Tag: propaganda

America’s New Normal: Propaganda About the Unhealthiest Generation

My son started to have migraines when he was about 11 years old.

Must be stress, BPA, poor eating habits, all of the screen time, or vaccines, right?

“Americans spend the least on food, the most on health care, have the most highly vaccinated kids, and have the sickest kids of any industrialized country. More kids than not are now chronically ill, developmentally delayed, and eating or injecting prescription medications from cradle to grave – which is going to be a quicker trip for them than it was for their parents, according to data on life expectancy in the US. We are inured to childhood autism, epilepsy, allergy, asthma, diabetes, obesity, Crohn’s disease and cancer. We are dying younger. We are going backwards.”

Judy Converse on America’s New Normal: Chronically Ill Kids

That likely seems like a young age to get migraines and would fit well with the narrative that kids today are part of the unhealthiest generation ever.

Except that I started to get migraines at about the same age, and so did my mother. Like many of the other conditions that seem to be ballooning today, migraines have a genetic component.

The Unhealthiest Generation?

The CDC has long kept statistics on everything from asthma and cancer rates to diabetes and life expectancy rates and helps folks see how healthy kids really are today.
The CDC has long kept statistics on everything from asthma and cancer rates to diabetes and life expectancy rates and helps folks see how healthy kids really are today.

Who says that today’s kids are part of the unhealthiest generation ever?

Mostly anti-vaccine folks who blame vaccines for making kids unhealthy and alternative medical providers who think their holistic remedies will fix all of the problems they see in our unhealthy kids who they claim are full of “toxins.”

Toxins? If you are going to believe that our kids are all sick, then you have to buy into the narrative that toxins are everywhere, especially in vaccines, and they are making kids sick.

Of course, none of that is true.

Vaccines are safe and work to prevent us from getting sick and there are 2 to 3 million fewer deaths in the world each year because people are vaccinated and protected.

“From developing groundbreaking treatments for deadly chronic diseases to saving babies who are born premature, pediatric researchers have increased the ability of children to live full and fulfilling lives that only a few decades before would have been tragically cut short.”

Sandra G. Hassink, MD on the 7 Great Achievements in Pediatric Research

And today’s kids, all 73.6 million of them in the United States, aren’t the unhealthiest. They are actually a very healthy generation, being born with the lowest child and infant mortality rates ever, low rates of hospitalizations, and one of the highest life expectancies in history.

Our Healthy Kids

How do we know today’s kids are healthy?

One easy way is to compare them to kids in the past…

If you have only been listening to the alarmists who talk about the unhealthiest generation all of the time, you likely wouldn’t know that:

  • while 2.6% of kids were thought to be in fair or poor health in 1991, that is down to just 1.8% today (2015)
  • fewer kids today (4.5%) report having had an asthma attack in the previous year than they did in 1997 (5.4%), and that fewer kids have asthma today (8.5%) than in 2003 (8.7%)
  • since 1997, fewer children, whether or not they have insurance, are visiting the emergency room
  • fewer children are requiring overnight hospital stays, down from 5.5% to just 2.1% today (2015)
  • rates of hay fever or respiratory allergy are down since 1997, from 17.5% of kids to 15.6% of kids today (2015)
  • rates of epilepsy have been stable in children for at least 40 years
  • fewer kids have multiple ear infections since 1997, when 7.1% of kids had 3 or more ear infections, to just 5% of kids today (2015)
  • fewer kids are being prescribed antibiotics
  • cancer rates have been stable in kids, although mortality rates have been declining
  • suicide rates are rising, but only from historic lows – they used to be about the same or higher in the early 1990s

Of course, some conditions are on the rise, including ADHD, type 1 diabetes, food allergies, eczema,  obesity, and most autoimmune diseases.

“A few conditions have decreased because of prevention (eg, lead encephalopathy), a few represent relatively new conditions (eg, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection), and some have increased after dramatic improvements in survival for individually low-prevalence childhood conditions that previously had high fatality rates (eg, leukemia, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart diseases). Most growth, however, reflects dramatic increases in incidence of a few high-prevalence conditions.”

James M. Perrin, MD on The Increase of Childhood Chronic Conditions in the United States

And autism rates have been up, but we mostly know why.

“…the numbers of people born with autism aren’t necessarily increasing dramatically. It’s just that we’re getting better and better at counting them.”

Emily Willingham

Although we don’t know why most other conditions are trending up (it isn’t vaccines), we will hopefully continue to develop new theories and reverse those trends.

It should be reassuring that many of the trends do show that our kids are indeed healthy.

What to Know About Our Healthy Kids

From gun violence and climate change to the threat of emerging infections, out children do face many threats and are certainly under a lot of stress. There is no evidence that this is the unhealthiest generation though. If anything, they are on track to be one of the healthiest.

More on Our Healthy Kids

Why Do We Only Fear Vaccine Preventable Diseases?

How many diseases can be prevented with vaccines?

Would you believe that there are about 29 vaccine-preventable diseases, from adenovirus and anthrax to typhoid fever and yellow fever?

That’s a lot more than the 16 that kids today routinely get vaccinated against

Diseases That Are Not Vaccine Preventable

Whether you think about 16 or 29 vaccine-preventable diseases, they are a drop in the pocket when you think about all of the diseases that can’t be prevented with a vaccine.

Just consider all of the viruses and bacteria that can get you sick during cold and flu season:

  • group A Streptococci – strep throat and scarlet fever
  • Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) – bronchiolitis, colds, and viral pneumonia
  • Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIVs) – bronchiolitis, bronchitis, colds, croup, or viral pneumonia
  • norovirus – diarrhea and vomiting
  • respiratory adenovirus – bronchitis, colds, croup, viral pneumonia, pink eye, and diarrhea
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – wheezing and bronchiolitis in younger children, but colds in older kids and adults
  • rhinovirus – the classic common cold
  • rotavirus – diarrhea and vomiting, was much more common in the pre-vaccine era
  • seasonal coronavirus – colds, bronchitis, and viral pneumonia
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae – ear infections, meningitis, sinus infections, and pneumonia

In addition to the flu, only rotavirus and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcal vaccines) are vaccine preventable.

And there are still thousands of other diseases that aren’t vaccine preventable, including African trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, Chikungunya, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Dengue fever, Ebola, Herpes Zoster, HIV, Hookworm disease, Leishmaniasis, Malaria, Schistosomiasis, and Zika, some of the most deadly diseases around.

Why Do We Only Fear Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?

So is it true that we only fear vaccine-preventable diseases and that’s why folks get vaccinated?

“Why aren’t you walking around concerned about leprosy every day? Why aren’t you concerned about someone from another country bringing leprosy into Australia or the US and somehow exposing all of our most vulnerable to this illness? I’ll tell you why. Because there’s no vaccine for leprosy. You are afraid of what we vaccinate for because these illnesses are hyped up all of the time. It’s propaganda. You are told what to fear, so they can then sell you an alleged solution.
The only diseases we fear are the ones that a vaccine has been developed and marketed for. We never feared measles and mumps in the early 20th century… Because its what the media tells us to do.”

Learn the Risk – Why aren’t we afraid of all diseases?

Did you know that there actually is a vaccine for leprosy? Don’t expect it to be added to our immunization schedule any time soon or to increase your fears about leprosy, as leprosy is not highly contagious and it can be cured.

Forget about leprosy though… If folks didn’t fear measles and mumps in the early 20th century, before we had vaccines to control these diseases, then why did epidemics so often lead to newspaper headlines, quarantines, and school closings?

Quarantines were routine in the pre-vaccine era.
Quarantines were routine in the pre-vaccine era.

And if we only fear diseases that a vaccine has been developed and marketed for, then why are so many parents afraid of RSV and herpes?

How many new parents won’t even let family members kiss their newborns because they are worried about herpes, even if they don’t have a cold sore? How many parents get panicked if they hear RSV, which can cause severe disease in high risk babies, but typically only causes cold symptoms in most others.

Anyway, fear doesn’t drive most of us to vaccinate and protect our kids. We just understand that vaccines are safe and necessary and that getting vaccinated is a smart decision.

It is the diseases that aren’t vaccine preventable that might scare us a little bit…

What to Know About Fearing Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Anti-vaccine folks push propaganda to make parents afraid of vaccines and to scare them away from vaccinating and protecting their kids. The idea that we are only afraid of vaccine preventable diseases is a good example.

More on Fearing Vaccine Preventable Diseases

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

What Is Vaccine Choice?

Have you heard about the idea of vaccine choice?

The “right to choose” is being pushed by anti-vaccine groups in many states because they think that laws mandating kids to have vaccines to go to daycare, school, and college violates their parental rights and civil liberties.

“Their claim that vaccines are 100% safe and effective for all people all of the time is not based in science and is not supported by facts or evidence, making it more of a religious belief than an adequate basis for their mandate argument.”

Texans for Vaccine Choice

And of course, they use a lot of anti-vaccine talking points to try and scare parents into believing them. Vaccines are safe and they work, but no one says that they are 100% safe or that they are 100% effective.

What Is Vaccine Choice?

Right away, you should see another big problem with the vaccine choice movement.

No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated. Everyone has a choice. It’s just that some folks don’t like the consequences that come with that choice of not vaccinating their kids – having to home school their kids instead of going to a public or private school.

So basically, vaccine choice is just the anti-vaccine movement moving the goal posts yet again.

“If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f–king measles.”

Jenny McCarthy

Study after study showed that vaccines are not associated with autism and what did we get, measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.

What’s Missing In the Vaccine Choice Argument?

In addition to facts, one big thing that is missing from the vaccine choice argument is that by pushing the idea that unvaccinated kids should be allowed to skip or delay any or all vaccines without consequences, that takes away the choice for the rest of us who want to keep our kids protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Can’t we just vaccinate our kids?

Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity.
Many children with cancer and other medical conditions benefit from herd immunity. (CC BY 2.0)

We do!

But that doesn’t take away all of the risk if you don’t vaccinate your kids.

“…the increased risk of disease in the pediatric population, in part because of increasing rates of vaccine refusal and in some circumstances more rapid loss of immunity, increases potential exposure of immunodeficient children.”

Medical Advisory Committee of the Immune Deficiency Foundation

There are kids who are too young to be vaccinated or fully vaccinated, kids who can’t be vaccinated because of true medical vaccine exemptions, and folks whose vaccine didn’t work, after all, vaccines aren’t 100% effective.

The “choice” folks don’t talk about those things though.

Make an informed choice about vaccines before you think about leaving your child unvaccinated and unprotected.

What To Know About Vaccine Choice

Listen to anti-vaccine propaganda, skip or delay vaccines and leave your kids unprotected or do your research and understand that vaccines work and are safe and necessary and get them vaccinated and protected – that’s your vaccine choice.

More on Vaccine Choice

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

Money and Motivation of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

We often hear the argument that anyone who supports the ideas that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary must be a shill for Big Pharma. And that pediatricians, even though they are among the lowest paid doctors, are making tons of money from vaccines and even getting bonuses to get kids vaccinated.

Of course, none of these myths and conspiracy theories are true.

Money and Motivation of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

But guess what motivates many of the folks in the anti-vaccine movement?

“Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems.”

Claire Dwoskin

For some, it is the idea that vaccines damaged their child.

And then there’s the money.

CNN did a report several years ago on how a few groups were funding researchers and organizations that put out much of the material that scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

It wasn’t a surprise though. Many others had been saying the same things for years about:

  • the Dwoskin Family Foundation and CMSRI
  • Barry Segal and Focus for Health
  • JB Handley and Generation Rescue

But anti-vaccine experts aren’t just motivated by the money they directly get from those with deep pockets.

Selling supplements is big business for integrative, holistic, and anti-vaccine folks.
Selling supplements is big business for integrative, holistic, and anti-vaccine folks.

They have discovered many ways to turn the anti-vaccine movement into a money making industry.

Paul Thomas doesn't mention that he gets a big cut of the sales for a "free" summit that costs $197 as he promotes his anti-vaccine lecture.
Paul Thomas doesn’t mention that he gets a big cut of the sales for a “free” summit that costs $197 as he promotes his anti-vaccine lecture.

Many of these folks also get money by:

  • selling anti-vaccine books, e-books, videos, seminars, and movies
  • getting paid to speak at anti-vaccine conferences and summits, often for chiropractors or folks like Gwyneth Paltrow, pushing her GOOP
  • selling supplements and vitamins in a “wellness” store, either online or in their offices, that they claim can detox you from vaccines, protect you from toxins, and even prevent autism
  • ads on their websites and Facebook pages
  • appearing as “experts” in court, as they push the idea that everything is a vaccine injury
  • soliciting donations

Those who are health care providers can also establish integrative or holistic medical practices that don’t accept insurance and only see patients that can pay cash. In addition to selling supplements, these providers offer unproven and disproven alternative therapies, like homeopathy, integrative testing, IV therapy, and cranio-sacral therapy.

Does your holistic pediatrician accept insurance?
Does your holistic pediatrician accept insurance?

But only if you have plenty of cash handy.

Kelly Brogan, MD, for example, who believes in a paleo approach to vaccines and thinks we should co-exist with viruses and bacteria, charges up to $4,497 for your first appointment! But if that’s too much for you, for only $997, you can start living a “happy, healthier life” with her 44 day online program.

“We coexist with bacteria and viruses to a level of enmeshment that makes the perception of ‘vaccine-preventable infections’ a laughable notion.”

Kelly Brogan, MD on Where do Vaccines Fit into a Paleo Lifestyle?

And now, some doctors are even making money by selling vaccine exemptions!

Oliver argued that Sears likes to have it both ways, seeming to support science-based medicine while once in a while saying things like “vaccines don’t cause autism except when they do.”

The line inspired Oliver to fire back with this: “Don’t worry, opportunist quacks writing books that fan the flames of people’s unfounded fears don’t cause a legitimate public health hazard, except when they do.”

John Oliver takes a shot at the anti-vaccine movement and the ‘opportunistic quacks’ behind it

Mostly they just sell fear though.

But that’s all they need to get their foot in the door and keep some parents from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

What to Know About the Money and Motivation of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Although they cry Big Pharma at the drop of a hat, it should be clear that folks in the anti-vaccine movement are often motivated by money.

More on the Money and Motivation of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Are Vaccinated Children Dying from the Flu?

We know that kids die from the flu, not just this year, but every year.

In fact, on average, just over 100 kids die of the flu each year!

The flu is a terrible disease.

How Many Kids Die from the Flu?

The CDC started to track pediatric flu deaths in the fall of 2004, when it became nationally reportable. This followed a particularly bad 2003-04 flu season (H3N2-predominant), during which the CDC got reports of 153 pediatric deaths from only 40 states.

Since then, the number of pediatric flu deaths has ranged from a low of 37, during the 2011-12 flu season, to a high of 289 deaths during the swine flu pandemic.

  • 2004-05 flu season – 47 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2005-06 flu season – 46 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2006-07 flu season – 77 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2007-08 flu season – 88 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2008-09 flu season – 137 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2009-10 flu season – 289 pediatric flu deaths (swine flu pandemic)
  • 2010-11 flu season – 123 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2011-12 flu season – 37 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2012-13 flu season – 171 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2013-14 flu season – 111 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2014-15 flu season – 148 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2015-16 flu season – 93 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2016-17 flu season – 110 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)

So far, this year, there have been 151 flu deaths in children.

Are Vaccinated Children Dying from the Flu?

The anti-vaccine movement is obviously the one in PANIC MODE as they continue putting out anti-vaccine propaganda.
The anti-vaccine movement is obviously the one in PANIC MODE as they continue putting out anti-vaccine propaganda, even as unvaccinated kids continue to die.

Although this year’s flu season, in which an H3N2 flu strain got off to an early start, certainly has the potential to be a lot worse than your average flu season, it seems similar to other H3N2 flu seasons.

Tragically, that means a lot of kids will likely die with the flu this season. H3N2-predominant flu seasons tend to be much worse than when other flu virus strains

And like previous flu seasons, we know that:

  • many of them will be otherwise healthy, without an underlying high risk medical condition
  • half will be between 5 to 17 years old

And most of them will be unvaccinated.

“During past seasons, approximately 80% of flu-associated deaths in children have occurred in children who were not vaccinated. Based on available data, this remains true for the 2017-2018 season, as well.”

CDC on How many flu-associated deaths occur in people who have been vaccinated?

And we also know that it isn’t too late to get a flu shot to get protected for the rest of this year’s flu season.

What to Know About Pediatric Flu Deaths

The flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but there is no denying the fact that year after year, most pediatric flu deaths are in kids who weren’t vaccinated.

More on Pediatric Flu Deaths

Updated April 13, 2018