Tag: benefits

False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

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

“Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media.”

Ben Goldacre on The MMR story that wasn’t

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

False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

Well, apparently not all of them…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s hard to miss…

The Bias in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Yes, that’s it.

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

But that’s not all.

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

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

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

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

More on the Bias in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Why Will Paul Thomas’ Patients Be Excluded from School in Oregon?

Like several other states, Oregon is working to strengthen their vaccine laws by making it harder for parents to skip or delay a child’s vaccines.

An unvaccinated child in Oregon nearly died with tetanus recently...
An unvaccinated child in Oregon nearly died with tetanus recently…

This is in response to growing measles outbreaks in the area and the abuse of non-medical exemptions.

Why Will Paul Thomas’ Patients Be Excluded from School in Oregon?

Not surprisingly, a local pediatrician, Paul Thomas, who seems dead set on becoming the next Bob Sears, complete with a book that pushes a so-called alternative non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule, is protesting Oregon’s new vaccine bill.

“Although we give vaccines in my office every day, I oppose HB 3063. As you consider HB 3063, I thought you should have the real-world data from the largest pediatric practice in Oregon with the most patients who will be affected by your proposed bill.”

Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas goes on to explain why his patients haven’t received all of their recommended vaccines.

One reason is that he doesn’t even offer the rotavirus vaccine, although he doesn’t mention that. But how do you make an informed choice about a vaccine when the vaccine isn’t even available to you?

“Most of my patients make the educated decision not to give one vaccine-hepatitis B – to their infants. This is because you catch hepatitis B from sex and IV drug use so if a child is born to a mother that does not have hepatitis B, the child is at no risk of getting this disease. Preschool and young school-aged children are not at risk for hepatitis B, which is why most countries in the developed world only recommend this vaccine for at-risk groups and not for everyone.”

Paul Thomas

Since he doesn’t think they are at any risk when they are younger, does Dr. Thomas advocate that his patients catch up on their hepatitis B series when they are older? Does he mention that until we switched to a universal vaccination program, some infants were missed and developed perinatal hepatitis B? Or the risks of needle sticks, etc.?

“These are the kinds of details and nuances that we must discuss with every vaccine. Whether we are talking about vaccines, antibiotics, ADD medication, or even a surgical procedure, we spend a good deal of time with our patients providing what we in medicine call “informed consent.” We explain the risks and benefits of the recommended medical intervention, the risks and benefits of not doing the intervention, and the alternatives. These conversations are best had in the privacy of a doctor’s office, not in the state legislature. As each child is different, we do not believe there should be any one-size-fits-all medicine. “

Paul Thomas

Although Paul Thomas talks about informed consent, a very important part of medicine, it is important to keep in mind that like most folks in the modern anti-vaccine movement, he doesn’t really seem to offer it.

He provides misinformed consent, pushing propaganda that overstates that risks of vaccines, underestimating the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases, and rarely stating the benefits of getting vaccinated.

“Finally, I am also concerned that thousands of families will either leave Oregon-as tens of thousands of families have left California – or leave the public school system and homeschool instead. While I have nothing against homeschooling, I believe this would result in a large and unfortunate loss of revenue for Oregon’s already underfunded public schools. “

Paul Thomas

Perhaps Paul Thomas missed it, but California is doing just fine after they passed their vaccine law, despite issues with some California doctors have taken advantage of fearful parents, and instead of doing the work to help parents understand that vaccines are safe with few risks, they are writing unjustified medical exemptions.

After years of declines, the vaccination rates for kids in California entering kindergarten in 2017 were at the highest rate since at least 1998!
After years of declines, the vaccination rates for kids in California entering kindergarten in 2017 were at the highest rate since at least 1998!

It’s a good reminder that the one lesson Oregon can learn from California is to make stricter rules on what counts as a medical exemption…

“We all have the same goal, which is to help Oregon’s children survive and thrive. No one wants a recurrence of infectious diseases in Oregon or anywhere in the United States. “

Paul Thomas

If Paul Thomas’ real motivation was to stop the outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease and keep states from passing new vaccine laws, then maybe he should stop scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“I hired an independent data expert, Dr. Michael Gaven, MD, to analyze the outcomes from my practice as part of a quality assurance project. Dr. Gaven studied the outcomes for those patients born into my practice during the past decade, since I opened my doors on June 1 2008.”

Paul Thomas

What outcomes? Is it how many of the kids in his practice developed vaccine-preventable diseases unnecessarily?

No, Paul Thomas published data that he thinks says that his unvaccinated kids get less autism than everyone else, except that there is a lot of bias in the numbers, we don’t know how many kids left his practice (especially any who might have developed autism), or even what criteria he uses to diagnose kids with autism. The numbers likely aren’t even statistically significant.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and they are necessary. And they are not associated with autism. Stop listening and spreading propaganda, vaccinate your kids, and let’s stop these outbreaks.

More on Paul Thomas

Alternative Names for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

You know all of the names – measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, whooping cough, etc.

But do you know why they used to call 10-day measles?

And which disease causes a 100-day cough?

Alternative Names for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Back in the day, when these diseases were more common, they used much more descriptive terms and nicknames, in addition to their official names.

Why was measles known as 10-day measles?

Because there was also a 3-day measles!

MeaslesRubella
10-day measles3-day measles
red measlesGerman measles
rubeola

Unfortunately, 10-day measles made you feel miserable for 10 days!

Although a vaccine was available, it took a little more time to get measles under better control.

Can you guess which disease was known to cause a 100-day cough?

That’s right, it’s whooping cough or pertussis.

“I honestly felt like it was never going to go away. The doctor told me it was 100 day cough, so I was counting the days while Googling to see if there was anything that could help. I tried everything, you name it, I tried it, and nothing worked. It came to 120 days and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t gone. I then researched and found that babies take longer to get over whooping cough.”

Fern’s Story – Whooping Cough

Fortunately, the cough doesn’t typically last that long if you are vaccinated and still get pertussis.

What do they call rabies?

Mad dog disease.

But that’s an easy one.

Which disease was known as “the Strangling Angel?”

“The breathing became much more difficult, with a kind of rattling stertor, as if the patient was actually strangling, the voice being exceeding hoarse and hollow, exactly resembling that from venereal ulcers in the fauces. This noise, in speaking and breathing, was so peculiar, that any person in the least conversant with the disease might easily know it by this odd noise; from whence, indeed, the Spanish physicians gave it the name of garrotillo, expressing the noise such make as are strangling with a rope.”

Edward Headlam Greenhow on Diphtheria

How about “The Crippler?”

Fight Polio Poster
Polio, also known as infantile paralysis, was known as “The Crippler.”

The “Speckled Monster?”

Even mild smallpox, as depicted on this WHO Smallpox Recognition Card, included flu like symptoms, a few weeks of pustules, and then waiting for the lesions to scab over...
Even mild smallpox, as depicted on this WHO Smallpox Recognition Card, included flu like symptoms, a few weeks of pustules, and then waiting for the lesions to scab over…

We forget these names, because we don’t see these diseases anymore.

“…for those trained in pediatrics in the 1970s, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) was a horror.”

Walter Orenstein

Do you remember that measles was called a “harmless killer?”

Be sure to think about how these now vaccine-preventable diseases got their nicknames before you think about skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines.

More on Alternative Names for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Fact Checking an Anti-Vaccine Measles Outbreak Quiz

Anti-vaccine folks have gotten pretty good at pushing propaganda to keep you scared to vaccinate and protect your kids.

Now, they even have quizzes to help test how much of that misinformation you remember!

Fact Checking an Anti-Vaccine Measles Outbreak Quiz

A quiz about measles outbreaks by the ironically named Physicians for Informed Consent was recently promoted by Dr. Bob Sears.

How did Dr. Bob get 12 out of 12 correct if most of the answers are really wrong?
How did Dr. Bob get 12 out of 12 correct if most of the answers are really wrong?

Let’s take a look at some of the questions and the anti-vaccine answers

There is only so much that better hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition can do, which is why about 400 to 500 people were dying of measles in the 1950s and early 1960s just before the first measles vaccines were developed.
There is only so much that better hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition can do, which is why about 400 to 500 people were dying of measles in the 1950s and early 1960s just before the first measles vaccines were developed.

While mortality rates did indeed decline for most diseases and conditions in the early part of the 20th century because of advancements in living conditions, nutrition, and health care, that effect had plateaued by the mid-1930s.

Being unvaccinated and unprotected is the main reason why people in underdeveloped countries die from measles, not low vitamin A…

It is true that vitamin A deficiency increases the risk for more severe complications and death from measles, which is why it can be more deadly in undeveloped countries where malnutrition is a big problem.

“Because of gaps in vaccination coverage, measles outbreaks occurred in all regions, while there were an estimated 110 000 deaths related to the disease.”

Measles cases spike globally due to gaps in vaccination coverage

Unfortunately, the other big problem in many of these countries is that these kids are unvaccinated because of a lack of access to vaccines.

This child doesn’t appear to have measles…

Immune globulin is a treatment option if you have been exposed to measles, but it is not actually a treatment once you have measles. And high dose vitamin A mainly benefits those with a vitamin A deficiency, which is unlikely in an industrial country, like the United States.

The only benefit of having measles, which you have to earn by having measles and surviving without complications, is that you will have developed immunity to measles.

In addition to having no other benefits, you will then be at risk for SSPE and may have wiped out your immune system for a few years.

While you are at risk for encephalitis and seizures after a natural infection, after getting a dose of MMR, one risk is a febrile seizure, which is typically thought to be benign.

The risk of having a febrile seizure after the first dose of the MMR vaccine is about 1 in 2,500 doses. There is also a small risk of having a febrile seizure if the flu vaccine is given at the same time as a Prevnar or DTaP vaccine.

It is important to note that vaccines are not the only reason that children have febrile seizures. Many infections, including vaccine preventable infections, can trigger febrile seizures, in addition to causing more serious types of non-febrile seizures.

This is not true.

It is very unlikely that any of the kids who develop febrile seizures after a vaccine will later develop epilepsy.

“Febrile seizures can be frightening, but nearly all children who have a febrile seizure recover quickly, are healthy afterwards, and do not have any permanent neurological damage. Febrile seizures do not make children more likely to develop epilepsy or any other seizure disorder.”

Febrile Seizures Following Childhood Vaccinations, Including Influenza Vaccination

Without any risk factors (parent or sibling with epilepsy, having complex febrile seizures, or abnormal development), a child with febrile seizures has the same risk of developing epilepsy has any other child.

Do anti-vaccine folks really read the inserts?

Like many other vaccines, the package insert for MMR does say that it has “has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or potential to impair fertility.” That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t undergone safety studies for its potential to cause cancer, genetic mutations, and impaired fertility though.

Wait, what? Yeah, all vaccines have preclinical toxicology studies, including single and/or repeat dose, reproductive and developmental, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and safety pharmacology. If any issues are found, further studies are done.

The only way to think that a natural measles infection is safer than the MMR vaccine is if you believe that all reports to VAERS have been confirmed as being caused by the vaccine (they aren’t) and you don’t think about the fact that relatively few people get measles any more (so you don’t see or hear about many measles deaths) because most folks are vaccinated and protected!

How did you do on the quiz?

Did you easily spot all of the anti-vaccine propaganda?

More on Fact Checking an Anti-Vaccine Measles Outbreak Quiz

About those Stanley Plotkin Videos…

Stanley Plotkin is typically described as “a prominent figure in the history of vaccinology, whose work on vaccine development has led to a significant reduction in morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases in the second part of 20th century. “

Why?

For one thing, he developed the rubella vaccine that we still use today.

He also worked on vaccines against CMV, polio, chicken pox, rabies, and rotavirus.

What Did Stanley Plotkin Say While He Was Under Oath?

That’s not why anti-vaccine folks are talking about him these days, or maybe it is…

Mostly, they are misinterpreting comments he made during a videotaped deposition.

“Lori Matheson is fighting her ex-husband, Michael Schmitt, for the right to decide if their two-year-old daughter should be vaccinated.”

Michigan anti-vaccination case to goes to court

A videotaped deposition in a case involving parents who disagreed about vaccinating their daughter…

Even though it isn't his exact quote and anti-vaccine folks don't give you the full context of what he was talking about, it is clear that Dr. Plotkin simply meant that you can't prove a negative.
Even though it isn’t his exact quote and anti-vaccine folks don’t give you the full context of what he was talking about, it is clear that Dr. Plotkin simply meant that you can’t prove a negative.

What do anti-vaccine folks think he said?

“I would say it is logically true that you cannot say, you cannot point to proof that it doesn’t cause autism. ”

Stanley Plotkin, M.D.

No, he isn’t saying that vaccines are associated with autism.

“I could not say that as a, as a scientist or a logician. But I can say as a physician that, no, they do not cause autism, because as a physician, I have to take the whole body of scientific information into consideration when I make a recommendation for a child.”

Stanley Plotkin, M.D.

All he is saying is that you can’t definitively prove a negative.

One of the different things in communicating the fact that there is no link is that science and English are not really the same language. So when a scientist says, “We have no evidence that there’s a link between vaccines and autism,” what they’re really saying is, “We are as positive as someone can humanly be that there’s no link.”
Seth Mnookin explain it well – One of the different things in communicating the fact that there is no link is that science and English are not really the same language. So when a scientist says, “We have no evidence that there’s a link between vaccines and autism,” what they’re really saying is, “We are as positive as someone can humanly be that there’s no link.”

For example, just because I have never seen a black swan, I can’t use that as proof that black swans don’t exist somewhere. After all, I haven’t been everywhere.

“…scientists can be at a real disadvantage in this debate because they, by their nature, are careful in how they present their conclusions.”

Vaccines: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

What else do anti-vaccine folks have a problem with?

Remember the rubella vaccine he developed?

“After a detour to obtain credentials as a pediatrician, I returned to Wistarto work on rubella. Those years were fraught with advances and reverses, controversy and eventually vindication. The pandemic of CRS babies in 1964-65 was an important stimulus to research on the vaccine. “

Stanley Plotkin’s On the Occasion of the Presentation Of The 2002 Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal

During the rubella epidemic of 1964-65, there were 12.5 million rubella virus infections, which “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome.”

And that’s just in the United States.

The controversy?

“There were only two fetuses involved in making vaccines. When fetal strains of, fibroblast strains were first developed, I was involved in that work trying to characterize those cells; but they were not used to make vaccines.”

Stanley Plotkin, M.D.

It is well known (this isn’t some shocking truth as some are trying to push) that some vaccines are made with fetal embryo fibroblast cells (the WI-38 and MRC-5 cells) from cell lines that are derived (they can replicate infinitely) from two electively terminated pregnancies (abortions) in the 1960s.

Those two fetuses weren’t the only two fetuses ever used in research though, they were just the only ones used to actually make vaccines.

“Human diploid cell strains (HDCSs) are batches of cells that are currently used for different purposes, including culturing viruses for the manufacturing of vaccines”

A brief history of human diploid cell strains.

They had to get to the point where they knew how to make vaccines in human cell lines though and that’s what he is talking about in the deposition.

“Q. In any event, so we have 76 in this study. Would you approximate it’s been a few hundred fetuses?


A. Oh, no, I don’t think it was that many. Probably not many more than in this paper. And I should stipulate that we had nothing to do with the cause of the abortion.”

It took some experimentation to find the right kind of cells and the right methods, but ultimately, they found that fetal embryo fibroblast cells were the best to use to grow many viruses.

Copies of those same cells are still used today.

What about the other “issues” brought up in the deposition?

Did he experiment on orphans, people who were mentally handicapped, or those who lived in third world countries?

“I don’t remember specifically, but it’s possible. And, again, I repeat that in the 1960s, that was more or less common practice. I’ve since changed my mind. But those were, that was a long time ago.”

Stanley Plotkin, M.D.

Those were different times, but Dr. Plotkin’s vaccine studies weren’t unethical and weren’t like what was done at Willowbrook, in which children were purposely exposed to hepatitis, with the justification that most of them ended up getting it anyway.

Surprisingly, in the early 1970s, there was still some debate about the ethics of doing experiments on children, and as you can see, using ableist language to describe children with a disability.
Surprisingly, in the early 1970s, there was still some debate about the ethics of doing experiments on children, and as you can see, using ableist language to describe children with a disability.

And from those times, experts developed the rules for how things are now done.

Ironically, anti-vaccine folks are pushing this stuff about Plotkin, but don’t understand why leaving kids completely unvaccinated and unprotected in a study is unethical.

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

National Catholic Bioethics Center FAQ on the Use of Vaccines

Or why it’s immoral to push anti-vaccine propaganda or put others at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease.

“Results indicate that the total number of cases of poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, adenovirus, rabies and hepatitis A averted or treated with WI-38 related vaccines was 198 million in the U.S. and 4.5 billion globally (720 million in Africa; 387 million in Latin America and the Caribbean; 2.7 billion in Asia; and 455 million in Europe). The total number of deaths averted from these same diseases was approximately 450,000 in the U.S., and 10.3 million globally (1.6 million in Africa; 886 thousand in Latin America and the Caribbean; 6.2 million in Asia; and 1.0 million in Europe).”

Olshansky et al on The Role of the WI-38 Cell Strain in Saving Lives and Reducing Morbidity

Dr. Plotkin’s work has helped save millions of lives.

“His achievements in vaccinology are on a scale that truly can be measured in lives saved and lives restored.”

On the Occasion of the Presentation Of The 2002 Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal

And that’s why anti-vaccine folks are attacking him.

More on Stanley Plotkin

Did the Measles Vaccine Have Only a Meager Effect on Deaths?

Anti-vaccine folks seem to think that they found another big bombshell report!

As you will see, the “meager effect” of the measles vaccine prevented over 500 measles deaths in the United States each year!

They are talking about an article from 2001, The Role of Public Health Improvements in Health Advances: The 20th Century United States, by David Cutler, which found that “clean water was responsible for nearly half of the total mortality reduction in major cities, three-quarters of the infant mortality reduction, and nearly two-thirds of the child mortality reduction.”

The article even included mortality graphs for anti-vaccine folks to misuse!

Did the Measles Vaccine Have Only a Meager Effect on Deaths?

What are they missing?

“In the early 20th Century, mortality in the United States declined dramatically. Mortality rates fell by 40% from 1900 to 1940, an average decline of about 1% per year”

Cutler on The Role of Public Health Improvements in Health Advances: The 20th Century United States

Most of the decline the article talks about came at the beginning of the 20th Century, before these vaccines were developed.

What about the vaccines for whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus, which were developed in the earlier part of the 20th Century? They weren’t routinely used until much later. Remember, the individual diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines didn’t even become combined into a single DTP vaccine until 1948.

Clean water and sanitation only had so much effect on mortality rates and much of it was in the early part of the 20th Century. Vaccines and other medical interventions took us the rest of the way!

But, all of these diseases that are now vaccine preventable were still very deadly in the 1940s and 1950s, even with clean water and sanitation.

Sure, mortality rates had declined already by this time, just like they had for most other things, but the effects of clean water eventually plateaued and a lot of people were still getting measles and a lot of people were still dying.

Why so many deaths in 1950 if they had been eliminated by clean water and sanitation?

At least they were until the measles vaccine was discovered and more and more people started getting vaccinated and protected.

You can even ask the author of the article in question…

“Dear Lord.  The fact that vaccines aren’t the only reason why mortality declines in no way means that vaccines are not an important reason why mortality declines.”

David M Cutler, Harvard College Professor, Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics

The idea that the measles vaccine had only a relatively meager effect on deaths due to measles infections is silly. It’s also dangerous if you believe it and leave your kids unvaccinated and at risk to get measles, which is clearly a deadly disease.

More on Anti-Vaccine Mortality Graphs