Post vaccination mortality – another anti-vaccine myth without merit

post vaccination mortality

One of the most pernicious myths of the anti-vaxxers is the claim that post-vaccination mortality is a rampant “epidemic.” Their evidence of such an issue with vaccines is non-existent, but it continues to be pushed by notable anti-vaccine missionaries like Del Bigtree and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. 

The anti-vaxxer world seems to use anecdotes and VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines by claiming that vaccines kill children. Well, anecdotes do not equal data (they are filled with bias) and dumpster-diving into VAERS which does not establish correlation, let alone causation

In other words, the anti-vaccine world relies on bad data to make claims about post-vaccination mortality. 

But is there a plague of vaccine-related deaths across the world? I have long stated that there have been few, if any, documented post-vaccination deaths over the past 40 years. I determined that by attempting to search for post-vaccination mortality reported in the peer-reviewed literature, but trying to prove a negative is difficult. 

But I’m just a science blogger who hasn’t published an article in years, so even the best scientific skeptic amongst you will say, “OK, you old feathered dinosaur, I trust you, but I need something more to deal with these anti-vaxxers.”

Well, this old feathered dinosaur happens to agree. Lucky for us, a group of researchers did some investigative research a few years ago to determine if there were any cases of post-vaccination mortality that have been documented. And what they found was – not so much. Continue reading “Post vaccination mortality – another anti-vaccine myth without merit”

Latest “act” from Andrew Wakefield – recycling 1986 anti-vaccine tropes

Andrew Wakefield

This article about the Andrew Wakefield movie, 1986: The Act, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

In 1986: The Act, Andrew Wakefield has created a very long parade of anti-vaccine claims from the past forty years or longer. The movie combines half-truths, facts taken out of context, and blatant misrepresentations to try and mislead people into refusing to vaccinate and protect their children.

In his post on the topic, my friend and colleague Dr. Vince Ilannelli addressed the potential motivations behind 1986: The Act from Andrew Wakefield, the problems with the credibility of the director and many of the main actors, the problematic nature of the sources in the movie, and some of the inaccuracies surrounding DTP.

In this post, I will cover some of the same ground, but my main focus will be to show why the film is unreliable. Obviously, I cannot cover every detail of the long film and keep this manageable, but I can cover many of the highlights, and I hope to make it clear why I think it’s unreliable.

Before starting on those, however, readers deserve a reminder that Andrew Wakefield, the creator of the film, has a well-earned reputation as a dishonest scientist. Wakefield misrepresented information about MMR and hid conflicts of interests, and as a result, outbreaks of measles in Europe and the United States harmed and killed children.

And Andrew Wakefield has continued to misrepresent information in ways that harm children. 

Andrew Wakefield is not a reliable source, and his previous movies show this, too. 

1986: The Act is no different.

The movie is framed as a discovery journey of a couple from the point where the woman discovers she’s pregnant to the point where she gives birth, during which they go through a lot of anti-vaccine sources and become thoroughly and extremely anti-vaccine, ending the movie as participants in an anti-vaccine event. It is, as I mentioned, a parade of greatest hits of the anti-vaccine movement – mostly claims that have been addressed again and again over the years, some twenty years old, some almost forty years old, some older still. There is little new in 1986: The Act. Continue reading “Latest “act” from Andrew Wakefield – recycling 1986 anti-vaccine tropes”

Polio vaccine causes cancer – a myth pushed by anti-vaccine religion

polio vaccine causes cancer

Apparently, the “polio vaccine causes cancer” zombie meme has been reanimated by the antivaccination cult. Lacking evidence for their beliefs, retreading old debunked memes is their standard operating procedure. And once again, I’m seeing it.

The interesting thing about social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, Reddit) is that it’s fairly easy to push pseudoscientific beliefs. The first problem is that many people read the headlines, and never the underlying discussion. If it can be said in 200 characters, or a misleading infographic, many individuals will share that across the internet as a “fact”. So, if you see a claim that “Polio vaccines infected 98 million Americans with a cancer virus,” many people will immediately see that an accept it without much criticism.

Of course, this leads to a second problem. To refute anti-vaccine claims take a lot more than 200 characters. The refutation is often complex, nuanced and highly scientific, and may take 2000 words or more to send that claim into orbit. It’s highly emotional to claim a vaccine can cause cancer. On the other hand, to say it is not isn’t emotional–it’s coldly logical. And takes a lot of words.

And the third problem is that is that social media fallacies have multiple lives, so when someone reads one of these memes a year from now, they think “yeah, this is great information”, and pass it along as if it’s the Truth™. Killing zombie anti-vaccine tropes and memes are just as difficult as killing zombies in real life, or at least, on a TV show. Debunking these anti-vaccine fake facts is a full-time job. Sadly, even after a thorough debunking, someone will call us a paid shill, ignore the evidence, and repeat the trope.

I need to create a bot that automatically refutes every repeated trope. In lieu of that, let’s just discuss the myth. And refute it once again.

Continue reading “Polio vaccine causes cancer – a myth pushed by anti-vaccine religion”

Vaccines prevented 200 million cases of disease in the USA from 1963 to 2015

vaccines prevented

Lest we forget, vaccines are one of the greatest medical inventions of all time. Without them, we would see cemeteries filled with children who would have died before they were even five years old.  In fact, the best evidence we have tells us that vaccines prevented 200 million cases of diseases in the USA alone in the five decades since 1963.

A recent study, published in AIMS Public Health, estimates that around 200 million cases of polio, mumps, rubella, measles, adenovirus, hepatitis A and rabies have been prevented in the U.S. from 1963 through 2015 as a result of widespread vaccination. The study, authored by Leonard Hayflick and S. Jay Olshansky, two leading experts on public health and infectious diseases, also discloses that about 450,000 deaths have been avoided in the U.S during this period, although other studies put that estimate of lives saved at a much higher number.

Dr. Hayflick discovered the human cell strain, WI-38, in 1962 which was critical to the safe manufacturing of vaccines, which became widespread in 1963. According to the article, the vaccines produced from the WI-38 cell line prevented almost 4.5 billion occurrences of the diseases, and stopped them from returning to infect us. Dr. Hayflick developed the foundation that allowed the world to have relative safe and very effective tools to prevent infectious diseases.

Prior to the development of WI-38, anti-virus vaccines were grown in monkey cells, which had some issues that made many question their safety, although most of the concern appeared to be overblown. However, once the WI-38 was available, it became easier to develop and produce vaccines for many viruses.

Drs. Hayflick and Olshansky wanted to see what effect that seminal event had on public health. And the numbers were incredible. Continue reading “Vaccines prevented 200 million cases of disease in the USA from 1963 to 2015”

Enterovirus 68 – don’t blame vaccines or pesticides

enterovirus 68

A while ago, I reported on an outbreak of a mysterious viral disease that exhibited polio-like symptoms. At the time, around 23 children and young adults were afflicted with the disease. Some of them tested positive for enterovirus 68 (known as EV-68 or EV-D68), a member of a genus of viruses that includes over 66 different species that can infect humans. None of these children tested positive for the polio virus.

Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, a human enterovirus, that spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis. Because polio has no cure, the polio vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading.

The United States last experienced a polio epidemic in the 1950sprior to the introduction of the polio vaccine 60 years ago. Today, polio has been eradicated from most of the planet, as the number of worldwide polio cases has fallen from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 223 in 2012—a decline of more than 99% in reported cases.

Predictably, the anti-vaccine community has decided to use this extremely rare virus to make specious claims about vaccines, pesticides, and who knows what else. Typical of these tropes, we pro-science types completely debunk it, thinking it’s dead and done. But like the metaphorical zombie, it arises again to eat the brains of anti-vaccine activists. So, here I go again.

Continue reading “Enterovirus 68 – don’t blame vaccines or pesticides”

Polio-like illness emerging in California – not vaccine related

polio-like illness

Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, a human enterovirus, that spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis. Because polio has no cure, the polio vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading. In a case study that will be presented at the 2014 American Academy of Neurology meeting, researchers report the discovery of a polio-like illness that has been found in a cluster of children from California over a one-year period.

This outbreak isn’t a result of anyone’s refusal to be vaccinated against polio, since all of the children in this study had been previously vaccinated against the poliovirus.

The United States last experienced a polio epidemic in the 1950s, prior to the introduction of the polio vaccine 60 years ago. Today, polio has been eradicated from most of the planet, as the number of worldwide polio cases has fallen from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 223 in 2012—a decline of more than 99% in reported cases.
Continue reading “Polio-like illness emerging in California – not vaccine related”

Freedom to ignore French vaccination program – a court case

french vaccination program

Samia and Marc Larère, parents to a three year old and fifteen months old, have decided not to vaccinate them. A criminal charge was brought against them, by the government of France, for not giving their three year old the required vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and polio according to the French vaccination program.

They were charged under two legal provisions–a provision in the Code of Public Health (le code de la santé publique, art. L.3116-4) that imposes a find of 3750 euros and up to six months in jail for those who do not receive, or allow those under their guardianship to receive, mandatory vaccinations, including parents (“Le refus de se soumettre ou de soumettre ceux sur lesquels on exerce l’autorité parentale ou dont on assure la tutelle aux obligations de vaccination prévues aux articles L. 3111-2, L. 3111-3 et L. 3112-1 ou la volonté d’en entraver l’exécution sont punis de six mois d’emprisonnement et de 3 750 Euros d’amende”).

And a provision in the criminal code that criminalizes neglect of parental duties “to the point of risking the health… of a minor child”, with a fine of 30,000 euros and up to two years in prisons as penalty (article 227-17: “Le fait, par le père ou la mère, de se soustraire, sans motif légitime, à ses obligations légales au point de compromettre la santé, la sécurité, la moralité ou l’éducation de son enfant mineur est puni de deux ans d’emprisonnement et de 30 000 euros d’amende”).

The reason the Larères initially gave for declining to vaccinate their child was that they could not give her only the required vaccines–the only available vaccines, they said, had the required vaccines in combination with others, like Hepatitis B and meningococcal, which are not legally required and they were not willing to give the combination vaccine to their child.  Upon further probing, however, the couple admitted they received a vaccine containing only the required vaccines from Sanofi Pasteur, but still refused to vaccinate claiming that the vaccine contained a “toxic product”.

It may have been this vaccine (pdf). It’s unclear which ingredients they were referring to. The product contains a number of ingredients that may be used to raise concern among those unfamiliar with their role in vaccines and the principle that the dose makes the poison. In fact, in the tiny amounts in vaccines (pdf), none of these ingredients is toxic (pdf). Continue reading “Freedom to ignore French vaccination program – a court case”

Vaccines saved lives – scientific evidence

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.

So, is there scientific evidence that vaccines actually ended these epidemics? Yes there is, and it’s unequivocal. Unless you want to embrace historical revisionism, and somehow all of the health care records and epidemiological information was faked, vaccines saved lives – lots of lives. Continue reading “Vaccines saved lives – scientific evidence”

Bill Gates vaccinations in Africa – antivaccine hatred

The antivaccination cult really despises Bill Gates’ vaccinations in Africa. Not that he actually gives the vaccines, his foundation supports vaccinating kids in Africa, so that they have a better chance to survive.

One of the world’s leading sponsors of vaccine research and bringing healthcare (including vaccinations) to underdeveloped countries is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, located in Seattle, Washington.

There is nothing more admirable and moral than a person who has built incredible wealth and then decides to give it back to the world in a way that cannot be measure monetarily. Bill Gates’ foundation is working to eradicate polio and HIV in countries where they are some of the leading causes of death.

Continue reading “Bill Gates vaccinations in Africa – antivaccine hatred”

Worldwide vaccine uptake-2014

vaccines-saves-live-cloud

I make it a point to update this blog with the most current CDC analysis of vaccine uptake in the USA for kindergarten children (usually around 5 years old). Generally, the numbers have stayed stable, at around 95% vaccinated, although there is high variance from state to state, and locality to locality. The weakness in the vaccination uptake in the USA is that some areas may approach 100% vaccinated, but then other areas may be 50%, which makes those areas with low vaccine uptake susceptible to a quick spread of diseases that are not endemic to the USA (such as measles, polio, and others) through that unvaccinated population.

Given the 95% vaccine uptake rate, it begs the questions of why I push so hard for vaccination–because I want to protect the lives of children, and those 5% who aren’t vaccinated are at risk of serious disease and even death. And vaccines are the safest way to protect a child–protect them from death.

Nearly 55% of the readers of this blog are not American (a couple of years ago,this blog got a regular reader from Iran, which meant that all countries were represented amongst this blog’s readers). I have been accused of being a bit American-centric, but at the same time, I was also curious about vaccine uptake worldwide.  Continue reading “Worldwide vaccine uptake-2014”