Tag: Outbreaks

How Misinformed and Irresponsible Parents Led to Outbreaks of Smallpox

In our age of social media, we have gotten used to hearing from the Surgeon General and most everyone else in our government.

The Surgeon General had to address misinformation and propaganda about vaccines nearly 100 years ago.
The Surgeon General had to address misinformation and propaganda about vaccines nearly 100 years ago.

Folks likely weren’t as used to this back in the early part of the 20th Century.

Surgeon General Letter to All State Health Officers

At the time, because of a return of smallpox, H.S. Cumming wrote this letter:

To all State Health Officers:

The neglect of vaccination in many districts of certain sections of the United States has led to a recrudescence of smallpox, with the corresponding suffering experienced by its victims and a wholly unnecessary sacrifice of human lives in the years 1922 and 1923 amounting to 967 known deaths from smallpox and possibly a number of others which were not reported. During the first six months of 1924 an additional toll of at least 200 human lives has been taken every one of which deaths could have been prevented by vaccination and revaccination.

The increasing number of cases of smallpox and the continued spread of this disease from city to city and from State to State will, if not checked, not only augment the number of victims but may bring about a condition which would seriously interfere with the movements of passengers on trains steamers, automobiles, and other carriers. It is conceivable that this interference might be of a degree that would involve the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in quarantine, a contingency which might easily be avoided provided our people can be induced to protect themselves by vaccination and revaccination.

The Public Health Service is being importuned at the present time to exercise its authority in enforcing interstate quarantine to prevent the migration of the unvaccinated when there is danger that these persons may have been exposed to smallpox.

It is particularly desirable that the Federal Government may not be forced to interfere in interstate travel and it is earnestly hoped that the authorities of all States, counties, municipalities, or other units of government will immediately begin campaigns to secure the vaccination or revaccination of all persons who have not been recently successfully vaccinated particularly in those States where smallpox is prevalent.

Vaccination and revaccination being a perfect protection against smallpox it might be argued that protection against the disease is a matter which should be left to the discretion of the individual, but there is no more reason for leaving the defense against an enemy of the State, such as smallpox is, to the discretion of the individual, than there would be in leaving the defense of the State against an armed invading force to the individual. These enemies are equally dangerous. Furthermore there are a large number of persons who are otherwise good citizens who because of indifference, carelessness, and lack of information, and oftentimes because of having been deceived by false propaganda and deliberate misinformation, either fail or refuse to protect themselves and their trusting but helpless children until it is too late. These same children of misinformed or irresponsible parents being too young to judge for themselves are entitled to the protection of the State and certainly the State is derelict in its duties if it allows such unprotected children to be exposed to smallpox.

Respectfully HS CUMMING Surgeon General

The response to the foregoing letter has been very gratifying. At the same time, much still remains to be done in the way of vaccination and revaccination of our nonimmune population if a recrudescence of this disease is to be forestalled.

Does any of that surprise you?

Talk of “enforcing interstate quarantine?”

People being deceived by “false propaganda and deliberate misinformation?”

Folks skipping vaccines and allowing a vaccine-preventable disease to return?

Unnecessary sacrifice…

Why?

What were they worried about?

It wasn’t autism!

And it couldn’t have been that they were getting too many vaccines

But they were still led to believe that vaccines were dangerous and they let that misinformation influence them, putting their kids at risk, with tragic results.

One hundred years later, folks shouldn’t still be making these same mistakes.

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12 Things Anti-Vaccine Parents Get Wrong

Anti-vaccine parents who skip or delay their child’s vaccines think that they are doing the right thing for their kids.

Not having a cookie doesn’t make you immune to getting cookies…
Not having a cookie doesn’t make you immune to getting cookies…

They aren’t.

What Anti-Vaccine Parents Get Wrong

There are no benefits to skipping or delaying vaccines – only extra risks.

What’s the biggest risk? That their child will get a vaccine-preventable disease while they are unprotected.

And the risks aren’t only to their own children. Being unvaccinated and unprotected, they can get sick and put others at risk of getting sick too. This includes those who are too young to be vaccinated, too young to be fully vaccinated and protected, and those who may have a compromised immune system and can’t be vaccinated.

Mostly though, anti-vaccine parents have wrong ideas about:

  • the benefits of vaccines – while vaccine advocates admit that vaccines are neither 100% safe nor 100% effective, you rarely see anti-vaccine folks admit that vaccines have benefits, as that would create too much cognitive dissonance for them
  • shedding – everything you have read about vaccine shedding and “shedding season” likely isn’t true
  • the risks of vaccines – although vaccines are not 100% safe, as I have already said, anti-vaccine folks typically overstate their risks, making you think that they cause all of the vaccine injuries and vaccine-induced diseases that you read about online
  • the benefits of natural immunity – while natural immunity is great, it is important to understand that it comes with a cost – you have to survive a disease to get those benefits, and not everyone does, at least not without some complications
  • forced vaccination – a vaccine mandate to attend school is not forced vaccination
  • the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases – most folks don’t understand the true risks of vaccine-preventable diseases anymore because vaccines work so well to keep them under control, but it is important to remember that these are life-threatening diseases and we will see more outbreaks and more deaths and complications if they continue to come back
  • the risks of getting sick – if you are unvaccinated and unprotected and hiding in the herd, you are at risk to catch a vaccine-preventable disease
  • Big Pharma conspiracies – it is silly to think that we have been able to keep a global Big Pharma conspiracy about vaccines a secret
  • toxins – there are no toxic ingredients in vaccines
  • the risk of getting others sick – who else is going to get sick if you start an outbreak? Someone who is too young to be vaccinated or can’t be vaccinated because they have a problem with their immune system?
  • vaccine choice – since there is no forced vaccination, talk of vaccine choice is simply anti-vaccine folks complaining because they don’t like all of the choices they have been given, even as they are very happy to take away the choice of the rest of us to not have to worry about outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases
  • placebos – although they are now fixated on this, it is important to keep in mind that a placebo doesn’t have to be saline or an inert substance, a standard that is only set by anti-vaccine folks

What else do anti-vaccine parents get wrong?

They are very wrong if they are making the right decision in skipping or delaying their child’s vaccines.

More on What Anti-Vaccine Parents Get Wrong

We Know What Happens If We Stop Vaccinating

It’s no surprise.

If we stop vaccinating, diseases that are now vaccine preventable will come back.

How do we know?

Because it has happened already.

We Know What Happens If We Stop Vaccinating

It has happened a lot, actually.

Remember when Sweden stopped using the DPT vaccine?

Between 1979 and 1996, Sweden suspended vaccination against pertussis because of concerns about the DPT vaccine.

Justus Ström‘s data was wrong…

And what happened?

“In 1979, the Swedish medical society abandoned whole-cell pertussis vaccine and decided to wait for a new, safer, more effective vaccine – a strategy that was soon adopted as national policy. During 1980-83, annual incidence for children aged 0–4 years increased to 3370 per 100000, with rates of serious complications approaching global rates. In subsequent years, Sweden reported more than 10000 cases annually with an incidence exceeding 100 per 100000, comparable to rates reported in some developing countries.”

Ganarosa et al on Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story.

Pertussis came back.

In fact, endemic pertussis came back.

“Our evaluation of pertussis in the unimmunized child population gave an answer to the question of whether pertussis nowadays is a harmless disease which does not demand general vaccination. The present situation regarding pertussis in Sweden and the low efficacy of the antimicrobial treatment indicate an urgent need to prevent the disease by general vaccination as soon as a safe and effective vaccine is available.”

Romanus et al on Pertussis in Sweden after the cessation of general immunization in 1979.

Of course, they already had a safe and effective vaccine at the time. All of the claims against the whole cell pertussis vaccine ended up being untrue.

The same thing happened when Japan stopped using the MMR vaccine.

“Due directly to these gaps in ‘herd’ immunization resulting from politicized transitions in vaccination policy by the government, there were outbreaks of rubella with 17,050 cases reported between the years of 2012 and 2014, and 45 cases of congenital rubella syndrome reported to the National Epidemiological Surveillance of Infectious Diseases from week 1, 2012 to week 40, 2014.”

Yusuke Tanaka on History repeats itself in Japan: Failure to learn from rubella epidemic leads to failure to provide the HPV vaccine

What happened in Ukraine when immunization rates dropped in the 1990s? There were 17,387 cases of diphtheria and 646 deaths from 1992 to 1997. Also high, were cases of measles (over 23,000 cases in 1993) and pertussis (almost 7,000 cases in 1993).

Remember the measles outbreaks that spread across Europe in 2010 to 11, leading to about 30,000 cases of measles each year, and at least 28 deaths?

That should have been enough to warn folks, but it didn’t.

Things are much worse now, with over 120 measles deaths in Europe over the past few years.

More recently, in Venezuela, shortages of most things have led to ongoing epidemics of measles and diphtheria, a “potential for reemergence of poliomyelitis,” and a risk to neighboring countries.

“Officials say the low coverage rate and widespread transmission of the virus is due to many factors, including transport costs for those in rural areas, a high number of people with weakened immune systems, such people living with HIV and tuberculosis – and vaccine refusal.”

Ukraine: Red Cross deployed to help contain largest measles outbreak in Europe in four years

And once again, there are measles outbreaks in Ukraine. This time, they have spread to many other countries, fueling outbreaks in Israel and the United States.

We know what happens if we stop vaccinating. Get vaccinated and stop the outbreaks.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are very obviously necessary.

More on What Happens If We Stop Vaccinating

The Fatal Flaw in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

There are a ton of flaws in the “logic” of the anti-vaccine movement.

Just consider how many theories they have for why vaccines are associated with autism…

  1. It’s the MMR vaccine – the Andrew Wakefield theory
  2. It’s thimerosal – but MMR never contained thimerosal…
  3. It’s glyphosate – the Stephanie Seneff theory
  4. It’s the vaccines you get while you are pregnant
  5. It’s the vaccines you get as an infant – but you don’t get MMR until you are 12 months old
  6. It’s the vaccines you get as a toddler – but what about the kids who get diagnosed as infants?
  7. It’s just something about vaccines – but what about the autistic kids who are unvaccinated and whose parents weren’t recently vaccinated?

It’s fairly easy to see that these folks just want to blame vaccines

The Fatal Flaw in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

That’s not necessarily the fatal flaw in the anti-vaccine movement though.

Is it that all of their ideas and theories are so easy to refute?

There are hundreds of these types of arguments that anti-vaccine folks use to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Of course, none are true.

That it only takes a few minutes of research to prove that they aren’t true isn’t the fatal flaw in the anti-vaccine movement though.

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks.
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

The fatal flaw is that when enough folks listen to them and immunization rates drop, we get outbreaks.

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

Ironically, Dr. Bob obviously knew this would happen, warning folks not to tell anyone – in his book that likely increased fears about vaccines!

Although Wakefield and others were factors, remember that Dr. Bob‘s book about vaccines was published in 2007…

And what happens once we start to see a lot more outbreaks?

In addition to a lot of unvaccinated kids getting sick, folks line up to get their kids vaccinated and protected.

Even Dr. Jay is advocating for older (I’m going to assume he means 6 months) unvaccinated children to get an MMR to help stop the outbreaks.

This is a cycle that experts have talked about for some time.

It’s the reason that the anti-vaccine movement, which has been around for hundreds of years, can never really win. They will never take us back to the pre-vaccine era.

Yes, a woman died when she got caught up in a 2015 measles outbreak in Washington.
Yes, a woman died when she got caught up in a 2015 measles outbreak in Washington.

Anytime their ideas take hold a little too much, nature fights back. Diseases, especially measles which is extremely contagious, come back. And we have to work to control the outbreaks.

But that more kids eventually get vaccinated in outbreaks isn’t the only fatal flaw in the anti-vaccine movement.

Tragically, the other fatal flaw in the anti-vaccine movement is that since these are life-threatening diseases, people end up dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. And the risk of that happening goes way up during a large outbreak.

Vaccines aren’t perfect, but they are safe, with few risks. They are also very necessary.

It shouldn’t take an outbreak to convince you to vaccinate your kids.

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