Tag: vaccine myths

Can MMR Shedding Start a Measles Outbreak?

Have you ever noticed that any time that there is a new outbreak of measles, folks tend to ask the same basic questions.

How did the outbreak start?

Why weren’t they vaccinated?

Was it from shedding?

Wait, what?

Shedding??? Really?

Can MMR Shedding Start a Measles Outbreak?

It seems that the idea that the MMR vaccine sheds and can lead to measles outbreaks is one of those anti-vaccine myths that just won’t go away.

It comes back with each new measles outbreak.

The myth that MMR shedding leads to measles outbreaks is commonly spread on Facebook, like this discussion on a recent outbreak at a Kansas City daycare center.
The myth that MMR shedding leads to measles outbreaks is commonly spread on Facebook, like this discussion on a recent outbreak at a Kansas City daycare center.

While the oral polio vaccine is indeed associated with shedding and vaccine associated disease, that doesn’t happen with MMR. Experts don’t even recommend any restrictions for use of the MMR vaccine for household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed. And yes, your kids can even visit a cancer patient if they just had their MMR, as long as they don’t have RSV, the flu, or some other contagious disease.

What about the fact that a study once found measles virus RNA in the urine of of kids who had recently been vaccinated? Doesn’t that mean that they were shedding the vaccine virus?

No. It doesn’t.

To be considered shedding, those measles virus RNA particles in their urine would have to be contagious. Now, measles is spread by respiratory secretions. So how are measles virus RNA particles in urine going to become airborne and get someone else sick?

They don’t.

Another Facebook post about MMR and shedding.
Most measles outbreaks in daycare centers have been started by an unvaccinated child or worker who traveled out of the country.

But what about that case in Canada? Anti-vaccine folks like to bring this up when they talk about shedding. In 2013, there was a case of vaccine-associated measles. That proves that the vaccine sheds, right?

Absolutely not!

“Of note, only one case report of transmission from vaccine-associated measles has been identified.”

Murti et al. on Case of vaccine-associated measles five weeks post-immunisation, British Columbia, Canada, October 2013

That child got measles about 5 weeks after she was vaccinated in the middle of a measles outbreak. Because she had no links to the other cases and she tested positive for vaccine-strain measles, it is thought that she had MMR vaccine-associated measles, which is extremely rare.

Shedding Light on Measles Outbreaks in Daycare

MMR shedding is not causing outbreaks of measles – or rubella and mumps, for that matter.

If shedding from the MMR, by any method, got kids sick, then why aren’t there even more cases of measles?

Daycare centers everywhere have a mix of infants and toddlers, including some who are intentionally unvaccinated, those who are too young to get their first MMR, and those who are just getting vaccinated.

When a case of measles does pop up though, it isn’t because of shedding, it is typically because someone who wasn’t vaccinated traveled out of the country, got measles, and brought it back home, exposing others.

What to Know About MMR and Shedding

Measles outbreaks are not caused by shedding from the MMR vaccine.

More on the MMR and Shedding

Vaccines and the Blood-Brain Barrier

When they aren’t talking about toxins, anti-vaccine folks like to talk about two things – the gut and the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

Kelly Brogan, a holistic psychiatrist, missed an opportunity to talk about the gut when scaring folks about "toxins" in flu shots and the blood brain barrier.
Kelly Brogan, a holistic psychiatrist, missed an opportunity to talk about the gut when scaring folks about “toxins” in flu shots and the blood-brain barrier.

Sometimes they talk about all of them together.

What is the Blood-Brain Barrier?

The blood-brain barrier is exactly what you think it is – a barrier to keep substances in the blood from entering the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Of course, the blood-brain barrier is not impermeable, as some substances, like glucose, ketone bodies, and amino acids have to get to the brain. Brain cells need fuel, just like every other part of the body. And waste products have to get from the brain, across the blood-brain barrier, and back into the blood, so that we can get rid of them.

So the blood-brain barrier doesn’t block everything though. Instead, it is a semi-permeable membrane that lets some things through, but keeps out foreign substances (neurotoxins), lipid insoluble molecules, large molecules (macromolecules), and molecules with a charge.

Why is all of this important?

With a functioning blood-brain barrier, many medications, hormones, and toxins, are kept from affecting our brains! Of course, the blood-brain barrier can make it hard when you do want something to affect your brain, like when you are treating meningitis, anxiety, depression, or migraines.

And there are times when the blood-brain barrier can break down, like after a stroke, certain infections, head trauma, or having high blood pressure, etc.

Vaccines and the Blood-Brain Barrier

So what do vaccines have to do with the blood-brain barrier?

If you understand how vaccines work, you have already likely expected that the answer is, not much.

Anti-vaccine folks think that vaccine ingredients, their so-called toxins, can cross the blood-brain barrier – our semi-permeable membrane that keeps most things out.

They also think that teething can induce a chemical cascade that can make a child’s blood-brain barrier extra leaky. It doesn’t.

And they think that an infant’s blood-brain barrier isn’t developed, an anti-vaccine talking point which helps reinforce their decision to skip or delay vaccinating their kids.

When Does the Blood-Brain Barrier Form?

It shouldn’t be surprising that none of the things that anti-vaccine folks say about the blood-brain barrier is true.

“In contrast with the rodent, in which the development of the BBB occurs primarily after birth, the human barrier and its tight junction protein complex develop mainly in utero. More recent evidence has confirmed that the proteins of the tight junction complex are present very early during human fetal brain development.”

Fetal and Neonatal Physiology (Fifth Edition)

So, of course, the blood-brain barrier forms before a baby is born.

“Given sufficient time and dosage most drugs can breach the placenta and enter the fetal circulation, posing a teratogenic risk to the fetal brain. Although the placenta and BBB have several efflux transporters in common, the BBB is a far more structurally complex and restrictive system.”

Goasdoué et al on Review: The blood-brain barrier; protecting the developing fetal brain

The placenta does a good job of most things from getting to your baby, but once inside, you don’t want everything in your baby’s blood to get to their brain, right?

That’s why the blood-brain barrier begins to form well before your baby is born.

“The BBB develops during fetal life and is well formed by birth, especially to proteins and macromolecules.”

Abbott et al on the Structure and function of the blood-brain barrier

And it is well formed by the time they are born.

None of the ingredients in vaccines, whether it is aluminum, polysorbate 80, or anything else, is going to cross the blood-brain barrier and act as a toxin.

“One can question why polysorbate-80 is in the vaccines if it serves to potentially transport vaccine materials across the blood-brain-barrier. After all, what vaccine materials need to enter the brain? The obvious answer is, none. I’ve heard people ask if the polysorbate-80 is in the vaccines intentionally, used as part of a medical experiment on the human race, like we heard about during World War II.”

Lawrence Palevsky, MD in the Holistic Child Health Newsletter August 2013

It should be clear that these ideas about the blood-brain barrier are just more myths to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Polysorbate 80, for example, is an emulsifier that helps ingredients mix together. It is also used in ice cream and other foods. Maybe someone can ask Dr. Palevsky if he thinks that’s why we sometimes get a ‘brain freeze’ when we eat ice cream – the polysorbate 80 is allowing the ice cream to cross our blood-brain barrier and literally freeze our brain as some kind of medical experiment on the human race.

What to Know About Vaccines and the Blood Brain Barrier

The blood-brain barrier is a semi-permeable membrane that develops before your baby is born. Review how that should affect your decision to vaccinate your kids.

More on Vaccines and the Blood Brain Barrier

How to Claim a Vaccine Exemption

Don’t want to get your kids vaccinated?

You might be surprised to know that no one is out there trying to force you into vaccinating them.

Want to enroll your kids in daycare, preschool, school, or college?

Then they will need to be vaccinated.

How to Claim a Vaccine Exemption

Of course, depending on where you live, you could get a vaccine exemption and leave your kids unvaccinated and unprotected.

Does your child qualify for a medical exemption? All states allow kids to claim medical exemptions to getting vaccinated. True medical exemptions are rare though, as you can see from the rates in states that actually require screening and approval of medical vaccine exemptions.

Are you a Christian Scientist? In 47 states, laws allow religious exemptions to vaccinations. Ironically, these exemptions are often abused, as you don’t actually need to belong to a religion that is against vaccines to claim a religious exemption to vaccinations.

“When you are challenged by the viewpoint of a denomination, pastor, publication, or atheist authority: You do not worship any pastor, church, religious publication, or denomination. Your pastor’s personal view on vaccines is irrelevant to your stance because pastors do not learn about the biblical implications of vaccinating during seminary and your pastor isn’t God. (Though if you have a pastor willing to go to bat for you, use him.)”

Megan on How To Get a Vaccine Religious Exemption Like a Boss

It is not even a secret that parents abuse the religious vaccine exemption, claiming them even when they don’t have a sincere religious belief against getting vaccinated.

And in 20 states, it is even easier to claim a vaccine exemption. These are the states that allow philosophical or personal belief vaccine exemptions, in which you can typically just say that you are against vaccinating and protecting your kids “for reasons of conscience.”

Vaccine exemptions are too easy to get in some states, but even with an exemption, your child will still be excluded if there is an outbreak.
Vaccine exemptions are too easy to get in some states, but even with an exemption, your child will still be excluded if there is an outbreak.

What reasons? You don’t usually have to go into much detail…

Why Parents Abuse Vaccine Exemptions

It is not hard to understand why some parents abuse vaccine exemptions.

They abuse vaccine exemptions because they can.

In many states, it is easy to abuse vaccine exemptions because medical exemptions aren’t verified and approved and it is often easier and more convenient to get an exemption than to get vaccinated. Believe it or not, some doctors will even sell you a medical exemption for your child. Also, parents are made to feel so scared by anti-vaccine propaganda that they think that they need to get an exemption.

“Permitting personal belief exemptions and easily granting exemptions are associated with higher and increasing nonmedical US exemption rates. State policies granting personal belief exemptions and states that easily grant exemptions are associated with increased pertussis incidence.”

Omer et al on Nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements: secular trends and association of state policies with pertussis incidence.

But just because you can claim an easy exemption in a state without strong vaccine exemption laws doesn’t mean that you should.

While there are no benefits to delaying or skipping vaccines, there are plenty of risks. And the risks aren’t just to your unvaccinated child. We continue to see and hear about kids who are too young to be vaccinated or who couldn’t be vaccinated getting caught up in outbreaks caused by others who simply chose to not get vaccinated.

“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

Not surprisingly, websites and organizations that give advice on getting kids easy vaccine exemptions never mention these risks. They also overstate the risks of vaccines and don’t mention the benefits of getting vaccinated.

Vaccines are safe and necessary. Unless your child has a true medical contraindication to getting one or more vaccines, do a little more research before getting a non-medical exemption.

What to Know About Claiming a Vaccine Exemption

While it is typically not hard to claim a vaccine exemption for your child, since vaccines are safe and necessary, be sure you understand the risks of delaying or skipping any vaccines if your child doesn’t need a true medical exemption.

More on Claiming a Vaccine Exemption


Are Vaccinated Children Dying from the Flu?

We know that kids die from the flu, not just this year, but every year.

In fact, on average, just over 100 kids die of the flu each year!

The flu is a terrible disease.

How Many Kids Die from the Flu?

The CDC started to track pediatric flu deaths in the fall of 2004, when it became nationally reportable. This followed a particularly bad 2003-04 flu season (H3N2-predominant), during which the CDC got reports of 153 pediatric deaths from only 40 states.

Since then, the number of pediatric flu deaths has ranged from a low of 37, during the 2011-12 flu season, to a high of 289 deaths during the swine flu pandemic.

  • 2004-05 flu season – 47 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2005-06 flu season – 46 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2006-07 flu season – 77 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2007-08 flu season – 88 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2008-09 flu season – 137 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2009-10 flu season – 289 pediatric flu deaths (swine flu pandemic)
  • 2010-11 flu season – 123 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2011-12 flu season – 37 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2012-13 flu season – 171 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2013-14 flu season – 111 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2014-15 flu season – 148 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2015-16 flu season – 93 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2016-17 flu season – 110 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)

So far, this year, there have been 119 flu deaths in children.

Are Vaccinated Children Dying from the Flu?

The anti-vaccine movement is obviously the one in PANIC MODE as they continue putting out anti-vaccine propaganda.
The anti-vaccine movement is obviously the one in PANIC MODE as they continue putting out anti-vaccine propaganda, even as unvaccinated kids continue to die.

Although this year’s flu season, in which an H3N2 flu strain got off to an early start, certainly has the potential to be a lot worse than your average flu season, it seems similar to other H3N2 flu seasons.

Tragically, that means a lot of kids will likely die with the flu this season. H3N2-predominant flu seasons tend to be much worse than when other flu virus strains

And like previous flu seasons, we know that:

  • many of them will be otherwise healthy, without an underlying high risk medical condition
  • half will be between 5 to 17 years old

And most of them will be unvaccinated.

“During past seasons, approximately 80% of flu-associated deaths in children have occurred in children who were not vaccinated. Based on available data, this remains true for the 2017-2018 season, as well.”

CDC on How many flu-associated deaths occur in people who have been vaccinated?

And we also know that it isn’t too late to get a flu shot to get protected for the rest of this year’s flu season.

What to Know About Pediatric Flu Deaths

The flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but there is no denying the fact that year after year, most pediatric flu deaths are in kids who weren’t vaccinated.

More on Pediatric Flu Deaths

Updated March 11, 2018

Quarantine Signs for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

If everyone breezed through vaccine-preventable diseases so easily back in the pre-vaccine era, then why were so many folks held under quarantine?

Quarantine Sign

Vaccine-preventable diseases have always been known to be dangerous and life-threatening.

If they were once thought of as a way of life, it was only because there was no way to avoid them!

As someone with an uncle who developed severe paralytic polio disease a few years before the first vaccine was developed, I can tell you that these diseases were no walk in the park.

Still, while quarantines are helpful to control disease outbreaks, they clearly aren’t enough. That’s evident by the way that vaccines were used in Leicester to control smallpox, even though some folks say it was all due to quarantines. It wasn’t.

How long would quarantine last?

Usually through at least one incubation period for the disease.

Quarantine Signs
Smallpox quarantine sign A Board of Health quarantine poster warning that the premises are contaminated by smallpox.
Diphtheria quarantine sign. Diphtheria quarantine sign.
Polio quarantine sign Polio quarantine sign.
In the pre-vaccine era, we had outbreaks of polio, and other, now vaccine-preventable diseases. Whooping cough quarantine sign.
Unvaccinated children exposed to measles are quarantined for at least 21 days. Mumps quarantine sign
Chickenpox quarantine sign Rubella quarantine sign.

Have you ever seen any of these quarantine signs?

If so, have you seen any of them lately?

That’s because vaccines work.

What to Know About Quarantine Signs for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

In the pre-vaccine era, quarantines were the only way to try and help stop many diseases from spreading in the community.

More on Quarantine Signs for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

The Benefits and Risks of Delaying Vaccines

Believe it or not, some pediatricians think it is a good idea to delay vaccines.

“Wait until a child is clearly developmentally “solid” before vaccinating because we just don’t know which children will react badly to immunizations.”

Dr. Jay Gordon

In fact, Dr. Bob wrote a whole book pushing his own immunization schedule!

Not surprisingly, there are no benefits to skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines, but there are plenty of risks.

What Are the Risks of Delaying Vaccines?

Of course, the biggest risk of delaying your child’s vaccines is that they will get a disease that they could have been vaccinated and protected against.

“In 1989, the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine was relatively new and not yet routine. I was aware of the vaccine’s availability, but, busy mom that I was, I had not yet made the trip to the health department to get the immunization for my two-year-old daughter, Sarah. I will always regret that bit of procrastination and the anguish that it caused.”

Peggy Archer

Although we are much more used to hearing vaccine injury scare stories, if you are thinking of delaying your child’s vaccines, there are also many personal stories of parents who regret not vaccinating their children that you should review.

You can wait too long to get a tetanus shot...
You can wait too long to get a tetanus shot… Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

It is true that the risk may be very small for a disease like polio, which is close to being eradicated worldwide, but it is not zero.

Consider that the last case of polio occurred in 2005, when an unvaccinated 22-year-old U.S. college student became infected with polio vaccine virus while traveling to Costa Rica in a university-sponsored study-abroad program.

So you might not get wild polio unless you visit specific regions of Afghanistan or Pakistan, but you might want to be concerned about vaccine-associated polio if you go to a country that is still giving the oral polio vaccine.

And the risk is certainly much higher than zero for most other vaccine-preventable diseases, as we see from the regular outbreaks of measles, mumps, and pertussis, etc.

Some studies even suggest that delaying your child’s vaccines puts them at more risk for side effects once you do start to get caught up!

“…in the second year of life, delay of the first MMR vaccine until 16 months of age or older resulted in an IRR for seizures in the 7 to 10 days after vaccination that was 3 times greater than if administration of MMR vaccine occurred on time.”

Hambridge et al on Timely Versus Delayed Early Childhood Vaccination and Seizures

Why would that be?

It’s probably because that’s when kids are most at risk for febrile seizures.

What Are the Benefits of Delaying Vaccines?

Again, there are no real benefits of delaying vaccines, except that your child gets out of one or more shots. Of course, that means your unvaccinated child is left unprotected.

And it is going to mean more shots later, once you do decide to get caught up.

Will it mean a lower risk of autism, ADHD, eczema, peanut allergies, or anything else?


“The prevalence of allergic diseases and non-specific infections in children and adolescents was not found to depend on vaccination status.”

Schmitz et al on Vaccination Status and Health in Children and Adolescents Findings of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS)

Unvaccinated kids are not healthier than those who are vaccinated. They are just at higher risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

Why do some folks think that there are benefits to delaying vaccines? Because they have been scared into thinking that vaccines are harmful and that they don’t even work.

“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

Obviously, that put us all at risk. If too many people skip or delay their child’s vaccines, we will see more outbreaks.

Get educated. Vaccines work. Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are necessary.

What to Know About the Risks of Delaying Vaccines

Delaying your child’s vaccines offers no benefits and lots of increased risks, especially an increased risk of getting the diseases that the vaccines protect us against.

More on the Risks of Delaying Vaccines

Aren’t Vaccines Made for Adults?

Have you ever heard someone bring up the argument that vaccines are made for adults, so kids shouldn’t be getting the same dosage?

If they do, you should understand right away that they don’t really understand how vaccines work.

And that they really don’t understand immunology either, for that matter.

Are Vaccines Made for Adults?

To be fair, some vaccines are made just for adults. In fact, some, like the shingles vaccines and high-dose flu shot (has four times the amount of antigen in the regular flu shot) are only for seniors.

Other vaccines, like the rotavirus vaccine, are made just for kids.

And a few vaccines come in different forms depending on your age.

For example, younger kids get the DTaP vaccine, while older kids and adults get a Tdap vaccine. They both protect against the same three diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), but they contain different amounts of antigens. In this case, the Tdap vaccine actually contains 3-5 times less of the diphtheria component as the DTaP vaccine. That’s because before they lowered it, repeated dosing of the original Td vaccine every ten years led to worsening local reactions in some people.

The hepatitis B and hepatitis A vaccines are also available in different formulations for kids and adults, with adults getting twice the amount of antigens.

Most other vaccines though, come in the same form for both kids and adults, including the MMR vaccine and vaccines that protect us against HPV, chicken pox, polio, meningococcal disease, and pneumococcal disease, etc.

Are Vaccines Calibrated by Weight or Age?

Why does this question even come up?

Science event in Washington, D.C. reminding folks that Vaccines Work.
Pediatricians at the March for Science event in Washington, D.C. reminded folks that Vaccines Work. We shouldn’t forget that others also need a reminder of how they work.

It’s because some folks push the myth that infants are getting too high a dose of vaccines, since in most cases, older kids and adults get the very same dose.

They don’t though.

Does that mean that those older kids and adults are getting too low a dose then?


You see, vaccines aren’t like antibiotics or other medications. They aren’t typically dosed based on your weight or age and don’t have to build up to a steady state in your blood stream.

That’s right, for most vaccines, it doesn’t matter if your child weighs 8 pounds or 80 pounds.

Why not?

Because the antigens in the vaccine don’t have to travel all around your child’s body in order for them to work!

Understanding the Immune Response to a Vaccine

Instead, the small amount of antigens in a vaccine simply get the vaccine response started near where the vaccine was given, whether that is in their arm or leg (shot), nose (nasal), or small intestine (oral).

“B cells are essentially activated in the lymph nodes draining the injection site.”

Claire-Anne Siegrist on Vaccine Immunology

Antigen-presenting cells (APCs) then take up the antigens and migrate towards a nearby lymph node. It is at these lymph nodes that the APCs activate other cells, including:

  • antigen-specific helper T cells
  • killer T cells
  • B cells

The activated T and B cells then go to work, with many B cells becoming plasma cells, and some T and B cells transforming into memory cells.

This illustration from the NIH and National Library of Medicine helps explain how vaccines work.
This illustration from the NIH and National Library of Medicine explains how vaccines work.

Next, within days to weeks of getting vaccinated, the plasma cells begin producing protective antibodies, which are released into our bloodstreams.

The same thing happens if you are exposed to a disease naturally, which is why it is silly to think that a vaccine could weaken or overwhelm your immune system.

The big difference about getting exposed to a disease naturally vs getting a vaccine? With the vaccine, you don’t have to actually have the the symptoms of the disease or any of its complications to get immunity. In other words, you don’t have to earn your immunity.

What to Know About Vaccine Dosage Myths

The dose of vaccines for kids and adults is not calibrated by weight or age because the immune reaction that helps antibodies travel all through your body starts locally, near where the vaccine was given.

More on Vaccine Dosage Myths