Tag: correlation

Who Is Dr. Taz?

Dr. Taz is on a mission “to transform the way we do medicine and empower and equip you with the best tools so you can live your healthiest life.”

While that sounds very nice, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that she seems like every other anti-vaccine quack we run across these days.

Who Is Dr. Taz?

Dr. Tasneem Bhatia MD (Dr. Taz) describes herself as a nationally recognized “wellness expert” who became a “pioneer and trailblazer” after overcoming her own personal health problems.

With multiple office locations and membership packages, Dr. Taz is pleased to offer many non-evidenced based services for you and your child, and she will even file your claim forms from your insurance company, although, as expected, she doesn’t actually participate in any insurance plans.

What about vaccines?

“My journey in medicine began with pediatrics, so I am well aware of the importance of vaccines and the incredible history and success of vaccination programs in reducing infant and child mortality.

Yet as my journey continues, I have had to listen to patient after patient describe a change or a shifting in their children once vaccines were administered. I experienced this as a parent. I will never forget the day that my son received a combination vaccine. Within 24 hrs., his mild reflux became severe, his weight gain over the next few months slowed and we continue to play catch up, trying to analyze our next steps. My son, however, is not autistic. He is brilliant, hilarious, and an absolute charmer.

My patients and my own children have forced me to rethink this vaccine controversy.”

Dr. Taz on Back to School Survival Series Part Two, The Vaccine Debate Continues

Of course, there is no vaccine controversy, except the one that folks like Dr. Taz have created. Like many other vaccine-friendly pediatricians, anecdotes became evidence and quickly overcame years of learning.

And shame on Dr. Taz for implying that autistic kids are not brilliant, hilarious and charmers!

That’s the vaccine controversy. Continuing to push the idea that autistic kids are vaccine damaged and not understanding the simple concept that correlation doesn’t imply causation.

“Red flags for parents that may justify an alternative schedule include”

Dr. Taz on Back to School Survival Series Part Two, The Vaccine Debate Continues

While there are true contraindications to getting vaccinated, she doesn’t list any of them, instead pushing anti-vaccine talking points about skipping or delaying vaccines if your child has reflux, colic, or delayed milestones, etc.

But there’s more.

During a visit with Dr. Taz, you can also get your child:

  • a Zyto scan
  • Meridian testing
  • a brain boost evaluation
  • sports optimization testing

And parents can get a detox screen “which will directly correlate with your child’s early ability to detox and process chemicals.”  That’s probably just MTHFR testing, which you don’t need and which doesn’t correlate with much of anything, besides homocystinuria.

Selling supplements is big business for integrative, holistic, and anti-vaccine folks.
Your diagnostic tests and evaluation, whether it is the Zyto scan or detox screen, likely helps them scare convince you into buying more supplements.

Dr. Taz also offers:

  • acupuncture and Chinese medicine
  • aromatherapy
  • Ayurveda (Indian medicine)
  • energy healing
  • essential oils
  • craniosacral therapy (osteopathy)
  • homeopathy
  • IV therapy

Now, I understand that these types of holistic docs push the idea of “pulling from conventional, integrative, holistic, functional and Chinese medicine to create the best customized treatment plans possible,” but if any of these alternative therapies worked, whether it was acupuncture or Ayurveda, or homeopathy, then why do they need to integrate them all?

So what services does Dr. Bhatia offer to bring her patients to “whole health”? It’s a veritable cornucopia of quackery. Homeopathy? Check. Acupuncture? Check. (Obviously.) IV vitamin therapy? Check. Oh, and of course Dr. Bhatia offers thermograms. She even offers mobile thermograms. Never mind that thermography remains an unvalidated test for the early detection of breast cancer, much less for all the other conditions for which Dr. Bhatia recommends it, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, back injuries, digestive disorders, “and more…”

A commercial for acupuncture masquerading as news

And how does someone go from teaching medical students and residents at Emory University to being one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop experts, along with Kelly Brogan?

Dr. Taz was a pediatrician who said that vaccines were safe and necessary.
It wasn’t so long ago that Dr. Taz was a pediatrician who said that vaccines were safe and necessary.

Or from saying vaccines are safe and necessary and that parents shouldn’t expose their kids at chicken pox parties to a few years later saying that we shouldn’t judge Kristin Cavallari because we need more vaccine research.

What motivates these folks?

What to Know About Dr. Taz Bhatia

Dr. Taz promotes herself as an integrative medicine expert who pushes many unproven treatments and has alternative and dangerous views about vaccines and autistic kids.

More on Dr. Taz Bhatia

Can Vaccines Cause Eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, can be hard to control.

That’s one of the things that is so frustrating about it.

It’s also often hard to figure out what exactly is triggering a child’s eczema. Is it the soap you are using, your child’s clothes, or something he eat or drank?

What Causes Kids to Have Eczema?

Another frustrating thing for parents, and pediatricians, is that we really don’t know what usually causes kids to have eczema in the first place.

Was it the soap you are using, your child’s clothes, or something he eat or drank?

“Research suggests that genes are the determining causes of eczema and other atopic diseases. This means that you are more likely to have atopic dermatitis, food allergies, asthma and/or hayfever if your parents or other family members have ever had eczema.”

Mark Boguniewicz, MD on What Causes Eczema

Unfortunately, simply knowing that eczema is genetic doesn’t make it any less frustrating for many people.

“There is emerging evidence that inflammation in atopic dermatitis is associated with immune-mediated and inherited abnormalities in the skin barrier.”

Amy Stanway, MD on Causes of atopic dermatitis

You can avoid likely triggers, including harsh soaps and dry skin, etc., and learn the best ways to care for your baby’s skin though.

Can Vaccines Cause Eczema?

Why do some folks associate vaccines with eczema?

“It is unusual for an infant to be affected with atopic dermatitis before the age of four months but they may suffer from infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis or other rashes prior to this.”

Amy Stanway, MD on Atopic Dermatitis

It’s easy to understand when you realize that 60% of kids with eczema have their first symptoms before their first birthday and for some, the first symptoms start around the time an infant is just over four months old.

Many baby rashes, especially if they started before 4 months, are probably not eczema.
Many baby rashes, especially if they started before 4 months, are probably not eczema. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Did your baby have bad skin before four months?

Many do, but they usually don’t have eczema. In the first week or two, newborn rashes like infantile seborrheic dermatitis and neonatal acne continue to worsen, until they reach a peak at about age six weeks. It isn’t until about three or four months that baby’s begin to have good skin. Unless they start to develop eczema…

So, since the eczema symptoms start after a child’s four or six months shots, then it must be the vaccines, right?

While the correlation is obvious, that obviously doesn’t prove that vaccines cause eczema.

“Vaccinations do NOT cause eczema.”

Amy Paller, MD on Do vaccines cause eczema?

And, not surprisingly, several studies (listed below) prove that they don’t.

A large study of vaccinated vs unvaccinated children, Vaccination Status and Health in Children and Adolescents Findings of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS), also found that “the prevalence of allergic diseases and non-specific infections in children and adolescents was not found to depend on vaccination status.”

Can Vaccine Ingredients Trigger Eczema?

Now that we know that vaccines don’t actually cause eczema, what about the idea that vaccines can make a child’s eczema worse?

That’s actually true, but only for the smallpox vaccine.

If someone with eczema gets vaccinated with vaccinia, the smallpox vaccine, or is recently exposed to someone who was vaccinated, they could develop eczema vaccinatum. Fortunately, since smallpox was eradicated, very few people get the smallpox vaccine anymore.

And back before smallpox was eradicated, they actually developed an attenuated version of the smallpox vaccine that could safely be used in kids with eczema!

Other vaccines are not thought to trigger or worsen eczema.

“Parents of atopic children should be encouraged to fully immunize their children.”

Grüber et al on Early atopic disease and early childhood immunization–is there a link?

While many kids with eczema do have food allergies and some vaccines do contain some residual food proteins, including eggs and milk, it is very rare for them to trigger food allergy reactions.

If this has you concerned, remember that even kids with egg allergies can now get the flu shot, and while many kids with eczema have food allergies, the food allergy isn’t usually thought to make their eczema worse. As part of the atopic march, they just have both – food allergies and eczema. Some also have hayfever or asthma.

In addition to your pediatrician, a pediatric allergist can help you with any remaining concerns about eczema and vaccines. A pediatric dermatologist can also be helpful if you are having a hard time getting your child’s eczema under control.

What to Know About Vaccines and Eczema

Vaccines don’t cause eczema and except for the smallpox vaccine, they won’t make your child’s eczema worse. Experts recommend that kids with eczema be fully vaccinated.

More on Vaccines and Eczema

Can Vaccines Cause POTS?

Have you ever heard of POTS?

“In POTS, the lightheadedness or fainting is also accompanied by a rapid increase in heartbeat of more than 30 beats per minute, or a heart rate that exceeds 120 beats per minute, within 10 minutes of rising.”

NIH Postural Tachycardia Syndrome Information Page

POTS or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome was first identified in the early 1990s and can cause many debilitating symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches, and fatigue.

What Causes POTS?

We don’t know what causes POTS.

“The term “POTS” was coined in 1993 by a team of researchers from Mayo Clinic, led by neurologist Dr. Philip Low. However, POTS is not a new illness; it has been known by other names throughout history, such as DaCosta’s Syndrome, Soldier’s Heart, Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome, Neurocirculatory Asthenia, Chronic Orthostatic Intolerance, Orthostatic Tachycardia and Postural Tachycardia Syndrome.”

Dysautonomia International on POTS

Well, we know that POTS is caused by a malfunction of the patient’s autonomic nervous system (dysautonomia), but we don’t know always know what causes or triggers that malfunction.

Sometimes we do though, as POTS has been associated with other types of dysautonomia, like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Mast Cell Disorders.

And genetics may play a role in some people with POTS.

Can Vaccines Cause POTS?

It shouldn’t be surprising that some folks think that vaccines could be associated with POTS.

“Anyone at any age can develop POTS, but the majority of individuals affected (between 75 and 80 percent) are women between the ages of 15 to 50 years of age.”

NIH Postural Tachycardia Syndrome Information Page

That’s right.

As more people were becoming aware of POTS, some of them were getting vaccinated for HPV.

But that correlation certainly doesn’t mean that vaccines cause POTS.

“POTS is a condition that causes lightheadedness or fainting and a rapid increase in heartbeat upon standing. The cause is unknown, but doctors think POTS may be associated with a number of risk factors and syndromes, including: a recent viral illness, physical deconditioning, chronic fatigue syndrome and nervous system problems.”

CDC on Can HPV vaccines cause POTS?

And studies have confirmed that, including:

  • In 2015, the European Medical Association confirmed evidence that HPV vaccines do not cause complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
  • A review of VAERS reports that “did not detect any unusual or unexpected reporting patterns that would suggest a safety problem” with HPV vaccination, including extra cases of POTS
  • A study in the UK using the MHRA’s Yellow Card passive surveillance scheme found no increase in reports of chronic fatigue syndromes following the introduction of Cervarix
  • A large, nationwide register-based study from Norway found no indication of increased risk of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis following HPV vaccination
  • A large cohort study of over 2 million young girls in France found no risk for autoimmune diseases (including neurological, rheumatological, hematological, endocrine, and gastro-intestinal disorders)
  • A large cohort study of girls in Sweden with pre-existing autoimmune diseases found that HPV vaccination was not associated with increased incidence of new-onset autoimmune disease (49 types of autoimmune diseases)

Contrast those large studies that are evidence against any association between vaccines and POTS with the case reports, anecdotal evidence, and vaccine scare stories that say there is.

“There is currently no conclusive evidence to support a causal relationship between the HPV vaccine and POTS. It is of utmost importance to recognize that although temporal associations may be observed, conclusions of causality cannot be drawn from case reports and case series due to the small sample size and lack of control population inherent to this type of scientific literature. If POTS does develop after receiving the HPV vaccine, it would appear to do so in a small subset of individuals and would be difficult to distinguish from the normal prevalence and incidence of the disorder.”

Butts et al on Human Papillomavirus Vaccine and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome: A Review of Current Literature

What about other vaccines? Could they cause POTS?

Folks should remember that a case report is basically a gloried anecdote and is not the kind of evidence you should use to make decisions about vaccinating and protecting your kids.
Folks should remember that a case report is basically a gloried anecdote and is not the kind of evidence you should use to make decisions about vaccinating and protecting your kids.

While the focus has been on the HPV vaccines, an issue with other vaccines causing POTS would have been picked up with our current vaccine safety systems.

But why has the focus been on the HPV vaccines?

It is an easy association to notice, after all POTS begins to occur right around when the HPV vaccines are given (teen years) and the HPV vaccines are given in many different countries. Most other vaccines that we give to teens in the United States, including Tdap and the meningococcal vaccines, aren’t as widely used in other countries.

But remember, POTS isn’t a new diagnosis. That anti-vaccine groups are latching onto it to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids is.

What to Know About Vaccines and POTS

There is no evidence that vaccines, especially the HPV vaccines, cause POTS.

More on Vaccines and POTS

Can Vaccines Cause Transverse Myelitis?

Transverse myelitis is not common, so most people probably haven’t heard of it.

“The term myelitis refers to inflammation of the spinal cord; transverse refers to the pattern of changes in sensation—there is often a band-like sensation across the trunk of the body, with sensory changes below.”

Transverse Myelitis Fact Sheet

The symptoms of transverse myelitis depend on where the inflammation occurs and sometimes, on the cause. They can include back pain, weakness or paralysis of the legs and arms, paresthesias (sensory alterations in the neck, arms, or legs), and bowel and bladder dysfunction.

What Causes Transverse Myelitis?

An MRI of a teen with transverse myelitis.
An MRI of a teen with transverse myelitis that resolved after total body irradiation therapy was stopped.

Many things can cause transverse myelitis.

Possible triggers can include:

  • infections – following bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections
  • immune system disorders
  • inflammatory disorders
  • vascular disorders

Unfortunately, it isn’t usually known what causes someone to develop transverse myelitis.

There are treatments though and many people with transverse myelitis have at least a partial recovery, although it may take months to years.

Transverse myelitis is not thought to be genetic and rates are highest in two age groups – those between 10 and 19 years (when many preteens and teens get vaccinated) and those between 30 and 39 years.

Can Vaccines Cause Transverse Myelitis?

Have you heard that vaccines can cause transverse myelitis?

“Vaccines currently routinely recommended to the general population in the U.S. have not been shown to cause transverse myelitis.”

Institute for Vaccine Safety on Do Vaccines Cause Transverse Myelitis?

While there are some case reports that tell of a temporal association between getting a vaccine and later developing transverse myelitis, the evidence does not support any association.

Why do we see these case reports?

Just like SIDS, autism, type 1 diabetes, and many other conditions, transverse myelitis has a background rate of disease or a number of cases that you can expect to occur in a given population. Once you know this background rate, you can then predict how many people will coincidentally develop transverse myelitis within one, seven, forty-two, or more days after they are vaccinated.

With a background rate of about 0.36 per 100,000 people, if one million get a vaccine, you would expect:

  • at least 1 to 2 of them to develop transverse myelitis coincidentally after 1 day
  • at least 1 to 2 of them to develop transverse myelitis coincidentally after 7 days
  • at least 2 to 4 of them to develop transverse myelitis coincidentally after 42 days

If the rate is higher than that, it could indicate a problem.

Let’s do the math.

There are about 1,400 new cases of transverse myelitis in the United States each year.

How many vaccines are given? About 286 million doses – each year. Some of those are given on the same day, but that would still mean that 100s of people should be getting transverse myelitis within 1 to 7 days if vaccines were a cause.

They aren’t.

“Correlation does not imply causation.”

In fact, an Institute of Medicine report, Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality, dismissed most of the evidence for an associated between vaccines and transverse myelitis as insufficient and lacking.

And further studies found no association:

  • A Vaccine Safety Datalink study, Acute Demyelinating Events Following Vaccines: A Case-Centered Analysis, looked at nearly 64 million vaccine doses of vaccines and also “found no association between TM and prior immunization.”
  • Another study, Maternal safety of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine in pregnant women, used “a large, geographically diverse, retrospective cohort of pregnant women” and found no cases of transverse myelitis.

Not only do vaccines not cause transverse myelitis, but many vaccine-preventable diseases can. So vaccines can likely protect you from developing transverse myelitis by protecting you from these diseases!

What to Know About Transverse Myelitis

Vaccines do not cause transverse myelitis, although many vaccine-preventable diseases can.

More on Transverse Myelitis

Expert Statements on Vaccines and Autism

All of the organizations that help autistic people agree that there is no association between vaccines and autism.
All of the organizations that help autistic people agree that there is no association between vaccines and autism.

Some parents are still confused about who they should listen to for advice about vaccines and autism.

Is there any controversy or a real debate going on about whether vaccines are associated with autism?

What do the experts say?

They say that vaccines are not associated with autism.

More and more, experts are also stating that continuing to focus attention on vaccines is hurting autistic families.

And no, it’s not just one or two of them and it is not just your pediatrician…

Autism Science Foundation

“Multiple studies have been completed which investigated the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination in relation to autism. Researchers have also studied thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, to see if it had any relation to autism. The results of studies are very clear; the data show no relationship between vaccines and autism.”

American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists, has long advocated for the health and safety of our children.

“Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature. Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease. Vaccines keep communities healthy, and protect some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, and children who are too young to be vaccinated or have compromised immune systems.”

The AAP has consistently emphasized the safety and importance of vaccines to help reassure parents who are scared by anti-vaccine misinformation.

Autistic Self-Advocacy Network

“Vaccinations do not cause autism – but the use of autism as a means of scaring parents from safeguarding their children from life-threatening illness demonstrates the depths of prejudice and fear that still surrounds our disability. Autism is not caused by vaccines – and Autistic Americans deserve better than a political rhetoric that suggests that we would be better off dead than disabled.”

Autism Society of America

“There is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to in neurotypical children. Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.”

Autism Women’s Network

“Vaccines do not cause autism. Neither does thimerosal.”

National Autistic Society

“In the light of concern around the continuing activities of anti-vaccine campaigners, including promotion of the film ‘Vaxxed’, we feel it’s important to restate that research has comprehensively shown that there is no link between autism and vaccines…

We believe that no further attention or research funding should be unnecessarily directed towards examining a link that has already been so comprehensively discredited. Instead, we should be focusing our efforts on improving the lives of the 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their families.”


“The biggest myth of all is that vaccines, specifically the MMR vaccine, cause autism. The safety of vaccinations has been repeatedly tested across large groups of people. High quality research studies involving hundreds of thousands of people have consistently shown that vaccinations do not cause autism.”

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

“So I want to ask you to be careful about how you make your pro-vaccine arguments when autism is involved — because when we use our many many mountains of evidence in statements such as “there is NO evidence linking vaccines to autism” without adding the statement “and fear of autism hurts autistic people,” then we’re actually contributing to negative stereotypes about autism and autistic people, rather than furthering autistic people’s acceptance and inclusion in our society.”

American Medical Association

The American Medical Association, which was founded in 1847, has just over 240,000 members.

“Each year vaccines prevent an estimated 2.5 million deaths among children under age 5, according to the World Health Organization. The AMA adopted policy this week continuing its efforts to promote public understanding and confidence in the safety of vaccines in order to prevent resurgence in vaccine-preventable illnesses and deaths. The new policy specifically supports the rigorous scientific process undertaken by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and its development of recommended immunization schedules for the nation. The policy also recognizes the substantial body of scientific evidence that has disproven a link between vaccines and autism.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“There is no link between vaccines and autism.”

March of Dimes

“The implication that vaccinations cause autism is irresponsible and counter productive,’ said Michael Katz, M.D., senior vice president for Research and Global Programs for the March of Dimes…

Although several carefully performed scientific studies have searched for a link between autism and the use of thimerosal in vaccines, no such link has been found.”

Autism Speaks

“Each family has a unique experience with an autism diagnosis, and for some it corresponds with the timing of their child’s vaccinations. At the same time, scientists have conducted extensive research over the last two decades to determine whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research is clear: Vaccines do not cause autism.”

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

“Despite an abundance of evidence that there is no correlation between the vaccine and autism, the story noted in the movie has unfortunately made a lasting impact. It is the responsibility of pediatric-focused advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and colleagues to speak out against false information and educate patient families about vaccine safety and efficacy to prevent unnecessary and potentially fatal outbreaks.”

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

“Years ago, some people questioned whether the onset of characteristic symptoms of autism coincided with the timing of immunizations. Since then, multiple studies conducted in several different countries have demonstrated that there is no causal association between vaccines and autism. Neither vaccines nor their preservatives increase the rate of autism compared to unvaccinated children. Vaccines do not change the timing of autism symptoms, nor is there any effect on autism severity. Even in families at greater risk for autism, for example, where there is already a child with autism, there is no increase in the likelihood that the second child will have autism if he or she is vaccinated. Recent studies have also demonstrated that brain changes associated with autism risk most likely occur before birth and well before any immunizations are ever administered.”

World Health Organization

“Available epidemiological data show that there is no evidence of a link between measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorders. Previous studies suggesting a causal link were found to be seriously flawed.

There is also no evidence to suggest that any other childhood vaccine may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorders. In addition, evidence reviews commissioned by WHO concluded that there was no association between the use of vaccine preservatives such as thiomersal and autism spectrum disorders.”

Institute of Medicine

“Based on a thorough review of clinical and epidemiological studies, neither the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal nor the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine are associated with autism… Furthermore, the hypotheses regarding how the MMR vaccine and thimerosal could trigger autism lack supporting evidence and are theoretical only .”

Child Neurology Foundation

“There are many myths linked to vaccines that this article hopes to have helped dispel. As discussed, any potential risk associated with vaccines administered to healthy children is small and outweighed by the risk of the naturally occurring disease. Maintenance of herd immunity and avoidance of vaccine exemptions are critical. Both of these practices disproportionately affect, at times with deadly consequences, our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.”

Canadian Paediatric Society

“Thus, the evidence is in, and the assessment of purported causality is clear. The MMR vaccine and immunization with thimerosal-containing vaccines are not causally associated with, nor are they a cause of, autism or ASD. There is mounting evidence that ASD has a strong genetic component – a very plausible cause for the disorder.”

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

“Autism is such a strong and emotive issue and something we all care about. However, the link made by one doctor to autism has been firmly discredited, and I can show you study after study that demonstrates that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Unfortunately, once a seed of doubt has been planted it tends to grow, and is fueled by sensational media and internet coverage that isn’t concerned with the facts. The real issue here is the very real risks from not being protected. I wish the voices of those who have been victims of not getting vaccinated could be heard more loudly and clearly.”

Robert Koch Institute

“There has been an ongoing debate in recent years whether autism, diabetes and even multiple sclerosis could be triggered by vaccinations. To date, there is no evidence for this and there are numerous studies that suggest that there is no link between vaccinations and these diseases.”

Hopefully it is clear that these position statements about vaccines and autism come from experts around the world, including many that directly take care of and support autistic families.

What to Know About Expert Statements on Vaccines and Autism

There is no debate and it is not a controversy – experts agree – vaccines are not associated with autism.

More on Expert Statements on Vaccines and Autism


Is It a Vaccine Reaction?

Why do anti-vaccine folks think that there are so many vaccine reactions?

It is mostly because they think that anything bad that happens after someone is vaccinated, even if it is weeks or months later, must have been caused by the vaccine.

“Differentiation between coincidence and causality is of utmost importance in this respect. This is not always easy, especially when an event is rare and background rates are not available.”

Heininger on A risk-benefit analysis of vaccination

Of course, this discounts that fact that most people have a basic risk, often called the background rate, for developing most of these very same conditions, and they can just coincide with getting vaccinated.

Put more simply, the “reaction” would have happened whether or not they had been vaccinated.

“…when a number of well-controlled studies were conducted during the 1980s, the investigators found, nearly unanimously, that the number of SIDS deaths temporally associated with DTP vaccination was within the range expected to occur by chance. In other words, the SIDS deaths would have occurred even if no vaccinations had been given.”

WHO on Six Common Misconceptions About Immunization

That doesn’t mean that everything automatically gets blamed on coincidence though.

Is It a Vaccine Reaction?

Vaccine adverse events can be reported to VAERS online or using a downloadable form.
Vaccine reactions can be reported to VAERS online or using a downloadable form.

When trying to determine if a child has had a vaccine reaction, experts typically go through a series of questions, looking at the evidence for and against :

  • How soon after the vaccine was given did the reaction occur? Was it minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years later?
  • Is there any evidence that something else could have caused the reaction?
  • Is there a known causal relation between the reaction and the vaccine?
  • Is the reaction a table injury?
  • Is there evidence that the vaccine does not have a causal association with the reaction?
  • Do any lab tests support the idea that it was a vaccine reaction?

Why is it important to consider these and other questions?

Because most of us are very good at jumping to conclusions, are quick to place blame, and like to know the reasons for why things happen.

We don’t like to think that things are just caused by coincidence.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore, because of this).

We are especially good at linking events and often automatically assume that one thing caused another simply because it occurred afterwards.

It is incident to physicians, I am afraid, beyond all other men, to mistake subsequence for consequence.

Dr Samuel Johnson

But we also know that correlation does not imply causation. And because of the great benefits of vaccines, it is important to find strong evidence for a correlation before we blame vaccines for a reaction.

Too often though, the opposite happens. Despite strong evidence against a correlation, parents and some pediatricians still blame vaccines for many things, from SIDS and encephalitis to autism.

Background Rates vs Vaccine Reactions

Although anti-vaccine folks are always calling for vaccinated vs unvaccinated studies to further prove that vaccines are indeed safe, much of that work is already done by looking at the observed rate of possible reactions and comparing them to the background rate of reactions and conditions.

We often know how many people are expected to develop certain conditions, from seizures and type 1 diabetes mellitus to acute transverse myelitis and juvenile and rheumatoid arthritis.

“On the basis of the reviewed data, if a cohort of 10 million individuals was vaccinated in the UK, 21.5 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome and 5.75 cases of sudden death would be expected to occur within 6 weeks of vaccination as coincident background cases. In female vaccinees in the USA, 86.3 cases of optic neuritis per 10 million population would be expected within 6 weeks of vaccination. 397 per 1 million vaccinated pregnant women would be predicted to have a spontaneous abortion within 1 day of vaccination.”

Black et al on Importance of background rates of disease in assessment of vaccine safety during mass immunisation with pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccines

Intussusception is a good example of this.

This might surprise some folks, but we diagnosed and treated kids with intussusception well before the first rotavirus vaccines were ever introduced. And then, it was only after the risk of intussusception after vaccination exceeded the background rate that experts were able to determine that there was an issue.

Background rates also explain why unvaccinated kids develop autism. It’s not a coincidence.

“Knowledge of the background incidence rates of possible adverse events is a crucial part of assessing possible vaccine safety concerns. It allows for a rapid observed vs expected analysis and helps to distinguish legitimate safety concerns from events that are temporally associated with but not necessarily caused by vaccination.”

Gadroen et al on Baseline incidence of intussusception in early childhood before rotavirus vaccine introduction, the Netherlands, January 2008 to December 2012

Fortunately, studies have never found an increased risk above the background rate for SIDS, non-febrile seizures, and other things that anti-vaccine folks often blame on vaccines. So when these things happen on the same day or one or two days after getting vaccinated, it almost certainly truly is a coincidence. It would have happened even if your child had not been vaccinated, just like we see these things happen in the days before a child was due to get their vaccines.

For example, using background incidence rates in Danish children, one study found that if you vaccinated a million children with a new flu vaccine, you could expect that naturally, after seven days, you would see:

  • facial nerve palsy – one case
  • seizures – 36 cases
  • multiple sclerosis – one case
  • type 1 diabetes – three cases
  • juvenile and rheumatoid arthritis – three cases

After six weeks, those numbers of course go up. In addition to 4 kids developing MS, 20 develop diabetes, 19 develop arthritis, and 218 have seizures, and there would have been at least two deaths of unknown cause.

Would you blame the flu shot for these things?

What flu shot?

This was a “hypothetical vaccine cohort” that used 30 years of data from the Danish healthcare system to figure out background rates of each condition.

“In addition, the expected number of deaths in Japan following an estimated 15 million doses of H1N1 vaccine administered would be >8000 deaths during the 20 days following vaccination, based on the crude mortality rate.”

McCarthy et al on Mortality Rates and Cause-of-Death Patterns in a Vaccinated Population

Looking at background rates is especially helpful when folks report about vaccine deaths.

Using the Japan example that McCarthy studied, if they had looked at background rates, then all of a sudden, the 107 deaths they found after 15 million doses of H1N1 vaccine were given in 2009 would not have been so alarming. Background rates would have predicted a much, much higher number of deaths to naturally occur in that time period simply based on crude mortality rates.

Again, none of this means that possible vaccine reactions are dismissed as being coincidences. They just aren’t immediately assumed to have been caused by vaccines, because vaccines are necessary and a lot of research has already gone into demonstrating that vaccines are safe and vaccines continue to go through routine safety monitoring to make sure they stay safe.

What to Know About Evaluating Vaccine Reactions

Vaccines are safe and many of the things that folks think are vaccine reactions can be explained by looking at the background rates for these conditions and understanding that they would have happened anyway.

More on Evaluating Vaccine Reactions

How Many People Die in the USA Every Year from Being Vaccinated?

We know that vaccines work to save lives from vaccine-preventable disease.

If you are at all hesitant about vaccines and are doing your research, you have likely come across the myth that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they protect us against though.

This is only because most people don’t remember the pre-vaccine era when measles, polio, small pox, and diphtheria, etc., were big killers. So even though vaccine side effects are about the same as they always have been, they can become a much bigger focus for some people because they don’t see any of the mortality or morbidity from the diseases that the vaccines have gotten so good at preventing.

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

It is at this crossover point that anti-vaccine folks are able to get away with pushing myths, such as like more people die from the MMR vaccine than from measles.

They don’t.

How Many People Die in the USA Every Year from Being Vaccinated?

Although vaccines are not perfectly safe, it is extremely rare for a vaccine reaction to be deadly.

“As for vaccines causing death, again so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically.”

WHO on Six common misconceptions about immunization

So why do anti-vaccine folks think that they are more common than they really are?

That’s an easy question to answer.

“Differentiation between coincidence and causality is of utmost importance in this respect. This is not always easy, especially when an event is rare and background rates are not available.”

Heininger on A risk-benefit analysis of vaccination

They often believe than anything and everything that happens after someone is vaccinated, even if it is weeks or months later, must have been caused by the vaccine. This discounts that fact that most people have a basic risk, often called the background rate, for developing these conditions that can coincide with getting vaccinated. It also explains why they believe in so many so-called vaccine induced diseases.

Another reason is that they also misuse VAERS reports when talking about vaccine deaths.

“In a review of reports of death following vaccination submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from the early 1990s, the Institute of Medicine concluded that most were coincidental, not causally associated.”

Moro et al on Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, United States, 1997–2013

Not surprisingly though, studies have shown that most of the deaths in VAERS are not actually related to vaccines.

In fact, most of the things that anti-vaccine folks blame on vaccines, including things you see in many of their vaccine-injury stories, are not related to vaccines.

How Many People Die in the USA Every Year from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?

Fortunately, most people are vaccinated, and deaths from  vaccine preventable diseases are tremendously below what they were in the pre-vaccine era.

Most people will be surprised to know that they aren’t zero though.

People do still get vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.

And tragically, people do still die of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States.

For example, in 2015:

  • there were at least 37 cases of perinatal hepatitis B infections
  • five infants and children less than age 5 years died of rotavirus disease
  • a 14-month-old died of Hib meningitis
  • an infant died of pneumococcal meningitis
  • a 3-year-old with congenital rubella syndrome died
  • at least two teens died of meningococcal meningitis
  • a woman in Washington died of measles – the immunosuppressed women was exposed to an outbreak in Clallam County that mostly included intentionally unvaccinated kids
  • 85 kids died of the flu

Of course, worldwide, especially in developing countries, the number of deaths are much higher, which is a good reminder of what would happen if more of us stopped vaccinating!

And it is an even better reminder that you have to look at the number of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases today in the context that most people are vaccinated and protected.

If you are truly looking at a risk vs benefit analysis of whether or not to get vaccinated, it is still the great benefit of avoiding vaccine preventable diseases vs the very small risks of getting vaccinated that you should think about.

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

It is also the small risks of getting vaccinated vs the much greater risk of going back to the pre-vaccine era if you decided to skip or delay any vaccines.

It is not that you have been scared into thinking that the risks of  vaccines outweigh their benefits.

“Millions of vaccinations are given to children and adults in the United States each year. Serious adverse reactions are rare. However, because of the high volume of use, coincidental adverse events including deaths, that are temporally associated with vaccination, do occur. When death occurs shortly following vaccination, loved ones and others might naturally question whether it was related to vaccination. A large body of evidence supports the safety of vaccines, and multiple studies and scientific reviews have found no association between vaccination and deaths except in rare cases.”

Miller et al on Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show?

It is not that the risk of getting a vaccine preventable disease is low because you might be able to get away with hiding in the herd.

It is not that the risk of getting a vaccine preventable disease is low because you are counting on everyone else in the world to get vaccinated and eliminate or eradicate the disease and your risk.

If too many parents who are on the fence start believing that their kids have zero risk of getting polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases and continue to skip or delay vaccines, then boom, we are back to the days when outbreaks would close schools and kids would suffer from the devastating effects of these diseases.

Even the schools were closed in San Antonio when polio came to Texas in 1946.
Even the schools were closed in San Antonio when polio came to Texas in 1946.

While anti-vaccine folks won’t have such an easy time convincing people that these diseases are mild anymore, none of us want to wait for more outbreaks to occur before folks get the message that vaccines are safe and necessary.

What to Know About Vaccine Deaths

Despite what anti-vaccine folks would have you believe as they try to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids, vaccines are safe and necessary and vaccine deaths are very rare.

More on Vaccine Deaths