Tag: breastfeeding

Risks and Benefits of Vaccines – Anti-Vax Edition

Anti-vax folks like to say that they are doing their research, even collecting that research into handy binders. And they like to think that they are looking at both the risks and benefits of vaccines when they make their decision to skip or delay their child’s vaccines.

When anti-vax folks look at the risks and benefits of vaccines, they see lots of risks and few benefits.
When anti-vax folks look at the risks and benefits of vaccines, they see lots of risks and few benefits.

Like their research, their method of considering the risks and benefits of vaccines is very flawed

Risks and Benefits of Vaccines – Anti-Vax Edition

What’s the first thing you notice when you look at Ashley Everly‘s chart?

She doesn’t have a column for when a child Should Be Vaccinated!

Although there are no optional vaccines, there are some situations in which getting vaccinated and protected is truly essential, including:

  • a child bitten by a dog, coyote, or bat with rabies
  • a completely unvaccinated teen who gets a deep puncture wound while playing in a field
  • a baby born to a mother with hepatitis B
  • an unvaccinated older teen living in a dorm on a college campus where there is an ongoing outbreak of meningococcemia
  • a preschooler with a cochlear implant
  • an unvaccinated 1st grader who’s sibling is starting chemotherapy for leukemia
  • unvaccinated kids traveling out of the country to parts of the world where vaccine-preventable diseases are still endemic
  • a child with asplenia

Does she really think that the benefits of the rabies vaccine don’t outweigh the risks? Does she understand what happens if you get rabies, even if your child has access to nutritious food, clean drinking water, and emergency medical care?

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated?

What else is wrong with Ashley Everly‘s risk and benefit chart?

Most of the things on her list of who should not be vaccinated are not true contraindications.

Of course, the one about having a “previous vaccine injury or serious reaction” would likely be a reason to not get that vaccine again, as long as the injury or reaction was really caused by the vaccine.

Are there situations in which the potential benefit of vaccination might not outweigh the vaccines risks?

“Events or conditions listed as precautions should be reviewed carefully. Benefits of and risks for administering a specific vaccine to a person under these circumstances should be considered. If the risk from the vaccine is believed to outweigh the benefit, the vaccine should not be administered. If the benefit of vaccination is believed to outweigh the risk, the vaccine should be administered. Whether and when to administer DTaP to children with proven or suspected underlying neurologic disorders should be decided on a case-by-case basis.”

ACIP Contraindications and Precautions

Those situations are called precautions.

Fortunately, most are temporary, such as having a “moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever.”

These precautions do not include having a family history of cancer or autoimmune disease.

When Vaccination May Be Unnecessary

Are there any situations in which vaccination may be unnecessary?

There are a few, including:

  • when a disease is eradicated
  • when you aren’t at risk to get a disease and there is little risk that there will be an outbreak in your community or a return if folks stop vaccinating – that’s why we don’t routinely vaccinate against yellow fever, cholera, and typhoid fever, etc. in the United States
  • when you get sick and develop natural immunity

Vaccination is still necessary if a child’s mother is breastfeeding (which doesn’t protect against most vaccine-preventable diseases), has natural immunity to wild type infections (passive immunity quickly wears off), and even if the child has access to nutritious food and clean drinking water.

Nearly two months in the ICU vs getting a tetanus shot… How do the risks and benefits stack up now?

And yes, getting vaccinated and protected is even necessary if a child has access to emergency medical care.

What to Know About the Risks and Benefits of Vaccines

While you should certainly consider the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated, understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and very necessary.

More on the Risks and Benefits of Vaccines

What Is Standard of Care?

Anti-vaccine folks who are talking about “standard of care” when deciding who gets a medical exemption for vaccines obviously don’t really understand what it means.

Why are these advocating against keeping kids protected against life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases?
Why are these advocating against keeping kids protected against life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases?

Maybe that’s why they put standard of care in quotes in the above infographic against SB276, a new vaccine bill in California that will eliminate fake vaccine exemptions.

What Is Standard of Care?

When we talk about standard of care in medicine, it is important to understand that it is a legal term, with a legal definition:

“That which a minimally competent physician in the same field would do under similar circumstances”

Moffett et al on The Standard of Care: Legal History and Definitions: the Bad and Good News

Does this mean that the minimally competent physicians can choose whatever criteria they want to write fake medical exemptions for vaccines?

Of course not!

“Treatment that is accepted by medical experts as a proper treatment for a certain type of disease and that is widely used by healthcare professionals. Also called best practice, standard medical care, and standard therapy.”

NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

Just because a few doctors do something a certain way, that doesn’t make it the proper way for it to be done.

These are among the common conditions that the AAP says should NOT delay vaccination and which are often mistakenly thought to qualify someone for a medical exemption.
These are among the common conditions that the AAP says should NOT delay vaccination and which are often mistakenly thought to qualify someone for a medical exemption.

And that’s why a doctor making up their own rules for what counts as a vaccine medical exemption, especially when it goes against published guidelines and advice, isn’t standard of care.

More on Standard of Care

Does the CDC Determine Medical Exemptions for Vaccines?

California’s new vaccine law has some folks arguing about medical exemptions again.

Yes, the CDC does not determine medical exemptions for vaccines. That's not news.
Yes, the CDC does not determine medical exemptions for vaccines. That’s not news.

Some want very broad guidelines and are confused about how doctors determine who should get a medical exemption.

Does the CDC Determine Medical Exemptions for Vaccines?

Bob Sears even thinks he has a bombshell revelation that clears everything up.

An email from the CDC!

You can be sure that the "medical provider's prerogative" does not include any reason they think up, even those that have no evidence to back them up.
You can be sure that the “medical provider’s prerogative” does not include any reason they think up, even those that have no evidence to back them up.

The thing is, no one has ever said that ACIP contraindications and precautions to vaccination are the one and only factor that should determine whether or not a child should get a medical exemption.

“If a child has a medical exemption to immunization, a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State must certify that the immunization is detrimental to the child’s health. The medical exemption should specify which immunization is detrimental to the child’s health, provide information as to why the immunization is contraindicated based on current accepted medical practice, and specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated, if known.”

Dear Colleague letter regarding guidelines for use of immunization exemptions

So no one should really be surprised by an email that says the CDC does not determine medical exemptions.

What Qualifies as a Vaccine Medical Exemption?

What are the other big factors, in addition to ACIP contraindications and precautions?

“A medical exemption is allowed when a child has a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a vaccine.”

What is an Exemption and What Does it Mean?

Medical exemptions for vaccines should be based on AAP and ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence based medicine.

“Medical exemptions are intended to prevent adverse events in children who are at increased risk of adverse events because of underlying conditions. Many of these underlying conditions also place children at increased risk of complications from infectious diseases. Children with valid medical exemptions need to be protected from exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases by insuring high coverage rates among the rest of the population. Granting medical exemptions for invalid medical contraindications may promote unfounded vaccine safety concerns. Although states may wish to allow parents who make decisions based on poor science or perceptions to withhold vaccines from their children, these exemptions should be distinguished from valid medical exemptions.”

Salmon et al on Keeping the M in Medical Exemptions: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Children

For example, in addition to kids who may have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine, there are often children with immune system problems or who have a moderate or severe illness who can’t get one or more vaccines, at least temporarily.

These are among the common conditions that the AAP says should NOT delay vaccination and which are often mistakenly thought to qualify someone for a medical exemption.
These are among the common conditions that the AAP says should NOT delay vaccination and which are often mistakenly thought to qualify someone for a medical exemption.

Medical exemptions for vaccines should not be based on anecdotes or simply because a vaccine-friendly doctor has scared a parent away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

There are very few family history issues that would make a child have to skip or delay getting a vaccine.
There are very few family history issues that would make a child have to skip or delay getting a vaccine.

They should rarely be done based on family history of reactions or what some people think are vaccine reactions.

This is what a fake medical exemption will get you - a life-threatening disease.
The child’s medical exemption was for “cytotoxic allergies secondary to immunization,” without any evidence that it was necessary. In addition to a fake medical exemption, he got tetanus.

In general, they should rarely be given, as the AAP states in their policy statement, Medical Versus Nonmedical Immunization Exemptions for Child Care and School Attendance, “only a very small proportion of children have medical conditions prohibiting specific immunizations…”

That’s why rates of medical exemptions should be low.

“Between the 2009-2010 and 2016-2017 school years, the national median prevalence of medical exemptions has remained constant, between 0.2% to 0.3%, with state-level ranges showing little heterogeneity over time, never exceeding the range of 0.1% to 1.6% over this period.”

Bednarczyk et al on Current landscape of nonmedical vaccination exemptions in the United States: impact of policy changes

And why you shouldn’t have schools with high rates of medical exemptions or doctors writing a lot of medical exemptions.

More on Vaccine Medical Exemption Guidelines

Is the La Leche League Anti-Vaccine?

Why would anyone think that the La Leche League, an organization who’s mission is to support breastfeeding, might be against vaccines?

“Many parents have questions about the compatibility of vaccines and breastfeeding. Your healthcare provider can address any questions that come up for you.”

la leche league international on Vaccines

They certainly don’t make any strong statements supporting vaccines…

“The LLLI Health Advisory Council suggests families discuss the pros and cons of influenza vaccines with their health care practitioners.”

la leche league international on Influenza

The cons of influenza vaccines?

What are those exactly? That the protection babies get from their mother’s pregnancy flu shot doesn’t last until they go to college?

What’s the greatest evidence that they might not support vaccines? I mean, besides anti-vaccine La Leache League leaders who actively say that they are against vaccines?

Bob Sears is giving two lectures  on vaccines at an upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference.
What exactly will Bob Sears be talking about during his two lectures on vaccines at this upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference?

Bob Sears is giving two lectures on vaccines at an upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference.

Will he really discuss the benefits of vaccines for pregnant and post-partum mothers and their families?

“Dr. Bob Sears, a renowned Dana Point pediatrician who has been sought out by parents who wish to opt out of the state’s mandatory vaccine requirements, has been placed on probation for 35 months by the Medical Board of California.”

Dr. Bob Sears, renowned vaccine skeptic, placed on probation for exempting child from all vaccinations

And considering that he nearly lost his medical license over giving an improper vaccine exemption, what can we really expect from his talk on California’s vaccine law?

“Remember that La Leche League is exclusively focused on breastfeeding support and has no stance on vaccinations.”

La Leche League USA

No stance on vaccinations?

Actually, with bringing Dr. Bob to their conference, it seems like they made a very clear stance…

“Nursing also allows your baby to give germs to you so that your immune system can respond and can synthesize antibodies! This means that if your baby has come in contact with something which you have not, (s)he will pass these germs to you at the next nursing; during that feeding, your body will start to manufacture antibodies for that particular germ. By the time the next feeding arrives, your entire immune system will be working to provide immunities for you and your baby. If you are exposed to any bacteria or viruses, your body will be making antibodies against them and these will be in your milk.”

Can Breastfeeding Prevent Illnesses?

And they have also done a good job of making it sound like breastfeeding infants don’t need vaccines.

They do!

While breastfeeding is great, it is not a substitute for getting vaccinated. In fact, antibodies in breast milk will not protect a baby against most vaccine-preventable diseases.

If the La Leche League truly wants to support what’s best for kids, they should move away from pushing non-evidence based therapies, especially craniosacral therapy and referrals to chiropractors for breastfeeding problems, and they should take a stand supporting vaccines.

The La Leche League is on this list of other organizations that speak out against vaccines.
The La Leche League is on this list of other organizations that speak out against vaccines.

Then maybe they wouldn’t appear on any lists from the NVIC.

More on Vaccines and the La Leche League