Tag: thimerosal

Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Need some advice about preparing for a public debate about vaccines?

That’s easy.

“If you are invited for a public discussion you must first decide whether or not to accept the invitation.”

How to respond to vocal vaccine deniers in public

Don’t do it.

Preparing for a Public Debate About Vaccines

Wait, why wouldn’t you want to have a debate about vaccines?

Remember, a good debate implies that there are two valid sides to the issue. Or at least that one side has some arguments that aren’t based on myths and misinformation.

What are you debating?

That vaccines are safe, with few risks, and that they are necessary.

What’s there to debate?

Don’t allow false balance to create a fake debate.

Think about it.

Should Robert F. Kennedy, Jr be given an opportunity to tell folks his opinions about the “perceived dangers” of vaccines, when those perceived dangers include that vaccines are associated with autism, have been untested on pregnant women, are sold by the CDC, and a lot of other conspiracy type stuff?

“They get the shot. That night they have a fever of 103. They go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr

Remember, Kennedy is the guy who published the retracted Deadly Immunity article. And he continues to focus on the dangers of mercury in vaccines, even though only a very small minority of flu shots still contain thimerosal and studies have shown that the thimerosal that kids have been exposed to in vaccines is not a danger.

He’s an environmental lawyer who continues to focus on vaccines in the age of climate change and as EPA regulations are being rolled back.

Neither Kennedy nor anyone else in the anti-vaccine movement should be given a stage to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

The debate was canceled because of negative attention.

Update – Fortunately, they weren’t. The “debate” was canceled.

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If It’s Vaccines, Then Why Are There Autistic Kids Who Are Unvaccinated?

Although we know that vaccines aren’t associated with autism, anti-vaccine folks can’t let go of the idea.

Paul Thomas misses the one thing his data is telling him...
Paul Thomas misses the one thing his data is telling him…

So how do they explain all of the autistic kids who are unvaccinated?

If It’s Vaccines, Then Why Are There Autistic Kids Who Are Unvaccinated?

Of course, anti-vaccine folks have a ready answer – it’s vaccines, but it’s not just vaccines.

I guess that’s how they explain the fact that there are so many autistic adults too! Well, actually no. Most anti-vaccine folks are surprised when you point out that there are so many autistic adults, as it doesn’t fit in with their idea that autism is new and caused by kids getting more vaccines than they used to.

Well, I guess mostly caused by giving so many more vaccines than we used to – there are also the autistic kids who were never vaccinated.

How do they explain those kids having autism?

Like their competing theories about how vaccines are associated with autism (it’s the MMR vaccine, no it’s thimerosal, no it’s glyphosate contaminating vaccines, etc.), they have a lot of ideas about how everything else causes autism. From fluoride and chlorine to acetaminophen and aluminum-lined containers, plus mercury, arsenic, aspartame, MSG, and the vaccines your child’s great-grandmother received – they think that just about anything and everything can cause autism. Or at least anything that they think they can sell you a treatment for, such as their supplements, special diet plans, or other “cures.”

Makes you wonder why they still focus on vaccines…

But they do, even as more studies have shown that vaccines are not associated with autism. And since vaccines don’t cause autism, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are unvaccinated children with autism. The only reason there aren’t more is that most parents vaccinate their children, so, of course, most autistic children are going to be vaccinated.

Another reason is that some parents stop vaccinating their kids once they have an autistic child. But since vaccines aren’t associated with autism, which is highly genetic and inheritable, younger unvaccinated siblings born after older siblings were diagnosed often still develop autism.

Now if vaccines didn’t cause autism in these unvaccinated kids, why would anyone still think that they caused autism in their older siblings?

“I must admit that it was through conversations with a coworker that I began to suspect something might be wrong with my youngest son. It concerned me so much that I started looking for information online. I read some of the stories and they sounded similar to what I was experiencing with my son – with the symptoms, the regression and the age at which it all started to become apparent.”

Lara’s Story: Growing Up Anti-Vaccine

Unlike some other stories you might read online, Lara’s story is about her unvaccinated autistic child.

She isn’t alone. You only have to look at personal stories and posts in parenting forums to see that there are many cases of autism among unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children:

  • “It is highly likely my 4-year-old son is autistic. And he is completely 100 percent vaccine-free. And I am just at a total loss.”
  • “I have unvaxxed kids on the spectrum, and my friend does as well.”
  • “A good friend’s son is autistic. He is totally non-vaxxed.”
  • “I seriously delayed vaccinating my son, so had very few vaxxes at the time he was diagnosed”
  • “We have autism in our unvaxxed children”
  • “I know two little boys who are both autistic, completely non-vaxxed”
  • “I have two unvaccinated children who are on the autism spectrum and have never vaccinated any of my children.”
  • “I am not sure what caused my son’s autism, but autistic he is. He is completely unvaxxed as we stopped vaxxing 10 years ago.”
  • “I have a 10 year old daughter with autism spectrum disorder… My daughter has never had a vaccine, a decision I made shortly after she was born, after much research.”

Unfortunately, while realizing that unvaccinated children can develop autism does help some parents move away from anti-vaccine myths and conspiracy theories, others get pushed deeper into the idea that it is just about toxins. It is not uncommon for some of these parents to blame vaccines they got while pregnant or even before they became pregnant, Rhogam shots, or mercury fillings in their teeth, etc.

Fortunately, most don’t though.

Take Juniper Russo, for example.

She “was afraid of autism, of chemicals, of pharmaceutical companies, of pills, of needles” when she had her baby. She just knew that vaccines caused autism when she first visited her pediatrician after her baby was born and knew all of the anti-vaccine talking points. She also later began to realize that her completely unvaccinated daughter had significant developmental delays. Instead of continuing to believe that vaccines cause autism, Ms. Russo understood that she “could no longer deny three things: she was developmentally different, she needed to be vaccinated, and vaccines had nothing to do with her differences.”

And she understands that her autistic child isn’t damaged, as hard as folks in the anti-vaccine movement still try to push the idea that she is.

More on Autistic Kids Who Are Unvaccinated

What Level of Mercury Is Considered Toxic?

Why would an Arizona State Representative be posting about mercury and flu shots?

It’s easy to figure out once you look at the rest of her posts…

What Level of Mercury Is Considered Toxic?

We should start off by correcting a few things in Representative Kelly Townsend’s post.

The mercury in a thimerosal containing flu vaccine is ethylmercury, not methylmercury, the type that we might be exposed to in a can of tuna.

And mercury is only considered to be toxic if you are exposed in specific ways, at specific levels, and depending on the length of exposure.

“In case reports of accidental high-dose exposures in humans to thimerosal or ethylmercury toxicity was demonstrated only at exposures that were 100 or 1000 times that found in vaccines.”

FDA on Thimerosal in Vaccines Questions and Answers

Not only is the ethylmercury in vaccines not toxic, since only a small percentage of flu vaccines now contain thimerosal and you almost have to go out of your way to get a vaccine with thimerosal, you have to wonder why Representative Kelly Townsend is posting about it?!?

If she is really concerned about mercury toxicity, she should be sure that the EPA is truly doing everything they can to reduce mercury pollution and our exposure to mercury. She shouldn’t be scaring folks away from vacinating and protecting their kids.

Still, I guess it is much better than some of her other recent anti-vaccine posts, like the one that is said to have compared mandatory vaccinations to forced number tattoos

More on Toxic Levels of Mercury

Ask 8 Questions Before You Skip a Vaccine

As anti-vaccine folks get more attention because of the rise in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease, in addition to more folks getting vaccinated, we are seeing some of the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement get more vocal.

Are measles outbreaks a sign that the anti-vaccine movement is “winning?”

Meetings, dinners, rallies…

They are doing everything they can to get their misinformation and propaganda out so that you don’t vaccinate and protect your kids.

Ask 8 Questions Before You Skip a Vaccine

If you see any of these folks, ask them a few questions…

  1. If Andrew Wakefield was right, and the MMR vaccine is associated with autism, then why are you worried about thimerosal? The MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal…
  2. If Robert F. Kennedy, Jr is right, and it is all about thimerosal, then why are you worried about the MMR vaccine? The MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal…
  3. If you are worried about thimerosal and aluminum, then why are you worried about the MMR vaccine? Not only has it never contained thimerosal, as a live vaccine, but it has also never contained aluminum.
  4. If vaccines are associated with autism, then why don’t the counties with the highest immunization rates have the highest rates of autism?
  5. If better hygiene and sanitation got rid of vaccine-preventable diseases, then why didn’t it do it for all diseases at the same time? And why hasn’t it gotten rid of RSV, Ebola, Zika, HIV, Norovirus, and all of the diseases that we don’t have vaccines for?
  6. If measles is so mild, then during the measles epidemics from 1989 to 1991 in the United States, why were 11,000 people hospitalized and why did 123 people die?
  7. If you are concerned about vaccines that have a distant association with abortion, then why don’t you vaccinate your kids with all of the vaccines that don’t use WI-38 and MRC-5 cells lines?
  8. If your arguments are so solid, then why do you need to keep moving the goalposts (it’s autoimmune diseases they are worried about now, not autism) and why are they so easy to refute (vaccines aren’t associated with autoimmune diseases either)?

The answers will be predictable.

They will revolve around three basic core beliefs of the anti-vaccine movement.

  • The belief that vaccines are toxic, full of poison, and always cause damage and injuries.
  • The belief that vaccine-preventable diseases are mild and you are better off getting natural immunity.
  • The belief that vaccines don’t even work.

Is that what you believe?

Will you let those kinds of beliefs scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids?

Are you going to put our kids at risk because you believe those things?

Are you really making an informed choice to skip or delay a vaccine when all of the scary things that people are telling you about vaccines aren’t even true?

More on Questions to Ask Before You Skip a Vaccine


Did the FDA Admit That the Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines for Pregnant Women?

Have you heard?

There is a new bombshell from anti-vaccine folks!

It turns out, they say, that the FDA has admitted that the government is recommending untested, unlicensed vaccines for pregnant women.

Is that true?

Did the FDA Admit That the Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines for Pregnant Women?

Of course not!

Their evidence?

A response to a Freedom of Information Act request for vaccines that don’t exist. That’s right, neither Tdap nor flu vaccines are currently FDA approved for use by pregnant women.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Tdap and flu vaccines aren’t recommended for use by pregnant women.

Wait, why the difference?

Why are pregnant women being given a vaccine that isn’t formally FDA approved for their use?

Well, vaccine manufacturers have to seek FDA approval for their products. The FDA doesn’t just up and approve new products or give them new indications. And none have ever sought approval in pregnancy.

But that doesn’t keep health experts from making off-label recommendations, such as getting a flu vaccine when you are pregnant.

“In prelicensure evaluations, the safety of administering a booster dose of Tdap to pregnant women was not studied. Because information on use of Tdap in pregnant women was lacking, both manufacturers of Tdap established pregnancy registries to collect information and pregnancy outcomes from pregnant women vaccinated with Tdap. Data on the safety of administering Tdap to pregnant women are now available.”

Updated Recommendations for Use of Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine (Tdap) in Pregnant Women and Persons Who Have or Anticipate Having Close Contact with an Infant Aged <12 Months — Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011

As important as FDA approval is a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). In fact, even after a vaccine gets approved by the FDA, it still has to get a recommendation from the ACIP before it gets on the immunization schedule and is used routinely!

“Flu shots have been given to millions of pregnant women over many years with a good safety record. There is a large body of scientific studies that supports the safety of flu vaccine in pregnant women and their babies.”

Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnancy

Getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy is a recommendation that has been evolving since 1983. It was known to be safe then, and we are even more confident that it is safe now.

A Tdap shot has been recommended since 2011, although it was first suggested in 2008 that pregnancy was not a contraindication for receiving Tdap.

How do we know these vaccines are safe during pregnancy?

The Vaccine Safety Datalink has published more than 14 studies “related to pregnancy and vaccination during pregnancy” and has used “data to study the health of children born to women who were vaccinated during pregnancy.”

Despite what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr and his ironically named Children’s Health Defense organization might think, Tdap and flu shots in pregnancy have been well studied and have been found to be safe.

Ignoring all of the above studies, Kennedy highlights a few that he thinks found problems with flu shots in pregnancy, including one that showed “a suggestion of increased ASD risk among children whose mothers received an influenza vaccination in their first trimester,” a suggestion that was not statistically significant and which was not found in the other trimesters. And another that found an increased risk of spontaneous abortion in women who had also received a flu shot in the previous season, a safety signal that has never been seen before and which continues to be investigated.

Not surprisingly, his latest bombshell is landing with as big of a thud as his HHS lawsuit, as have most of his statements these days…

“CHD’s Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. notes that most flu shots given to pregnant women still contain a mercury-based preservative thimerosal.”

FDA Admits That Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines for Pregnant Women

Has Kennedy missed the fact that 80% of flu vaccines are now thimerosal free? It makes you wonder how he defines the word “most?”

“Thimerosal is acknowledged by Proposition 65 in California as a reproductive toxicant and exposure during pregnancy can cause learning and behavioral problems. Tdap contains aluminum, which FDA regulates as a toxin in parenteral nutrition but not in vaccines.”

FDA Admits That Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines for Pregnant Women

And what is he concerned about in thimerosal-free flu shots which also don’t contain aluminum? Are those okay in his book?

Mostly, after several flu seasons in which so many people have died, you have to wonder what his goal is here. Does Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. expect folks to skip getting a flu shot when they are pregnant and instead risk getting the flu? Should they skip their Tdap shot and risk their baby dying of whooping cough?

Or should they just stop listening to this type of anti-vaccine propaganda?

More on Did The FDA Admit That The Government Is Recommending Untested, Unlicensed Vaccines For Pregnant Women?

The Fatal Flaw in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

There are a ton of flaws in the “logic” of the anti-vaccine movement.

Just consider how many theories they have for why vaccines are associated with autism…

  1. It’s the MMR vaccine – the Andrew Wakefield theory
  2. It’s thimerosal – but MMR never contained thimerosal…
  3. It’s glyphosate – the Stephanie Seneff theory
  4. It’s the vaccines you get while you are pregnant
  5. It’s the vaccines you get as an infant – but you don’t get MMR until you are 12 months old
  6. It’s the vaccines you get as a toddler – but what about the kids who get diagnosed as infants?
  7. It’s just something about vaccines – but what about the autistic kids who are unvaccinated and whose parents weren’t recently vaccinated?

It’s fairly easy to see that these folks just want to blame vaccines

The Fatal Flaw in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

That’s not necessarily the fatal flaw in the anti-vaccine movement though.

Is it that all of their ideas and theories are so easy to refute?

There are hundreds of these types of arguments that anti-vaccine folks use to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Of course, none are true.

That it only takes a few minutes of research to prove that they aren’t true isn’t the fatal flaw in the anti-vaccine movement though.

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks.
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

The fatal flaw is that when enough folks listen to them and immunization rates drop, we get outbreaks.

“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

Ironically, Dr. Bob obviously knew this would happen, warning folks not to tell anyone – in his book that likely increased fears about vaccines!

Although Wakefield and others were factors, remember that Dr. Bob‘s book about vaccines was published in 2007…

And what happens once we start to see a lot more outbreaks?

In addition to a lot of unvaccinated kids getting sick, folks line up to get their kids vaccinated and protected.

Even Dr. Jay is advocating for older (I’m going to assume he means 6 months) unvaccinated children to get an MMR to help stop the outbreaks.

This is a cycle that experts have talked about for some time.

It’s the reason that the anti-vaccine movement, which has been around for hundreds of years, can never really win. They will never take us back to the pre-vaccine era.

Yes, a woman died when she got caught up in a 2015 measles outbreak in Washington.
Yes, a woman died when she got caught up in a 2015 measles outbreak in Washington.

Anytime their ideas take hold a little too much, nature fights back. Diseases, especially measles which is extremely contagious, come back. And we have to work to control the outbreaks.

But that more kids eventually get vaccinated in outbreaks isn’t the only fatal flaw in the anti-vaccine movement.

Tragically, the other fatal flaw in the anti-vaccine movement is that since these are life-threatening diseases, people end up dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. And the risk of that happening goes way up during a large outbreak.

Vaccines aren’t perfect, but they are safe, with few risks. They are also very necessary.

It shouldn’t take an outbreak to convince you to vaccinate your kids.

More on The Fatal Flaw in the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Everything You Need to Know About the Measles Vaccine

The measles vaccine is one of the most effective vaccines we have.

It is also one of the safest, having very few serious side effects.

Everything You Need to Know About the Measles Vaccine

So why are some parents still afraid to allow their kids to get vaccinated and protected, putting them at risk to get measles, a life-threatening disease?

“Existing evidence on the safety and effectiveness of MMR vaccine supports current policies of mass immunisation aimed at global measles eradication and in order to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with mumps and rubella.”

Cochrane Systematic Review on Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children

Let’s see if you still are after we get all of your questions about the measles vaccine answered…

Schools in California were closed for at least two weeks in 1917 because of measles epidemics.
Schools in California were closed for at least two weeks in 1917 because of measles epidemics.
  1. How long has the measles vaccine been around? The very first measles vaccine was licensed by John Enders in 1963. An improved measles vaccine was developed by Maurice Hilleman and licensed in 1968, and that is the measles vaccine that we still use today, at least in the United States. It was combined into the MMR vaccine in 1971.
  2. How effective is the measles vaccine? A single dose of the measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing a measles infection. Two doses (the second dose was added to the routine immunization schedule in 1994) are up to 97% effective. That’s why almost all of the people who get measles in an outbreak are unvaccinated.
  3. How long does immunity from the measles vaccine last? Immunity from the measles vaccine is thought to be life-long. It is important to understand that the second dose isn’t a booster dose, but is instead for those few folks who don’t respond to the first dose.
  4. Who should get the measles vaccine? Everyone without a true medical contraindication should get the measles vaccine (MMR), with the first dose at 12-15 months and a second dose at 4-6 years.
  5. Can my kids get their measles vaccine early? An advanced immunization schedule is available for kids in an outbreak or if they will be traveling out of the country. The first dose can be given as early as age 6-months, but is repeated when the child is 12 months because of concerns of interference with maternal antibodies. The official second dose can be given early too, as early as 4 weeks after the first dose, as long as the child is at least 12 months old.
  6. Do I need a booster dose of the measles vaccine? People who are fully immunized do not need a booster dose of the MMR vaccine, but it is important to understand whether or not you are really fully immunized to see if you need a second dose. Some adults who are not high risk are considered fully vaccinated with only one dose, while others should have two doses. Are you at high risk to get measles? Do you travel, live in an area where there are measles outbreaks, go to college, or work as a health care professional?
  7. Should I check my measles titers? In general, it is not necessary to check your titers for measles. If you haven’t had two doses of the MMR vaccine, then get a second dose. If you have had two doses of the MMR vaccine, then you are considered protected. Keep in mind that there is no recommendation to get a third dose of MMR for measles protection, although it is sometimes recommended for mumps protection during a mumps outbreak.
  8. If my child gets a rash after getting his MMR, does that mean that he has measles? No. This is a common, very mild vaccine reaction and not a sign of measles.
  9. Can the measles vaccine cause seizures? The MMR vaccine can cause febrile seizures. It is important to remember that without other risk factors, kids who develop febrile seizures after a vaccine are at the same small risk for developing epilepsy as other kids. And know that vaccines aren’t the only cause of febrile seizures. Vaccine-preventable diseases can cause both febrile seizures and more serious non-febrile seizures.
  10. Why do people think that that the measles vaccine is associated with autism? It is well known that this idea originated with Andrew Wakefield, but the real question should be why do some people still think that vaccines are associated with autism after so much evidence has said that they aren’t?
  11. What are the risks of the measles vaccine? Like other vaccines, the MMR vaccine has mild risks or side effects, including fever, rash, and soreness at the injection site. Some more moderate reactions that can rarely occur include febrile seizures, joint pain, and a temporary low platelet count. More serious reactions are even rarer, but can include deafness, long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness, brain damage, and life-threatening allergic reactions.
  12. Why are there so many reports of measles vaccine deaths? There are extremely few deaths after vaccines. The reports of measles vaccine deaths you see on the Internet are just reports to VAERS and are not actually reports that have been proven to be caused by a vaccine. As with other vaccines, the risks from having a vaccine-preventable disease are much greater than the risks of the vaccine. The only reason that it might not seem like that now is because far fewer people get measles now than they did in the pre-vaccine era, when about 500 people died with measles each year.
  13. When did they take mercury out of the measles vaccine? Measles vaccines, including the MMR, have never, ever contained mercury or thimerosal.
  14. Why do we still have outbreaks if we have had a measles vaccine since 1963? In the United States, although the endemic spread of measles was declared eliminated in 2000, many cases are still imported from other countries. As measles cases increase around the world, that is translating to an increase in outbreaks here. Even though overall vaccination rates are good, because there are many pockets of susceptible people in areas that don’t vaccinate their kids, they get hit with outbreaks.
  15. Can we eradicate measles? Because measles is so contagious, the vaccine does have failures, and some folks still don’t get vaccinated, there is some doubt that we can eradicate measles without a better vaccine. That doesn’t mean that the current measles vaccines can’t prevent outbreaks though…

Are you ready to get your kids their MMR vaccine so that they are vaccinated and protected against measles, mumps, and rubella?

If not, what other questions do you have?

While you are thinking, here is a question for you – Do know why they used to call measles a harmless killer?

More on the Everything You Need to Know About the Measles Vaccine