Tag: vaccine myths

Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

If you are playing devil’s advocate with anti-vaccine folks, trying to figure out how they think, it isn’t a terrible question.

Remember, many anti-vaccine folks think that vaccines never work and that they always cause injuries – to everyone that gets them.

Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

We can start with Larry Cook‘s “answer,” which was in the form of another question:

“Why do doctors and medical examiners deny vaccine injury and death?”

Larry Cook

Wait, do doctors and medical examiners deny vaccine injury and death?

Uh, no they don’t.

They are often skeptical that each and everything that happens after someone gets a vaccine, even if it is months or years later, is a vaccine injury though. But we do know that although rare, vaccine injuries are real and can sometimes be life-threatening.

But why would vaccines actually be designed to kill people?

Makes sense, right?

  1. Make vaccines that kill people.
  2. ?
  3. Profit.

Actually, it doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Vaccine-preventable diseases kill people. In the pre-vaccine era, they killed a lot more people.

If you want to control the population or make life-long customers, why not just let them get smallpox, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis B, and HPV?

“Results revealed a significant negative relationship between anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs and vaccination intentions. This effect was mediated by the perceived dangers of vaccines, and feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment and mistrust in authorities.”

Jolley et al on The Effects of Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories on Vaccination Intentions

And if you wanted to do that, you could just push a lot of conspiracy theories about vaccines to scare folks away from getting vaccinated…

So, could bacteria and viruses be controlling the minds of these disease-friendly, influential anti-vaccine folks, helping to make sure people are intentionally unvaccinated, so that they can spread among us more easily?

Since I’m too skeptical to go down that rabbit hole, it is probably a safer bet to think that most are just doing it to sell supplements in their stores, get commissions from pushing online seminars, and ads from folks visiting their sites.

“Conspiracy beliefs are therefore associated with common motivations that drive intergroup conflict. Two social motivations in particular are relevant for conspiracy thinking. The first motivation is to uphold a strong ingroup identity, which increases perceivers’ sense‐making motivation when they believe their group is under threat by outside forces. That is, people worry about possible conspiracies only when they feel strongly connected with, and hence care about, the prospective victims of these conspiracies. The second social motivation is to protect against a coalition or outgroup suspected to be hostile”

van Prooijen et al on Belief in conspiracy theories: Basic principles of an emerging research domain

Will any of this help anti-vaccine folks see that these anti-vaccine conspiracy theories aren’t true?

Unfortunately, it probably won’t.

Like vaccine-injury stories, conspiracy theories are one of the things that hold up, and hold together, the modern anti-vaccine movement.

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Propaganda Busting Confirms Anti-vaccine Sites Photoshop Images

Spend a few minutes going through our list of anti-vaccine PRATTs, and you will quickly realize that they just push misinformation and propaganda.

Propaganda Busting Confirms Anti-vaccine Sites Photoshop Images

How easy is it to refute their claims?

Consider this “article” about measles outbreaks

It shows an infant with chicken pox.

While that could be a simple mistake, it is actually a Photoshopped stock image of an infant with chicken pox that adds a big scary needle and syringe, that I guess is supposed to represent a vaccine.

Where's the syringe and needle?
Where’s the syringe and needle?

The thing is, neither the chicken pox nor MMR vaccine look like that and neither would be given with such a long needle!

In fact, that needle is about twice the size as any needle that would be used on an infant or toddler, which is why they had to Photoshop a separate photo of a big syringe and needle onto the infant with chicken pox.

It's just a stock image of a big syringe and needle...
It’s just a stock image of a big syringe and needle…

Now that you know that the photo is make-believe, you shouldn’t be surprised that their “article” is too.

This erroneous thinking has led the public, media and government alike to attribute the origin of measles outbreaks, such as the one reported at Disney in 2015 (and which lead to the passing of SB277 that year, stripping vaccine exemptions for all but medical reasons in California), to the non-vaccinated, even though 18% of the measles cases occurred in those who had been vaccinated against it — hardly the vaccine’s two-dose claimed “97% effectiveness.”

Government Research Confirms Measles Outbreaks Are Transmitted By The Vaccinated

By itself, the number of cases in an outbreak doesn’t exactly tell you a vaccine’s effectiveness. You also have to know something about how many people were vaccinated and unvaccinated and the attack rate, etc.

“Among the 110 California patients, 49 (45%) were unvaccinated; five (5%) had 1 dose of measles-containing vaccine, seven (6%) had 2 doses, one (1%) had 3 doses, 47 (43%) had unknown or undocumented vaccination status, and one (1%) had immunoglobulin G seropositivity documented, which indicates prior vaccination or measles infection at an undetermined time.”

Measles Outbreak — California, December 2014–February 2015

Anyway, in the Disneyland outbreak, if you do the math correctly, you can see that only 8 of 110 were fully vaccinated, or about 7%.

What does that tell you about vaccine effectiveness?

Not much!

Again, we don’t know how many vaccinated vs unvaccinated folks were exposed and didn’t get measles.

We can guess though…

Most folks are vaccinated, even in California. So the fact that only 7% of the people that got measles in the outbreak were fully vaccinated actually says quite a lot about how effective the MMR vaccine really is.

What about the idea that vaccinated people are starting outbreaks and spreading measles?

While the vast majority of measles outbreaks are in fact traced to someone who is unvaccinated, there was one outbreak in 2011 that was “started” by someone who was vaccinated.

“She had documentation of receipt of MMR vaccination at 3 years and 4 years of age. There was no travel during the incubation period and no known sick contacts. However, the index patient worked at a theater frequented by tourists.”

Outbreak of Measles Among Persons With Prior Evidence of Immunity, New York City, 2011

Since even the MMR vaccine isn’t 100% effective, is it really so surprising that occasionally, someone who received two doses of the vaccine could get measles and pass it to others, especially considering that around 220 people got measles in the United States that year?

“During 2011, a provisional total of 222 measles cases were reported from 31 states… Most patients were unvaccinated (65%) or had unknown vaccination status (21%). Of the 222, a total of 196 were U.S. residents. Of those U.S. residents who had measles, 166 were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status, 141 (85%) were eligible for MMR vaccination, 18 (11%) were too young for vaccination, six (4%) were born before 1957 and presumed immune, and one (1%) had previous laboratory evidence of presumptive immunity to measles.”

Measles — United States, 2011

Is the MMR vaccine a failure because there were some still some outbreaks in the 1980s, before we started to give kids a second dose? The attack rate in many of these school outbreaks, in which many kids had one dose of MMR, was still only about 2 to 3%.

It is safe to blame a failure to vaccinate and intentionally unvaccinated kids for most of the recent measles outbreaks.

Is the MMR vaccine a failure because we still have outbreaks among intentionally unvaccinated kids and every once in a while, in someone who is fully vaccinated who gets caught up in an outbreak?

Of course not!

It is easy to do a little research, consider what disease rates looked like in the pre-vaccine era, and know that vaccines work and that they are necessary.

More on Propaganda Busting Confirms Anti-vaccine Sites Photoshop Images

Did a Top Cancer Scientist Suddenly Die After Getting a Yellow Fever Vaccination?

We are seeing many reports that Professor Martin Gore, an oncologist at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital for more than 35 years, died suddenly after getting a yellow fever vaccine.

Could that be true?

Could someone really die after getting a routine vaccination?

Did a Top Cancer Scientist Suddenly Die After Getting a Yellow Fever Vaccination?

Of course, it could be true.

Although vaccines are very safe, they are not 100% risk free. And tragically, they do very rarely have life-threatening side effects.

To be fair, we don’t know the full story about what happened to Prof Gore, but the media reports do say that he suffered total organ failure shortly after getting his yellow fever vaccine.

What we don’t know is how shortly after getting the vaccine or if there is any evidence for another cause for his having organ failure.

Still, although most side effects are mild, it is reported that the yellow fever vaccine, which has been available for more than 80 years, can rarely cause:

How rarely?

About 1 in 55,000 for severe allergic reactions, 1 in 125,000 for severe nervous system reactions, and 1 in 250,000 for life-threatening severe illness with organ failure.

And the risks are likely higher if you are older than age 60 years, although YEL-AND and YEL-AVD are not reported to happen with booster doses of the yellow fever vaccine.

“People aged ≥60 years may be at increased risk for serious adverse events (serious disease or, very rarely, death) following vaccination, compared with younger persons. This is particularly true if they are receiving their first yellow fever vaccination. Travelers aged ≥60 years should discuss with their healthcare provider the risks and benefits of the vaccine given their travel plans.”

Yellow Fever Frequently Asked Questions

Why would you get the yellow fever vaccine if you were older than aged 60 years and you knew there was a higher risk of severe side effects?

Yellow fever itself is a life threatening disease without a cure and a case fatality rate of up to 50%, and again, YEL-AVD is not common, occurring in about 0.4/100,000 doses.

So you would typically want to get vaccinated if you were traveling to an area where yellow fever was a risk.

“Since January 2018, 10 travel-related cases of yellow fever, including four deaths, have been reported in international travelers returning from Brazil. None of the 10 travelers had received yellow fever vaccination.”

Fatal Yellow Fever in Travelers to Brazil, 2018

In addition to outbreaks, yellow fever is still endemic in forty-seven countries in Africa and Central and South America, leading to 170,000 severe cases and 60,000 deaths in recent years, including some deaths in unvaccinated travelers returning from these areas. Did you read about these deaths in the paper?

Although it is not on the routine immunization schedule, if you are traveling somewhere and yellow fever is a risk, you should get a yellow fever vaccine.

Professor Gore’s death, at age 67, is a tragedy, no matter the cause.

That we are having to talk about it because anti-vaccine folks are using his death to push their idea that vaccines aren’t safe is unconscionable.

More on Yellow Fever Vaccine Deaths

Why Do We Still Vaccinate If Polio Has Been Eliminated?

It’s true, polio has been eliminated in the United States.

Are these folks serious with this anti-vaccine nonsense?
Are these folks serious with this anti-vaccine nonsense?

But that doesn’t mean that we can stop vaccinating kids against polio yet.

Why Do We Still Vaccinate If Polio Has Been Eliminated?

For one thing, the last polio case in the United States was a lot more recent than 40 years ago.

What happened 40 years ago?

That was when we had the last endemic case of polio in the United States, in 1979. After that, in addition to cases of VAPP, there were at least 6 cases of imported paralytic poliomyelitis. In fact, the last case of wild polio in the United States was in 1993, just 26 years ago.

And just ten years ago, in 2009, was the very last case of VAPP, a patient with a long-standing combined immunodeficiency who was probably infected in the late 1990s, even though she didn’t develop paralysis until years later.

But still, why couldn’t we stop vaccinating against polio in the United States, even though polio isn’t eradicated yet? After all, we stopped using the smallpox vaccine in 1972, before smallpox was declared eradicated (1980).

While that is true, smallpox isn’t as contagious as polio and there hadn’t been a case of smallpox in the United States for over 30 years when we stopped using the vaccine.

Until wild polio is eradicated and the oral polio vaccine isn’t used anymore (OPV switch), we must continue to vaccinate against polio to prevent new outbreaks.

That is the polio eradication and endgame strategic plan.

Over the next few years, the world will hopefully switch to using just the injectable form of the polio vaccines, which eliminates the risk of VAPP.

But if we are so close, why not just stop vaccinating in those parts of the world that don’t have polio?

Because we are so close to eradicating polio.

Why take the risk of polio spreading from one of the remaining endemic countries, paralyzing kids, and putting eradication efforts further behind?

Should we stop vaccinating kids because anti-vaccine folks are pushing misinformation about DDT, renamed diseases, or vaccine induced diseases?

Of course not!

Vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

Let’s continue the work and eradicate polio, once and for all!

And for the record – we don’t pump “kids full of polio” when we give them a polio vaccine. The polio shot is an inactivated vaccine, so doesn’t contain live polio virus.

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Seven New Year’s Vaccine Resolutions for 2019

If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, here’s one for the top of your list:

  1. I won’t complain about my kids being kept out of school during an outbreak, if I intentionally didn’t vaccinate them.

Yes, apparently that was a thing this past year…

Not surprisingly, parents lost their challenge to get their unvaccinated kids back into their Waldorf school during a chicken pox outbreak.
Not surprisingly, parents lost their challenge to get their unvaccinated kids back into their Waldorf school during a chicken pox outbreak.

It is an important reminder that there are consequences if you choose to not vaccine your kids.

In addition to the risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease, the risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease and getting someone else sick, there is the chance that your kids will be quarantined and kept out of daycare or school until the outbreak is over.

Six More New Year’s Vaccine Resolutions for 2019

Need some more?

  1. I will not travel out of the country without getting caught up on my vaccines. Remember, most outbreaks are started when an intentionally unvaccinated person travels out of the country, gets exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease, comes home while they are still in the incubation period and not showing symptoms, and then eventually get sick, exposing others.
  2. I won’t let a small, yet vocal anti-vaccine minority scare me into a poor decision about my child’s vaccines
  3. I will not lie to get a religious vaccine exemption. Is your religion really against vaccinating and protecting your child?
  4. I will avoid anti-vaccine echo chambers when doing my research about vaccines.
  5. I will learn about the cognitive biases that might me keeping me from vaccinating and protecting my kids.
  6. I will not repeat an anti-vaccine point that has already been refuted a thousand times.

Vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

This year, resolve to make the right choice and get your kids vaccinated and protected.

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Did Better Hygiene and Sanitation Get Rid of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?

Anti-vaccine folks, in addition to trying to argue that vaccines are full of poison, typically try to make a case that vaccines aren’t even necessary.

Why not?

They had good hygiene and sanitation in Brooklyn when my uncle got polio in 1950. What they didn't yet have was a polio vaccine.
They had good hygiene and sanitation in Brooklyn when my uncle got polio in 1950. What they didn’t yet have was a polio vaccine. If the wide use of indoor plumbing got rid of the plague in the early 1900s, why didn’t it get rid of all other infectious diseases at the same time?

Because, they claim, vaccines don’t even work. They claim that it was better hygiene and sanitation, not vaccines that helped get rid of smallpox, polio, and measles.

Did Better Hygiene and Sanitation Get Rid of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?

On the surface, the idea that better hygiene and sanitation helped get rid disease makes a lot of sense.

“The 19th century shift in population from country to city that accompanied industrialization and immigration led to overcrowding in poor housing served by inadequate or nonexistent public water supplies and waste-disposal systems. These conditions resulted in repeated outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, TB, typhoid fever, influenza, yellow fever, and malaria.

By 1900, however, the incidence of many of these diseases had begun to decline because of public health improvements, implementation of which continued into the 20th century. Local, state, and federal efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene reinforced the concept of collective “public health” action (e.g., to prevent infection by providing clean drinking water).”

Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Control of Infectious Diseases

It makes a lot of sense because better hygiene and sanitation did actually help control and eliminate many infectious diseases, including cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever.

Others, like yellow fever and malaria, decreased because the mosquitoes that spread them were brought under control.

“Strategic vaccination campaigns have virtually eliminated diseases that previously were common in the United States, including diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, and Haemophilus influenzae type b meningitis.”

Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Control of Infectious Diseases

That still left a lot of work for vaccines.

After all, we had good hygiene and sanitation in the United States when kids were routinely dying of polio, measles, Hib meningitis, pneumococcal meningitis, and rotavirus, etc.

Any way, if better hygiene and sanitation can get rid of so many diseases, why has each vaccine-preventable disease been controlled at a different time – yellow fever (1905), polio (1979), smallpox (1980), measles (2000), neonatal tetanus (2000), congenital rubella syndrome (2004), respiratory diphtheria (2009)?

What about the infectious diseases which don’t have vaccines? Why hasn’t better hygiene and sanitation helped control those diseases yet, like RSV, norovirus, Ebola, and Zika, etc.?

“Perhaps the best evidence that vaccines, and not hygiene and nutrition, are responsible for the sharp drop in disease and death rates is chickenpox. If hygiene and nutrition alone were enough to prevent infectious diseases, chickenpox rates would have dropped long before the introduction of the varicella vaccine, which was not available until the mid-1990s. Instead, the number of chickenpox cases in the United States in the early 1990s, before the vaccine was introduced in 1995, was about four million a year. By 2004, the disease incidence had dropped by about 85%.”

Misconceptions about Vaccines

And why does better hygiene and sanitation only work for chicken pox in countries that routinely use the chicken pox vaccine?

Do you want to believe that vaccines don’t work to justify skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines and leaving them unvaccinated and unprotected?

Be more skeptical, learn more about vaccines, and make the right choice to get your kids vaccinated.

More on the Hygiene and Sanitation Anti-Vaccine Theory

Why Aren’t Vaccines Regulated like Drugs?

Have you ever heard the argument that vaccines aren’t held to the same standards as drugs, food, or other products?

“Vaccines are not held to the same double blind gold standard of clinical testing as other pharmaceutical drugs because they are considered biological products under the Public Health Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. They meet the same standards as cosmetics.”

20 VACCINE “FACTS” you need to know to make an informed decision

Placebos, liability, testing – these are all arguments that anti-vaccine folks try to use to scare parents into thinking that vaccine development isn’t well regulated and vaccines aren’t held to the same standard as drugs.

Why Aren’t Vaccines Regulated like Drugs?

Would you be surprised to learn that part of their argument is true?

Even after approval by the FDA, a vaccine still has to be reviewed by the ACIP before it is put on the immunization schedule.
Even after approval by the FDA, a vaccine still has to be reviewed by the ACIP before it is put on the immunization schedule.

No, not the part that vaccine development isn’t well regulated!

“Current authority for the regulation of vaccines resides primarily in Section 351 of the Public Health Service Act and specific sections of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”

Vaccine Product Approval Process

Federal regulations and rules ensure that our vaccines are safe.

  • Public Health Service Act (42 USC 262-63) §351
  • Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 USC 301-392)
  • Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 600-680 – standards for biological products
  • Title 21 CFR 314 (21 CFR 601.25[d][2], specific to biologicals – ensures adequate and well-controlled clinical trials
  • Title 21 CFR 312 – investigational new drug application (IND)
  • Title 21 CFR 210-211 – good manufacturing practices
  • Title 21 CFR 58 – good laboratory practices
  • Title 21 CFR 56 – institutional review boards
  • Title 21 CFR 50 – protection of human subjects
  • Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) of 1992, 2002, and 2007
  • Food and Drug Agency Modernization Act (FDAMA) of 1997
  • Food and Drug Agency Amendments Act (FDAAA) of 2007

I meant the part that vaccines aren’t regulated like drugs.

While both vaccines and prescription drugs are regulated by the FDA, that work occurs within two different centers of the FDA:

  • Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) – vaccines
  • Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) – over-the-counter and prescription drugs

Both centers work to make sure we have safe and effective vaccines and drugs to keep us healthy, even if there are some differences in how they do it.

“Vaccine clinical development follows the same general pathway as for drugs and other biologics.”

Vaccine Product Approval Process

That’s right, vaccines and drugs go through the same types of clinical trials.

After completing the three phases though, vaccine developers must then apply for a Biologics License Application (BLA), which is reviewed by a multidisciplinary FDA reviewer team. This is also when their manufacturing facility gets inspected.

“Following FDA’s review of a license application for a new indication, the sponsor and the FDA may present their findings to FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC). This non-FDA expert committee (scientists, physicians, biostatisticians, and a consumer representative) provides advice to the Agency regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for the proposed indication.”

Vaccine Product Approval Process

Once approved and licensed, the FDA and CDC continue to work to make sure the vaccine is safe, including having some vaccines undergo undergo Phase 4 studies and monitoring for side effects through VAERS and the Vaccine Safety Datalink.

And then, even after approval by the FDA, new vaccines aren’t put on the immunization schedule until a review and approval by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

“Canada, like many other countries, exercises tight regulatory oversight over vaccines because they are usually given to very large numbers of healthy individuals. Vaccines in Canada are subject to the Food and Drugs Act and the Food and Drug Regulations. Vaccines are regulated under a specific set of regulations for a subset of drugs known as biologic drugs.”

The Regulation of Vaccines for Human Use in Canada

It is also important to keep in mind that this process doesn’t just happen in the United States.

Still wondering why vaccines aren’t regulated like drugs?

“Vaccine development differs from drug development in several important ways. First, because vaccines are preventive and are given to healthy individuals – often children – they require very large clinical trials, leading to increased research and development costs. Second, vaccines are biological products that can be very complex to manufacture and are subject to stringent quality control standards, resulting in much higher capital costs. Third, unlike drugs, vaccines have no secondary markets, making it unlikely that manufacturers will generate additional profits beyond the initial target markets. Finally, unlike generic drugs, which only need to demonstrate adherence to a pre-established development process, vaccines are biologicals that require full re-development to demonstrate their equivalence. (World Health Organization, 2014). Each manufacturer is required to invest in the full regulatory approval process for their vaccine products.

Myths and Facts about Vaccine Product Price and Procurement

It’s only because vaccines are more strictly regulated than drugs and other products.

Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on Vaccine Regulation