I have previously written about whether thrombosis (formation of blood clots) is linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine – my conclusion was that they probably weren’t. But still, there are nagging anecdotes and government decisions that may concern those of you who are looking to get the vaccine.
Recently, the government of Quebec recently decided that the AstraZeneca vaccine will only be used on individuals 55 years and older. Of course, this caused some parts of the anti-vaccine world to froth at the mouth claiming the vaccine isn’t safe.
I think that many of the adverse events that are claimed to be associated with any of the COVID-19 vaccines involve the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, which states that because one event precedes another event, they must be linked. It is entirely possible that thrombosis occurs after vaccinations because of random chance rather than actual correlation (let alone causation).
Because the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is one of the four main vaccines (along with those from Pfizer, Moderna, and JNJ) to be given in the USA, Canada, the EU, Australia, and New Zealand, I want to make sure that the potential of a causal link to thrombosis events are given a thorough analysis. I especially want to focus on why the Government of Quebec decided to make this change – and it’s a lot more complicated than the narratives pushed by the anti-vaccine crowd.
If the German parliament approves the bill, which is almost certain, parents will have to provide evidence that their child has received the measles vaccine before they are enrolled in school. If the parents have failed to do so, they will be subject to fines up to €2,500 ($2,800).
If this bill is passed, Germany will join France and Italy as the other European countries with a mandatory vaccines law. Many other European countries have such high vaccination rates that they have little need for mandatory measles vaccine, but I’m sure they are watching carefully considering the rather large measles epidemic that has hit Europe over the past year.
The USA does not have a Federal mandatory measles vaccine law, but all 50 states and the District of Columbia require children to be fully vaccinated (according to the CDC immunization schedule, which includes the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella) before entering school. However, many states allow so-called “personal belief exemptions,” which allow parents to easily skip some or all vaccines based on whatever they want.
As a result, some states have either implemented or are considering strict laws to make certain that children entering school are fully vaccinated. California, Maine, New York, Washington, Mississippi, and West Virginia have mostly eliminated personal belief exemptions, only allowing medical exemptions, where the child has some contraindications to some vaccines. The German law also does the same – it only allows medical exemptions.
The German state of Brandenburg recently passed its own law instituting a mandatory measles vaccine for children entering kindergarten. The state government was concerned about Brandenburg’s relatively low measles vaccination rate, 72.5%, far below the 92.9% rate for the whole country.
This bears repeating. The measles is easily prevented by a vaccine.
A quick measles primer
Measles (also called rubeola, not to be confused with rubella, or German measles, which despite its name, isn’t the issue in Germany) is a respiratory disease caused by the measles virus. Measles virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs.
The virus is spread through respiration (contact with fluids from an infected person’s nose and mouth, either directly or through aerosol transmission), and is highly contagious — 90% of people without immunity sharing living space with an infected person will catch it.
There are no specific treatments for the disease. There are no miracle preventions.
The oft-repeated, and highly inaccurate, claim that vitamin A supplements can cure or prevent measles completely misses the mark. It’s important to supplement with vitamin A to prevent blindness as a result of measles, but it doesn’t reduce mortality or prevent some neurological issues. Moreover, it is most useful in children with vitamin A deficiency, not exactly a major issue in well-fed children in developed countries.
And sadly, for every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it.
These measles complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old (usually those with lapsed immunity).
Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
There is only one good way to prevent measles unless you want your child to live in a hermetically-sealed bubble forever – get the MMR vaccine.
Serious complications to measles can be as high as 3 out of every 10 children who get the disease. Serious complications from the MMR vaccine is approximately 1 out of every 1 million vaccine doses. The benefit to risk calculation is way over on the side of vaccines.
Measles is a dangerous, highly contagious disease that can permanently harm or even kill healthy children. It is not a disease that should be ignored.
The German mandatory measles vaccine law is what needs to be done to protect the children of the country. It is great that Germany is taking this step – I’m sure other countries will do the same.
Vaccines save lives. And the German government knows this and is moving to make sure every child is protected.
As a result of the widespread epidemic of measles in Europe and the USA, Germany has proposed a law that could fine anti-vaccine parents up to €2,500 (US$2,800) if they don’t vaccinate their children against measles. The law, if passed by the German parliament before the end of 2019, will take effect on 1 March 2022.
The law would make the MMR vaccine mandatory for all children attending nurseries and schools. It would also make it mandatory for all teachers, educators, and medical staff at hospitals and outpatient clinics.
Furthermore, the law requires that, by July 2020, parents registering their children for kindergartens or schools would need to either provide evidence that their children have received the measles vaccine (and possibly other vaccines, but I was unable to determine whether it would include all recommended vaccines) or have definitive proof of a medical exemption.
And this law is not going to affect only a small number of German anti-vaccine parents. According to the German Ministry of Health, there are approximately 361,000 non-vaccinated children along with about 220,000 adults (who would be covered by the new law).
One of the tropes of the anti-vaccine religion is that childhood diseases, like measles or whooping cough, are not dangerous. But real science tells us that measles complications, like SSPE (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis) and death, are not innocuous. The ignorance about measles puts our children at risk.
Law & Order: SVU, an American crime drama television series set in New York City did a story about the legal liability of anti-vaccine parents. It usually bases episodes on real news stories but putting some twist on them. And for fans of the show, it is addicting.
In the spring of 2009, an episode entitled Selfish aired. The plot was about an immature, irresponsible young mother who was assumed to have killed her child. In a major plot twist (and actually one that caught me by surprise), the coroner determines that the child died from measles, in what turned out to be an outbreak of the disease in fictional New York City.
The Assistant District Attorney then decides to prosecute the mother of the child who started the measles outbreak because she had refused to immunize her child for all of the reasons popularized by the vaccine deniers. Unfortunately, the producers of the show didn’t give us the full satisfaction of having that mother spend time in prison (and if one looked at the episode with even amateur legal eyes, it probably wasn’t going to happen).
But the episode is popular with many of us on the pro-science side, and I have tweeted when the episode is on a rerun somewhere. So let’s look into the legal liability for an anti-vaccine parent whose child infects others.
And here we go again. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I was catching up on some reading, which sometimes leads me to reading pseudoscience claims of some random vaccine denier. In this case, it was an article that claimed that it had “irrefutable evidence” that diseases were eliminated by better sanitation rather than vaccination.
One of the memes of the vaccine denialists is that childhood diseases, like measles or whooping cough, are not dangerous. In fact, some parents have set up “pox parties” to deliberately expose their children to these diseases, because anti-vaccine lunatics believe (with all evidence against their beliefs, typical of any science denialist) that natural immunity is better than a vaccine induced immunity. Not only is that an Appeal to Nature fallacy, but it shows ignorance on how immunity occurs.
Already this year, two children have died in the United States as a result of whooping cough. And there’s probably more, because of under-reporting.
Although my interests center on medicine and biology, I have more than a professional hobbyist interest in geology, specifically vulcanism, the study of volcanoes (and not Spock). So I peruse news stories about volcanic eruptions when they appear. This week, a British newspaper, the Daily Mail, published a story entitled, Is a super-volcano just 390 miles from London about to erupt?I suspect that the Daily Mail is one of Britain’s sensationalist newspapers, and this article would confirm it.
But let’s go over some of it’s points. Yes, the Laacher See volcano did erupt about 12,900 years ago, and it was a rather large eruption, on the size of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. Obviously, I was somewhat surprised that such a recent and large volcanic event happened in Europe. If it did happen today, Europe would be devastated for years. That eruption was massive, and one can find deep layers of ash throughout Central Europe up through to the North Sea. It had a profound effect on weather patterns of the era, with effects happening within a few weeks.
The article uses as its evidence that the volcano erupts every 12,000 years, so it’s overdue (I suppose) for an eruption, and that there are some CO2 outgassing in the lake (which formed when the magma chamber collapsed after the most recent eruption). If that’s their “evidence” for a future eruption, then we need to redefine what constitutes evidence. In fact, as they say in the financial industry, past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Furthermore, I could find no published, peer-reviewed support for a prediction of a new eruption. In other words, the Daily Mail invented this prediction.
As for the CO2 bubbles in the lake, yes that happens in water over a magma chamber, but it is, by itself, not an indicator of impending doom. However, the CO2 can be dangerous, of course, but that’s a biological issue not a prediction-of-eruption issue.
This is what bothers me about these kind of articles. The internet, being the rather instant communication method that it is, transfers this information from one side of the planet to another. Soon, I’ll be reading about it in what are supposed to be reasonable websites that monitor the world environmental issues.
Science journalism has a responsibility to actually provide accurate information. Too many times I read articles published in news sites (probably higher quality than the Daily Mail) that wildly misinterpret medical or scientific articles. I spend so much time debunking the overstating of what is said that if I could get paid for it, I’d have quite a career set up. Wikipedia is notorious for this kind of sensationalism.
I can only hope that all the skeptics out there have an effect on this type of bad science journalism. And London, you’re safe for now, though with the Olympics coming up, I may change my mind.