Tag: cancer

Who Dies from Chicken Pox?

Chicken pox is supposed to be a mild disease, right?

A rite of passage for kids?

“My life changed forever on June 30, 1988, when I had to stand by helplessly as an infectious disease claimed the life of my oldest child, Christopher Aaron Chinnes, at the age of 12.”

Rebecca Cole on Chickenpox Claimed the Life of My Son Christopher

Sure, a deadly rite of passage that we had to hope that our kids got through unscathed…

Who Dies from Chicken Pox?

Believe it or not, some folks continue to think that chicken pox was never deadly, even as kids continue to die from this now vaccine-preventable disease.

Remember, the chicken pox vaccine was added to the vaccine schedule way back in 1996, after being licensed in 1995.

Chicken pox can kill quickly.
Chicken pox can kill quickly.

Tragically, there are plenty of stories and case reports that prove them wrong:

  • a previously healthy, unvaccinated 23-month-old boy developed chicken pox and died three weeks later after developing sepsis, possible viral meningoencephalitis, bacterial endocarditis, and heart failure. (1996)
  • a previously healthy, unvaccinated 21-month old developed chicken pox and died four days later because of hemorrhagic complications (1997)
  • an unvaccinated 5-year-old boy with asthma was treated with one dose of prednisone at home for an asthma attack while recovering from chicken pox and died the next day (1997)
  • a healthy, unvaccinated 6-year-old boy developed chicken pox, was hospitalized three days later, and died the next day (1998)
  • an 8-year-old being treated for leukemia developed chicken pox and died two weeks later (1998)
  • an unvaccinated 9-year-old girl was exposed to an unvaccinated children with chicken pox in after-school child care and school, developed chicken pox and died three days later with secondary cellulitis and sepsis. (2002)
  • a previously healthy, unvaccinated 11-year-old girl developed septic shock and died soon after being admitted to a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. (2002)
  • an unvaccinated 12-year-old boy was exposed to an unvaccinated classmate with chickenpox, developed chicken pox two weeks later, was admitted to the hospital after three days because of trouble breathing, and died on his second hospital day after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest. (2003)
  • an unvaccinated 10-year-old girl developed chicken pox, with worsening 10 days later, including ataxia and mental status changes. After being hospitalized for three days, she began to have seizures  and was declared brain dead the next day. (2004)
  • an unvaccinated 14-month-old girl developed chicken pox and worsened over the next three to five days. She eventually developed septic shock, was treated in an ER, and died within one hour of being transferred to a children’s hospital for further care. (2004)
  • a previously healthy, unvaccinated 15-year-old developed chicken pox, was admitted to the hospital three days later in septic shock, and died three weeks later. (2009)
  • a partially vaccinated 4-year-old girl who was being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was exposed to a cousin with chicken pox and later developed multi-organ failure and died (2012)

Chicken pox has always been a deadly disease.

“In the prevaccine era, approximately 11,000 persons with varicella required hospitalization each year. Hospitalization rates were approximately 2 to 3 per 1,000 cases among healthy children and 8 per 1,000 cases among adults. Death occurred in approximately 1 in 60,000 cases. From 1990 through 1996, an average of 103 deaths from varicella were reported each year. Most deaths occur in immunocompetent children and adults”

Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Although chicken pox is definitely riskier if you are older and have pre-existing medical problems, as you can see from these kids who died, many were otherwise healthy and many were very young.

And almost all were unvaccinated, even though a safe and effective chicken pox vaccine could have prevented these deaths and probably the exposures that led to the deaths of the high risk kids being treated for cancer.

More on Chicken Pox Deaths

Does the Vitamin K Shot Contain 100mcg of Aluminum?

The vitamin K shot is not a vaccine.

That doesn’t keep anti-vaccine folks from pushing misinformation about it and scaring parents away from protecting their babies from vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

Does the Vitamin K Shot Contain 100mcg of Aluminum?

Newborns have been routinely getting vitamin K shots since at least since 1961.

Babies do not get 100mcg of aluminum from a shot of vitamin K.
Babies do not get 100mcg of aluminum from a shot of vitamin K.

And except for a brief “vitamin K brouhaha” in the early 1990s, when a study suggested that vitamin K shots might be associated with childhood cancer (they aren’t), these shots have helped to nearly eradicate hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.

So why would someone want to skip it?

The photo above suggests that they think newborns get too much aluminum from the shot. If you look closely though, you can see why they are wrong.

The vial and package insert of vitamin K clearly states that it contains no more than 100 mcg/L of aluminum.

What’s a baby’s dose of vitamin K? They don’t get a liter! They get a single IM shot of 1mg of vitamin K, or 0.5ml.

So they are obviously not getting 100mcg of aluminum.

Do you see why?

With a concentration of 100 mcg/L or 100 mcg/1000ml (remember that one liter is equal to 1000 milliliters), since they are only getting a 0.5ml dose of vitamin K, they are getting, at most, only 0.05 mcg of aluminum.

That’s 0.00005 mg of aluminum, as compared to the 0.225mg of aluminum in the Hib vaccine.

Why is aluminum even added to vitamin K?

It’s not.

Keep in mind that aluminum isn’t even listed as an ingredient of vitamin K. But according to FDA rules, “Applicants and manufacturers must use validated assay methods to determine the aluminum content in parenteral drug products.” .

And like many other IV fluids, another ingredient of vitamin K, 5% dextrous hydrous (sugar water), does often contain some aluminum, about 17.3mcg/L. These small amounts of aluminum are present “because practically all materials used to manufacture containers for pharmaceuticals contain Al.” From aluminum oxide in glass components to aluminum used as catalysts to make plastics, it is hard to avoid aluminum. But as we have learned that premature babies could get total parenteral nutrition for prolonged periods of time and be exposed to too much aluminum, the FDA has taken steps to limit this exposure.

Vitamin K shots also don't contain mercury!
Vitamin K shots also don’t contain mercury!

Unfortunately, some of those steps, like the labeling of aluminum in vitamin K ampules is used to scare parents.

What to Know About Aluminum in the Vitamin K Shot

Neither the trace amounts of aluminum  or any other ingredient in your baby’s vitamin K shot shouldn’t keep you from protecting him from vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

More on Aluminum in the Vitamin K Shot

Does Having Measles Protect You from Cancer?

Anti-vaccine folks often try to tout the benefits of natural immunity.

So that's why Big Pharma wants you to get measles! So you will get cancer.
So that’s why Big Pharma wants you to get measles! So you will get cancer.

That measles reduces your risk of cancer is probably one that you haven’t heard.

Neither are you likely to have heard of the conspiracy theory that Big Pharma wants you to get vaccinated and protected so that you don’t get measles, just so you are at increased risk of cancer later.

Does Having Measles Protect You from Cancer?

The idea of a viral infection protecting you from cancer doesn’t make much sense, after all, many viral infections actually cause cancer.

That’s why we have vaccines to protect us against hepatitis B and HPV infections! So much for the idea that Big Pharma wants you to get cancer. If they did, then why did they develop vaccines that prevent cancer?

But Brandy Vaughn has evidence for her claim, doesn’t she?

Kind of. She has a study, “Febrile infectious childhood diseases in the history of cancer patients and matched control,” that was published 20 years ago in the journal Medical Hypothesis. A study that consisted of a questionnaire that was sent to cancer patients who were seen by anthroposophic general practitioners in Switzerland.

Anthroposophic general practitioners? Think Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf Schools.

Understand the connection with vaccines now?

That’s right, a “study” done by alternative health providers who are against vaccines found a benefit to getting febrile infectious childhood diseases, many of which are vaccine preventable.

What Are the Benefits and Risks of Measles?

Not surprisingly, few other people talk about any benefits to having a natural measles infection.

Unfortunately, we also don’t hear enough about the complications of these infections either, mostly because they are rather uncommon these days since most folks are vaccinated and protected.

Not uncommon enough though, as we still do have outbreaks.

Measles Benefits Measles Risks
natural immunity death
can miss 7-10 days of school or work encephalitis
SSPE
seizures
pneumonia
7 to 10 days of high fever and irritability
can trigger an outbreak
a few years of immune amnesia

Immune amnesia?

That’s a risk that you might be unfamiliar with, but it is the increasing popular theory that a natural measles infection resets your immune system to that of a newborn, so that you are once again susceptible to many infectious diseases. That’s likely why mortality rates from other diseases besides measles goes down when folks start to get vaccinated against measles.

Measles and Cancer Risks

What about the association of measles and cancer?

Unlike the idea that a natural measles infection might be protective against cancer, there are more than a few studies that actually associate measles with a risk of developing cancer, including:

  • lung cancer
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • endometrial cancer
  • breast cancer

Are these associations real?

Probably not, after all, why don’t rates of these cancers go way down after measles gets under control or eliminated?

Still, most of us know that measles isn’t a mild disease and don’t need any extra benefits to getting vaccinated and protected.

We know what life was like when measles was a common childhood disease and see what is happening in parts of the world where measles is still much more common than it is in the United States.

And we understand the most dangerous association between measles and cancer that affects the most people – when unvaccinated people get measles and expose children and adults on chemotherapy who are immunosuppressed and can’t be vaccinated.

More on Measles and Cancer

Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

We know that vaccine-preventable diseases can be life-threatening.

In the pre-vaccine era, when these diseases were much more common, way too many people died, but still, most people did recover.

They didn’t always survive without complications though.

Tragically, we are starting to see more of these complications as more kids are now getting some of these vaccine-preventable diseases again.

Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

That we can prevent these serious complications is another benefit of getting vaccinated!

How serious?

Have you ever seen someone who has survived a meningococcal infection?

Do they always have all of their arms and legs?

How about their fingers and toes?

"Baby" Charlotte survived her battle with meningococcemia and continues to take on new challenges!
“Baby” Charlotte survived her battle with meningococcemia and continues to take on new challenges!

There is a reason that we say that you have to earn your natural immunity. You have to survive these diseases to get it. And you want to survive without any long-term complications, which can include:

  1. chicken pox – shingles, secondary bacterial infections, pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, seizures, transverse myelitis, Reye syndrome, neonatal varicella, congenital varicella syndrome
  2. congenital rubella syndrome – neonatal death, heart problems, deafness, cataracts, intellectual disability, liver and spleen damage, glaucoma, thyroid problems
  3. diphtheria – myocarditis, heart failure, nerve damage, muscle paralysis
  4. Haemophilus influenzae type b – meningitis, epiglottitis, pneumonia, osteomyelitis, cellulitis, hearing loss, brain damage, loss of limbs
  5. hepatitis A – can rarely lead to liver failure
  6. hepatitis B – chronic hepatitis B, cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer
  7. HPV – genital warts, cancer
  8. influenza – parotitis, pneumonia, myocarditis, encephalitis, myositis, rhabdomyolysis, multi-organ failure
  9. measles –pneumonia, seizures, encephalitis, SSPE
  10. mumps – orchitis (inflammation of the testicles), oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries), pancreatitis, meningitis, encephalitis
  11. pneumococcal disease – pneumonia, mastoiditis, meningitis, bacteremia, sepsis, empyema, pericarditis, hearing loss, brain damage
  12. pertussis – pneumonia, seizures, apnea, encephalopathy, rib fractures
  13. polio – meningitis, paralysis, post-polio syndrome
  14. rabies – it is very rare to survive a rabies infection without treatment
  15. rotavirus – dehydration, intussusception
  16. rubella – arthritis, congenital rubella syndrome
  17. shingles – postherpetic neuralgia, pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, encephalitis
  18. tetanus – seizures, laryngospasm, fractures, pulmonary embolism, aspiration pneumonia
  19. typhoid fever – intestinal perforation, internal bleeding, peritonitis, hepatitis, osteomyelitis, arthritis, meningitis, myocarditis,
  20. yellow fever – pneumonia, parotitis, sepsis

Anti-vaccine folks rarely talk about the complications of vaccine-preventable diseases. For that matter, they also often push the idea that vaccines don’t even work and that these diseases aren’t even vaccine preventable, don’t they?

Don’t believe them. Vaccines work and they are safe and necessary, especially if you want to avoid these diseases.

More on Complications of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Vaccines While Immunosuppressed

It seems to be a big surprise to many folks, but kids can get most vaccines when they are immunosuppressed. In fact, they sometimes get extra some extra vaccines, like Pneumovax, because the  “incidence or severity of some vaccine-preventable diseases is higher in persons with altered immunocompetence.”

They should also get all of their vaccines if they are around someone who is immunosuppressed.

Surprised?

Vaccines While Immunosuppressed

Which vaccines your kids can get while they are immunosuppressed is going to depend greatly on the reason why they are  immunosuppressed.

Are they getting chemotherapy?

Did they just get a stem cell transplant?

Were they born with a specific immunodeficiency, like X-linked agammaglobulinemia, selective IgA deficiency, severe combined immunodeficiency, or chronic granulomatous disease?

Whatever the reason, they likely won’t get a medical exemption to skip all of their vaccines.

“Killed vaccines will not cause infection in immunodeficient or any other children. The fear of increased community-acquired vaccine-preventable diseases should lead to adherence to and completion of recommended immunization schedules in the community to reinforce herd immunity, such that all vaccine-preventable diseases become exceedingly rare.”

Recommendations for live viral and bacterial vaccines in immunodeficient patients and their close contacts

In most cases, immunocompromised kids can get all inactivated vaccines. It is only live vaccines that could pose a problem. Even then, it depends on the specific immunodeficiency as to whether avoiding live vaccines is necessary.

For example, after chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, kids can usually get live vaccines.

Your doctors can review the latest guidelines to come up with a safe vaccination plan for your child with an immune system problem. If necessary, consultation with an infectious diseases or immunology specialist can also be helpful.

Don’t overlook other causes of possible immunosuppression when getting vaccinated, like taking daily oral steroids for more than two weeks, certain biologic immune modulators, or other medications like methotrexate, azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine.

“Limited evidence indicates that inactivated vaccines generally have the same safety profile in immunocompromised patients as in immunocompetent individuals. However, the magnitude, breadth, and persistence of the immune response to vaccination may be reduced or absent in immunocompromised persons.”

2013 IDSA Clinical Practice Guideline for Vaccination of the Immunocompromised Host

And keep in mind that just because they can and should get vaccinated, it doesn’t mean that their vaccines are going to work as well as in someone who isn’t immunocompromised.

That’s why herd immunity is so important for these kids.

Vaccines for Close Contacts of Immunocompromised People

What about people who come into contacts with kids and adults who are immunocompromised?

Can they get vaccines?

“Close contacts of patients with compromised immunity should not receive live oral poliovirus vaccine because they might shed the virus and infect a patient with compromised immunity. Close contacts can receive other standard vaccines because viral shedding is unlikely and these pose little risk of infection to a subject with compromised immunity.”

Recommendations for live viral and bacterial vaccines in immunodeficient patients and their close contacts

Yes, close contacts can get vaccinated, especially since we don’t use the oral polio vaccine in the United States anymore.

There are some exceptions for the smallpox vaccine, which few people get, and Flumist, but only in very specific situations, including a recent hematopoietic stem cell transplant.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, which includes the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System went out of their way to correct this anti-vaccine misinformation.
Johns Hopkins Medicine, which includes the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System went out of their way to correct this anti-vaccine misinformation.

Worried about shedding?

You should be worried about getting a vaccine-preventable disease and giving it to those around you with immune system problems. That’s the real risk!

This is the modern anti-vaccine movement - taking an immoral stand against vaccines and putting sick kids at risk for life-threatening disease.
This is the modern anti-vaccine movement – scaring parents and taking an immoral stand against vaccines and putting sick kids at risk for life-threatening disease.

And no, you are not being selfish to expect those around you to get vaccinated.

Vaccines are safe and necessary – for all of us.

More on Vaccines While Immunosuppressed

Vaccines After Cancer and Chemotherapy

Most people know that children being treated for cancer have a suppressed immune system and are at extra risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity.
Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity. (CC BY 2.0)

That’s one of the reasons that it is important for everyone to be vaccinated, so that herd immunity levels of protection can protect those who can’t get vaccines.

Vaccines After Cancer and Chemotherapy

But what happens after they complete their cancer treatments?

“The interval until immune reconstitution varies with the intensity and type of immunosuppressive therapy, radiation therapy, underlying disease, and other factors. Therefore, often it is not possible to make a definitive recommendation for an interval after cessation of immunosuppressive therapy when inactivated vaccines can be administered effectively or when live-virus vaccines can be administered safely and effectively.”

Red Book on Immunization in Immunocompromised Children

After they complete therapy for cancer, whether it is chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant, many children need to get extra vaccines.

In the UK, for example, 6 months after completing “standard antileukemia chemotherapy,” children get a booster dose of DTaP, IPV, Hib, MenC, and MMR.

Why just a single booster dose?

Because most kids can continue to get non-live vaccines on schedule while they are getting standard chemotherapy. They get a booster dose when they finish chemotherapy because those vaccine doses they got while receiving treatment might not be as effective as usual and typically don’t count as valid doses.

Of course, if they were missing any doses, then they might need extra doses to catch up too.

“Three months after cancer chemotherapy, patients should be vaccinated with inactivated vaccines and the live vaccines for varicella; measles, mumps, and rubella; and measles, mumps, and rubella-varicella according to the CDC annual schedule that is routinely indicated for immunocompetent persons.”

2013 IDSA Clinical Practice Guideline for Vaccination of the Immunocompromised Host

In contrast to those getting standard chemotherapy, if treatment involved a hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), then these children are essentially revaccinated:

  • beginning at 6 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of DTaP if they are less than 7-years-old vs a dose of Tdap and 2 doses of Td if they are already 7-years-old
  • beginning at 3-6 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of Prevnar
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of Hib
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of hepatitis B, followed by postvaccination anti-HBs titer testing
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of IPV
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 2 doses of a meningocococcal vaccine (if they are already 11 to 18 years old)
  • beginning at 6-12 months after the HSCT, they should get 3 doses of  HPV vaccine (if they are already 11 to 26 years old)
  • beginning at 12 months after the HSCT, one dose of the Pneumovax vaccine
  • beginning at 24 months after the HSCT, two doses of MMR
  • beginning at 24 months after the HSCT, two doses of the chicken pox vaccine
  • a yearly flu shot

Why not just check titers instead of repeating all of those vaccines?

“protective” concentrations or titers in this population may not be as valid as in healthy children, leaving open the question regarding what levels to use as the basis for revaccination. Furthermore, there are some vaccines for which no serological correlate of protection exists (e.g., pertussis) or for which, in routine practice, it is too difficult to have levels measured (e.g., polio).

Soonie R. Patel et al. on Revaccination of Children after Completion of Standard Chemotherapy for Acute Leukemia

In Canada, they used to check titers at 1, 3, and 5 years after the end of chemotherapy and just vaccinate when titers dropped, but they switched to giving all kids a booster dose, as it works better.

What will your child’s immunization look like after completing treatment for cancer?

Although the specific recommendations will come from your child’s treatment team, they will likely look something like the guidelines included here.

What to Know About Vaccines After Cancer and Chemotherapy

Kids often have to get revaccinated, or at least get booster doses of their vaccines, after completing treatment for cancer.

More on Vaccines After Cancer and Chemotherapy

Learn the Risks of Falling for Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

If you are on the fence or hesitant to vaccinate your kids, it might not be easy to recognize that the vaccine information that you get on some sites is pure propaganda.

That’s unfortunate, because you can’t make an informed choice about vaccines if you are basing that decision on misinformation.

Learn the Risks of Falling for Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

Take the infographic about the number of vaccine doses children in the United States normally get.Learn the risks of following bad advice about vaccines.

It is designed into making you think that kids get 72 doses of vaccines, scaring you and trying to reinforce the myth that kids get too many vaccines.

Have you seen and fallen for that trick? Did you ever think to actually count the total vaccine doses they list? As you can see above, it doesn’t come out to 72 doses

But why do  they do it? If they really think their “vaccines contain toxic chemicals” argument is convincing, then would it matter if the number of vaccine doses was 11 or 53 or 72? Why inflate it to make it wound scarier?

Still, however you want to count the number of doses of vaccines kids get today, one thing is crystal clear –  they get protection from more vaccine-preventable diseases.

In 1983, kids may have only have gotten 11 doses of vaccines, but many still died from Hib pneumonia and meningitis, epiglotitis (Hib), pneumococcal pneumonia and meningitis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rotavirus, chicken pox, and meningococcemia, etc.

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

Walter Orenstein, MD

Today, unless you decide to skip or delay your child’s vaccines, they are protected from these diseases.

What about the flu? Kids still die with the flu, but it is important to keep in mind that most kids who die with the flu are unvaccinated.

That’s why it is important to get your kids vaccinated. Don’t take the risk of following bad advice.

What to Know About Learning the Risks of Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

It is important to to learn the risks of falling for anti-vaccine propaganda – leaving your kids unvaccinated, unprotected, and at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

More on Learning the Risks of Anti-Vaccine Propaganda