Did you get your flu vaccination?–2014 version

flu-shot-calendarThere is substantial scientific evidence that the flu immunization is both very safe and very effective. Unless you follow the ramblings of a non-immunologist, non-virologist, non-epidemiologist, non-scientist, Peter Doshi who has published outright fabrications about the safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, you probably fall on the side of getting vaccinated. Maybe.

But some people refuse the flu vaccine because of adherence to easily debunked myths and misinformation. If you are on the fence about the flu vaccine, read Tara Haelle’s It’s Baaaaack! 33 Flu Vaccine Myths You Don’t Need to Fear. She worked hard to put that list together, so if you’re on the fence about the flu vaccine, read it before the flu season takes off. You won’t be sorry.

Or you can be a real dumbass and accept the lamest excuses for not getting the flu vaccine.

OK, what is your flu vaccination status? And if you have any comments, just drop them into the Disqus comments below. We’d especially like to hear from people on the fence, maybe we can give you some gentle persuasion to get the vaccine!

Pro-vaccination websites that I love

immunize-for-goodBased on what I write, you’d think I was all about vaccines and thoroughly mocking the ignorance of the antivaccination world. And, apparently, I’m paid to do that. Sadly, I do not have a new BMW M5 in my driveway. I’d rather write about evolution, but there’s a direct correlation between not vaccinating and harm to children from vaccine preventable diseases, so it seems more important to me than arguing about the stupidity of creationism.

I tend to be the cranky one on the interwebs with respect to vaccines. I’m the mean, angry uncle who turns on the sprinklers when the antivaccine parents walk their dogs in front of my house. Extra benefit–their dogs don’t poop on my lawn. See, I’m the curmudgeonly neighbor of the pro-science/pro-vaccine world.

I realize my tone, filled with sarcasm and mockery, may blur my message, which is always based on real science, anti-cherry picking, and appropriately weighing evidence from experts vs. invented data from non-experts. But there are websites, which are important to my own personal mission of understanding vaccines and infectious diseases, that provide the same high value information but without the snark. I know, some of you like snark, as do I.

Here are some of the best websites on the internet that engage in the debate (there’s no debate, vaccination is safe and effective, as shown by a couple of mountains worth of evidence) about vaccines. But are on a different planet of niceness compared to me.

Voices for Vaccines. This blog (with lots of supporting information) tells personal stories through the voices of those who vaccinate. You cannot helped but be touched by the stories. VacLiars (see, I cannot resist) hates Voices for Vaccines, so there’s that. But it’s a good place if you’re looking for a calm voice in the screaming about vaccines. One of the managers of this website, Karen Ernst, has written a very popular post here. And she was nice. One of the scientific advisory board members (all of whom have impressive credentials in pediatrics and/or infectious diseases) is Paul Offit, who invented a vaccine that saves hundreds of thousands of lives every year. I don’t have to say anything more.

Shot of Prevention. One of the older websites that is pro-vaccine (by old, I mean 4 or 5 years), Shot of Prevention focuses on practical parenting issues with regards to vaccinating and diseases. What I love about Shot of Prevention is that its writers come from all walks of life, and really gives the reader a broad perspective on immunization.

Red Wine and Apple Sauce. This website has a different appeal, but it’s an outstanding resource for a thoughtful analysis of immunizations. Tara Haelle, who is a science journalist and writes nearly all of the articles, discusses more than just vaccines, but numerous current topics  that are important to parents. She writes long detailed articles, filled with links that support her points, and she should be on anyone’s list for getting information about vaccines.

The Value of Vaccination–A Conversation. A relatively new entrant into the conversation about vaccines, Value of Vaccination focuses in a different way–the stories are more personal, with the perspective almost exclusively from the viewpoint of a parent or individual. It features conversations that show us what the value of vaccination is and how it makes our lives better.

vaccines-save-livesPKIDs Online. PKIDs, officially Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases, probably would not describe themselves as a “pro-vaccine” website, but they really are pro-vaccine. They tell the personal stories of parents of children who have chronic infectious diseases, most of which are vaccine preventable.

Vaccine Education Center. Run by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (known by almost everyone as CHOP), it is one of the top websites for information about vaccines. Yes, Paul Offit is involved again. Well, when you’re one of the leading experts in immunization of children, and you’re on the faculty of CHOP, that’s what happens.

Vaccine News Daily. This website, more or less, aggregates news articles about vaccines, while giving a brief, but useful, summary of the information. It’s a good way to keep up with what’s going on in the vaccine world.

I Speak of Dreams. Although not necessarily about vaccines, I Speak of Dreams is an important resource in myths (and debunking of said myths) about autism. And because vaccines and autism has been a manufactured issue since the late 1990’s, anyone who discusses myths about autism has to spend an inordinate amount of time debunking the myths of vaccines and autism. If I might remind everyone, there is no correlation between vaccines and autism.

All of these websites have non-cranky writers. Well mostly. And most of them are much more patient with comments than I am, because I have no patience when it’s clear that a commenter doesn’t get what constitutes evidence and what doesn’t.

I’m sure I missed an important website or two. This article isn’t static, I can make changes whenever I want, so drop me a comment. Besides, I’d want to know about your website!

Use the Science-Based Vaccine Search Engine.

Why we immunize–protect children from hospitalization for diarrhea

rotateq-vaccine

Update 1. Added more information about the power of the herd immunity written by Tara Haelle.

One of the most recent and important vaccines added to the current schedule of immunization is the rotavirus vaccine, introduced in the USA in 2007. Before the introduction of the vaccine, rotavirus was the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in US children under 5 years old. Each year, rotavirus caused an estimated 20 to 60 deaths, 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations, and nearly half a million non-emergency visits to healthcare facilities.

A study, recently published the Pediatrics journal, concluded that, after the rotavirus vaccines was introduced, the numbers of diarrhea-related illness in US children dropped significantly. Moreover, probably as a result of herd immunity (where transmission through a population is inhibited by individual who are immune to the disease), the study found that the rate of hospitalizations related to the virus dropped substantially in both vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

The research examined health insurance data from across the USA (except for Medicaid, and a few states that don’t report data) for children under 5 years, cross tabulating various gastrointestinal illnesses with hospitalizations and other medical care. It also compared the same information to the vaccination status of those children. Finally, they gathered data about these illnesses from 2001 through 2006 (before the vaccine was introduced) and 2007-11, to compare hospitalization and other medical facility encounters between the pre- and post-vaccine groups. Continue reading “Why we immunize–protect children from hospitalization for diarrhea”

Refuting another antivaccination lie about the pertussis vaccine

Here we go again. There have been some articles published in peer-reviewed journals which have caused the antivaccination cult to not only misinterpret the data (shocking), but then broadcasting another lie (more shocking) which could lead to lower vaccinations rates.

Smart baboons searching for the pertussis vaccine.
Smart baboons searching for the pertussis vaccine.

According to research, some individuals who have been vaccinated against whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis), with either the DTaP or Tdap vaccine (which also protect against tetanus and diphtheria), remain infected with the pertussis bacteria, although they are asymptomatic. This is been morphed into the internet meme that only those who have been vaccinated carry the disease. Or worse yet, that the vaccine causes the asymptomatic infection. Typical of pseudoscience, the vaccine deniers take a little bit of scientific fact, and mutate it into something that meets their own biases.

First, let me give you a bit of background about the disease and vaccine, so that you can have a bit more context on what we’re discussing. The original DTP vaccine, sometimes called DTwP, became available in the USA in 1948 and was critical to dropping the number of cases of whooping cough from 260,000  in 1934 to less than a few thousand per year in the 1990′s. The original vaccine contained what was called “whole-cell” pertussis (thus wP), which includes all of the antigens of the pertussis bacterium, partially because it wasn’t understood (and to some extent still not fully understood) which antigens on the bacteria actually induce the proper adaptive immune response to destroy a pertussis infection. Continue reading “Refuting another antivaccination lie about the pertussis vaccine”

Jenny McCarthy asks Twitter for help, Twitter replies “vaccinate”

Last week, former Playboy Playmate, recently appointed co-host of the ABC-TV (USA) show, the View, and anti-science/antivaccination rabble rouser Jenny McCarthy, decided to head to Twitter to get relationship advice. Not sure what she expected, and maybe she’s much more clever than we think by making this a trending topic, but it started rather quietly:

A hurricane of replies flew across Twitter (much of the evening I was retweeting the best ones, or just laughing). As one Tweeter remarked, “this is why the internet was invented.” Yup. Maybe Jenny didn’t know what she was doing?

 

Here are my favorites, and ones I haven’t seen on other articles. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hysterical. A nerdy reference:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were so many more I could have used, but laughing that hard for so long can wear a person out. I did a rough estimate of pro-vaccine to anti-vaccine Tweets for #JennyAsks, and it was around 100-200:1. So, you can conclude that either most Twitter users who follow hashtags are pro-science/pro-vaccine, or anti-vaxxers have limited access to computers and Twitter, since they’re living off the grid avoiding the evil Jews trying to vaccinate them. Oh yeah, that’s a thing amongst the antivaccination crowd.

A few months ago, I got into a discussion with writer and brand new mother Tara Haelle, claiming that social media wasn’t very useful in changing the society’s views on topics. I was skeptical that massive “protests” on Twitter or Facebook would move the body politic on any issues. Apparently, I was wrong. Because Jenny’s hashtag was completely and utterly hijacked by the pro-science/pro-vaccine world.

By the way, I added my own tweet to #JennyAsks a few days ago:

 

 

 

Visit the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

 

Why we vaccinate–debunking flu vaccine myths in 25 easy steps

flu-shot-mythThe seasonal flu is associated with an estimated 54,000 to 430,000 hospitalizations and approximately 3,000 to 49,000 deaths annually in the USA. So anyone who thinks that the flu isn’t a serious disease, needs to look at those numbers again. People die. And not just the old or sick–healthy people and children are killed by the flu. And let’s not forget about more serious pandemics, like H1N1, that can kill many more people.

We’ve all heard the excuses and myths about the flu vaccines. They’re repeated over and over again not only by those who are vaccine deniers, but more often by average people who just refuse to get the vaccine. This week, a fellow blogger and someone whom I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top 25 Myths about the flu vaccine, which she published here. Read it. Please. 

So, below is her list of 25 myths about the flu vaccine, with links back to her article (and in some cases, to this blog too) that debunk the myth. After you read this, share it with everyone. Your neighbor who won’t get the flu vaccine. Your spouse. Your parents. Your coworker. And one more person–yourself. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate–debunking flu vaccine myths in 25 easy steps”

Updated: make religious vaccine exemptions more difficult to obtain

flu church vaccineA recent report indicated that US state legislatures are beginning to pass laws that make it more difficult for parents to obtain so-called personal exemptions to vaccinations before children attend public schools. According to the author, Tara Haelle, “Each US state sets its own vaccination policies, and most will not generally allow children to attend public school unless they have been vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough)hepatitis B; the Haemophilus influenzae bacteriummeasles, mumps and rubellapolio; and varicella (chicken pox).” In general, most states require that students meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention schedule (pdf) for children between 0 and 6 years old, which is set by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

All states allow legitimate medical exemptions from the immunization schedule before a child enters school, because of certain medical conditions that might make vaccinations problematic for young children. Some of these medical issues are: allergies to some of the components in the vaccines, immunocompromised conditions, family history of seizures, and other issues outlined in the General Recommendations on Immunization of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. These medical exemptions are extremely rare, but are very important. A licensed medical doctor is the only one that should provide this exemption. Continue reading “Updated: make religious vaccine exemptions more difficult to obtain”

State legislatures making vaccine exemptions more difficult to obtain

Outstanding news. Tara Haelle reported in Nature News & Comment that US state legislatures are beginning to pass laws that make it more difficult for parents to obtain so-called personal exemptions to vaccinations before children attend public schools.

According to Haelle, “Each US state sets its own vaccination policies, and most will not generally allow children to attend public school unless they have been vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough); hepatitis B; the Haemophilus influenzae bacterium; measles, mumps and rubella; polio; and varicella (chicken pox).” In general, most states require that students meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention schedule (pdf) for children between 0 and 6 years old, which is set by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

All states allow legitimate medical exemptions from the immunization schedule, because of certain medical conditions that might make vaccinations problematic for young children. Some of these medical issues are: allergies to some of the components in the vaccines, immunocompromised conditions, family history of seizures, and other issues outlined in the General Recommendations on Immunization of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Continue reading “State legislatures making vaccine exemptions more difficult to obtain”