Tag: Tetyana Obukhanych

Which Vaccines Don’t Prevent the Spread of a Disease?

As most folks know, Dr. Bob Sears has been put on probation by the California Medical Board.

Most vaccines don't prevent the spread of diseases?
Most vaccines don’t prevent the spread of disease???

Surprisingly, that hasn’t kept him from posting dangerous misinformation about vaccines, including his latest idea that “most vaccines don’t prevent the spread of a disease.”

Which Vaccines Don’t Prevent the Spread of a Disease?

If vaccines don’t prevent the spread of disease, then how did we eradicate, eliminate, and control so many diseases?

Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn't deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe - another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.
At least seven people have died in Italy with measles over the last few years. That’s not so good for Italy.

When was the last time you saw someone with small pox, rubella, diphtheria, or polio, for example?

It is true that vaccines don’t prevent the spread of some infections though.

There is tetanus, for example, but guess what?

Tetanus isn’t contagious.

Any others?

Well, unlike most other vaccines, the meningococcal B vaccines are not thought to decrease nasal carriage of the meningococcal B bacteria. So if you are vaccinated and an asymptomatic carrier of the bacteria, you could theoretically spread it to someone else, as could someone who is unvaccinated.

Still, the MenB vaccines can protect you from getting actual meningococcal B disease, and if you don’t have meningococcemia or meningococcal meningitis, you won’t expose and spread it to someone else. That’s why the MenB vaccines are especially useful in outbreak situations.

Any others? After all, Dr. Bob did say that “most vaccines don’t prevent the spread of a disease.”

Vaccines That Don’t Prevent the Spread of a Disease

There are a few other examples of vaccines that don’t prevent the spread of a disease.

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

Of course, any vaccine that is delayed or skipped won’t work to prevent the spread of a disease.

Just like they are seeing measles outbreaks and deaths now, because of low vaccination rates, in Ukraine there were 17,387 cases of diphtheria and 646 deaths from 1992 to 1997. Also high, were cases of measles (over 23,000 cases in 1993) and pertussis (almost 7,000 cases in 1993).

And because of waning immunity, vaccines don’t do as good a job of preventing the spread of pertussis and mumps as we would like. Still, that’s only when the vaccines don’t work, and even then, as Dr. Bob says, they do work to reduce the severity of symptoms.  During recent mumps outbreaks, the rates of complications are far below historical levels. The same is true for pertussis.

Have you ever seen or heard an unvaccinated child with pertussis? It is truly heartbreaking, especially when you realize how easily it could be prevented.

We typically see the same thing with flu. Even when the flu vaccine isn’t a good match or isn’t as effective as we would like, it still has a lot of benefits, including reducing your risk of dying.

“IPV induces very low levels of immunity in the intestine. As a result, when a person immunized with IPV is infected with wild poliovirus, the virus can still multiply inside the intestines and be shed in the faeces, risking continued circulation.”

Inactivated poliovirus vaccine

Does the fact that IPV, the inactivated polio vaccine, can sometimes lead to infections and shedding mean that it doesn’t prevent infections?

Of course not!

“IPV triggers an excellent protective immune response in most people.”

Inactivated poliovirus vaccine

Most people vaccinated with IPV will be immune, won’t get wild polio, and so won’t be able to get anyone else sick.

Vaccines reduce disease by direct protection of vaccinees and by indirect protection of nonimmune persons. Indirect protection depends on a reduction in infection transmission, and hence on protection (immunity) against infection, not just against disease. If a vaccine were to protect only against disease, and not at all against infection, then it would have no influence on infection transmission in the community and there would be no indirect protection (vaccination of one person would have no influence on any others in the community). It would be possible to reduce disease with such a vaccine but not to eradicate the infection.

Plotkin’s Vaccines

But because IPV doesn’t provide indirect protection, we still use OPV in parts of the world where polio is more of a problem.

Vaccines work. Even the few that don’t prevent the spread of infections, still help to reduce disease.

What’s the Difference Between Infections and Disease?

Wait, is there a difference between infection and disease?

Yes there is, something that Dr. Bob, who actually wrote a book about vaccines, seems to have overlooked.

An infection is simply the presence of a virus, bacteria, or other organism in your body.

A disease, on the other hand, is a virus or bacteria in your body causing signs and symptoms.

All vaccines work to prevent disease, or at least they do when you actually get vaccinated.

A very few don’t prevent infections and the spread of infections, but that is not a good reason to skip or delay your child’s vaccines. In fact, it is one of the reasons why it is important to have high vaccination rates! Even natural infections don’t always keep you from becoming asymptomatic carriers that can infected others. Many people who have natural typhoid (remember Typhoid Mary?) and hepatitis B infections go on to become chronic carriers without any symptoms, but still able to infect others.

If you understand that a few vaccines don’t prevent the spread of infections, then you should understand that you can’t hide in the herd and expect to be protected, even though most folks around you are vaccinated.

What to Know About Vaccines and the Spread of Disease

Despite what Dr. Bob says, almost all vaccines work to prevent the spread of disease and infections, at least they do when you get your kids vaccinated.

More on Vaccines and the Spread of Disease

Measles Propaganda from The Physicians for Informed Consent

Most people understand that measles can be deadly.

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

WHO Measles Fact Sheet

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

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

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

Just How Deadly Is Measles?

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

Not everyone though.

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

Why?

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

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

There are a lot of problems with that reasoning though…

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

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

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

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

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

CDC Pink Book

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

What Is the Measles Fatality Rate?

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

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

Alexander D Langmuir, MD on the Medical Importance of Measles

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

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

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

Orenstein et al on Measles Elimination in the United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Myths About Measles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Measles Propaganda from The Physicians for Informed Consent

Who Is Tetyana Obukhanych?

It isn’t very hard to figure out who Tetyana Obukhanych really is.

Who Is Tetyana Obukhanych?

Every anti-vaccine article you read that is either about her, or by her, goes out of their way to make sure that you know that she:

  • has a Ph.D. in Immunology: working in the lab of Dr. Michel Nussenzweig, she presented her thesis on Immunologic Memory to Polysaccharide Antigens to the faculty of The Rockefeller University in 2006, in which she proved that vaccines work
  • trained at Harvard: started her postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School, which can lead to a tenure-track faculty position (it didn’t)
  • trained at Stanford: did some of her postdoctoral training in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science at the Stanford University School of Medicine, which again, can lead to a tenure-track faculty position (it didn’t)
  • has 8 published peer-reviewed research articles: that she co-authored with many others and only one has her as the primary author, in which she concluded that “As the generation and regulation of immunologic memory is central to vaccination, our findings help explain the mode of action of the few existing polysaccharide vaccines and provide a rationale for a wider application of polysaccharide-based strategies in vaccination.”
  • wrote a book about vaccines: that she self-published for the Kindle
  • frequently lectures about vaccines: which are basically interviews and talks that push classic anti-vaccine misinformation, despite her having “studied immunology in some of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions”

Not surprisingly, the modern anti-vaccine movement loves her.

“All throughout my PhD training I was a faithful believer in vaccination. I believed for almost two decades that the reason I had contracted measles and whooping cough during my teenage years was because I wasn’t vaccinated against these diseases. Then, when I had to check my childhood vaccination records, I discovered that I was in fact fully vaccinated for both measles and whooping cough, and the resulting contradiction necessitated me to reexamine all my previous beliefs about the immunologic theory behind vaccination.”

Tetyana Obukhanych, Ph.D.

While getting a vaccine-preventable disease after being vaccinated might make some folks question the whole “immunologic theory behind vaccination,” for most others, they would simply question other factors that might have led to this possible vaccine failure.

Was she fully vaccinated according to the US immunization schedule (two doses of a measles containing vaccine and four doses of a pertussis containing vaccine, with a booster as a teenager)? Were the vaccines equivalent? Were there outbreaks going on?

Outbreaks?

Although it is not clear when she came to the United States to pursue her education, Tetyana Obukhanych was born in Ukraine and likely lived through the “massive epidemic” of diphtheria and other vaccine-preventable diseases in the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

“This epidemic, primarily affecting adults in most Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union, demonstrates that in a modern society diphtheria can still spread explosively and cause extensive illness and death.”

Diphtheria in the Former Soviet Union: Reemergence of a Pandemic Disease

In Ukraine alone, there were 17,387 cases of diphtheria and 646 deaths from 1992 to 1997. Also high, were cases of measles (over 23,000 cases in 1993) and pertussis (almost 7,000 cases in 1993).

Even if she had already left Ukraine, those outbreaks are great evidence that vaccines work and that vaccines are necessary.

Tetyana Obukhanych on Vaccines

Instead of discussing them, Tetyana Obukhanych operates using an appeal to authority to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

As an immunologist, isn’t she really an authority though?

Consider that even though she might be a Harvard trained immunologist with a PhD, there are:

  • over 7,600 members of the American Association of Immunologists
  • just over 8,000 residents and postdoctoral fellows at Harvard
  • 1,279 postdocs at Standford School of Medicine

and few, if any, agree with anything she says about vaccines.

“Research has repeatedly confirmed that vaccinations are safe and highly effective for all healthy children and adults, and any suggestions to the contrary have been discredited. Ongoing vaccine research continually reaffirms its safety and efficacy, including the number of vaccines administered at any one time and the recommended vaccination schedule.”

The American Association of Immunologists Statement on Vaccines

Now if “more than 7,600 basic and clinical immunologists, strongly support the use of vaccines to prevent disease,” then why would you even think about listening to just one who doesn’t?

We actually know why.

It’s called confirmation bias.

“Many questions in science and medicine are confusing and frustrating, but fortunately, the question of vaccination need not be one of them. Because for vaccines, the verdict is already in: guilty of being safe, effective, powerful, and highly recommended.”

Vivian Chou is a Ph.D. student in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program at Harvard Medical School.

So what does Tetyana Obukhanych think about vaccines?

  • A pic of a cherry on the cover would have been more appropriate, as a lot of cherry picking of studies and references goes on in the book.
    A pic of a cherry on the cover would have been more appropriate, as a lot of cherry picking of studies and references goes on in her e-book.

    that experts overlooked that the smallpox vaccine didn’t provide life-long immunity, even though it was known by the end of the 19th century that boosters could be needed and that was well before any other vaccine was developed

  • that Immunology has no theoretical or evidence-based explanation for immunity – she should read the book Immunity by William E. Paul, MD – an internationally renowned immunologist
  • that instead of simply helping vaccines work better, adjuvants are necessary to help vaccines work at all, because “purified protein antigens do not have an ability to induce antibody production in humans or animals (the recipients) on their own.”
  • that adjuvants are necessary to develop allergies, including food allergies – because “without an adjuvant, there will be no immune response to a food protein or peptide, and it will not become an allergen.”
  • that vaccines are only monitored for two or three weeks to make sure they are safe
  • that titer tests or “a positive serological test is a proof of immunity only in the absence of vaccination. In vaccinated individuals, a serological test of immunity is biologically meaningless.”
  • that we have created a so-called vaccine paradox, in which “vaccines reduce the overall incidence of childhood diseases, yet make them infinitely more dangerous for the next generation of babies.”
  • that homeopathy works
  • that “for most communicable viral diseases there is no herd immunity in the post – elimination era.”

Being Harvard trained can certainly be a big deal. After all, John Enders, “The Father of Modern Vaccines,” who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the cultivation of the poliomyelitis viruses and who developed the first live measles vaccine, trained at Harvard.

“The apparent absence of major viral epidemics in the U.S. is now due to the absence of endemic viral exposure, not herd immunity.”

Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD on Vaccine Illusion

Some would wonder if Tetyana Obukhanych even knows who John Enders was…

Tragically, as Dr. Tetyana Obukhanych, the Harvard trained immunologist from Ukraine goes on and on about how vaccines don’t work, Ukraine is facing outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases due to parents not vaccinating their kids and limited supplies of vaccines.

Unfortunately, they aren’t lucky enough to have an “absence of endemic viral exposure,” or in other words, herd immunity.

What To Know About Tetyana Obukhanych

While she is a Harvard trained immunologist with a PhD, Tetyana Obukhanych pushes classic misinformation about vaccines that you would be hard pressed to get any other immunologist or Harvard grad to agree.

More on Tetyana Obukhanych