Tag: myths

When Was the Last Measles Death in the United States?

How many measles deaths have there been in the United States in the past ten years? Dr. Bob Sears frequently says that there have been none. It is easy to see that Dr. Bob is wrong, not even counting the latest death in 2015.

Measles Deaths in the United States

Measles deaths are thought to occur in about 1 in every 500 to 1,000 reported cases. This is not just in developing countries or in people with chronic medical conditions.

Consider that in an outbreak in the United States from 1989 to 1991, amid 55,622 cases, there were 123 deaths.

More recently, measles cases and measles deaths in the United States include:

  • 2000 – 86 cases – 1 measles death (infant)  – endemic spread of measles eliminated in U.S.
  • 2001 – 116 cases – 1 measles death
  • 2002 – 44 cases
  • 2003 – 55 cases – 1 measles death (1 year old)
  • 2004 – 37 cases – record low number of measles cases
  • 2005 – 66 cases – 1 measles death (1 year old)
  • 2006 – 55 cases
  • 2007 – 43 cases
  • 2008 – 140 cases
  • 2009 – 71 cases – 2 measles deaths
  • 2010 – 63 cases – 2 measles deaths
  • 2011 – 220 cases
  • 2012 – 55 cases – 2 measles deaths
  • 2013 – 187 cases (large outbreak in New York City – 58 cases)
  • 2014 – 667 cases (the worst year for measles since 1994, including the largest single outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated – 377 cases in Ohio)
  • 2015 – 188 cases – got off to a strong start with a big outbreak in California – 1 measles death
  • 2016 – 86 cases
  • 2017 – 118 cases

So that’s 11 measles deaths since 2000 and at least 8 measles deaths since 2005.

Why do people say that there have been no measles deaths in the United States in the past 10 years? Whether they are misinformed or intentionally trying to misinform people, they are wrong.

The Last Verifiable Measles Death in the United States

The CDC is actually contributing a bit to the confusion over measles deaths, in that when asked, they have  said that “the last verifiable death in the United States from acute measles infection occurred in 2003 when there were 2 reported deaths.”

They explain the discrepancy between that statement and other CDC reports, like the recently published “Summary of Notifiable Diseases — United States, 2012,” which clearly documents measles deaths in 2005, 2009, and 2010, by saying that those reports are based on “statistical information about deaths in the United States.”

But that statistical information comes from death certificates that are sent in from all over the United States to the National Vital Statistics System. The system isn’t like VAERS, where just anyone can send in a report. You don’t necessarily have to be a doctor to sign and file a death certificate though either, which is why the CDC is probably hung up on saying that the last verifiable measles deaths were in 2003.

To be more precise when talking about measles deaths in the United States, since it doesn’t seem like the CDC has verified each and every measles death after 2003, it is likely best to say that death certificates have been filed in 2005, 2009 (2), 2010 (2), and 2012 (2) that listed measles as a cause of death code.

Of course, that still means that there have been measles deaths in the United States since 2003.

SSPE – More Measles Deaths

Lately, in addition to deaths from acute measles infections, there have been even more deaths from subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE).

About 6 to 8 years after having measles, children with SSPE develop progressive neurological symptoms, including memory loss, behavior changes, uncontrollable movements, and even seizures. As symptoms progress, they may become blind, develop stiff muscles, become unable to walk, and eventually deteriorate to a persistent vegetative state.

Children with SSPE usually die within 1 to 3 years of first developing symptoms, including in the United States:

  • 2000 – 5 SSPE deaths
  • 2001 – 2 SSPE deaths
  • 2002 – 5 SSPE deaths
  • 2003 – 0
  • 2004 – 1 SSPE death
  • 2005 – 2 SSPE deaths
  • 2006 – 3 SSPE deaths
  • 2007 – 3 SSPE deaths
  • 2008 – 3 SSPE deaths
  • 2009 – 2 SSPE deaths
  • 2010 – 0
  • 2011 – 4 SSPE deaths
  • 2012 – 1 SSPE death
  • 2013 – 1 SSPE death
  • 2014 – 0
  • 2015 – 0
  • 2016 – 0
  • 2017 – 0

That’s 32 SSPE deaths since 2000 and at least 19 SSPE deaths since 2005. Why so many? Many of them can likely be attributed to the large number of cases associated with measles outbreaks from 1989 to 1991.

Fortunately, as the number of measles cases has been dropping in the post-vaccine era, so have the number of SSPE deaths.

The National Registry for SSPE, reported that there were at least 453 cases between 1960 and 1976. There were 225 deaths from SSPE between 1979 and 1998. The registry wasn’t established until 1969 though, and it is now becoming clear that the risk of developing SSPE is much higher than once thought.

A recent study of measles in Germany has found that the risk of developing SSPE is about 1 in 1,700 to 1 in 3,300 cases of measles.

Other Myths About Measles Deaths

One of the classic measles myths we hear is that measles was disappearing even before the measles vaccine was developed. It is true that measles deaths had been dropping since the turn of the century.

The measles death rate (deaths per 100,000 people) in the United States was:

  • 1900 – 13.3 (about 7000 deaths)
  • 1910 – 12.4
  • 1920 – 8.8
  • 1930 – 3.2
  • 1935 – 3.1
  • 1940 – 0.5
  • 1945 – 0.2
  • 1950 – 0.3 (468 deaths)
  • 1955 – 0.2 (345 deaths)
  • 1960 – 0.2 (380 deaths)
  • 1963 – first measles vaccine licensed
  • 1965 – 0.1 (276 deaths)
  • 1970 – 0.0 (89 deaths)
  • 1975 – 0.0 (20 deaths)
  • 1980 – 0.0 (11 deaths)
  • 1985 – 0.0 (4 deaths)

That’s not surprising though. The general death rate had dropped from 17.8 in 1900 to 7.6 in 1960. For infants under age 12 months, the death rate dropped from 162.4 in 1933 to 27 in 1960.

This simply reflects that vaccines were not the only medical technology that helped to save lives in the 20th century and not that measles was already disappearing. Penicillin, insulin, vitamin D, blood typing (allows transfusions of blood that has been typed and cross-matched), dialysis machines, and mechanical ventilators were all discovered in the early 1900s.

anti-vax-measles-graph
Despite how anti-vaccine charts try and mislead you, measles was still very deadly when the first measles vaccines were introduced.

If you notice though, the death rate for measles got stuck after the 1940s at about 0.2 to 0.3, even as modern medicine continued to advance. That’s about 300 to 500 measles deaths each year in the United States. This was after World War II and through the 1950s and early 1960s, hardly a time of poor hygiene or poor nutrition or when Americans were without access to medical care.

It took about 20 years for those deaths to start dropping again, and it took the coming of the measles vaccine to do it.

So if we stop vaccinating, we won’t get to 7,000 measles deaths a year again in the United States. Modern medicine has improved a great deal since 1900. We would eventually get to about 320 to 960 measles deaths a year though (using our current population of 320 million people and a measles death rate between 0.1 and 0.3).

Other Facts About Measles Deaths

People still die of measles.

What else do you need to know about measles deaths?

  • SSPE is caused by wild type measles. Vaccine strain measles has never been found in the brain tissue of anyone who has ever died of SSPE.
  • Although SSPE was first described by Dr. James R. Dawson, JR as a new type of epidemic encephalitis in 1933 (Dawson’s disease), that it is a late complication of a natural measles infection wasn’t discovered until much later.
  • People have recently died of measles in other industrial countries too. Basically anywhere there have been measles outbreaks, there have been measles deaths, including Canada, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and France, etc.
  • Worldwide, about 400 people die each and every day from measles.

The latest measles deaths we have been hearing about?

Dozens of infants, children, and adults, almost all unvaccinated have died in large outbreaks since the beginning of 2016 in Europe.

What To Know about Measles Deaths

Measles is still deadly, even in this era of modern medicine, sanitation and good nutrition.

More on Measles Deaths

Which Vaccines Contain Aborted Baby Parts?

If you are already on the fence about vaccines, there are probably some you want to avoid…

For many parents, that likely means skipping all of the vaccines with aborted baby parts and fetal tissue.

Which Vaccines Contain Aborted Baby Parts?

Do vaccines really contain aborted baby parts and fetal tissue?

“Have you read the CDC’s vaccine ingredient list? Why would they list aborted baby parts as ingredients if they weren’t actually in vaccines? Just because there’s only a little baking soda in a cake doesn’t mean it’s not in there. In fact, a little baking soda can have quite the effect on a cake and the person eating it. If it’s on the label, it’s in the vaccine.”

Megan Heimer on What You Didn’t Know About the Aborted Baby Parts in Your Vaccines

Are you surprised that the CDC’s vaccine ingredient list doesn’t list aborted baby parts as ingredients of any vaccines?

It does list:

  • WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblast cells
  • MRC-5 human diploid cells

But cells are not tissues or body parts…

Cells make up tissues and tissues make up body parts, but that doesn’t sound as scary, does it?

“Given that many vaccines use aborted fetal cell tissue (where a viable fetus was medically and voluntarily aborted, not miscarried), there is clearly a valid, religious argument for not submitting to these shots.”

Sarah Pope on How to Resist Pediatrician Pro Vaccination Tactics

Immortalized cell lines, like the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines, even lose their tissue characteristics.

This type of anti-vaccine propaganda is likely why so many anti-vaccine folks still think that aborted baby parts and fetal tissue are ingredients in vaccines.

The Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed the "lawfulness" of using vaccines to protect children and those around them.
The Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed the “lawfulness” of using vaccines to protect children and those around them.

They aren’t. Not in any vaccine.

Some vaccines are made with fetal embryo fibroblast cells (the WI-38 and MRC-5 cells) from cell lines that are derived (they can replicate infinitely) from two electively terminated pregnancies (abortions) in the 1960s. That certainly does not mean that any vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue or baby parts though.

Those original cells aren’t even involved in making these vaccines any more.

The cells used today have been copied, over and over again. They are descendant cells, which is why a common way to explain all of this, is to say that vaccines are said to have a “distant association with abortion.”

And even then, the cells are removed before the final vaccine is produced.

That’s why the National Catholic Bioethics Center states that that:

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

And why it is said that Catholics are “morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion” and that “it should be obvious that vaccine use in these cases does not contribute directly to the practice of abortion since the reasons for having an abortion are not related to vaccine preparation.”

What To Know About Vaccines, Abortion & Fetal Tissue

Vaccines are safe and necessary and do not contain aborted fetal tissue or body parts, although some do have a distant association with abortion.

More on Vaccines, Abortion & Fetal Tissue

Which Vaccines Contain Antifreeze?

If you are already on the fence about vaccines, there are probably some you want to avoid…

For many parents, that likely means skipping all of the vaccines with toxins, like antifreeze.

Which Vaccines Contain Antifreeze?

Do vaccines really contain antifreeze, the stuff we put in our cars?

“Too many too soon. When I was on this show before, I said we need an alternate schedule. This is too much. We need to get rid of the toxins, the mercury — which I am so tired of everyone saying it’s been removed. It has not been removed from the shots. We’ll get into that later. Aluminum, ether, antifreeze — these are toxic ingredients in shots that need to be removed.”

Jenny McCarthy on Larry King Live

Jenny McCarthy warned folks about antifreeze in vaccines when she appeared on Larry King Live on April 2, 2008 to promote her book, Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism.

“We are treating vaccine injury and the kids are getting better.”

Jenny McCarthy

First things first – autism is not a vaccine injury.

Jenny McCarthy is also wrong about her ideas of toxins in vaccines.

Besides the fact that vaccine ingredients aren’t toxic, the last remaining non-flu vaccines with the preservative thimerosal, a form of mercury, expired in 2003. And there have been plenty of thimerosal free flu vaccines available for kids and pregnant women since then.

Aluminum is used in many vaccines, but again, it is not toxic.

Ether? There is no ether in vaccines. Remember, ether, or diethyl ether was once used as a general anesthetic. At least it was until we developed anesthetics that didn’t blow up.

And antifreeze?

Why do so many anti-vaccine folks think that antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, is an ingredient in vaccines?

It isn’t. Not in any vaccine.

Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey went on a mission to Green Our Vaccines in 2008.
Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey went on a mission to Green Our Vaccines in 2008 and warn folks about toxins in vaccines, like antifreeze and ether.

Remember that toxic antifreeze, ethylene glycol, has a sweet taste, which helped contribute to it harming so many kids. You had a toxic substance that tasted good and which was sometimes stored inappropriately in the garage or kitchen cabinets.

Fortunately, ethylene glycol isn’t used as much as it used to be. Many people now use propylene glycol, which is considered to be a non-toxic antifreeze. Propylene glycol is not used in vaccines either.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is also used in common laxatives, has been used to inactivate flu vaccines and was found in residual amounts in some of those flu vaccines.

And some vaccines do contain 2-phenoxyethanol. Another name for 2-phenoxyethanol is ethylene glycol monophenyl ether. A similar sounding name doesn’t make it the same substance though.

2-phenoxyethanol is used as a stabilizer or preservative in some vaccines.

But neither polyethylene glycol nor 2-phenoxyethanol are antifreeze and neither are toxic at doses present in vaccines.

What To Know About Vaccines with Antifreeze

Vaccines are safe and necessary and do not contain antifreeze or any other ingredients that are toxic.

More on Vaccines with Antifreeze

Can MMR Shedding Start a Measles Outbreak?

Have you ever noticed that any time that there is a new outbreak of measles, folks tend to ask the same basic questions.

How did the outbreak start?

Why weren’t they vaccinated?

Was it from shedding?

Wait, what?

Shedding??? Really?

Can MMR Shedding Start a Measles Outbreak?

It seems that the idea that the MMR vaccine sheds and can lead to measles outbreaks is one of those anti-vaccine myths that just won’t go away.

It comes back with each new measles outbreak.

The myth that MMR shedding leads to measles outbreaks is commonly spread on Facebook, like this discussion on a recent outbreak at a Kansas City daycare center.
The myth that MMR shedding leads to measles outbreaks is commonly spread on Facebook, like this discussion on a recent outbreak at a Kansas City daycare center.

While the oral polio vaccine is indeed associated with shedding and vaccine associated disease, that doesn’t happen with MMR. Experts don’t even recommend any restrictions for use of the MMR vaccine for household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed. And yes, your kids can even visit a cancer patient if they just had their MMR, as long as they don’t have RSV, the flu, or some other contagious disease.

What about the fact that a study once found measles virus RNA in the urine of of kids who had recently been vaccinated? Doesn’t that mean that they were shedding the vaccine virus?

No. It doesn’t.

To be considered shedding, those measles virus RNA particles in their urine would have to be contagious. Now, measles is spread by respiratory secretions. So how are measles virus RNA particles in urine going to become airborne and get someone else sick?

They don’t.

Another Facebook post about MMR and shedding.
Most measles outbreaks in daycare centers have been started by an unvaccinated child or worker who traveled out of the country.

But what about that case in Canada? Anti-vaccine folks like to bring this up when they talk about shedding. In 2013, there was a case of vaccine-associated measles. That proves that the vaccine sheds, right?

Absolutely not!

“Of note, only one case report of transmission from vaccine-associated measles has been identified.”

Murti et al. on Case of vaccine-associated measles five weeks post-immunisation, British Columbia, Canada, October 2013

That child got measles about 5 weeks after she was vaccinated in the middle of a measles outbreak. Because she had no links to the other cases and she tested positive for vaccine-strain measles, it is thought that she had MMR vaccine-associated measles, which is extremely rare.

Shedding Light on Measles Outbreaks in Daycare

MMR shedding is not causing outbreaks of measles – or rubella and mumps, for that matter.

If shedding from the MMR, by any method, got kids sick, then why aren’t there even more cases of measles?

Daycare centers everywhere have a mix of infants and toddlers, including some who are intentionally unvaccinated, those who are too young to get their first MMR, and those who are just getting vaccinated.

When a case of measles does pop up though, it isn’t because of shedding, it is typically because someone who wasn’t vaccinated traveled out of the country, got measles, and brought it back home, exposing others.

What to Know About MMR and Shedding

Measles outbreaks are not caused by shedding from the MMR vaccine.

More on the MMR and Shedding

Vaccines and the Blood-Brain Barrier

When they aren’t talking about toxins, anti-vaccine folks like to talk about two things – the gut and the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

Kelly Brogan, a holistic psychiatrist, missed an opportunity to talk about the gut when scaring folks about "toxins" in flu shots and the blood brain barrier.
Kelly Brogan, a holistic psychiatrist, missed an opportunity to talk about the gut when scaring folks about “toxins” in flu shots and the blood-brain barrier.

Sometimes they talk about all of them together.

What is the Blood-Brain Barrier?

The blood-brain barrier is exactly what you think it is – a barrier to keep substances in the blood from entering the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Of course, the blood-brain barrier is not impermeable, as some substances, like glucose, ketone bodies, and amino acids have to get to the brain. Brain cells need fuel, just like every other part of the body. And waste products have to get from the brain, across the blood-brain barrier, and back into the blood, so that we can get rid of them.

So the blood-brain barrier doesn’t block everything though. Instead, it is a semi-permeable membrane that lets some things through, but keeps out foreign substances (neurotoxins), lipid insoluble molecules, large molecules (macromolecules), and molecules with a charge.

Why is all of this important?

With a functioning blood-brain barrier, many medications, hormones, and toxins, are kept from affecting our brains! Of course, the blood-brain barrier can make it hard when you do want something to affect your brain, like when you are treating meningitis, anxiety, depression, or migraines.

And there are times when the blood-brain barrier can break down, like after a stroke, certain infections, head trauma, or having high blood pressure, etc.

Vaccines and the Blood-Brain Barrier

So what do vaccines have to do with the blood-brain barrier?

If you understand how vaccines work, you have already likely expected that the answer is, not much.

Anti-vaccine folks think that vaccine ingredients, their so-called toxins, can cross the blood-brain barrier – our semi-permeable membrane that keeps most things out.

They also think that teething can induce a chemical cascade that can make a child’s blood-brain barrier extra leaky. It doesn’t.

And they think that an infant’s blood-brain barrier isn’t developed, an anti-vaccine talking point which helps reinforce their decision to skip or delay vaccinating their kids.

When Does the Blood-Brain Barrier Form?

It shouldn’t be surprising that none of the things that anti-vaccine folks say about the blood-brain barrier is true.

“In contrast with the rodent, in which the development of the BBB occurs primarily after birth, the human barrier and its tight junction protein complex develop mainly in utero. More recent evidence has confirmed that the proteins of the tight junction complex are present very early during human fetal brain development.”

Fetal and Neonatal Physiology (Fifth Edition)

So, of course, the blood-brain barrier forms before a baby is born.

“Given sufficient time and dosage most drugs can breach the placenta and enter the fetal circulation, posing a teratogenic risk to the fetal brain. Although the placenta and BBB have several efflux transporters in common, the BBB is a far more structurally complex and restrictive system.”

Goasdoué et al on Review: The blood-brain barrier; protecting the developing fetal brain

The placenta does a good job of most things from getting to your baby, but once inside, you don’t want everything in your baby’s blood to get to their brain, right?

That’s why the blood-brain barrier begins to form well before your baby is born.

“The BBB develops during fetal life and is well formed by birth, especially to proteins and macromolecules.”

Abbott et al on the Structure and function of the blood-brain barrier

And it is well formed by the time they are born.

None of the ingredients in vaccines, whether it is aluminum, polysorbate 80, or anything else, is going to cross the blood-brain barrier and act as a toxin.

“One can question why polysorbate-80 is in the vaccines if it serves to potentially transport vaccine materials across the blood-brain-barrier. After all, what vaccine materials need to enter the brain? The obvious answer is, none. I’ve heard people ask if the polysorbate-80 is in the vaccines intentionally, used as part of a medical experiment on the human race, like we heard about during World War II.”

Lawrence Palevsky, MD in the Holistic Child Health Newsletter August 2013

It should be clear that these ideas about the blood-brain barrier are just more myths to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Polysorbate 80, for example, is an emulsifier that helps ingredients mix together. It is also used in ice cream and other foods. Maybe someone can ask Dr. Palevsky if he thinks that’s why we sometimes get a ‘brain freeze’ when we eat ice cream – the polysorbate 80 is allowing the ice cream to cross our blood-brain barrier and literally freeze our brain as some kind of medical experiment on the human race.

What to Know About Vaccines and the Blood Brain Barrier

The blood-brain barrier is a semi-permeable membrane that develops before your baby is born. Review how that should affect your decision to vaccinate your kids.

More on Vaccines and the Blood Brain Barrier

Recommendations for Reporting About Vaccines

Historically, the media has played a huge role in pushing vaccine misinformation and scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“The media created the MMR hoax, and they maintained it diligently for 10 years.”

Dr. Ben Goldacre Bad Science

Even before Andy Wakefield and his MMR hoax, the media helped fuel pertussis outbreaks by pushing the flawed research of John Wilson, which led to lawsuits against DPT vaccines and a big drop in vaccination rates.

None of it was true and the lawsuits failed, but the consequence was still that many unvaccinated kids died.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appearing on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?” is a great example of false balance.

Many others in the media have done a great job in promoting myths and fake controversies about vaccines and have used false balance in their interviews and articles to scare parents.

Fortunately, things have gotten better over the years.

Important Points for Reporting About Vaccines

Still, despite what some folks might think, health journalists aren’t going to get in trouble for reporting about vaccines.

They are going to hear about it if they do a bad job though.

“…it is important to recognise that the balance of media reporting does not necessarily reflect the balance of the argument among the involved professionals – by this is meant that equal weighting might be given by the media (and thus the lay community) to those for and against the vaccine although opponents of vaccination might be a very small number, as for example happened with both pertussis and MMR.”

David Baxter on Opposition to Vaccination and Immunisation the UK Experience – from Smallpox to MMR

Remember, the way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.

So be careful when reporting about vaccines, as it gives you the opportunity to correct many of myths that scare people, while educating folks about the topic you are covering.

You should also:

Are you ready to cover your next story about vaccines or the next measles outbreak?

What to Know About Reporting on Vaccines

The way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.

More on Reporting about Vaccines

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations

Have questions about your child’s immunizations?

We probably have the answers.

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations

Not surprisingly, many parents have the same questions about immunizations and they want answers to reassure themselves that they are doing the right thing for their kids by getting them vaccinated and protected.

Still have questions?

Rotavirus vaccines are associated with a very small risk of intussusception, but that is not a good reason to miss the benefits of this vaccine.
Like most pediatricians, my kids are vaccinated and protected. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

With so much misinformation out there scaring folks about vaccines, that’s not surprising.

Just keep in mind that every anti-vaccine talking point and myth they push has an easy answer, even as folks continue to move the goalposts in search of new arguments against vaccines.

Yesterday it was mercury. Today it’s aluminum. Tomorrow it will be something else, while they continue to use vaccine scare videos to make you think that vaccines aren’t safe.

Parents who do their research understand that the real threat to their kids isn’t vaccines, it is the anti-vaccine experts that continue to push propaganda about vaccines.

What to Know About Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations

The most basic answers to your questions about vaccines are that while vaccines aren’t perfect, they are safe and necessary and they do work well to protect us from vaccine-preventable disease.

More on Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations