Tag: misinformation

Why Is Lying About Vaccines Not Criminal?

We are in the middle of the largest measles outbreaks in over 25 years.

Measles cases and deaths are on the rise all over the world.

Much of that rise, especially in the developed world, is because parents believe the misinformation that the vocal anti-vax folks are pushing.

Why Is Lying About Vaccines Not Criminal?

Which has to make you wonder – why is lying about vaccines and scarring parents into skipping or delaying vaccines not criminal?

A sociopath wrote this... Is that the one true statement in Kennedy's rant?
A sociopath wrote this… Is that the one true statement in Kennedy’s rant?

For example, take the above Instagram post by Robert F Kennedy, Jr.

His claim that the “guidelines stipulate that a child would need to experience anaphylactic shock — a life threatening reaction — to EVERY vaccine-requiring eight near death experiences — to qualify for an exemption” simply isn’t true.

A severe allergic reaction is a contraindication to getting vaccinated.

If a child had a severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, to a previous dose of any vaccine or to a vaccine component, then they would get an medical exemption to that vaccine. They could also easily get a medical exemption to all other vaccines that used those same components, such as gelatin, eggs, or yeast, etc.

It is silly to think that you would have to have an anaphylactic reaction to each and every vaccine, as Kennedy claims, to get a medical exemption to getting vaccinated.

Did the CDC publish new guidelines in 2019 changing what is considered to be a contraindication, another Kennedy claim?

Mild to moderate local reactions and low-grade or moderate fever were removed as a condition commonly mispercieved as a contraindication or precaution, but that was done last January. There were no big changes recently!
Mild to moderate local reactions and low-grade or moderate fever were removed as a condition commonly mispercieved as a contraindication or precaution, but that was done last January. There were no big changes recently!

Nope.

And the thing is, these things are incorrectly perceived as contraindications or precautions to vaccination because they are not a problem with vaccination!

You would have to be a sociopath to put kids at risk for a vaccine-preventable disease for no good reason!

For example, why skip the HPV vaccine just because a child is already infection with HPV? Are they infected with all of the strains of HPV that the vaccine protects against? There is no extra risk of cervical cancer from the vaccine if you are already infected, just the fact that you might get cervical cancer because you were already infected before you got protected from the vaccine!

Why is it not homicide to scare someone away from getting vaccinated and protected with a vaccine that prevents cancer by spreading this type of misinformation?

Why is lying about vaccines not criminal?

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How Could Seven of My Vaccinated Kids Have the Measles Right Now?

Seven vaccinated kids with measles?!?

But doesn’t the measles rash typically show up after three to five days of fever?

Wait, that couldn’t really happen, could it? Seven vaccinated kids with measles in one family?

How Could Seven of My Vaccinated Kids Have the Measles Right Now?

While anything is possible, this story is very improbable once you look at the details…

“When her 12-year-old son spiked a fever and started complaining of a sore throat right before Passover, Mrs. Pearl (not her real name) wasn’t worried. She confidently crossed off a host of possible infections that he was fully vaccinated for.

She thought he had strep throat, like two of his siblings.

They headed to urgent care for a rapid strep test, but the result was negative. Undeterred, she put her son on antibiotics at the nurse’s recommendation, and sent her son to bed.

He’d worsened by morning.

He woke feeling feverish and broken out in a rash.”

Jennifer Margulis

Could that be measles?

He ended up testing positive for measles, even though he was fully vaccinated. Only two days of fever before he developed his rash though, and no word that the fever continued, as you would expect with measles…

“Not long after, Mrs. Pearl’s 10-year-old broke out in a similar rash.

This child didn’t spike a fever but his breathing was labored and he complained that his eyes hurt.

He also tested positive for the measles.”

Jennifer Margulis

Although they all could have been exposed to someone else, it is important to note that the incubation period for measles is 7 to 14 days. The “not long after” scenario sounds like too short a time to get “measles” from his brother. Also, no fever, which would be very strange for measles…

But the other five kids had more classic symptoms of measles, right?

Nope.

“Of the seven other children that Mrs. Pearl had tested—all of whom had been fully vaccinated—five more showed no immunity to measles.”

Jennifer Margulis

What about the negative titer tests?

That’s actually not unusual after measles vaccination. It’s not proof or any kind of indication that the vaccine didn’t work. It has been long known that most vaccinated people who have negative measles titers will show an anamnestic immune response if they get another dose of MMR.

What does that mean? It means that they were likely immune, even with the negative titer.

“In the event that a HCP who has 2 documented doses of MMR vaccine is tested serologically and determined to have negative or equivocal measles titer results, it is not recommended that the person receive an additional dose of MMR vaccine. Such persons should be considered to have presumptive evidence of measles immunity. Documented age-appropriate vaccination supersedes the results of subsequent serologic testing.”

Immunization of Health-Care Personnel: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

In fact, we don’t routinely check titers after MMR, at least not for measles.

And their symptoms?

“Two hours after getting the MMR booster, Mrs. Pearl’s 16-year-old spiked a 102-degree fever and broke out in a measles rash.

Four days later her three other children, all of whom had received the MMR booster, all had measles rashes, canker sores in their mouths, gastrointestinal problems, and lethargy.”

Jennifer Margulis

Canker sores with measles? Kids with measles get Koplik spots, but no one describes them as canker sores.

Fever and a rash developing at the same time?

Yeah, none of that sounds like measles. At all.

Remember, the classic symptoms of measles include 3 to 5 days of a high fever with cough, coryza, and conjunctivitis, followed by a rash, with continued fever.

“According to Mrs. Pearl, the health department official also told her that measles vaccine failure is common and that about half the people getting measles in the current measles clusters in Brooklyn are fully vaccinated.”

Jennifer Margulis

Actually, only 27 of the 566 people in Brooklyn with measles have been known to be fully vaccinated, with two doses of MMR. How much less than half is that? It is less than 5% of cases.

Measles vaccine failure is not common at all.

Why Did They Say That Seven of My Vaccinated Kids Have Measles?

So how do you explain what happened to this family?

Besides the likelihood that they had another, more common virus causing their symptoms? With mouth ulcers and diarrhea, like maybe Coxsackie virus?

Do you really need another explanation?

How do you explain the positive measles tests?

They were almost certainly a false positive.

“The test kits in use have been shown to have high sensitivity and specificity. However, cross-reactions with other viral diseases, e.g. rubella and Parvovirus, may occur.”

Dietz et al on The laboratory confirmation of suspected measles cases in settings of low measles transmission: conclusions from the experience in the Americas.

They didn’t state which test was done, but it is important to note that several are available. This includes an immunoglobulin test, PCR from a throat swab, and PCR from a urine specimen. The most accurate testing is done by the CDC.

“Detection of specific IgM antibodies in a serum sample collected within the first few days of rash onset can provide presumptive evidence of a current or recent measles virus infection. However, because no assay is 100% specific, serologic testing of non-measles cases using any assay will occasionally produce false positive IgM results.”

Serologic Testing for Measles in Low Prevalence Setting

Did they have confirmatory tests, after their initial positive test? Were they done at a state lab? Did all of her other kids test positive for measles?

“She’s angry at the measles vaccine failure and worried about her family members, especially her pregnant daughter.”

Jennifer Margulis

She should be angry at folks pushing misininformation in her community.

“I used to think people who don’t vaccinate were crazy,” Mrs. Pearl says. “Now I’m not so sure. Maybe they’re right. Maybe my body doesn’t want to take garbage. Something is a red flag. After my story, I’m not so sure where the measles started. I’m legit. I did vaccinate. All my kids are up to date. Children ages 22 to 7 all getting the measles?”

Jennifer Margulis

Something is indeed a red flag. To get to the bottom of it, Mrs. Pearl should revisit the idea that her kids really had measles.

More on Vaccinated Kids with Measles

Decoding Anti-Vaccine Protests

Yes, even in this age of recordbreaking measles cases, there are some anti-vaccine folks protesting because they want to keep their kids unvaccinated and unprotected.

Decoding Anti-Vaccine Protests

What reasons do they have to intentionally not vaccinate their kids?

Who's protecting us from the people protesting against vaccines?
Who’s protecting us from the people protesting against vaccines?

As many reasons as there are anti-vaccine talking points…

What is truly disturbing though, is that today’s anti-vaccine protestors are co-opting many symbols, language, and slogans and using them to get attention.

Del Bigtree wasn't the only one to wear a yellow star during anti-vaccine protests.
Del Bigtree wasn’t the only one to wear a yellow star during anti-vaccine protests.

Remember when anti-vaccine folks had to be called out for using Holocaust imagery to protest against vaccines.

How Did These Become Anti-Vaccine Slogans?

That’s not all they are doing though.

Did you know that they are also using:

If you do not consent, you won't get vaccinated and protected.
  • Me Too – a movement to support survivors and end sexual violence, anti-vaccine folks use it to when they talk about vaccine injuries.
  • I do not consent – typically about limiting searches when police don’t have a warrant, the anti-vaccine movement abuses it for something that they do have to consent for – getting vaccinated! If you do not consent, you won’t get vaccinated and protected.
  • Informed consent – again, this is something anti-vaccine folks abuse, as their decisions are being influenced by myths and misinformation, so it is not informed consent. It’s more like misinformed consent.

And then there are the anti-vaxxers who use “choice” as their argument.

If you weren't aware, this post makes it obvious where the choice argument comes from. No, it's not AoA, but from the pro-choice movement.
If you weren’t aware, this post makes it obvious where the choice argument comes from. No, it’s not AoA, but from the pro-choice movement.

Anti-vaxxers are only pro-choice for not vaccinating their kids though. They don’t care if we have a choice about wanting to be protected from being exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases.

Dog Whistles for Refusing Vaccines

What’s the big problem with choice as an argument for anti-vaccine folks?

Parents already have a choice to leave their kids unvaccinated and at risk for measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

They already have choices!

No one is forcing them to vaccinate their kids.

Of course, what they want is more choices. They want the option to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to daycare and school, where they would pose a risk to others. They want to limit our choices for decreasing the risks of keeping our kids safe from vaccine-preventable diseases.

How? Their intentionally unvaccinated kids are at greater risk to get measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, which they can then spread to others.

What does all of this really mean?

Just realize that all of these slogans are being co-opted and are being used as dog whistles for the anti-vaccine movement, diluting their original meaning.

More on Decoding Anti-Vaccine Protests

Who Is Arthur Caplan?

Plenty of folks claim to be experts on vaccines.

Some are experts because they study epidemiology, others because they study immunology or infectious disease.

And then there are the experts in vaccination ethics.

Who Is Arthur Caplan?

With a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy of science, Dr. Art Caplan went on to co-found The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute.

Arthur Caplan does a good job of calling out folks who push anti-vaccine misinformation.
Arthur Caplan does a good job of calling out folks who push anti-vaccine misinformation.

He has since written dozens of books and nearly a thousand articles in peer-reviewed journals, working most recently at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, where he is the founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics.

“When politicians ignore the evidence, fail to cite appropriate medical authorities, and rely on hearsay and rumor, with the result that people — out of ignorance or error — don’t vaccinate their children, we can and should deny them elective office. When a doctor does so, we should demand that he forfeit his right to use his medical degree to misinform, confuse or lie.”

Arthur L. Caplan on Revoke the license of any doctor who opposes vaccination

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Art Caplan has a lot to say about vaccines.

“Faulty ethical thinking is to blame. We are elevating parents’ rights to make misinformed decisions over the rights of children to get important vaccines. Infants and young children are blocked from receiving their routine childhood immunizations by parents who espouse an aberrant ideology of choice or are being duped by anti-vaccine groups. In so doing, they are violating children’s rights to health, welfare and equal opportunity.”

Arthur L. Caplan and Peter J. Hotez on Anti-vaccine misinformation denies children’s rights

He also has a lot to say about measles, other vaccine-preventable diseases, and how to get control back before these outbreaks turn into true epidemics.

“What should we be doing to protect our communities, our children, and ourselves? We should halt the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation and take steps to stop nonmedical vaccine exemptions. We need to restore vaccines and vaccinations as the “new normal” in America.”

Arthur L Caplan on Let’s Treat Measles Seriously

Are you still thinking about skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines?

After reading some of Dr. Caplan’s work, you should know that it’s not safe, has no benefits, and isn’t the ethical thing to do.

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