A recent recurrent claim in the anti-vaccine group is that the MMR vaccine puts babies at higher risk than they were before vaccines when measles outbreaks were large and frequent. The claim is that because vaccinated mothers transfer less immunity than mothers who had wild measles to their babies, babies are less well protected, and hence more at risk. This matters, because rates of complications are higher in babies than others.
The anti-vaccine claim is incorrect and deeply morally problematic. It’s incorrect because the difference in immunity between vaccinated mothers and mothers who had measles is real, but not huge; and because even if babies of vaccinated mothers are more likely to get measles if exposed, babies were much more likely to be exposed before vaccines.
The goal of this article is to respond to a number of recurring myths raised by anti-vaccine activists regarding vaccine testing and safety – a common trope used against vaccines.
The bottom line is that vaccines are extensively and carefully tested for safety, and that vaccine safety is shown by many, many studies from a variety of sources, reinforcing each other and all pointing to the same result – serious problems from vaccines are possible, but extremely rare. And those small, rare risks are far outweighed by the benefits vaccines provide by protecting us against much larger risks.
Recently, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss wrote an in-depth article here discussing the Samoan vaccine tragedy – two children died within minutes after receiving the routine MMR vaccine. The government reacted to the Samoan vaccine issue almost immediately, and they opened an inquest into what may have killed the two children – spoiler alert, it wasn’t the vaccine.
He wrote in his Dr. Bob’s Daily and published on his Facebook page that measles is only rarely fatal in developed countries and that serious complications are rare. (In the likely event that Dr. Sears decides to delete his misleading comments, it’s archived here permanently.)
And they were irresponsible. In a way that can put people – including children, including his patients – at serious risk. This is not the first time Dr. Bob Sears has made inaccurate claims about a vaccine-preventable disease, but on the background of the current measles outbreaks, the risk from his behavior is more imminent and more obvious. It is appropriate to react. Continue reading “Dr. Robert Sears vaccine info misleads parents about measles”
I don’t have it in me to write about everything wrong with this “documentary” – to be honest, I heard not one single bit of science-based fact presented with respect to the MMR vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. The fraudumentary mostly presented lies, misinformation, anecdotes, and, notably, no real science. Worse yet, it tried to make Wakefield into a hero – maybe even a deity of some sort.
So, let’s be clear – this movie is about Wakefield. Not children. Not identifying real causes for autism. Not anything important.
I have three daughters, and my oldest one, we’ll call her Catherine, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder many years ago. This is our story, one that has little to do with vaccines, except that I never once thought that there was a relationship between her autism and vaccines. Not once.
I have rarely mentioned Catherine online not because I was ashamed of her autism – she deserved her privacy, and I did not want to be someone who used my personal life story as a “cause” for the science of vaccines.
Then, two things happened. First, while commenting on an article I wrote a few years ago, someone said: “you don’t understand autism because you do not have autistic children.” The former statement is false because it doesn’t take having an autistic child to understand autism. The latter statement is also false because I do have a child with autism.
Second, I finally read Peter Hotez’s book, Vaccines did not Cause Rachel’s Autism. For those of you who don’t know Dr. Hotez, he is one of the leading researchers in vaccines, and he has written hundreds of peer-reviewed papers on infectious diseases (and vaccines) along with numerous books on infectious diseases. He is a real authority on vaccines, public health, and vaccine-preventable diseases, and as they said on Wayne’s World, “we are not worthy!”
After extensive efforts from public health and the immunization coalition to revise Maine vaccine exemptions, and in the face of determined opposition, on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, the Maine Senate voted for a bill removing religious and personal belief exemptions to school vaccination requirements. The bill will now go to the Governor’s office, and Governor Janet Mills – whose administration already expressed support for the bill – is expected to sign it.
On the support side, the grassroots group Maine Families for Vaccines spoke in favor of the bill, and medical associations, including the Maine American Academy of Pediatricians, worked to explain it and support it. A previous bill, similar in language, passed through the Maine Legislature, but it was subsequently vetoed by the (then) governor.
The new Maine vaccine exemptions bill went through the legislative process with some drama. After passing through the House, the Senate approved the bill, but – in an 18:17 vote – added back a religious exemption.
On returning the bill to the house, the House reaffirmed their commitment to the removal of both the personal belief and the religious exemptions – in procedural terms, it “insisted”, and sent the original bill back to the Senate to vote on it again. After negotiations, one of the Senators who supported adding the religious exemption back in reversed course, and the original bill – removing both the personal belief and the religious exemption – passed 18 to 17.
As mentioned above, the Governor is expected to sign it.
The price of the change appears to be somewhat weakening the controls on religious exemptions by preventing the Department of Health and Human Services from regulating them and allowing a nurse practitioner or physician assistant to grant them.
In addition, children with an individualized educational plan can continue to attend, as long as the parents – or the student, if over 18 – have consulted with a licensed physician about “the risks and benefits associated with the choice to immunize.”
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).
On April 18, 2019, a New York Supreme Court Judge (see Note 1) rejected a challenge to the New York vaccine mandate (pdf) brought by three lawyers (attorneys Robert Krakow, Patti Finn, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., all of which have litigated cases on vaccines issues in the past). The litigation involved New York City’s order for an MMR vaccine mandate in certain zip codes.