Tag: research

10 Myths About Chicken Pox and the Chicken Pox Vaccine

You remember chicken pox, don’t you?

Is this really a disease that we need to vaccinate our kids against?

Obviously, the folks who posted the following comments don’t seem to think so.

It is just as obvious that they are wrong though.

That she doesn't understand survivorship bias doesn't mean that you shouldn't vaccinate your kids.
That she doesn’t understand survivorship bias doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t vaccinate your kids.

No one ever says that chicken pox, measles, mumps, and rubella kills everyone that gets them.

Even in the pre-vaccine era, when measles would kill 500 people a year in the United States, there is a very good chance that you wouldn’t have known anyone that died of measles. Of course, that doesn’t mean that nobody died of measles or chicken pox or any other now vaccine-preventable disease.

You likely know someone that plays football, right? Maybe on a youth football team or in middle school or high school? Do you know anyone that plays on a team in the NFL? While millions of kids might play football, only a few thousand play in the NFL.

Benign diseases don't kill kids.
Benign diseases don’t kill kids.

Chicken pox was never a benign disease. It was considered a rite of passage because we all had to endure it, but it wasn’t something anyone looked forward to. You don’t die from a benign disease.

Trying to scare people into thinking that vaccines are poison... Anti-vaccine propaganda is all about fear.
Trying to scare people into thinking that vaccines are poison… Anti-vaccine propaganda is all about fear.

Part of that is actually true – “they keep you a customer for life” because you didn’t die from a vaccine-preventable disease!

The UK doesn't haven't routinely vaccinate against chicken pox, but they do have chicken pox deaths...
The UK doesn’t routinely vaccinate against chicken pox, but they do have chicken pox deaths and the same rise in shingles rates…

Many countries don’t have the chicken pox vaccine on their routine immunization schedule because they don’t think it is cost-effective and they were concerned about what controlling chicken pox could do to rates of shingles.

“About 3 in every 1000 pregnant women in the UK catch chickenpox. Between 1985 and 1998, nine pregnant women died in the UK from chickenpox complications. Their unborn babies are also at risk from a rare condition called foetal varicella syndrome (FVS). This can result in serious long-term damage to the baby or even death, particularly if the mother catches chickenpox in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

Vaccine Knowledge Project on Chickenpox (Varicella)

These countries have the same rates of shingles as countries that do use the chicken pox vaccine, but still have high rates of chicken pox and complications of chicken pox!

The UK does not vaccinate for chicken pox, but young, otherwise healthy kids die with chicken pox in the UK.

Don't trust the CDC, but do trust anyone with a website or Facebook page that says what you want to believe.
Don’t trust the CDC, but do trust anyone with a website or Facebook page that says what you want to believe…

Most folks should understand that when anti-vaccine folks say “do your research,” they mean look at their websites and Facebook groups that regurgitate misinformation and anti-vaccine propaganda.

Natural immunity is not better than vaccine induced immunity when you consider the risks of a natural infection, which can include death.
Natural immunity is not better than vaccine induced immunity when you consider the risks of a natural infection, which can include death.

We don’t need disease.

There is no diet that will help you beat chicken pox.
There is no diet that will help you beat chicken pox.

While you will be at higher risk for complications from chicken pox and most other diseases if you have a compromised immune system or are malnourished, if you are otherwise healthy, there is nothing you can do to boost your immune system to try and beat chicken pox – besides getting vaccinated.

Homeopathic vaccines do nothing.
Homeopathic vaccines do nothing.

There is also no homeopathic remedy or homeopathic vaccine that can help you avoid chicken pox.

Adults don't need boosters to most vaccines, so actually are up-to-date and immune to most diseases.
Adults don’t need boosters to most vaccines, so actually are up-to-date and immune to most diseases.

The chicken pox vaccine provides long lasting protection. Ironically, anti-vaccine folks often misunderstand how herd immunity works, the one thing that can protect their unvaccinated kids as they try to hide in the herd

Chicken pox parties were never as common as folks think they were, but when done, it was out of necessity, as we didn't have a vaccine.
Chicken pox parties were never as common as folks think they were, but when done, it was out of necessity, as we didn’t have a vaccine.

Chicken pox parties kind of made sense in the pre-vaccine era. Since it was inevitable that your child would get chicken pox, you wanted them to get it at a young age, so they weren’t at increased risk for complications as an adult.

But intentionally exposing your child to a life-threatening infection when a safe and effective vaccine is available?

Do your research. Get vaccinated and protected.

More on Chicken Pox Myths

How Do Anti-Vaccine Folks Think?

Does it sometimes seem like anti-vaccine folks are speaking a foreign language?

It definitely seems like they misunderstand and misuse a lot of scientific terms, like evidence, research, and toxin, doesn’t it?

Anti-Vaccine Glossary

The first step to understanding someone who is truly anti-vaccine and unnecessarily puts their kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, might be to understand how they misunderstand most things about vaccines…

Measles is highly contagious, which is likely why all of the Brady kids got sick.
Anti-vax folks get the message of the Brady Bunch measles episode all wrong…

For example, many of them believe that anecdotes and case studies are strong evidence and on par with the preponderance of evidence that has shown that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

What other terms do they get wrong?

When you say… Anti-Vaccine folks think…
research I googled it and found something on an anti-vaccine website that confirms what I already thought
peer review I had my anti-vaccine friends, some of whom are actually in charge of the journal, take a look at it
personal stories can only be anecdotal vaccine injury scare stories, but never about regretting a skipped vaccine or personal stories about vaccine-preventable diseases
aluminum mercury
consensus my anti-vaccine friends on Facebook
shills anyone who supports vaccines
pediatrician a vaccine pusher
science pseudoscience
learn the risk learn the exaggerated risks of vaccines that I’m going to scare you about
expert anyone who agrees with me
unavoidably unsafe vaccines can’t ever be safe to anyone in any circumstance ever
toxin anything and everything that sounds sciency
placebo pure saline
chemical anything that isn’t natural, not understanding that everything is a chemical
scientist anyone who took a science class in high school or college
doctor typically a chiropractor
medicine non-evidence based therapies that don’t involve Big Pharma, aren’t covered by insurance, and are likely very expensive
risk can only come from a vaccine, never from skipping or delaying a vaccine or from a vaccine-preventable disease
shedding what happens when someone gets a vaccine
vaccine injury anything and everything bad that happens to you in the days, weeks, months, and years after you get vaccinated or in the days, weeks, months, and years before you were born because of the vaccines your parents or grandparents received
religious vaccine exemption I just don’t want to vaccinate and protect my kids, so will lie and say it is about religion
vaccine preventable disease since many anti-vaccine folks don’t really think that vaccines work, they might act more confused if you use this term
informed consent when I tell you all of the bad stuff about vaccines, most of which isn’t true, and leave out any talk of benefits
leaky gut explains every major problem kids have after getting vaccinated
MAPS doctors the new DAN doctors
VAERS a list of vaccine-injuries
herd immunity doesn’t exist, but can only happen from natural immunity
hiding in the herd what used to protect unvaccinated kids, until more and more folks started listening to us to our anti-vaccine propaganda
package inserts can be used to scare parents about SIDS and autism
do your research go to an anti-vaccine forum or website
cherry picking what does picking cherries have to do with vaccines???
natural immunity easy life-long immunity without any consequences
vaccine choice I want to do it my way, no matter how many choices I have
germ theory germs don’t cause disease and if they did, vaccines didn’t stop them, it was better nutrition and sanitation
homeopathy vaccines don’t work, weekly chiropractic adjustments can keep you healthy, and natural immunity is best, but buy some homeopathic vaccines anyway
essential oils definitely not being sold as part of a multi-level marketing scheme
monkey pox just smallpox renamed
Guillain-Barré Syndrome just polio renamed
roseola just measles renamed
SIDS a vaccine injury
vitamin K a vaccine to be avoided
cognitive dissonance how we sleep at night after skipping or delaying vaccines and leave our kids unnecessarily unprotected from life-threatening diseases
Andrew Wakefield “…Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.”

Get it?

It’s why many people have a hard time talking to friends and family members who are anti-vaccine. And even visits to the pediatrician to talk about vaccines don’t always go so well.

More on the Anti-Vaccine to Science Translator

Which Vaccines Do You Get When You Join the Military?

The oral adenovirus vaccine is approved to prevent adenovirus infections in military populations.

Believe it or not, many vaccines are available that we don’t routinely get.

Some we only get if we travel, like vaccines for yellow fever and typhoid. Others we only get in high risk situations, like if you get exposed to a bat with rabies.

And one, the adenovirus vaccine, you can only get if you join the military.

Which Vaccines Do You Get When You Join the Military?

But don’t folks get a lot of vaccines when they join the military?

It depends…

Whether you join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, health personnel will evaluate your immunity status by checking your titers to routine vaccine-preventable diseases. So no, if you were wondering, it doesn’t seem like they just check the vaccine records that you might bring from your pediatrician.

And then once they assess your immunization or immunity status, you will get vaccinated:

  • upon accession – adenovirus, influenza, meningococcal, MMR, Tdap, and chicken pox
  • during the first or second half of collective training – hep A, hep B, and polio (if needed) and other vaccines based on risk

So, in addition to getting caught up on all routine vaccines that they might be missing, there are other “military vaccines” that they might need, including:

  • Adenovirus vaccine – given to enlisted soldiers during basic training
  • Anthrax vaccine – only military personnel with extra risk, although some civilians can get this vaccine too
  • Smallpox vaccine – only military personnel who are high risk and smallpox epidemic response team members, although some civilians can get this vaccine too
Which vaccines you get in the military might be determined by where you are getting deployed to.
Which vaccines you get in the military will likely be determined by where you get deployed.

Like the recommendations for civilians, other vaccines are mainly given to military personal if they have extra risk based on where they are being deployed.

  • Cholera – only military personnel with extra risk based on deployment or travel to endemic areas
  • Japanese encephalitis – only military personnel with extra risk based on deployment or travel to endemic area in Eastern Asia and certain western Pacific Islands
  • Rabies vaccine – pre-exposure vaccination is only for military personnel with animal control duties or with extra risk based on deployment, including special operations personnel
  • Typhoid vaccine – only military personnel with extra risk based on deployment or travel to typhoid-endemic areas and other areas with poor sanitation.
  • Yellow fever vaccine – only military personnel with extra risk based on deployment or travel to yellow-fever-endemic areas in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.

These are the same vaccines that we would get if we traveled to high risk areas.

 

Military Vaccines in Development

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the military does research on infectious diseases and vaccines.

Members of the military are often put at great risk for known and emerging diseases, like Ebola, Zika, and malaria.

That’s why some vaccines might have been given as an investigational new drug in special situations, typically when “individuals who have a high occupational risk – laboratory workers, facilities inspectors, vaccine manufacturers and certain military response teams.”

These vaccines, which were initially developed at US Army labs, are no longer being produced, but have included:

  • Argentine hemorrhagic fever (Junin virus) vaccine
  • Chikungunya fever vaccine
  • Eastern equine encephalitis vaccine
  • Q fever vaccine
  • Rift Valley fever vaccine
  • Tularemia vaccine
  • Venezuelan equine encephalitis vaccine
  • Western equine encephalitis vaccine

Today, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) “is a leader in global efforts against the world’s most pervasive and high impact infectious diseases.”

WRAIR is working on vaccines for HIV, Ebola, MERS, and Zika.

What to Know About Military Vaccines

You will need some extra vaccines when you enlist in the military, but how many will depend on if you are up-to-date when you join and your area of responsibility. So there is no one-size-fits-all military immunization schedule.

More on Military Vaccines

 

How To Counter Vaccine Hesitancy

There is nothing wrong with having questions about vaccines. And there is certainly nothing wrong with doing a little, or even a lot of research about vaccines.

“We are not against vaccines. Just because we have hesitancies and valid concerns about injecting our baby with specific chemicals and toxins does not mean we are anti anything…

As a soon-to-be-parent [and especially as a first-time-mom] I do feel it my responsibility to have questions, and to listen to my motherly instinct to question things, and do my research.”

Kat Von D

The problem comes when the answers folks get come from misinformation, and it leads them to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, leaving them unprotected.

What is Vaccine Hesitancy?

To counter vaccine hesitancy, you likely first need to understand what it means.

“Vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific varying across time, place and vaccines. It includes factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.”

SAGE Vaccine Hesitancy Working Group

So it means someone who is anti-vaccine, right?

Not exactly.

“Although many may characterize all individuals who eschew vaccines as “anti-vaccine” or “vaccine deniers,” in reality there is a broad spectrum of individuals who choose not to have themselves or their children vaccinated.”

Tara C Smith on Vaccine Rejection and Hesitancy: A Review and Call to Action

Many of the folks who are vaccine hesitant aren’t truly anti-vaccine. They are likely being misled by anti-vaccine myths and propaganda, but at least they aren’t the ones spreading it across Facebook or on their own blogs and anti-vaccine websites.

How To Counter Vaccine Hesitancy

How do you counter vaccine hesitancy?

“It’s unfair for anyone to expect me [or any parent] to take the word of the pharmaceutical companies who have much to gain from and industry worth billions without question – and then have to dismiss any concerns of my own.”

Kat Von D

You learn to answer all of the questions and concerns that these parents might have about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, including the risks and benefits of vaccines and the risks of being unvaccinated.

“Well, if you’re going to inform yourself about vaccines, I think anybody who’s truly informed will realize that getting a vaccine is much better than not getting one. If you’re choosing not to vaccinate your child, it’s because you’re getting, frankly, bad information about vaccines.”

Paul Offit, MD

You also make sure that parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, reporters, and everyone else gets good information about vaccines.

And you call out the misinformation and out-right lies of the anti-vaccine movement, especially when they say that vaccines never work, are always dangerous and full of toxins, or aren’t necessary.

You don’t let parents get manipulated by the anti-vaccine industry, which has gotten very good at selling fear – literally.

Like the card trick in My Cousin Vinny, anti-vaccine talking points are easy to explain because they are all an illusion.
Like the card trick in My Cousin Vinny, anti-vaccine talking points are easy to explain away, because they are all an illusion.

Remember, there is not one anti-vaccine argument or talking point that ever holds water.

Why not?

Because unless you go cherry picking, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that vaccines work, vaccines are safe, and vaccines are necessary.

What to Know About Countering Vaccine Hesitancy

If you are on the fence or scared to vaccinate your kids, let us help you learn why vaccines are safe and necessary and arguments against vaccines never hold water.

More on Countering Vaccine Hesitancy

Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Smarter Than the Rest of Us?

For the overwhelming majority of us, it seems like a simple decision – get your kids vaccinated and protected and avoid all of the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

After all, we understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.

But folks who choose to skip or delay vaccines want to do what is best for their kids too, even as they come to the exact opposite decision, so who is making the smarter choice?

Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Smarter Than the Rest of Us?

Not surprisingly, anti-vaccine folks think they are smarter.

Why?

“In the end we are left with a powerful sense of knowledge – false knowledge. Confirmation bias leads to a high level of confidence, we feel we are right in our gut. And when confronted with someone saying we are wrong, or promoting an alternate view, some people become hostile.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is not just a curiosity of psychology, it touches on a critical aspect of the default mode of human thought, and a major flaw in our thinking. It also applies to everyone – we are all at various places on that curve with respect to different areas of knowledge. You may be an expert in some things, and competent in others, but will also be toward the bottom of the curve in some areas of knowledge.”

Steven Novella on Lessons from Dunning-Kruger

While it is easy to blame it on the Dunning-Kruger effect, a study that appeared in the July 2004 issue of Pediatrics, Children who have received no vaccines: who are they and where do they live?, is often used by anti-vaccine folks to reinforce the idea that they are smarter.

“Undervaccinated children tended to be black, to have a younger mother who was not married and did not have a college degree, to live in a household near the poverty level, and to live in a central city. Unvaccinated children tended to be white, to have a mother who was married and had a college degree, to live in a household with an annual income exceeding 75,000 dollars, and to have parents who expressed concerns regarding the safety of vaccines and indicated that medical doctors have little influence over vaccination decisions for their children”

Children who have received no vaccines: who are they and where do they live?

But the part of the study that is often quoted is comparing unvaccinated vs undervaccinated.

In the same study, the education level of unvaccinated vs vaccinated is virtually the same.

And the differences for the unvaccinated vs undervaccinated kids was about their living near the poverty level. If these families grew up with less money, they likely had less opportunities to go to school, and unfortunately, had less opportunities to keep their kids up-to-date on their vaccines.

One study, Maternal characteristics and hospital policies as risk factors for nonreceipt of hepatitis B vaccine in the newborn nursery, did seem to associate a higher education level with refusing the newborn hepatitis B vaccine, but an even bigger factor was being born in a facility that actually had a policy that offered the vaccine.

“Likewise, vaccine refusal now appears to be less a function of socioeconomic status than it once was. Previously, maternal education was strongly associated with vaccine refusal, but now mothers without a high school diploma are even more likely than college graduates to have unvaccinated children . Also, unvaccinated children are no longer found primarily in the highest income households (perhaps a function of income data being top-coded at $50,000), but now are equally likely to live in households with more moderate (or even below poverty) incomes.”

Laura Blakeslee on Trends and Characteristics of Unvaccinated Children in the United States : The National Immunization Survey, 2002 − 2010

Other studies have either showed a higher level of college graduates for those who vaccinated their kids or no difference.

What about all of the experts in the anti-vaccine movement? Remember that the heroes and so called experts of the the anti-vaccine movement mostly includes celebrities, some doctors and scientists who are practicing way out of their field of expertise when they talk about vaccines, and others whose work is not supported by the great majority of experts in their field.

That’s not necessarily the end of the story though.

Yet another study (a small survey), Parental Delay or Refusal of Vaccine Doses, Childhood Vaccination Coverage at 24 Months of Age, and the Health Belief Model, found that as compared to parents who vaccinated their kids, those who delayed or refused vaccines:

  • were less likely to think that vaccines were necessary
  • were less likely to think that their kids would get a disease if they weren’t vaccinated
  • were less likely to believe that vaccines are safe
  • were more likely to believe that vaccines caused serious side effects
  • were more likely to believe that children get too many vaccines

And surprisingly, considering that the above things are basically anti-vaccine talking points that are easily disproven, they were actually more likely to have gone to college and to be a college graduate. It is not a surprise that they were less likely to have a good relationship with their doctor and were less likely to believe that their doctor had their child’s best interest at heart.

Parents unknowingly gave their infants teething powder made with mercury, causing pink disease or mercury poisoning.
Parents unknowingly gave their infants teething powder made with mercury, causing pink disease or mercury poisoning. Ironically, a decrease in illiteracy levels might have been the cause.

So maybe some anti-vaccine parents are indeed well-educated about some things, but that just gets us back to the Dunning-Kruger effect, as they certainly aren’t making smart decisions about vaccines.

Fortunately, this is still a very small, although very vocal, minority of people, as most parents vaccinate and protect their kids.

What to Know About Anti-Vaccine Intelligence and Education

Parents who choose to skip or delay their child’s vaccines are not making smart decisions about vaccines.

More on Anti-Vaccine Intelligence and Education

Using Pubmed to Do Research About Vaccines

A lot of the vaccine research that folks do is on PubMed.

Using PubMed to Do Research About Vaccines

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“PubMed comprises more than 27 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.”

All of the studies that say that vaccines are safe, that vaccines work, and that vaccines are necessary are in PubMed.

So are the studies that show that vaccines are not associated with autism, SIDS, and other so-called vaccine induced diseases, like ASIA.

Unfortunately, there are also poorly done studies in PubMed that do purport that vaccines are associated with autism and that ASIA is a real thing.

Can You Use PubMed to Do Research About Vaccines?

Kelly Brogan didn't make history in getting a case report published in a low impact journal who's editorial board includes a Reiki Master, chiropractors, and naturopaths.
Kelly Brogan didn’t make history in getting a case report published in a low impact journal who’s editorial board includes a Reiki Master, chiropractors, and naturopaths.

Just like anyone can put up a website or Facebook page and say whatever they want, almost anyone can get a study or article published in a journal and get it indexed in PubMed.

While PubMed is an index with over 27 million citations, it doesn’t do anything to evaluate those citations to see if they include studies with design flaws, conflicts of interest, or are simply fraudulent.

That means that you need to know that a study does not get a badge of legitimacy for simply being in PubMed!

And it does not automatically mean that the evidence and conclusions from the article are of high quality just because it is listed in PubMed.

So use PubMed to find articles to help you do research about vaccines, but then read the article from beginning to end, not just the abstract, and make sure it is an article you can trust:

  • Was it published in a legitimate journal, like Vaccine or Pediatrics, and some of these high-impact journals? (good)
  • Was it published in a predatory journals?  (bad)
  • Does it involve simply looking at VAERS data?  (usually bad)
  • Is it written by folks with a conflict of interest that makes the article biased?  (bad)
  • Has it already been refuted by other people because it wasn’t designed properly or had other major flaws?  (bad)
  • Is it written by people who have expertise on the topic they are writing about? (good)
  • Has it been retracted?  (very bad)
  • Is it a case report (a glorified anecdote), case series, or animal study (lowest quality evidence) or a systemic review or meta analyses (highest quality evidence)?
  • Is it a case control study, cohort study, and randomized controlled trial, which lie somewhere in between case reports and reviews on the hierarchy of evidence scale?

Are you ready to get educated about vaccines?

That’s great, but PubMed shouldn’t be your first stop, or your only stop.

As you do your research or get bombarded with a list of links or abstracts from PubMed, remember that there is a hierarchy of evidence to consider before deciding if a paper or study is really evidence of anything. And finding a case report, study on rats, or an invitro study won’t win you an argument about vaccines when there are randomized control trials and systemic reviews on the other side.

What to Know About Using PubMed to Do Research About Vaccines

PubMed is a giant index of journal articles, but simply being in PubMed doesn’t mean that an article or study is reliable or of high quality, whether it is about vaccines, a vaccine-preventable disease, or any other medical topic.

More on Using PubMed to Do Research About Vaccines

How Are Vaccines Really Made?

Do you know how vaccines are made?

A lab worker injects flu virus into an egg, one of many steps in making our flu vaccines.
A lab worker injects flu virus into an egg, one of many steps in making our flu vaccines. Photo courtesy of the FDA

When we say that chickens are used to make flu vaccine, do you think that means that live chickens are actually infected with the flu to make the vaccine?

They aren’t.

Just like live monkeys aren’t injected with the polio virus to make the polio vaccine.

Those are just myths you see in vaccine scare videos on anti-vaccine websites.

How Are Vaccines Really Made?

So how are vaccines really made?

It depends, after all, there are a lot of different types of vaccines.

But instead of monkey cages and chicken coops in the labs of today’s vaccine manufacturers, you will find clean rooms with large scale, stainless steel bioreactors, master cell banks, seed fermenters, microcarriers, centrifuges, filtration and chromatography equipment, and filling and lyophilization equipment.

Do you picture a series of these large scale, stainless steel bioreactors when you think about how vaccines are made?
Do you picture a series of these large scale, stainless steel bioreactors when you think about how vaccines are made?

That doesn’t sound so scary or shocking, does it?

What’s shocking about the whole process of making a vaccine?

It takes a long time. Often one to three years! And that’s after all of the time that went into the research, testing, and licensing of the vaccine.

“Viruses are grown in cells, which can be either primary cells, such as chicken fbroblasts (e.g., yellow fever vaccine), or continuous cell lines, such as MRC-5 (e.g., hepatitis A vaccine). Bacterial pathogens are grown in bioreactors using medium developed to optimize the yield of the antigen while maintaining its integrity. Recombinant proteins can be manufactured in bacteria, yeast, or cell culture. ”

Plotkin’s Vaccines (Seventh Edition)

The only other shocking thing about making vaccines is how boring it all is, at least if you aren’t into biology, with most vaccines using the same basic steps:

  • decide on the type of antigen – vaccines can be made of attenuated live viruses, inactivated viruses or bacteria,  or just part of the virus or bacteria (subunit and conjugate vaccines)
  • generate an antigen – this is the thing in the vaccine that will stimulate an immune response and protect your child. It used to be what anti-vaccine folks were concerned about until we explained that kids today are exposed to far fewer antigens, even though they get more vaccines and more protection.
  • release and isolate the antigen – the antigen was either growing in cells or other medium and in this step, as much of the antigen is collected as possible.
  • purify the antigen – multiple steps are involved in removing many of the vaccine ingredients or excipients that were used up to this step by precipitation, ultrafiltration, and column chromatography, etc. That’s why many are said to remain only in residual amounts, like formaldehyde.
  • strengthen the antigen – in this step, an adjuvant might be added.
  • combine all of the ingredientsstabilizers and preservatives might also be added in this step.
  • last steps – finished vaccine is put in vials and syringes and then packaged
  • lot release and distribution – each lot is tested before it is released to make sure it meets FDA standards for potency, safety, and sterility.

None of that sounds as scary as injecting monkeys with smallpox, watching them die, and then harvesting their infected kidney cells though, does it? If you have watched any of the anti-vaccine scare videos, hopefully the first thing that came to mind is that the smallpox vaccine isn’t actually made with the smallpox virus! It is, of course, made with vaccinia virus and wouldn’t cause anyone, whether a monkey, cow, or person to actually get smallpox. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, monkeys aren’t used to make smallpox vaccines.

“Both vaccines are derived from the New York City Board of Health strain of vaccinia, but Dryvax was grown on the skin of calves and then essentially freeze-dried for storage. It was licensed by FDA in 1931 but is no longer manufactured. ACAM2000, a “second generation” smallpox vaccine, is derived from a clone of Dryvax, purified, and produced using modern cell culture technology.”

FDA on ACAM2000 (Smallpox Vaccine) Questions and Answers

In fact, most of today’s vaccines are made in bioreactors, not in cows or monkeys.

Flu vaccine is mostly still made using chicken eggs, specifically 11-day-old embryonated chicken eggs. The flu viruses are passed into the eggs, incubated for a time to allow them to grow, and then harvested, inactivated, and purified.

How purified do they get? So purified that even people with egg allergies can get a flu vaccine these days.

Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are made safely.

What to Know About How Vaccines Are Really Made

Vaccines are made using a very safe and scientific process that is heavily regulated that will neither scare nor shock you.

More on How Vaccines Are Really Made