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Change.org ask ‘Did the Anti-Vaccination Movement Cause the Whooping Cough Epidemic?’

2 Nov

A great post over at Change.org asks the question and delivers the right answer – yes, yes they did. It also targets the right org as being responsible – Barbara Loe Fischer’s anti-vaccine group NVIC.

Whooping cough is making a comeback. This summer, the highly contagious upper respiratory infection struck more than 6,000 people in California — the most cases since 1950. Ten people died, all infants.

The stubborn belief that vaccines are harmful to a child’s health show just how damaging — even deadly–unscientific movements like the NVIC’s are. And how wrong.

…not vaccinating children erodes the “wall of immunity” that keeps all kids safe from life-threatening diseases. When infections have fewer potential hosts, there is less of a chance that those infections will be able to spread from child to child. When kids are vulnerable to nasty germs — because their parents don’t immunize them — they put their friends and classmates at risk, too.

Change.org have a petition up to deliver the untasty truth to NVIC – it caters to non-US residents from all over the world. Please sign it, tweet it or retweet this post, Facebook it, blog it and email it. These people need to be held accountable for their actions.

An example of how alternate vaccine schedules endanger children

28 Jul

With apologies–this post has nothing to do with autism except in pointing out where groups like Generation Rescue give out bad advice.

There is an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in California right now. It looks to be a major outbreak, possibly the largest in fifty years–since vaccination was implemented.

Generation Rescue has a number of alternative vaccine schedules that they promote on their website. Their “favorite” schedule was created by a doctor named Donald Miller. Let’s look at it, shall we:

In summary, this is a vaccination schedule that I would recommend:

1. No vaccinations until a child is two years old.
2. No vaccines that contain thimerosal (mercury).
3. No live virus vaccines (except for smallpox, should it recur).
4. These vaccines, to be given one at a time, every six months, beginning at age 2:
1. Pertussis (acellular, not whole cell)
2. Diphtheria
3. Tetanus
4. Polio (the Salk vaccine, cultured in human cells)

*No vaccinations until a child is two years old.* That’s right, don’t vaccinate infants. The deaths in California so far are for children under the age of 6. Dr. Miller’s schedule, the one most recommended by Generation Rescue, would leave children vulnerable to pertussis until at least age 2.

This is just plain dangerous advice.

It isn’t even well thought out. Not in the least. The reason is found in the FDA list of vaccines licensed in the U.S.. You can take a look or you can take my word for it: there is no single pertussis vaccine available.

It is impossible to follow Generation Rescue’s favorite vaccine schedule, which calls for a single pertussis vaccine to be given after age 2.

Even Dr. Sears acknowledges that (a) pertussis is a vital vaccine to give to infants and (b) you can’t get pertussis as a single vaccine. (also, (c) he sees rotavirus as an “immediate danger” to babies and children, contrary to the position of Generation Rescue).

Diseases that don’t exist in the U.S. or that don’t occur during infancy in the U.S. (so even though they can be very severe, a child has almost no risk of catching it in the U.S.) that could be safely delayed are polio, Hep B, tetanus, and diphtheria (although to get a pertussis vaccine, tetanus and diphtheria have to come along with it).

Diseases that DO pose an immediate danger to babies and children are HIB and PC meningitis, Rotavitus, and Pertussis. So, I would rather children stay on time with those four vaccines and delay the flu shots (if you feel comfortable delaying flu shots).

The whooping cough epidemic is getting a lot of coverage in the press. Just today, Dr. Nancy Snyderman of the Today Show discussed this:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Dr. Snyderman has a lot of good points, including the fact that there are immune compromised people in the community are at risk from the spread of diseases like pertussis.

Dr. Snyderman also makes a mistake in the interview. She claims that children died of measles in the U.S. last year. Watch for groups like the Age of Autism to ignore all the facts and concentrate on that mistake.

One reason why I vaccinate

3 Mar

I know this isn’t at all autism related, but this story just keeps bugging me.

South Bend couple loses baby to pertussis

The story is heartbreaking. A couple has fertility problems and tries for years to have a baby.

But the couple’s desire to have children soon turned to heartache as Katie suffered miscarriage after miscarriage.

“We started to think that it would never happen,” Craig said during a recent interview at the family’s home.Katie later went to see a specialist in Chicago and was diagnosed with a rare blood clot disorder that doctors said was affecting her ability to carry a baby to full term. She was prescribed medication.

Finally, after five years, Katie became pregnant with a baby girl that far surpassed previous pregnancy terms.

They finally have a baby, only to lose her at one month from pertussis.

Days later, pertussis tests came back positive.The diagnosis blindsided the family. How could Callie have contracted the illness? She had been far too young to yet be immunized against the bacterial infection. Series of shots against pertussis do not begin until infants are 2 months old.

The couple had also kept outside family and friends away while Callie was home in an effort to protect her from sickness. She had been home from the hospital only 2 1/2 weeks.

St. Joseph County coroner Dr. Michael O’Connell confirmed to The Tribune that Callie likely died of an infectious-type illness such as pertussis, but he said conclusive tests will not be complete for several more weeks.

These sorts of stories are very difficult to discuss. This family is going through pain beyond anything in my experience and I certainly don’t want to add to that. But this story is a real example of one reason I vaccinate myself and my family. I can’t imagine thinking that I or one of my family had passed on an infectious disease to a family with an infant or someone else vulnerable.

Lessons from the Vaccine–Autism Wars

27 May

A very interesting (and long) read from Public Library of Science (PLoS) entitiled A Broken Trust: Lessons from the Vaccine–Autism Wars was published today. It takes apart the history of the vaccine/autism wars and tries to involve scientists on why they think – or what their particular discipline leads them to conclude – the autism/vaccine wars have become so protracted and bitter.

I’ve mentioned before – its always a bit of a strange, unreal sensation to see events in which you’ve been involved with – even as remotely as blogging about them – talked about as history. They say history is always written by the winning side. I hope articles like this don’t lead scientists to think that the war is over, the history is being written and they can go back to academia with no more comment necessary.

The PLoS article ends thusly:

Personal stories resonate most with those who see trust in experts as a risk in itself—a possibility whenever people must grapple with science-based decisions that affect them, whether they’re asked to make sacrifices to help curb global warming or vaccinate their kids for public health. Researchers might consider taking a page out of the hero’s handbook by embracing the power of stories—that is, adding a bit of drama—to show that even though scientists can’t say just what causes autism or how to prevent it, the evidence tells us not to blame vaccines. As news of epidemics spreads along with newly unfettered infectious diseases, those clinging to doubt about vaccines may come to realize that several potentially deadly diseases are just a plane ride, or playground, away—and that vaccines really do save lives.

I don’t disagree with any of that but I’ll now directly quote comment No.2 left after the PLoS article. A comment posted by a user called ‘bensmyson’ (and already I’m sure the battle hardened amongst us have recognised the type of person with a username like that).

Not that anything I say matters, but vaccines are not safe. My son at 12 months received ProQuad, a MMRV, later that month Merck pulled it from the market. My normally developed child with superior language skills developed encephalitis and as a result lost all those skills and developmental milestones and regressed into what has been diagnosed as autism. I know they aren’t safe because my son suffered a brain injury as a result. According to VAERS, 8 people have died because of ProQuad, Merck filed two of those reports themselves.

I’m not a scientist, just a parent of a child that got lost immediately after his 12 month vaccines.

With all due respect to the PLoS article which I really did enjoy reading and made very good points, I think the main point they either missed or that they are too polite to state out loud is that quite a lot of people _really don’t want_ to think it wasn’t vaccines.

The quoted comment demonstrates a lot of the hallmarks of what I think of as a sub-genre of anti-vaccine ideology – the autism antivaxer.

1) The immediate portrayal of themselves (not their child you’ll note) in the role of victim (‘Not that anything I say matters…’)
2) A coincidental regression into autism following vaccination with overtones of fault on the behalf of a vaccine maker/doctor/scientist
3) A statement that they _know_ (not think, not believe, not ‘are sure’) vaccines aren’t safe because their child _was_ damaged ) _as a result_ (‘I know they aren’t safe because…’) of having one. Note the lack of any sort of logic or requirement for evidence.
5) A reliance on a ‘sciency’ sounding method of backup which in reality offers no such thing (‘According to VAERS…’)
6) An emotive sign off with an appeal to false knowledge (‘I’m not a scientist, just a parent…’)

These are people who have spent a long time online and offline sharing time with other people of a like mind. They have stopped thinking critically and have started thinking communally. Stepping away from the voice of the community would be dangerous for both their continuing friendships and also for their own state of mind, therefore it is easier all round to simply lock out everything that presents any sort of difficulty or challenge to their belief system. If PLoS or anyone else thinks that these people (those clinging to doubt about vaccines) ‘may come to realize that several potentially deadly diseases are just a plane ride, or playground, away—and that vaccines really do save lives.’ then I’m afraid they are deluding themselves. I’ve had conversations with people just like ‘bensmyson’. Here’s a choice quote from one such debate from Twitter:

kids without #vaccinations more likely to get whooping cough. isn’t that better than getting shot up with #antifreeze ?

Doesn’t that make your head hurt just reading it? This person is happy to announce that:

1) There is anti-freeze in vaccines, which there most definitely is not.
2) Its better to get whooping cough than a DTP jab. I wonder if the poor parents of Dana McCaffery feel that way?
3) The reason its better to get whooping cough (a potentially fatal illness) is that the vaccine has antifreeze in it (which it doesn’t).

The level of arrogance, conspiracy mongering, self-pity and anger amongst too many of these people is so very much more than the PLoS article accounts for. Good as the article is, I fear its far too early to begin the dissection of this stage of the recent past.

Edited for typos via email by Sully. Ta 😉

Anti-vaxxers rejoice! You got another one!

14 Mar

DANA Elizabeth McCaffery died at 4 weeks of age from Whooping cough, a totally vaccine preventable disease. She was the first to die from this appalling disease since 1997.

Local Paediatrician Chris Ingall said:

“The only way to stop babies getting infected with whooping cough is by vaccination, there is no other way,”he said.

“The vaccination rates on the North Coast are the worst in Australia. This is why we have so many incidences in this area compared with other parts of Australia.

“Parents should be alarmed, whooping cough kills little babies. We must get our vaccination rates up so adults don’t pass the disease on to babies.”

The local health authority acted responsibly by bringing forward the vaccine schedule – a move that many anti-vaxxers will be horrified at no doubt.

Meanwhile, over in Kittitas Secondary School in the United States, the local health authority:

…is requiring postponement of all field trips and scheduled activities or events that include other schools, school districts, and/or family members of students.

Why? Because of Whooping cough.

As of Thursday, March 12th, there have been 24 cases of Whooping Cough in Kittitas County; 21 of these cases have been Kittitas Secondary School students or staff members.

In addition to those who tested positive over 150 Kittitas County residents have been tested for Whooping Cough since the beginning of this outbreak…

And still more elsewhere in the US:

Two elementary school students in the Stevens Point School District are recovering from whooping cough…

and yet more in the US:

The warning comes after two students in the district have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal bacterial infection. The health department would only say they are elementary aged students and were being treated.

How terribly sad and tragic that the same situation is playing out across so much of the affluent world – kids dying of vaccine preventable disease – because a few idiots think they know best and are willing to put the lives of others children at risk, when in the third world countries people are still dying by the tens of thousands from vaccine preventable disease and are desperate to get ahold of vaccines.

Once more I’m shamed by the actions of those in the so-called autism community who perpetuate this ridiculous nonsense at the cost of the very lives of babies.

Arthur Allen – vaccine skeptics vs your kids

11 Sep

Whilst, I’m not sure that the people Arthur is writing about are skeptics as I understand the term (having a scientifically valid basis for not accepting an argument or position), I know what he means. And he’s right that it is this group of people vs the health of people everywhere.

The sub-header is even more accurate ‘immune to reason’. One only has to take a look over at the recent rantings on a certain blog we all know about where the latest themes are:

1) Presidential candidate Barack Obama is now a big pharma shill because he told one of them: “I am not for selective vaccination, I believe that it will bring back deadly diseases, like polio.”.

2) The latest study in a long line of studies that show once more there is no link between MMR and autism is both flawed and exonerates one of their heroes.

3) Kathleen Seidel is wrong because….uh….well, no one knows why but she must be. Apparently.

Immune to reason indeed.

As Arthur points out, there is a great deal at stake:

…in the last trimester of her pregnancy, Helena Moran caught a cough that she couldn’t get rid of. She figured she’d picked up the germ—whatever it was—from one of her patients at a Boulder dentist’s office. But the real nightmare began after her daughter, Evelina, was born: The baby began to cough and cough, and then she’d curl up in a little ball and turn blue. At the emergency room, she was diagnosed with whooping cough. She spent the next five weeks in intensive care and suffered permanent lung damage.

Now, this isn’t *all* the fault of the so-called autism community, but as I’ve discussed before, I’m ashamed to say that a lot of it is.

….the movement got a huge boost from the controversy over the mercury-laden preservative thimerosal, which some theorized might be linked to autism. That link has been disproven—by, if nothing else, the fact that autism rates remained steady after pediatricians and public health authorities told manufacturers to stop making thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines in 1999. But the anti-vaccine movement has kept going, finding ever new reasons to distrust immunization.

The are a lot of zealots out there who have fed upon the autism community. A parent who might not believe vaccines case autism listens to horror stories and reads links sent to them from such places of quackery as whale.to who are nothing to do with the autism community but who market their own brand of ridiculousness (the owner of whale.to believes dolphins can manipulate gravity and has the pictures to prove it!) regarding vaccines and the autism parent greedily sucks it down.

Arthur discuss the practice of abusing ‘religious exemption’ by these people:

Right now, in many states, all it takes to get an exemption from vaccine requirements is signing a form. Some, including a group of doctors at Johns Hopkins University, have proposed making it harder—allowing a philosophical exemption only after parents demonstrate a good-faith effort to educate themselves.

But an article I read in yesterdays ‘Edmond Sun’ stated:

….a person “who has reached the age of majority and is mentally competent to do so may justifiably refuse immunizations for himself or herself, but may not impose this refusal on a child, who has no choice in the matter.” Courts have consistently upheld this principle.

That makes sense to me. Who would want to refuse such a simple thing that has no link of any kind to autism?

Arthur closes with the following:

But while questioning authority is healthy, facts are facts. If vaccines really were responsible for autism, it would be too much to ask parents to do the altruistic thing. But more than a dozen studies have failed to discover such a link—and not a single legitimate study has shown that one exists.

He’s spot on. All the celebs and all the money in the world cannot change that simple fact. We need to get past this. Those who believe autism is caused by vaccines need to put up or shut up. They are holding up progress on autism research and causing the health of our societies to suffer.

I urge readers to visit Arthur’s piece and read the comments. The first few demonstrate exactly the sort of mindset Arthur is talking about – the one’s who bring shame on the autism community. They truly are immune to reason.