Vaccine adverse events are rare – vast benefits outweigh small risks

vaccine adverse events

Like all medical procedures, devices, and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect – there are rare vaccine adverse events. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication.

Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable. But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that. They check the packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may or may not have been found to be dangerous (best example is Vioxx).

But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living.  Continue reading “Vaccine adverse events are rare – vast benefits outweigh small risks”

Flu vaccine during pregnancy – protects the infant

flu vaccine during pregnancy

The modern healthcare system of developed countries have done an outstanding job in reducing the burden of infectious diseases over the past few decades. However, some susceptible groups, such as infants, remain at significant risk to these diseases. Research has recently shown that the flu vaccine during pregnancy protects infants from that disease. This is more data that provides evidence that getting vaccinated, even during pregnancy, is important to infant health.

In a new paper published in Pediatrics, by Dr. Julie H. Shakib et al. of the University of Utah Medical School Department of Pediatrics, examined the health of infants born to influenza-immunized mothers. The short version is that the babies born to these mothers had a smaller number of laboratory confirmed influenza infections and fewer hospitalizations compared to infants born to non-immunized mothers.

I could almost stop there, bold, underline and italicize those results, and move to another article. Lucky for me, the readers of this blog demand real data to support the above conclusion. And I’m here to do just that.

Continue reading “Flu vaccine during pregnancy – protects the infant”

Vaccines save lives–even more evidence

Vaccines-save-lives;-fear-endangers-them.-It's-a-simple-message-parents-need-to-keep-hearing.One of my favorite tropes (of so many) of the vaccine denier gang is that vaccines are not effective, thereby implying that the limited usefulness is not worth the risks of vaccines, real or imagined. But the fact is vaccines do save lives in measurable and sometimes fascinating ways. Two peer reviewed papers, recently published, provided clear evidence of some of the ways vaccines directly save lives.

The first article analyzed the relationship between flu vaccines and reduction of cardiovascular events; while the second one examined how vaccines might reduce morbidity and mortality from pneumococcal meningitis.

Let’s start with the flu vaccine, which has a high safety profile and most people receive for the obvious reasons–flu prevention. However, we are aware of other benefits of the flu shot, including providing somewhat better outcomes during pregnancy. In an article published on 21 August 2013 examined a previously suspected, but not firmly established, benefit of the flu vaccine was examined. This study found that the risk of getting a heart attack was about 50% less amongst patients who were vaccinated against the flu compared to a group that was not.

Now, the study does not show that the flu vaccine has some miraculous anti-heart attack component, it might reduce the risk of catching the flu, or possibly reducing the severity of the infection, which reduces the risk of having a heart attack. In fact, the study’s original hypothesis was that catching the flu might actually increase the risk of a cardiovascular event, specifically a heart attack.

Furthermore, the researchers observed that the flu vaccine reduced heart attack risk even when the vaccine’s effectiveness was shown to be not very high. This conclusion itself debunks one of the huge myths of the antivaccination crowd (which is essentially that if it’s not 100% effective then we must conclude that it’s 0% effective, an application of the Nirvana logical fallacy); sometimes even when a vaccine isn’t completely effective, it still has some net positive effects. Continue reading “Vaccines save lives–even more evidence”

Idaho infant dies from whooping cough

A nine week old Idaho girl died Friday of complications from whooping cough according to Reuters.  She was being treated for the disease at a hospital in Pocatello, Idaho; however, her situation worsened, and she was flown to the University of Utah medical center for further treatment as her condition worsened.

There appears to be a significant outbreak of whooping cough in the Northwest US since the beginning of the year.  Washington state has had 1132 cases so far this year, a pace running far ahead of last year, when the state had 961 cases for the whole year.  Montana has had nearly 100 cases in 2012, while Idaho has had 31 cases.

According to Emily Simnit, a spokeswoman with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, “when you have something as tragic as the death of an infant, it underscores the fact that there are really nasty, severe illnesses that vaccines can prevent.”

The whooping cough immunization is a component of the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) vaccine, which is typically given at the age of 2 months.  So the infant probably was not immunized against the disease, and probably got it from an unvaccinated individual, or possibly from someone with lapsed immunity.  It could have even been a sibling or another adult.  However, there is no indication that the parents were opposed to vaccinating the infant, so this is probably just horrible luck, though the prevalence of the disease in those areas increased the chances of any infant contracting whooping cough.

Idaho and Washington are two of about 20 states that allow for philosophical exemptions to vaccinations.  Because of the drop in vaccination rates, herd immunity, where enough people are vaccinated that the disease has little possibility of being transmitted from an infected person to an susceptible one, has probably developed some cracks that allow the diseases to start spreading more quickly.

There are few legitimate reasons to refuse to get vaccinated.  There should be medical reasons for not being vaccinated.  However, refusing to get children vaccinated because of unscientific, unproven, and ridiculous reasons should stop.  Children shouldn’t die of diseases that can be eliminated.  One preventable death is unacceptable and unconscionable.  

via H5N1: US: Idaho infant dies from whooping cough amid regional outbreak