Tag: scared

Is It Rational to Be Anti-Vaccine?

Why do some people think that they are making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children’s vaccines?

Are parents making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children's vaccines?
Are parents really making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children’s vaccines?

Is it because they “know” that they are right?

Or because others reinforce their beliefs?

Is It Rational to Be Anti-Vaccine?

Whatever the reason, we should be clear that skipping or delaying vaccines, leaving your child at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease and putting others at risk, is really not a rational decision.

“It is not the case, of course, that people make decisions about vaccination based solely on rational, evidenced-based, scientific perspectives.”

Timothy Caulfield et al on Injecting doubt: responding to the naturopathic anti-vaccination rhetoric

Instead, people often seem to skip or delay vaccines after fear helps a number of cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies take hold and change their perception of risk into something that is much different from reality. That fear is stoked by misinformation and propaganda they see on the Internet or hear from friends and family.

Or they become influenced by the idea that their child has been damaged or injured by a vaccine, even though in the great majority of cases, it has been shown that vaccines do not cause those problems.

“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

So call it what you want, but no, in general, it is not rational to be anti-vaccine, especially considering that:

Do you know what the biggest clue that it isn’t a rational decision in most cases?

Changing Your Mind About Vaccines

When a rational person is given new evidence or information that not only challenges their worldview, but blows it out of the water, what do they do?

They change their mind.

“It is irrational to hold any view so tightly that you aren’t willing to admit the possibility that you might be wrong.”

What would it take to convince you that you were wrong?

When do anti-vax folks change their minds?

“I don’t feel I’m putting my child at risk. There’s nothing that’s going to change my mind on this on that specific vaccination.”

More often than not, it is after one of their kids gets sick or there is a disease outbreak nearby.

Instead of changing their minds in the midst of disease outbreaks and immunization mandates, some parents decide to break the law

If you are not vaccinating and protecting your kids, what would it take to get you to change your mind about vaccines?

Do you need to see double blind placebo controlled studies, studies with saline placebos, studies with vaccines tested together, or long term safety studies?

Do you need to remind yourself what the pre-vaccine era was like? Or understand what will happen if too many people stop vaccinating their kids?

Don't wait until it's too late to vaccinate your child.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to vaccinate your child.

Whatever it takes, hopefully you don’t wait too long and regret your decision.

Of course, no one wants to intentionally harm their children. But you can’t do what’s right and make a rational decision if you are relying on bad information and advice.

More on the Idea of Rational Anti-Vaccine Beliefs

The Bob Sears Snare

Dr. Sears has been a well-known pediatrician for many years, writing books about breastfeeding, fussy babies, and sleep, and advocating for co-sleeping and attachment parenting before most people even knew what those things were.

He also advocates for vaccines.

“Because of my “historical” perspective, I have grown to appreciate the value of vaccines as a necessary public-health measure. Currently in our pediatric practice, we follow the vaccine schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Dr. William Sears on Ask Dr. Sears: Vaccination/Immunization Concerns

If you are a little confused, that’s because you may not have known that Dr. Bob Sears’ father is also a pediatrician. In fact, they practice together, even if they don’t seem to agree on everything.

Who is Bob Sears?

Dr. Bob Sears believes that alternative immunization schedules are safer than getting vaccinated on time, mostly because he seems to think that most vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t that serious.

“I created my alternative vaccine schedule that allows parents to go ahead and vaccinate, simply in a more gradual manner. And I find a lot of worried parents who otherwise would refuse vaccines altogether are very happy to go ahead and vaccinate if they’re doing it in a way that they feel safer about.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears: Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

Dr. Bob appeared to have noble goals when he wrote his vaccine book – to convince more parents who were on the fence to get vaccinated – or at least to eventually get vaccinated, even if they had to delay some vaccines to get there.

“As parents’ fears of vaccines grow, I think we may see fewer and fewer parents decide to vaccinate. And then we could see what used to be very rare illnesses become more common. We might see measles escalate. We might see diphtheria come back into the United States. God forbid, we might see polio come back. Then children are going to start dying. And then a lot of those parents that had chosen not to vaccinate might change their mind, and they might start vaccinating again, and then new parents might be more inclined to vaccinate their babies if we see these diseases come back.

Now, I hope and pray that doesn’t happen. I hope that we can maintain adequate herd immunity in our country so we don’t see these diseases return. But that worry of diseases coming back into our country, and the worry of diseases running rampant and killing a lot of babies, I don’t think that supersedes the parents’ basic right to choose what they want to do for their children. And if parents want to accept the disease risk because they don’t trust the vaccines, I think they have the right to make that choice.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears: Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

It didn’t work.

It may just be a correlation, but vaccine rates went down after he wrote his book, especially among clusters of worried parents, some of whom would walk into their pediatrician’s offices carrying his book or the immunization schedule he made up.

The Bob Sears Snare

More than anything though, it seems like he has contributed to parents not trusting vaccines.

“What I do instead is I give two vaccines at a time, at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months. I also give two of the vaccines that I’m skipping on alternative months: 3 months, 5 months and 7 months. And I’m avoiding a big overload. I’m giving only a couple vaccines at a time. I feel that babies will experience fewer vaccine reactions; I think babies’ bodies can handle them better. Their immune system can handle them better that way, and I think a lot of parents simply feel more safe about that kind of approach.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears: Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

See what he did?

Instead of reassuring parents that vaccines don’t overload a baby’s immune system, Dr. Bob tells them that his schedule avoids a “big overload.”

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?”

If they weren’t scared about vaccines before they heard of Dr. Bob, they probably were after reading some of his stuff.

And once you fall into the snare and get scared, it is hard to get out.

What makes it even more frustrating?

The things he scares parents about aren’t even true!

Dr. Bob misrepresents science and gets parents to believe that vaccines aren’t well tested, that vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t dangerous, and that vaccine ingredients, like aluminum are dangerous.

And although he talks about choice and informed consent all of the time, by misinforming parents about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, he is actually taking away their ability to make an informed choice.

Not surprisingly, even Dr. Bob seems to have been snared by his rhetoric about vaccines.

“As a doctor, I don’t like to undermine the CDC and to help parents mistrust the CDC. Obviously the CDC does so much good for us. They have our best intentions in mind, and they do so much research. And I think parents can overall trust what the CDC says.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears: Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

He went from saying in a 2010 interview that parents should trust the CDC and that “There’s so much safety research behind vaccines that most parents should feel very confident in their safety” to now giving presentations at anti-vaccine conferences on How to Counter the Lies Politicians and the Media Use to Pass Mandatory Vaccination Laws.

What’s the worst thing about Dr. Bob though?

Bob Sears warned everyone that measles would come back if too many people listened to him in The Vaccine Book
Bob Sears warned everyone that measles would come back if too many people listened to him in The Vaccine Book

It’s not that he actually predicted what would happen if too many people began to follow non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules, but that he thinks he is an expert on autism.

“By trying to say that there is no significant increase, is the government hoping to reassure people that autism isn’t a significant problem? That the rising number of children with autism isn’t something that anyone has to worry about? Are they trying to avoid a panic?”

Dr. Bob Sears

In a recent report about autism rates, there was no conspiracy, as Dr. Bob suggests. Unlike Dr. Bob and some others, the CDC was simply trying to not mislead people into thinking that the change from 2.24 to 2.76% meant something that it did not.

What to Know About The Bob Sears Snare

The Bob Sears Snare is a technique that anti-vaccine folks use to misrepresent science so that you actually think you are doing the right thing for your kids by skipping or delaying vaccines and leaving them unprotected.

More on Bob Sears

A Toddler Has Died After Being Vaccinated in Cuba

No one expects to hear stories of kids dying after being vaccinated. Fortunately, these types of tragedies are very, very rare.

Still, even one is too many when it might have been prevented. After all, that’s why we vaccinate our kids in the first place. To protect them from life-threatening vaccine preventable diseases.

A Toddler Has Died After Being Vaccinated in Cuba

The Ministry of Health in Cuba released a statement a few days after her death:

“Between October 7 and 8 of this year, three one-year-old children were diagnosed with an adverse event associated with vaccination with PRS, which protects against Mumps, Rubella and Measles, this is applied according to official scheme to children one and six years old.

All had been vaccinated on October 7 at the “Betancourt Neninger” Polyclinic in the municipality of Habana del Este, province of Havana, and immediately after symptoms appeared, they were admitted and received medical attention by professionals of high scientific level in the Pediatric Hospitals ” Borrás Marfán ”and Centro Habana.

Through the active research carried out on all children vaccinated in that Health Area, two more children were detected with symptoms, which motivated their admission.

Painfully on October 9 at night, the one-year-old girl Paloma Domínguez Caballero dies, admitted to the “Borrás Marfán” Hospital as a result of complications. The remaining four children remain admitted: one with intensive attention, which is stable and the others evolve favorably.

The system of active surveillance of the events associated with vaccination carried out in the country has not identified any other children with symptoms.

The PRS vaccine has been used for years in Cuba, imported from India, is endorsed by the World Health Organization and certified by the Center for State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices (CECMED).

A Commission of the Ministry of Public Health investigates the causes that caused this unfortunate event.”

Official Note from the Ministry of Public Health on adverse event associated with vaccination with PRS (computer translation)

So what happened?

Tragically, either because of errors or contamination, vaccines can rarely cause people to get sick, either if:

  • a reconstituted vaccine was used much after six hours – live vaccines can quickly become contaminated if they are kept and used for too long a time
  • vaccine diluents were mixed up – some vaccines need to be mixed before use and vaccination tragedies can occur when a dangerous medication is used instead of a vaccine’s standard diluent
  • vaccines were improperly handled – breaking the cold chain – or allowed to expire
  • a vaccine is given to someone with a true medical contraindication

In Samoa, the recent tragedy in which two toddlers died, we know that the vaccine diluent was mixed up with a powerful anesthetic.

It doesn’t sound like a diluent mixup happened in Cuba though.

“The mother told the news portal CiberCuba that the daughter’s arm began to swell the same day she was vaccinated. Then the vomits arrived. Less than 24 hours later I was already in intensive care, from where I did not come out alive again.”

Vacuna en mal estado suministrada en Cuba podría haber dejado 25 niños en estado de gravedad

With reports that the vaccines were possibly expired and the child getting sick later in the day, with swelling in her arm, it is more likely that there was some contamination, maybe in a vaccine vial itself.

A 10 dose vial of MMR from the Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd.
A 10 dose vial of MMR from the Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd.

Which vaccine?

The report says that it was the PRS vaccine – Parotiditis, Rubéola, and Sarampion – or MMR, which is usually available in 5 or 10 multi-dose vials when one dose vials aren’t available.

It was imported from India, which makes many of the vaccines that are used throughout the world, but any contamination likely would have occurred well after it was manufactured and shipped to Cuba.

In all of these cases, there is typically nothing inherently wrong with the vaccine itself.

“Cuba, a relatively poor and small country (population 11.2 million), has managed to bring about remarkable achievements in health in the past 30 years despite difficult fiscal restraints and limited resources.”

MacDonald et al on Infectious Disease Management: Lessons from Cuba

Interestingly, Cuba actually makes most of their other immunizations.

So why would they be using expired vaccines?

Was it a mistake?

Did someone use a leftover vial that had become contaminated with bacteria? Were the vaccines not refrigerated properly? Is it an isolated issue or part of a bigger breakdown in their healthcare system?

With four other sick kids, the use of a contaminated leftover vial that was part of an original 10 dose vial becomes one possible scenario.

We might get some answers if the vaccine vials had not been thrown away after they were used, and are still available for testing.

In Chapias, Mexico, after two infants died in 2015 after getting multiple vaccines, a vial was found to be contaminated with the Staphylococcus hominis bacteria.

A few years later, in 2017, 15 children died in South Sudan when unrefrigerated vaccine was mixed with a syringe that was reused over and over for four days and given to kids by untrained workers.

Again, these are very rare and isolated cases. Remember that billions of doses of vaccines are given each year without problems, saving millions of lives.

Hopefully we will soon learn what really happened to these children in Cuba, especially as that will hopefully help to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Most importantly, don’t let these very rare tragedies scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

“The Cuban government has confirmed that five children suffered severe reactions and one of them — a 1-year-old girl — died after receiving a vaccine. The serum came from the same company in India that produced vaccines linked to the deaths of three other children following inoculations administered in Cuba in 2002.”

Child dies in Cuba after receiving vaccine made in India. It’s not the first time

We should remember what happened following the tragedy in Samoa. All vaccinations were unnecessarily suspended in the country for a time and MMR vaccinations were suspended for nine months!

What came next?

A measles epidemic that has already seen the death of one toddler!

The death of the girl in Cuba is a terrible tragedy, but folks shouldn’t make it any worse. There is almost certainly nothing wrong with the vaccines from India or any other vaccines in Cuba or anywhere else.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks.

Hopefully we can continue to work to eliminate even the rare risk of these kinds of awful tragedies too.

And no, this is not the MMR vaccine that is used in the United States in case anyone is wondering.

More on Vaccination Tragedies

How Often Do Severe Events Occur After Vaccines?

Most of us understand that vaccine reactions are usually mild. While severe events can occur after vaccines, they are very rare.

“That measles infections can cause neurologic side effects on rare occasions is known, but the complication rate for vaccinations is low. After infectious measles encephalitis, risk of an autistic regression has occurred in 1/1000 to 1/10,000 cases. If the trend toward delaying vaccination continues because parents remain misinformed about the MMR, the number of children with neurologic complications of measles or rubella will increase. ”

Chez et al on Immunizations, Immunology, and Autism

Unfortunately, being worried about severe reactions sometimes scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

How Often Do Severe Events Occur After Vaccines?

Hopefully, realizing just how rare these severe reactions are will help more parents understand that all of the benefits of vaccines (very big) truly do outweigh the risks (very small).

How often do severe events occur after MMR vaccines?
How often do severe events occur after MMR vaccines?

So how often do these events occur?

Are there any statistics?

Using the MMR vaccine information statement as an example, we see that it lists the following severe events:

  • deafness – which is so rare to be associated with MMR that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine
  • long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness – which is so rare to be associated with MMR that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine
  • brain damage – which is so rare to be associated with MMR that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine
  • severe allergic reaction – which occurs in less than 1 out of a million doses
  • serious injury or death – which is so rare to be associated with MMR that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine

Wait.

Why can’t we tell if these problems are caused by the vaccine?

In some cases, the association is based on a few case reports.

“With respect to the recent claims of deaths caused by MMR vaccine, drawing broad cause and effect conclusions between vaccination and deaths based on spontaneous reports to VAERS, some of which might be anecdotal or second hand, is not a scientifically valid practice. In fact, a review of the VAERS data reveals that many of the death reports for MMR vaccine involved children with serious preexisting medical conditions or were likely unrelated to vaccination (e.g., accidents). These complete VAERS reports and any accompanying medical records, autopsy reports and death certificates have been reviewed in depth by FDA and CDC physicians and no concerning patterns have emerged that would suggest a causal relationship with the MMR vaccine and death.”

Miller et al on Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show?

Mostly though, these type of severe events just occur so rarely after getting vaccinated.

“As for vaccines causing death, again so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically.”

WHO on Six common misconceptions about immunization

At a rate of less than 1 in a million doses, it gets hard to know if something was really caused by the vaccine or if it was just a coincidence, as you don’t have a lot of cases to compare with each other.

Still, it should be reassuring that even if they were caused by the vaccine, these serious events are extremely rare.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks.

More on How Often Severe Events Occur After Vaccines