Tag: vaccine laws

The VACCINES Act

A lot of folks have been saying that new Federal vaccines laws were coming.

Instead, we have just been seeing more and more cases of measles.

The VACCINES Act

Well, we might finally be getting a new Federal vaccine law, but it isn’t the kind of law that will force people to get vaccinated that anti-vaccine folks have been warning us about.

Rep. Schrier with the AAP Executive Committee, who urge passage of the VACCINES Act and federal funding for vaccine hesitancy surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rep. Schrier with the AAP Executive Committee, who urge passage of the VACCINES Act and federal funding for vaccine hesitancy surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Instead, the Vaccine Awareness Campaign to Champion Immunization Nationally and Enhance Safety (VACCINES) Act, which was recently introduced by Representative Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) will simply help to increase public awareness of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

“Vaccines were one of the greatest medical accomplishments of the 20th century and have been proven safe and effective at preventing diseases that once killed or greatly harmed people around the world.

As a pediatrician, I understand that parents want to do what they think is best for their children and some do not vaccinate because of unfounded fears. We are now seeing outbreaks of diseases like measles, which was considered eliminated 19 years ago, in part because of an anti-vaccine campaigns around the country. This bill will make sure that parents have access to facts about vaccines, so they can make an informed decision.”

Rep. Kim Schrier

The VACCINES Act will:

While I’m pretty sure the CDC could already do all of these things already without a new law, hopefully it will provide the extra funding and resources to actually get it done.

Tell your U.S. representative to consider co-sponsoring the VACCINES Act and help get this bill passed.

More on the VACCINES Act

Remembering the Measles Epidemics of the 1990s

A lot of folks are talking about how we are seeing record numbers of measles cases this year, the most since we declared the end to the endemic spread of measles in the United States in 2000.

Believe it or not though, the record goes back further than that.

We have already seen the most cases since 1994.

That’s a 25 year record!

Remembering the Measles Epidemics of the 1990s

Do not leave your child unprotected!

And trust me, we don’t want to surpass any records beyond that!

If we do break those records, reaching thousands of cases this year, then we will reach epidemic levels of measles.

And many of us who know what that means, remembering that there were 55,622 cases of measles and 123 deaths in the United States between 1989 and 1991, a time when we had good nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, and health care…

What else did we have?

A lot of unvaccinated kids!

But we learned our lesson, got more kids vaccinated, and eliminated the endemic spread of measles.

We even got to a record low of measles cases, just 37 cases in 2004!

Will we ever beat that record?

Remember when our state Legislatures worked to protect us from infectious diseases, instead of trying to pass laws that make it easier for kids to skip or delay their vaccines?

And then parents forgot how bad measles could be and that made it easier to believe in all of the misinformation of people like Andrew Wakefield, Bob Sears, Jenny McCarthy, and the new breed of anti-vaccine social media influencers who are scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Long story short, measles is back

Fortunately, there are many people who remember and won’t let us repeat the mistakes of the past.

Many parents remember and they vaccinate and protect their kids.

Most pediatricians remember.

We remember and know that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary. And we don’t want to wait until people start to die before more parents vaccinate their kids.

If you don’t remember what it was like when everyone had measles, read some of the stories below…

More on the Measles Epidemics of the 1990s

Why Should Medical Exemptions Be Based on CDC Contraindications?

Getting a medical exemption for vaccines isn’t controversial.

Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Why Should Medical Exemptions Be Based on CDC Contraindications?

As many people know though, some people have been taking advantage of the fact that medical exemptions weren’t clearly defined in California’s vaccine law.

Who are the doctors handing out fake medical exemptions in California?
Who are the doctors handing out fake medical exemptions in California?

Are there just a few doctors taking advantage of the California law?

“But at 105 schools in the state, 10% or more of kindergartners had a medical exemption in the school year that ended last month, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of state data.”

Pushback against immunization laws leaves some California schools vulnerable to outbreaks

Is 10% a lot?

In one recent report, Vaccination Coverage for Selected Vaccines, Exemption Rates, and Provisional Enrollment Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2016–17 School Year, the median rate of medical exemptions in the US was just 0.2%, with a range of <0.1 to 1.5%.

In West Virginia and Mississippi, states that don’t allow non-medical exemptions and where criteria for medical exemptions are fairly strict, the rates were 0.1 and 0.3% respectively.

And that’s about what you would expect, as there are very few true contraindications or precautions to getting vaccinated.

So yes, 10% is an awful lot and that’s a good sign that it is more than just a few doctors taking advantage of the law.

“If a child has a medical exemption to immunization, a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State must certify that the immunization is detrimental to the child’s health. The medical exemption should specify which immunization is detrimental to the child’s health, provide information as to why the immunization is contraindicated based on current accepted medical practice, and specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated, if known.”

Dear Colleague letter regarding guidelines for use of immunization exemptions

Why do most other states have so few medical exemptions?

Mostly because there are very few true medical reasons to skip or delay a child’s vaccines!

They include, but aren’t limited to, the contraindications and precautions listed in the package insert for each vaccine (the contraindications and warnings sections…) and by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

They don’t include many other things that are “incorrectly perceived as contraindications to vaccination,” such as things in the family medical history of the child, eczema (unless they are getting the smallpox vaccine), colic, sleep apnea, or being a picky eater.

Is everything a vaccine injury?
Is everything a vaccine injury?

It should be obvious.

Medical exemptions for vaccines should be based on CDC criteria because some folks think that everything is a vaccine injury.

More on Medical Exemptions

Are Vaccine Laws a Form of State Sponsored Segregation?

Bob Sears doesn’t seem to like that more states are having to strengthen their vaccine laws, making it harder for kids to skip or delay their vaccines.

That seems rather ironic, as many parents likely were scared away from vaccinating and protecting their kids because of the misinformation folks like him continue to push.

Are Vaccine Laws a Form of State Sponsored Segregation?

What the latest?

The idea that vaccine laws are a form of state sponsored segregation…

“If you don’t see the historical parallels, and if it doesn’t concern you that State and now Federal Legislators think that discrimination and segregation are OK again, and you don’t realize that this is all a carefully-crafted PR campaign to sell the idea that some children are dirty and dangerous, when decades ago all kids were considered equal, then you are blind.”

Bob Sears

Bob Sears isn’t the first to try and conflate skipping vaccines into a civil rights issue, but he is certainly the one being the most obvious about it…

Now when were all kids really considered equal in the United States?

Was it the late 1980s, when Bob thinks everyone had it so great?

Remember, that was just before the big measles outbreaks from 1989 to 1991, when 123 people died. During those three years, there were also 28 deaths from pertussis, 6 deaths from mumps, 13 deaths from rubella and 77 cases of congenital rubella syndrome!

Life was good?

I was a little older than 10 in 1988 and remember that folks still died of all of these diseases, so added that to this nice infographic so you get the real perspective.

Is this the worst thing Bob has ever posted?

Well, there is that time he talked about unvaccinated kids wearing yellow stars

“…So I tell them they don’t have to whisper. They can say it loud and clear, with confidence. Ya, I guess you don’t want to advertise it around the neighborhood – that will come soon enough. Scarlet “V” anyone? No, not scarlet. Let’s make it yellow. And not a V – a star would be better. That way everyone can know at first glance who is safe to be around and who is not. That way, if your old doctor and his children are walking down the street, they can easily identify your kids and quickly cross to the other side before they get too close.

Ask your Assemblyperson which color and shape they think would be most appropriate.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended as a reference to a holocaust. Rather, it’s intended to raise the issue of prejudice and discrimination. Others have likenend vaccine injury to a holocaust. Instead, we are talking about families who choose to not vaccinate. No holocaust here.”

Dr. Bob Sears on The Vaccine Whisperers

So which historical parallel is Bob talking about this time?

Equating real problems of discrimination and segregation to the issue of parents wanting to keep their kids unvaccinated and unprotected is not only silly, but it is also offensive.

And for perspective, in 1988, not only did more people get vaccine-preventable diseases, more people died with vaccine-preventable diseases.

Did we freak out about it? Of course not. We worked towards an immunization plan to control and eliminate more of these diseases.

How can Bob Sears be blind to all of this?

More on Vaccine Laws and State Sponsored Segregation

Why Will Paul Thomas’ Patients Be Excluded from School in Oregon?

Like several other states, Oregon is working to strengthen their vaccine laws by making it harder for parents to skip or delay a child’s vaccines.

An unvaccinated child in Oregon nearly died with tetanus recently...
An unvaccinated child in Oregon nearly died with tetanus recently…

This is in response to growing measles outbreaks in the area and the abuse of non-medical exemptions.

Why Will Paul Thomas’ Patients Be Excluded from School in Oregon?

Not surprisingly, a local pediatrician, Paul Thomas, who seems dead set on becoming the next Bob Sears, complete with a book that pushes a so-called alternative non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule, is protesting Oregon’s new vaccine bill.

“Although we give vaccines in my office every day, I oppose HB 3063. As you consider HB 3063, I thought you should have the real-world data from the largest pediatric practice in Oregon with the most patients who will be affected by your proposed bill.”

Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas goes on to explain why his patients haven’t received all of their recommended vaccines.

One reason is that he doesn’t even offer the rotavirus vaccine, although he doesn’t mention that. But how do you make an informed choice about a vaccine when the vaccine isn’t even available to you?

“Most of my patients make the educated decision not to give one vaccine-hepatitis B – to their infants. This is because you catch hepatitis B from sex and IV drug use so if a child is born to a mother that does not have hepatitis B, the child is at no risk of getting this disease. Preschool and young school-aged children are not at risk for hepatitis B, which is why most countries in the developed world only recommend this vaccine for at-risk groups and not for everyone.”

Paul Thomas

Since he doesn’t think they are at any risk when they are younger, does Dr. Thomas advocate that his patients catch up on their hepatitis B series when they are older? Does he mention that until we switched to a universal vaccination program, some infants were missed and developed perinatal hepatitis B? Or the risks of needle sticks, etc.?

“These are the kinds of details and nuances that we must discuss with every vaccine. Whether we are talking about vaccines, antibiotics, ADD medication, or even a surgical procedure, we spend a good deal of time with our patients providing what we in medicine call “informed consent.” We explain the risks and benefits of the recommended medical intervention, the risks and benefits of not doing the intervention, and the alternatives. These conversations are best had in the privacy of a doctor’s office, not in the state legislature. As each child is different, we do not believe there should be any one-size-fits-all medicine. “

Paul Thomas

Although Paul Thomas talks about informed consent, a very important part of medicine, it is important to keep in mind that like most folks in the modern anti-vaccine movement, he doesn’t really seem to offer it.

He provides misinformed consent, pushing propaganda that overstates that risks of vaccines, underestimating the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases, and rarely stating the benefits of getting vaccinated.

“Finally, I am also concerned that thousands of families will either leave Oregon-as tens of thousands of families have left California – or leave the public school system and homeschool instead. While I have nothing against homeschooling, I believe this would result in a large and unfortunate loss of revenue for Oregon’s already underfunded public schools. “

Paul Thomas

Perhaps Paul Thomas missed it, but California is doing just fine after they passed their vaccine law, despite issues with some California doctors have taken advantage of fearful parents, and instead of doing the work to help parents understand that vaccines are safe with few risks, they are writing unjustified medical exemptions.

After years of declines, the vaccination rates for kids in California entering kindergarten in 2017 were at the highest rate since at least 1998!
After years of declines, the vaccination rates for kids in California entering kindergarten in 2017 were at the highest rate since at least 1998!

It’s a good reminder that the one lesson Oregon can learn from California is to make stricter rules on what counts as a medical exemption…

“We all have the same goal, which is to help Oregon’s children survive and thrive. No one wants a recurrence of infectious diseases in Oregon or anywhere in the United States. “

Paul Thomas

If Paul Thomas’ real motivation was to stop the outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease and keep states from passing new vaccine laws, then maybe he should stop scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“I hired an independent data expert, Dr. Michael Gaven, MD, to analyze the outcomes from my practice as part of a quality assurance project. Dr. Gaven studied the outcomes for those patients born into my practice during the past decade, since I opened my doors on June 1 2008.”

Paul Thomas

What outcomes? Is it how many of the kids in his practice developed vaccine-preventable diseases unnecessarily?

No, Paul Thomas published data that he thinks says that his unvaccinated kids get less autism than everyone else, except that there is a lot of bias in the numbers, we don’t know how many kids left his practice (especially any who might have developed autism), or even what criteria he uses to diagnose kids with autism. The numbers likely aren’t even statistically significant.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and they are necessary. And they are not associated with autism. Stop listening and spreading propaganda, vaccinate your kids, and let’s stop these outbreaks.

More on Paul Thomas

The History of Vaccine Exemptions

As we are starting to see some states get rid of their exemptions with new vaccine laws, it is important to understand that many non-medical exemptions came on the scene relatively recently.

After vaccine mandates to start school helped eliminate measles in the United States, over just a few years, from 1998 to 2000, 15 states added personal belief vaccine exemptions. Texas and Arkansas added theirs a little later, during the 2003-04 school year.

The History of Vaccine Exemptions

What happened in 1998 that made state lawmakers in 15 states allow parents to use personal belief vaccine exemptions to opt out of vaccinating and protecting their kids?

Andrew Wakefield happened in 1998...
Andrew Wakefield happened in 1998…

Oh yeah, that’s when Andrew Wakefield published his infamous paper in Lancet that was later retracted.

That’s right, these exemptions had their origins in perhaps the biggest anti-vaccine myth of them all!

Not that there weren’t warnings. Many of us knew adding the exemptions was a bad idea at the time…

The Austin American Statesman published an editorial in 2003 urging Legislators to fix the mess they had just created.
The Austin American Statesman published an editorial in 2003 urging Legislators to fix the mess they had just created.

And now, here we are with rising rates of vaccine-preventable disease as folks use and abuse their exemptions.

So while you are thinking about whether or not your state legislators should be taking away your personal belief vaccine exemption, a better question would likely be why they added them in the first place.

More on the History of Vaccine Exemptions

What Did Benjamin Franklin Say About Vaccines?

Wait, we had vaccines when Ben Franklin was around?

You can learn what Benjamin Franklin thought about vaccines from his autobiography.
You can learn what Benjamin Franklin thought about vaccines from his autobiography.

That was a long time ago.

What Did Benjamin Franklin Say About Vaccines?

Well, we had variolation

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Benjamin Franklin

The Benjamin Franklin quote many anti-vaccine folks are using these days (do anti-vaccine folks get daily talking points to use?) doesn’t really have anything to do with vaccines though, at least not in the way that they think it does.

“The Franklin quote he nodded to on Tuesday, ironically, means the opposite of what Paul was arguing. When Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” he was opposing the Penn family’s attempt to carve out an exception for themselves from the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s attempt to tax their lands for the collective good of frontier defense. The liberty Franklin was defending was the liberty the rest of us deserve now, too — liberty to choose to protect ourselves.”

Saad B Omer on Rand Paul is wrong: Vaccines are no threat to liberty

It should be clear that Ben Franklin’s quote shouldn’t be used to attack vaccine mandates. If anything, it can be used to attack free-riders and those who skip or delay vaccines and try to hide in the herd!

“It is a quotation that defends the authority of a legislature to govern in the interests of collective security. It means, in context, not quite the opposite of what it’s almost always quoted as saying but much closer to the opposite than to the thing that people think it means.”

Benjamin Wittes onBen Franklin’s Famous ‘Liberty, Safety’ Quote Lost Its Context In 21st Century

Interestingly, Benjamin Franklin did famously talk about vaccines, or at least smallpox variolation.

“In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”

Benjamin Franklin

He got a little temporary safety, avoiding the side effects of variolation, but what were the consequences? What did he lose?

What do you lose when you make decisions about vaccines based on vaccine misinformation?

What do folks like Rand Paul have to gain by speaking out against vaccines?

More on Benjamin Franklin and Vaccines