Tag: causation

Diagnosing Vaccine Injuries

Vaccines are often described as one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

That great benefit also leaves no doubt for most people that getting vaccinated and fully protected far outweighs the very small risks that vaccines might have.

Vaccine Injuries vs Vaccine Side Effects

Vaccines can certainly have side effects.

Fever, pain at the injection site, and redness and swelling where the shot was given are all common, mild problems that can be associated with almost any vaccine.

Some vaccines might also commonly cause fussiness, tiredness or poor appetite, and vomiting within 1 to 3 days of getting the vaccine. Others can cause a rash, headache, or muscle and joint pain for a few days.

Even syncope or fainting can commonly occur within 15 minutes of teens getting a vaccine.

Other vaccine side effects can include persistent crying, nodules at the injection site, limb swelling, and febrile seizures, etc.

These are well known vaccine side effects that are often minor and temporary though.

Is It a Vaccine Injury?

Although the term is typically associated with the anti-vaccine movement, as they tend to think everything is a vaccine injury, it is important to understand that vaccine injuries, although rare, are indeed real.

After all, vaccines are not 100% safe.

In addition to the milder side effects listed above, vaccines can very rarely cause more serious types of adverse events or injuries, including:

  • life threatening allergic reactions
  • brachial neuritis (shoulder pain and then weakness) following a tetanus containing vaccine
  • encephalopathy/encephalitis following a measles, mumps, or rubella, or pertussis containing vaccine
  • chronic arthritis following a rubella containing vaccine
  • thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) following a measles containing vaccine
  • vaccine-strain measles viral infection in an immunodeficient recipient following a measles containing vaccine
  • intussusception – following a rotavirus vaccine
  • shoulder injury related to vaccine administration – SIRVA

Keep in mind that some of these are just table injuries and are not necessarily proven as being caused by vaccines.

And while vaccines are associated with some serious adverse events, the research is clear that vaccines are not associated with autism, SIDS, and shaken baby syndrome, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, or other so-called vaccine induced diseases.

Or Is It Just a Coincidence?

Dr. Samuel Johnson once said that “It is incident to physicians, I am afraid, beyond all other men, to mistake subsequence for consequence.”

How does this apply to diagnosing vaccine injuries?

Too often we forget that just because one event is subsequent (happens after) another, it does not mean that it was a consequence (was caused by) the first event. It is another way of saying that correlation does not imply causation.

This is also highlighted by missed vaccine stories, events that would surely be blamed on a vaccine injury, except that a vaccine was never actually given for one reason or another.

Most pediatricians have these types of missed vaccine stories, such as:

  • an infant who begins vomiting on the way home from a well appointment and is diagnosed with intussusception (9 month old visit and didn’t get any vaccines)
  • a 4 year old who developed encephalitis just one week after his well check up (no vaccines – DTP had been deferred to his 5 year old visit)
  • a 2 month old who died of SIDS on the night of his scheduled well child visit (no vaccines as they had forgotten to go to the appointment)
  • a 4 month old who had a seizure at his well child visit (no vaccines were given yet as they were still being drawn up)

Or they have kids who begin to have symptoms or are diagnosed with a condition right around the time of a check up when they would routinely get one or more vaccines, but haven’t yet. From diabetes and POTS to transverse myelitis, some parents would have blamed their child’s vaccines if they had actually been vaccinated at that time and subsequently got diagnosed.

My own son started getting migraines when he was 12 years old and about to start 7th grade. Should I blame his headaches on his middle school booster shots? While it would be convenient, it is more likely that genetics are to blame. I started getting migraines at about the same age, and he began getting them just before he got his booster shots.

Diagnosing Vaccine Injuries

How do you know if your child had a true vaccine injury?

Does the reaction fit into the vaccine injury type AND “time period for first symptom or manifestation of onset or of significant aggravation after vaccine administration” as described in the NVICP vaccine injury tables?

That time period, also known as a risk interval, is when “individuals are considered at risk for the development of a certain adverse event following immunization (AEFI) potentially caused by the vaccine.”

For example, did your child develop an anaphylactic reaction within four hours of getting the DTaP vaccine? While a reaction 14 hours after the vaccine would be much less likely to be caused by the vaccine, if it occurred within 4 hours, that could certainly be a vaccine injury.

How about a child who developed thrombocytopenic purpura 90 days after getting his MMR vaccine? That is unlikely to be a vaccine injury, as the MMR vaccine typically causes TTP within 7 to 30 days.

If you think that your child has had a vaccine injury, be sure to talk to your pediatrician. You should also report any vaccine reaction to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and if you truly believe that your child has been injured by a vaccine, you can file a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

“You may file a claim if you received a vaccine covered by the VICP and believe that you have been injured by this vaccine.”

What You Need to Know About the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)

How will your pediatrician figure out if it is a vaccine injury? Among the things that they will consider when evaluating a reaction after a vaccine will be the answers to some key questions, including:

  • Is there any evidence that something else caused the reaction? While getting a vaccine could cause an anaphylactic reaction, so could the fact that your child just eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • Is there a known causal association between the reaction and the vaccine?
  • Is there strong evidence against a causal association between the reaction and the vaccine?
  • Is there a laboratory test that implicates the vaccine as a cause of the reaction?
  • If the reaction is an infection, did it have a vaccine or wild type origin?

Your pediatrician will also consider other factors when making a decision, including whether other patients were affected (might implicate a contaminated vaccine), and will make sure that the original diagnosis is correct.

Being able to answer all of these questions often puts pediatricians in the unique position of correctly evaluating potential vaccine injuries. There is even a standardized algorithm that can help your pediatrician collect and interpret all of the data they will get when evaluating a possible vaccine injury.

Another algorithm can help evaluate and manage suspected allergic reactions, including immediate or type 1 hypersensitivity reactions and delayed type 3 hypersensitivity reactions. If the reaction is consistent with an allergic reaction and additional doses of the vaccine are still needed, possible next steps in this algorithm include serologic testing for immunity and skin testing with the vaccine or vaccine components.

For extra help, your pediatrician can consult an allergist or immunologist before considering giving your child another vaccine, if necessary. Experts at the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) are also available for consults about suspected vaccine injuries.

Over-Diagnosing Vaccine Injuries

In addition to vaccine side effects and vaccine injuries, it is much more common for children and adults to develop health problems and symptoms after getting a vaccine that have nothing to do with the vaccine. These are events, sometimes tragic, that would have happened even if they had not been vaccinated.

Anytime we see a post about vaccines and SIDS, we know what happened, an anti-vaccine Facebook group is taking advantage of a grieving family.
Anytime we see a post about vaccines and SIDS, we know what happened, an anti-vaccine Facebook group is taking advantage of a grieving family.

Despite the evidence against it, some parents may still think that their child has been injured or damaged by a vaccine, especially if they:

  • believe all of the vaccine injury stories they hear on the Internet
  • misuse vaccine package inserts
  • believe that VAERS reports have all been confirmed to be true
  • think that vaccine injuries can occur months or years after getting a vaccine
  • find a case report in PubMed and think that is convincing evidence of causality, even though it is really nothing more than a glorified anecdote
  • have found their way into a Facebook group where folks think vaccines always injure kids
  • go to a homeopath, chiropractor, or holistic practitioner who told them the child was injured

For example, studies have repeatedly shown that “vaccination does not increase the overall risk of sudden infant death (SIDS),” and that “the risk of SIDS in vaccinated cases and controls is neither increased nor reduced during the early post-vaccination period.”

What should you do if you really think that your child has a vaccine injury?
Just what a parent needs when their baby dies of SIDS, someone to reach out and tell them it was because they had him vaccinated… 

So a VAERS report of SIDS on the night that an infant received his 4 month vaccines, while tragic, would likely not end up being classified as a true vaccine injury.

Neither should a case report or package insert about SIDS influence your thinking about SIDS being associated with a vaccine injury.

Still, it is easy to understand why many like to blame vaccines.

Vaccines are an easy target, especially as most vaccine-preventable diseases are under fairly good control compared to the pre-vaccine era. And in some cases of SIDS, a new case of diabetes, or the sudden death of an older child, etc., it may happen soon after the child was vaccinated, and that correlation is hard to ignore for some folks.

At least it is hard to ignore and easy to be influenced by anti-vaccine folks if you don’t understand the background rate of these diseases – or the fact that a certain number of children will be affected no matter what, and because many kids get vaccinated, it is only a matter of chance that the two get correlated together. 

Vaccines are safe.

They don’t typically cause serious vaccine injuries.

If you do think that your child has a vaccine injury, talk to your pediatrician. Don’t get diagnosed in a Facebook forum…

More on Diagnosing Vaccine Injuries

Do Vaccines Cause Strabismus?

Vaccines can do a lot of things.

They can prevent you from getting a life-threatening disease, sometimes even after you have been exposed. And if you do get sick when vaccinated, the vaccine can often help to make sure the disease isn’t as severe as it might have been if you were unvaccinated. They can also keep you from getting sick and exposing others, including those who are at extra risk for severe disease.

Vaccines also get blamed for doing a lot of other things, namely for causing vaccine injuries.

These types of vaccine injury stories often scare other parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.
These types of vaccine injury stories often scare other parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

While, of course, vaccines aren’t risk free, they don’t actually cause most of the bad things you read about on the Internet.

What Causes Strabismus?

Strabismus isn’t a disease. It is simply a term that describes a misalignment of your child’s eyes.

“At birth, an infant’s eyes cannot always focus directly on objects. They may appear to move quite independently at first, sometimes crossing, and sometimes wandering outward. But by the age of three to four months, an infant’s eyes should have the ability to focus on small objects and the eyes should be straight or parallel. A six-month-old infant should be able to focus on both distant and near objects.”

Prevent Blindness America on Is Strabismus Present at Birth?

To be more specific, children with strabismus can have:

  • esotropia – the eye turns inward
  • exotropia – the eye turns outward
  • hyertropia – the eye turns upward
  • hypotropia – the eye turns downward

And we get especially concerned when strabismus leads to amblyopia – decreased vision in the affected eye.

Some specific things that cause strabismus include:

  • third nerve (III) palsy
  • fourth nerve (IV) palsy – superior oblique muscle
  • sixth nerve (VI) palsy – lateral rectus muscle
  • Brown syndrome
  • Duane syndrome

Often, we don’t know why kids have strabismus, although it is thought that at least 50% of them are born with it, even if it isn’t recognized until they are older.

“Most strabismus is the result of an abnormality of the neuromuscular (including brain) control of eye movement. Our understanding of these control centers in the brain remains incomplete. Less commonly, a problem with the actual eye muscle may cause strabismus.”

AAPOS on What causes strabismus?

Kids with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, and brain tumors are thought to be at higher risk for developing strabismus.

Do Vaccines Cause Strabismus?

And because we don’t always know what causes strabismus, that leads some folks to want to blame vaccines.

Interestingly, one study, Prevalence of Amblyopia and Strabismus in White and African-American Children Aged 6 through 71 Months: The Baltimore Pediatric Eye Disease Study, found that strabismus was rare in infants and that while higher in older kids, “there was no clear trend for increasing or decreasing prevalence after age 12 months.”

If strabismus was caused by vaccines, wouldn’t you expect to see more infants with strabismus and a consistent rise in cases as kids continued to get vaccines until they go to kindergarten?

Do any studies support the idea that vaccines do cause strabismus?

No.

There are a few case reports, but it is important to remember that a case report is basically a gloried anecdote. It is not the kind of high quality evidence you really want if you are trying to make a case trying to prove causality.

The biggest evidence against vaccines causing strabismus?

Strabismus isn’t new.

The first cases were reported over 3500 years ago and the first surgical repairs were being done in the early 19th Century.

So why do some folks think that strabismus is a vaccine injury? Mostly it is because some folks think that everything is a vaccine injury.

More on Strabismus


Is AFM a Form of Transverse Myelitis?

Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) is a form of acute flaccid paralysis.

“AFM can be difficult to diagnose because it shares many of the same symptoms as other neurologic diseases, like transverse myelitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome. With the help of testing and examinations, doctors can distinguish between AFM and other neurologic conditions.”

About Acute Flaccid Myelitis

AFM is not transverse myelitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), or Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) though, although anti-vaccine folks are trying hard to make a connection.

Is AFM a Form of Transverse Myelitis?

AFM is similar to transverse myelitis, in that they both affect a person’s spinal cord, but a big difference is that TM results from “an immune-mediated inflammatory attack of a person’s spinal cord.”

“This report and others indicate that AFM represents a unique subset of acute flaccid paralysis distinct from GBS and transverse myelitis. GBS typically presents with an ascending paralysis and can be associated with facial paralysis and sensory symptoms. Children with transverse myelitis have weakness and prominent sensory loss, often manifest as a spinal sensory level. By contrast, the majority of children with AFM have focal, poliomyelitis-like spinal cord paralysis with minimal or no sensory symptoms.”

Recognition and Management of Acute Flaccid Myelitis in Children

And AFM has different symptoms from both TM and GBS.

So why try to connect AFM with TM, GBS, and ADEM? Because they think that vaccines cause TM, GBS, and ADEM.

They don’t. Just like vaccines don’t cause AFM.

There is no proof in package inserts that vaccines cause AFM.
There is no proof in package inserts that vaccines cause AFM.

But can’t you find some of these things listed in the package insert for some vaccines?

Yes, but when mentioned in a vaccine’s package insert, like for autism, SIDS, or meningitis, it is in the section where it is clear that it is “without regard to causality.”

AFM is not transverse myelitis and neither are caused by vaccines.

We will hopefully learn what is causing the latest cases of AFM soon.

More on AFM and Transverse Myelitis

What is Provocation Polio?

It is well known that you can very rarely develop polio after being vaccinated with the oral polio vaccine.

VAPP or vaccine-associated paralytic polio are cases of polio that are actually caused by the polio vaccine. That’s why many countries switch over to the inactivated form of the polio vaccine once polio is under good control.

But can you get polio after an injection?

What is Provocation Polio?

You are probably thinking, sure, if the injection is full of live polio virus, right?

But this is actually the idea behind provocation polio.

No, the injection doesn’t give you polio, but if you are already infected with polio, the idea is that getting an injection could be a risk factor for developing paralytic polio.

“Provocation poliomyelitis describes the enhanced risk of paralytic manifestations that follows injection in the 30 days preceding paralysis onset.”

Plotkin’s Vaccines

Remember, most people with polio don’t actually have any symptoms, although some do have flu-like symptoms. And fewer than 1% develop paralysis or weakness when they have polio. Although that doesn’t sound like a lot, during a polio epidemic, when a lot of kids are getting polio, the cases of paralytic polio quickly add up.

What else can provoke paralytic polio?

  • strenuous exercise (paralytic polio)
  • tonsillectomy (bulbar polio)

So how does an injection provoke paralytic polio?

“Skeletal muscle injury induces retrograde axonal transport of poliovirus and thereby facilitates viral invasion of the central nervous system and the progression of spinal cord damage.”

Gromeier et al on Mechanism of Injury-Provoked Poliomyelitis

Injury to a muscle by the needle is thought to have allowed the polio virus to move through the nerves in the area to the spinal cord, as long as the polio virus was already in their blood. How do we know it was the needle and not the vaccine itself? In experiments, they injected saline, and not an actual vaccine.

Is this how everyone developed paralytic polio?

The issue of provocation polio was discussed at the The First International Conference on Live Polio Vaccines in 1959.
The issue of provocation polio was discussed at the The First International Conference on Live Polio Vaccines in 1959.

No.

Remember, kids didn’t get many vaccines around the time we were seeing polio outbreaks in the 1940s and 50s, although other injections, like penicillin were also thought to provoke paralytic polio.

Why were they getting penicillin? Often to treat congenital syphilis.

During outbreaks of paralytic polio in London in the late 1940s, fewer than 10% were related to recent injections.
During outbreaks of paralytic polio in London in the late 1940s, fewer than 10% were related to recent injections.

And although they went so far as to delay vaccines during outbreaks and to not do tonsillectomies during the summer, when polio outbreaks were more common, kids still got paralytic polio.

Could Provocation AFM Be a Thing?

Have you guessed why some folks are talking about provocation polio again, even though we are on the verge of eradicating polio?

“Seizing on a 2014 historical perspective piece on a phenomenon known as “polio provocation” in the highly respected medical journal, The Lancet, anti-vaccine forces have attempted to link the recent AFM cases (as they attempt to do with many other medical occurrences) to childhood vaccinations.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja on Clusters of polio-like illness in the US not a cause for panic

That’s right, they think that since provocation polio explained some cases of paralytic polio, then vaccines must be associated with AFM.

While it is not a bad idea, the problem with it is that vaccines are not associated with AFM.

“…is there any relationship between vaccination status and a developing acute flaccid myelitis? Meaning, are vaccines a risk factor? And the data so far says no, the overwhelming number of children who have gotten AFM have had no recent vaccination of any kind or vaccine exposure. These cases over these years have been happening before flu season and flu vaccination starts, which is one of the questions that comes up, and there hasn’t been any pattern to vaccine exposure of any kind in developing AFM. So far, we have not found a link between the two.”

Benjamin Greenberg, MD on 2018 Podcast on Acute Flaccid Myelitis

For vaccines to provoke AFM, you would have to have gotten a recent vaccine.

It is no mystery that AFM isn’t associated with vaccines – experts review patient vaccination records.
It is no mystery that AFM isn’t associated with vaccines – experts review patient vaccination records.

We aren’t seeing that and anything else all of the kids with AFM had in common that might provoke paralysis, like acupuncture, cupping,  or dry needling, would likely have come out in epidemiological reports.

More on Provocation Polio and AFM

 

Why Do Some People Think That Vaccines Cause AFM?

So we know that vaccines don’t cause acute flaccid myelitis.

Consider a five-year-old in Maryland who recently came down with symptoms of AFM.

Was he recently vaccinated?

Nope. It had been some time since his four-year-old vaccines. Almost a year. And he had not gotten a flu vaccine yet.

What he did have were worsening symptoms about two weeks after he had seemed to get over a cold, something he has in common with most other kids with AFM.

“To try to pin a tragic yet uncommon neurological condition caused by enteroviruses on vaccines is dangerous and puts more kids at risk.”

Scott Krugman, MD

As with this case, the CDC reports no correlation with vaccines in the cases that they have investigated.

And remember, some of these kids have been unvaccinated!

That makes you wonder why some folks actually think that vaccines are associated with AFM, doesn’t it?

Why Do Some People Think That Vaccines Cause AFM?

That’s right, as you are likely suspecting, the usual suspects are pushing anti-vaccine propaganda and promoting the idea to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“…there are many other reasons to suspect vaccine-related mechanisms of causation for AFM in the U.S., a primary one being that the scientific literature has documented paralysis as an adverse reaction to vaccination for decades!”

The Non-Polio Illness That “Looks Just Like Polio” by Lyn Redwood, RN, MSN, President, Children’s Health Defense

If any of these kids had recently gotten the oral polio vaccine, then sure, an adverse reaction to the vaccination would be at the top of the list of possible causes. After all, we know that VAPP can occur after OPV, but that vaccine hasn’t been used in the United States since 2000, when we switched to IPV.

Why do these folks think that they have it all figured out?

Vaccines are not causing AFM because of needle puncture wounds or tonsillectomies.
Vaccines are not causing AFM because of needle puncture wounds or tonsillectomies.

The AFM outbreaks happen at the beginning of the school year, when kids are all getting their shots, right?

Nope. They happen during the summer and early fall, peaking in August. And despite what some folks think, most parents don’t wait until the end of summer, just before school starts, to vaccinate their kids. Plus, most kids don’t even need vaccines before the start of the school year. Kids typically only get vaccines before starting kindergarten and middle school.

But the outbreaks do coincide with the when kids get their flu shots, right?

How many kids get flu shots in June and July?

If it was flu shots, the peak would be in October and November, when most kids get their flu shots and we would continue to see cases through December and January.

Many anti-vaccine websites and Facebook groups are pushing the idea that vaccines cause AFM.
Many anti-vaccine websites and Facebook groups are pushing the idea that vaccines cause AFM.

Of course, there is absolutely no evidence that flu vaccines, or any other vaccines, cause AFM.

What about the journal article that Brandy Vaughan posts as evidence?

“By reviewing vaccine-associated inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system, this study describes the current knowledge on whether the safety signal was coincidental, as in the case of multiple sclerosis with several vaccines, or truly reflected a causal link, as in narcolepsy with cataplexy following pandemic H1N1 influenza virus vaccination.”

Vaccine-associated inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system: from signals to causation

Even if you just read the abstract, as many folks do, you get a good idea where they are going with the article. It talks about how the claims of an association between multiple sclerosis and vaccines were proven to be purely coincidental.

Remember, correlation does not imply causation.

With AFM, you don’t even have much correlation to imply causation though!

Most cases occur just before we start giving flu vaccines and they don’t occur every year or in every state.

But doesn’t the article mention myelitis?

“Most of the published associations are based on individual case reports or small series of patients.”

Vaccine-associated inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system: from signals to causation

It does mention myelitis, just like it mentions MS – where an association has been shown to be purely coincidental.

Remember, case reports are not good evidence.

“…there are many other reasons to suspect vaccine-related mechanisms of causation for AFM in the U.S., a primary one being that the scientific literature has documented paralysis as an adverse reaction to vaccination for decades!”

The Non-Polio Illness That “Looks Just Like Polio” by Lyn Redwood, RN, MSN, President, Children’s Health Defense

But isn’t acute flaccid myelitis listed as a possible side affect in the package inserts for our vaccines?

Uh, TRANSVERSE myelitis and ACUTE DISSEMINATED ENCEPHALOmyelitis are not the same as acute flaccid myeltitis.
Uh, TRANSVERSE myelitis and ACUTE DISSEMINATED ENCEPHALOmyelitis are not the same as acute flaccid myelitis.

While it should be clear that AFM isn’t the same as ADEM and TM, it is very important to understand that even when those other conditions are listed in a package insert, it is in the section that is marked “without regard to causality.”

This isn’t evidence that vaccines cause AFM!

But didn’t the BMJ publish a study about Vaccines and the U.S. Mystery of Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

BMJ seems to allow anyone to publish responses to their articles online...
BMJ seems to allow anyone to publish responses to their articles online…

Nope. What they did is let someone publish what is essentially an online letter to the editor. And anti-vaccine folks are spreading it around like it is an actual BMJ study…

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

This is how anti-vaccine propaganda works.

Why are vaccine injury lawyers talking about AFM?
Why are vaccine injury lawyers talking about AFM?

It’s no coincidence that anti-vaccine folks are trying so hard to associate the outbreaks of AFM with vaccines. What better way to scare folks and make them think that vaccines are dangerous?

AFM is all that anti-vaccine folks are talking about these days...
AFM is all that anti-vaccine folks are talking about these days…

How are ‘we’ working on a vaccine for AFM if we don’t even know what causes AFM???

But that’s how many anti-vaccine folks think. Everything is a vaccine injury. Everything is a conspiracy.

Don’t believe them. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on Anti-Vaccine Propaganda About AFM

 

VigiAccess Numbers in Context

Most people are familiar with VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

They sometimes forget that it is only the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System for the United States.

Other countries have their own vaccine safety systems.

VigiAccess Numbers in Context

One of the biggest is VigiBase, the World Health Organization’s  global database for suspected adverse drug reactions, maintained by the Uppsala Monitoring Centre in Sweden.

“Information on suspected ADR should not be interpreted as meaning that the medicinal product in question, or the active substance(s), generally causes the observed effect or is unsafe to use.”

Not surprisingly, folks misuse VigiBase numbers, just like they misuse VAERS reports.

JB Handley needs help understanding VigiAccess reports.
JB Handley needs help understanding VigiAccess reports.

To look at the VigiBase reports, you can use VigiAccess.

“VigiAccess has a search interface that allows visitors to retrieve summary statistics on suspected adverse reactions to medicines and vaccines.”

Uppsala Monitoring Centre

While VigiBase “is at the heart of UMC’s signal detection and scientific research,” you aren’t going to learn much from VigiAccess.

“Geographically, only continent-level statistics are shown, due to issues relating to patient confidentiality and data protection in individual countries.”

Uppsala Monitoring Centre

The biggest problem?

You don’t know how many vaccines were given to all of those people.

For example, while it might sound like there have been a lot of adverse drug reaction reports for the DTaP vaccine, with 179,447 reports in VigiAccess, since those are worldwide reports since 1968, it is likely among many billions of doses of vaccines being given.

Most importantly though, as with VAERS, “The reports in VigiBase result from suspicions of a relationship between a drug and a reaction. No causal relation has been confirmed.”

So how do you put the numbers from VigiBase and VigiAccess in context?

If you consider that reports and safety signals from VigiBase, VigiMatch, VigiRank, and other tools used by the Uppsala Monitoring Centre continue to find that vaccines are safe, then to put the DTaP numbers in context, they help us know that vaccines are being well monitored for safety.

And since we know that these diseases haven’t disappeared, any further context, if you need it, would be that since vaccines are safe and necessary, then you should get yourself and your family vaccinated and protected.

More on VigiBase and VigiAccess

 

Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences

Believe it or not, some folks don’t think that coincidences are real.

Not believing in coincidences is a well known trope of the anti-vaccine movement.
Not believing in coincidences is a well known trope of the anti-vaccine movement.

Is it a coincidence that these folks are the ones who are the most likely to believe that vaccines cause a lot of injuries and vaccine induced diseases?

Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences

Thinking about vaccine side effects and coincidences is not new.

“When I undertook the study with the current vaccine strain on my own two triple-negative children and their three playmates, also triple- negatives, I thought: “I am going to do this very carefully now,” and, like Dr. Gear, I set up certain time schedules. I said: “I am going to start to give the vaccine now.” Every time I said “I am going to start to give it” and did not give it, two to three or four days later they came down with either pharyngitis, vomiting and abdominal pain, or a little fever.

I waited for approximately six weeks for those children to stop having some sort of febrile episode. I finally gave up. It so happened that after they got the vaccine they did not have any such episode.”

Albert Sabin on Recent Studies And Field Tests With A Live Attenuated Poliovirus Vaccine

When Albert Sabin was first researching his oral polio vaccine, he understood the problem. How could he really know if any signs or symptoms that occurred after he gave someone his vaccine were really caused by the vaccine, or just a coincidence?

“However, a report later to be given by Dr. Smorodintsev will deal with approximately 7,500 children who had received the vaccine and were carefully followed, as compared with another group, in similar number, who had not, for various types of illnesses which were occurring during the period.”

Albert Sabin on Recent Studies And Field Tests With A Live Attenuated Poliovirus Vaccine

The solution? They studied kids who had not gotten his vaccine.

But you don’t need an unvaccinated group to uncover coincidences.

You can just look at the background rate of a symptom or condition, and compare the periods before and after you start using a vaccine.

For instance, consider this study from Australia about using the HPV vaccine in boys, in which they made some predictions of what would happen after introducing the HPV vaccine.

Assuming an 80% vaccination rate with three doses per person — which equates to about 480 000 boys vaccinated and a total of 1 440 000 doses administered nationally per year in the first 2 years of the program — about 2.4 episodes of Guillain-Barré syndrome would be expected to occur within 6 weeks of vaccination. In addition, about 3.9 seizures and 6.5 acute allergy presentations would be expected to occur within 1 day of vaccination, including 0.3 episodes of anaphylaxis.

Clothier et al. on Human papillomavirus vaccine in boys: background rates of potential adverse events.

Wait. Are they saying that the HPV vaccine is going to cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, seizures, allergic reactions, and anaplylaxis?

Of course not. When the study was done, the kids hadn’t gotten any vaccines yet!

That was the background rate of those conditions.

They happened before the vaccine was given, and you can expect them to continue to happen after these kids start getting vaccinated – at that same rate.

What if they start happening more often after kids get vaccinated?

Then it makes it less likely to be a coincidence and more likely that the vaccine is actually causing an increase in the background rate. And vaccine safety studies look for that, which is how we know that vaccines don’t cause SIDS, transverse myelitis, multiple sclerosis, and many other conditions.

Most of you will have heard the maxim “correlation does not imply causation.” Just because two variables have a statistical relationship with each other does not mean that one is responsible for the other. For instance, ice cream sales and forest fires are correlated because both occur more often in the summer heat. But there is no causation; you don’t light a patch of the Montana brush on fire when you buy a pint of Haagan-Dazs.

Nate Silver on The Signal and the Noise

Of course, when we are talking about coincidences, we are also talking about correlation and causation.

When correlation doesn’t equal causation, then it’s probably a coincidence. Or it’s at least caused by some other factor.

And coincidences happen all of the time.

Is It a Vaccine Injury or a Coincidence?

That something could be a coincidence is not typically want parents want to hear though, especially if their child has gotten sick.

What does it mean that something happens coincidentally?

“Most sudden cardiac deaths that remain unexplained after necropsy are probably caused by primary cardiac arrhythmias.”

Sudden death in children and adolescents

Often it just means that it is unexplained. And that it is chance alone that it occurred as the same time as something else.

“In the absence of a specific etiology for ASDs, and a tendency among parents of children with a disability to feel a strong sense of guilt, it is not surprising that parents attempt to form their own explanations for the disorder in order to cope with the diagnosis.”

Mercer et al on Parental perspectives on the causes of an autism spectrum disorder in their children

Again, when folks blame vaccines, it is often because they have nothing else to blame.

“In some fraction of the American population, however, the belief in a link remains. One reason is a coincidence of timing: children are routinely vaccinated just as parents begin to observe signs of autism. Most vaccines are administered during the first years of life, which is also a period of rapid developmental changes. Many developmental conditions, including autism, don’t become apparent until a child misses a milestone or loses an early skill, a change that in some cases can’t help but be coincident with a recent vaccination.”

Emily Willingham on The Autism-Vaccine Myth

Think that it is too big of a coincidence that some infants develop spasms shortly after their four month vaccines?

Dr. William James West first described these types of infantile spasms in the 1840s!

And the “Fifth Day Fits,” seizures that began when a newborn was five days old, was described in the 1970s, well before we began giving newborns the hepatitis B vaccine.

But SIDS was only discovered after we began vaccinating kids, right?

“But, with millions upon millions of doses given each year to infants in the first 6 months of life across industrialized countries and with sudden infant death syndrome being the most common cause of infant death among infants 1 month or older, the coincidence of SIDS following DTP vaccination just by chance will be relatively frequent. When the two events occur, with SIDS following vaccination, well-meaning and intelligent people will blame the vaccine. They seek order out of randomly occurring events.”

Jacobson et al. on A taxonomy of reasoning flaws in the anti-vaccine movement

Of course not.

Cases of SIDS have been described throughout recorded history and have been well studied to prove that they are not associated with vaccines.

“Some events after immunisation are clearly caused by the vaccine (for example, a sore arm at the injection site). However, others may happen by coincidence around the time of vaccination. It can therefore be difficult to separate those which are clearly caused by a vaccine and those that were going to happen anyway… Scientific method is then used to determine if these events are a coincidence or a result of the vaccine.

Vaccine side effects and adverse reactions

It is easy to blame a vaccine when something happens and a child was recently vaccinated. That is especially true now that anti-vaccine folks turn every story of a child’s death or disability into a vaccine injury story.

“Autism was known well before MMR vaccine became available.”

Chen et al. on Vaccine adverse events: causal or coincidental?

Blaming vaccines when it is clear that vaccines aren’t the cause doesn’t help anyone though. It scares other parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids. And it doesn’t help parents who need support caring for a sick child or help coping with the loss of a child.

What to Know About Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences

While all possible adverse events after getting a vaccine should be reported to VAERS and your pediatrician, remember that just because something happened after getting vaccinated, it doesn’t mean that it was caused by the vaccine.

More on Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences