Tag: special situations

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

Understanding the Vaccine Injury Table

The Vaccine Injury Table was created by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.

“The Table makes it easier for some people to get compensation. The Table lists and explains injuries/conditions that are presumed to be caused by vaccines. It also lists time periods in which the first symptom of these injuries/conditions must occur after receiving the vaccine. If the first symptom of these injuries/conditions occurs within the listed time periods, it is presumed that the vaccine was the cause of the injury or condition unless another cause is found.”

What You Need to Know about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

A table injury is an illness, disability, injury or condition covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

“For example, if you received the tetanus vaccine and had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) within 4 hours after receiving the vaccine, then it is presumed that the tetanus vaccine caused the injury if no other cause is found.”

What You Need to Know about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

To quality as a table injury, the illness, disability, injury or condition has to occur within a specific “time period for first symptom or manifestation of onset or of significant aggravation after vaccine administration.”

Understanding the Vaccine Injury Table

So if there is a Vaccine Injury Table, then that proves that vaccine injuries are real, right?

The Vaccine Injury Table is easier to understand if you actually look at the table.
The Vaccine Injury Table is easier to understand if you actually look at the table.

Wait, does anyone dispute that vaccine injuries are real?

No one says that vaccines are 100% safe, so yes, of course, it is known that they have risks and cause adverse effects. While most of these adverse effects are usually mild, they can rarely be severe or even life threatening.

The idea the vaccine injuries are common is what is misunderstood and misrepresented by anti-vaccine folks.

It's no joke, studies have shown fewer side effects after the second dose of MMR!
It’s no joke, studies have shown fewer side effects after the second dose of MMR!

Consider the above post by Bob Sears

Yes chronic arthritis after a rubella containing vaccine is a table injury, but it is very rare. Arthritis after the rubella vaccine is typically mild and temporary, lasting just a few days.

While rubella containing vaccines can cause arthritis, they do not cause lifelong rheumatoid arthritis. So even if you were to be one of the very rare people who developed chronic arthritis after a rubella containing vaccine, a table injury, it would still not be the same thing as rheumatoid arthritis.

“The association between rubella vaccination and chronic arthritis is less clear. Most recently published research, has shown no increased risk of chronic arthropathies among women receiving RA27/3 rubella vaccine and do not support the conclusion of the IOM (Slater et al., 1995; Frenkel et al., 1996; Ray et al., 1997). These studies have included a large retrospective cohort analysis which showed no evidence of any increased risk of new onset chronic arthropathies and a double-blind historical cohort study. One randomised placebo-controlled, double-blind study of rubella vaccination in sero-negative women demonstrated that the frequency of chronic (recurrent) arthralgia or arthritis was marginally increased (1.58 [1.01-2.45], p = 0.042) (Tingle et al., 1997). In 2011, the United States Institute of Medicine (IOM) reviewed available research and concluded that the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship between MMR vaccine and chronic arthralgia in women.”

Information Sheet Observed Rate of Vaccine Reactions Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccines

And it wouldn’t even be clear if your chronic arthritis was caused by the vaccine!

“The Table lists and explains injuries and/or conditions that are presumed to be caused by vaccines unless another cause is proven.”

What You Need to Know about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

To be added to the Vaccine Injury Table, there only has to be scientific evidence that a condition could be caused by a vaccine.

“Where there is credible scientific and medical evidence both to support and to reject a proposed change (addition or deletion) to the Table, the change should, whenever possible, be made to the benefit of petitioners.”

Guiding Principles for Recommending Changes to the Vaccine Injury Table

That makes sense, as the NVICP is a “is a no-fault alternative to the traditional legal system for resolving vaccine injury petitions” for VICP-covered vaccines.

Vaccines Covered by the Vaccine Injury Table

Most routinely used vaccines are covered by the Vaccine Injury Table, including vaccines that protect against:

  • diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis – DTaP, Tdap, Td
  • measles, mumps, and rubella – MMR, ProQuad
  • chickenpox – Varivax, ProQuad
  • polio – IPV, OPV
  • hepatitis B
  • hepatitis A
  • Hib
  • rotavirus
  • pneumococcal disease – Prevnar
  • influenza – seasonal flu vaccines
  • meningococcal disease – MCV4, MenB
  • human papillomavirus – HPV4, HPV9

In fact, “any new vaccine recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for routine administration to children, after publication by the Secretary of a notice of coverage” is automatically included, at least for Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration and vasovagal syncope.

New vaccines are also covered if they are already “under a category of vaccines covered by the VICP.”

Immunizations given to pregnant women are also covered.

A few others, including vaccines that protect against pandemic flu, smallpox, and anthrax are covered by the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP).

Vaccines Not Covered by the Vaccine Injury Table

What about vaccines that aren’t routine?

Other vaccines that are used in special situations, including vaccines that protect against rabies, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, cholera, and typhoid aren’t listed in the Vaccine Injury Table and aren’t covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Have you seen any TV ads for lawsuits against the shingles vaccine, which isn't in the vaccine injury table.
Have you seen any TV ads for lawsuits against the first shingles vaccine?

Shingles vaccines and the older pneumococcal vaccine, Pneumovax, aren’t covered either.

And since they are not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, there are no restrictions on lawsuits against the manufacturers of these vaccines or the health providers who administer them.

So much for the idea that you can’t sue a vaccine manufacturer or that vaccine manufacturers have no liability for vaccines…

Why weren’t these vaccines covered?

Remember, the NVICP and Vaccine Injury Table were created by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. The vaccines that aren’t covered are not on the routine childhood immunization schedule.

“There are no age restrictions on who may receive compensation in the VICP. Petitions may be filed on behalf of infants, children and adolescents, or by adults receiving VICP-covered vaccines.”

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Frequently Asked Questions

Still, since many of the covered vaccines can be given to adults, they are included, even if some of the vaccines adults routinely get aren’t covered.

Will they ever be covered?

“They found a low liability burden for these vaccines, that serious adverse events were rare, and that no consensus existed among stakeholders. After considering the staff report, NVAC chose, in 1996, not to advise the Department of Health and Human Services to include adult vaccines in VICP.”

Loyd-Puryear et al on Should the vaccine injury compensation program be expanded to cover adults?

Adding more adult vaccines to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is something that has been looked at in the past, but it wasn’t thought to be necessary.

What to Know About the Vaccine Injury Table

The Vaccine Injury Table is a list of conditions set up to make it easier for people to get compensated from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

More on Understanding the Vaccine Injury Table

How Do You Get Caught up If You Have Never Been Vaccinated?

Why would someone have never gotten any vaccines and need to catch up?

Getting caught up on your vaccines is easy.
Getting caught up on your vaccines is easy.

The usual story is that a child’s vaccines were delayed or skipped for some reason, typically over fears of anti-vaccine propaganda.

You can always get caught up though, right?

Well, not always…

Tragically, kids can get sick and catch these vaccine-preventable diseases before they have time to get vaccinated and protected. You can wait too long to get vaccinated!

How Do You Get Caught up If You Have Never Been Vaccinated?

That’s why it is important to get caught up as soon as possible.

How does that work?

The first step is figuring out which vaccines you need, considering that:

  • rotavirus vaccines are only given up to age 9-months
  • Hib and Prevnar are typically only given up to age 5-years, unless someone has specific conditions that put them at high risk for disease, although Prevnar becomes routine again at age 65-years
  • the polio vaccine is typically only given up to age 18-years
  • the meningococcal vaccines (MenACWY and MenB) are routinely given to teens and young adults through age 16 to 23-years, but older high-risk adults can also be vaccinated if necessary
  • the HPV vaccines are routinely given up to age 26-years, although they are FDA approved to be given through age 45 years
  • hepatitis A vaccines are routinely given to children and teens, but are recommended for high-risk adults, including those who travel out of the country or just want to be protected
  • hepatitis B vaccines are routinely given to children and teens, but are recommended for high-risk adults, including those who travel out of the country or just want to be protected
  • the Pneumovax (PPSV23) and shingles vaccines are given to seniors
  • if you already had a natural case of chicken pox, while you won’t need to be vaccinated, some folks might need a varicella titer to confirm that they are immune

So, depending on your age when you are starting your catch-up, there may be some vaccines that you don’t need anymore.

Still, unless you have a contraindication, you will likely at least need:

  • a yearly flu vaccine
  • 1 to 2 doses (high risk groups) of MMR
  • 2 doses of the chicken pox vaccine (Varivax)
  • 1 dose of Tdap, followed by 2 doses of Td

What’s next?

Once you have an idea of which vaccines you need, you should schedule an appointment with your health care provider and get vaccinated and protected.

A local pharmacy or health department are other places that might offer vaccines to older teens and adults.

More on Getting Caught up on Vaccines

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, although a dose of IPV after age 18 is required) 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