There are many canards propagated by the vaccine deniers to support their personal beliefs (really, denialism) about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. One of their more popular beliefs is that vaccines didn’t end many of the deadly diseases, but improved sanitation, healthcare, nutrition or magical fairies (also known as homeopathy) ended these diseases.
There is even a subgroup of these believers who think that the CDC, historians, and everyone else is lying about the epidemics that existed prior to vaccinations–let’s call this group history deniers. They reject the scientific and historical evidence that vaccines saved lives – amazing.
Yesterday, while researching videos and articles for my post about Stuart Scott, I ran across a video where Keith Olbermann, noted sports journalist and noted progressive pundit, was leaning on a cane while talking to Scott, who was fighting for his life against appendix cancer. I wrote a note to myself to find out the backstory.
Then Olbermann made it easy for me–on his afternoon show on ESPN2, said that he was using the cane because of an extremely severe case of shingles, sometimes known as herpes zoster. Shingles is actually caused by the chickenpox virus, Varicella zoster. If you have had the chickenpox infection, you don’t actually get cured by ridding yourself of the virus–what happens it that the zoster virus remains latent in the nerve cell bodies and other nervous system bodies. While the virus is in this latent condition, it is ignored by the immune system and there are no obvious symptoms or signs that it’s there. Continue reading “Keith Olbermann and shingles–get the vaccine”
Despite the continued social network misinformation about vaccine safety and/or effectiveness, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the median vaccination coverage, amongst children between the age of 19-35 months was 94.7% for 2 doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine; 95.0% for varying local requirements for diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine; and 93.3% for 2 doses of varicella vaccine among those states with a 2-dose requirement.
The median total exemption rate was 1.8%, a difficult number to truly analyze. The CDC reported many issues like some parents get an exemption even after their children are fully or partially vaccinated, some exemptions are used as a matter of convenience because the parents forgot to vaccinated, and some states don’t report exemptions. Moreover, the CDC data indicates up to 15% of exemptions are “medical,” meaning that a child cannot receive a vaccine as a result of an establish medical contraindication.
The research also shows that there have been no statistically significant changes in either vaccination or exemption rate from 2012-13. This is more statistical support that the antivaccination agenda is not gaining much traction across most of the USA.
This article, originally published on 2 January 2014 has been updated to include more information about studies regarding chickenpox in children and its effect on rate of shingles outbreaks.
Shingles, known medically as Herpes zoster (HZ), is caused by the Varicella zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox in children. After the chickenpox infection, VZV latently persists, without symptoms, in the basal ganglia including the trigeminal ganglion. For unknown reasons, VZV is reactivated from latency, and moves along sensory nerves to the endings in the skin, where it replicates causing the characteristic HZ rash, commonly called shingles.
There is no known cure for VZV, though it can be treated with antiviral medications. Although the infection presents with a rash, commonly fairly painful, it usually subsides within three to five weeks. Unfortunately, about one in five patients develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is often difficult to manage. Because VZV is never eliminated, after a shingles attack, VZV again becomes latent, to attack again sometime in the future. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate-shingles may increase risk of stroke”
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.
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.
Vaccine deniers love to say that many (and some say all) vaccine preventable diseases are not dangerous, so why even take a tiny risk of an adverse event with vaccines to prevent these innocuous, harmless diseases. The problem with that belief is that it is simply untrue.
The CDC reported last week about a previously healthy 15 year old girl in Ohio who died from a chickenpox (Varicella zoster virus), a disease that is generally prevented by the varicella vaccine. The adolescent girl was admitted to a hospital after three days of a rash consistent with chickenpox with the last day experiencing fever and shortness of breath. The young girls was started on antibiotics and antifungals, to treat any concurrent infections, but she died three weeks later. The girl was current (or close to current) on her other vaccinations, MMR, DTaP, and Hib, but lived in an area that with low uptake of varicella vaccinations. Because deaths from chickenpox are so rare (about 100 people die of chickenpox every year in the USA), but not unknown, the Ohio Department of Health undertook a thorough investigation and concluded that the girl died from chickenpox, and there were no other comorbidities, including leukemia (which might have suppressed her immune system).
The complications from chickenpox occur mostly in susceptible groups such as infants, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals. Some of the more serious complications are:
infection or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
blood stream infections (sepsis)
toxic shock syndrome
It was very difficult to read the article. Most of the young girl’s organs failed, and she was in respiratory distress when she died. I cannot imagine being a parent watching what happened over three weeks while she was in the hospital. I can only imagine that the parents are beating themselves up over not having her vaccinated.
For those parents who are engaging in Pox Parties, where parents deliberately infect their children with flu, chickenpox and other vaccine-preventable diseases, understand that you might be putting your child at risk of dying. Please don’t do it.
The state of West Virginia (WV) has one of the toughest child vaccination regulations in the United States, not allowing any religious exemptions to vaccinations required before attending school. Only Mississippi has regulations this strict for allowable exemptions. Of course, as I have written, religious exemptions have been abused by vaccine deniers by creating “fake” religions so that parents’ antivaccination beliefs will be recognized by the state. In fact, only medical exemptions are accepted by the state (pdf), and their standards on who can meet the medical exemption are quite tough.
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™. Continue reading “Debunking the “vaccines aren’t tested” myth”