Tag: meningitis

When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

Can you guess what happens when you ask for advice about vaccines in an anti-vaccine Facebook Group?

Meningitis is not a side effect of vaccines.

What could go wrong?

When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

While most of us are used to hearing about meningococcal meningitis being a big risk for teens and young adults, it is important to realize that rates of disease are also high for infants, with a second peak during adolescence.

The highest rates of meningococcal disease occurs during infancy and adolescence.

So why don’t we routinely vaccinate infants against meningococcal disease?

Many countries do, including Australia and the UK, and in the United States, high risk infants are vaccinated against meningococcal disease.

If you were on the fence but were advised by your paediatrician (Australian spelling) to get vaccinated and protected because a child in your town had just died, would you get vaccinated?

Or would you listen to folks in an anti-vaccine Facebook group who tried to convince you that meningitis was actually a side effect of getting vaccinated?

Folks who insist that deaths from vaccine-preventable disease aren’t real and that instead, they are actually vaccine-injuries?

We know what happens when you ask for vaccine advice in an anti-vaccine Facebook group. The members push their propaganda to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Don’t listen to them. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

Is the Meningococcal Vaccine More Dangerous Than Meningococcal Disease?

No one who has ever seen a child with meningococcal disease would ever think that it was even remotely possible that getting a meningococcal vaccine was more dangerous than getting the disease.

“The case-fatality ratio of meningococcal disease is 10% to 15%, even with appropriate antibiotic therapy. The case-fatality ratio of meningococcemia is up to 40%. As many as 20% of survivors have permanent sequelae, such as hearing loss, neurologic damage, or loss of a limb.”

Epidemiology of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (PinkBook)

Of course, that doesn’t stop anti-vaccine folks from spreading misinformation about these vaccines to try and scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Is the Meningococcal Vaccine More Dangerous Than Meningococcal Disease?

We actually vaccinate against meningitis with many different vaccines, including Hib, Prevnar, MMR, and the meningococcal vaccines.

And there are different types of meningococcal vaccines, including those that protect against Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A, C, W, Y and Men B.

Meningococcal vaccines are safe and effective against meningococcemia and meningococcal meningitis, both terrible diseases.
Meningococcal vaccines are safe and effective against meningococcemia and meningococcal meningitis, both terrible diseases.

So routine vaccinations likely prevent up to 500 meningitis deaths each year, just in the United States, including many deaths from Hib meningitis, pneumococcal meningitis, and meningococcal disease.

“During 2005-2011, an estimated 800-1,200 cases of meningococcal disease occurred annually in the United States, representing an incidence of 0.3 cases per 100,000 population.”

Epidemiology of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (PinkBook)

What about the idea that 1 in 100 people will have a serious reaction to the vaccine?

“The most frequently reported adverse events for MenACWY-D include fever (16.8%), headache (16.0%) injection site erythema (14.6%), and dizziness (13.4%). Syncope was reported in 10.0% of reports involving MenACWY-D. Of all reported MenACWY-D events, 6.6% were coded as serious (i.e., resulted in death, life-threatening illness, hospitalization, prolongation of hospitalization, or permanent disability). Serious events included headache, fever, vomiting, and nausea. A total of 24 deaths (0.3%) were reported.”

Epidemiology of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (PinkBook)

The serious events listed above were from the clinical trials for the vaccine and didn’t differ between the vaccine and placebo.

Although meningococcal vaccines can have frequent mild side effects, they very rarely have serious side effects.

Not everything that happens during a clinical trial is related to the vaccine, even though it still gets reported. Another Menactra trial reported no deaths and the serious adverse events that were reported weren’t related to getting vaccinated.

Here is another meningococcal study in which a few of the participants died – one in a car accident and the other a drug overdose.

These deaths were not related to getting vaccinated, but were listed because they occurred during the study.
These deaths were not related to getting vaccinated, but were listed because they occurred during the study.

Unfortunately, vaccines can’t protect you from everything…

It would be especially nice if they could protect us from bad anti-vaccine memes.

More on Meningococcal Vaccine Safety

Recognizing Old Vaccine Scars

Do you have a scar on your arm and you aren’t sure why it is there?

Having a smallpox vaccine scar makes you a part of history.
Having a smallpox vaccine scar makes you a part of history.

Is it from the smallpox vaccine?

Recognizing Old Vaccine Scars

Classically, there are two vaccines that can leave a scar – the ones that protect us against smallpox and tuberculosis.

“BCG scar is a surrogate marker of vaccination and an important index in the vaccination program.”

Dhanawade et al on Scar formation and tuberculin conversion following BCG vaccination in infants: A prospective cohort study

And there are a few easy ways to tell if you have a smallpox scar.

When were you born? Remember, the smallpox vaccine hasn’t been used in the United States since the early 1970s and its use stopped everywhere in 1986.

And where were you born?

The BCG (bacille Calmette-Guerin) vaccine, on the other hand, is still in use in many countries, and is given at birth to prevent tuberculosis disease, including meningitis and disseminated tuberculosis. It isn’t routinely used in the United States though “because of the low risk of infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the variable effectiveness of the vaccine against adult pulmonary TB, and the vaccine’s potential interference with tuberculin skin test reactivity.”

Do you have a vaccine scar on your arm?
Do you have a vaccine scar on your arm? Photo by Earl Hershfield

In general though:

  • the BCG vaccine scar has a raised center
  • the smallpox vaccine scar is depressed, with lines that radiate to the edges

Complicating matters is the fact that you can have multiple scars from each vaccine…

“In 1972, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Canada recommended that routine immunization of infants for smallpox be stopped. Very few Canadians born after 1972 have been immunized against smallpox. Those, like me, who were immunized prior to that date have little or no immunity left. Nothing, but a small scar as testimony to a grand global achievement.”

Diane Kelsall on A Small Scar

Do you have any vaccine scars?

More on Recognizing Old Vaccine Scars

Personal Stories About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Parents these days seem to get bombarded with vaccine injury stories and videos on Facebook.

Is that because vaccines cause so many bad reactions?

Of course not.

It’s because some folks think that everything that happens to their kids is a vaccine injury.

Personal Stories About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

If you are going to watch those videos and listen to their stories, getting scared in the process, be sure to also listen to the stories of parents who’s kids have suffered through actually getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

While it’s great that these diseases are much less common because most people vaccinate and protect their kids, one side effect of that progress is that we don’t have many reminders of just how terrible these diseases are anymore.Have you ever seen a baby with congenital rubella syndrome?

Or a child with tetanus or diphtheria?

Have you ever even seen photos of these diseases?

Will you read these stories of parents who have lost a child to a vaccine-preventable disease.

“Kimberly Coffey was buried three days before her high school graduation in the prom dress she didn’t get to wear. She didn’t have the opportunity to be vaccinated against Meningitis B.”

Kim’s Meningitis Story

In Kimberly‘s case, the Men B vaccine wasn’t yet available, but in many other cases, parents have shared their stories of unvaccinated children who suffered with a disease that was vaccine preventable at the time.

“From 2010 to 2016, young children continued to be at the greatest risk for influenza-associated pediatric deaths. Children without preexisting medical conditions accounted for half of all deaths. Vaccination coverage was low among influenza-associated pediatric deaths.”

Shang et al. on Influenza-Associated Pediatric Deaths in the United States, 2010–2016

Tragically, there are also many flu stories.

But the flu isn’t the only vaccine-preventable disease that still harms children.

This family didn't have a choice about their son getting sick - he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.
This family didn’t have a choice about their son getting sick – he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles

There are other diseases. Other stories.

Read these stories.

Listen to these parents.

Are the stories supposed to scare you into vaccinating your kids?

Of course not. Just like you shouldn’t let the myths and propaganda from the anti-vaccinate movement scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Instead of being motivated by fear, you should make your decision because you understand that the many benefits of vaccines are far greater than their small risks.

What to Know About Vaccine-Preventable Disease Stories

Reading stories of vaccine-preventable diseases are a good reminder that these diseases are not so mild as some folks suggest, and they are instead life-threatening diseases that are best avoided by getting fully vaccinated.

More Vaccine-Preventable Disease Stories