No Vaccine? A Different Risk

Paul Offit is one of America’s most-hated scientists. He’s been called a “biostitute” for the pharmaceutical industry and been threatened with death for his advocacy of one of medicine’s greatest innovations: vaccines. In recent years, anti-vaccine sentiment has spread like, well, an epidemic, with frightening results. In 2004, there were 26,000 reported pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the U.S., up from only 1,000 in 1976. A new article in Wired profiles Offit’s crusade and the interesting risk psychology of the anti-vaccine movement. Offit’s mission is really a mission to educate parents about the true risks their children face: “The choice not to get a vaccine is not a choice to take no risk. It’s just a choice to take a different risk, and we need to be better about saying, ‘Here’s what that different risk looks like.’ Dying of Hib meningitis is a horrible, ugly way to die.” [%comments]


David

I am not sure where I stand on the whole vaccine issue, but I am sure that the people who came up with the Polio vaccine had better intentions than those who are pushing each and every wonder vaccine that comes out today with their multi-million dollar ad campaigns telling us to ask out doctor about it.

PS: I am not naive to the fact that Saulk and company were not interested in profits.

di

My friend's son has autism. She has been told many times that it is her fault, because she had him get the MMR vaccine.

She responds that her cousin is deaf because her aunt had measles while pregnant.

Maurine

It's hard to believe there are so many uneducated people in the US regarding vaccines. Whose going to be responsible for our children who lost all speech within a week after having 5 vaccines? You all seem to forget that we did vaccinate and that's why we have very sick children.
Is there no compassions left in this world?
BTW Offit's comments are without any basis. He claims people want to attack him (not ture) for attention.

Nathan

I know more autistic kids than kids with rubella.

LaraK

I have patients with health-related anxiety who present with very poor abilities to measure and calculate the risk of calamitous disease in their lives. They come in with a definite attention bias that does not respond to the best arguments. The best approach is cognitive-behavioral, however they must be prodded into seeing their own thinking as irrational without being told so directly. Oftentimes there is an unconscious fear that is driving their rigid belief system--one that the anti-vaccine movement may similarly have and seem to ignore.

ray bans on my face

I had no idea there are actually people out there against vaccines.

So more people are getting ill and dying because they're refusing vaccines? Well if these people actually believe this anti-vaccination hog wash, then they're holding society down and perhaps should drop off. I feel bad for their children though. It's not their fault that their parents are idiots.

Why would anyone ever work against the progress of medical science? Vaccines were developed to protect us from getting sick, for crying out loud! Who cares about whether or not the companies making the vaccinations are getting richer? That's called business! We all do business to earn money to live!!! There is clearly a very large market for vaccines, and if someone gets rich for capitalizing on keeping people healthy, then they deserve it. Someone refusing a vaccine because they don't want to add to a drug company's profits is like refusing to eat food because you might get fat, and fat is baaaad. This has to be quite possibly one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard of.

I agree with some of the others that have commented on this page. The anti-vaccination group is just another modern day equivalent to the luddites.

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ray bans on my face

-Bensmyson: Your information about the flu shot is very incomplete. Its not just like every strain of flu is the same. The virus constantly evolves, so every year a different strain of influenza is chosen to be used in the flu shot vaccine. The strain chosen to be used in the vaccine from year to year isn't always the same strain(s) that make its way around the population each season, hence the large amount of people that get sick, and the small amount that die. The success rate of predicting which strain(s) will make its way around the population isn't very good, something around 70% accuracy, but it's still better than nothing.

The flu shot still prevents the flu, as long as the right strain is chosen to be in the vaccine from year to year. So what this means is that all the people that got sick or died from the flu died because the flu shot they got didn't contain the right strain. That means they also would have got sick and died anyway.

And Vitamin D does not (entirely) prevent the flu. Vitamin D deficiencies predispose people to respiratory infections, while getting more Vitamin D in one's system lowers the risk of becoming infected. But it won't keep a person from contracting the flu unless they had a vaccination with the right flu strain. It may help mitigate the flu's effect on the body, because they body is healthy enough to withstand it and fight it off, but it will not prevent the body from contracting the virus.

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Joe Smith

The substantial majority of those currently alive are only alive because of vaccinations and public sewer systems.

To say that you are against vaccinations is to say that 50% to 80% of us should be dead.

You first.

Benjamin

We have 200 years of medical science, thousands of research and clinical studies, and dozens of childhood diseases wiped out to support vaccination. It's all there for you to see if you want to. Thalia, when your belief is so counter to the plain and honest evidence, why is it our job to show you the error of your ways? And why should we be content letting untrained people make decisions they are not qualified to make under the guise of giving them the option of informed decision? Especially when making the wrong decision can have severe consequences on the population as a whole.

JT

I am not opposed to vaccines, but I do think we need to be more certain that they are safe, beyond just the autism debate that has taken center stage. I do agree that some groups have taken this to a level that is too far out in right field, but to lump anyone who questions vaccines into one group is not correct. I have tried hard to read what I can before giving my children vaccines, and there are some questions out there that I think are not answered.

An example: Aluminum (yes, a very common element) is regulated in many medical scenarios (e.g. IV solutions) due to known health risks asscoiated with exposure to high levels. At least 5 of the vaccines children receive have Aluminum levels that exceed the recommended daily allowance for other medical uses. The DTaP vaccine in particular comes in 3 main brands - one of them has 625 micrograms of Alminum - the limit for IV solutions works out to about 20 micrograms for an infant.

For whatever reason the FDA does not regulate Aluminum in vaccines, but does for other things. So yes, I do wonder at glaring discrepancies. Vaccines are a major cash source for Pharmaceuticals - continual supply of customers that are mandated by the government to buy their product (or have it bought on their behalf).

I think something else to remember is that many of the vaccines given now are for things that many of us had as children and were fine (e.g. Chicken Pox, Mumps, Measles). Is it good to get rid of the disease? Yes. Are these life threatening diseases? Only in very rare cases (not unlike the very rare cases of advere reactions to vaccines).

So I think using the selling point that if you don't get your children the Measles or Chicken Pox vaccine is putting other children unduly at risk is a little extreme.

But, like I said, I do get my children vaccinated, so take that with a grain of salt.

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anonymous

i think that you are right with every vaccine there is going to be a risk. But now if there wasn't no risk's in life everything would be easier but its not like that. this is real life no no movie or game were you can just rewind it or start it over if you didn't want it to go that way. you are just going to have to face it that with out risk there it really is life.

Kevin C

I'm on the fence on the vaccination issue. There are certain things that you obviously want the vaccine for, like Polio, but is Chicken Pox or any of the other million things they want you to get a vaccine for really all that dangerous. Education from the doctors would be great in this area. Taking the time to tell the parents "This vaccine is for X. X really sucks and you die a horrific death." vs "This vaccine is for Y. If you get why you will be sick for a week and it will suck but there is, to all intents and purposes, no chance you will die or have long term effects from it."

DB

Repeated research clearly demonstrates that autism spectrum disorders do not suddenly appear as a result of a single input factor. I firmly believe if every child with an ASD diagnosis was put through rigorous testing we would find either (a) there was a genetic or metabolic/mitochondrial basis for this developmental disorder or (b) the diagnosis was wrong. Not all encephalopothies are ASD related.

Laura

"My son received a vaccine injury that caused brain damage."

Oh my god. I hadn't realized some people have severe side effects from vaccines! This is absolutely evidence that children should not receive vaccines. NO CHILD should be put at risk for such a horrific side effect. More kids might die, but at least they wouldn't have BRAIN DAMAGE! I'd rather have a healthy child for a few years and then lose them to a preventable disease than raise a child with a disability!

... wait, what?

Knutter

I lost my 17 year old son to a vaccine preventable form of Meningitis. He died within 15 hours of his first symptom which was a headache!! 15 hours!!!! Vaccines save lives. Had I known about it - it would have save my son's. No parent should have to endure this!

Adrian

Bob: Your anti-government conspiracy theory comes crashing to the ground when you realize these vaccines are mostly developed in private labs and institutes, by researchers trying to help people such as my partner and my father.

I would think readers of this blog would be a little more aware of the world.

Thalia

Show me actual studies on the flu vaccine. Oh you can't because the CDC pulls the number of 36,000 deaths out of dubious statistics? You can't show the differential impact of 2004 when flu vaccines were not available because of contamination? You can't show the differential effect between areas that had high vaccination rates and those that had low?

Show me the actual studies on the decline of chickenpox related complications post vaccine. Oh you can't because it hasn't been studied?

I would think readers of this blog would insist on actual empirical evidence of the efficacy of these vaccines (and not fall back on the polio argument, which you will note I do not dispute). Show me real studies not just assertions by companies who acknowledge that they stand to make billions of dollars of vaccinations.

Tracey

And how much has the population increased during that time? That would be a better comparison.

JJ

“Even though data regarding the relation between vaccination and autoimmune disease is conflicting, some autoimmune phenomena are clearly related to immunization.” REF: Shoenfeld Y Vaccination and autoimmunity-'vaccinosis': a dangerous liaison? J Autoimmun. 2000 Feb;14(1):1-10. (4)
• One possible mechanism is molecular mimicry:
A structural similarity may exist between the virus (or other component of the vaccine) and a “self-antigen.”
• This similarity may trigger the autoimmune reaction as they start attacking other surfaces of organ tissue if there is no other virus to attack.

Dave

For those on this blog who seem to believe that measles is a low risk disease and therefore not worthy of vaccination, you might want to take a look at the WHO fact sheet (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/) on the subject.

Close to 200,000 people a year die from measles, with unvaccinated children at highest risk. That number is bad enough ... but still less than a quarter of what it was a decade ago. What changed? A global vaccincation program led by WHO, the Red Cross, UNICEF and others.

For the vaccination doubters, feel free to keep making whatever justification you like for not getting your kids vaccinated. If you want to be taken seriously, though, I'd suggest not using measles as an example.