Tag: fear

Why Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Panicking over the Measles Outbreaks?

Do you sense something in the air?

No, it’s not measles.

Ever notice that it is folks who don't vaccinate who use words like epidemic and panic whenever we have large measles outbreaks?
Ever notice that it is folks who don’t vaccinate who use words like epidemic and panic whenever we have large measles outbreaks?

It is talk of panic about measles.

Why Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Panicking over the Measles Outbreaks?

I’m not panicking.

I am definitively concerned about these outbreaks, because I understand that they put a lot of folks at unnecessary risk for getting a life-threatening disease. And I understand that these outbreaks are getting harder and harder to control, but ultimately, since more and more people get vaccinated during an outbreak, they will eventually end.

So why are anti-vaccine folks panicking?

Yes, your immune system gets to a whole new level after a natural measles infection - it resets.
Yes, your immune system gets to a whole new level after a natural measles infection – it resets.

It’s easier to be anti-vaccine and leave your kids unvaccinated and unprotected when you don’t think that you are taking much of a risk.

You likely still know it’s wrong, so cognitive dissonance pushes you to believe that vaccines don’t work, vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t that bad, vaccines are full of poison, or that you can just hide in the herd.

It gets much harder during an outbreak, when you realize that it is almost all intentionally unvaccinated kids getting sick. And typically an intentionally unvaccinated child or adult who starts the outbreak.

Why wait until an outbreak starts to get your kids vaccinated and protected or to start recommending that your patients be vaccinated and protected?
Why wait until an outbreak starts to get your kids vaccinated and protected or to start recommending that your patients be vaccinated and protected?

Is my child going to start an outbreak?

If measles is so mild, why do so many of these folks go to the ER multiple times and why do some of them get hospitalized. Why do people still die with measles?

Full Stop! Someone did die during the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington.
Full Stop! Someone did die during the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington.

That’s when the panic starts to set in.

Are you really doing what’s right for your child?

Who are these people I’m getting advice from and what’s their motivation?

The only "mass hysteria" is in anti-vaccine Facebook groups. Is Larry Cook using it to raise money for himself?
The only “mass hysteria” is in anti-vaccine Facebook groups. Is Larry Cook using it to raise money for himself?

Am I really supposed to skip my kid’s MMR because they did a Brady Bunch episode about all of the Brady kids getting measles?

Will I regret not vaccinating my child?

Why don’t any of the people in my Facebook groups who talk about how marvelous measles used to be in the old days talk about how they called it a “harmless killer?”

Of course, there is an easy way to stop worrying and panicking about measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases – get your kids vaccinated and protected. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on Measles Panic

Fun and Games with Measles?

Remember when everyone would get measles and it would be so much fun?

Yeah, I don’t either. Mostly because I grew up in the post-elimination era for measles.

Fun and Games with Measles?

But neither does anyone else who really experienced measles.

Do you typically want to play board games when you have a high fever?

Remember, kids with measles typically have a temperature above 104o F for 4 to 7 days. They also have conjunctivitis, cough, decreased appetite, and are irritable.

The very first measles vaccine was available in 1963 when this article was published.

It should be clear that the article is only talking about the convalescent stage of measles, when you are starting to feel better and your fever has broken.

Anti-vaccine folks, whether they push articles like this, or talk about the Brady Bunch episode, dolls with measles, or children’s books about measles, also don’t mention that during a “measles year,” like they had in Minneapolis in 1963, a lot of people died.

Measles was described as a harmless killer.
Being sick with a “harmless killer” doesn’t sound like much fun.

Were our grandparents afraid of measles, which was described at the time as a “harmless killer?”

You bet they were!

Did they try to distract us with board games until you could make it out of the house and back to school? Why wouldn’t they?

Eleanor Abbot designed Candy Land for kids recovering from paralytic polio in 1948. That doesn’t mean that having paralytic polio was all fun and games, does it?

You know what else isn’t harmless? Folks who push this kind of anti-vaccine propaganda. Don’t let them scare you into keeping your kids unvaccinated and unprotected. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on Fun and Games with Measles

Why Are We Worried About 60,000 Unvaccinated Kids?

In the recent New York Times OpEd, How to Inoculate Against Anti-Vaxxers, the editorial board mentioned the 60,000 children in Texas who “remain wholly unvaccinated thanks in part to an aggressive anti-vaccine lobby.”

“But there’s like 74 million children, so I think that’s a pretty small number. I don’t know why you guys are freaking out about 60,000 really healthy babies running around. Do you know?

Hillary Simpson

Hillary Simpson obviously doesn’t understand how herd immunity works.

Do you?

Why Are We Worried About 60,000 Unvaccinated Kids?

First things first, though.

Just how many unvaccinated kids are there in Texas? How about the United States?

It is actually hard to know exactly.

It's easy to forget, with so much talk about anti-vaxxers these days, but the great majority of parents vaccinate and protect their kids!
It’s easy to forget, with so much talk about anti-vaxxers these days, but the great majority of parents vaccinate and protect their kids!

In Texas, for instance, while only a small percentage of kids get non-medical vaccine exemptions, with about 7 million children in the state (yes, there are 74 million children in the United States, but that’s not how you measure herd immunity), that adds up to a lot of unvaccinated kids.

In addition to about 60,000 unvaccinated kids in school, there are homeschooled children who aren’t vaccinated.

“We’re probably looking at more than 100,000 kids in the state of Texas who are not getting their vaccines.”

Dr. Peter J. Hotez: “A Scary Anti-Science Movement Has Become Very Strong in Texas”

But still, should we be worried about 100,000 unvaccinated kids, when there are 7 million kids in Texas?

Don’t those immunization levels still keep us above herd immunity levels of protection?

Well, they likely would, and this would indeed be less concerning if the unvaccinated children were spread out randomly throughout the entire state. Of course, that’s not what happens and we instead get clusters of unvaccinated children (and adults) in very specific schools, neighborhoods, and even churches.

There are higher numbers of unvaccinated kids in very specific parts of the states, leading to pockets where it is more likely that an outbreak could happen.
There are higher numbers of unvaccinated kids in very specific parts of the states, leading to pockets where it is more likely that an outbreak could happen.

So while it can seem like we have herd immunity levels of protection at the state or city level because of high average vaccination levels, these pockets of susceptibles who are unvaccinated and live in the same neighborhood or go to the same school (where is the Waldorf school in Texas?) can mean that we don’t have herd immunity in those places, leading to outbreaks.

And that’s why we get concerned about 60 to 100,000 unvaccinated children who:

Still, remember that the great majority of parents understand the benefits of vaccines, are not scared by anti-vaccine propaganda, and vaccinate their kids.

In 2015, for example, only 1.3% of children in the United States had received no vaccines by age 24 months. And more than 90% of children completed their primary series of vaccines.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about those who don’t, but maybe you should be a little bit more concerned about your decision to not vaccinate your kids.

More on Clusters of Unvaccinated Kids

Have Normal Childhood Diseases Become More Deadly?

Weren’t measles and chicken pox once a rite of passage for kids?

Yes, in the pre-vaccine era, almost all kids got measles, chicken pox, and other now vaccine-preventable diseases in early childhood.

It was considered a rite of passage.

That she doesn't understand survivorship bias doesn't mean that you shouldn't vaccinate your kids.
That she doesn’t understand survivorship bias doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t vaccinate your kids.

But these diseases were never benign.

They were considered a rite of passage only because we all had to endure them. They weren’t something anyone looked forward to.

Benign diseases don't kill kids.
Benign diseases don’t kill kids.

After all, you don’t typically die from a benign disease.

Have Normal Childhood Diseases Become More Deadly?

But what about the idea that folks never used to worry about these diseases, at least not until vaccines were developed? Or that we only fear diseases that are vaccine-preventable?

It’s easy to say that no one worried about measles in the pre-vaccine era when you are just trying to scare folks away from getting vaccinated.

That’s one of the more ridiculous arguments anti-vaccine folks make.

A measles epidemic hit New York City in 1951, as this front page NYTimes article reports.
A measles epidemic hit New York City in 1951 and made headlines in the New York Times. That’s not surprising, as there were 683 measles deaths in the United States that year.

And also one of the easiest to refute.

When was the last time that you saw a headline warning about congenital rubella syndrome?
When was the last time that you saw a headline warning about congenital rubella syndrome?

These diseases that are now vaccine-preventable routinely made headlines in the pre-vaccine era.

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.

And it was surviving these diseases that was considered a rite of passage, at least for those who were fortunate enough to survive.

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

Lassie got shot, but ended up saving the day, getting help for Timmy, after they ran out of gas taking a short cut rushing home.
The Lassie episode about measles, in 1958, was called ‘The Crisis.” There were 552 measles deaths in the United States that year.

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.

Why don’t we see that many deaths now?

That’s easy.

We don’t see as much measles now. Most folks are vaccinated and protected.

If more people skip or delay their vaccines though, we will see more and more outbreaks, with greater chances that people will die.

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.

More on Childhood Diseases as a Rite of Passage