Learn the Risks of Falling for Anti-Vaccine Propaganda
Take the infographic about the number of vaccine doses children in the United States normally get.
It is designed into making you think that kids get 72 doses of vaccines, scaring you and trying to reinforce the myth that kids get too many vaccines.
Have you seen and fallen for that trick? Did you ever think to actually count the total vaccine doses they list? As you can see above, it doesn’t come out to 72 doses…
But why do they do it? If they really think their “vaccines contain toxic chemicals” argument is convincing, then would it matter if the number of vaccine doses was 11 or 53 or 72? Why inflate it to make it wound scarier?
Still, however you want to count the number of doses of vaccines kids get today, one thing is crystal clear – they get protection from more vaccine-preventable diseases.
In 1983, kids may have only have gotten 11 doses of vaccines, but many still died from Hib pneumonia and meningitis, epiglotitis (Hib), pneumococcal pneumonia and meningitis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rotavirus, chicken pox, and meningococcemia, etc.
“for those trained in pediatrics in the 1970s, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) was a horror.”
13 vaccines, including 5 doses of DTaP, 4 doses of IPV (polio), 3 or 4 doses of hepatitis B, 3 or 4 doses of Hib (the number of doses depends on the vaccine brand used), 4 doses of Prevnar, 2 or 3 doses of rotavirus (the number of doses depends on the vaccine brand used), 2 doses of MMR, 2 doses of Varivax (chicken pox), 2 doses of hepatitis A, 1 doses of Tdap, 2 or 3 doses of HPV (the number of doses depends on the age you start the vaccine series), 2 doses of MCV4 (meningococcal vaccine), and yearly influenza vaccines
protection against 16 vaccine-preventable diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox, pneumococcal disease, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease, HPV, rotavirus, Hib, and flu
about 28 doses of those vaccines by age two years (with yearly flu shots)
about 35 doses of those vaccines by age five years (with yearly flu shots)
as few as 23 individual shots by age five years if your child is getting combination vaccines, like Pediarix or Pentacel and Kinrix or Quadracel and Proquad
about 54 doses of those vaccines by age 18 years, with a third of that coming from yearly flu vaccines
How do you get a number like 72?
You can boost your count to make it look scarier by counting the DTaP, MMR, and Tdap vaccines as three separate vaccines each, even though they aren’t available as individual vaccines anymore.
This trick of anti-vaccine math quickly turns these 8 shots into “24 doses.”
At age four years, when your preschooler routinely gets their DTaP, IPV, MMR, and chicken pox shots before starting kindergarten, how many vaccines or doses do you think they got? Two, because they got Kinrix or Quadracel (DTaP/IPV combo) and Proquad (MMR/chickenpox combo)? Four, because they got separate shots? Or Eight, because you think you should count each component of each vaccine separately?
Know that even if you do want to count them separately, it really just means that with those two or four shots, your child got protection against eight different vaccine-preventable diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox.
If you ever wander into a holistic parenting group or a vaccine group that claims to offer “both sides” to educate folks about vaccines, you will, or at least you should, quickly notice that all of the posts and replies sound eerily alike.
If a parent asks about a tetanus shot for their child’s wound in one of these groups, no one will suggest that they rush to their pediatrician and get it.
The only disagreements you might see are whether they should treat the wound with colloidal silver, black salve, garlic, urine, activated charcoal, tea tree oil, raw honey, essential oils, or some other non-evidence based therapy.
It is no accident that folks get uniform advice against vaccines in these so-called vaccine “education” groups.
Anyone who goes against the “vaccines are dangerous” mantra of these groups typically has their comments quickly deleted and gets banned from the group.
“Echo chambers abound for many other conditions which are not medically recognised, from chronic Lyme disease to electromagnetic hypersensitivity. But perhaps most worrisome is the advance of anti-vaccine narratives across the web. The explosion of dubious sources has allowed them to propagate wildly, undeterred by debunking in the popular press. We might take the current drastic fall in HPV vaccine uptake in Ireland, driven by anti-vaccine groups like REGRET, despite its life-saving efficacy. While organisations including the Health Service Executive have valiantly tried to counter these myths, these claims are perpetuated across social media with little to stop them.”
Echo chambers are dangerous – we must try to break free of our online bubbles
After all, it is easier to feel confident in your decisions when you think that everyone else is doing the same thing. Of course they aren’t though. The great majority of people vaccinate and protect their kids.
It is only in these echo chambers of anti-vaccine misinformation that anyone would think that it would be okay to not get an unvaccinated toddler proper treatment for a cut, to skip a rabies shot after exposure to a rabid bat, or to not get travel vaccines before visiting high risk areas of the world.
That’s the power of confirmation bias.
And whether or not you realize it, confirmation bias is likely one of the reasons that you aren’t vaccinating and protecting your kids.
That’s why you need to step out of these echo chambers if you want to understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.
What to Know About Anti-Vaccine Censorhip
Anti-vaccine groups routinely censor, ban, and block messages from people who correct misinformation about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.
Even if it’s your pediatrician, with the rise of holistic pediatricians, that doesn’t mean that you are getting good advice.
In general, if the advice you are getting lacks evidence that it is safe and effective, relies on anecdotes and testimonials, and is labeled as ‘alternative,’ then it is a safe bet that it is bad advice.
Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice
Some folks seem to be drawn to this type of advice though.
As long as they think it is natural, holistic, and is the opposite of what mainstream health experts say to do, some parents will jump at the chance of trying the latest fad, even if it has no benefits and lots of extra risks.
Take giving your kids raw milk for example. Health experts have been warning about the dangers of drinking raw milk for years and even work to keep selling it outlawed in most communities, but some parents still give it to their young children. This is despite the fact that it has no health benefits and isn’t even fortified with vitamin D!
What’s worse than giving your kids raw milk? How about skipping your baby’s vitamin K shot? Although it has no major risks, parents of many anti-vaccine and holistic type Facebook groups on the internet are often encouraged to skip this shot.
How come they never warn folks that their baby might die in agony if they skip the shot? After all, there is a very good reason that we started to give all babies vitamin K shots – to stop vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
Just like there is a reason that we started to pasteurize milk – to keep us all from getting critically ill from contaminated milk.
And why we take antibiotics for severe infections, and not essential oils.
“If one gets a cancer diagnosis, they need to detox the toxins that have accumulated in the body, minimize further exposure and boost the immune system to fight the cancer. This is done NATURALLY. Traditional medical approaches (drugs, chemo, radiation) only FURTHER damage the body and immune system.”
And why we take chemotherapy for cancer, and not coffee enemas.
And why most of us don’t think to try chiropractic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, reflexology, or other non-evidenced based therapies when our kids are sick.
Why don’t people get rabies very often any more? It’s not because folks are no longer at risk, although the risk is less because dogs and cats are now vaccinated. It is because the vast majority of people get treated if they are exposed to an animal that might have rabies.
It’s just like the reason kids don’t get stuck by lightning very often. It’s not because lightning doesn’t happen anymore. It’s because we get a lot of warnings about thunderstorms and we know to go inside at the first sign of lightning in the area. Lightning strikes are rare because we take steps to reduce our risk of getting hit.
Why don’t folks get tetanus that much anymore? Again, most people are vaccinated, and they get boosters if they have wounds that puts them at extra risk. While we know what happens when unvaccinated kids are exposed to tetanus and don’t get treated, that isn’t a risk that you will read about on anti-vaccine websites or Facebook groups.
That’s why the great majority of us get vaccinated, because we understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, and that skipping or delaying any vaccines simply puts our kids at risk to catch one of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent.
What to Know About the Risks of Following Bad Advice
You might get lucky and have a good outcome when you follow bad advice, but you should at least understand the risks of what might go wrong if you truly think you are making an informed decision.
The reason why Kat Von D won’t vaccinate her baby!
Actually, despite the hype, a new video from Del Bigtree, who works with Andrew Wakefield, never does reveal the reason why Kat Von D won’t vaccinate. That shouldn’t be a surprise from a guy who produced a movie about a whistleblower, but left the whisteblower out of the movie.
“We are not against vaccines. Just because we have hesitancies and valid concerns about injecting our baby with specific chemicals and toxins does not mean we are anti anything.”
Kat Von D
We don’t know… Most people assumed it was because she was vegan, but many vegan parents do vaccinate their kids.
“As a soon-to-be-parent [and especially as a first-time-mom] I do feel it my responsibility to have questions, and to listen to my motherly instinct to question things, and do my research.
What we have found is that sometimes it isn’t always so black and white.
While we believe medications, including vaccines, are not all bad – we also can’t dismiss the fact that some may not be good for everyone.
There are plenty of studies that show some vaccinations can work wonders. And there are also studies that show some people [including mothers, and babies] may be more susceptible to vaccine injuries more than others.
It’s unfair for anyone to expect me [or any parent] to take the word of the pharmaceutical companies who have much to gain from and industry worth billions without question – and then have to dismiss any concerns of my own.”
Not surprisingly, none of the websites who list so-called signs of MTHFR mutations provide any evidence for why they are considered to be signs.
What Are the Real Signs of MTHFR Mutations?
If you are worried about MTHFR mutations, you have likely been warned that they cause a lot of different problems.
In reality, it is only known that MTHFR mutations can cause homocystinuria, a rare disorder of methionine metabolism. So you might expect those who have this mutation to have signs and symptoms of homecystinuria, including long limbs, chest deformities, and scoliosis, similar to Marfan syndrome.
Fortunately, many states now include testing for homecystinuria on their newborn screen.
Where Did the Other MTHFR Indicators Come From?
Some people also think that some common MHTFR polymorphisms, or gene variants, may be weakly associated with cardiovascular disease, migraines, anacephaly, spina bifida, and cleft lip and palate.
But this doesn’t mean that MHTFR mutations caused the child to have spina bifida or cleft lip and palate.
“In general, the following genotypes currently appear unlikely to be of clinical significance: “thermolabile” variant c.665C→T heterozygote, c.1286A→C homozygote, or (c.665C→T); (c.1286A→C) compound heterozygote.”
Hickey et al. on ACMG Practice Guideline: lack of evidence for MTHFR polymorphism testing
These polymorphisms are very common and you are going to find them when you look for them.
More and more studies are now finding that they are not associated with any diseases or extra risk of disease. And any risk for neural tube defects in pregnancy can be eliminated by taking folate supplements, which is now recommended for all pregnant women anyway.
But you now should be able to see where their list of bogus signs of MTHFR mutations came from. If spina bifida is supposed to be associated with MTHFR polymorphisms, then why not sacral dimples? And if cleft lip and palate is supposed to be associated with MTHFR polymorphisms, then why not tongue-tie?
What about stork bites, hemangiomas, facial dimples, and the blue vein?
These are some of the most common things that pediatricians point out to parents during their first few appointments. New parents especially what to be reassured that all of these things, which can be very obvious, are eventually going to go away. And fortunately, they typically do – without treatment, although some hemangiomas do require treatment.
In fact, it is estimated that 30 to 50% of newborns have a stork bite. These dilated blood vessels typically go away without treatment. How many people have MHTFR polymorhisms? Yup, 30 to 50%. And no, that doesn’t mean that MHTFR polymorhisms cause stork bites.
Again, since MHTFR polymorhisms are common variants (not mutations that cause disease), you are going to find them associated with many other common conditions.
“Midline lumbosacral skin lesions (e.g., lipomas, dimples, dermal sinuses, tails, hemangiomas, hypertrichosis) are cutaneous markers of spinal dysraphism. A comprehensive review of 200 patients with spinal dysraphism found that 102 had a cutaneous sign. However, many children without spinal dysraphism also have these skin findings.”
McLaughlin et al. on Newborn Skin: Part II. Birthmarks
It is also very possible that folks are misunderstanding a recommendation about warnings for risks of occult spinal dysraphism. This occurs when there is incomplete fusion of the midline elements of the spine, but they are covered by skin, so unlike spina bifida, they are hard to detect. So we look for things like hemangiomas, hypertrichosis (hairy patches), nevus simplex (stork bite), and dimples, etc., as a sign that something might be wrong underneath the skin.
In general, if you have two or more of these skin lesions, a child’s risk for occult spinal dysraphism would be considered high, but, and this is important, the location of the skin lesions is what we look for. They would be over the midline lumbosacral area (the lower back). So an hemangioma on your child’s arm or chest wouldn’t be a risk. Neither would a stork bite on the nape of a baby’s neck or an angel kiss on their forehead.
But now you see the assumed link to MTHFR!
‘They’ think that MTHFR mutations cause spina bifida, so they made the jump to all of these possible signs of occult spinal dysraphism being associated with MTHFR polymorpisms too, even when they aren’t actually signs of occult spinal dysraphism unless they are located on your baby’s lower back.
“MTHFR gene mutations can cause absolutely no symptoms at all. They can also cause severe irreversible health conditions such as Down’s syndrome. Research is still pending on which medical conditions are caused by, or at least partially attributed to, the MTHFR gene mutations. From the partial list I recently went through on Medline, these are the current symptoms, syndromes and medical conditions relating to the MTHFR gene mutations:”
Ben Lynch on MTHFR Mutations and the Conditions They Cause
A lot of what folks think they know about MTHFR mutations comes from Ben Lynch, who has a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (ND), recommends that folks get genetic testing, and then tells them all of the things that are wrong with them when the tests come back.
“Many of your health issues spring from a combination of overworked and underworked genes. These issues can often be resolved by supporting your genes—but you don’t know that.”
Ben Lynch on My Mission: Reach Your Genetic Potential
Have you ever heard that your child has more of a chance of getting hit by lightning than getting measles?
Since getting struck by lightning is rare, folks like to use it in comparisons to other things that they also think are low risk when trying to make a point.
There are problems with this type of argument though.
Understanding Risk Perception
In an age when many folks are overly anxious about things, it is important to understand the difference between real and perceived risks. Unfortunately, our biases often lead us to worry about the wrong things, sometimes with tragic consequences.
“No intervention is absolutely risk free. Even the journey to a physician’s office with the intention to receive a vaccination carries the risk of getting injured in an accident. With regards to risks of vaccination per se, one has to distinguish between real and perceived or alleged risks.”
Heininger on A risk–benefit analysis of vaccination
Comparing Lightning Strikes to Vaccine Preventable Diseases
How common or rare do you think it is to get hit by lightning?
odds of being hit by lightning – 1 in 1,171,000 (each year)
odds of ever being hit by lightning – 1 in 14,600 (lifetime risk)
on average, 26 people die after being struck by lightning each year (since 2007), which is down from a recent historical average of 45 deaths per year (30 year average) and way down from when we used to see 400 lightning strike deaths each year before 1950
on average, 252 people are injured after being struck by lightning each year
Although 26 people dying after lightning strikes sounds like way too many to me, especially since one recent death was a 7-year-old boy in Tennessee playing under a tree, with 1 in 1,171,000 odds of getting hit, it sounds like we are pretty safe.
But is it fair to use those odds to justify your decision to keep your kids unvaccinated?
Of course not!
Why is our risk of getting struck by lightning so low?
What happens when we hear thunder or see lightning?
When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!
What happens when a thunder storm approaches and you are at your kids soccer or baseball game?
“Postpone or suspend activity if a thunderstorm appears imminent before or during an activity or contest (irrespective of whether lightning is seen or thunder heard) until the hazard has passed. Signs of imminent thunderstorm activity are darkening clouds, high winds, and thunder or lightning activity.”
UIL on Lightning Safety
Many ball fields now have lightning detectors to alert officials of nearby storms. And just about everyone has access to weather apps on a smart phone that can alert them to an approaching thunder storm or nearby lightning strikes.
The point is that most of us understand that lightning is dangerous, so we go far out of our away to avoid getting hit. The risk of getting hit by lightning isn’t 1 in 1,171,000 with folks running around outside waving golf clubs in the air during thunder storms or sitting on their roofs under an umbrella watching the storm.
The risk of getting hit by lightning is 1 in 1,171,000 because most of us go inside once we know lightning is nearby.
“Based on the media reports of the fatal incidents, many victims were either headed to safety at the time of the fatal strike or were just steps away from safety. Continued efforts are needed to convince people to get inside a safe place before the lightning threat becomes significant. For many activities, situational awareness and proper planning are essential to safety.”
A Detailed Analysis of Lightning Deaths in the United States from 2006 through 2017
And the same is true with measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. They aren’t as common as they once were because most of us are vaccinated and protected.
Folks often misuse lightning strikes when they think about risks, not understanding that the risk of getting hit by lightning is low because we take a lot of precautions to avoid getting hit by lightning.