US measles epidemic hits 1123 cases – get the MMR vaccine – UPDATED

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services have reported that the ongoing measles epidemic has, as of 11 July 2019, has resulted in 1123 cases in 28 states. This an increase of 14 cases since the last report. This makes 2019 (which is just over 6 months old) the worst year for measles since 1992, when there were 963 cases for all 12 months. 

At this rate, we can expect well over 2000 measles cases for 2019, making it the worst year since the major measles epidemics of the late 1980s. 

In 2000, the CDC had stated that measles was eradicated in the USA. But as a result of fears and misinformation about the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, vaccination rates have dropped allowing measles to again attack children. Continue reading “US measles epidemic hits 1123 cases – get the MMR vaccine – UPDATED”

New York vaccine exemptions law – judge rejects restraining order request

New York Vaccine exemptions law

On July 12, 2019, Judge Mackey of the Albany County Supreme Court (see Note 1) rejected the temporary restraining order request of plaintiffs challenging the updated New York vaccine exemptions law which removed the state’s religious exemption for school immunization requirements. While this is only the first step in what is almost certain to be a long process, and full arguments were not yet heard, the content of the decision does not bode well for plaintiffs – in line with abundant jurisprudence. Continue reading “New York vaccine exemptions law – judge rejects restraining order request”

New York ends vaccine religious exemptions – protecting us from measles

vaccine religious exemptions

Sometimes, there’s excellent news with the fight to end vaccine-preventable diseases. On 13 June 2019, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (see Note 1) signed a bill whereby the state of New York ended vaccine religious exemptions.

As a result of this new law, New York joins California, Arizona, Mississippi (yes, Mississippi), West Virginia (ditto), and Maine as the only states that do not allow religious exemptions, that is, allowing parents to claim that their religious beliefs are not compatible with vaccinations.

Since there are no mainstream religions that are opposed to vaccines, I have always found that this type of exemption was bogus and an excuse for parents to formalize their pseudoscientific beliefs. This put children at risk of dangerous and deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.

For New York, the removal of the religious exemption is critical. The center of the current US measles epidemic, which has struck over 1000 individuals, seems to be in the ultra-orthodox Jewish population in the state who have abused the exemptions. This gave us an unvaccinated population, concentrated in a small area, that was susceptible to a highly contagious and dangerous disease.

vaccine religious exemptions
Protecting New York from diseases. Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Anti-vaccine nutjobs, like Jim Meehan and Del Bigtree, using disgusting tropes like claiming that mandatory vaccinations are like the Holocaust, have tried to fan the flames of the anti-vaccine dogma by making the religious exemptions to vaccination as some religious liberty issue.

Of course, the legislative process to get this bill passed was not easy. According to an article in the New York Times:

The tension over the issue was readily apparent in the Capitol on Thursday as hundreds of angry opponents — many with young children and infants — pleaded with lawmakers to reject the bill, sometimes invoking the will of God, other times their rights as parents. The show of raw emotion affected even supporters of the bill.

Assemblyman Michael Montesano, a Long Island Republican, framed the bill as “an attack on people’s First Amendment rights.” He added, “It’s still the individual parent, who is raising this child, that has the fundamental right to decide what happens with their child in all facets of their life.”

vaccine religious exemptions
Protecting New Yorkers. Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

As the vote came to a head, emotions were high:

As the Assembly vote slowly came in, the speaker, Carl E. Heastie, was forced to come to the floor and count votes, calling recalcitrant members to coax the bill toward the 76-vote threshold needed for passage. Several prominent Democrats, including the chairman of the health committee, Richard N. Gottfried, bucked Assembly leadership and voted no. In the end, it narrowly passed, 77 to 53.

As soon the vote count was called, shouts of “shame” — and more colorful invective — erupted from the Assembly gallery, where opponents had gathered to watch the proceedings. Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry attempted to restore order, but the screams continued; unable to stop the shouting, Mr. Aubry took the chamber into recess as furious opponents headed into Capitol hallways.

The only shame that I see are recalcitrant legislators not voting to protect the health of children.

vaccine religious exemptions
Syracuse University protected from diseases. Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash

Nevertheless, the pro-science, pro-children, pro-health side won. And Governor Cuomo signed it into law.

This is how we stop the measles epidemic and save the lives of innocent children. Vaccines save lives.  So thanks – New York eliminates vaccine religious exemptions!

Notes

  1. When I was in graduate school, studying real biomedical science as opposed to anti-vaccine pseudoscience, I was a canvasser for Governor Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo who was subsequently elected governor of New York. Thus, I was 0.000047% responsible for this bill. You can thank me by buying me a beer.



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Court upholds policy denying religious exemptions to vaccines

religious exemptions

In 2014, the Federal District Court of the Eastern District of New York rejected a claim brought by three plaintiff families against various aspects of New York’s school immunization requirements. The decision did not include any legal innovation: it was completely based on well-established precedent that schools can deny religious exemptions. But it offers a chance to reflect on what that precedent is, why it is in place, and what it means for us.

The take-home point? Our immunization jurisprudence gives states substantial leeway to protect the public health via vaccination requirements, specifically, in this context, by allowing states to decide whether, and under what conditions, to exempt students from school immunization requirements. But states have to actually use that power to achieve anything. By leaving the floor to the passionate, if passionately wrong, anti-vaccine minority, we are allowing them to undermine the right of the rest of us to be free from preventable diseases.

In other words, those who vaccinate need to speak up and make it clear to their elected representatives that they want state law to protect their children – and the community – against outbreaks of preventable diseases. The laws will not enact themselves, and our representatives need to know the public wants this protection, that the public does not want high rates of measles cases or other diseases.

Just like the diseases, anti-vaccine legislative successes, such as maintaining religious exemptions, are preventable. And just like the diseases, doing nothing won’t prevent them. Continue reading “Court upholds policy denying religious exemptions to vaccines”

Sharyl Attkisson and measles vaccine math – wrong in so many ways

sharyl attkisson

One of the favorite tropes of the anti-vaccine religion is their odd reliance on the ridiculous anti-vaccine math, including some pushed by Sharyl Attkisson, a favorite nemesis of the old feathered dinosaur. Attkisson believes that kids who have been vaccinated against the measles are more likely to get measles than those who are not vaccinated.

Yes, the anti-vaxxers actually believe this nonsense and promote it across the internet as an “argument” against the measles vaccine, despite numerous measles outbreaks that have dire consequences for children.

For those of you who don’t know about Sharyl Attkisson, she’s a former CBS newsperson who has headed down the black hole of the anti-vaccine movement. She retreads old anti-vaccine tropes, like lame conspiracy theories – Attkisson, according to Orac, “through her promotion of antivaccine conspiracy theories, Sharyl Attkisson was, is, and will continue to be a danger to children and public health.”

So Attkisson’s anti-vaccine trope of the day is this pseudo-math (probably not a real word, but I’m going to use it for this article) about vaccines. Not only are her claims based on fake data, but those claims also rely upon the complete misuse of simple math and statistics. 

Continue reading “Sharyl Attkisson and measles vaccine math – wrong in so many ways”

Vaccine exemptions and private schools – what are the facts?

vaccine exemptions

As measles outbreaks – centered on unvaccinated children – continue to pop up in areas with low vaccine rates,  one approach private schools and daycares reach to is keeping out unvaccinated children. An Ohio Jewish school announced it will not accept unvaccinated children, and I know other private facilities are considering this. So what does this all mean with respect to vaccine exemptions within private schools?

Note that this is a separate issue than the question of whether unvaccinated children can be kept home during an outbreak. All states have a provision in law to keep unvaccinated children at home during an outbreak, and some of the affected states – like New York – are doing that.  Continue reading “Vaccine exemptions and private schools – what are the facts?”

Flu vaccine mandate for day care reinstated by New York court

flu vaccine mandate

On Thursday, June 28, 2018, New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, unanimously reinstated New York City’s flu vaccine mandate for certain daycares, which was previously struck down by two lower courts on different grounds. The decision, Garcia v. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is mostly about a specific legal issue – the line between when agencies act independently, and when they need legislative direction and direct authority to act.

At its core, it is a question about the limits of bureaucratic power. However, the decision also makes it clear that the New York City Board of Health has extensive power to establish a flu vaccine mandate (and for other vaccines) and to act to prevent infectious diseases. In that sense, it’s good news, upholding the ability of the Board to protect public health.  Continue reading “Flu vaccine mandate for day care reinstated by New York court”

LeRoy neurological disorders – PANDAS, vaccines, and whatever?

leroy neurological disorders

In spring 2012, I had written a few articles about a mystery neurological ailment that had struck about 20 teenagers at a high school and surrounding area in LeRoy, NY, a small town about 30 minutes from the city of Rochester. They suffered tics that mimicked Tourette syndrome, but was never diagnosed as such. Most of them have recovered, although two new cases have appeared. It’s been five years, so let’s update the news about the LeRoy neurological disorders.

I first wrote this article in 2013, yet it continues to be one of the top read articles on this blog. I’m not sure why, it may be because the outbreak was blamed on many factors that cross paths with internet conspiracies about health. Like vaccines.

Since this article about the LeRoy neurological disorders is so popular, I decided to update it (and clean up the huge number of broken links). I have also looked at the recent news about “outbreak,” and I will post links to some of the more intriguing hypotheses here.

Entering the Way-back Machine, let’s see what has happened in the past, just to catch everyone up. Continue reading “LeRoy neurological disorders – PANDAS, vaccines, and whatever?”

Anti-vaccine tweets correlated with affluent white women in five states

anti-vaccine tweets

Although there’s evidence that the anti-science beliefs surrounding vaccines cross a broad political spectrum, I’ve always wondered if rich white liberal women were the center of the anti-vaccine universe – this is based on my own personal anecdotal evidence, so let’s just consider that a belief than a fact. A recent analysis of anti-vaccine tweets may or may not confirm my beliefs about these rich white liberals.

There has been a dramatic increase, over the past few years, in the volume of tweets that claim that life-saving vaccines are linked to autism. Anyone who reads this blog knows that that claim is demonstrably and scientifically false. Despite the science, the belief that vaccines cause autism remains. And this view is promulgated on various locations on the internet.

Like with a lot of other controversial topics, the Twitter outrage about the danger of vaccines doesn’t actually reflect a sudden surge in anti-vaccine beliefs amongst the general population. According to a recently published peer-reviewed article, most of increase in these anti-vaccine tweets represent a very specific demographic. Individuals from affluent, populated areas in five states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania – seem to be the backbone of this sudden increase in anti-vaccine tweets.

Let’s take a look at this new paper. It could provide us with some information about the who is pushing the anti-vaccine narrative. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine tweets correlated with affluent white women in five states”

Vaccine lawsuits – overview of litigation across the USA

vaccine lawsuits

The goal of this overview is to tell you about vaccine lawsuits in the federal and state courts (but not in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program). As an overview, the discussion of each case will be very short. If you want more information, please let me know in the comments section. If you know of cases I have missed, also mention that in the comments.

The vaccine lawsuits overview is arranged by topic, and without topic by states, and within states in alphabetical order. I have chosen August 1, 2016 as a starting point to keep this manageable.

Note that the “claims” section provides a summary of what a complaint is claiming – what it is trying to do – and not an analysis of the claims’ validity. Where available, I link to a post discussing the claim’s merits more in detail. Where not, I add some comments about the validity. But the claims section just provides what the plaintiffs are claiming – it doesn’t mean their claims, hold water. Continue reading “Vaccine lawsuits – overview of litigation across the USA”