Vaccines save lives – a response to some ridiculous claims about drugs

vaccines save lives

The internet is filled with crackpot ideas. I know, that’s a shocker. In today’s crazy, we have this article, “Six pharmaceutical drugs that immediately destroy your health.” Setting aside the odd “pharmaceutical drugs,” let me counter that with “pharmaceuticals save lives.” Even more, vaccines save lives (since they attack two of my favorite vaccines).

I don’t genuflect at the altar of Big Pharma. I realize they are a big business that need to generate more and more profits, and they frequently make decisions that favor profits over ethics. But for good or bad, more often than not, pharmaceuticals and vaccines save lives. And there’s plenty of evidence of that.

But when some random rant on the internet tries to claim that important drugs (and the list of six are worthwhile drugs) are dangerous and destroy your health, it needs to be addressed.

So let me examine their claims. This should be interesting. Continue reading “Vaccines save lives – a response to some ridiculous claims about drugs”

Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – Part 2

natural news

Natural News has had a long history of vaccine denial, which always garners laughter from the scientific skeptic crowd. Occasionally, however, Natural News takes its anti-science beliefs to a whole new level, one that requires a double-pronged rebuttal and refutation.

Recently, Natural News published an article that criticizes mandatory vaccinations of healthcare workers both from the scientific and legal point of view.  In that article, Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – again.

This article is the second part of a two-part series about that Natural News article, examining some of the legal issues of mandatory vaccination. Part 1 examines where Natural News gets the science wrong about mandatory vaccination. Continue reading “Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – Part 2”

Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – Part 1

natural news

For the typical American skeptic, there is nothing surprising by a headline that says that Natural News get it’s it all wrong. Most skeptics might wonder when they’ve ever gotten it right.

Just to be thorough, Natural News is a website that’s focused on anti-science delusions and pushing junk medicine, while marketing a whole boatload of nonsense remedies and “cures” for whatever makes the website money. It is owned by Mike Adams, self-styled “Health Ranger”, considered one of the biggest lunatics on the internet. Some consider him the #1 American Lunatic (and that takes some serious effort). Adams is so delusional, he insists that he’s just as science-oriented as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Only if it’s one of those alternative universes, I suppose.

Natural News has had a long history of vaccine denial, which always piques my interest, even if it’s to laugh hysterically. Occasionally, however, Natural News takes its anti-science beliefs to a whole new level, one that requires a double-pronged rebuttal and refutation. Continue reading “Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – Part 1”

Pediatric flu vaccine – 10 important facts for parents

pediatric flu vaccine

Along with the HPV vaccine, the pediatric flu vaccine has one of the lowest uptakes amongst children’s vaccinations – only around 40% of American children receive the vaccine. Unfortunately, a lot of this ignorance of the flu vaccine may result from an assumption that the flu is just not that serious of a disease. That thinking puts children at risk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted an article on their website, “10 Things for Parents to Know About the 2017-2018 Flu Vaccine,” which gives some information about the pediatric flu vaccine. We’re going to give this list the feathery dinosaur’s treatment with a bit more pointed commentary and links. Because everyone loves links. Continue reading “Pediatric flu vaccine – 10 important facts for parents”

Flu vaccine myths – zombie anti-vaccine lies blanket Facebook

Flu vaccine myths

Here we go again. Just like the popular zombie TV shows, the flu vaccine myths continue to rise from the dead, scaring people away from protecting themselves from a dangerous disease. And just like Rick Grimes, it’s my job to help my fellow skeptics stop this zombie outbreak and safeguard the innocent from the brain eating tropes of the antivaccine crowd.

Since we’re entering the 2017-2018 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, your best weapon to avoid the effects of the flu is the seasonal flu vaccine. Despite the known overall safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, the antivaccination cult is pushing their ignorant nonsense all over social media, especially Facebook.

Despite all the good reasons to get the vaccine, the CDC estimated the flu vaccine uptake in the USA is around 40%. This is well below the 80-90% uptake required for herd immunity against the flu.

Let’s take a look at these zombie flu vaccine myths, and debunk them once again. Zombies are so hard to put down. Continue reading “Flu vaccine myths – zombie anti-vaccine lies blanket Facebook”

Flu vaccine causes miscarriages – the real evidence says otherwise

Flu vaccine causes miscarriages

The Washington Post dropped this provocative headline on its readers yesterday, “Researchers find a hint of a link between flu vaccine and miscarriage.” And you know what will happen next –every anti-vaccine website will claim that the flu vaccine causes miscarriages.

Of course, the evidence based facts fail to support the future trope that the flu vaccine causes miscarriages. A careful reading of the Washington Post article is filled with nuance and hedging, because the underlying published article does not actually provide robust evidence that any flu vaccine increases the risk of miscarriages.

The Washington Post made several points that are important to consider, and we’ll examine the underlying research in more depth. But the most important point they made is that,

The findings suggest an association, not a causal link, and the research is too weak and preliminary, experts said, to change the advice, which is based on a multitude of previous studies, that pregnant women should get a flu vaccine to protect them from influenza, a deadly disease that may cause serious birth defects and miscarriage.

I wonder how many anti-vaccine radicals will fail to make that point, instead, screaming that “vaccines are dangerous and the worthless flu vaccine causes miscarriages.”

Well, of course. Del Bigtree isn’t known for his scientific knowledge.

Well, we don’t cherry pick our evidence here, so we’re going to look at the broad body of evidence with respect to the flu, flu vaccines and pregnancy. Because that’s how we roll here. And because we think pregnant women deserve the best information possible to protect themselves and their developing babies. Because that’s also how we roll here. Continue reading “Flu vaccine causes miscarriages – the real evidence says otherwise”

Peter Doshi flu vaccine study – misused by anti-vaxxers

Peter Doshi

Anti-vaccine activists constantly look for any science that seems to support their beliefs about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Lately, they have gravitated to the writings of Peter Doshi, who has made a career talking about vaccines. Although Doshi lacks the credentials in any area of science related to vaccines – immunology, microbiology, virology, public health, epidemiology – the anti-vaccine forces embrace him like he’s a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Which he is not.

Let’s take a look at Doshi’s credentials and what he’s written about vaccines, specifically the flu vaccine. Continue reading “Peter Doshi flu vaccine study – misused by anti-vaxxers”

Influenza vaccine effectiveness for elderly – fewer hospitalizations

Influenza vaccine effectiveness

The world’s population is getting older, since people live longer as a result of our modern healthcare. As people age, their bodies become less able to respond to infections and develop immunity, a process called immunosenescence. One of the most dangerous infectious diseases for the elderly is the flu. Thus, influenza vaccine effectiveness is an important factor for protecting the health of our elderly citizens. Continue reading “Influenza vaccine effectiveness for elderly – fewer hospitalizations”

H1N1 flu vaccine – highly efficacious in preventing influenza in children

H1N1 flu vaccine

The influenza A subtype H1N1 was responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic, the last flu pandemic to strike the planet. It was estimated to have killed 477 children in the USA alone. In response to the 2009 pandemic, the H1N1 flu vaccine was first released to be used in an attempt to contain the pandemic.

The vaccine was introduced in 2009, and it has been part of many flu vaccines since that time. There has been some discussion about the effectiveness of the vaccine, but most studies showed it to be very efficacious.

A systematic review, considered the pinnacle of the hierarchy of scientific evidence, was recently published in the journal Vaccine, included well designed studies to examine the effectiveness of the H1N1 flu vaccine in both children and adults. The investigators identified 38 studies published between June 2011 and April 2016 that met the inclusion criteria for this meta-analysis – that is, any paper that focused on the H1N1 vaccine effectiveness during the 2009 pandemic. The data included data from over 7.6 million patient records derived from several different study designs.

This review also examined the differences between adjuvanted, that is, those vaccines that contain an adjuvant to boost the immune response to the flu antigens, and unadjuvanted (no adjuvants) versions of the H1N1 flu vaccine. The children’s version of the vaccine only included adjuvanted version.

The results of the study were clear. The pooled adjuvanted H1N1 flu vaccine efficacy in 1126 children was around 86% – this is an impressive number. In the pooled data for the adjuvanted and unadjuvanted versions of the vaccine, results showed that there was moderate protection of around 49% efficacy in people older than 18 years. Similarly, in individuals older than 50 years, the data showed the vaccine efficacy for the adjuvanted vaccines was approximately 46%.

This lower efficacy in older adults has been observed in other flu vaccine studies. Although there’s no conclusive reason why there is a lower efficacy, there have been several hypotheses offered including a less fit immune system for individuals, or that the population of older adults may have already have some immunity to H1N1 through previous pandemics or circulating H1N1 subtypes.

The authors concluded the following:

We further explained the overall inverse gradient between effectiveness and age by comparing adjuvanted versus unadjuvanted vaccines in each age band. Our results show that adjuvanted vaccines were significantly more effective in children than unadjuvanted vaccines in preventing laboratory confirmed influenza illness by almost a twofold difference in effectiveness. A similar pattern was also seen for hospitalization.

However, in adults there were fewer apparent differences between the performance of adjuvanted and unadjuvanted vaccines for both outcomes. The higher effectiveness in children of adjuvanted vaccines compared to unadjuvanted vaccines noted here has also been seen in efficacy studies of seasonal trivalent influenza vaccines (TIV) in young children up to 72 months of age, in whom efficacy against PCR-confirmed influenza was 92% for adjuvanted vaccines versus 45% for unadjuvanted vaccines.

The authors also asserted that this data is important for public health policy with respect to the H1N1 flu:

Evidence from modeling studies suggests that children are a credible target group for pandemic vaccination, along with patients who have high-risk conditions.

Once again, this is robust and exciting evidence of the effectiveness of the H1N1 flu vaccine against that flu subtype. The flu vaccine is often the ignored vaccine for children, probably because of enduring myths that the flu isn’t that dangerous or that the flu vaccine isn’t very effective. The H1N1 flu is dangerous, and it can be effectively prevented by the vaccine. So please, protect your children (and yourselves) with this vaccine.

 

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Flu vaccine effectiveness – prevents pediatric deaths

flu vaccine effectiveness

When it comes to the influenza vaccine, there are a number of myths that surround the flu vaccine, pushed by vaccine deniers and, often, by vaccine supporters. The two most prevalent seems to be that the flu vaccine isn’t very effective, and the flu isn’t that dangerous. But a new peer-reviewed article has been published that focuses on these two myths. Based on the evidence, flu vaccine effectiveness prevents pediatric deaths. Period.

There have been numerous articles about flu vaccine effectiveness over the years – it’s rarely 90% or greater. The major reason for this is that all of the health organizations across the world have to meet 8-10 months before the flu season to determine what subtype(s) of flu virus will be most common in the northern or southern hemisphere. In some years, the flu virus will mutate between the time to decide on the right antigen and the vaccine is manufactured and shipped.

Generally, the vaccine is very effective against influenza B, mainly because this subtype of flu tends to mutate at a much lower rate than other flu viruses. On the other hand, the vaccine tends to have somewhat lower effectiveness against influenza A, mainly because of its higher mutation rate, and because it can infect (and mutate) in many other animals, especially birds, which have regular contact with humans.

But in no case is the effectiveness at 0. There seems to be a reliance on the Nirvana fallacy – if it’s not perfect, it’s worthless. Yes, the flu vaccine effectiveness is far from perfect, it ranges from 40-65% most years. But does that mean it’s worthless? Absolutely not. The flu vaccine prevents a lot of pediatric deaths, something we need to carefully examine.

 

Flu vaccine effectiveness – the publication

In a paper published in Pediatrics by Flannery et al., the authors reviewed laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths since 2004 to determine the relationship with flu vaccination status. What they found was that the vaccine was much better at preventing pediatric death than not vaccinating at all – this may seem obvious, but it’s better to have statistically valid data published in a top rated journal.

The researchers conducted a case-cohort epidemiological study that compared vaccination uptake among laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths with estimated vaccination coverage among pediatric cohorts in the United States. The study design allows the researchers to determine the actual flu vaccine effectiveness in preventing pediatric deaths.

Using data from July 2010 through June 2014, there were 358 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported in children aged 6 months through 17 years. The researchers were able to determine vaccination status for 291 of these deaths. Here are their results:

  1. Of the 291 deaths with known vaccination status, 75 (26%) received the vaccine before onset of the flu, and 216 (74%) were unvaccinated.
  2. The overall vaccine effectiveness against death was 65%, which means the vaccine prevented pediatric death in 65% of the population.
  3. The vaccine effectiveness against death in children with high-risk conditions was 51%

This data clearly shows a difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups with respect to pediatric death.

Flannery et al. conclude that,

Influenza vaccination was associated with reduced risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric death. Increasing influenza vaccination could prevent influenza-associated deaths among children and adolescents.

Flu vaccines save lives

This is robust and high quality evidence that the flu vaccine prevents pediatric deaths. Most children who die from the flu are unvaccinated, that is clear from this analysis. The job of vaccines is to prevent infectious diseases that harm our children (and adults) – the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but for minimal risk, it prevents a lot of deaths. It does save lives.

 

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