Tag: deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases

Healthy Kids Can Just Die

No one likes to think about it, but yes, healthy kids can just die.

Tragically, misunderstanding this fact can lead some parents who have lost a child to blame vaccines.

Healthy kids can just die and they are often attacked by anti-vaccine groups who push them to blame vaccines.
The 8 year-old child they are talking about died of SUDEP or Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy.

It certainly doesn’t help that anti-vaccine folks are targeting families who have recently lost a child, pushing them to blame vaccines…

Healthy Kids Can Just Die

Speaking of vaccines, that leads us to one group of healthy kids who can die suddenly – those who die with a vaccine-preventable disease.

All of those kids who die with the flu each year? Many are healthy. And many are unvaccinated.

Infants who die with pertussis.

Teens who die with meningococcemia.

They were all typically healthy – at least they were before they got sick.

And then some of them died.

Of course, vaccine-preventable diseases are not a common way for children to die in developed countries anymore – thanks to vaccines.

Healthy Kids Dying is Not a Vaccine Injury

Again, although no one likes to think about it, healthy kids can just die.

Surprisingly, about 10% of deaths in children over age 12 months are classified as sudden death, including many in healthy kids with no explanations for how they died.

These types of sudden, unexplained deaths are actually the 5th leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1 and 4 years. That adds up to about 400 deaths a year in the United States alone!

Were some of these kids recently vaccinated?

Of course.

Just like some infants who die of SIDS were recently vaccinated.

That doesn’t mean that the vaccines caused the deaths though.

“Dealing with the sudden, unexpected death of a baby to any cause is devastating – but in the case of a death for which no specific cause can be found, the lack of answers about why your baby has died can be overwhelming.”

Surviving the Sudden Death of a Baby

So why do some people blame vaccines?

“The parents’ need to understand why their baby died came across very strongly in most interviews despite parents not being asked specifically about this.”

Garstang et al on Parental understanding and self-blame following sudden infant death: a mixed-methods study of bereaved parents’ and professionals’ experiences

Few people like the idea that there isn’t a known reason for why a child died.

“Our results suggest that most parents really want to know why their baby died; not knowing why their baby died may cause further distress to parents, whether this is due to long waits for the results of postmortem examinations or because deaths remain unexplained. An unexplained death by its nature is an unpredictable event rendering the parents powerless to prevent future tragedies, thus increasing the anxiety and grief; having as much information as possible should help parents to emotionally accept and make sense of the death to themselves.”

Garstang et al on Parental understanding and self-blame following sudden infant death: a mixed-methods study of bereaved parents’ and professionals’ experiences

Saying it was vaccines gives people an answer.

“The aggregated theme, We Feel Like We’re to Blame, was composed of three categories: (a) Not where s/he was supposed to sleep, (b) Naming the cause of death increases my guilt, and (c) It was our fault. Mothers often felt that they were being told that the baby’s death was their fault.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

And in the case of SIDS, especially if the baby was in an unsafe sleeping environment, it is easy to see that blaming vaccines might help those who were made to feel that the death had been their fault, even though bedsharing is widely pushed as a safe alternative to roomsharing in many parenting circles.

It isn’t.

“The mothers talked about how difficult it was trying to move on after an unexpected infant death. They expressed that they are not only dealing with the grief of losing a child, but they are dealing with the feelings of guilt, despair, and regret. In this aggregated theme, there were three categories: (a) I can’t talk about it, (b) One step forward, and (c) Support helps me get through.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

One thing should be clear.

Seeking support in anti-vaccine Facebook groups is not healthy and will not help parents deal with their feelings of guilt, despair, or regret.

Shaming was described from the mothers’ perspective “ . . . it sounds so blaming and makes me feel like they think we killed our baby.” Parents were dealing with the grief of losing children, but they were also exhibiting feelings of guilt and responsibility for the deaths. The mothers did find support and eventually moved forward emotionally. In the end, as one mother succinctly expressed, “I am pregnant now . . . we are happy, but are scared, too.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

These parents instead need support and doctors, nurses, first responders, child protective service workers, and medical examiners that don’t worsen their grief and guilt.

If you need to blame vaccines, then go ahead and do so, but please also get some extra help from the resources below.

And lets work to figure out why these healthy kids are dying, so we can get better at saving them and preventing these deaths.

More on Healthy Kids Can Just Die

Did Bill Gates Vaccinate His Own Kids?

The myth that Bill Gates didn’t vaccinate his own kids was debunked nearly a year ago, but that doesn’t keep anti-vaccine folks from bringing it up…

“A hoax website published an unfounded story claiming that a former doctor for Bill Gates said the philanthropist refused to vaccinate his own children. Gates and his wife, Melinda, have invested billions of dollars to research, develop and deliver vaccines around the world to help reduce child mortality.”

Website falsely claims Bill Gates refused to vaccinate his own children

Not surprisingly, they don’t mention the doctor’s name.

Did Bill Gates Vaccinate His Own Kids?

Actually, they don’t provide any evidence at all, which seems to be just fine with most folks who are anti-vaccine and who are simply looking for anything to help them justify their decision to leave their kids unvaccinated and unprotected.

Which closed door medical symposium were they at?

What about the idea that you aren’t violating HIPAA or breaking doctor-patient confidentiality because you are talking to other doctors?

Fortunately, that’s not how HIPAA works.

You can only talk to other providers if they are also involved in the treatment of your patient. You can’t tell other doctors confidential details about your patients just because they are also doctors!

You could tell them things you read about them publicly though, including the fact that Bill and Melinda Gates understood the importance of vaccines long before they had their first child.

“Twenty-five years ago, we read an article that said hundreds of thousands of kids in poor countries were dying from diarrhea. That surprise helped crystallize our values. We believe in a world where innovation is for everyone—where no child dies from a disease it’s possible to prevent. But what we saw was a world still shaped by inequity.”

Bill & Melinda Gates on Our Annual Letter

Do you will still believe that Bill and Melinda Gates didn’t vaccinate their kids?

“I’d like to start by telling you about my wife Melinda’s Aunt Myra. We see her a few times a year. Aunt Myra worked for many years taking reservations for Delta Airlines. She lived in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina, and then she moved to Dallas, Melinda’s hometown. She loves to see our kids. When we all get together, she’ll sit down on the floor and play games with them. Aunt Myra also has polio. She’s in braces, and she has been ever since she was a little girl.

Our children only know what polio is because of their aunt. Otherwise, the disease would just be another historical fact they learn about in school.”

Bill Gates

What do you need to see to convince you?

“While the rich world is cutting down in tobacco use, it’s growing in the poor world. AIDS and TB are really a phenomenon of the poor world. When I say the poor world of course I mean the majority of the world, anything outside the enclave that most of us here are privileged to live in and the kind of vaccines and things that we take for granted not only for ourselves, but also for our children.”

Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2001

A pic of them getting vaccinated, like we did with Mark Zuckerberg?

“So many of us who are parents in the room go to our pediatricians; and we take for granted the vaccines for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, measles, mumps, rubella. But things you don’t even think about getting in this country are real scourges in the developing world. And so that’s where we started with the foundation and from there we branched out into doing more work in AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. But I think it’s important for you all to realize that at the core of what we do are children’s issues.”

Melinda French Gates at the Children’s Hospital Foundation

A copy of their children’s immunization records, or would you just think that they were forged?

“It still shocks me today to think about how many children go without basic vaccines that you and I take for granted. A few years ago, Bill and I read a newspaper article about diseases in the developing world. We learned that millions of children die from diseases we thought had been eradicated, diseases like pertussis, hepatitis B, tetanus, and yellow fever. Every year, nearly three quarters of a million people, most of them children, die of measles. Measles!

These children are dying not because we don’t have vaccines to prevent these diseases. They’re dying because the vaccines we have aren’t reaching the people who need them.”

Melinda French Gates at the 2007 World Economic Forum

How about a statement that their kids are fully vaccinated?

All three of Bill and Melinda Gates' children are fully vaccinated.

Be more skeptical.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are necessary.

Of course Bill and Melinda Gates vaccinate their kids.

More on Bill Gates

Are Vaccine Laws a Form of State Sponsored Segregation?

Bob Sears doesn’t seem to like that more states are having to strengthen their vaccine laws, making it harder for kids to skip or delay their vaccines.

That seems rather ironic, as many parents likely were scared away from vaccinating and protecting their kids because of the misinformation folks like him continue to push.

Are Vaccine Laws a Form of State Sponsored Segregation?

What the latest?

The idea that vaccine laws are a form of state sponsored segregation…

“If you don’t see the historical parallels, and if it doesn’t concern you that State and now Federal Legislators think that discrimination and segregation are OK again, and you don’t realize that this is all a carefully-crafted PR campaign to sell the idea that some children are dirty and dangerous, when decades ago all kids were considered equal, then you are blind.”

Bob Sears

Bob Sears isn’t the first to try and conflate skipping vaccines into a civil rights issue, but he is certainly the one being the most obvious about it…

Now when were all kids really considered equal in the United States?

Was it the late 1980s, when Bob thinks everyone had it so great?

Remember, that was just before the big measles outbreaks from 1989 to 1991, when 123 people died. During those three years, there were also 28 deaths from pertussis, 6 deaths from mumps, 13 deaths from rubella and 77 cases of congenital rubella syndrome!

Life was good?

I was a little older than 10 in 1988 and remember that folks still died of all of these diseases, so added that to this nice infographic so you get the real perspective.

Is this the worst thing Bob has ever posted?

Well, there is that time he talked about unvaccinated kids wearing yellow stars

“…So I tell them they don’t have to whisper. They can say it loud and clear, with confidence. Ya, I guess you don’t want to advertise it around the neighborhood – that will come soon enough. Scarlet “V” anyone? No, not scarlet. Let’s make it yellow. And not a V – a star would be better. That way everyone can know at first glance who is safe to be around and who is not. That way, if your old doctor and his children are walking down the street, they can easily identify your kids and quickly cross to the other side before they get too close.

Ask your Assemblyperson which color and shape they think would be most appropriate.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended as a reference to a holocaust. Rather, it’s intended to raise the issue of prejudice and discrimination. Others have likenend vaccine injury to a holocaust. Instead, we are talking about families who choose to not vaccinate. No holocaust here.”

Dr. Bob Sears on The Vaccine Whisperers

So which historical parallel is Bob talking about this time?

Equating real problems of discrimination and segregation to the issue of parents wanting to keep their kids unvaccinated and unprotected is not only silly, but it is also offensive.

And for perspective, in 1988, not only did more people get vaccine-preventable diseases, more people died with vaccine-preventable diseases.

Did we freak out about it? Of course not. We worked towards an immunization plan to control and eliminate more of these diseases.

How can Bob Sears be blind to all of this?

More on Vaccine Laws and State Sponsored Segregation

Bob Sears on Ethan Lindenberger’s Senate Testimony

Not surprisingly, Bob Sears doesn’t seem to like that he was one of the folks who was called out by Ethan Lindenberger during his testimony before Congress.

Remember, Ethan Lindenberger was testifying at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing, Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?

Bob Sears on Ethan Lindenberger’s Senate Testimony

So what did Ethan Lindenberger have to “say” about Bob Sears?

In his written testimony that was submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, he wrote:

“…the measles outbreak was made out to be a unfounded panic created by big pharmaceutical companies and meant to push legislative agendas. Del Bigtree, a celebrity in the anti-vaccine movement, spoke with “Dr. Bob Sears.” My mom and I sat down, watching this video so she could prove her beliefs were not unfounded. In this video, Dr. Bob Sears claims that in the past 15 years there hasn’t been a single death to the measles. In contrast, 449 people have had fatal reactions to the MMR vaccine.”

Testimony of Ethan Lindenberger Student at Norwalk High school Before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee March 5th, 2019

These and many other comments didn’t make it into his oral statements.

Why not?

“Although Ethan did not include this information in his verbal testimony, it was part of his original verbal statements (which were leaked), then edited out – for obvious reasons.”

Bob Sears

The obvious reason is that each witness only had five minutes to speak, not some conspiracy as Dr. Bob seems to be implying!

And his original, written statements weren’t leaked. Like the statements of every other witness, they were posted on the Senate Committee website.

After clearing up all of that, do we still need to discuss how Dr. Bob is trying to justify any of his statements about the MMR vaccine?

Even though you can guess where this is going, let’s go ahead and do it to be complete, especially since Dr. Bob really does seem to want folks to know where “the fact” of the 459 fatal reactions to the MMR vaccine come from.

You likely already know this, but they are simply reports to VAERS. And you likely also know that “inclusion of events in VAERS data does not imply causality.” That little fact is included in a disclaimer when you search the VAERS database, which is why anti-vaccine folks created their own search tool at MedAlerts – the reference Dr. Bob uses.

A report in VAERS – a death following the MMR vaccine that was found to be caused by meningococcal meningitis.

But just because we understand that these reports aren’t proof of causality doesn’t mean that we dismiss them. No one dismisses VAERS reports as unscientific, as Bob Sears claims.

“And if you are the type of doctor, or Legislator, who likes to dismiss VAERS reports as “unscientific,” then please explain why HHS even bothers to collect the data? Spend millions of dollars collecting scientific data, then do nothing with it? Who does that? And what type of scientist ignores data? Is that what Congress had in mind when it created the VAERS system as a Federal Law?”

Bob Sears

For a guy who wrote a book about vaccines, you would think he understood the purpose of VAERS…

“VAERS is used to detect possible safety problems – called “signals” – that may be related to vaccination. If a vaccine safety signal is identified through VAERS, scientists may conduct further studies to find out if the signal represents an actual risk.”

CDC on How VAERS is Used

VAERS works.

Remember, it was using VAERS data that CDC and FDA vaccine experts quickly discovered that the first RotaShield rotavirus vaccine was associated with an increased risk of intussusception.

“In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned about this in a 1998 publication in Pediatrics that confirmed 48 cases of severe or fatal encephalopathy after Measles Vaccination in the 70s and 80s: 8 children died, and the rest survived but were neurologically devastated.”

Bob Sears

What about the AAP warning about encephalopathy and the measles vaccine?

Dr. Bob is talking about a 1997 paper, Acute Encephalopathy Followed by Permanent Brain Injury or Death Associated With Further Attenuated Measles Vaccines: A Review of Claims Submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which concluded that “this clustering suggests that a causal relationship between measles vaccine and encephalopathy may exist as a rare complication of measles immunization.”

“Nevertheless, with a denominator of 75,000,000 vaccinees throughout 23 years, the incidence of acute encephalopathy caused by measles vaccine in this cohort can reasonably be described as very low.”

Weibel et al on Acute Encephalopathy Followed by Permanent Brain Injury or Death Associated With Further Attenuated Measles Vaccines: A Review of Claims Submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

Bob left that part out, didn’t he?

Considering how many children used to die and develop measles encephalitis each year, this small risk would still seem to greatly outweigh the risk of remaining unvaccinated and at risk to get measles.

Fortunately, even that risk is something we likely don’t have to worry about!

“We did not identify any association between MMR vaccination and encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, or autism.”

Mäkelä et al on Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.

Although encephalopathy or encephalitis is still a table injury, studies have shown it is likely not associated with getting the MMR vaccine.

“For encephalitis and aseptic meningitis, the numbers of events observed within a 3-month risk interval after vaccination were compared with the expected numbers estimated on the basis of occurrence of encephalitis and aseptic meningitis during the subsequent 3-month intervals. “

Mäkelä et al on Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.

And then there is the 2012 IOM report, Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality, which found inadequate evidence to be able to conclude that encephalitis was caused by vaccines.

“The last child to die from measles infection in the United States was back in 2003. Since then, over 100 fatal VAERS reports have been filed for the MMR vaccine. At what point would mandating this no longer be considered in the interest of the greater good? “

Bob Sears

Bob ignores those reports and ignores the fact that a woman died in 2015.

He also ignores the fact that you don’t even have to go all of the way back to 2003 to find the last child who died of measles.

  • a 17-year-old died of SSPE in 2004
  • a 1-year-old died of measles in 2005
  • an 11-year-old died of SSPE in 2005
  • an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old died of SSPE in 2006
  • a 19-year-old died of SSPE in 2007
  • a 13-year-old died of SSPE in 2008
  • a 17-year-old died of SSPE in 2011
  • an infant died of SSPE in 2012

More importantly though, he ignores that fact that the only reason that there aren’t even more measles deaths these days is because most people are vaccinated and protected! Even Bob used to understand this…

“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.”

Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

Unfortunately, people shared their fears with their neighbors… And we are seeing the consequences of what happens when folks scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

More on Bob Sears’ Response to Ethan Lindenberger’s Senate Testimony