Tag: propaganda

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 84 flu deaths in children and there is still a long way to go until flu season ends.

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 February 17, 2018

About Those HPV Vaccine Trials in Infants…

Gardasil is already on the immunization schedule, but are they going to make it one of your baby’s first vaccines?

That’s what some anti-vaccine websites are saying…

About Those HPV Vaccine Trials in Infants…

So is this just more anti-vaccine propaganda?

The clinical trial's inclusion criteria makes it clear that they are not studying the HPV vaccines on infants.
This clinical trial’s inclusion criteria makes it clear that they are not studying the HPV vaccines on infants.

Of course it is.

And like most anti-vaccine propaganda, there isn’t even a teeny tiny kernel of truth in their statements about Gardasil being “pushed on infants.”

While there was a study about giving Gardasil to kids who have already had at least three relapses of respiratory papillomatosis caused by HPV 6 or 11, those kids had to be between 1 and 17 years old.

No infants (children under 12 months old) were ever in this study which was supposed to start in 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.

“Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis in children caused by HPV 6,11 can be a life threatening condition resulting in surgical interventions. The maturing and disintegrating papillomas are the sources for the subsequent HPV relapses and immunization might slow down or even prevent this ongoing process.

After an initial immunological and ear-nose-throat (ENT) assessment children with at least 3 relapses in their patient history will be vaccinated with 4-valent HPV vaccine according to the following schedule: 0., 2., 6. months. It will be followed by an immunological and 3 ENT examinations to assess response to vaccination.”

4-valent HPV Vaccine to Treat Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis in Children

Will Gardasil work for kids who already have recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, even though they got the HPV infection when they were born?

Hopefully it will.

“Any child presenting with a voice disturbance with or without stridor is recommended to have diagnostic flexible fiber-optic laryngoscopy. Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis should be considered in children when other common pediatric airway diseases either do not follow the natural history or do not respond to treatment of the common disorder.”

Zacharisen et al on Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis in Children: Masquerader of Common Respiratory Diseases

But there is already good news about Gardasil and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.

A papilloma caused by HPV on the vocal cords of a child with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
A papilloma caused by HPV on the vocal cords of a child with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. (CC BY 4.0)

The widespread use of the Gardasil in teens and adults is already decreasing the number of kids being diagnosed with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis!

That makes sense, because if their mom doesn’t have an HPV infection when they are born, the infection can’t be passed on to them, later causing recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.

That’s another benefit of getting vaccinated!

What to Know About Those HPV Vaccine Trials in Infants

The idea that the HPV vaccines are now being tested on infants is just another example of anti-vaccine propaganda. They are using a clinical trial of children and teens with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your children.

More on Those HPV Vaccine Trials in Infants

What Are the Pro and Con Arguments for Vaccines?

Is it still OK to “debate” vaccines and vaccine safety?

Sure.

pro-con-vaccines
Using fallacious arguments and anti-vaccine propaganda can not be part of any real debate about vaccines.

What’s not up for debate anymore is the idea that vaccines aren’t safe or necessary or that vaccines don’t work.

Folks who use those arguments against vaccines aren’t debating, they are pushing anti-vaccine talking points.

What Are the Pro and Con Arguments for Vaccines?

Why talk about pro and con arguments if we know that vaccines are safe and necessary?

It’s because vaccines aren’t perfect.

 Pro Con
Vaccines save lives. Shots hurt.
Vaccines are cost effective. Vaccines are expensive.
Vaccines work most of the time. Vaccines aren’t 100% effective.
You are much more likely to get shingles after having a natural chickenpox infection. You can get shingles after having the chickenpox vaccines.
Vaccine preventable diseases are much more likely to cause febrile seizures, non-febrile seizures, and worse. Some vaccines cause febrile seizures.
Most vaccine side effects are mild and they prevent life-threatening diseases. Vaccines aren’t 100% safe.
Vaccines can create herd immunity. Some people can’t be vaccinated.
Kids can get protected against at least 16 vaccine-preventable diseases. Kids get at least 13 different vaccines.
Immunity from some vaccine preventable diseases isn’t lifelong either and some diseases, like tetanus, don’t even provide immunity. Immunity from some vaccines isn’t lifelong.
Some vaccine-preventable diseases, like polio, only provide protection against a single serotype, not against all forms of the disease (there are three serotypes of polio). Some vaccines require booster doses.

And sometimes it doesn’t make sense to recommend a vaccine, except in specific circumstances.

“A MenB vaccine series may be administered to adolescents and young adults aged 16–23 years to provide short-term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The preferred age for MenB vaccination is 16–18 years.”

ACIP on Use of Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccines in Adolescents and Young Adults: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, 2015

The MenB vaccine, for example, unlike most other vaccines, only has a permissive recommendation – parents may get it for their kids, but they don’t have to.

“First-year college students living in residence halls should receive at least 1 dose of MenACWY before college entry. The preferred timing of the most recent dose is on or after their 16th birthday.”

ACIP on Prevention and Control of Meningococcal Disease: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

In contrast, the recommendation for most other vaccines state that kids “should” receive them.

Why the difference?

Experts aren’t yet sure that the pros of the MenB vaccine, helping avoid MenB disease, outweigh the cons, which include the high cost of the vaccine, short duration of protection, and that it doesn’t cover all MenB subtypes. The cons aren’t about safety.

The Real Vaccine Cons

What about the “cons” you see on some websites about toxins, vaccine-induced diseases, and vaccine deaths?

Beware of folks trying use anti-vaccine talking points to scare or con you when talking about vaccines.
Beware of folks trying use anti-vaccine talking points to scare or con you when talking about vaccines.

This is when it becomes helpful to understand that the word “con” has multiple definitions.

vaccine-conThese sites use anti-vaccine experts and other anti-vaccine websites as sources, present anecdotes as real evidence, and cherry pick quotes when they do use real sources.

They also work hard to:

  • Scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids by never mentioning the benefits of vaccines and overstating the side effects and risks of getting vaccinated.
  • Downplay the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases and overstate the benefits of natural immunity over the protection you can get from vaccines.
  • Make you think that vaccines don’t even work.

Worst of all, they talk about informed consent and choice, all of the while taking away many parents’ choice to make an informed decision by confusing them with misinformation, myths, and propaganda.

Of course, parents who have taken the time to get educated about vaccines don’t fall for any of these arguments.

What to Know About the Pro and Con Arguments for Vaccines

In any real debate, getting vaccinated and protected wins every time, because vaccines work and they are safe and necessary.

More About the Pro and Con Arguments for Vaccines

Measles Propaganda from The Physicians for Informed Consent

Most people understand that measles can be deadly.

“Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.”

WHO Measles Fact Sheet

In the United States alone, in the pre-vaccine era, “an average of 549,000 measles cases and 495 measles deaths were reported annually.”

That roughly translates into about one death for every 1,000 cases, or a case-fatality rate of about 0.1%.

That’s in line with the typical case-fatality rate of measles of 0.1 to 0.2%.

Just How Deadly Is Measles?

Not surprisingly, many others have reported a similar case-fatality rate for measles.

Not everyone though.

The ironically named Physicians for Informed Consent suggests that it should be much, much lower.

Why?

Because of a 1989 report that said that “Before measles vaccine was available, more than 400,000 measles cases were reported each year in the United States. However, since virtually all children acquired measles, the true number of cases probably exceeded 4 million per year (i.e., the entire birth cohort).”

Their idea is that if there were more cases (i.e., the entire birth cohort), then even if almost 500 people died each year, the extra cases would make the death rate lower.

There are a lot of problems with that reasoning though…

For one thing, 500 people dying each year of a now vaccine-preventable disease is a lot of people, no matter how you to frame it!

I fixed this graph from The Physicians for Informed Consent to more accurately represent measles mortality data in the pre-vaccine era.
I fixed this graph from The Physicians for Informed Consent to more accurately represent measles mortality data in the pre-vaccine era.

And the traditional stat about the measles fatality rate clearly mentions that this is about reported cases.

You can’t change the number of measles cases to a theoretical number, the entire birth cohort, and keep the number of deaths based on the number of reported cases, and think that you are still talking about the same thing. What if deaths from measles were under-reported too?

“Death from measles was reported in approximately 0.2% of the cases in the United States from 1985 through 1992.”

CDC Pink Book

And there are plenty of more recent statistics, when far fewer people were getting measles, that show a similar case fatality rate.

What Is the Measles Fatality Rate?

How else do we know that The Physicians for Informed Consent is misinforming people?

“…any parent who has seen his small child suffer even for a few days with persistent fever of 105 F, with hacking cough and delirium, wants to see this prevented…”

Alexander D Langmuir, MD on the Medical Importance of Measles

Their measles ‘information’ sheet, made by folks who have likely never treated a child with measles, say that “most measles cases are benign.”

That’s a bit different than Dr. Langmuir’s 1962 account of how the typical child suffered with measles and why he welcomed the new measles vaccine.

“Nevertheless, a resurgence of measles occurred during 1989–1991, again demonstrating the serious medical burden of the disease. More than 55,000 cases, 123 deaths, and 11,000 hospitalizations were reported”

Orenstein et al on Measles Elimination in the United States

What was the case fatality rate during the measles outbreaks in the late 1980s?

It was a little over 0.2%. Did we again under-count cases or was the case-fatality rate so high because most of the cases were in younger, preschool age children?

Anyway, whether the case fatality rate is 1 in 1,000 or 1 in 10,000 (the UK lists their measles case fatality rate at 1 in 5,000), it doesn’t mean that someone will die when you hit case number 1,000, 5,000, or 10,000. It could be the 1st case in an outbreak or the 15,000th.

Measles can be deadly. That’s why most of us choose to have our kids vaccinated and protected.

Do you know how many people had measles in the 2013 outbreak in Brooklyn when a pregnant woman developed measles and had a miscarriage? The outbreak that was started by an unvaccinated teenager included a total of 58 cases.

How about the 2015 outbreak in Clallam County, Washington in which an immunocompromised woman died of pneumonia due to measles? There were only five other cases, almost all unvaccinated.

And in many European countries last year, many of the deaths are in countries with few cases. When the 17-year-old unvaccinated girl in Portugal died, there were just 31 cases. In Switzerland, a vaccinated man with leukemia died in an outbreak with just 69 cases. There were only 163 cases when an unvaccinated 10-month-old died in Bulgaria. And there were fewer than 1,000 cases in Germany when a partially vaccinated mother of three children died.

More Myths About Measles

The Physicians for Informed Consent pushes a lot of other myths and misinformation about measles:

  • about using vitamin A to treat measles – where this works, in developing countries, untreated measles has a case fatality ratio of 5 to 40% because of malnutrition! It isn’t usually thought to be very helpful in an industrial country without malnutrition. And no, simply having a picky eater or one who eats a lot of junk food doesn’t mean that he will be helped by vitamin A if he gets measles
  • about using immunoglobulin to treat measles – the MMR vaccine and immune globulin can be used for post-exposure prophylaxis, but it is not a treatment once you have measles!
  • they misuse VAERS data to try and say the MMR vaccine is more dangerous than getting measles
Not surprisingly, the information that The Physicians for Informed Consent provides rarely matches that of the references they cite.
Not surprisingly, the information that The Physicians for Informed Consent provides rarely matches that of the references they cite.

The Physicians for Informed Consent even talks about benefits of getting measles, but somehow leaves out any talk about the risk of getting SSPE after a natural measles infection.

What else do they leave out? The idea that people who survive a measles infection can have some immunosuppression for up to two to three years! This measles-induced immune damage puts them at risk of dying from other diseases and helps explain why kids who are vaccinated against measles are also less likely to die from other childhood infections.

They even published a press release claiming that they “recently reported in “The BMJ” that every year about 5,700 U.S. children suffer seizures from the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.”

Their report? It was a  “letter to the editor” that anyone can submit online…

Get educated so that you aren’t fooled by this kind of propaganda and anti-vaccine talking-points.

What to Know About Measles Propaganda from The Physicians for Informed Consent

The Physicians for Informed Consent push propaganda to make you think that vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, aren’t that bad and that vaccines are really, really dangerous.

More on Measles Propaganda from The Physicians for Informed Consent