Mumps vaccine effectiveness – waning immunity may require 3rd dose

mumps vaccine

Over the past few years, there has been a resurgence in mumps outbreaks across the USA and other parts of the world. Although these outbreaks did not spread widely as they did before the advent of mumps vaccines, it still required some scientific research into why this happened. According to just published peer-reviewed research, much of the mumps outbreaks may result from waning mumps vaccine effectiveness.

Because I am concerned that this new article will be misinterpreted by some parts of the discussion, I’m glaring at the anti-vaccine religion, it is important that we take a very careful look at this well-done study examining what could be the root cause of some outbreaks – waning immunity to the mumps vaccine. Continue reading “Mumps vaccine effectiveness – waning immunity may require 3rd dose”

Rabies vaccine could have saved Ryker Roque – he dies needlessly

rabies vaccine

As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time reviewing stories about vaccines, I read way too many tragic ones about children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. But a recent story, about a six-year-old boy named Ryker Roque who died from a rabies infection, was particularly sad and devastating. He could have avoided rabies, and its horrific consequences, with just a couple of better choices from his parents. If only they had used the rabies vaccine immediately, this would not be a story.

Let’s be clear – I don’t know if the parents of Ryker are anti-vaccine or not, but they made a choice about the rabies vaccine that led to their son’s death. That makes the story tragic and sad. I know his parents are incredibly distraught, and probably wish they had made better choices – but maybe their story will prevent future tragedies. I hope. Continue reading “Rabies vaccine could have saved Ryker Roque – he dies needlessly”

Hepatitis B vaccine – new recommendations for vaccinating infants

hepatitis b vaccine

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now recommending that infants receive their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth. This recommendation is in line with the guidance of the CDC.

Hepatitis B is a serious disease that is easily preventible with the vaccine. Yet, the hepatitis B vaccine is one of the most vilified of the vaccines by the anti-vaccine crowd.

This article will take a look at hepatitis B, the vaccine, and some of the nonsensical claims of the anti-vaccine world. Continue reading “Hepatitis B vaccine – new recommendations for vaccinating infants”

Merck vaccine lawsuit – implausible narrative, bad law and facts

Merck vaccine lawsuit

On 19 July 2016, New York Attorney Patricia Finn filed a complaint in a federal district court against the pharmaceutical firm Merck, officials in the Department of Health and Human Services, and Julie Gerberding (formerly director of the CDC, and currently Merck’s Executive Vice President for Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy and Population Health). This Merck vaccine lawsuit, called Doe v Merck,  is an amended complaint that was filed on 20 July, and will be the one examined in this article.

While the complaint was filed in the name of a Jane Doe and Baby Doe, the text of the complaint made it very clear that Jane Doe is in fact Maria Dwyer, and Baby Doe is her son Colin Dwyer.  Colin Dwyer’s case was one of the test cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP) for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The Dwyer case, like the other five test cases in the OAP, was rejected.

The Doe v Merck complaint makes two demands. First, that Merck’s license to produce the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (M-M-R®II ) be revoked.

Second, it asks for damages for Colin’s alleged vaccine injuries. The complaint is problematic from three aspects:

  1. The story it tries to tell is full of holes;
  2. as a legal matter, it makes no case; and
  3. it includes many factual inaccuracies.

In short, the Merck vaccine lawsuit is bad work.  However, the complaint is being shared widely, and a discussion of its shortcomings might be of value to many readers.  Continue reading “Merck vaccine lawsuit – implausible narrative, bad law and facts”

FluMist vaccine recommendation – CDC gets the science right

FluMist vaccine recommendation

There are a lot of anti-vaccine tropes about the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), none of which make a lot of sense. There’s the conspiracy theories that the CDC is bought off by Big Pharma. Or the CDC whistleblower meme that they hid evidence that vaccines cause autism. However, the CDC usually gets the science right, like they did with the recent FluMist vaccine recommendation.

The CDC, a federal government agency made up of scientists, physicians, and public health officers, who come from civilian and military backgrounds, are the first responders to almost any infectious disease outbreak across the world. They are the front line of science against disease.

They use scientific data, gathered through clinical trials or lab experiments, to make public recommendations about diagnosing, treating and preventing diseases. They’re impartial about their recommendations – they go where the data leads them.

So what’s the story behind the FluMist vaccine recommendation, better yet, non-recommendation? It’s not all that complicated, and it’s clear that the CDC got the science right. Continue reading “FluMist vaccine recommendation – CDC gets the science right”

Is a Gardasil researcher really against the vaccine?

gardasil researcher

This article about Dr. Diane Harper has been recently updated. The comments here are closed, so please comment at the new article. 

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded belief system about immunizations, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, logical fallacies, misinterpretation of data, or Italian provincial courts to make their case about the lack of safety of vaccines.

It’s rather easy to debunk these claims, but because of the nature of the internet, old news is recycled as “brand new,” requiring a whole new round of blog posts to discredit the misinformation. It’s impossible to recall one single instance where a vaccine refuser made a statement about vaccines that was not, in fact, rather quickly debunked. Not one.

The pro-children’s health side, those of us who think that vaccines save lives, have been winning the hearts and minds for awhile, given that still around 95% of children in the USA get all of their immunizations prior to entering kindergarten. But that doesn’t stop the refusers from trying, because various zombie anti-vaccination memes keep reappearing, especially since the successful pro-vaccine bill was signed into law in California.

One of the latest ones involves a so-called lead Gardasil researcher, Dr. Diane Harper, a former “consultant” to Merck (and GSK, who manufacturers Cervarix, a bivalent HPV vaccine), who apparently had some research role in the clinical trials of the HPV vaccines. But what are the facts?

Continue reading “Is a Gardasil researcher really against the vaccine?”

Inventing your own vaccine schedule? Not a wise idea.

There antivaccination crowd runs the gamut from truly scary deniers who invent all sorts of lies to try to stop vaccines to people who seem to think that the risk of vaccine adverse events somehow surpasses the risk of the disease itself, mostly because they lack the cultural memory of what it was like in the world pre-vaccines. Vaccines are a critical part of the drop in the infant mortality rate by over 90% since the 1930’s, so we have just forgotten.

There is a group of parents that kind of sit in the middle of the so-called “vaccine debate.” They are not necessarily opposed to vaccinations, but they pick and choose which vaccines they give their children, and they have come up with a revised vaccine schedule which has no basis in science. Dr. Sears (there’s four of them in the family, and they all say the same thing) is one of the more notable proponents of the revised vaccination schedule.  In general, the vaccine delayers avoid some vaccines (Hepatitis-B being the most important one), and delay or even eliminate boosters shots.


The current US-based vaccine schedule is established by some pretty bright people. The Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices, a part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the world’s leading center for detecting and preventing infectious diseases, is made up of some of the nation’s leading experts on infectious disease, immunology, vaccines, and public health. Their only goal is to determine which vaccines are necessary to protect the lives of citizens of the USA, and then to establish a healthy schedule for those vaccines. They do not pull this data out of thin air, but is based on the best research evidence available to them. As I’ve written before, vaccines prevent over 42,000 deaths every single year.

A recent study found that delaying the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella), in the second year of life, doubled the risk of a seizure occurring after the vaccination. Now seizures are not unusual with vaccination, and are a result of the high fever that some children get after vaccination. But seizures are fairly common in children who haven’t been vaccinated recently. It’s always scary to parents, but they are minor, usually cause no long-term damage, including epilepsy.

The researchers, led by Simon Hambidge, MD PhD, of the Institute for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, analyzed data from 323,247 children, born between 2004 and 2008, whose records are in the Vaccine Safety Datalink system, a collaborative effort between CDC’s Immunization Safety Office and 9 managed care organizations (MCOs), that monitors immunization safety and address the gaps in scientific knowledge about rare and serious events following immunization

The researchers located records 5,667 children who had experienced a seizure in their first two years of life and did not have a seizure disorder. The researchers then compared the timing of these children’s seizures to the dates they had received various vaccinations and considered whether the vaccines had been received on time or not, per the CDC’s and ACIP’s recommendations

cdc-vaccine-scheduleThe analysis revealed that there was no correlation between receiving any vaccine and experiencing seizures for children during their first year of life. However, those children who received the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months old, when it’s recommended, were at about 2.6X higher risk of a seizure than an unvaccinated child. That translates to about one seizure for every 4000 children receiving the vaccine. If parents delayed the MMR vaccine until any time between 16 and 23 months, the risk of a seizure was 6.5X greater than when not being vaccinated. In other words, delaying the vaccine 4-8 months more than doubles the risk of seizures.

In general, febrile or acute seizures are not serious, they just seem scary. Most vaccines, such as  DTaP (the vaccine for diphtheriatetanus and whooping cough) actually show no difference in seizures between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Seizures occur in about 5 out of 100 children sometime during their lives, with 95% of them not serious or symptomatic of other diseases. In other words, the background risk of seizure might actually be higher than the incidence observed in vaccinated children, just in case a reader wants to head down that path.

Thus, if you’re coming up with your own vaccine schedule, you’re increasing the risk of a minor, but kind of scary, adverse event–a febrile seizure. Why would one do that to gain no other benefit? That’s not clear to me.

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Why we vaccinate–protecting babies from pertussis

tdap-vaccineRecently, there have been several outbreaks of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis), including one that reached epidemic levels in Washington state, which has been considered one of the worst pertussis outbreaks in the USA during the past several decades. The disease lead to 18 infant deaths in the USA during 2012.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends (pdf) that children should get 5 doses of DTaP (the vaccine for (diphtheriatetanus and pertussis), one dose at each of the following ages: 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months and 4-6 years. Those children who are not completely vaccinated according to these ACIP recommendations for pertussis are considered to be “undervaccinated.”  Continue reading “Why we vaccinate–protecting babies from pertussis”

Cocooning the family to protect infants from whooping cough

Infant being treated for pertussis infection. ©CDC, 2012.

Over the past year or so, there have been several outbreaks of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis), including one that reached epidemic levels in Washington state, which has been considered one of the worst pertussis outbreaks in the USA during the past several decades. The disease lead to 18 infant deaths in the USA during 2012.

The original DTP vaccine (diphtheriatetanus and pertussis) became available in the USA in 1948 and was critical to dropping the number of cases of whooping cough from 260,000  in 1934 to less than a few thousand per year in the 1990′s. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends (pdf) that children should get 5 doses of DTaP (the replacement for the original DTP vaccine), one dose at each of the following ages: 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months and 4-6 years. Those children who are not completely vaccinated according to these ACIP recommendations for pertussis are considered to be “undervaccinated.” 

Whooping cough is a serious disease that has significant complications for children:

  • 1 in 4 (23%) get pneumonia (lung infection)
  • 1 or 2 in 100 (1.6%) will have convulsions (violent, uncontrolled shaking)
  • Two thirds (67%) will have apnea (slowed or stopped breathing)
  • 1 in 300 (0.4%) will have encephalopathy (disease of the brain)
  • 1 or 2 in 100 (1.6%) will die

Even in adults, there are substantial complications, such as broken ribs from coughing, that can have a significant impact on the overall health of the individual.

One of larger concerns with recent outbreaks of pertussis has been that adults with lapsed immunity or unvaccinated older children may pick up the infection, then pass it to these unvaccinated or partially vaccinated infants (usually less than 1 year old). 

Continue reading “Cocooning the family to protect infants from whooping cough”

Infant in North Carolina dies of whooping cough

whooping-cough-coccoonThe North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported that a three-week old child died of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) last week.

As the report states, a child cannot be vaccinated with DTaP (the vaccine for diphtheriatetanus and pertussis) until they are about 2 months old. However, because infants are susceptible to whooping cough, all adults, children, friends, relatives, everyone, who is in contact with that child should be vaccinated against pertussis, a process called cocooning.

When an antivaccination militant says “my unvaccinated child won’t hurt your child”, this is where their lies are uncovered. For example, an unvaccinated older child may have whooping cough, and the parent take him or her to a pediatrician for the horrible cough, and that infected child passes it to other children.

In this case, the NC Department of Health and Human Services has not reported how the child may have contracted the deadly disease, so we can only speculate. Continue reading “Infant in North Carolina dies of whooping cough”