One of the tropes of the antivaccination world is that vaccines didn’t stop diseases. They give credit to everything from modern medicine to better food to better sanitation. Some of the credit they give is ironic since many vaccine deniers hate most aspects of modern medicine and believe that food was better 100 years ago. You can never get enough of the contradictions and hypocrisy of the antivaccine crowd.
I think it becomes easy to dismiss the value of vaccines in ending widespread disease because almost anyone writing today about vaccines has no memory of ubiquitous and deadly epidemics of diseases. We’re almost at a point in our culture that if Twitter doesn’t report it, it didn’t happen, so infectious diseases are something that happened back when humans lived in caves, prior to the advent of social media. I happen to have been born right near the end of widespread epidemics of infectious diseases, so I don’t remember any epidemics personally, though I recall a few classmates in high school who had a few effects from polio and other diseases. Culturally, we have forgotten our past with respect to diseases.
(more…) «Why we vaccinate–103 million cases…»
There is an unscientific myth, pushed by some parts of the vaccine deniers (more accurate, vaccine delayers), that parents should delay vaccinations based on the unsupported belief that “too many vaccines” could overwhelm the child’s immune system. This belief is utterly unscientific and thoroughly debunked.
That belief is unfounded, as Paul Offit summarized in Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Multiple Vaccines Overwhelm or Weaken the Infant’s Immune System?:
Current studies do not support the hypothesis that multiple vaccines overwhelm, weaken, or “use up” the immune system. On the contrary, young infants have an enormous capacity to respond to multiple vaccines, as well as to the many other challenges present in the environment. By providing protection against a number of bacterial and viral pathogens, vaccines prevent the “weakening” of the immune system and consequent secondary bacterial infections occasionally caused by natural infection.
There are so many silly memes that have arisen from the vaccine deniers, most of which have been thoroughly debunked. Everything from the well-worn (and worn-out) “vaccines cause autism” fable, which I have quashed here, to the “these diseases aren’t dangerous”, which, of course, couldn’t be farther from the truth.
One of the more annoying of the tales pushed by the vaccine refusers is that vaccines aren’t tested thoroughly before being used on unsuspecting infants. I do not know where this started, or why it started, but like much in the anti-vaccination world, it really doesn’t matter. It just passes from one person to another across google, and individuals with no research background hold this particular belief as if it were the Truth™.
Not only are vaccines thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy before being marketed, they also are rigorously tested in various combinations with other vaccines. And I’m not Cherry Picking a few articles to support my point of view, unless by cherry-picking you mean I’m picking the best articles from the highest quality journals in medicine.
(more…) «Vaccines aren’t tested–myth vs. science…»
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported in the 2012 National Immunization Survey (NIS) that the majority of children, age 19-35 months, remained extremely high from 2008 through 2012, although there was a small, but statistically significant drop in uptake of some vaccines from 2011 to 2012. In addition, the CDC specified a substantial concern about clusters of unvaccinated children in widespread communities that are at risk from vaccine preventable diseases, and may pose a health risk to the community at large.
The study results were based upon a survey (cell and land-line phone calls with follow-up details from the health care provider) of about 16,000 children (an extremely large sampling for a survey). The data was then adjusted for racial/ethnic, income, and other population factors. Even though the CDC provided data from 2008-2012, the current method of polling was started in 2011, and only results from 2011 and 2012 are mathematically comparable.
If there was any doubt about the success of vaccines this graphic shows it clearly. We can eliminate confounding variables such as improved sanitation, since many of these diseases (if not most) are not dependent upon the quality of sanitation, and are merely transmitted from individual to individual. We can eliminate the improvement in health care (other than the obvious one of the accessibility of vaccines) because improved health care wouldn’t prevent most of these diseases.
As a result of vaccines, we have eliminated polio, smallpox and diphtheria in the United States. Many other diseases, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, are nearly eliminated. Though some people in the antivaccination world would make you believe that these diseases are not serious (the pox party is a perfect example of this belief), most of these diseases have known serious consequences for a statistically significant portion of those who get the disease. These adverse consequences may be as minor as hospitalization to as serious as life long chronic health issues or death.
In approximately one generation, modern medical science has radically changed the risks that children face to these diseases. For that, we parents should be grateful
Vaccines Save Lives.
- Roush SW, Murphy TV; Vaccine-Preventable Disease Table Working Group. Historical comparisons of morbidity and mortality for vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. JAMA. 2007 Nov 14;298(18):2155-63. PubMed PMID: 18000199.
- Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), January 7, 2011 / 59(52);1704-1717.
There are so many silly memes that have arisen from the anti-vaxxers, all of which have been thoroughly debunked. Everything from the well-worn (and worn-out) “vaccines cause autism” fable, quashed here, to the “these diseases aren’t dangerous”, which, of course, couldn’t be farther from the truth. One of the more annoying of the tales pushed by the vaccine denialists is that vaccines aren’t tested thoroughly before being used on unsuspecting infants. I do not know where this started, or why it started, but like much in the anti-vaccination world, it really doesn’t matter. It just passes from one person to another across google, and individuals with no research background hold this particular belief as if it were the Truth™.
(more…) «Debunking the “vaccines aren’t tested”…»
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Maryland is proposing revised vaccination regulations that would require incoming kindergartners to receive a chicken pox booster vaccination (varicella vaccine). It is also requiring seventh graders to get a booster against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, (DTaP vaccine). In addition, Maryland also wants to include a vaccine against Meningococcus, a bacterium that causes meningitis, meningococcemia, septicemia, and rarely carditis, septic arthritis, or pneumonia. The state also wants to increase the requirement for the number of MMR vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.
If the proposed changes go into effect, Maryland would be aligned with standards recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. To this date, 36 states have adopted such standards. The new guidelines, if adopted, would to into effect in 2014.
According to David Bundy, an assistant professor of pediatrics and childhood adolescence at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center,
The recommendations for these immunizations are not new nationally, this is just updating the state’s requirement to reflect the existing recommendations. It just makes us all look like we’re in alignment with what we’re doing, and it tightens the safety net at schools for kids who may be missing vaccines.
I’m sure the anti-vaccine crowd will be complaining soon.
The United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced that a measles outbreak in the Merseyside area is the largest since the MMR vaccine (vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella) was introduced in 1988. There have been 113 confirmed cases, and another 43 probable cases–28 of these individuals needed hospital treatment.
About one-quarter of the confirmed cases were teenagers (15-18 years old) and young adults who were never vaccinated as children. Another quarter of the cases were in children under the age of 13 months who are too young to be vaccinated. The majority of the remaining confirmed cases were unvaccinated children over 13 months and less than 15 years old.
(more…) «Measles outbreak in United Kingdom–worst…»
A Skeptical Raptor’s native environment is the jungles of the internet, where junk science, pseudoscience, myths, logical fallacies, and outright lies survive unchecked. The Raptor has evolved over several million years to hunt down these anti-science prey, scaring them away from the average reader. Remember, a Raptor is missing some table manners, so the prey may not be treated very nicely.
OK, let me set aside the metaphors. As you can see in my about me page, my background has been in the sciences, medicine and business. But the great thing about a strong science background is it teaches you critical thinking skills and the scientific method. The scientific method isn’t mixing oxygen and hydrogen to make water, but it is the logical progression from observation to hypothesis to data to analysis to publication to review. But science is not static, it is self critical, constantly reviewing itself, improving, discarding, or just supporting its theories. What you’ll find is that the anti-science thinking is not self critical, because it considers improvement some sort of weakness.
I’m going to get this out of the way upfront. I am a supporter of Big Pharma and the medical products industry in general. Do I think they do no wrong? No I don’t, I think that too often decisions are made based on business realities rather than medical ones. However, despite some of the appeals to conspiracy about which I constantly read, most individuals in the industry are devoted to making human life better. It is their only goal. And despite some of the claims of the anti-science crowd, Big Pharma has saved many many many more lives than it has harmed. Vaccines would be the #1 piece of evidence of that. Polio, pertussis, measles, rubella, and many other diseases are no longer (well, not until recently, thanks to another anti-science group) a part of our cultural memory because of Big Pharma.
But I’ll talk about these issues over time. I like writing for humor and critique, not for tremendous scientific analysis worthy of a Nobel Prize. There are lots of bloggers, all of whom I respect beyond anything, who write about these topics in depth. I will link to them, in case my skin-deep analysis annoys you.
So here goes. Let’s see if I can do this.