This Papa is scared of the shmeasles measles

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2014. It has been revised and updated to improve readability and correct and update some information

This is 2014. We have sent people to the moon. I can be in contact with people from Australia, Germany, Israel, or someone a few blocks away from me (whom I’ve never actually met in person) without stepping away from my computer. I can see photos of my lovely and brilliant daughters, without having to thumb through an album with fading Kodak photographs.

And you know what else? Our modern medicine can prevent measles: in 2000, it was declared non-endemic in the United States, meaning that there were no wild measles viruses floating around the USA. It was considered one of the great public health victories, along with eliminating smallpox and polio (almost, give it a year or so).

But now measles is coming back. In 2014, the United States is seeing the highest number of cases since 1994. It’s in the few hundreds at this point, but that’s way more than before and the trend is worrying. In the past years, Europe had seen tens of thousands of cases of measles, along with numerous hospitalizations and death. This is unnecessary suffering: we have an extremely effective and safe vaccine against measles. But like brakes, seatbelts, and bulletproof vests, it tends not to work as well if you don’t use it.

Thanks to anti-vaccine misinformation, the rate of vaccination against the measles has dropped slightly. Problematically, the decline in vaccination isn’t evenly distributed across the country, pockets of unvaccinated occur in various locations, where just a child who picks up the disease in a foreign country can quickly spread it through a community. Continue reading “This Papa is scared of the shmeasles measles”

Why we vaccinate–saving children’s lives from meningitis

Autopsy specimen of brain infected with Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis.
Autopsy specimen of brain infected with Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis.

One of the enduring zombie tropes of the antivaccination cult is that pathogens aren’t dangerous because the disease is not dangerous. Through a complicated, and thoroughly unsupported by evidence, revision of immunology to fit their needs, they think that kids with healthy immune systems don’t require vaccines, because their super immune systems, strengthened with homeopathic water and a handful of vitamins, will never succumb to diseases. In their arrogance, and pseudoscience beliefs, they think their kids have superior immune systems that can only be harmed by vaccines.

Of course, their beliefs are unsupported by anything in science, just putting children at harm. Plus we have evidence of how avoiding key vaccinations do put children at danger.

For a little background, meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The disease may develop in response to a number of causes, usually bacteria or viruses, but it can also be caused by physical injury, cancer or certain drugs. While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate–saving children’s lives from meningitis”

Reports of vaccine related effects can be useful

 

©KenRockwell.com, 2007. Photographer's son actually receiving RotaTeq vaccine and giving a smile to Paul Offit for keeping him from ever getting a rotavirus infection.
©KenRockwell.com, 2007. Photographer’s son actually receiving RotaTeq vaccine and giving a smile to Paul Offit for keeping him from ever getting a rotavirus infection.

Vaccine deniers, especially in the USA, use the passive data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a system where individuals can report supposed adverse events post-vaccination, to “prove” certain adverse events. The data is considered to be “passive” because the individual reports can be made online, by fax or by mail–real causal events may be underreported and hyped, imaginary issues with no causality, can be over-reported. However, without medical investigations of causality between the vaccination and the claimed adverse events that are reported to the VAERS database, the data have no real value.

Frankly, VAERS can be gamed by those with nefarious intentions. In reality, VAERS is a feel-good system for those who think that there’s a link between vaccines and something terrible, but without an active investigation, the data is just above the level of being totally meaningless. Most epidemiologists know it is valueless. Even the VAERS system itself says that the data cannot be used to ascertain the difference between coincidence and true causality.

Furthermore, there is a background rate for mortality (death) or morbidity (abnormal medical condition), across all causes, irrespective of whether an individual is vaccinated or not, and unless you understand the background rate, the vaccine “mortality” rate has no scientific meaning. In fact, we could provide data that shows anything might cause any adverse medical event, like playing video games leads to prostate cancer, but we would have no evidence of any type of causality whatsoever. Continue reading “Reports of vaccine related effects can be useful”