While that easily dwarfs the number of deaths in many other countries, where there have been thousands of deaths, Samoa has been getting some extra attention because some of the blame rests with anti-vax influence on the island nation.
Jim Meehan Supporting a Farmer Helps Explain the Deaths in Samoa
It is even more amazing that many of these folks have been doubling down on their anti-vax activism even as measles deaths have continued to climb.
It seems that Edwin Tamasese, a farmer in Samoa who is also described as a holistic healer, is being advised on how to treat kids with measles by James Meehan, an ophthalmologist in Oklahoma who now practices integrative and functional medicine.
How do either have the training or background to help sick kids in a measles epidemic?
That they don’t is easy to see from Meehan’s letter of support…
Wait, why would anyone vaccinate a child who was already infected with measles?
Probably because it is a part of routine measles postexposure prophylaxis guidelines. In fact, giving a dose of MMR within a few days of exposure to someone with measles can reduce their risk of getting sick with measles or of developing complications of measles.
Of course, you wouldn’t actually give the MMR vaccine to someone who was already sick with measles though. Instead of simply being infected with measles, that would be someone with measles disease.
There are no indications for antibiotics to treat uncomplicated viral diseases, unfortunately, secondary bacterial diseases can occur and do need to be treated.
“These results document that MV infection can suppress both innate and adaptive immune responses and lead to increased susceptibility to bacterial infection.”
Slifka et al on Measles virus infection results in suppression of both innate and adaptive immune responses to secondary bacterial infection
In fact, it is these secondary bacterial super-infections, including pneumonia and mastoiditis, that can make measles so deadly.
“Mortality from measles is predominantly caused by complicating bacterial infections.”
Factsheet about measles
It is a big reason that kids with measles, a viral infection, likely need to be treated with antibiotics.
Kids with measles typically have a high fever and are very irritable.
While we have been moving towards an approach of letting fevers run their course these days, in case fever does have some beneficial effects, there are also studies that have shown that in critically ill patients, fever is associated with increased mortality.
Unlike some other infections, the genotype doesn’t help you figure out whether or not the vaccine will work against it. Measles is a monotypic virus. The MMR vaccine protects against all measles strains.
“The outbreaks in Samoa and Tonga are caused by the D8 strain (genotype) of measles virus.”
Measles Outbreak in the Pacific – Situation Report No 2, 26 November 2019
An no, for the millionth time, 38% of the measles cases in the Disneyland outbreak were not caused by the vaccine strain!
Those folks with the vaccine strain were the ones who were recently vaccinated and had a “febrile rash illness,” a common side effect of the vaccine.
They did not have measles!
While vaccinating someone who is truly immunosuppressed with a live vaccine is contraindicated, it seems like Meehan thinks that most of the folks on Samoa are immunosuppressed and shouldn’t be vaccinated!
There is a state of emergency in Samoa that has closed schools, banned public gatherings, and mandated vaccines, as they attempt to get their measles epidemic under control. They are also getting help from UNICEF, the New Zealand Red Cross, UK’s Emergency Medical Team (UK EMT), the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT), and the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT).
More help is coming from the CDC and the EUCPM.
They do not need folks like Tamasese and Meehan interfering with these efforts because they think they can do it better, even as they scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids – the one thing that will end the epidemic.
It should be noted that as much as anti-vax folks are crowing about Tamasese and Meehan’s efforts to get kids vitamin A, their protocol severely under doses kids!
Anyway, mega doses of vitamin A are most helpful in reducing mortality in hospitalized kids with measles. It is also important to keep in mind that vitamin A only reduces mortality – it doesn’t eliminate it. Vitamin A is not a cure for measles.
And the mega doses of vitamin C they are giving aren’t going to help prevent complications. They are just giving the kids diarrhea, which is not a good thing if they might already be malnourished!
What’s the biggest takeaway from the Samoa epidemic?
Are they really seeing the most measles cases in the areas with the highest vaccination rates?
Measles Outbreaks in New Zealand
One thing is sure, there are a lot of measles cases in New Zealand.
“From 1 January 2019 to 10 October 2019 there have been 1742 confirmed cases of measles notified across New Zealand. 1416 of these confirmed cases are in the Auckland region.”
2019 NZ measles outbreak information
Do we know which parts of New Zealand have the most measles outbreaks?
Of course, this doesn’t really tell you anything about why some districts have more cases than others…
Is it because they have more unvaccinated people or simply because they have a lot more people?
Wherever they live, we know that like measles outbreaks in every other part of the world, few of the folks with measles in New Zealand are known to be fully vaccinated.
And while New Zealand had eliminated home grown-cases of measles just a few years ago, it wasn’t with vaccination rates of 97%.
“For immunisation from measles, rubella and mumps two doses of the vaccine called MMR are needed. Dr McElnay said among New Zealand’s children and infants, 95 percent had had the first dose and 90 percent the full vaccine.”
NZ eliminates NZ-origin measles
Unfortunately, while they were working to get younger kids vaccinated and protected, many older kids and adults are still not vaccinated.
“However, we must remain vigilant and improve our vaccination rates because these diseases can easily spread among unimmunised people from imported cases. In New Zealand, people aged 12 to 32 years have lower vaccination rates than young children so are less likely to be protected against these diseases.”
Measles and rubella officially eliminated in New Zealand
MRC-5 cells were never on the MMR list because the MMR vaccine isn’t made with MRC-5 cells!
The MMR vaccine is made with chick embryo fibroblasts and WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts, but since neither remain in the final vaccine, they aren’t on the latest excipient list. They can still be found in vaccine’s package insert.
Substances used in the manufacture of a vaccine but not actually listed as contained in the final vaccine can be found in the package insert for the vaccine, but are no longer shown on the excipient table.
This change to the excipient list was made in 2019.
Why the change?
Probably because this more accurately reflects what’s in the vaccine! Remember, many of the things that are used to make a vaccine get filtered out along the way.
Interestingly, while chick embryo fibroblasts were on the original excipient list, in 2007, WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts weren’t.
They were briefly added, but then both were removed with the change to the excipient list in 2019.
And that’s why anti-vax folks think that there is some conspiracy to hide them.
A conspiracy to hide these excipients that explains that why excipients are not included on the list and not only tells you where to find them, in the vaccine’s package insert, but also includes a link to find them?