So no, childhood diseases have not become deadlier.
They have always been serious and life-threatening!
Of course, not everyone died who got them, but they were rarely a walk in the park. Remember, even a mild case of measles includes a high fever for 4 to 7 days. That’s why folks often end up seeking medical attention multiple times, even if they don’t end up having any complications and don’t need to get admitted to the hospital
But what about the Brady Bunch measles episode, Is There a Doctor in the House? Is that really why you think vaccine-preventable diseases are mild?
In 1969, when that episode first aired, there were 25,826 reported cases and 41 deaths from measles in the United States.
Believe it or not, we still don’t have cures for measles, chicken pox, congenital rubella syndrome, and hepatitis B, etc. So while these diseases haven’t become any more deadly, they haven’t become any less deadly either, even with all of the advances of modern medicine.
“Before a vaccine became available in 1963, measles was a rite of passage among American children. A red rash would spread over their bodies. They would develop a high fever. Severe cases could cause blindness or brain damage, or even death.”
CDC says measles almost eliminated in U.S.
Instead, most people develop 10 days of measles symptoms, including a high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes, and a rash. Photophobia, irritability, sore throat, headache, and abdominal pain are other symptoms that children with measles might have.
“From 1964 through 1971, 16.7% of the death certificates reviewed noted some underlying pathologic condition.”
Roger Barkin, MD on Measles mortality. Analysis of the primary cause of death.
It is most often children, typically young children, without any medical problems who die.
In the post-vaccination era, no one would be expected to die with measles, but those with immune system problems sometimes do, as most others are vaccinated and protected. As vaccinated rates drop though, even otherwise healthy children and adults can once again die of measles.
“Complications were reported in 672 (9.8%) cases, including otitis media in 318 (4.6%) cases, pneumonia in 178 (2.6%), diarrhea in 171 (2.5%), and encephalitis in five (0.1%). Nine hundred thirteen patients (13.3%) were hospitalized, and 10 measles-associated fatalities were reported (case-fatality rate: 1.5 deaths per 1000 reported cases). Eight of the deaths were reported in children less than 5 years of age, all of whom were unvaccinated. None had a reported underlying illness or immunodeficiency. Most deaths have been attributed to pneumonia.”
Measles — United States, First 26 Weeks, 1989
Probably not, but from 1989 to 1991 there were at least 123 measles deaths across the United States, even after measles had been declining for years with the introduction of the measles vaccine in the 1960s. Most of the deaths were otherwise healthy, without underlying medical problems.
Because we don’t typically hear any details about measles deaths, including the almost 90,000 measles deaths that continue to occur around the world each year, most people likely assume that measles only kills in third world countries, where kids are already sick or malnourished. Of course, that wouldn’t explain how over one hundred people died with measles in Europe over the past few years…
Still think that measles isn’t deadly?
Tragically, there are plenty of stories (although most are never reported in the news and we don’t hear about them) and case reports that will prove you wrong:
Olivia Dahl died with measles when she was 7-years-old (1962)
an unvaccinated 3-year-old died in Maricopa County (1970)
a 13-year-old girl who had previously been vaccinated with one of the first inactivated measles vaccines which were found to be ineffective and were replaced with the newer live vaccines died in Michigan (1978)
a 9-month-old died in Chicago (1990)
an unvaccinated 13-year-old died in Kansas (1990)
Tammy Bowman, an 11-year-old unvaccinated girl died in Michigan (1990)
an unvaccinated 13-year-old became the first person in the UK to die with measles in 14 years (2006)
a 14-year-old died of Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE), a late complication of a natural measles infection (2015)
a 16-year-old who had received a heart transplant when she was 2-years-old died in France (2018)
an unvaccinated toddler in Jerusalem (2018)
Measles as a rite of passage?
“We baby boomers were apparently the last generation whose doctors, and therefore parents, accepted the measles as just one more annoying rite of passage of childhood that also happened to prime the immune system and provide lifelong immunity. Medical texts prior to the advent of the vaccine described measles as a benign, selflimiting (sic) childhood infectious disease that posed little risk to the average well-nourished child.”
Darrerl Crain, DC on The Great Measles Misunderstanding
While early pediatric textbooks did a great job describing the symptoms of measles, they also did a great job of documenting that measles was never a benign disease, something anti-vaccine folks still misunderstand because vaccines can do such a good job controlling the disease.
Do benign, self-limiting childhood infections diseases kill hundreds of children every year?
Measles as a rite of passage is something we don’t want to have to go back to. It was a rite of passage that was endured because there was no other choice.
There is plenty of evidence that the standard immunization schedule is safe and effective.
What about the alternative vaccine schedules that some folks push?
Is there any evidence that is safe to delay or skip any of your child’s vaccines?
Alternative Vaccine Schedules
Many people think of Dr. Bob Sears when they think of alternative vaccine schedules.
He created both:
Dr Bob’s Selective Vaccine Schedule
Dr Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule
He didn’t invent the idea of the alternative vaccine schedule though.
Well before Dr. Bob appeared on the scene, Dr. Jay Gordon had been on Good Morning America with Cindy Crawford to discuss vaccines and how she had decided to delay vaccinating her baby.
Where did she get the idea?
After the segment, Dr. Jay stated:
“They edited the segment to make me sound like a vaccination proponent. We also have to understand the impact of a person as well-known as Cindy Crawford delaying vaccines for over six months.”
Dr. Jay has long talked about only giving infants one vaccine at a time and waiting until they are “developmentally solid” before vaccinating.
Similarly, other folks have pushed ideas about delaying and skipping vaccines before Dr. Bob, including:
Donald Miller and his User-Friendly Vaccination Schedule – no vaccines until age two years and no live vaccines and when you begin vaccinating your child, give them one at a time, every six months (first published in 2004)
Stephanie Cave – starts at 4 months and delays many vaccines
homeopaths with immunization schedules that say to wait until six months and then start giving nosodes every five days
chiropractors with immunization plans that say to get regular chiropractic adjustments instead of vaccines
Of course, Dr. Bob is the one who popularized the idea of the alternative vaccine schedule in 2007, when he published The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child.
That’s when parents started to bring copies of his schedule into their pediatrician’s office, requesting to follow Dr. Bob’s schedule instead of the standard immunization schedule from the CDC.
What’s the Evidence for Alternative Vaccine Schedules?
There is no evidence that following an alternative vaccine schedule is safe for your kids.
“No alternative vaccine schedules have been evaluated and found to provide better safety or efficacy than the recommended schedule, supported by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the CDC and the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the AAP (the committee that produces the Red Book).
Pediatricians who routinely recommend limiting the numbers of vaccines administered at a single visit such that vaccines are administered late are providing care that deviates from the standard evidence-based schedule recommended by these bodies.”
American Academy of Pediatrics
What’s the first clue that these so-called alternative vaccine schedules have absolutely no evidence behind them?
They are all different!
Paul Thomas, for example, doesn’t even offer his patients the rotavirus vaccine. Dr. Bob, on the other hand, has it on his list of vaccines that “that could protect a baby from a very potentially life-threatening or very common serious illness” and is sure to give it at 2, 4, and 6 months.
How slow should you go?
Both Dr. Bob and Dr. Paul give two vaccines at a time with their schedules, but Dr. Jay and Dr. Miller say to give just one at a time.
“Would any scientist give SIX vaccines at once to a baby? Asking for trouble. One at a time makes so much more sense.”
And while some start their schedules at 2 or 4 months, others delay until 6 months or 2 years.
There is also the fact that the folks who create these schedules admit that there is no evidence for what they are doing…
“No one’s ever researched to see what happens if you delay vaccines. And do babies handle vaccines better when they’re older? This is really just a typical fear that parents have when their babies are young and small and more vulnerable. Since I don’t know one way or the other, I’m just happy to work with these parents, understand their fears and their worries, and agree to vaccinate them in a way that they feel is safer for their baby.”
Unvaccinated kids aren’t healthier – they just get more vaccine preventable diseases. Most of which are life-threatening, even in this age of modern medicine, with access to good nutrition and sanitation.
So whether you only get one or two vaccines at a time; delay until four months, six months, or two years before you get started; skip all live vaccines or just wait until your child is “developmentally solid” to give them; or go with some other non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule, the only things that you can be sure of is that there is no evidence to support your decision and that you will leave your kids unprotected and at risk for getting a vaccine-preventable disease.
“…when I give your six-week-old seven different vaccines with two dozen antigens, I am supposed to try to convince you that the adverse reactions you have heard about are just coincidences.”
Better yet though. Find a pediatrician who will listen and answer your questions about vaccines, concerns about vaccine myths and misinformation, explain that no vaccine is optional, and not just simply pander to your fears.
What to Know About the Evidence for Alternative Vaccine Schedules
There is no evidence that skipping or delaying any vaccines with an alternative vaccine schedules can keep your kids safe from vaccine preventable diseases.
More on the Evidence for Alternative Vaccine Schedules