Tag: rabies

Risks and Benefits of Vaccines – Anti-Vax Edition

Anti-vax folks like to say that they are doing their research, even collecting that research into handy binders. And they like to think that they are looking at both the risks and benefits of vaccines when they make their decision to skip or delay their child’s vaccines.

When anti-vax folks look at the risks and benefits of vaccines, they see lots of risks and few benefits.
When anti-vax folks look at the risks and benefits of vaccines, they see lots of risks and few benefits.

Like their research, their method of considering the risks and benefits of vaccines is very flawed

Risks and Benefits of Vaccines – Anti-Vax Edition

What’s the first thing you notice when you look at Ashley Everly‘s chart?

She doesn’t have a column for when a child Should Be Vaccinated!

Although there are no optional vaccines, there are some situations in which getting vaccinated and protected is truly essential, including:

  • a child bitten by a dog, coyote, or bat with rabies
  • a completely unvaccinated teen who gets a deep puncture wound while playing in a field
  • a baby born to a mother with hepatitis B
  • an unvaccinated older teen living in a dorm on a college campus where there is an ongoing outbreak of meningococcemia
  • a preschooler with a cochlear implant
  • an unvaccinated 1st grader who’s sibling is starting chemotherapy for leukemia
  • unvaccinated kids traveling out of the country to parts of the world where vaccine-preventable diseases are still endemic
  • a child with asplenia

Does she really think that the benefits of the rabies vaccine don’t outweigh the risks? Does she understand what happens if you get rabies, even if your child has access to nutritious food, clean drinking water, and emergency medical care?

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated?

What else is wrong with Ashley Everly‘s risk and benefit chart?

Most of the things on her list of who should not be vaccinated are not true contraindications.

Of course, the one about having a “previous vaccine injury or serious reaction” would likely be a reason to not get that vaccine again, as long as the injury or reaction was really caused by the vaccine.

Are there situations in which the potential benefit of vaccination might not outweigh the vaccines risks?

“Events or conditions listed as precautions should be reviewed carefully. Benefits of and risks for administering a specific vaccine to a person under these circumstances should be considered. If the risk from the vaccine is believed to outweigh the benefit, the vaccine should not be administered. If the benefit of vaccination is believed to outweigh the risk, the vaccine should be administered. Whether and when to administer DTaP to children with proven or suspected underlying neurologic disorders should be decided on a case-by-case basis.”

ACIP Contraindications and Precautions

Those situations are called precautions.

Fortunately, most are temporary, such as having a “moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever.”

These precautions do not include having a family history of cancer or autoimmune disease.

When Vaccination May Be Unnecessary

Are there any situations in which vaccination may be unnecessary?

There are a few, including:

  • when a disease is eradicated
  • when you aren’t at risk to get a disease and there is little risk that there will be an outbreak in your community or a return if folks stop vaccinating – that’s why we don’t routinely vaccinate against yellow fever, cholera, and typhoid fever, etc. in the United States
  • when you get sick and develop natural immunity

Vaccination is still necessary if a child’s mother is breastfeeding (which doesn’t protect against most vaccine-preventable diseases), has natural immunity to wild type infections (passive immunity quickly wears off), and even if the child has access to nutritious food and clean drinking water.

Nearly two months in the ICU vs getting a tetanus shot… How do the risks and benefits stack up now?

And yes, getting vaccinated and protected is even necessary if a child has access to emergency medical care.

What to Know About the Risks and Benefits of Vaccines

While you should certainly consider the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated, understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and very necessary.

More on the Risks and Benefits of Vaccines

Are They Spraying the Rabies Vaccine Into the Air?

Folks have gotten used to hearing about some strange ideas from anti-vaccine folks.

Are 'they' really going to spray rabies vaccines into the air?
Why were folks so quick to believe anti-vaccine propaganda?

Have you heard that some folks are worried that ‘they’ are spraying rabies vaccines into the air?

Are They Spraying the Rabies Vaccine Into the Air?

Hopefully you already understand that no one is spraying vaccines into the air.

Just think about all of the work that has gone into getting us a nasal spray flu vaccine, which must be kept refrigerated… Do you really think that we could make an effective vaccine that could simply be sprayed into the air?

The oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits baits are coated with fishmeal and distributed in one-inch square cubes or two-inch plastic sachets.


The oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits baits are coated with fishmeal and distributed in one-inch square cubes or two-inch plastic sachets. Bait photo by John Forbes, USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services.

And if we could spray vaccines onto people, why would we spray the rabies vaccine? Why not spray flu or measles vaccines instead?

“Oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits will be distributed in northeastern Maine beginning on or about August 3 through August 7 as part of ongoing, cooperative rabies control efforts aimed at reducing the incidence of raccoon rabies.”

USDA Distributes Oral Rabies Vaccine for Wildlife in Northeast Maine

While we can’t spray rabies vaccines on people, what we can do is distribute oral rabies vaccines, by air and ground, to combat raccoon rabies.

“The vaccine packets will be distributed by airplanes in rural, wooded areas. Personnel from Wildlife Services will distribute vaccine baits from vehicles in the more populated areas.”

USDA Distributes Oral Rabies Vaccine for Wildlife in Northeast Maine

Combined with getting our pets vaccinated and the use of rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, combating rabies in wild animals helps us all avoid rabies.

And combating anti-vaccine misinformation and propaganda will help ensure that more kids get vaccinated and protected.

More on Spraying the Rabies Vaccine

Alternative Names for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

You know all of the names – measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, whooping cough, etc.

But do you know why they used to call 10-day measles?

And which disease causes a 100-day cough?

Alternative Names for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Back in the day, when these diseases were more common, they used much more descriptive terms and nicknames, in addition to their official names.

Why was measles known as 10-day measles?

Because there was also a 3-day measles!

MeaslesRubella
10-day measles3-day measles
red measlesGerman measles
rubeola

Unfortunately, 10-day measles made you feel miserable for 10 days!

Although a vaccine was available, it took a little more time to get measles under better control.

Can you guess which disease was known to cause a 100-day cough?

That’s right, it’s whooping cough or pertussis.

“I honestly felt like it was never going to go away. The doctor told me it was 100 day cough, so I was counting the days while Googling to see if there was anything that could help. I tried everything, you name it, I tried it, and nothing worked. It came to 120 days and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t gone. I then researched and found that babies take longer to get over whooping cough.”

Fern’s Story – Whooping Cough

Fortunately, the cough doesn’t typically last that long if you are vaccinated and still get pertussis.

What do they call rabies?

Mad dog disease.

But that’s an easy one.

Which disease was known as “the Strangling Angel?”

“The breathing became much more difficult, with a kind of rattling stertor, as if the patient was actually strangling, the voice being exceeding hoarse and hollow, exactly resembling that from venereal ulcers in the fauces. This noise, in speaking and breathing, was so peculiar, that any person in the least conversant with the disease might easily know it by this odd noise; from whence, indeed, the Spanish physicians gave it the name of garrotillo, expressing the noise such make as are strangling with a rope.”

Edward Headlam Greenhow on Diphtheria

How about “The Crippler?”

Fight Polio Poster
Polio, also known as infantile paralysis, was known as “The Crippler.”

The “Speckled Monster?”

Even mild smallpox, as depicted on this WHO Smallpox Recognition Card, included flu like symptoms, a few weeks of pustules, and then waiting for the lesions to scab over...
Even mild smallpox, as depicted on this WHO Smallpox Recognition Card, included flu like symptoms, a few weeks of pustules, and then waiting for the lesions to scab over…

We forget these names, because we don’t see these diseases anymore.

“…for those trained in pediatrics in the 1970s, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) was a horror.”

Walter Orenstein

Do you remember that measles was called a “harmless killer?”

Be sure to think about how these now vaccine-preventable diseases got their nicknames before you think about skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines.

More on Alternative Names for Vaccine Preventable Diseases

How Anti-Vaccine Are You? Take Our Quiz.

It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd. You don’t get vaccinated and you don’t vaccinate your kids, and instead, you simply rely on the fact that everyone else around you is vaccinated to protect you from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Would you vaccinate your high-risk child?
Would you vaccinate your high-risk child? Photo by Janko Ferlic.

Of course, this is a terrible strategy, as we are seeing with the increase in cases of measles and pertussis, etc. It is much better to learn about the importance and safety of vaccines, get fully vaccinated, and stop these outbreaks.

This hasn’t seemed to have deterred most anti-vaccine “experts” yet, as they continue to spout their anti-vaccine myths and misinformation and push their anti-vaccine talking points.

But as they continue to tell you that vaccines don’t work, how about asking what they would do in these ten high-risk situations?

Amazingly, some folks continue to try and justify skipping vaccines and accept the risk of disease, even when that risk is much higher than usual and they could be putting their child’s life in immediate danger!

How will you do with our quiz?

Would you choose to vaccinate in these situations?

1. Baby born to mother with hepatitis B.

You are pregnant and have chronic hepatitis B (positive for both HBsAg and HBeAg). Should your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?

Background information:
Many anti-vaccine experts tell parents to skip their baby’s hepatitis B shot, saying it is dangerous, not necessary, or doesn’t work (typical anti-vax myths and misinformation).

However, it is well known that:

  • from 10 (HBeAg negative) to 90% (HBeAg positive) of infants who are born to a mother with chronic hepatitis B will become infected
  • 90% of infants who get hepatitis B from their mother at birth develop chronic infections
  • 25% of people with chronic hepatitis B infections die from liver failure and liver cancer
  • use of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine series greatly decreases a newborn’s risk of developing a hepatitis B infection (perinatal transmission of hepatitis B), especially if HBIG and the first hepatitis B shot is given within 12 hours of the baby being born

Would your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?

2. Your child is bitten by a rabid dog.

Your toddler is bitten by a dog that is almost certainly rabid. Several wild animals in the area have been found to be rabid recently and the usual playful and well-mannered dog was acting strangely and died a few hours later. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies and unfortunately, the owners, fearing they would get in trouble, disappeared with the dead dog, so it can’t be quarantined. Should your child get a rabies shot?

Background information:
Although now uncommon in dogs, rabies still occurs in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. These animals can then expose and infect unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets, etc.

To help prevent rabies, which is not usually treatable, in addition to immediately cleaning the wound, people should get human rabies immune globulin (RIG) and rabies vaccine.

The rabies vaccine is given as a series of four doses on the day of exposure to the animal with suspected rabies and then again on days 3, 7, and 14.

Although rare in the United States, at least 1 to 3 people do still die of rabies each year. The rabies vaccine series and rabies immune globulin are preventative, however, without them, rabies is almost always fatal once you develop symptoms. A few people have survived with a new treatment, the Milwaukee protocol, without getting rabies shots, but many more have failed the treatment and have died.

Would your child get a rabies shot? What if he had picked up a rabid bat?

3. Traveling to Romania.

You are traveling to the Romania to see family with your 9-month-old baby. Neither of you have had the measles vaccine. Should you both get vaccinated before making the trip?

Background information:

Over the past few years, over 100 people have died in measles outbreaks across Europe, with many in Romania.

Although the first MMR vaccine is routinely given when children are 12 months old, it is now recommended that infants get vaccinated as early as age six months if they will be traveling out of the country.

Since the endemic spread of measles was stopped in 2000, almost all cases are now linked to unvaccinated travelers, some of whom start very large outbreaks that are hard to contain.

Would you both get vaccinated before making the trip?

4. Tetanus shot.

Your unvaccinated teen gets a very deep puncture wound while doing yard work. A few hours later, your neighbor comes by to give you an update on his wife who has been in the hospital all week. She has been diagnosed with tetanus. She had gotten sick after going yard work in the same area and has been moved to the ICU. Do you get him a tetanus shot?

Background information:
Most children get vaccinated against tetanus when they receive the 4 dose primary DTaP series, the DTaP booster at age 4-6 years, and the Tdap booster at age 11-12 years.

Unlike most other vaccine-preventable diseases, tetanus is not contagious. The spores of tetanus bacteria (Clostridium tetani) are instead found in the soil and in the intestines and feces of many animals, including dogs, cats, and horses, etc.

Although the tetanus spores are common in soil, they need low oxygen conditions to germinate. That’s why you aren’t at risk for tetanus every time your hands get dirty. A puncture wound creates the perfect conditions for tetanus though, especially a deep wound, as it will be hard to clean out the tiny tetanus spores, and there won’t be much oxygen at the inner parts of the wound.

These types of deep wounds that are associated with tetanus infections might including stepping on a nail, getting poked by a splinter or thorn, and animal bites, etc. Keep in mind that some of these things, like a cat bite, might put you at risk because you simply had dirt/tetanus spores on your skin, which get pushed deep into the wound when the cat bites you.

Symptoms of tetanus typically develop after about 8 days and might include classic lockjaw, neck stiffness, trouble swallowing, muscle spasms, and difficulty breathing. Even with treatment, tetanus is fatal in about 11% of people and recovery takes months.

Would you get your teen a tetanus shot?

5. Cocooning to protect baby from pertussis.

Both of your unvaccinated teens go to school with a personal belief vaccine exemption. You are due in a few months and are a little concerned about the new baby because there have been outbreaks of pertussis in the community, especially at their highschool. Should everyone in the family get a Tdap shot?

Background information:
Pertussis, or whooping cough, classically causes a cough that can last for weeks to months.

While often mild in teens and adults, pertussis can be life-threatening in newborns and infants. In fact, it is young children who often develop the classic high-pitched whooping sound as they try to breath after a long coughing fit.

In a recent outbreak of pertussis in California, 10 infants died. Almost all were less than 2 months old.

Since infants aren’t protected until they get at least three doses of a pertussis vaccine, usually at age 6 months, experts recommend a cocooning strategy to protect newborns and young infants from pertussis. With cocooning, all children, teens, and adults who will be around the baby are vaccinated against pertussis (and other vaccine-preventable diseases), so that they can’t catch pertussis and bring it home.

There is even evidence that a pregnancy dose of Tdap can help protect infants even more than waiting until after the baby is born to get a Tdap shot.

Would everyone in your family get a Tdap shot?

6. Nephew is getting chemotherapy.

Your nephew was just diagnosed with leukemia and is going to start chemotherapy. Your kids have never been vaccinated against chicken pox and haven’t had the disease either. Your brother asks that you get them vaccinated, since they are around their cousin very often and he doesn’t want to put him at risk.

Do you get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?

Background information:
Kids with cancer who are getting chemotherapy become very vulnerable to most vaccine-preventable diseases, whether it is measles, flu, or chicken pox.

According to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, “We want to create a ‘protective cocoon’ of immunized persons surrounding patients with primary immunodeficiency diseases so that they have less chance of being exposed to a potentially serious infection like influenza.”

Would your get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?

7. Outbreak of meningococcemia at your kid’s college.

Your child has just gone off to college. There is an outbreak of meningococcemia in her dorm (8 cases already). It is the strain that is included in the Menactra and Menveo vaccines, although she has not been vaccinated. Do you encourage her to get vaccinated?

Background information:
Neisseria meningitidis is a bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis and sepsis (meningococcemia).

Depending on the type, it can occur either in teens and young adults (serogroups B, C, and Y) or infants (serogroup B).

Although not nearly as common as some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles or pertussis, it is one of the more deadly. Meningococcemia is fatal in up to 40% of cases and up to 20% of children and teens who survive a meningococcal infection might have hearing loss, loss of one or more limbs, or neurologic damage.

Meningococcal vaccines are available (Menactra and Menveo) and routinely given to older children and teens to help prevent meningococcal infections (serogroups A, C, Y and W-135). Other vaccines, Bexasero and Trumenba, protect against serogroup B and are recommended for high risk kids and anyone else who wants to decrease their risk of getting Men B disease.

Would you encourage her to get vaccinated against meningococcemia?

8. Cochlear implants.

Your preschooler has just received cochlear implants. Should he get the Prevnar and Pneumovax vaccines?

Background information:
Cochlear implants can put your child at increased risk for bacterial meningitis caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (pneumococcus).

Would he get vaccinated with Prevnar and Pneumovax, as he is no at high risk for pneumococcal disease?

9. Splenectomy

Your child is going to have his spleen removed to prevent complications of hereditary spherocytosis. Should he get the meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines first?

Background information:
Without a spleen, kids are at risk for many bacterial infections, including severe infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.

In addition to their routine vaccines, kids with asplenia might need Menveo or Menactra, Bexsero or Trumenba (Men B), and Pneumovax 23.

Would your child get these vaccines that are recommended for kids with asplenia?

10. Ebola

Ebola is returning, but this time an experimental vaccine is available.

Background information:
There were nearly 30,000 cases and just over 11,000 deaths during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

You are in an area that is seeing an increasing number of Ebola cases and there is still no treatment for this deadly disease. An experimental vaccine is being offered.

Do you get the vaccine?

How Anti-Vaccine Are You?

It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd – seemingly protected by all of the vaccinated people around you.

Would you still delay or skip a vaccine in a high-risk situation?

More on The Anti-Vaccine Quiz