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.
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 have been found to be dangerous (the best example is Vioxx).
But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living.
There are a lot of nuanced facts and evidence about vaccines. The so-called “pro-vaccine” crowd looks at the body of evidence, then concludes that it saves children’s lives by stopping vaccine-preventable diseases. The “anti-vaccine” side seems to rely on anecdotes, cherry picking bad studies published in really bad journals, and read anti-science websites, just to support their preconceived conclusions. And now there is a lot of junk science with respect to chickenpox and shingles, much of which we need to refute and debunk.
Anti-vaccine activists tend to grab onto any story that supports their narratives about vaccines. Generally, they comb the internet for any article that either tells us that vaccines don’t work, that they’re dangerous, or that the disease prevented is innocuous. It’s a frustrating process. Recently, an article was published that seemed to indicate chickenpox prevents glioma, a rare group of cancers that arise in the brain or spine. Then, by extension, some have claimed that not being vaccinated against chickenpox helps prevent glioma.
But is this valid? What does the evidence say about chickenpox and glioma? Is it even plausible that chickenpox has some biological relationship to glioma?
As always, answers aren’t as simple as the anti-vaccine group would like them to be. It’s complicated, as most science is.
Generally, when I write about vaccines, it’s about protecting children’s lives from vaccine preventable diseases. That itself is a noble goal for vaccines. But in case you didn’t know, there is also a CDC schedule for adult vaccines, which is as important to adults as they are to children.
Vaccines have one purpose – to protect us and those whom we love from potentially deadly and debilitating diseases. Many of us in the blogosphere have talked about the children’s schedule a lot, often to debunk claims of people who are ignorant of science, and think that the children’s vaccine schedule is causing undue harm. Yeah our intellectually deficient president, Donald Trump, thinks he knows more than the CDC, but that’s a problem shared by many vaccine deniers.
Just in case you were wondering, there is more to adult vaccines than just flu vaccines. There are several other vaccines indicated for adult use, including those adults with underlying health issues like diabetes, HIV and heart disease – unfortunately, the uptake for adult vaccines is depressingly low. Let’s take at the low uptake and the recommended adult vaccines schedule.
The varicella vaccination for chickenpox was introduced in the mid-1990’s in the USA and has been associated with substantial and statistically significant declines in incidence, hospitalizations and deaths attributable to chickenpox. Thanks to real science, more evidence supports varicella vaccine effectiveness.
infection or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
blood stream infections (sepsis)
toxic shock syndrome
Since I was born before the chicken pox vaccine, I contracted the disease, which eventually lead to encephalitis. I have vivid memories of being a five year old child and being admitted into the ER with a brain infection. It’s a memory I’d rather not have.
The anti-vaccine gang love to question the effectiveness of vaccines. But they don’t have evidence of that, whereas, I’m going to present some powerful evidence that the varicella vaccine is highly effective in preventing chickenpox.
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.
Yesterday, while researching videos and articles for my post about Stuart Scott, I ran across a video where Keith Olbermann, noted sports journalist and noted progressive pundit, was leaning on a cane while talking to Scott, who was fighting for his life against appendix cancer. I wrote a note to myself to find out the backstory.
Then Olbermann made it easy for me–on his afternoon show on ESPN2, said that he was using the cane because of an extremely severe case of shingles, sometimes known as herpes zoster. Shingles is actually caused by the chickenpox virus, Varicella zoster. If you have had the chickenpox infection, you don’t actually get cured by ridding yourself of the virus–what happens it that the zoster virus remains latent in the nerve cell bodies and other nervous system bodies. While the virus is in this latent condition, it is ignored by the immune system and there are no obvious symptoms or signs that it’s there. Continue reading “Keith Olbermann and shingles–get the vaccine”
Despite the continued social network misinformation about vaccine safety and/or effectiveness, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the median vaccination coverage, amongst children between the age of 19-35 months was 94.7% for 2 doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine; 95.0% for varying local requirements for diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine; and 93.3% for 2 doses of varicella vaccine among those states with a 2-dose requirement.
The median total exemption rate was 1.8%, a difficult number to truly analyze. The CDC reported many issues like some parents get an exemption even after their children are fully or partially vaccinated, some exemptions are used as a matter of convenience because the parents forgot to vaccinated, and some states don’t report exemptions. Moreover, the CDC data indicates up to 15% of exemptions are “medical,” meaning that a child cannot receive a vaccine as a result of an establish medical contraindication.
The research also shows that there have been no statistically significant changes in either vaccination or exemption rate from 2012-13. This is more statistical support that the antivaccination agenda is not gaining much traction across most of the USA.
Read that title again. Yes, 42,000 deaths are prevented by vaccines every year in the USA. That is not a trivial number, but of course, I refuse to believe that saving even 1 life is a trivial number.
In a study recently published in Pediatrics, authors Zhou et al. reported that for children born in 2009, vaccinations prevented 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease. In addition, vaccinations brought us a net savings of US$13.5 billion in direct medical and non medical costs which include those costs associated with treating an initial infection as well as costs associated with complications and sequelae of diseases; direct nonmedical costs include travel costs, costs for special education of children disabled by diseases, and costs for other supplies for special needs. In addition, vaccines saved Americans over US$68.8 billion in total societal costs, which include items such as lost wages. Continue reading “Vaccines prevent 42,000 children’s deaths in the USA every year”
This article, originally published on 2 January 2014 has been updated to include more information about studies regarding chickenpox in children and its effect on rate of shingles outbreaks.
Shingles, known medically as Herpes zoster (HZ), is caused by the Varicella zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox in children. After the chickenpox infection, VZV latently persists, without symptoms, in the basal ganglia including the trigeminal ganglion. For unknown reasons, VZV is reactivated from latency, and moves along sensory nerves to the endings in the skin, where it replicates causing the characteristic HZ rash, commonly called shingles.
There is no known cure for VZV, though it can be treated with antiviral medications. Although the infection presents with a rash, commonly fairly painful, it usually subsides within three to five weeks. Unfortunately, about one in five patients develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is often difficult to manage. Because VZV is never eliminated, after a shingles attack, VZV again becomes latent, to attack again sometime in the future. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate-shingles may increase risk of stroke”