Tag: Bob Sears

Measles Returns to California

Is anyone surprised that a student in California has measles?

A health advisory about measles in Santa Clara County.

Actually, a lot of folks are probably surprised. After all, didn’t lawmakers in California recently pass a law that mandated everyone in school get vaccinated?

Well yeah, but SB277 didn’t apply to all students. Only new students and those transitioning to a new grade span (for example, moving from K-6th to 7th grade) have to meet the new minimum immunization requirements. That means it will take more than a few years until all of the kids already in school whose parents have skipped or delayed any vaccines have gotten caught up or have graduated.

And that means we will still see some of these outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases.

There is also a little issue with medical exemptions somehow rising being abused after the personal belief exemption was eliminated in the state…

Measles Outbreaks in California

When you think of measles and California, most people probably think of the 2015 Disneyland outbreak, which was linked to:

  • 134 cases in California, including at least 50 cases without a known source
  • 13 cases in Arizona, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon
  • 1 case in Mexico
  • 159 cases in Canada

The Disneyland outbreak included a lot of intentionally unvaccinated kids and kept unvaccinated kids from school, closed daycare centers, and led to hospitalizations of more than a few people.

“The ongoing measles outbreak linked to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, shines a glaring spotlight on our nation’s growing antivaccination movement and the prevalence of vaccination-hesitant parents.”

Majumder et al. on Substandard Vaccination Compliance and the 2015 Measles Outbreak

Schools in California were closed for at least two weeks in 1917 because of measles epidemics.

The Disneyland outbreak wasn’t the first big measles outbreak in California in recent years though.

No, I’m not talking about the really big outbreaks from the pre-vaccine era. Or even the outbreaks in the late 1980s, just before we started giving an MMR booster. Believe it or not, 75 people died between 1988 and 1990 with measles – just in California.

More recently, there was the 2008 outbreak in San Diego that was triggered by an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy who had traveled to Switzerland with his family.

He returned with measles and got at least 10 other unvaccinated children sick, including four infants who were too young to be vaccinated and were unknowingly exposed at their pediatrician’s office.

“Almost 100 children (including babies who were too young for the MMR vaccine) were quarantined or hospitalized after they were exposed at the pediatrician’s office, Whole Foods or day care. In all, 11 children caught the measles. As it turns out, the boy who spread measles is a patient of Dr. Bob Sears…”

OC’s Dr. Bob Sears discusses measles outbreak on NPR

One of those infants was hospitalized when his fever spiked to 106 degrees and he wouldn’t eat or drink.

“We spent 3 days in the hospital fearing we might lose our baby boy. He couldn’t drink or eat, so he was on an IV, and for a while he seemed to be wasting away. When he began to be able to drink again we got to take him home. But the doctors told us to expect the disease to continue to run its course, including high fever—which did spike as high as 106 degrees. We spent a week waking at all hours to stay on schedule with fever reducing medications and soothing him with damp wash cloths. Also, as instructed, we watched closely for signs of lethargy or non-responsiveness. If we’d seen that, we’d have gone back to the hospital immediately.”

Megan Campbell on 106 Degrees: A True Story

Measles cases also began rising in 2011, as unvaccinated travelers brought measles back from trips to Europe, Asia, and Africa, where there were large outbreaks.  There were 31 measles cases in California in 2011.

While 31 cases might not seem like much, consider that between 2001 through 2006, there were just 66 cases in California, with only 4 cases in 2005!

Will we ever get to a year with just 4 cases in California again?

It didn’t happen in 2017.

Last year started with a big outbreak in Los Angeles County that grew to include at least 24 cases and a few surrounding counties. There was also a case involving an unvaccinated student at Laguna Beach High in Orange County which led to the quarantine of at least 6 unvaccinated students.

The Latest California Measles Outbreak

What kind of a measles year will we see in 2018 in California?

There is just one case, so far.

Did you eat lunch at the Westgate Center food court on Friday, March 2?
Did you eat lunch at the Westgate Center food court on Friday, March 2?

An unvaccinated student returned from a trip to Europe and developed measles, exposing others between February 28 through March 2 in Santa Clara County at a school in Campbell and at the Westgate Center food court in San Jose.

An infant hospitalized during a measles outbreak in the Philippines in which 110 people died.
The measles rash begins 3-5 days after other measles symptoms, which is why measles is often hard to diagnose.

With an average incubation period of 10 to 12 days, that means exposed people might begin to show symptoms by March 14. Keep in mind that the incubation period can be as long as 21 days though, so be on the watch for measles symptoms until at least March 23 if you could have been exposed.

Would you recognize measles?

It is important to understand that the first symptoms of measles don’t include a rash. Instead, you get a high fever, runny nose, cough, and pink eye. The measles rash comes a few days later, as the high fever continues.

It is also important to understand the the MMR vaccine is safe and works very well to prevent measles.

This exposure is a great reminder that vaccines are necessary and that you shouldn’t wait for your kids to get exposed to get them caught up and vaccinated and protected.

What to Know About Measles Outbreaks in California

A recent outbreak of measles in California, this time in Santa Clara County, is a good reminder that the MMR vaccine is necessary to keep your kids protected.

More on Measles Outbreaks in California

Recommendations for Reporting About Vaccines

Historically, the media has played a huge role in pushing vaccine misinformation and scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“The media created the MMR hoax, and they maintained it diligently for 10 years.”

Dr. Ben Goldacre Bad Science

Even before Andy Wakefield and his MMR hoax, the media helped fuel pertussis outbreaks by pushing the flawed research of John Wilson, which led to lawsuits against DPT vaccines and a big drop in vaccination rates.

None of it was true and the lawsuits failed, but the consequence was still that many unvaccinated kids died.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appearing on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?” is a great example of false balance.

Many others in the media have done a great job in promoting myths and fake controversies about vaccines and have used false balance in their interviews and articles to scare parents.

Fortunately, things have gotten better over the years.

Important Points for Reporting About Vaccines

Still, despite what some folks might think, health journalists aren’t going to get in trouble for reporting about vaccines.

They are going to hear about it if they do a bad job though.

“…it is important to recognise that the balance of media reporting does not necessarily reflect the balance of the argument among the involved professionals – by this is meant that equal weighting might be given by the media (and thus the lay community) to those for and against the vaccine although opponents of vaccination might be a very small number, as for example happened with both pertussis and MMR.”

David Baxter on Opposition to Vaccination and Immunisation the UK Experience – from Smallpox to MMR

Remember, the way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.

So be careful when reporting about vaccines, as it gives you the opportunity to correct many of myths that scare people, while educating folks about the topic you are covering.

You should also:

Are you ready to cover your next story about vaccines or the next measles outbreak?

What to Know About Reporting on Vaccines

The way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.

More on Reporting about Vaccines

Money and Motivation of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

We often hear the argument that anyone who supports the ideas that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary must be a shill for Big Pharma. And that pediatricians, even though they are among the lowest paid doctors, are making tons of money from vaccines and even getting bonuses to get kids vaccinated.

Of course, none of these myths and conspiracy theories are true.

Money and Motivation of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

But guess what motivates many of the folks in the anti-vaccine movement?

“Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems.”

Claire Dwoskin

For some, it is the idea that vaccines damaged their child.

And then there’s the money.

CNN did a report several years ago on how a few groups were funding researchers and organizations that put out much of the material that scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

It wasn’t a surprise though. Many others had been saying the same things for years about:

  • the Dwoskin Family Foundation and CMSRI
  • Barry Segal and Focus for Health
  • JB Handley and Generation Rescue

But anti-vaccine experts aren’t just motivated by the money they directly get from those with deep pockets.

Selling supplements is big business for integrative, holistic, and anti-vaccine folks.
Selling supplements is big business for integrative, holistic, and anti-vaccine folks.

They have discovered many ways to turn the anti-vaccine movement into a money making industry.

Paul Thomas doesn't mention that he gets a big cut of the sales for a "free" summit that costs $197 as he promotes his anti-vaccine lecture.
Paul Thomas doesn’t mention that he gets a big cut of the sales for a “free” summit that costs $197 as he promotes his anti-vaccine lecture.

Many of these folks also get money by:

  • selling anti-vaccine books, e-books, videos, seminars, and movies
  • getting paid to speak at anti-vaccine conferences and summits, often for chiropractors or folks like Gwyneth Paltrow, pushing her GOOP
  • selling supplements and vitamins in a “wellness” store, either online or in their offices, that they claim can detox you from vaccines, protect you from toxins, and even prevent autism
  • ads on their websites and Facebook pages
  • appearing as “experts” in court, as they push the idea that everything is a vaccine injury
  • soliciting donations

Those who are health care providers can also establish integrative or holistic medical practices that don’t accept insurance and only see patients that can pay cash. In addition to selling supplements, these providers offer unproven and disproven alternative therapies, like homeopathy, integrative testing, IV therapy, and cranio-sacral therapy.

Does your holistic pediatrician accept insurance?
Does your holistic pediatrician accept insurance?

But only if you have plenty of cash handy.

Kelly Brogan, MD, for example, who believes in a paleo approach to vaccines and thinks we should co-exist with viruses and bacteria, charges up to $4,497 for your first appointment! But if that’s too much for you, for only $997, you can start living a “happy, healthier life” with her 44 day online program.

“We coexist with bacteria and viruses to a level of enmeshment that makes the perception of ‘vaccine-preventable infections’ a laughable notion.”

Kelly Brogan, MD on Where do Vaccines Fit into a Paleo Lifestyle?

And now, some doctors are even making money by selling vaccine exemptions!

Oliver argued that Sears likes to have it both ways, seeming to support science-based medicine while once in a while saying things like “vaccines don’t cause autism except when they do.”

The line inspired Oliver to fire back with this: “Don’t worry, opportunist quacks writing books that fan the flames of people’s unfounded fears don’t cause a legitimate public health hazard, except when they do.”

John Oliver takes a shot at the anti-vaccine movement and the ‘opportunistic quacks’ behind it

Mostly they just sell fear though.

But that’s all they need to get their foot in the door and keep some parents from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

What to Know About the Money and Motivation of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Although they cry Big Pharma at the drop of a hat, it should be clear that folks in the anti-vaccine movement are often motivated by money.

More on the Money and Motivation of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations

Have questions about your child’s immunizations?

We probably have the answers.

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations

Not surprisingly, many parents have the same questions about immunizations and they want answers to reassure themselves that they are doing the right thing for their kids by getting them vaccinated and protected.

Still have questions?

Rotavirus vaccines are associated with a very small risk of intussusception, but that is not a good reason to miss the benefits of this vaccine.
Like most pediatricians, my kids are vaccinated and protected. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

With so much misinformation out there scaring folks about vaccines, that’s not surprising.

Just keep in mind that every anti-vaccine talking point and myth they push has an easy answer, even as folks continue to move the goalposts in search of new arguments against vaccines.

Yesterday it was mercury. Today it’s aluminum. Tomorrow it will be something else, while they continue to use vaccine scare videos to make you think that vaccines aren’t safe.

Parents who do their research understand that the real threat to their kids isn’t vaccines, it is the anti-vaccine experts that continue to push propaganda about vaccines.

What to Know About Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations

The most basic answers to your questions about vaccines are that while vaccines aren’t perfect, they are safe and necessary and they do work well to protect us from vaccine-preventable disease.

More on Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations

Measles Propaganda from The Physicians for Informed Consent

Most people understand that measles can be deadly.

“Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.”

WHO Measles Fact Sheet

In the United States alone, in the pre-vaccine era, “an average of 549,000 measles cases and 495 measles deaths were reported annually.”

That roughly translates into about one death for every 1,000 cases, or a case-fatality rate of about 0.1%.

That’s in line with the typical case-fatality rate of measles of 0.1 to 0.2%.

Just How Deadly Is Measles?

Not surprisingly, many others have reported a similar case-fatality rate for measles.

Not everyone though.

The ironically named Physicians for Informed Consent suggests that it should be much, much lower.


Because of a 1989 report that said that “Before measles vaccine was available, more than 400,000 measles cases were reported each year in the United States. However, since virtually all children acquired measles, the true number of cases probably exceeded 4 million per year (i.e., the entire birth cohort).”

Their idea is that if there were more cases (i.e., the entire birth cohort), then even if almost 500 people died each year, the extra cases would make the death rate lower.

There are a lot of problems with that reasoning though…

For one thing, 500 people dying each year of a now vaccine-preventable disease is a lot of people, no matter how you to frame it!

I fixed this graph from The Physicians for Informed Consent to more accurately represent measles mortality data in the pre-vaccine era.
I fixed this graph from The Physicians for Informed Consent to more accurately represent measles mortality data in the pre-vaccine era.

And the traditional stat about the measles fatality rate clearly mentions that this is about reported cases.

You can’t change the number of measles cases to a theoretical number, the entire birth cohort, and keep the number of deaths based on the number of reported cases, and think that you are still talking about the same thing. What if deaths from measles were under-reported too?

“Death from measles was reported in approximately 0.2% of the cases in the United States from 1985 through 1992.”

CDC Pink Book

And there are plenty of more recent statistics, when far fewer people were getting measles, that show a similar case fatality rate.

What Is the Measles Fatality Rate?

How else do we know that The Physicians for Informed Consent is misinforming people?

“…any parent who has seen his small child suffer even for a few days with persistent fever of 105 F, with hacking cough and delirium, wants to see this prevented…”

Alexander D Langmuir, MD on the Medical Importance of Measles

Their measles ‘information’ sheet, made by folks who have likely never treated a child with measles, say that “most measles cases are benign.”

That’s a bit different than Dr. Langmuir’s 1962 account of how the typical child suffered with measles and why he welcomed the new measles vaccine.

“Nevertheless, a resurgence of measles occurred during 1989–1991, again demonstrating the serious medical burden of the disease. More than 55,000 cases, 123 deaths, and 11,000 hospitalizations were reported”

Orenstein et al on Measles Elimination in the United States

What was the case fatality rate during the measles outbreaks in the late 1980s?

It was a little over 0.2%. Did we again under-count cases or was the case-fatality rate so high because most of the cases were in younger, preschool age children?

Anyway, whether the case fatality rate is 1 in 1,000 or 1 in 10,000 (the UK lists their measles case fatality rate at 1 in 5,000), it doesn’t mean that someone will die when you hit case number 1,000, 5,000, or 10,000. It could be the 1st case in an outbreak or the 15,000th.

Measles can be deadly. That’s why most of us choose to have our kids vaccinated and protected.

Do you know how many people had measles in the 2013 outbreak in Brooklyn when a pregnant woman developed measles and had a miscarriage? The outbreak that was started by an unvaccinated teenager included a total of 58 cases.

How about the 2015 outbreak in Clallam County, Washington in which an immunocompromised woman died of pneumonia due to measles? There were only five other cases, almost all unvaccinated.

And in many European countries last year, many of the deaths are in countries with few cases. When the 17-year-old unvaccinated girl in Portugal died, there were just 31 cases. In Switzerland, a vaccinated man with leukemia died in an outbreak with just 69 cases. There were only 163 cases when an unvaccinated 10-month-old died in Bulgaria. And there were fewer than 1,000 cases in Germany when a partially vaccinated mother of three children died.

More Myths About Measles

The Physicians for Informed Consent pushes a lot of other myths and misinformation about measles:

  • about using vitamin A to treat measles – where this works, in developing countries, untreated measles has a case fatality ratio of 5 to 40% because of malnutrition! It isn’t usually thought to be very helpful in an industrial country without malnutrition. And no, simply having a picky eater or one who eats a lot of junk food doesn’t mean that he will be helped by vitamin A if he gets measles
  • about using immunoglobulin to treat measles – the MMR vaccine and immune globulin can be used for post-exposure prophylaxis, but it is not a treatment once you have measles!
  • they misuse VAERS data to try and say the MMR vaccine is more dangerous than getting measles
Not surprisingly, the information that The Physicians for Informed Consent provides rarely matches that of the references they cite.
Not surprisingly, the information that The Physicians for Informed Consent provides rarely matches that of the references they cite.

The Physicians for Informed Consent even talks about benefits of getting measles, but somehow leaves out any talk about the risk of getting SSPE after a natural measles infection.

What else do they leave out? The idea that people who survive a measles infection can have some immunosuppression for up to two to three years! This measles-induced immune damage puts them at risk of dying from other diseases and helps explain why kids who are vaccinated against measles are also less likely to die from other childhood infections.

They even published a press release claiming that they “recently reported in “The BMJ” that every year about 5,700 U.S. children suffer seizures from the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.”

Their report? It was a  “letter to the editor” that anyone can submit online…

Get educated so that you aren’t fooled by this kind of propaganda and anti-vaccine talking-points.

What to Know About Measles Propaganda from The Physicians for Informed Consent

The Physicians for Informed Consent push propaganda to make you think that vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, aren’t that bad and that vaccines are really, really dangerous.

More on Measles Propaganda from The Physicians for Informed Consent

Anti-Vaccine Websites

Anti-vaccine websites are usually easy to spot.

They are typically filled with vaccine injury stories and articles about how vaccines are filled with poison (they aren’t), don’t really work (they do), and aren’t even needed (they certainly are).

And many will try to sell you fake vaccine detox kits and autism cures at the same time they are making you terrified about vaccines.

Anti-Vaccine Websites

All of the organizations that help autistic people agree that there is no association between vaccines and autism.
Most of these sites continue to push the idea that vaccines are connected to autism, even though all studies, and all major autism associations that actually help autistic kids say they aren’t.

Tragically, the pseudo-scientific arguments on many anti-vaccine websites can sometimes be persuasive, especially if you don’t understand that they are mostly the same old arguments that the anti-vaccine movement has been using for over 200 years to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Sites that are considered anti-vaccine by most people and that push propaganda and myths include:

  • Age of Autism
  • Child Health Safety (The facts about vaccine safety your government wont give you)
  • The Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute
  • Collective Evolution
  • Cure Zone (educating instead of medicating)
  • David Avocado Wolfe
  • Fearless Parent
  • Focus for Health
  • GreenMedInfo (the science of natural healing)
  • The Healthy Home Economist
  • Immunity Education Group
  • Immunity Resource Foundation
  • InfoWars
  • International Medical Council on Vaccination
  • Kelly Brogan, MD
  • Lew Rockwell
  • Living Whole
  • Mercola
  • Modern Alternative Mama
  • Moms Across America
  • National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC)
  • Natural News
  • Medical Academy of Pediatric Specials Needs
  • Physicians for Informed Consent
  • safeMinds
  • SaneVax
  • Talk About Curing Autism (TACA)
  • The Thinking Moms’ Revolution
  • Thinktwice Global Vaccine Institute
  • Vaccination Information Network
  • Vaccination Liberation
  • Vaccine Awareness Network
  • Vactruth
  • Vaxxter
  • Weston A. Price Foundation
  • World Mercury Project

If you were influenced about vaccines from one or more of these websites, consider doing a little more research.

Get educated and understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, with few risks and many benefits. Learn to think critically, be more skeptical about the things you see and read about vaccines, and overcome your biases.

What to Know About Anti-Vaccine Websites

Anti-vaccine websites use misinformation about vaccines, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, propaganda, and a lot of fear to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

More on Anti-Vaccine Websites

The Benefits and Risks of Delaying Vaccines

Believe it or not, some pediatricians think it is a good idea to delay vaccines.

“Wait until a child is clearly developmentally “solid” before vaccinating because we just don’t know which children will react badly to immunizations.”

Dr. Jay Gordon

In fact, Dr. Bob wrote a whole book pushing his own immunization schedule!

Not surprisingly, there are no benefits to skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines, but there are plenty of risks.

What Are the Risks of Delaying Vaccines?

Of course, the biggest risk of delaying your child’s vaccines is that they will get a disease that they could have been vaccinated and protected against.

“In 1989, the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine was relatively new and not yet routine. I was aware of the vaccine’s availability, but, busy mom that I was, I had not yet made the trip to the health department to get the immunization for my two-year-old daughter, Sarah. I will always regret that bit of procrastination and the anguish that it caused.”

Peggy Archer

Although we are much more used to hearing vaccine injury scare stories, if you are thinking of delaying your child’s vaccines, there are also many personal stories of parents who regret not vaccinating their children that you should review.

You can wait too long to get a tetanus shot...
You can wait too long to get a tetanus shot… Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

It is true that the risk may be very small for a disease like polio, which is close to being eradicated worldwide, but it is not zero.

Consider that the last case of polio occurred in 2005, when an unvaccinated 22-year-old U.S. college student became infected with polio vaccine virus while traveling to Costa Rica in a university-sponsored study-abroad program.

So you might not get wild polio unless you visit specific regions of Afghanistan or Pakistan, but you might want to be concerned about vaccine-associated polio if you go to a country that is still giving the oral polio vaccine.

And the risk is certainly much higher than zero for most other vaccine-preventable diseases, as we see from the regular outbreaks of measles, mumps, and pertussis, etc.

Some studies even suggest that delaying your child’s vaccines puts them at more risk for side effects once you do start to get caught up!

“…in the second year of life, delay of the first MMR vaccine until 16 months of age or older resulted in an IRR for seizures in the 7 to 10 days after vaccination that was 3 times greater than if administration of MMR vaccine occurred on time.”

Hambridge et al on Timely Versus Delayed Early Childhood Vaccination and Seizures

Why would that be?

It’s probably because that’s when kids are most at risk for febrile seizures.

What Are the Benefits of Delaying Vaccines?

Again, there are no real benefits of delaying vaccines, except that your child gets out of one or more shots. Of course, that means your unvaccinated child is left unprotected.

And it is going to mean more shots later, once you do decide to get caught up.

Will it mean a lower risk of autism, ADHD, eczema, peanut allergies, or anything else?


“The prevalence of allergic diseases and non-specific infections in children and adolescents was not found to depend on vaccination status.”

Schmitz et al on Vaccination Status and Health in Children and Adolescents Findings of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS)

Unvaccinated kids are not healthier than those who are vaccinated. They are just at higher risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

Why do some folks think that there are benefits to delaying vaccines? Because they have been scared into thinking that vaccines are harmful and that they don’t even work.

“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

Obviously, that put us all at risk. If too many people skip or delay their child’s vaccines, we will see more outbreaks.

Get educated. Vaccines work. Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are necessary.

What to Know About the Risks of Delaying Vaccines

Delaying your child’s vaccines offers no benefits and lots of increased risks, especially an increased risk of getting the diseases that the vaccines protect us against.

More on the Risks of Delaying Vaccines