Vaccine Myths Round Four

February 28, 2010 by · 9 Comments
Filed under: Parents' Pages, Vaccine Myths, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

Vaccines saved us:  just visit an old graveyard and look at all the markers for dead babies and children.

Graph provided by Health Sentinel

Click on the graph to enlarge it. For more graphs go here.

When the vaccine arguments are hot and furious, a frequent insult is: “You don’t understand the science!”  The confusion in this case doesn’t arise from ignorance of science, but from ignorance of history.  The people who think that vaccines saved millions of children from death see the story like this:

Childhood illnesses run uncontrolled through the population leaving dead bodies in every house.  Parents are in despair.  Brave doctor cooks up a vaccine, the disease stops dead, and all children come through to a healthy adulthood. Read more

Myths 3.2 Chickenpox “the disease can be severe”

Parents who take their children to chicken pox parties have forgotten how devastating this childhood disease can be according to vaccination experts:

“What happens if you bring your child to a chicken pox party and they’re the one in 10 who has a complication and is hospitalized?” said Dr. Jane Zucker, head of the city Health Department’s immunizations bureau.

We went back to 1951, when chickenpox afflicted millions of children every year in the U.S. to see if complications and hospitalization from chickenpox were common:

In general, chickenpox is a disease of young children and in them it usually runs an uneventful, if uncomfortable, course without leaving behind it any permanent bad effects. In very rare instances, a case of encephalitis or inflammation of the brain may occur after chickenpox, causing such symptoms as sleepiness, stiff neck, convulsions, coma, and even death.

Ordinarily, however, chickenpox is a mild though highly contagious disease…

This view of chickenpox as mild continued to exist in the U.S. for many years as this two part video snippet illustrates. Read more

Vaccine Myths 3.1: The Scourge of Childhood

“…young parents of today do not remember…”

In 1974 the St. Petersburg Times wrote:

So many people are neglecting to get immunity shots that doctors fear the seven one-time scourges of childhood–polio, mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, lockjaw and whooping cough–may strike American communities again.

However, just six years earlier, in 1968, newspaper stories said things like this:

Although mumps is a relatively mild childhood disease, it can cause sterility when it strikes adult males.

At that time the recommendation was to give the recently developed shots to boys if they hadn’t had the mumps by the time they hit adolescence. Read more

“Just because you need a third dose doesn’t mean the two dose schedule is having issues or anything”

February 16, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: CDC Watch, News, Opinion, Parents' Pages, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

Mumps story:

Because of continued spread, health authorities working with communities in Orange County are giving schoolchildren a third dose of the MMR vaccine. Gallagher says it will be two or three months before it’s known whether the effort succeeded.

Why do they need a third dose?

The infections happened despite high coverage with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Among patients ages 7 to 18 — the age group that had the most cases — 85% of patients had received the two recommended MMR vaccine doses.

This doesn’t mean the MMR vaccine isn’t working, says epidemiologist Kathleen Gallagher, DSc, MPH, the CDC’s team leader for measles, mumps, and rubella.

“Two doses of mumps vaccine is believed to be 90% to 95% effective,” Gallagher tells WebMD. “But that means people can still get mumps. If the vaccine is 90% effective and 100 people are exposed to mumps, 10 will get the disease.”

If we imagine that mumps is being sprinkled from the sky and spread evenly throughout the population, then yes, one out of ten vaccinated people would catch mumps if the vaccine was, indeed, 90% effective, or one out of twenty if it were 95% effective. But if the vaccine creates “herd immunity” then the disease shouldn’t be able to jump from vaccinated person to vaccinated person to vaccinated person. Read more

Vaccine Myths, Round Two

Introduction: A while back, we explored some common anti-vax myths.  Because in the great vaccine debates, the myths tend to outnumber the facts, we’ve decided to begin a multipart series dispelling some of the mythologies people argue over which preclude productive discussions over real issues. Below, you will find the facts behind two more common vaccine myths: herd immunity, and whether or not vaccines are profitable to pharmaceutical companies.

Myth: herd immunity isn’t real, and all the vaccine preventable diseases were declining in incidence prevaccine

Reality: vaccine induced herd immunity is a real phenomenon, and the incidences of the “diseases of childhood” (measles and mumps, for example)  averaged out to be constant in the prevaccine era.

Here’s a chart showing the incidence of measles from 1912 till 1960.

Although the “death rate per cases” dropped an amazing amount, the same number of cases were happening per year on average. Read more

Mumps Vaccine: Perceptions and Emerging Realities

October 12, 2009 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: News, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

Mumps outbreaks are occurring in highly vaccinated populations and this has led to differences in opinion amongst scientists around the efficacy of the vaccine, with various mechanisms of failure being put forward. It has been suggested that the number of vaccinated young adults (18-24 yrs) who contracted mumps in the US in 2006 form a small percentage of the overall vaccinated population. The fact that 84% were vaccinated with two doses is reduced to a minor detail when numbers are crunched in the “right” way. However, this is not the view of all scientists. There is concern as to why highly vaccinated populations are having mumps outbreaks. By choosing to avoid the issue, essentially ignoring the reason why young adults who have been vaccinated twice with the MMR are coming down with mumps, the evidence on the real efficacy of mass vaccination against a benign childhood disease is not discussed. Read more

Does the Inactivated Influenza Vaccine Even Work In the Recommended Age Bracket?

It’s that time of year again!  Having spent last summer consulting the avian set on what’s hot in influenza, the pharmaceutical company has whipped up a fresh batch of flu vaccine, and now they need to move the merchandise!  Fortunately, the CDC is happy to help with sales, by expanding the recommendation to ever more age groups.  The Advisory Committee on Immunization Policy currently recommends the vaccine for all children aged 6 months to eighteen years.  There is just one slight issue that might concern some parents.  Peer-reviewed research in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 162 No. 10, October 2008,1 demonstrates that the vaccine is not effective under age 5!

An inherent assumption of expanded vaccination recommendations is that the vaccine is efficacious in preventing clinical influenza disease. Although studies have documented immune responses following 2 doses of inactivated influenza vaccine as well as vaccine efficacy for culture-confirmed disease in randomized clinical trials, surprisingly little information exists regarding influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) among young children receiving vaccine in routine health care settings.

Read more

Where Do They Find These Scary Statistics III – Let’s Make a Few Assumptions – Hepatitis B

September 2, 2008 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: CDC Watch, Vaccine Science, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

[Part I, Part II, ]

Parents have questions about the risk-benefit equation of the Hepatitis B vaccine. It is possible for a parent to be quite certain that their infant is not at risk of prenatal or birth exposure to this disease. The risk factors for exposure during infancy, early childhood, and the elementary school years can be reasonably well assessed on an individual basis. Read more

Where Do They Find These Scary Statistics? Part II: Gross Estimation–Diphtheria Statistics Defy Reality

Top graph from page 423 of The Questionable Contribution of Medical Measures to the Decline of Mortality in the United States in the Twentieth Century.
Lower graph from page 208 of  Trends in Diphtheria Mortality.

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Series Links: Part I, Part III Read more

Where Do They Find These Scary Statistics?


Dr. Gerberding of the CDC

[Series Links: Part II, Part III]

Remember Hannah Poling? The head of the CDC, dressed in a very nice pink suit, appeared on TV and discussed Hannah’s case. In one of her appearances she said something like this: “Vaccines prevent 33,000 deaths a year in the United States.” Just to make sure I had the statement right, I searched for the phrase and found it again, from CNN, this time in print.

Today, through immunizations given in the first two years of life, we can protect children from 16 diseases, preventing 33,000 deaths and 14 million illnesses per year.

A few searches made it clear that this is a very popular statistic. A variety of news stories included the information that vaccines prevent 33,000 deaths a year in the United States. This is an interesting number to anyone who knows a bit about the history of infectious diseases. I decided to dig deeper.

My next find was this chart, which is on a the web-site of an organization called Every Child by Two. The chart provides morbidity (incidence) and mortality (deaths) for each disease. How in the world would someone be able to calculate (for example) the exact number of cases of diphtheria which would occur and the exact number of deaths which would follow? Amazing! There must be some truly extraordinary scientific research underlying these numbers, don’t you think? Read more

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