Vaccine adverse events are rare – vast benefits outweigh small risks

vaccine adverse events

Like all medical procedures, devices, and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect – there are rare vaccine adverse events. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication.

Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable. But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that. They check the packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may or may not have been found to be dangerous (best example is Vioxx).

But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living.  Continue reading “Vaccine adverse events are rare – vast benefits outweigh small risks”

Gluten-free foods for children – are they actually healthy?

gluten free

There are many food and nutritional fads floating around the internet that have limited scientific or medical evidence supporting their nutritional usefulness. One of them is the gluten-free diet that has become one of the most prevalent, and annoying, food crazes.

Of course, parents who buy into these fads often include their children. And it’s been the same for the gluten-free obsession. But are gluten-free foods “healthy” for children? Lucky for us, a new study has looked into it. And I am going to look into that study. Continue reading “Gluten-free foods for children – are they actually healthy?”

Sexual promiscuity and the HPV vaccine – debunking an ignorant myth

sexual promiscuity and the HPV vaccine

There is a myth pushed by the anti-vaccine religion that the HPV vaccine leads to sexual promiscuity. I’ve debunked this fable previously, using peer-reviewed research, but you know the anti-vaccine zombie tropes – they never really die, and they always come back to life.

Let’s look at a couple of new studies that, once again, debunk the myth that sexual promiscuity is linked to the HPV vaccine. There is no link. Period. Full stop. Continue reading “Sexual promiscuity and the HPV vaccine – debunking an ignorant myth”

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”

Child food allergies – time to revise our recommendations and thinking

child food allergies

When I was in public school in the 1970s, I honestly recall few kids with food allergies. Today, child food allergies are so high, some school system ban peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. And if you’re an American, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are an iconic lunch food for school age children.

My recollection of few of any child food allergies when I was a child myself. As an anecdote, that’s not too powerful, but it’s borne out by actual scientific data. For example, Australian children have the highest rate of food allergy in the world, with up to 10% of infants and 20% of school-aged children who have been diagnosed with a food allergy. Large studies, including a retrospective study of over 1 million children in the USA, have shown that overall food allergy prevalence was 6.7%. The most common allergenic foods were peanuts (2.6%), milk (2.2%), egg (1.8%), shellfish (1.5%), and soy (0.7%). Furthermore, food allergies were associated with development of respiratory issues such as asthma (2.16X risk over those without food allergies) and rhinitis (2.72X risk).

In Australia, there has been a 50% increase in hospital visits for anaphylaxis from 1998 to 2012, the most severe allergic reaction. Infants and toddlers accounted for much of this increase. Anaphylaxis is the most serious allergic reaction to anything including food.

What stumps a lot of researchers is why the increase? Has our food supply become more allergenic? Some blame the addition of GMOs to our food supply, but that’s nonsense. In fact, some very good research may point us toward new recommendations to prevent child food allergies.

Continue reading “Child food allergies – time to revise our recommendations and thinking”

Flu vaccine during pregnancy – protects the infant

flu vaccine during pregnancy

The modern healthcare system of developed countries have done an outstanding job in reducing the burden of infectious diseases over the past few decades. However, some susceptible groups, such as infants, remain at significant risk to these diseases. Research has recently shown that the flu vaccine during pregnancy protects infants from that disease. This is more data that provides evidence that getting vaccinated, even during pregnancy, is important to infant health.

In a new paper published in Pediatrics, by Dr. Julie H. Shakib et al. of the University of Utah Medical School Department of Pediatrics, examined the health of infants born to influenza-immunized mothers. The short version is that the babies born to these mothers had a smaller number of laboratory confirmed influenza infections and fewer hospitalizations compared to infants born to non-immunized mothers.

I could almost stop there, bold, underline and italicize those results, and move to another article. Lucky for me, the readers of this blog demand real data to support the above conclusion. And I’m here to do just that.

Continue reading “Flu vaccine during pregnancy – protects the infant”

The Informed Parent – a science based book review

The Informed Parent

There are innumerable myths and tropes about raising children. My mother used to tell me to not go into the pool until 30 minutes (or some random number) after I ate; and she always told me I’d catch the flu or a cold if I didn’t put on a jacket during winter. Of course, neither are science based, and neither are “facts.”

But those were innocuous little myths. I don’t like being all that cold, so putting on a coat isn’t the worst thing ever. It had nothing to do with whether I’d catch a cold or not.

Unfortunately, some myths about parenting and raising children are dangerous. The whole “vaccines cause XYZ” mythology have infected the internet have caused some drops in vaccination, especially amongst those who should know better.

We need better resources for “science based parenting,” and a new book, The Informed Parent – A Science-Based Resource for Your Child’s First Four Yearsmay become one of the more valuable tools to separate the wheat of good science from the chaff of pseudoscience and woo.

Because our children deserve the best that science can provide.

 

Continue reading “The Informed Parent – a science based book review”

Pediatric and adult flu mortality 2015-16 – update 4

In the USA, we’re nearing the heart of the flu season, with pediatric flu deaths peaking during the next 6-8 weeks. Flu mortality during the 2015-16 season (which generally starts on October 1), the CDC has reported that there have been 18 pediatric flu deaths through 27 February 2016, an increase of 4 from last week.

Now, I know some of you may say “only 18,” but since pediatric flu is mostly prevented with a vaccine, we could prevent these deaths. During the last 3 years, there were 171 pediatric flu deaths in 2012-13, 11 in 2013-14, and 148 in 2014-15 – most of the pediatric flu deaths happened after this week.

It seems that the the numbers are lower, so far, than in previous years. However, this flu season may be several weeks late, probably as a result of warmer weather (no, warm weather does not block the flu). Flu mortality across all ages crossed the threshold for an “epidemic” last week, so these numbers might increase. Let’s hope they don’t, but as opposed to what people believe, flu is dangerous.

In fact, according to CDC reports, the influenza-B strain is more prevalent this year than in the past, and the flu vaccine is more effective against B strains of flu. So, it’s possible (though still early) that the lighter flu season can be attributed to vaccines.

Continue reading “Pediatric and adult flu mortality 2015-16 – update 4”

Pediatric and adult flu mortality 2015-16 – update 3

In the USA, we’re nearing the heart of the flu season, with pediatric flu deaths peaking during the next 6-8 weeks. Flu mortality during the 2015-16 season (which generally starts on October 1), the CDC has reported that there have been 11 pediatric flu deaths through 6 February 2016. This is a slight increase from the previous two reports.

Now, I know some of you may say “only 11,” but since pediatric flu is mostly prevented with a vaccine, we could prevent these 7 deaths. Moreover, it’s early. During the last 3 years, there were 171 pediatric flu deaths in 2012-13, 11 in 2013-14, and 148 in 2014-15 – most of the pediatric flu deaths happened after this week.

It seems that the the numbers are lower, so far, than in previous years. However, this flu season may be several weeks late, probably as a result of warmer weather (no, warm weather does not block the flu). Flu mortality across all ages crossed the threshold for an “epidemic” last week, so these numbers might increase. Let’s hope they don’t, but as opposed to what people believe, flu is dangerous.

In fact, according to CDC reports, the influenza-B strain is more prevalent this year than in the past, and the flu vaccine is more effective against B strains of flu. So, it’s possible (though still early) that the lighter flu season can be attributed to vaccines.

Continue reading “Pediatric and adult flu mortality 2015-16 – update 3”

Pediatric flu deaths 2015-16 – Update 2

flu mortality 2015-16

In the USA, we’re nearing the heart of the flu season, with pediatric flu deaths peaking during the next 8-10 weeks. So far in the 2015-16 flu season (which generally starts on October 1), the CDC has reported that there have been 7 pediatric flu deaths through the 4th week of December. This is unchanged from the previous report.

Now, I know some of you may say “only 7,” but since pediatric flu is mostly prevented with a vaccine, we could prevent these 7 deaths. Moreover, it’s early. During the last 3 years, there were 171 pediatric flu deaths in 2012-13, 11 in 2013-14, and 148 in 2014-15 – most of the pediatric flu deaths happened after this week.

It seems that the the numbers are lower, so far, than in previous years. However, this flu season may be several weeks late, probably as a result of warmer weather (no, warm weather does not block the flu). Flu mortality across all ages crossed the threshold for an “epidemic” last week, so these numbers might increase. Let’s hope they don’t, but as opposed to what people believe, flu is dangerous.

Continue reading “Pediatric flu deaths 2015-16 – Update 2”