Let’s go back to 1983!

22 Apr

One of the recurring themes in the vaccines-cause-autism discussion is the concept that if we were to go back to the vaccine schedule of 1983, the autism rate would drop to 1 in 10,000.

This, of course, is pushed hard by Generation Rescue and Jenny McCarthy. GR even took out ads in USA Today to promote this idea.

Before taking a look at the 1983 vaccine schedule, I have to offer Generation Rescue a few corrections to their advertisement.

1) There is no “mandatory” CDC schedule. Sorry, the CDC has a “recommended” schedule. States work from that to create their own schedules. Since in almost every state one can opt-out with a simple form, even the state schedules aren’t really “mandatory”.

2) Rotavirus isn’t “mandatory” even on the state level. Perhaps GR could show me which state has the Rotavirus vaccine as part of their schedule, but I haven’t been able to find one.

That said, GR would like us all to go back to the 1983 schedule. Really? Did they think this trough? I don’t think so.

Take a look at the 1983 schedule that GR list in their ad. Two vaccines pop up to me right away–DTP and OPV.

Consider first the DTP. I thought there were good safety reasons to move from DTP (with the whole-cell pertussis vaccine) to the DTaP (acellular pertussis) vaccine. Is it OK to have more vaccine injuries in their flawed experiment to try to reduce the autism rate? That would appear to follow from GR’s suggestion to “turn back the clock”. Do they really want to go back to DTP?

In the 1983 schedule, kids got the OPV–oral polio vaccine (live/attenuated virus). Today, kids get the IPV–inactivated polio vaccine. OPV is used in places where people are trying to eradicate polio, since the OPV viruses can be shed in the stool. This leads to non-immunized people being protected as well, but may have a small risk of infecting others with paralytical polio. We could spend more time discussing this, but let’s just say that there are really good reasons to move from OPV to IPV.

For those two reasons alone, the idea of “turning back the clock” appears to be the result of very simplistic logic by people who didn’t spend 5 minutes considering their own proposal.

In addition to changing some vaccines (e.g. DTP–>DTaP), the schedule added vaccines. What are the “new” vaccines that Generation Rescue seems to be objecting to? Let’s go through them one by one. Let’s ask the question Arthur Allen posed to Jim Carrey at the Green Our Vaccines rally: which one(s) would they leave out?

Hepatitis B. This is such a common target that Dr. Bernadine Healy singled it out recently.

From Wikipedia:

However, only 5% of newborns that acquire the infection from their mother at birth will clear the infection. This population has a 40% lifetime risk of death from cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma. Of those infected between the age of one to six, 70% will clear the infection.

Wow. 40% lifetime risk of death if a newborn catches HepB. How about the fact that 30% of children in the age 1 to 6 age range will not clear the HepB infection? Yep, they get a life-long, chronic condition that will kill a large fraction of them. Oh, you did notice that kids age 1-6 do catch HepB, right? So much for the “They aren’t at risk, why vaccinate them” nonsense.

Hib–Haemophilus influenzae type b. Otherwise known as Bacterial Meningitis. What’s that like?

Hib meningitis is fatal in about 5% of patients and causes brain damage in 10-30% of survivors.

And, for those who claim vaccines don’t work, EpiWonk (in his real life) showed clearly that Hib does work.

PCV–pneumococcal conjugate vaccine Prevents infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae. It causes 200 deaths a year amongst children under 5, it causes brain damage, deafness, and pneumonia. But, according to GR, we can do without preventing that.

Rotavirus. The Rotavirus vaccine is a constant target for groups like Generation Rescue. This is due in no small part to the fact that Paul Offit, an outspoken critic of the vaccines-cause-autism hypothesis, is a co-inventor of the vaccine in current use.

Again, from Wikipedia:

In the United States, rotavirus causes about 2.7 million cases of severe gastroenteritis in children, almost 60,000 hospitalisations, and around 37 deaths each year

My guess is that this would be particularly nasty for a child with a mitochondrial dysfunction. Just something to consider.

Hepatitis A. I find it odd that the Hep-B vaccine gets so much attention and Hep-A is all but ignored by vaccine critics. Hepatitis A appears to be a much less serious disease, where death or chronic infection are uncommon.

Influenza. This is a favorite vaccine for Generation Rescue to complain about. One big reason: flu vaccines often still contain thimerosal. Groups like Generation Rescue tend to ignore the fact that flu shot uptake is low. Otherwise, they would have to admit that the thimerosal exposure from vaccines is way lower than a few years ago–with no change in the “epidemic”. Note that of the 36 vaccines that Generation Rescue claims the CDC “mandates”, seven of them are influenza. Other than New Jersey, does any state require flu shots? More to the point, at the time that Generation Rescue put out their print ad, did any state require Flu shots?

As an aside, from NJ state law:

A student shall be exempted from mandatory immunization if the student objects thereto in a written statement submitted to the institution, signed by the student, explaining how the administration of immunizing agents conflicts with the student’s religious beliefs.

Yeah, that’s for older kids, but you get the idea. “Mandated” vaccines are “mandated” unless you don’t want them.

Varicella. This is “chicken pox”. This is often scoffed at by vaccine rejectionists because, after all, we all know it is basically harmless. Right? Well, while generally mild, some people do suffer severe effects or die from Chickenpox.

Generation Rescue would like to “turn back the clock”. Take us back to the simpler times of 1983. A simple time when people died from diseases we can now prevent. But, this is all to prevent autism, so it’s a good idea, right? Well, we saw how “turning back the clock” on thimerosal exposure worked in reducing autism…it didn’t. That doesn’t prove that changing the vaccine schedule won’t have an effect. It does prove that Generation Rescue uses faulty logic and, worse, doesn’t own their mistakes.

19 Responses to “Let’s go back to 1983!”

  1. joeyandymom April 22, 2009 at 13:27 #

    In our neighborhood, about the time my kids were born, there was a real scare among the pediatricians here because so many people were opting out of vaccines. Our doctor went so far as to order special vaccines to ensure there was no thimerasol in them, to encourage her patients to vaccinate! Even so, we lost one to bacterial meningitis, one to measles, and several to pneumonia. With the chicken pox vaccine, its not really the kids they are worried about. The bulk of the problem is when people don’t get immunity during childhood, and then get it when an adult- and it becomes far more dangerous. We almost lost one of my college classmates to chicken pox- she was hospitalized for six weeks!

  2. Narciso April 22, 2009 at 14:11 #

    If it really believable that determine each person or create your own defenses, but that depends a lot from children, since according to studies years ago that children are not vaccinated were prone to any disease, but that is totally wrong because the body creates its own immune system, and creates the necessary defenses to this way of entering a strange virus rejection by the body that cause them.

  3. Clay April 22, 2009 at 15:34 #

    Why is it that all these people who want to “turn back the clock” wind up with what is essentially a fundamentalist cult, like the Wahhabis,
    the Taliban, some American organizations I’ll leave you to guess? Freakin’ Luddites, the lot of them.

  4. Joseph April 22, 2009 at 16:34 #

    Taking it literally, they could also put back about 70 micrograms of thimerosal in childhood vaccines. That’s pretty much the cumulative exposure in the 1980s. Obviously, for someone who believes in the “autism epidemic,” 70 micrograms must be pretty safe (at least when it comes to autism.)

  5. Sullivan April 22, 2009 at 19:23 #

    Thanks Joseph,

    I wasn’t sure about the thimerosal content in the 1983 vaccine schedule. It is larger than today. So, GR is promoting an increase in the thimerosal exposure to children?!?

  6. me.yahoo.com/a/TuRz.joYnfzpKUWMPSYwTtN6HTLFunmLzPblUMkn April 22, 2009 at 19:28 #

    Infectious disease rates fall with improved public health and nutrition. Check out the minimal effect of pertussis immunisation on the natural declining prevalence of pertussis.

    It could be argued that the immunisation programme is oversold as being the panacea for infectious diseases. There are other factors in the decline of infectious diseases in the West.

  7. brian April 22, 2009 at 19:38 #

    Of course, if 70 micrograms of thimerosal was safe before the “epidemic”, it should also be true that the 3000 antigens given pre-epidemic must have been safer than the ca. 125 antigens given now. Although a 24-fold reduction doesn’t seem to square with the “too many, too soon” credo, apparently cult members feel that consistency–or actual understanding–is less important than stridency.

    Paul Offit addressed related issues here:


  8. Joseph April 22, 2009 at 19:53 #


    These anti-vax graphs are always interesting. Why do they plot “percent decrease” as opposed to simply incidence or prevalence by birth year? Where’s the raw data?

  9. Sullivan April 22, 2009 at 21:02 #

    Why don’t they plot the drop in number of cases of measles or rubella with the introduction of those vaccines?

    The other big fake out is to plot deaths rather than cases. All rather Geier-esque.

  10. Sullivan April 22, 2009 at 21:05 #

    Here’s a good graph for Measles

    Shows both deaths and notifications. Yes, the death rate had dropped before the vaccine introduction–but it’s hard to claim that the vaccine doesn’t work when you can see the drop in actual cases.

  11. me.yahoo.com/a/TuRz.joYnfzpKUWMPSYwTtN6HTLFunmLzPblUMkn April 22, 2009 at 21:31 #

    That graph should also have deaths prior to 1945 to make it even more convincing but also to give a better perspective of the effects of public health and nutrition on the prevalence of measles. Why are deaths prior to 1945 not on the graph?

  12. Sullivan April 22, 2009 at 23:29 #

    I need to make my point more clear, I see.

    It doesn’t really matter how far back the data go for the deaths. The point is that people who use the death rate for measles to imply that measles was somehow magically going away on its own are LYING. People who claim that measles isn’t a big deal because the death rate was reduced (thank you, medical community!) are LYING.

    When someone shows the death-rate graph, that person is almost always promoting an anti-vaccine message through misinformation.

  13. me.yahoo.com/a/TuRz.joYnfzpKUWMPSYwTtN6HTLFunmLzPblUMkn April 23, 2009 at 00:12 #

    Methinks you protest too much. Are you saying that there is no graph of measles deaths from 1900 for comparison?
    On the one hand the medical profession provided you with your graph and then you condemn them on the other hand. One must remain neutral in these matters.

  14. Sullivan April 23, 2009 at 01:35 #

    Methinks you are either (a) misunderstanding or (b) misunderstanding on purpose. I condemn the misuse of the graphs.

  15. Joseph April 23, 2009 at 01:56 #

    @me.yahoo.com/a/TuRz.joYnfzpKUWMPSYwTtN6HTLFunmLzPblUMkn: Could you click on the link after “Logged in as…” that shows above the comment box, and then configure the “Display name publicly as” setting?

  16. me.yahoo.com/a/TuRz.joYnfzpKUWMPSYwTtN6HTLFunmLzPblUMkn April 23, 2009 at 22:20 #

    The graphs are enlightening re the effect of public health and nutrition on infectious diseases but your graph could almost have been designed by a drug compny making immunisations i.e. not inserting the figures for deaths from measles from 1900 ? deliberately.

  17. Lori Aldrich May 7, 2009 at 00:20 #

    Your forgetting the oath, first do no harm.

  18. Sullivan May 7, 2009 at 01:28 #

    No, actually, I am not. Neither are the public health professionals who promote vaccines.

    Not using vaccines would cause great harm.

  19. Lori Aldrich May 7, 2009 at 14:08 #

    Using too many vaccines, too soon causes great harm.

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