One of the Things I Don’t Get…

are people like Bill Maher going on about the evils of vaccination. Behold:

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Seems like a huge gift to the human race to me.

  • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

    yeah Mark, but my mother’s cousin’s daughter’s son was diagnosed with autism after he had his well-baby vaccines. Clearly you don’t understand science.

    /sarcasm/

    • http://day2daycatholic.blogspot.com Sylvia

      As a mother of a child with autism who was developing perfectly normal and even ahead in his milestone only to watch him slowly regress after his 15 month vaccinations I really resent this. Countless parents continue to witness their once healthy children drift away from them and have seen over night changes after scheduled vaccinations. Am I completely against vaccinations? NO. But the fact that most vaccines contain formaldehyde and aluminum in them and the sheer number of them that they are now getting before they’re 6 has not been researched. And the numbers of diagnosed cases of autism continues to rise. Now it’s 1 in 88. 1 in 54 boys are diagnosed with autism. So please, as a suffering mom who desperately wants her child back to how God made him, think about it before you assume those of us who are questioning the current vaccine schedule are whacked out lunatics.

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    At least some of it seems to revolve around the idea that “you can’t tell me what to do!!” is an effective argument.

    • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

      This isn’t an ordinary case of that though. We are talking about forcibly violating bodily integrity here. It is not something to be taken lightly, dismissing opposition as libertarian ideology.

      Suppose many lives could be saved, statistically, if we forced everyone to get a microchip implant. Suppose a small number of implanted had severe problems from the procedure, and a substantial
      number of people objected because of the risks.

      Is it obviously morally licit to force everyone to get the implant?

      Not to me. I think forcing the implant on the unwilling might be pretty evil, actually. And the only difference here is the difference between a bioengineered agent and a microchip.

      • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

        This isn’t all hooey, either. Future “vaccines” may well be based on nanomachines. Are our overlords going to crack down hard on people who refuse to have their bodies modified by the Tolerance-1 Psychiatric Balance Enforcement Nanoswarm?

        • Stu

          Exactly. I believe we sometimes don’t look “down road” when consider these things.

      • enness

        Preventable death kind of forcibly violates bodily integrity, don’t you think?

        • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

          Not at all, especially when you are making a statistical argument. A natural pathogen killing someone isn’t morally the same kind of thing as is forcibly injecting someone with a modified pathogen against his will.

  • freddy

    What a curious graphic: “estimated cases” vs. “reported cases.” Doesn’t seem very sound, from a mathematical or logical point of view.

    I have no problem with vaccines, per se, but as a mother of a child who had a severe allergic reaction to the pertussis vaccine, I think that parents should be able to make a decision about vaccines, as in other medical interventions in their child’s life, without fear of Punishment By Government.

    • Stu

      And they haven’t established absolute causality in all of those examples. Plenty of other factors too consider in the last 100 years.

      Beware USA Today methods of data presentation.

  • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

    Certainly, vaccinations have had a positive impact. I’m not contesting that, (and neither does Maher btw). However, I think it is fair to scrutinize any over application or mis-application. It’s like anything else, from antibiotics to alcohol. Everything in its right place.

    Now, I certainly wouldn’t line up with Maher, point for point but I agree with him here in any his opening take: “Vaccination is a nuanced subject, and I’ve never said all vaccines in all situations are bad. The point I am representing is: Is getting frequent vaccinations for any and all viruses consequence-free?” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/vaccination-a-conversatio_b_358578.html

    What I don’t understand is the prohibition on inquiry when it comes to vaccines and any side effects or even peripheral impacts. It’s sort of like the reaction folks have on inquiring about any link to contraceptives and cancer. That question is unwelcome. Does that sort of response promote good science?

    Also, I would urge folks to be slow in mocking people who have had a personal encounter with autism. It’s not productive. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of friends’ children who have autism. They are welcome to ask any questions they want as far as I’m concerned.

    Also, how many folks here know where and how their vaccinations are made? http://www.rtl.org/prolife_issues/LifeNotes/VaccinesAbortion_FetalTissue.html Problematic contents don’t end with fetal tissue but that’s a pretty hefty start.

    Again, let me be clear. I understand folks get fired up over this issue. I’m not making an argument against any and all vaccinations. I am however, defending Maher and anyone else who wants to reasonably and methodically scrutinize what and how vaccinations are applied today.

    • Michael

      Well said jmalcom.

    • http://day2daycatholic.blogspot.com Sylvia

      Yes! Thank you jmalcom. This mom thanks you!

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

    Sadly, many vaccines (the MMR, for example) are made from aborted fetal stem cell lines. Although the Church has said it’s acceptable to use them as long as one has made their objections known, I don’t feel morally comfortable doing so unless there’s immediate danger.

  • Jacob

    Freddy – what punishment does the government threaten? Excluding a child from public school strikes me as a reasonable public safety measure, not punishment.

    • freddy

      Really? How sad.

      Maybe we should just mandate that parents who may pass along certain sensitivities to medication be sterilized rather than loose any unvaccinated children on an unsuspecting populace. For many families, public schools are the only educational option. It’s not a light thing to threaten exclusion — it’s a vicious catch-22.

  • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

    Jacob, if vaccinations are effective and they are available to anyone who wants them…then what is the public safety risk of a non vaccinated child in public school system? Anyone who has the vaccination should be safe, correct? Is the prohibition on non vaccinated children designed to protect them from one another? Odd.

    • Dan Berger

      It’s called “herd immunity.” There’s a difference between non-vaccinated children being rare — confined to cases of actual allergic reactions, which should perhaps be tested for — and paranoid parents refusing to vaccinate their children in large numbers.
      Not being an epidemiologist, I don’t know when herd immunity kicks in, but it would have to be at least the 75% vaccination level. In the West, that’s not difficult to reach except in enclaves such as trendy coastal enclaves of Jenny McCarthy fans, but one should also think about how these conspiracy theories play in the Third World, where polio is now making a comeback because parents and even governments are refusing the vaccine.

      • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ julian

        OK Dan. I looked up “Herd Vaccination.” Point taken…sort of. Wouldn’t individuals who had been vaccinated still be safe? And for the category of folks that can’t take vaccinations, don’t they pose a threat to one another? How far do you take the quarantine here?
        I still don’t get how it is paranoid to scrutinize vaccinations. The whole thing of calling up Maher and McCarthy as west coast conspiracy crazies doesn’t really seem to promote sound argument. If you google Maher’s actual take on vaccinations, (the editorial in HuffPost), you may find that it is actually pretty specific and reasonable. He doesn’t call for getting rid of vaccinations or any such hysterics. He is not anti-vaccine and neither is he a conspiracy theorist. He is simply saying that we ought to question vaccines as an ultimate answer.
        Heck, even you seem to be calling for testing for allergic reaction prior to administration. So perhaps you ALSO think we need to consider how they are being applied. But as Stu points out, currently the convention is that few people in medicine are scrutinizing how they are applied. This leaves only a minority of doctors and specialists in medicine as well as concerned consumers to raise the question. You can lump them in with the straw men sillies but eventually these sort of considerations need to be integrated into conventional medicine because there are enough problematic elements to vaccination, (including those that JoAnna mentions), to warrant a more thorough look.

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

      I think the vaccination level has to be between 75% and 94% depending on the illness, actually. Children who cannot be vaccinated at all because of allergies, compromised immune systems, etc. can only be protected by making sure other children are vaccinated.

      Also, a vaccine is not a 100% guarantee against getting the disease, and the disease could still be fatal. It’s something I worry about quite a bit, because while Beadboy1 is healthy enough to be vaccinated, he has a lot of medical issues that mean a simple cold can put him in the ICU. I shudder to think what would happen if he got measles or whooping cough.

    • enness

      The trouble with some diseases is when a person becomes a carrier without becoming visibly ill. Then they run the risk of taking it home, for instance, to babies who are too young.

  • Stu

    I’m not anti-vaccination but I’m not pro-vaccination either. My gut tells me that we should wait and immunize after children have gone through all of their development up through adulthood as I think there is much more that we don’t know than we do about human development that such would be a good precaution while still having some benefit.

    What also concerns me is the money involved. This is big business and anytime Big Government and Big Business get together for a “good idea,” I grow concerned. The Governor Perry mandate for forced vaccinations down in Texas some years ago was a good example of such shenanigans. But here is another closer to home that I think illustrates the point. And while not exactly a vaccine, it is similar.

    After my youngest was born a few years ago, we had heavy pressure at the military hospital to give our son a vitamin K booster prior to circumcision as a means to reduce the possibility of hemorrhaging. None of our previous children had this, so of course I questioned it and wanted to know more. The initial justification for doing it from the staff was not convincing so my wife and I said, “no, thank you.” But they sent in a nurse (Lieutenant) to confront me and make the final plea to give my son the booster. Given I am a senior officer, I don’t think she was used to having to confront anyone who would question their conventional wisdom on such matters, nor do I think she researched it much herself. Her consistent plea was that the booster resulted in a 50% reduction in hemorrhaging and would I at least read some case study information from medical journal to which I agreed. But on reading the information, it stated that the 50% reduction was the result of 6 deaths per 1000 cases of hemorrhaging going down to 3 deaths per 1000 cases after implementation of the booster. I asked the Lieutenant if she actually read the document to which admitted, “no.”

    Now obviously I don’t want any infant to die but there is a lot of money being spent on this initiative. What’s even more interesting is that if you simply wait past 8 days to circumcise your child, the booster isn’t even required as the infant’s body is now ready on its own. But the hospitals don’t want to do it that way ostensibly to save money.

    • Dan Berger

      Stu, I think you’re correct about the Vitamin K shot — no great risk there — but incorrect about waiting until adulthood for vaccinations. They’re called “childhood diseases” for a reason.

      • Stu

        If I am correct about the Vitamin K shot, then I think questioning the conventional wisdom on vaccines is warranted as well. We go so long without reconceptualizing the problem that we often just accept the “conventional wisdom” without any real rigor of thought.

        • Dan Berger

          “Because I’m correct in questioning the influence of priestly celibacy on child molestation, then I think that questioning the need for a school lunch program is also warranted.”
          What you said is that much of a non sequitur.
          My point was that in the case of a Vitamin K shot, the risk was less than 1% no matter what you did, though how on earth a shot of Vitamin K — a nutrient required for proper blood clotting — is going to hurt an infant I can’t imagine.
          On the other hand, failing to vaccinate at least 85% of children is going to result in a fair number of dead children from preventable illness. Full stop. That’s non-controvertible in the same way that the germ theory of disease is non-controvertible.

          • Stu

            I dispute your statistics and that courses of action used years ago are still the best approach. My point is that science and medicine are not above question especially when money is involved. Full stop, shipmate.

            BTW, many vitamins are indeed beneficial. Doesn’t mean jacking your body up with a megadose is the right thing to do. And if Big Pharmacy can push Vitamin K boosters on the masses that are unneeded, I will continue to question other such measures in all forms. I’ve never been a fan of the “What could it possibly hurt?” way of troubleshooting.

          • Stu

            This reminds me of an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. He was working a pig farm and was helping the farmer to clip the canines off of piglets and give them a dose of antibiotics and Vitamin K. Why?

            Well, because of the way they raise the pigs so close together and because they wean them early, the piglets tend to latch on to each other’s tails and fighting erupts. Thus the need to remove the teeth (minimize damage) and provide antibiotics and Vitamin K to fight infection and help with clotting from the wounds. Perfectly understandable course of actions if you don’t question the founding premise of how the pigs are being raised.

            Time to reconceptualize the problem instead of falling back on the chemical approach to everything (same mindset BTW that promotes giving carcinogens to women in order to stop her body from behaving naturally.)

      • enness

        What Dan said. If you wait until adulthood, that may be too late. J.S. Bach had 20 children; half of them lived to be adults (not that lack of vaccines was the only reason, but you get the idea).

    • MarylandBill

      The problem with waiting to immunize until they are adults is that many of the diseases covered by childhood vaccines are most deadly to children.

      Now, I am definitely of the opinion that the above graph is somewhat misleading, but with respect to polio, small pox and several other vaccines on the list above, universal vaccination has saved uncounted lives.

    • Jamie R

      If childhood diseases didn’t kill children, you wouldn’t need vaccines for them at all. Vaccinating adults against diseases that are fatal to children but not fatal to adults is a complete waste of time and resources.

  • Shannon

    It’s always amazing to me that when talking of vaccines, people can’t grasp the idea that they may simultaneously have benefits and risks, and that for some people the risks outweigh the potential benefits. I don’t get this whole, just shut up and take it mentality when it comes to this one area of medicine, and I’m a nurse!

    • Dan Berger

      Yes, but people are drastically exaggerating the risks and drastically understating the benefits. I would have no problem with a rational cost-benefit analysis, such as requiring allergy testing before vaccination.

      • Michael

        Dan,
        Just how do you know that people are “drastically exaggerating the risks and drastically understating the benefits”? Can you point out the detailed statistical analyses? One of the greatest failings of the medical establishment (and by that I mean the CDC, FDA, AMA, AAP) is the failure to adequately test vaccines. Go to any doctor oe any government official and ask this simple question, “Could you please provide me with references to where the current child vaccination schedule has been tested for both long-term and cumulutive effects?” You will never be provided with any such references because such testing has never been done.

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

      You might feel differently if your child could die because another child did not get vaccinated. As Dan Berger wrote, people vastly overestimate the risks, and the idiotic, sensationalistic, science-ignorant media does not help.

      • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

        you also might feel differently if you saw a dramatic regression in your child’s development that began immediately after he received vaccinations. Comments about vastly overestimate risks, and the idiotic, sensationalistic, science-ignorant media would also not help.

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

          See my comment below, or look into how the study that alleged the connection between vaccines and developmental regression has been thoroughly debunked. This is a good starting point, that will lead you to relevant citations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine_controversy

      • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ julian

        Beadgirl, I understand that this one hits close to home for you, but this works both ways. We have more than a few friends who can directly pinpoint a decline in their children’s developmental decline and regression to when vaccinations were administered. They are also welcome to ask any questions they want and scrutinize vaccinations as far as they see fit as far as I am concerned.

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

          Except that the connection between Autism and vaccines has been thoroughly debunked, to the point of where we now know that the author of the original study alleging the link was a big old fraud who made up evidence. The reason why it looks like there is a connection is because of timing — right about the time children with these sorts of developmental disorders start manifesting symptoms they are also getting vaccines.

          • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

            i was little bit careless in my comments here – i don’t mean to infer that all my friends who have autistic children are rushing out to blame vaccines. i am just saying that as part of the process of discovering the what, how and why of their child’s condition i’m not going to take a high and mighty tone with them and call them names for asking questions about ANYTHING that went into their child’s body. Also, I don’t think many people are claiming that it is as simple as all vaccines = all autism. In fact, I tried to not be specific to autism, (development regression I think I said). However, if there is nothing problematic with vaccinations, why does the HHS have a National Vaccination Injury Compensation Program http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/index.html and if there is absolutely no link to autism why did that same government program award a multi-million dollar settlement to two kids with autism? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/post2468343_b_2468343.html

            • enness

              Why does anybody settle? Because sometimes it’s easier and less expensive in the long run.
              You would be surprised how many people still act like vaccines = autism. A lot of them still blame everything on thimerosal although it was discontinued in the ’90s.
              This is not the same as my claiming there is “nothing problematic.” That would obviously not be true. No offense, but you’re still being a little careless.

              • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

                help me out here then. explain the carelessness and then please, explain how you would articulate the line between the problematic and the helpful

                • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

                  also, why where all of exhibits in the case sealed? why did the gvt quickly change course and concede the case after those exhibits were presented. Yes, I suppose that we can assume that it was just merely a case of the gvt being fiscally pragmatic…but that is not the only possible conclusion.

            • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

              Good lawyers. Large corporations and bodies routinely settle cases even though they would be vindicated at trial, because it is cheaper to do so than to pay for full discovery, trial prep, the actual trial, and appeals.

              And of course I don’t mean to make light of what parents go through when trying to figure out what caused the problem, and I know how hard it can be to accept that there may be no answer, and to not know how to respond — I have a special needs child myself, I get it. And, again, I do recognize that there are potentially bad side effects to vaccines. But 1) the science is pretty clear at this point that autism and related disorders are not one of those side effects; and 2) for the vast majority of children, the benefits of vaccines (both to themselves and other people!) outweigh the risks.

            • Anson

              My understanding is that the vaccination injury program was instituted to stave off the very real possibility that vaccines would become unavailable in the United States for any person. Pharmaceutical companies just don’t turn much profit on vaccines so there is little incentive to produce them. When the possibility of facing litigation was raised the pharma companies were just going to stop producing vaccines all together since the business model couldn’t survive that kind of low profit/high risk situation. So the federal government decided to shield the pharma companies by offering to build an account and allow direct appeal through an empowered board to compensate claims of vaccine injury. Doesn’t mean the government actually believes there is much to the claims, only that the reality of no availability of vaccines was too awful to consider.

      • Allan

        Again, if your child is vaccinated, what does it matter if the child sitting next to him/her in school is vaccinated or not? Why does your vaccinated child die because another child is not vaccinated? That would imply the vaccine didn’t work, in which case it makes no difference that the other kid wasn’t vaccinated.

        The only risk should be to the unvaccinated children. It should have no effect on those who are vaccinated.

        • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

          As I understand it, vaccinating your own child is no guarantee of his personal immunity. Vaccination is a population based technology, not an individual-focused technology. I have heard credible claims that sometimes an individual vaccinated child can in rare cases become more susceptible to the disease after vaccination.

          My (not highly researched but not completely unfounded) understanding is that vaccines work great as a treatment of statistical graphs. Apply them to populations and watch the bell curves shift. They don’t work nearly as well as a treatment of individuals, and they are definitely not without risks to individuals.

          • Margaret

            I can give you a real life example. No one in our homeschool group vaccinates except us. All our kids and my husband and I are fully vaccinated. We had a baby. When she was less than two month old (too young to be vaccinated) we attended a function at our church. A week later, we discovered that virtually all of the children our kids had been playing with and children hanging around our baby had whooping cough. They were not vaccinated and their parents didn’t know they were contagious. We also have a child who is vaccinated but is immune suppressed due to a genetic disorder. So the entire family including a new born had to take a two week course of antibiotics. We had to pay more than $100 in copays for the prescriptions and doctor’s visits. If either of my most at risk children had gotten whooping cough they could have died one because of her existing health problem and the other because of her age. We also kept our kids home from mass until the epidemic had passed and my youngest had had a few rounds of vaccines because most kids aren’t vaccinated at our church. My husband and I had to totally change our weekend schedules and rearrange our lives to keep our kids healthy because of the choices of others at our church. This is how not vaccinating your kids effects others.

        • wineinthewater

          That’s not the way to think of it. Your immune-compromised child who cannot be immunized dies because the child next to her was not immunized and became a carrier.

          That is the thing, the Catholic community is where the anti-vaccination message should get the least traction. Sure there are problems. The medical community is not critical enough. There are scare tactics. We give them in such quick succession. Many are fabricated using aborted fetal cell lines even when there is no scientific need. But on the flipside, they save lives. For those of us blessed with healthy first-world children, the real benefit is not for us, but for others. The lives most likely to be saved are the unhealthy, the poor, the ill.

          And that is why Catholics have some of the most compelling impetus to vaccinate, it is solidarity in action.

          • Michael

            Another way to think of it. Must I expose my healthy child to the risk of autism and other side effects so that your immune-compromised child will have less exposure to the risk of pertussis?

            • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

              Please please please read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine_controversy, for starters. Vaccines DO NOT cause autism.

              • Margaret

                You are not exposing your child to autism because vaccines do not cause autism. Its has been proven again and again and again. Also, all my children are vaccinated even my sick child. Hers just don’t work well. We did that to protect them and others. As long as the vaccine itself is moral which most of them are, you do have a responsibility to vaccinate if you can. Catholics believe we are responsible for the health and well being of our neighbors.

  • kara

    One of the dangers of lowered herd immunity, is that, even if one has been vaccinated, one can still be a “carrier” for the disease. This is a problem if unvaccinated child A goes to school with pertussis, gives it to vaccinated child B, who then shows no synptoms, but takes pertussis home to his pregnant mother or newborn sibling … Babies are not vaccinated at birth, generally, so infants, whose immune systems are natually weak, are the hardest hit.

    I used to against vaxing my kids, but after my six week old got pertussis, I am totally revisiting my stance. We still don’t get the MMR or chickenpox shot, but I no longer have qualms about any of the other clean vaccinations.

    • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

      i sort of like Kara’s approach – the freedom to revisit her stance as she learns and encounters more. doesn’t sound to fringe or paranoid to me.

  • Mark R

    Mrs. R has scholeosis (sp?) as a result of polio vaccines.

  • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

    There are potentially serious moral problems with compulsory vaccination, because you are forcibly[*] violating someone’s bodily integrity based on a debatable “greatest good for the greatest number” prudential judgement.

    So I think it is quite likely that compulsory vaccination propagandists and policy makers are behaving immorally. A prudential judgement about what is best for the population at large is not, at least on its face, an adequate justification for violating an individual’s bodily integrity against his will.

    So sure, encouraging as many people as you can to be voluntarily vaccinated is probably fine, as long as it doesn’t cross over into lying to them (which by some lights it often does: I haven’t done due diligence on it, but I’ve seen credible claims that an individual takes on significantly more risk when he is vaccinated than when he is not, even though the population as a whole is better off if the majority are vaccinated).

    [*] Under at least some level of police power threat, trapping parents between the rock of truancy and the hard place of mandatory vaccination.

    • wineinthewater

      Immoral acts such as lying and profiteering aside, doesn’t the Catholic principle of solidarity apply here?

      • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

        Solidarity implies forcibly injecting people’s bodies with modified pathogens against their will? Really?

  • thomas tucker

    That’s interesting Mr. R- do you have scientific evidence to support that?

  • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

    sorry, some of my comments are redundant here. I came back and chimed in a few times and didn’t see my replies until now. my bad

  • Michael

    Perhaps this will strike some as a non sequitur. Has anyone ever wondered why “modern” medicine is so primitive and ignorant that it cannot cure or ameliorate the effects of well-known viruses such as pertussis such that no one would ever die from them?

    • John

      Hey, Michael; that’s actually a fair question, and merits further consideration. Let’s take the example you’ve given, pertussis (commonly known as “whooping cough.”) In order to talk about what modern medicine can and can’t do, we need to understand the disease. It’s a pediatric illness caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Infection is marked by a triphasic course, commonly called the “catarrhal,” the “paroxysmal,” and the “convalescent” phases. In the catarrhal phase, children are indistinguishable from those with normal upper respiratory illnesses caused by common viruses like influenza, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus, etc.; they have fever, runny noses, and perhaps a cough. However, two weeks later they enter the paroxysmal phase, which is marked by the classic whooping cough; children cough for a long time and may even turn blue, followed by gasping for air (the “whoop”). Children may be fatigued, may vomit following coughing, and generally have the worst outcome during this phase. They may require hospitalization, oxygenation, intubation, etc. Children, during these coughing spells, may not be ablet o catch their breath and go into shock. Children are most affected because they can’t clear their secretions (mucus and fluids) during coughing spells like adults, and can choke on them. If they pass through this phase , they enter the convalescent phase, in which they recover over months.
      Your question, concerning why medicine simply can’t keep children from dying if they have pertussis, needs two responses. First, we vaccine because as stated above, pertussis looks like a normal URI until the cough develops. By this point, the child may be in too poor of a shape to help. In addition, the treatments we use – IV hydration, intubation, oxygenation, etc. – have their own morbidities (associated negative nonfatal outcomes, like trauma to the lungs and throat) and mortalities (chance of death). My second point is that during the catarrhal and paroxysmal phases, the child is shedding the bacteria which others, especially infants. Even if we treated the infected child so she didn’t die and had no serious complications, they’re still highly contagious. Your colleagues above, who’ve remarked on “herd immunity,” have struck the right chord. We vaccinate on two levels, both to keep individuals from getting sick themselves and to keep the community from becoming reservoirs for disease, even when people seem healthy. It’s actually interesting that you picked pertussis; many teenagers who haven’t been vaccinated have subclinical presentations (that is, they seem free of disease) and then babysit young children who haven’t received their vaccinations/ have abstained from them who become very sick with pertussis.

      I hope this helps, Michael. Modern medicine is advanced, but there’s still much we can’t do; in the meantime, we do what we can to prevent illnesses. A ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.

      God bless,
      John

      P.S. (Unrelated to Michael’s comment) For all those worried about autism, other cognitive delays, and vaccines, those fears are largely unfounded. The one study that showed a tenuous causal link was refuted by seven others and eventually retracted by the British Medical Journal – the only paper, in fact, the BMJ has ever retracted. Mercury, an element and preservative used in vaccines, was thought for awhile to be the cause, but most – if not all – vaccines no longer use mercury in vaccines. Autism most likely isn’t caused by the purified proteins used in the vaccines themselves, because these proteins are pure virus and bacterium components a) identical to those in the body during real infections, b) rendered harmless other than slight symptoms similar to a real infectious, and c) in doses similar to a real infection. We’ve seen a decrease in these diseases and increase in autism, so for the above listed reasons it seems unlikely the bacteria, viruses, or protein components are to blame. Also, there’s something called sampling bias: if we’re looking for something, we’ll find it. The increase in autism may be due more to our looking for it than vaccines, in fairness (the same thing happened with prostate cancer screening – we found a more specific test, and suddenly prostate cancer levels increased: again, not because more people were having it, just because we were catching more cases). Finally, correlation is not causation: the increase in autism occurred in the nineties, but the list of new medical technologies that arose in the nineties is staggering. Children develop autism during the same ages they receive vaccines, but the literature shows no increase in autism incidence among those receiving vaccines and those not. I sincerely hope this helps all involved in this discussion. The moral responsibility to receive vaccines aside (and as zoon politicon – social animals- as Aristotle calls us, and people meant for community as God tells us, the responsibility seems apparent), the literature and research supports vaccination. References available on request, if you’re interested in reading up.

    • Kenneth

      Modern medicine does ameliorate the effects of pertussis (a bacteria, not a virus). Far fewer who are sick enough to be hospitalized die than they once did. Curing someone after an infection is established is not a simple thing. Plenty of antibiotics will kill the bacteria, and shorter the duration of time a person is infectious, but the real damage is set off by a complex protein toxin produced by the bacteria. It has very far reaching and complicated effects on cell signaling and immune response.

      Could we develop some treatment to head that off? Quite probably. But tell me this: Who is going to put up the several billion dollars it will take to develop such a drug against a disease that is 85% avoidable with vaccine? Any drug we develop along those lines will cost thousands of dollars per treatment, and they would almost certainly involve biological agents like engineered antibodies like we use in rheumatoid arthritis. All of them have high risks of serious and life-threatening side effects, much more so than modern vaccines.

  • Shannon

    I dunno, call me crazy, but as a nurse I have a problem with babies of mothers who have zero risk factors for being HepB positive being vaccinated for it.

    http://www.iansvoice.org/

  • Jmac

    I’m an unabashed technocrat, so admittedly when people tell me that a thing is “natural” as a synonym for “good”, I just imagine them dying at 30 from smallpox or wolves. So I can’t really grasp the vaccine-phobia some folks have.

    Much like the evolution deniers I’ve had the pleasure of wrangling with here, I can’t understand the mindset that says “The experts think this is lunacy, but this guy on the internet said some things I agree with, so the experts are a conspiracy to silence the TRVTH!” Once again, it drives home Nate Silver’s contention that conspiracy theories are the laziest form of signal analysis, whose proponents seize on a single factoid and force it to be the prism through which all other information is filtered. I’ll never understand it.

  • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

    If the SCIENCE[tm] behind vaccines is as good as the SCIENCE[tm] behind prescription drugs generally, people have very good reason to view it with a skeptical eye.

    But the tyrant must be appeased, so everyone must be injected, even against their will. Persuasion is not enough.

    • Jmac

      I really respect your input in general, Zippy, in politics especially so. But you’ll forgive me if my nutjob alarm is blaring like crazy over a website that can’t be bothered to cite sources, and pushing a book called “Pharmageddon”

      • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

        Dr David Healy is the real deal, not some conspiracy nutjob. I’ve seen some of what he writes about firsthand. Just because most anti-establishment stuff is fruitcakery doesn’t mean that it all is. I highly recommend this book, and I’ve passed out copies to tens of individuals myself.

        Anyone who uses prescription drugs for a chronic condition should read it. Your life may depend on it.

        It is true that I am extrapolating from prescription drugs to vaccination. But that isn’t a huge extrapolation.

        • Kenneth

          There is a spectrum of skepticism, with reasoned caution on one end and nutjobbery on the other. From what I’ve seen of Healy’s work, he tends more to the reasoned end. His concerns about Prozac-like drugs and suicide risk, while not settled science, was sound enough that such drugs now carry that warning by law. He has also called attention to what many others recognize as a pattern of bad behavior and data whitewashing by the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s a fairly large leap between his approach of caution and much of the anti-vaccine movement, which is advocating wholesale abandonment of a core public health policy with no sufficient data to back that proposal.

  • shannon

    No real world studies have been done of the current vaccine schedule. Only mmr as a whole vaccine and thimerasol as an ingredient have been studied in relation to autism. That’s one of the now 36 vaccines on the schedule. How does that translate to *vaccines* being ruled out as a contributing factor to ASD?

  • Aleigh

    Um some of the latest outbreaks (whooping cough in VT and chicken pox in Indiana) that I can think of lately in the past year were highest amongst: Vaccinated children/adults. Sad but true. I was once pro vax but now against after getting involved in real food movement.
    Heard too many horror stories where perfectly healthy children got vax and then they regressed, developed health issue or horribly died after receiving a vax. Also another problem is it used to be go in get once vax at a time. Now you get multiples etc at one time.
    My few rambling thoughts.

  • Shannon

    The vaccine injured and killed are just another group of people written off as collateral damage. Their parents are of course all hallucinating and don’t *actually* observe what they think they observe probably because they don’t don white lab coats while doing so, nor do they have enormous grants to legitimize their observations. Parents are simply not qualified to observe and understand their own children just like they aren’t qualified to educate them. That job is best left to the experts who have never laid eyes on them and have no information about their family medical history or other, certainly irrelevant, information.

  • Kenneth

    Parents have the right to make whatever judgment calls they want with their own kids. They don’t have the right to put other kids lives at risk by sending them to schools and other public programs un-vaccinated. If I walked into a school with live cultures of any of these pathogens, even properly secured ones, I’d be thrown in Guantanamo the rest of my days. If I proposed setting up a research facility to work with these bugs anywhere within 10 miles of the school, no parent would stand for that. Yet we’re supposed to be cool with other people sending their kids as carriers and transmission agents of these diseases (often more effective transmitters than the purified cultures I mentioned).

    I think there should be provisions for some children to forgo some vaccines if someone can show a reason rooted in science. Real science, not the fringy pseudoscience that has defined the anti-vaccine movement since the 18th Century. The movement is not a situation driven by a dissent in scientific consensus. It is driven by a coalition of alternative medicine systems which are philosophically opposed to virtually everything done by mainstream medicine. The other main currents in the movement are religious or quasi-religious objectors and a large swath of libertarians who feel the government should not be able to mandate anything under any circumstances. That’s all fair game under the First Amendment, but let’s not pretend this is a “let the evidence lead where it may” crowd.

    Observations, like those of parents who notice a connection in time between vaccines and regression, are the beginnings of science, not its proof. It’s not unreasonable to claim that vaccines might cause autism when the two occur in sequence. That claim did not bear out under extensive scientific examination. That doesn’t mean we can say that every vaccine is perfectly safe in every kid at ever time. It does mean that the best information we have still argues in favor of universal vaccination, or as close as we can get, for these deadly and destructive pathogens.

    I do not belittle concerns of real vaccine injury or view them from the abstract. Three years ago, I came down with Parsonag-Turner Syndrome after a flu shot. The long and short of it was the vaccinated arm hurt like hell for weeks and was partially paralyzed for the better part of a year. It changed my personal calculus of risk-benefit, and after cautious experimentation, I found I could tolerate other forms of the vaccine, ie nasal, just fine. I weighed the 3 in 100,000 risk of an injury like that against the high probability of death or hospitalization if I infected some of my elderly relatives as a carrier.

  • Katheryn

    My child was normal, then she was vaccinated; she is not longer normal, and there is no other explanation, from conventional medicine, or alternative quacks. She has problems with her immune system, that once was normal, so yeah, I believe that messing with her immune systems through vaccine made her sick. Not a huge jump to make.

    • Kenneth

      One explanation, which may not have been offered to you, is that we vaccinate kids at exactly the same window of time that autism and similar disorders present themselves. If you have a certain incidence of autism in the population, it’s possible to calculate that a certain number of kids will receive a diagnosis or show symptoms of autism soon after vaccination, by chance alone. If the issue is autoimmune disease, it’s documented that infection, and sometimes vaccines, can trigger that.

      With autism, some very large and detailed studies have simply failed to find a link, at least with the MMR vaccine and thimerosol, the things alleged to be the big problem. The mechanisms proposed for how immune challenge might set off autism also simply don’t add up with what we do know about those disorders (which isn’t nearly enough). I can see where people would make a connection between vaccination and subsequent problems, and we should look at all such possibilities seriously. I just don’t see anything which shows that avoiding vaccination is a safer bet than getting them.

  • http://suchaprettybubble.blogspot.com Charlotte Dey

    We chose not to vaccinate after reading about 4 books on the subject. Well, except for tetanus, we went ahead with that.
    We do NOT consider ourselves conspiracy theory folks, hardly. The evidence was just too overwhelming as concerns NOT needing the vaccines and the potential harm they do to tiny little bodies. All these people whining and moaning about how their infants and kids can ONLY have organic all-natural this and all-natural that, but then they’ll fill their bodies up with toxic cocktails of chemical vaccines.
    One of the things that sealed it for me was the research on how the chicken pox vaccine got developed – one of the major motivations on record is how surveyed parents said they wanted it so that their kids wouldn’t get it, and therefore they wouldn’t need to miss work! Over chicken pox! Yeah, that’s a big killer right there.
    I was vaccinated against measles in the 1970′s and got the measles anyway when I was 20 years old. This is evidence that they’re not fool proof anyway. I admit I’m relying on herd immunity and I don’t care. Maybe when my child is bigger I’ll consider necessary vaccines.

    • Kenneth

      You may not be a conspiracy theorist, but I’d bet my last dime (not a large boast, I admit) that the authors of those four books are, or that they employed the same standards of evidence as conspiracy theorists do. The fact that you consider one of the motivations behind one vaccine to be insufficient is not exactly a persuasive argument against the overall strategy of immunization for kids. You’re assuming the desire not to miss work was some sort of vain desire by Ivy-League yuppies to avoid any bumps in their road to law firm partner, and it may have been in that particular survey, for all I know.

      You may be forgetting that the vast majority of workers in our economy have NO paid sick time or even much unpaid sick time. For lots of people, a week or sometimes a day off work means firing, and no food on the table or eviction. Mandating chickenpox vaccine is debatable to be certain, but it’s not entirely a benign disease. People DID die prior to the vaccine. Only about 100 a year, which is trivial, unless you’re one of those. There were 10 or 15,000 hospitalizations as well.

      At the risk of sounding uncharitable, dismissing the measles vaccine is just a damn fool thing to do. Yeah, you got it anyway, but most who are vaccinated don’t, and chances are you got a much milder case than you could have without the vaccine. Measles was one of the most efficient bio-weapons ever seen. It wiped out 30 to 60% of the indigenous people it infected in the Americas and the Pacific Islands. Europeans had gunpowder and steel and horses too, but taking a continent is much easier when your opponents simply curled up and died the month after you shook one of their hands.

      Measles, like most of the diseases we immunize against, are Russian-roulette games. Most people who get sick come out ok. A very sizable minority suffer devastating complications. In measles encephalitis, the virus tears up the brain, killing 15% or more of its victims with a condition that looks like Alzheimer’s on fast forward. I don’t think taking a principled stand against “big pharma” is worth all that.

      The problem with your “herd immunity” strategy, apart from the “screw everyone else” ethic of it, is that it simply no longer works. The herd immunity you’re relying on doesn’t work if too many people opt out, and too many have in many areas, thanks to the evangelization efforts of the movement you signed onto.

  • Shannon

    “One explanation, which may not have been offered to you, is that we vaccinate kids at exactly the same window of time that autism and similar disorders present themselves.”

    No, we vaccinate from birth. And that explaination has been offered ad nauseum with nothing to back it up.

  • http://theontologicallapsometer.blogspot.com/ jmalcolm

    Seriously folks. There are now women on this board relating stories about their children suffering and they are getting lectured them on how there is no problem and vaccination is still the safest bet. Are you seriously giving some one a talk on odds whose child is suffering? The odds don’t matter. Something is up and their child is the looser!!! How about we shut up and let folks pursue every possible cause here. This stubborn rejection on particular lines of inquiry is not good science and the manner in which it is being stuffed is certainly not compassionate.

    • Kenneth

      Odds do matter a great deal when we’re proposing to make sweeping changes to public health practices and to abandon a century’s worth of progress. The suffering of a parent with a disabled child is not something that can be explained away, nor do I propose to do so. They are not nuts for thinking that vaccines may have triggered their child’s autism. They are not bad people for demanding we consider that possibility. I don’t have a problem with them.

      I do have a problem with the anti-vaccine industry which has been making bank off of their suffering and by selling fear to other well-meaning parents. They are telling the parents of autistic children that they have an answer for their suffering when they have no such thing. They are convincing many others to take reckless risks with their own kids and the public’s health in return for a a sense of enhanced safety which simply has no basis in fact. That’s not good science or compassionate, and ethically it’s as rotten as any of the real abuses pharma is guilt of, and that’s a pretty miserable standard.

      If this really were all about following lines of inquiry, I’d be all about it. The problem is, we’ve done some very good inquiry on the vaccine hypothesis and it hasn’t panned out, at all. That doesn’t mean we should stop looking, but it should lead us to reconsider that idea as a top priority. The anti-vaccine movement has not paused in the least to reconsider their idea. They’re more committed to it than ever and suggest that the suffering of parents ought to trump whatever science doesn’t lend them comfort.

      What also troubles me is that this single-minded fixation on vaccines distracts us from some much more promising lines of inquiry. In the last month, a study of 85,000 women in Norway found women who took folic acid dropped their risk of having an autistic child 40%. That’s huge, if it holds up. Some 20 studies on the vaccine hypothesis turn up nothing. Tons of other research suggested that autism was some hopelessly complicated interaction of genes and environmental triggers, none of which would reveal themselves individually. Now we learn, maybe, that much of this suffering can be avoided by a vitamin that cost two pennies a day, on the high side, and nobody has to get measles or diptheria in the process.

    • Jmac

      That’s kinda the point, jmalcolm. If there are actual points to peruse here, then by all means we should peruse them. Anecdotal evidence filled with post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning is not sufficient condition to overturn public policy that has drastically reduced mortality rates for childhood diseases.

      On the other hand, the link between vaccines and autism is tenuous at best. As a Bayesian, my confidence that vaccines don’t cause autism is very high, but I’m open to actual scientific information that would establish a link. Until such time as there is evidence, I see no reason to scrap a program that DOES have established positive results.

  • Sandra Miesel

    It doesn’t matter how many books you read–if they’re the wrong books. “Fill their bodies up with toxic cocktails of vaccines” is a strong hint about the kind of books consulted. Chickenpox is trivial? How about shingles, which a childhood bout of chickenpox will often lead to in later years?

    Media-fed hysteria would not be flourishing so widely except for the very success of vaccination programs. Unlike this old lady, today’s young parents didn’t grow up terrified of catching polio or knowing people permanently crippled by it. I doubt they had a schoolmate die of tetanus. They don’t take childhood diseases seriously yet are quick to suspect Big Government and Big Pharma of boundless evil. But why are “conservative” Catholics so susceptible to these notions? Let them take care lest they turn into the Christian counterpart of Boko Haram.

    • introvert_prof

      A very late comment — but chicken pox is NOT trivial if you get it as an adult. I did, after being exposed to a child with the disease. I came out the other side OK, since I was basically healthy otherwise, but I ran a dangerous fever for two days and was contagious and ridiculously itchy, with open sores including on the mucous membranes in my throat, for more than a week.

      My three-year-old daughter got it from me. She had a mild fever for a day and a mild rash for about three days.

      Vaccinations are to protect the vaccinated, but also for the protection of those around them.


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