Prevention: vaccines as public health superstars

Prevention: n. the act of keeping from happening, holding back or hindering

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I’m working on an article for a health magazine on vaccinations for children.

If you don’t have little kids you may not be aware that vaccinations have become a focus of parental angst since a (now-debunked) 1998 study of 8 autistic children by Andrew Wakefield in the UK, which claimed that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine could cause autism.  Turns out that the doctor was a shill for the kids’ families who were seeking financial settlements. And last week several cases trying to link autism to vaccines were thrown out of court.  (Newsweek‘s Sharon Begley just did an excellent feature on the history and current state of the vaccination kerfuffle – Anatomy of a Scare….)

Wakefield’s British medical license was revoked, but the damage was done. Parents with autistic children had found themselves a scapegoat in the vaccine, and parents of healthy infants began to question the whole concept of vaccination.

  • There were so many shots: “Why when I was a kid,” they said, “we just had the DPT and polio vaccines….”
  • Is this an evil collaboration between Big Government [the CDC] and Big Pharma to get more money from us?
  • Had the vaccines been properly tested – separately and in combination? Was it safe to give babies so many shots at one time?
  • What are all these diseases anyway? Why should we worry?

To make matters worse, the media picked up the controversy and rumors spread like wildfire on the Internet. Celebrities ignorant of science and the scientific method ranted on TV. Some parents decided to forego vaccinating their kids;  some (thanks to a misleading and poorly researched book on vaccinations by the Dr. Robert Sears) decided to formulate alternative vaccination schedules for their babies – delaying some and dropping others.

I interviewed several pediatricians, family practice physicians, and epidemiologists for the article and they all were disturbed by the level of public misunderstanding and the potential repercussions of fewer kids being vaccinated.

“The problem,” said one pediatrician, “is that many of these vaccines have been around long enough and have been so dramatically successful that today’s young parents are unaware of how devastating these diseases can be. In my travels to less developed parts of the world I’ve seen kids struggle for their very lives or die from them.”

Another pediatrician told me that parents always fear for possible health threats to their babies. “Without the actual diseases themselves to fear, they are now focused on vaccine side-effects. Instead they should be worried that many of these childhood diseases are just a plane flight away. Or an unimmunized buddy at daycare away.”

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center:

Before the vaccines we use today parents in the US could expect every year:

  • Polio would paralyze 10,000 children
  • Rubella (german measles) would cause birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 newborns.
  • Measles would infect about 4 million children, killing 3,000 and causing severe brain damage in many others.
  • Diptheria would be one of the most common causes of death in school-aged children
  • A bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae typ b (Hib) would cause meningitis in 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) would kill thousands of infants.

Additionally, the recent rotavirus vaccine protects the against an intestinal infection that’s still one of the  leading killers of the very young around the globe.

The other issue big on young parents’ minds is the timing of vaccinations – so many so close together. But that is how they have been studied, said the docs I spoke to – the current vaccination schedules have proven effectiveness and safety, and alternative schedules have not.

I could go on and on, but this is just a blog post.  If you’d like more information check out the CDC website.

Update 4/23/09: Jim Carrey wrote an outrageous post at Huffington Post yesterday – another celebrity rant by someone who doesn’t understand science. I’m not linking to it, but I will link to Skeptic Dad at Science-Based Parenting, who rebuts in detail the Carrey post. Nice job.

11 responses to “Prevention: vaccines as public health superstars

  1. I remember lining up in the school hallway for our cups of polio medicine; and how grateful our parents were that we would be spared the crippling disease. We had two first hand examples. Two children, one confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, one struggling with back and leg braces and crutches for the rest of her life. I also remember my two younger brothers being dangerously ill with measles. My child had every vaccination he was supposed to get, whenever the doctor said it was time. I wanted him protected.

  2. When my daughter took my grandson in for his latest checkup she asked the pediatrician if they should wait on the shot… Before she could even explain that he’d had a fever the day before, the doc went into reaction mode: “YOU WILL be giving him this vaccine” .

    He apologized when my daughter finished her question and said he was afraid that she was going to give him the “Dr. Spear objections,” which parents believe is the vaccine gospel. He says he often has to take about an hour to talk over the vaccination process with new parents, and it upsets him that so many are seriously misinformed about vaccine safety.


  3. My son used to react very strongly to vaccines, with a scarily high temperature that was difficult to reduce. When the scare happened, he’d had his first round of shots…and I’m afraid I waited a few more years before I let him have the second round.

  4. They have improved vaccines a lot over the years. Currently a kid gets fewer antigens (only 128 ) in the five shots they get at 2 months than they get by picking up a piece of dirt. Original DTP shot had more than 3,000 antigens – which may have been what your son responded too.

  5. Vaccines are necessary and 6 vaccines for the illnesses above would be reasonable.

    The mad part of USA policy is you have all or none. 130 vaccines with ten at a time and a dozen or more before 4 months is quite scary.

    With one in fifty having develoment problems most seem able to survive the jabs or whatever causes the illness.

    But one chance in fifty chance of illness in an age where we expect to be healthy seems to something that DEMANDS explanation.

  6. I found this site:
    trying to find a list of those ‘130 vaccines with ten at a time’. The suggested vaccination schedule doesn’t come anywhere close to those numbers. I wonder where John got his data? And what he means by “With one in fifty having development problems”.

  7. Thanks for the link, Susan. Have no idea where John’s numbers came from. That’s what I mean about a lot of misinformation out there.

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends NINE vaccines in a baby’s first year: Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae b, Pneumococcal, Inactivated Polio and Influenza. Most of these are given three times so that would be 27.

    Starting at 12 months you give Measles- Mumps- Rubella, Varicella, and Hepatitis A plus a booster of most of the first batch.

  8. Hi

    The number of ten comes from many people reporting what happened when their child went to the doctor and was behind with their shots.

    4 or 5 shots at once is almost the normal in USA for infants as young as 1 day or 2 or 4 months but in France never normally more than 1 at one time and maybe as few as half a dozen shots in total to protect from most serious illness.

    VAERS 325352 actually describes someone (an adult fit male) who had 11 vaccines on 09 January 2003 with tremor starting the day after the shots and remaining until the present with nerve damage confirmed and difficulty to maintain normal life.

    Stories of excessive numbers are usually from people who miss injections with the threat of calling in the social if they do not catch up then and there.

    You seem to think like me ten at a time is not only too much but doesn’t happen so 11 would be even worse especially as the patient suffered permanent harm as a result.

    Many people must also have an excessive number of vaccines and not complain.

    Of course it could all be just a coincidence and they do say inthe record that he does suffer also from anxiety and depression but this may be after rather than before this shooting match he was on the wrong end of?

    I would add that many of these 11 are actually in themselves not just one organism but maybe three or so and not dead but actually live organisms.

    I do not subscribe to the idea that we can withstand the attack from 10 000 different viruses all alive and growing in us as part of a normal response to build immunity.

    But perhaps I am mistaken and not Dr Offitt?

    I have difficulty countering one organism and have gone done with a cold this year for the first time in several years and hopefully it was just the one that I have now reacted to and eliminated without recourse to the flu or other vaccines.

    I would not fancy having live measles, mumps rubella etc etc from a vaccine at the same time in me as I believe a cold is not a contraindication to Dr Offitt with his we can take 10 000 insults at a time.

    I just am old fashioned and took my shots not as a fit adult but certainly more like 5 to 15 years rather than one day or in my mothers womb with all this extra stuff they add to our vaccines floating about.

  9. Hi Thanks for the link to the USA vaccine schedule.

    It describes a schedule that gives 38 shots by the age of 4 years of age to every USA baby or infant with a dozen especially by 4 months.

    This schedule has 11 different vaccines with two having 3 different sorts of organism and many having several different strains of the particular type. Some apparently single vaccines may have 7 different strains of that organism. This already is well over 50 different antigens and at 4 years old.

    5 different shots are given on this schedule at the same time both at 2 months and 4 months.

    My own daughter got her first vaccine in England not at the recommended 3 months but at 6 months and although adult and healthy did suffer from a serious illness just three weeks after this vaccine and had thick scabs on her lips which lasted for many years before disappearing.

    The doctor said it was impetigo which is highly contagious but it never spread to us and never came from us or anyone else.

    This for me was two different adverse effects from one vaccine at 6 months.

    I look at and examine dozens of cases where babies have died after the USA or current UK vaccine schedules are followed but worse the parents are being put in prison from vaccine harm.

    USA and UK lead the world in autism like condtions with China catching up rapidly. Most of Europe has autism but at levels of what was in UK/USA 2 decades ago.

    We do need vaccines, but the 1 in 50 would be the rate if vaccines/autism are connected and would be 1 in 5 if asthma/vaccines are related and 1 in 1000 if SIDS/vaccines are related.

    We are not sure where all these health problems come from but we do know that SIDS and vaccine adverse effects are the same if you look at clinical signs.

    Because strains of organisms can change we do not automatically get protection from any vaccine if the organism changes and the GMO process itself of making vaccines can theoretically be the cause of new strains.

    There are lots of questions serious, detailed and complex which 99 per cent of people are unaware of and for my part I see more problems than Dr Offitt sees as supposedly safe vaccines.

    With more than a decade of review and examination in depth it is not always easy to explain things simply but I do feel we have taken lots of wrong turns in the past 20 years with vaccines and try to blame old vaccines as more hazardous when in fact they have been spectacularly safe and stopped for example smallpox decades ago.

    Today we seem to see new illnesses which have some basis of causation from the very vaccines we seek to deploy ever more often and ever more early in life. HIV/AIDS comes from vaccines if we believe vaccine experts of the past. (Dr Hilleman)

    I have read that 130 vaccines are in the USA schedule or armoury and actually believe it not only correct but likely to be exceeded if you count each vaccine shot and allow for the 3 to 7 strains in many.

    When I get time I may even check the number carefully and reach even higher numbers I feel.

    If you take 100 year old professors like Charles Richet you will see ANAPHYLAXIS as the normal result of repeat vaccines which today still holds as scientific fact. The only advance being in how to reduce the chances and recognise more fully the mechanisms of this most unwanted of reactions from vaccines.

  10. “HIV/AIDS comes from vaccines if we believe vaccine experts of the past. (Dr Hilleman)”
    John, can you give a source for this? I thought the consensus was that HIV/AIDS came from the eating of bush meat (chimps and apes).

  11. Hi

    Moving on to HIV / AID’s is off topic here but am welcome to put some thoughts from work I have seen and theories I have made.

    The AIDS/HIV is closely linked to SV40 virus but we know this virus does not affect man. Chosen by Paul Berg to interact with E Coli another totally harmless bacteria to genetically alter any living matter using mitochondrial RNA. Hybridisation he named it but today we know it as GMO or OMG.

    Today HIV/AIDS came from these experiments, E Coli strains now far from being harmless if you drink a cup full and now killers if you have more than 10 entering your body of the most dangerous kinds.

    The whole history of health has descended from vaccines preventing any health problems except old age has descended into some night mare not helped by people being too scared to tell the truth of what is going on.

    Tobacco proved harmful in the 50’s and not accepted even today by some that smoke.

    The ozone hole known to scientists 18 years before it was public knowledge.

    HIV/AIDs has a known history that top scientists don’t want us to know and origins put forward in books and on the net are sometimes stupid.

    The GMO theory from Paul Berg makes it impossible to have existed before 1973. This applies therefore to the killer strains of E Coli too.

    The vacine connection is the inability to keep dangerous pathogens from entering on a chance basis as these companies in addition to making viruses may in fact be are source of weapons of mass destruction if we entered into a nuclear, biological, chemical conflict.

    On the basis that if anything can go wrong it will, sadly there have been lots of errors from trivial to those affecting a whole nation. Maurice Hilleman and his vaccine developers have been filmed and on record for compromising the health of entire nations by their deliberate or accidental faux pas with vaccines.

    Common sense or science is in conflict with vaccines with the necessity to vaccinate to prevent illness at odds with the know harm to the few from the very health attempt to protect the masses.

    My problem is that any or all harm is put to one side and those that suffer in fact are made to suffer more as often from my experience the parents get the blame for vaccine injury.

    And the outcome is safe vaccines for 10 cents a time and no worry are now 400 dollars and everyone on payrolls like the gangsters of the 20’s and 30’s.

    Everyone is on the make and on the take apart from 1 million SIDS, 5 million autism and 250 million who have breathing problems.

    But the good news for the rich is that all these except SIDS can be helped by daily medicine for life.

    One day like the untouchables did for Capone someone will call to account those that harm us.

    But it will take someone very rich and very powerful as everything is marked and stacked up and many people sell there souls for 50 grand for an hours work of obfuscation.