Tag: benefits

Vaccination Tragedies are Rare

Vaccines work to prevent at least 2 to 3 million deaths each year worldwide.

Tragically, either because of errors or contamination, vaccines can sometimes actually cause people to get sick.

This can happen when health workers:

  • use a reconstituted vaccine after six hours – live vaccines can quickly become contaminated if they are kept and used for too long a time
  • mixup diluents – in addition to using the wrong diluent vaccination tragedies can occur when a dangerous medication is used instead of a vaccine’s standard diluent
  • improperly handle vaccines – breaking the cold chain
  • a vaccine is given to someone with a true medical contraindication

Fortunately, these situations are rare.

History of Vaccination Tragedies

With billions of doses of vaccines being given each year, it is likely not surprising that we see some problems. But when many of those vaccines are being given to kids, even one mishap, especially if it leads to life-threatening complications, is too many.

That’s why many safe guards have been put in place in the manufacturer and distribution of modern vaccines, so that we don’t see these types of vaccine tragedies:

  • the Cutter Incident, when, in 1955, at least 56 people developed polio and 5 children died after being vaccinated with inactivated polio vaccine that was poorly manufactured by Cutter Laboratories and still contained live polio virus
  • hepatitis-contaminated yellow fever vaccines – some lots of yellow fever vaccines used in the military in 1942 were unintentionally contaminated with the hepatitis B virus
  • the Lubeck Disaster – 75 children died and others got tuberculosis in 1929 Germany after there was a mixup between the BCG vaccine and the strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes tuberculosis. The BCG vaccine was supposed to be made with a weakened strain of Mycobacterium bovis bacteria instead.
  • the Bundaberg incident – 12 children died in Australia in 1928 after being given contaminated diphtheria vaccine from a multidose vial without preservative
  • tetanus contaminated smallpox vaccine in the 1890s and early 20th century

Although vaccines are much safer now, some rare incidents still occur.

Fifteen infants died and 75 children got sick in Syria in 2014 after they received a neuromuscular blocking agent, atracurium, instead of the measles vaccine they were supposed to get. How? The measles vaccine that was being used is mixed with a diluent, but instead of using the proper diluent, the health worker unintentionally used a bottle of atracurium instead.

In 2015, at least two kids died and 29 got sick in Chiapas, Mexico, among 52 children who were vaccinated. The children were reportedly given a BCG vaccine, the rotavirus vaccine, and/or a hepatitis B vaccine that day. However, the only vaccine that all of the sick children received in common was the hepatitis B vaccine. Since 130,000 doses from the same batch of vaccines had been given in the area, it was not thought to be a manufacturing problem or widespread issue. It was instead bacterial contamination of hepatitis B vaccine vials at that one clinic.

Fifteen children died in 2017 in a village in South Sudan after a poorly trained team that wasn’t adhering to WHO immunization safety standards used the same syringe to reconstitute measles vaccines over a four day period. They also didn’t keep the vaccine vials refrigerated.

“A single reconstitution syringe was used for multiple vaccine vials for the entire four days of the campaign instead of being discarded after single use. The reuse of the reconstitution syringe causes it to become contaminated which in turn contaminates the measles vaccine vials and infects the vaccinated children.”

Statement regarding findings of joint investigation of 15 deaths of children in Nachodokopele village, Kapoeta East County in South Sudan

As you can imagine, the conditions that led to these tragedies aren’t present when most kids get vaccinated.

Even in developing countries, most children get vaccinated by people adhering to WHO immunization safety standards. Why did they happened then? Both Syria and South Sudan have been rocked by war for years, leading to a breakdown in the ability to provide routine health care, even as basic as getting kids vaccinated. And Comunidad La Pimienta, Simojovel, Chiapas is a very poor part of southern Mexico.

These kinds of tragedies aren’t going to happen at your pediatrician’s office, as they don’t even have drugs like atracurium.

What Happened in Samoa?

Two toddlers died after being vaccinated at Safotu Hospital in Samoa.
Two toddlers died after being vaccinated at Safotu Hospital in Samoa.

In Samoa, four years after the deaths of the children in Syria, we are once again hearing about reports of deaths after kids were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

Two children in Samoa, both one-year-olds, died within minutes  of being vaccinated on the same day in the same hospital on the island of Savai’i.

Not surprisingly, as health officials investigate the cause, use of the MMR vaccine had been suspended in Samoa.

So what happened?

“Until the investigations have been completed and reported on we cannot say what did happen.

However, given the batch of vaccine involved had been in use in that country since August last year, and given the same batch of vaccine has been used in South American countries and the Caribbean island nations without incident, it seems unlikely that there was anything wrong with the vaccine.

The reports from the parents of the children affected on Friday indicate the reactions occurred within minutes after vaccination. This would preclude a response to the vaccine viruses as this takes at least a week. While anaphylaxis occurs within minutes and can be fatal when not treated the odds of seeing this twice in a day at the same place, given a chance of 1 in a million doses, is literally astronomical.”

Dr. Helen Petousis Harrison on What happened in Samoa?

Since it happened so quickly, it sounds like it could have been a mix-up with the diluent, as happened in Syria. A five dose vial of MMR is used in Samoa, which means that unlike premixed vaccines, it does have to be mixed with a diluent.

What about contamination? It is known that vaccine vials can be contaminated with Staphylococcus bacteria if they are mishandled. Although Staphylococcus bacteria can directly cause infections, they can also release a toxin that can cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Considering how quickly these children got died though (within minutes), it isn’t likely that the vaccines became contaminated with Staphylococcus toxins. There have been reports of TSS following vaccination in the past, usually with vaccines that don’t use preservatives, but symptoms typically develop over four to 24 hours.

“This particular vaccine batch lot arrived to Samoa in August 2017 and has been in use since then. The same vaccine batch lot used in Samoa is also in use in a number of South American and Caribbean countries (Belize, Ecuador, St. Vincent, Trinidad Tobago, Chile, Aruba, Dutch Antilles, St. Kitts & Nevis and Cuba) with no reports of adverse events from those countries.”

Government of Samoa – Ministry of Health Press Statement

Could this be related to what happened to two other children in Samoa who had died after getting their MMR vaccines?

Almost certainly not. Those children, siblings, died years earlier, one in 2015 and the other in 2017. Neither died immediately after being vaccinated and there are reports that they may have had some kind of an immunodeficiency syndrome that contributed to their deaths.

“A number of media outlets are already covering these tragic events, speculating on the cause of death before the investigation is completed, and the stories have been picked up by the anti-vaccination movement.”

Government of Samoa – Ministry of Health Press Statement

That some folks would use these rare tragedies to scare parents from vaccinating and protecting their kids is shameful. But that’s the modern anti-vaccine movement

What to Know About Vaccination Tragedies

Kids shouldn’t get sick or die after getting vaccinated. Fortunately, they rarely do, except in extreme circumstances that can make it more likely for errors to occur.

More on Vaccination Tragedies

Which Vaccines Don’t Prevent the Spread of a Disease?

As most folks know, Dr. Bob Sears has been put on probation by the California Medical Board.

Most vaccines don't prevent the spread of diseases?
Most vaccines don’t prevent the spread of disease???

Surprisingly, that hasn’t kept him from posting dangerous misinformation about vaccines, including his latest idea that “most vaccines don’t prevent the spread of a disease.”

Which Vaccines Don’t Prevent the Spread of a Disease?

If vaccines don’t prevent the spread of disease, then how did we eradicate, eliminate, and control so many diseases?

Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn't deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe - another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.
At least seven people have died in Italy with measles over the last few years. That’s not so good for Italy.

When was the last time you saw someone with small pox, rubella, diphtheria, or polio, for example?

It is true that vaccines don’t prevent the spread of some infections though.

There is tetanus, for example, but guess what?

Tetanus isn’t contagious.

Any others?

Well, unlike most other vaccines, the meningococcal B vaccines are not thought to decrease nasal carriage of the meningococcal B bacteria. So if you are vaccinated and an asymptomatic carrier of the bacteria, you could theoretically spread it to someone else, as could someone who is unvaccinated.

Still, the MenB vaccines can protect you from getting actual meningococcal B disease, and if you don’t have meningococcemia or meningococcal meningitis, you won’t expose and spread it to someone else. That’s why the MenB vaccines are especially useful in outbreak situations.

Any others? After all, Dr. Bob did say that “most vaccines don’t prevent the spread of a disease.”

Vaccines That Don’t Prevent the Spread of a Disease

There are a few other examples of vaccines that don’t prevent the spread of a disease.

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

Of course, any vaccine that is delayed or skipped won’t work to prevent the spread of a disease.

Just like they are seeing measles outbreaks and deaths now, because of low vaccination rates, in Ukraine there were 17,387 cases of diphtheria and 646 deaths from 1992 to 1997. Also high, were cases of measles (over 23,000 cases in 1993) and pertussis (almost 7,000 cases in 1993).

And because of waning immunity, vaccines don’t do as good a job of preventing the spread of pertussis and mumps as we would like. Still, that’s only when the vaccines don’t work, and even then, as Dr. Bob says, they do work to reduce the severity of symptoms.  During recent mumps outbreaks, the rates of complications are far below historical levels. The same is true for pertussis.

Have you ever seen or heard an unvaccinated child with pertussis? It is truly heartbreaking, especially when you realize how easily it could be prevented.

We typically see the same thing with flu. Even when the flu vaccine isn’t a good match or isn’t as effective as we would like, it still has a lot of benefits, including reducing your risk of dying.

“IPV induces very low levels of immunity in the intestine. As a result, when a person immunized with IPV is infected with wild poliovirus, the virus can still multiply inside the intestines and be shed in the faeces, risking continued circulation.”

Inactivated poliovirus vaccine

Does the fact that IPV, the inactivated polio vaccine, can sometimes lead to infections and shedding mean that it doesn’t prevent infections?

Of course not!

“IPV triggers an excellent protective immune response in most people.”

Inactivated poliovirus vaccine

Most people vaccinated with IPV will be immune, won’t get wild polio, and so won’t be able to get anyone else sick.

Vaccines reduce disease by direct protection of vaccinees and by indirect protection of nonimmune persons. Indirect protection depends on a reduction in infection transmission, and hence on protection (immunity) against infection, not just against disease. If a vaccine were to protect only against disease, and not at all against infection, then it would have no influence on infection transmission in the community and there would be no indirect protection (vaccination of one person would have no influence on any others in the community). It would be possible to reduce disease with such a vaccine but not to eradicate the infection.

Plotkin’s Vaccines

But because IPV doesn’t provide indirect protection, we still use OPV in parts of the world where polio is more of a problem.

Vaccines work. Even the few that don’t prevent the spread of infections, still help to reduce disease.

What’s the Difference Between Infections and Disease?

Wait, is there a difference between infection and disease?

Yes there is, something that Dr. Bob, who actually wrote a book about vaccines, seems to have overlooked.

An infection is simply the presence of a virus, bacteria, or other organism in your body.

A disease, on the other hand, is a virus or bacteria in your body causing signs and symptoms.

All vaccines work to prevent disease, or at least they do when you actually get vaccinated.

A very few don’t prevent infections and the spread of infections, but that is not a good reason to skip or delay your child’s vaccines. In fact, it is one of the reasons why it is important to have high vaccination rates! Even natural infections don’t always keep you from becoming asymptomatic carriers that can infected others. Many people who have natural typhoid (remember Typhoid Mary?) and hepatitis B infections go on to become chronic carriers without any symptoms, but still able to infect others.

If you understand that a few vaccines don’t prevent the spread of infections, then you should understand that you can’t hide in the herd and expect to be protected, even though most folks around you are vaccinated.

What to Know About Vaccines and the Spread of Disease

Despite what Dr. Bob says, almost all vaccines work to prevent the spread of disease and infections, at least they do when you get your kids vaccinated.

More on Vaccines and the Spread of Disease

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

Can You Treat Tetanus Without a Tetanus Shot?

Why would anyone want to try and treat tetanus without a tetanus shot?

That’s a good question…

Misinformation about tetanus from the PIC.

Why would a doctor tell others that tetanus could be treated without a tetanus shot?

That might be a question for a state medical board…

Can You Treat Tetanus Without a Tetanus Shot?

As most people will notice, even looking at the ironically named Physicians for Informed Consent’s own post, you don’t treat tetanus without a tetanus shot.

“Tetanus is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization, immediate treatment with human tetanus immune globulin (TIG), agents to control muscle spasm, aggressive wound care, antibiotics, and a tetanus toxoid booster. If tetanus immune globulin is unavailable, Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV) can be used.”

CDC on Tetanus for Clinicians

Even in the study that they used as a reference clearly used both tetanus immune globulin and a tetanus shot.

What might be confusing to some folks, is that tetanus toxoid, is synonymous (has the same meaning) as:

  • tetanus vaccine
  • tetanus shot
  • Td (tetanus toxoid + diphtheria toxoid)

So like most people with tetanus, this patient received both tetanus immune globulin and a tetanus vaccine, a fact I tried to point out so that visitors to Physicians for Informed Consent could get true informed consent about their vaccine choices.

The comment that got me banned from posting on Phyicians for Informed Consent.
As often happens on anti-vaccine sites, my comment was quickly deleted and I was banned from posting further messages.

And fortunately, the patient, who’s previous immunization history was unknown, got better!

Treating Tetanus With a Tetanus Shot

Why did he have tetanus?

The case they are talking about occurred in Japan, and again, it isn’t known if the patient had ever received a tetanus vaccine.

“In Japan, tetanus toxoid was introduced in 1968, so elderly adults who were born before 1968 have high risk of tetanus.”

Tomoda et al. on Tetanus without apparent history of trauma

He was born in 1950 and although he had no history of recent trauma, “he grew vegetables in a field as his hobby.”

As most people know, gardening is a risk factor for getting tetanus.

And with such a long incubation period, it is very likely that he had a minor wound or injury while gardening, was exposed to tetanus spores, and later developed tetanus symptoms.

Over 100 years ago, we did treat tetanus with just tetanus immunoglobulin, but that was before the tetanus vaccine was developed.
Over 100 years ago, we did treat tetanus with just tetanus immunoglobulin, but that was before the tetanus vaccine was developed.

The long incubation period is also the reason that giving a tetanus vaccine works to prevent you from getting tetanus even after you have been exposed. Tetanus spores have to germinate, the bacteria have to grow and then produce exotoxins. And then the exotoxins have to travel to different sites in your nervous system, where they act as neurotoxins.

Hopefully, before they do, the dose of tetanus vaccine you got when you pricked your finger on a thorn, stepped on a nail, or cut your leg, etc., will have already induced you to start making antibodies against the exotoxins – antitoxin. Just in case they don’t, in a high risk case, you also would have gotten a dose of tetanus immune globulin for an immediate dose of antitoxin – antibodies against the exotoxins.

The same thing happens if you have already developed tetanus symptoms. A dose of tetanus immune globulin helps to neutralize neurotoxins that haven’t already started doing damage, and you get supportive care until you recover. Plus antibiotics to kill the bacteria so they won’t make more exotoxins and a tetanus shot.

Why not just give tetanus immune globulin, as the post from Physicians for Informed Consent implied you can do?

It is mostly because a tetanus infection doesn’t stimulate any natural immunity and the immunity you get from tetanus immune globulin is temporary, so won’t prevent a relapsing or recurrent case.

Before the use of tetanus vaccines became standard, it was well known that tetanus relapses were possible.
Before the use of tetanus vaccines became standard, it was well known that tetanus relapses were possible.

And because no one would substitute a treatment that is known to work well, a tetanus vaccine with tetanus immune globulin, and switch it out for one that might be riskier and have no extra benefits.

Using immune globulin alone was once the recommended treatment. That was before the tetanus vaccine was developed though. Back then, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, folks with suspected tetanus got treated with anti-tetanic serum that was made in horses. The main problem with this tetanus antitoxin was that it could sometimes trigger serum sickness.

Fortunately, a tetanus vaccine was soon developed and it’s use with tetanus immune globulin helped make deaths from tetanus very rare.

Of course, tetanus is still around. Although it is a vaccine-preventable disease, it will never be eradicated, like smallpox.

“This case had no apparent portal of entry; there was no history of trauma, and no site was found on physical examination. However, this is not uncommon; no obvious entry site was reported in approximately 26% of cases in Japan.”

Tomoda et al. on Tetanus without apparent history of trauma

And not specific to Japan, that you can get tetanus without a history of trauma should be what really concerns folks in this article that the Physicians for Informed Consent has decided to spotlight.

It is a great reminder that vaccines are necessary.

More on Treating Tetanus Without a Tetanus Shot

Why Do We Only Worry About Measles?

Anti-vaccine folks often claim that health officials only worry about measles and measles outbreaks.

They can’t understand why anyone gets concerned by a few measles cases here and there, not understanding that a lot of work goes into containing measles outbreaks and making sure that they don’t grow beyond a few cases.

And health officials don’t just worry about measles. They work to control outbreaks of mumps, pertussis, hepatitis A, and all other diseases too.

Why We Worry About Measles Outbreaks

We do get concerned about measles outbreaks though.

“Whenever measles strikes, it’s more than just an outbreak of a single disease, or an indication that children aren’t receiving their measles shots; it’s also a warning that immunization coverage in general, for all vaccine-preventable diseases, is lower than it should be.

To put it another way: When rates of routine vaccination—children receiving all their shots on schedule, as a preventive measure rather than a reaction to an outbreak—start to fall, the first sign is usually a measles outbreak.”

Seth Berkley on Measles Outbreaks Are a Sign of Bigger Problems

The measles vaccine is among the most effective vaccines we have, so if we are seeing outbreaks, even though measles is very contagious, it means there is a problem.

“A focus on measles surveillance can help detect populations unreached by immunization systems and, by extension, program weaknesses. Measles serves as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for detecting problems with immunization programs, a characteristic whose importance has recently been highlighted in the context of global health security.”

Orenstein et al on Measles and Rubella Global Strategic Plan 2012–2020 midterm review

In the late 1980s, when we had large outbreaks between 1989 to 1991, with 55,622 cases and 123 deaths, it meant that we weren’t vaccinating enough kids because Federal support for vaccine programs had dropped.

As much as anti-vaccine folks like to try and minimize how serious measles can be, it is easy to see that measles is indeed a serious, life-threatening disease. We had good nutrition, proper sanitation, and modern health care in 1990, and still, a lot of people died with measles. Rates of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a late complication of measles, went up too, in the years after these outbreaks.

“Measles is a wholly preventable disease, and it was almost eradicated from the country in 1983, when only 1,497 cases were reported. But by 1990, after Federal budget cuts and the end of the Government’s monitoring of immunization programs, more than 30,000 cases of measles and more than 60 deaths were reported.”

Panel Ties Measles Epidemic to Breakdown in Health System

Those outbreaks were fixed, as we improved access to help kids get vaccinated and protected. Unfortunately, the issue with outbreaks today isn’t about access to vaccines, at least not in the developed world. It is about parents intentionally skipping or delaying vaccines.

How do you fix that?

Hopefully with education.

Why You Should Worry About Measles Outbreaks

Did you know that after the measles outbreaks of 1989, we also saw outbreaks of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome?

  • 396 cases of rubella, 4 deaths, and 2 cases of congenital rubella syndrome in 1989
  • 1,125 cases of rubella, 8 deaths, and 32 cases of congenital rubella syndrome in 1990
  • 1,401 cases of rubella, 1 death, and 34 cases of congenital rubella syndrome in 1991

Did you know that because they have overall lower vaccination rates, measles outbreaks in Europe grow far larger, into the tens of thousands of cases, with dozens of deaths?

“We must not tolerate a world in which a child dies from a disease that can be easily prevented with a low-cost vaccine.”

Dr Tedros, WHO Director-General on World Immunization Week 2018

We worry about measles outbreaks, because we don’t want to go back to anti-vaccine folks push us back to pre-vaccine era levels of disease and deaths.

We know what happens when vaccine levels drop too low.

A measles epidemic hit New York City in 1951, as this front page NYTimes article reports.
A measles epidemic hit New York City in 1951, as this NY Times article reports.

We know that vaccines are safe and necessary.

You should know that anti-vaccine propaganda that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids is rooted in myths and misinformation. They often get away with it because most parents today ahve never seen how devastating measles and other diseases can really be, so they believe stories about the Brady Bunch, instead of the advice of real experts.

You hopefully understand that’s a mistake.

More on Worrying About Measles Outbreaks

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Who do you turn to for health advice?

Even if it’s your pediatrician, with the rise of holistic pediatricians, that doesn’t mean that you are getting good advice.

In general, if the advice you are getting lacks evidence that it is safe and effective, relies on anecdotes and testimonials, and is labeled as ‘alternative,’ then it is a safe bet that it is bad advice.

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Some folks seem to be drawn to this type of advice though.

Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.
Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.

As long as they think it is natural, holistic, and is the opposite of what mainstream health experts say to do, some parents will jump at the chance of trying the latest fad, even if it has no benefits and lots of extra risks.

Take giving your kids raw milk for example. Health experts have been warning about the dangers of drinking raw milk for years and even work to keep selling it outlawed in most communities, but some parents still give it to their young children. This is despite the fact that it has no health benefits and isn’t even fortified with vitamin D!

Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?
Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?

What’s worse than giving your kids raw milk? How about skipping your baby’s vitamin K shot? Although it has no major risks, parents of many anti-vaccine and holistic type Facebook groups on the internet are often encouraged to skip this shot.

The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding because they skipped his vitamin K shot.

How come they never warn folks that their baby might die in agony if they skip the shot? After all, there is a very good reason that we started to give all babies vitamin K shots – to stop vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

Just like there is a reason that we started to pasteurize milk – to keep us all from getting critically ill from contaminated milk.

And why we take antibiotics for severe infections, and not essential oils.

“If one gets a cancer diagnosis, they need to detox the toxins that have accumulated in the body, minimize further exposure and boost the immune system to fight the cancer. This is done NATURALLY. Traditional medical approaches (drugs, chemo, radiation) only FURTHER damage the body and immune system.”

Brandy Vaughan for Learn the Risk

And why we take chemotherapy for cancer, and not coffee enemas.

Mud wraps don't cure liver cancer.
Mud wraps don’t cure liver cancer.

And why most of us don’t think to try chiropractic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, reflexology, or other non-evidenced based therapies when our kids are sick.

Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn't need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn’t need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury? Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

Why don’t people get rabies very often any more? It’s not because folks are no longer at risk, although the risk is less because dogs and cats are now vaccinated. It is because the vast majority of people get treated if they are exposed to an animal that might have rabies.

Remember when the six-year-old boy in Florida didn’t after touching a rabid bat? He died.

It’s just like the reason kids don’t get stuck by lightning very often. It’s not because lightning doesn’t happen anymore. It’s because we get a lot of warnings about thunderstorms and we know to go inside at the first sign of lightning in the area. Lightning strikes are rare because we take steps to reduce our risk of getting hit.

Why don’t folks get tetanus that much anymore? Again, most people are vaccinated, and they get boosters if they have wounds that puts them at extra risk. While we know what happens when unvaccinated kids are exposed to tetanus and don’t get treated, that isn’t a risk that you will read about on anti-vaccine websites or Facebook groups.

They also don’t tell you that kids in the US still die of diseases like Hib and rotavirus. And there are still measles deaths in the US.

That’s why the great majority of us get vaccinated, because we understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, and that skipping or delaying any vaccines simply puts our kids at risk to catch one of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent.

What to Know About the Risks of Following Bad Advice

You might get lucky and have a good outcome when you follow bad advice, but you should at least understand the risks of what might go wrong if you truly think you are making an informed decision.

More on the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Who Is Brandy Vaughan?

Have you ever heard of Brandy Vaughan?

It wouldn’t be surprising if you hadn’t, as the number of folks with their own anti-vaccine organizations has increased over the years. Where we once just had the NVIC, now it seems like everyone has their own anti-vaccine Facebook group. That doesn’t mean that the anti-vaccine movement is growing though, as they are all fighting for the same members.

And it is over this membership fight where some folks got an introduction to Brandy Vaughan. She recently got in a tussle with the organizer for a more popular group.

When Anti-Vax Folks Don’t Get Along

Did you know that the anti-vaccine movement is corrupt?

“A video I wish I didn’t have to make. When I started in this movement, I had no idea it would be as corrupt as pharma.
But I have had my eyes opened many times over…this video describes just one of many disappointments along the way: Larry Cook, who runs a popular page and group.

In the beginning, I believed what he told me and tried to look past the many odd comments and strange behaviors. But it ultimately became clear that he puts his own profit far ahead of our children.

That in and of itself wasn’t enough to motivate me to speak out and open myself up to the hundreds of attacks I would get, I kept hoping the truth would be exposed by someone else. And while some have tried, the past couple of weeks I have seen too much to stay silent any longer.”

Brandy Vaughn

What was her problem with Larry Cook? It’s hard to know, but it seemed to have something to do with the way he was raising money.

“Brandy and I have not communicated in over 18 months (or so). There was a time when I supported her immensely, and then we parted ways (hey, look at the screenshot and see what I wrote and how I wrote it). This is an absolute unjustified attack on my character and absolutely is defamation of character. It’s character assassination. And, already, a LOT of people have been posting hostile comments on my posts, and of course, elsewhere, and I recently learned even VINE is now in on this. So yes, I do need to make a statement about this considering how many people are now involved in this narcissist drama. This is the time to have discernment. If some of it is blatantly untrue, then perhaps the rest is as well. Please use your discernment before proceeding.”

Larry Cook

Folks who understand that what they call a movement is really an anti-vaccine industry, likely aren’t surprised by all of this. Through movies, videos, books, seminars, online stores selling supplements and detox kits, and simply asking for donations, there is a lot of motivation for folks to make you fear vaccines.

Who Is Brandy Vaughan?

Is Brandy Vaughn really one of the world's leading experts on the HPV vaccine?
Is Brandy Vaughan really one of the world’s leading experts on the HPV vaccine?

So who is Brandy Vaughan and what is her connection to the anti-vaccine movement?

Brandy Vaughan used to work for Merck, but she isn’t an immunologist or vaccine researcher. She is a former pharmaceutical representative.

Was she a pharmaceutical representative for Merck vaccines?

Nope. She sold Vioxx, a painkiller that was taken off the market in 2004 because of safety problems and led to $5 billion in lawsuits.

And many years later, as lawmakers in California worked to increase vaccination rates, she created an organization to educate “the public on vaccine risk and dangers.”

This type of anti-vaccine propaganda never mentions the risks of leaving your kids unvaccinated.
This type of anti-vaccine propaganda never mentions the risks of leaving your kids unvaccinated.

Seems like she didn’t like the idea of having to vaccinate her “vaccine-free” son.

How does she educate people?

She raises money and puts up billboards that warn about what she thinks are the risks of vaccines.

She never seems to mention the risks of leaving kids unvaccinated though.

And she seems to encourage other parents to leave anti-vaccine propaganda wherever they can.

Depending on where you live, you might find their ‘risk’ cards in books at the library, stuck to cans of baby formula, or at the grocery store.

Why do they do it?

Because they think that vaccines aren’t safe and that they are injuring and damaging children.

“I’m tired of all the LIES LIES LIES. The chemical additives in vaccines have absolutely no place injected into the human body and are causing irreparable damage. And we are being lied to for profit— vaccines are NOT safe, just as most pharmaceutical drugs are not safe. They all have side effects. With vaccines, there are too many, too soon and this entire generation of children is suffering because of it. People have the RIGHT to know the risks before they do something that may change their lives forever — or the life of their innocent, healthy child.”

Brandy Vaughan

Of course, the overwhelming evidence shows that vaccines are safe and that most side effects are mild. Kids today do get more vaccines, but they protect them from many more diseases, life-threatening diseases, that children used to get very routinely.

Learn the Risks from Brandy Vaughan

Brandy Vaughn wants to teach you about the risks of vaccines.

“Everything I have gone through in my life has been in preparation for this moment. This is why I am who I am. All the pieces of puzzle are coming together. This is why I am here in this world. This is my calling, my purpose. In fact, I often feel like this work is being done through me, not actually by me. I feel like I am floating in a river just going with the current — I don’t even have to swim and I’m fully in the flow.”

Brandy Vaughan

But not the normal risks, like that your kids might get a fever, be fussy, or have some pain after their vaccines. Her organization’s idea of the risk of vaccine comes from the viewpoint that vaccines “have no place in the human body.”

She also believes that:

  • everyone needs to detox because “we are all exposed to a massive amount of toxins from our environment, and particularly from vaccines.” And of course, she sells essential oils and supplements to help you detox.
  • it’s good to get sick because “there are many benefits to common illnesses”
  • vaccines “cannot create real immunity”
  • if you have cancer, you should “say NO to chemotherapy and radiation (get off all medications and no vaccines!)” because “traditional medical approaches (drugs, chemo, radiation) only FURTHER damage the body and immune system”

This is likely why experts in Perth, Australia are trying to keep her latest billboard from staying up in their city.

Learn the Risk billboard

They likely see all three components of anti-vaccine propaganda that the rest of us see:

  1. Making parents think vaccines are dangerous by overstating the side effects and risks of getting vaccinated, pushing vaccine scare stories, and the idea of vaccine induced diseases. And never mentioning any of the many benefits of vaccines.
  2. Making parents think that it’s no big deal to get measles or polio, by underestimating the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases and overstating the benefits of natural immunity over the protection you can get from vaccines.
  3. Making you think that vaccines don’t even work.

Whether these billboards stay up or not, parents only need to know one thing. The organization behind them isn’t helping them make an educated choice for their family. Don’t be scared into making a poor decision of skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines and leaving them unprotected. Be skeptical and learn the risks of getting the answers to your questions about vaccines from these folks.

Vaccines are safe and necessary. Vaccines Work.

Learn the Risks of Folks Like Brandy Vaughan

Brandy Vaughan and her organization scare parents away from vaccines by overstating, and in some cases, making up risks of vaccines.

More on Brandy Vaughan