIDS have been described throughout recorded history and have been well studied to prove that they are not associated with vaccines.

“Some events after immunisation are clearly caused by the vaccine (for example, a sore arm at the injection site). However, others may happen by coincidence around the time of vaccination. It can therefore be difficult to separate those which are clearly caused by a vaccine and those that were going to happen anyway… Scientific method is then used to determine if these events are a coincidence or a result of the vaccine.

Vaccine side effects and adverse reactions

It is easy to blame a vaccine when something happens and a child was recently vaccinated. That is especially true now that anti-vaccine folks turn every story of a child’s death or disability into a vaccine injury story.

“Autism was known well before MMR vaccine became available.”

Chen et al. on Vaccine adverse events: causal or coincidental?

Blaming vaccines when it is clear that vaccines aren’t the cause doesn’t help anyone though. It scares other parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids. And it doesn’t help parents who need support caring for a sick child or help coping with the loss of a child.

What to Know About Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences

While all possible adverse events after getting a vaccine should be reported to VAERS and your pediatrician, remember that just because something happened after getting vaccinated, it doesn’t mean that it was caused by the vaccine.

More on Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences