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The anti-vaccine war on science: An epidemic of fear

Many have been the times over the last five years that I’ve called out bad journalism about medicine in general and vaccines in particular, especially the coverage of the discredited notion that vaccines or mercury in vaccines somehow was responsible for the “autism epidemic.” That’s why I feel a special responsibility to highlight good reporting on the issue. Indeed, reporting on this issue is so uniformly awful that when I see something this good, I want to do everything in my power to hawk the hell out of it. So, I want you to read this article in the November issue of WIRED Magazine entitled An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All by Amy Wallace. I’ll wait until you come back. No, seriously. Click on the link, read, and then come back. I’ll still be there.

I will point out right from the outset that there is one thing I (somewhat) disagree with Wallace about:

This isn’t a religious dispute, like the debate over creationism and intelligent design. It’s a challenge to traditional science that crosses party, class, and religious lines. It is partly a reaction to Big Pharma’s blunders and PR missteps, from Vioxx to illegal marketing ploys, which have encouraged a distrust of experts. It is also, ironically, a product of the era of instant communication and easy access to information. The doubters and deniers are empowered by the Internet (online, nobody knows you’re not a doctor) and helped by the mainstream media, which has an interest in pumping up bad science to create a “debate” where there should be none.

I agree that the anti-vaccine movement is partially a reaction to the depradations of big pharma, accelerated by the easy access to instant information on the Internet. After all, how many times have I lamented how useful idiots like Jenny McCarthy can attend “Google University” for a few hours or days, reading about vaccines and autism, and then emerge with the attitude that they know better than experts who have studied vaccines or autism their entire professional lives? If science were that easy to pick up, it wouldn’t take so long to become good at it. I also agree that sensationalistic journalism promoted this campaign of fear. This was particularly true in the U.K., where the media were every bit as culpable as Andrew Wakefield, if not more so, in pumping up the manufactroversy over the MMR and autism.

Where I tend to disagree is that the manufactroversy over vaccines and autism is actually primarily religious at its core, if you define religion fairly broadly. It’s not about conventional religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam (or the many sects in each of these religions). Rather, underlying much of the fear of vaccines is either a New Age “spirituality” or a variant of primitive vitalism, where disease isn’t really due so much to microbes but rather to “toxins” and where people who are perfectly “healthy” (whatever that means) don’t need vaccines because they’re somehow naturally resistant to pathogenic organisms. (Shades of Bill Maher!) Delve for a while into the message boards of the anti-vaccine underground, and you’ll see worship of the idea of “natural” to the point where many anti-vaccinationists will say, with utter seriousness, that it’s better to get the disease naturally than to take a vaccine. It’s the worship of an idealized version of “nature,” and vaccines are viewed as “unnatural.” I’m not claiming that this is true of all anti-vaccine zealots, but it’s definitely true of at least a significant minority of them, if not a clear majority.

One thing I also liked about this article–lot!–is how Wallace calls out spokespeople of the anti-vaccine movement, like Jenny McCarthy, Don Imus, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; debunks common anti-vaccine canards; and lists for additional writings for more information. In particular I like this part:

Anti-Vaccine Websites

Though many of these organizations would not define themselves as such, these are the most active organizations and websites in the current battle against vaccines:

National Vaccine Information Center
Autism One
Generation Rescue
SafeMinds
Treating Autism
National Autism Association
Autism File

My only quibble is that Wallace missed listing Age of Autism. Fortunately, she makes up for it by getting it right here:

In May, The New England Journal of Medicine laid the blame for clusters of disease outbreaks throughout the US squarely at the feet of declining vaccination rates, while nonprofit health care provider Kaiser Permanente reported that unvaccinated children were 23 times more likely to get pertussis, a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes violent coughing and is potentially lethal to infants. In the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, Jason Glanz, an epidemiologist at Kaiser’s Institute for Health Research, revealed that the number of reported pertussis cases jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 26,000 in 2004. A disease that vaccines made rare, in other words, is making a comeback. “This study helps dispel one of the commonly held beliefs among vaccine-refusing parents: that their children are not at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases,” Glanz says.

“I used to say that the tide would turn when children started to die. Well, children have started to die,” Offit says, frowning as he ticks off recent fatal cases of meningitis in unvaccinated children in Pennsylvania and Minnesota. “So now I’ve changed it to ‘when enough children start to die.’ Because obviously, we’re not there yet.”

No, Dr. Offit is right. We’re not there yet. In fact, I’m a lot more pessimistic than he is. He says “enough” children will have to die before anti-vaccine loons like Jenny McCarthy are relegated to the lunatic fringe, where they can wallow in conspiracy websites like Rense.com or show up on late night paranormal radio shows like Coast to Coast. They can be taken with all the seriousness that David Icke and his Lizard people idea is as he blames the swine flu on the Illuminati. My prediction is that a lot of children will have to die before the anti-vaccine movement looses its influence. Hundreds. Thousands. Tens of thousands, even. We have a short memory as a society. A mere 60 years ago, people lived in fear of polio. Every summer, in various parts of the country, swimming pools would be shut down based on its appearance. Children were condemned to iron lungs. Thanks to the polio vaccine, that all came to an end. Even more recently, a mere 20 years ago, Haemophilus influenza B was wreaking havoc among children:

In the very recent past, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) was what could truly be called a scourge to humanity. As recently as 1987, this particularly nasty bacterium caused invasive disease in a startling 1 of every 200 children in the U.S. under 5 years of age. Approximately two-thirds of these children developed meningitis, with a mortality rate of about 5%. Up to 30% of the survivors suffered permanent brain damage. Those children lucky enough to avoid meningitis developed pneumonia, septic arthritis, osteomyelitis, cellulitis, epiglottitis, or generalized sepsis. Fortunately I have never seen or treated a child with invasive disease due to Hib. That’s because I began my pediatric training in 1991 when vaccination against these horrendous diseases was just beginning. What was once a common and devastating menace to children, the dreaded nightmare of every pediatrician, was quickly brought to it’s knees. By 2006, the incidence of invasive Hib disease had been cut by 99%. Within a short period of time, the very nature of pediatric medicine seemed changed forever.

Thanks to vaccines.

As I’ve said, we have a very short memory. Deadly microbes taught us a deadly lesson over hundreds of years, until we learned how to keep them at bay with vaccines. I fear we will receive a refresher course on how deadly they can be, courtesy of Jenny McCarthyand her allies.

ADDENDUM: The anti-vaccine loons have already descended upon the article. A little sanity to counter them would be in order.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

176 replies on “The anti-vaccine war on science: An epidemic of fear”

Unfortunately, as I read the article I realized that Wallace had blown any chance of conviction when she stated that Thimerosol hadn’t been in vaccines since 2001. I knew the loons would pounce on that like a disease, and sure enough that’s exactly what they did.

How to Win an Argument About Vaccines
And the diseases are horrible — mumps
————————————–
You win an argument by making yourself look like a fool. I don’t get it

“Mother, his cheeks look a little puffy.”
“Noooooooooooooo! The horror.”

I hate to sound cruel, but anti-vaccinationists (is there such a word?) are a self-correcting idiocracy. They don’t vaccinate their children, they die – no more anti-vaccinationists. If only they didn’t cause problems for the rest of us I wouldn’t care.

As a journalist who occasionally has covered the health beat, can I just say I appreciate that you point out the journos who do good work here, as well as handing out the smackdowns when we fuck it up?

Cheers.

Sid Troll, are you denying that mumps can cause sterility and deafness? Please tell us exactly what the risks are for the MMR vaccine when compared to measles, mumps and rubella. Be sure to include all real evidence to support your conclusion.

Also, be sure to tell us how the “thimerosal and aluminum in the MMR” are very toxic, that should be golden.

Oddly enough after 5 years as a family doc, I find that telling dads: “Mumps = potential sterility” makes dads insist on immunization, especially for boy babies. Guys are a bit single-minded it seems. drncc

Oddly enough after 5 years as a family doc, I find that telling dads: “Mumps = potential sterility” makes dads insist on immunization, especially for boy babies. Guys are a bit single-minded it seems. drncc

Sid…I’m deaf in one ear from mumps…something that had I been born a bit later when vaccines were available might have been avoided. Do you enjoy stereo? Can you tell where sounds come from? I can’t. Not since Mumps…

Of course some women get a an uncomfortable swelling. If you look at the data from the 2006 outbreak of measles in the USA Midwest that out of almost 2600 cases of mumps, not only were there four cases of deafness but one got oophoritis (look it up, Sid Troll!).

I remember one internet prognosticator who claimed that women did not need the mumps vaccine. I asked him if he thought that women deserved deafness and oophoritis. I never did get a reply.

Oh, and the relevant paragraph from the 2006 outbreak is:

Parotitis was reported in 870 (66%) of the 1,327 patients for whom such data were available. Data regarding mumps complications and hospitalizations are incomplete. However, complications have included 27 reports of orchitis, 11 meningitis, four encephalitis, four deafness, and one each of oophoritis, mastitis, pancreatitis, and unspecified complications. A total of 25 hospitalizations were reported, but insufficient data were provided to determine whether mumps caused all the hospitalizations. No deaths have been reported.

So, Sid Troll, do you only care if the outcome is death? Potential sterility, deafness, encephalitis and meningitis are really not a concern?

I do really want to hear what your evidence is for the risks of the MMR is compared to measles, mumps and rubella.

Per “primitive vitalism […and that] disease isn’t really due so much to microbes but rather to ‘toxins’ […per a] worship of the idea of ‘natural'”:

beliefs very naturopathic — toxins impeding a ‘purposeful life spirit’ [PLS] that runs physiology, supernatural but labeled natural, beliefs posed as fact.

Also, recalls Scientology — except after sweating out the chemical toxins you have to rid yourself of the PLSs / thetans / spiritual toxins.

You know, such vitalism was stated in the Journal of Family Practice article of 2005 that naturopathy published a while ago, as (see http://www.jfponline.com/pdf%2F5412%2F5412JFP_AppliedEvidence2.pdf ):

“the inherent organizing forces underlying known physiologic processes such as metabolism or tissue repair. Naturopathic medicine calls this primary principle the vis medicatrix naturae, or the healing power of nature [p.1067].”

I’ve always wondered who reviewed this article; it’s labeled “applied evidence”.

Exactly what ‘underlies’ known biology, in any sense of evidence?

Platonic ideals / vitalistic mystical supernaturalism (and kind)…yet, supposedly of “a foundation in current medical science.”

-r.c.

So, Sid Troll, do you only care if the outcome is death? Potential sterility, deafness, encephalitis and meningitis are really not a concern?

He certainly doesn’t seem to care about telling absolute lies, like a lying liar.

@Chris

The Japanese deafness study. You guys are so predictable. You’ve been beating this thing like a dead horse ever since I began posting. From the study:

Deafness is a rare …complication of mumps virus infection. Its incidence has been estimated at 0.5 to 5.0 per 100,000 cases of mumps
————–
But these researchers found 7 cases of hearing impairment so we should believe previous estimates regarding hearing loss from the CDC (1-20,000 reported cases)and others were wildly incorrect?

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/
mumps.pdf

I wonder if their unusual findings could be attributed to the fact that they were studying 20 year old “children”. A group that does less well with the mumps than do real children. Either way a 1-1000 or 1-100,000 chance of hearing loss in one ear hardly makes a disease “horrible”

@Chris

The complications from the mid-west outbreak don’t look particularly horrible, especially when one considers the group is made up of 20 year olds getting a disease they should have gotten as children.

@Chris

I do really want to hear what your evidence is for the risks of the MMR is compared to measles, mumps and rubella.
—————
Any medical treatment carries risks both known and unknown. The diseases, especially in healthy children, just don’t worry me enough to seek out a medical treatment to prevent them. And it’s not just one combination vaccine it’s a lifetime commitment to the whole schedule.

The benefits of vaccines don’t justify playing around with a developing immune system, sticking needles into babies and exposing those babies to the next mercury overdose or simian virus contamination.

@ Sid

Uh, even if that were true, wouldn’t that mean it would be better to vaccinate children BEFORE they became adults and more vulnerable to mumps, measles, etc? That’s like arguing not to expose kids to chicken pox since it’s “not as bad” as it is when you’re an adult. So you should be able to handle it ok as an adult, right?
Frankly, if somehow cumulative mercury poisoning from a slight overdose of mercury from the miniscule amount of mercury present in past vaccines, the chances of that happening wouldn’t be as high as the possibility of having a deaf or dead kid. I’ll take Aspergers over deafness, or being dead (and being someone with the condition, I’m absolutely appalled that having a light case of autism means I’ve been contaminated and insults my humanity).

I wonder why discussion of vaccinations so rarely mentions the case of diptheria. This was a real scourge within living memory – rapidly spreading and with a high mortality rate amongst children. Nowadays its just an obscure name from the past – virtually eradicated by vaccination.

Sid: my mother almost died from the mumps; she got it when I was a baby.
You are the worst kind of sludge.

Sid: My parents come form a region where mumps is not endemic. Consequently, after emigrating to the US, my mother almost died from the mumps; she got it when I was a baby. My father had to move out of the house, leaving my aunt with her own children (and no immunity of her own) to care for me when I had the mumps, my mother being in the hospital for 3 weeks.
You are the worst kind of sludge.

Sid: My parents come from a region where mumps is not endemic. Consequently, after immigrating to the US, my mother almost died from the mumps; she got it when I was a baby.
You are the worst kind of sludge.

BTW, here is a nice article from AP, via ABC News:
Somers’ New Target: Conventional Cancer Treatment

Oh, I’m more than aware. I’m pacing myself, however. Too much burning stupid at one time is hazardous even to Orac’s circuits. I figure Suzanne Somers will be providing much blogging material over the next month or so. I already know that one of the “pioneers” she interviewed for her book is Nicholas Gonzalez.

D’oh! Seriously bad timing, Suzanne!

Re: mumps and sterility…

I saw a post from an anti-vax mom on some mothering message board that was a reply to a woman’s wanting to vaccinate her son against mumps due to concerns about sterility. Anti-vaxer told the other mother not to worry, because if her son caught mumps and developed complications, the sterility would only affect one testicle. Her kid would still have another testicle that worked, not to worry. Gee, nice to be so cavalier about your kid’s future fertility.

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Best comment from that thread:

Jesus Christ, America! What happened to you guys?
You used to go to the moon!

Now you’re killing doctors and scientists in the streets, it’s like the fall of the Roman Empire compressed into the last decade.

I’m gonna go sign up to learn Chinese…

Sid Troll:

But these researchers found 7 cases of hearing impairment so we should believe previous estimates regarding hearing loss from the CDC (1-20,000 reported cases)and others were wildly incorrect?

Sid Troll, learn to read. The abstract of the four year old epidemiological study from Japan said:

The Acute Profound Deafness Research Committee of the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare (reorganized to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2001) conducted a nationwide epidemiological survey to determine the number of patients treated for mumps deafness in 1987, 1993 and 2001. Based on its findings, the annual numbers of mumps deafness cases was estimated to be 300 in 1987, 400 in 1993 and 650 in 2001, which correlated with the overall incidence of mumps in those years.

Where did you get the number “7” from?

Also, from the CDC Pink Book Chapter you linked to, “Mumps was a frequent cause of outbreaks among military personnel in the prevaccine era, and was one of the most common causes of aseptic meningitis and sensorineural deafness in childhood.” The numbers are being revised with newer data (I bet you didn’t there was more than one paper from Japan!).

My mother had the mumps too — when she was a kid. She said that the swelling was so bad, she couldn’t eat anything but liquids for days, because swallowing hurt so much. She also said that trying to swallow anything the least bit tart or sour made her cry from pain. (She told me that there used to be a rule of thumb when she was a kid that if your mother suspected you had mumps, she’d buy you lemon drops, and if you cried from eating them, she’d know you had mumps.)

The troll and all its antivaccinationist fellow travellers are objectively pro-misery, and pro-little girls crying from pain.

@Sid

I have heard paediatricians say “thank god for the Hib vaccine, we had children die from epiglottitis in the elevator from the ER on the ground floor to the ICU on the 2nd floor”. Thankfully, for all their stupidity and lack of maturity, politeness and cool-headedness, greek parents are so microbe-phobic they wouldn’t dream of missing the vaccination schedule.

Well, either that or the fact that there are a lot of grandparents around who have lost parents, siblings, maybe even children to vaccine-preventable diseases to put the fear of death in them.

@Sid: try telling my mom that mumps is harmless. Her best friend in grade school nearly died from them. He was so swollen that he nearly sufficated. And tell her measles is not so bad. When measles hit her elementary school, 95% of the school children were out (in fact, her report card has a stamp on it that no grades were given to anyone that marking period because of multiple school absences). The boy who lived across the street from her died from measles encephalitis. 6 children in her class (out of 25) never returned to school (she doesn’t know what happened to them – they just vanished and no one would say where they were). She can tell you about the closed pools and signs that public gatherings were prohibited due to polio. This was in Toledo, Ohio, in the early 1940’s if you want to check the newspaper morgues for exact numbers.

Believe me, my mother made sure that all her children got all their vaccines – if it was available, we got it.

Sid Offit, I’m going to throw the rhetoric right back at you:

Anti-vaxxers kill toddlers. They fuck them up for life. They make them sick.

The risks of the disease are far worse than anything that comes from vaccines, and here’s the thing: there’s actual proof of it.

I remember the days pre Hib vaccine. Not pretty. I was a sick kid in hospital and I remember seeing doctors and nurses terrified at the rapid onset of the disease, as they waited for an airlift for one lad to a larger hospital. In to the ER with a mild fever, 4 hours later convulsing/comatose.

I don’t recall seeing much else ever, that instilled quite as much fear in medical staff, and I remember the very sharp drop in cases when the vaccine appeared.

People really don’t have a clue, when they say vaccines don’t save lives, do they?

@Sid:

When I was five I caught mumps. My experience wasn’t just “puffy cheeks”, instead I woke up as stiff as a board from the waist up- unable to bend my back at all- and in a fuck of a lot of pain.

How sick was I? At that time in my life it normally took four people to give me an injection and five to draw blood. Yet that morning I was so flattened with misery that I lay there while my pediatrician did a lumbar puncture, and I didn’t utter a word of protest.

I had mumps encephalitis and I wound up spending the next ten days in the hospital.

And my mother? When they made her put on a gown and mask to visit me and she saw the “STRICT ISOLATION” sign on the door to my room she became hysterical. She was a chemistry teacher, not a biologist or a doctor, so she didn’t know that the correct interpretation of all that seriousness was that I had a very contagious disease and the hospital didn’t want to be the center of an outbreak. Instead, her imagination had her thinking that I had polio or something equally ugly.

I recovered with no lasting effects, so I guess that if you don’t count my physical suffering, my mother’s terror, the worry of my friends’ parents that their kids might catch it and the many thousands of dollars worth of hospital care, you can go on claiming that mumps is no big deal.

I, however, know better.

Oh Sid, Sid, Sid,
How little you know (and learn).

Mumps commonly causes aseptic meningitis (in as many as 10% of cases). It’s usually very mild, no more than a severe fever and headache (but rarely it can be severe or lifethreatening).

The current vaccine does NOT cause this problem (Zero episodes in 500,000 vaccines in Finland).
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/110/5/957

But the antivax kooks get their knickers in a right twist by insisting mumps vaccine causes this problem, which they characterise as “severe brain damage”.

Now the early versions of MMR used a mumps vaccine strain (Urabe) that very occasionally caused meningitis (one in about every 11,000 vaccine doses).
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8096942?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

Now can you explain why antivaxers ignore the fact that the natural mumps virus infection causes this “deadly brain disease” (antivax’s words, not mine) in up to 10% of children, yet they harp on about the vaccine causing this problem (no cases in half a million vaccines), citing it as a reason to avoid vaccination? Probably no, I’m guessing.

@Orac – isn’t it pleasant to have some backup from MSM? Plus, this report ran on Oprah’s network! Sweet.

My father was a physician. He started his general practice in the late 1930s. He saw what diseases like mumps, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and polio could do. He used to tell my brother and me stories about the kids who couldn’t stop coughing, and finally couldn’t breathe, and the ones who got measles and then got brain damage from meningitis. It was horrible, and that’s why he was so happy about immunizations. The problem is, these people who cry about “too many too soon”, or “green our vaccines”, or other such stupidity, have never seen things like that, so they don’t know exactly how horrible it can be. Sure, you can see video of it, but that’s nothing like seeing it firsthand. I mean, measles just looks like a really bad rash, right?

I’ve also had to live with the aftereffects of polio in my family. My mother’s sister contracted polio in the early 1920s, when she was very young, two perhaps? She managed to avoid an iron lung (what a horrible piece of equipment!!), but she was never able to walk without crutches afterward. Her parents, sister and 4 brothers dealt with it, but I know everyone would’ve liked her to be able to walk on her own. It was even suggested at one time, while she was still a child, that she be put in a “home”, because she would never be “normal”. Some people even suggested, when she finally married and was pregnant with her only child, that the child be taken from her because she would never be able to care for him. Barbaric.

I, for one, am happy to be able to benefit from immunizations. Now, if I could only convince one of my coworkers to get his 4 kids immunized…

For me, growing up, mumps was always just something Lisa Simpson caught to keep her out of school for a few days.

Ever since I started reading about these anti-vaxxers, I’ve gotten more and more knowledge of what dangers it, as well as many “harmless” childhood diseases present for real world children and adults. It seems everyone has an elderly member of the family with real horror stories of what happens when these diseases went around unchecked.

Anti-vaxxers have no conception of history, do they? I’m currently starting to wonder if these people never bothered to listen to their ancestors or history teachers and learned everything about the “good old days” from nostalgic television sitcoms.

“Sorry for the triple post; computer issues this morning.”

BB: The repeated “You are the worst kind of sludge” was really funny, so don’t feel too bad.

Imaginary “safety” issues aside, i cannot deal with people who would put the health of themselves and their kids so far above the health of others. Let the old, the young, and the immunocompromised fend for themselves! That is some selfish bullshit.

Sorry Chris. I’m just so used to you vaccine enthusiasts pulling out this study (An office-based prospective study of deafness in mumps.) when the topic of mumps arises I assumed you had done the same. I’m deeply sorry. As to where I derived the number 7:
———————
The incidence of hearing loss in children due to mumps was 7/7400 (approximately 1/1000 cases)

——————————————
@Erin
I’ll take Aspergers over deafness,

That’s your choice, but it think you’re confusing partial hearing impairment in one ear to total deafness

————————–

@Todd
Thanks for the link Todd. Apparently the CDC didn’t think the mumps were serious enough to include it in their risk reward calculation, but those measles sure do sound scary

For me, growing up, mumps was always just something Lisa Simpson caught to keep her out of school for a few day
———————

I missed that episode. Was it on one of the Tree House of Horror specials?

This is going to seem circuitous at first, but bear with me.

I’ve recently been doing a lot of reading on infectious diseases and other such things. I started with small pox, then anthrax, and have now moved onto plague and specifically the Black Death of the 14th/15th centuries. It’s astounding how encompassing the effect of the Black Death was on medicine from that time forward.

As an example, before the recurring pandemics that make up the Black Death period, most physicians were trained in theory, with no practical experience necessary. They were taught poultices often, herbology occasionally, but they were much more focused on the idea of humors and their manipulation.

After the pandemics wiped out 55-60% of Europe, everyone from the nobility to the layperson began demanding more practical knowledge. It was around this time that what we now call the “scientific method” was developed, which was revolutionary because it not only relied on theory but demanded physical, observable evidence be provided to justify the theoretical. Medicine improved, and quickly became professionalized.

What I find so interesting and frustrating is that in this day and age we are living in a time of unparalleled medical advancement, to the point where we are able to bring horrific diseases to their knees. We as a species no longer must fear pandemic smallpox, or a recurrence of the black death; we don’t have to live with the knowledge that one or more of our children will die because of a preventable childhood disease, or that they’ll be blinded, deafened or debilitated.

We have more medical knowledge now than at any time in history, and people are demanding we go back to using what amounts to dressed-up prayer to prevent disease.

It’s astounding, and I worry it won’t really reverse itself until we have another deadly, vaccine-preventable pandemic.

@Sid Offit

The CDC site lists a couple of examples and is clearly not exhaustive. I can’t say what their reasons were for not including mumps in the MMR comparison, but I would not view their omitting that info as an admission that mumps is harmless.

That’s your choice, but it think you’re confusing partial hearing impairment in one ear to total deafness

There you go with your restrictive definition of deafness as “only total hearing loss in both ears”. The clinical definition is not so restrictive. Here’s just one example I found, emphasis added (http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=6791):

Deafness: Deafness is defined by partial or complete hearing loss. Levels of hearing impairment vary from a mild but important loss of sensitivity to a total loss of hearing. Older adults suffer most often from hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss affects 30 to 35 percent of the population between the ages of 65 and 75 years, and 40 percent of the population over the age of 75. The most common cause of hearing loss in children is otitis media, a disorder that affects predominantly infants and young children. A substantial number of hearing impairments are caused by environmental factors such as noise, drugs, and toxins. Many sensorineural hearing losses result from a genetic predisposition.

When dealing with deafness in clinical cases, it is important to use the clinical definition, rather than your own definition of choice.

Damn, just as I’m writing a killer comment, Git Offit has to jump back in.

Sid, I find it heartless and bizarre that you can minimize partial deafness by saying “Hey, at least he can still kinda hear something.” That’s like me saying to someone with a club foot “Hey, look, at least you’ve still got the foot.”

It’s amazing how vaccination advocates are considered “mean and uncaring” because they don’t accept the assertion that someone child got autism from a vaccine and think that things like chelation therapy and coffee enemas aren’t effective and are potentially more harmful than doing nothing (and certainly aren’t as good as using more tested methods), but then comes along Aunt Sid Offit.

The “yeah, you lost some of your hearing but you aren’t technically deaf because you can hear something” as if that is a consolation is perhaps the most offensive thing I have ever heard anyone spout directly, and ranks right up there with the “sure, they’ll be sterile, but only in one testicle” hearsay statement mentioned above.

Yeah, I guess the experiences of older generations don’t count for much among the anti-vaxxers. My mother had polio when she was nine, and then went through fourteen years of agony dealing with post-polio syndrome.

I mentioned on another thread the British Columbia mumps outbreak that was especially virulent. There were nine cases of deafness out of 186 cases of mumps, 25% orchitis, and nine cases of encephalitis that required hospitalization. This was last fall among a religious sect that didn’t believe in vaccination.

I haven’t been out of the hospital that long after having H1N1…the clinic ran out of vaccine because they were vaccinating health care personnel, children, and then vulnerable adults. I missed out, and tada. Flu with complications.

People who are anti-vax are truly deluded. It’s their ideology over any facts or actual suffering.

Thanks, Orac, for continuing to focus on the problems these people cause..

For newcomers:

The heartless and persistent troll who from now on I will call Stone Deaf (as he is deaf to anything that debunks him) has adopted as his online antivax handle the name of a good man and saver of lives — but since this good man is a vaccine inventor, our troll (who also frequents other blogs) hates him and wants to defile him.

Notice also how the troll almost never acknowledges the persons here with first-hand experience of the diseases that are prevented by the vaccines that he hates so much?

Whenever anyone talks about morality and vaccines, point them to this thread so they can see a typical antivaxer, Stone Deaf, simultaneously mock a man whose shoes he’s not worthy to clean, insult and minimize the pain and suffering of disease victims, and ignore the ever-mounting evidence that undermines the position he so foolishly holds.

Polio. Whooping Cough. Hib. Tetanus. “German Measels”. Smallpox. Diptherea.

All were voracious killers before modern medicine. All became virtually unknown after vaccines were introduced for them.

All of them will return if anti-vaxxers get their way. Many of them have already returned where anti-vaxxers have held sway.

Vaccines are victims of their own success, I suppose. We see so few of these diseases now that we can easily ignore how nasty they can be… but we should never, ever do so, or our kids will discover why vaccines were considered so important.

(Personally, I’d love to see a shingles vaccine come out. Ever since that bout with chicken pox, and hearing of my great uncle’s miserable personal discovery that even morphine doesn’t much help you cope with the symptoms, that’s been a source of late-night dread more than once.)

— Steve

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
–George Santayana

unfortunately, our reminder will be thousands of people being crippled or killed.

I totally agree with Orac about there being a “religious” component to the anti-vax movement. Remember, before McCarthy got on the anti-vax bandwagon, she had an entire website devoted to her “indigo child.” That whole indigo child thing is just so insane. And I totally get wanting to do something, make it so that, somehow, your kid isn’t autistic, there’s hope for a cure, if we find the cause… But sometimes, you suck it up and deal. I would like to think that if there were something wrong with my kid, I wouldn’t resort to wishful thinking, but would do what I could to improve our lives, and then just love ’em, cuz sometimes it’s all we can do.

As it is, my 7 year old daughter is very healthy, she’s had EVERY vaccine on the schedule, and she’ll be getting the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it’s available.

This is such a push-button subject with me… grr…

Just as I thought, the Sid Troll did not bother to click the link. Big deal, what is 7 compared to 650? I am not surprised that you do not understand that hearing loss is a real disability.

… along with the blindness, mental retardation, paralysis and other neurological impacts of measles and Hib, the lack of the ability to breathe with pertussis and diphtheria, and the pain with tetanus.

So where exactly is that evidence on the relative risks between the MMR and measles, mumps and rubella?

Phoenix Woman, the Stone Deaf Troll has also decided to use “Sid” as a reference to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Even though there is no evidence that vaccines contribute to SIDS, and that they actually help prevent SIDS (it has something to do with preventing pertussis, Hib, tetanus and diphtheria).

He is a despicable troll. Probably some two-bit naturapath or incompetent MD who shills supplements and idiotic treatments like cranial sacral therapy to desperate parents of disabled kids. He probably posts his idiocy here because blogs like this, and articles exposing his ilk are bad for business.

the Stone Deaf Troll has also decided to use “Sid” as a reference to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Reference please

Here’s an idea for Stone Deaf Sid:
How about getting yourself tied to a post for a few days, while a group of us take turns kicking you in the balls over and over again?
You should have no problem with this, since you seem to think that mumps is no big deal, right?

According to the report by Nagai, M. (March 2003) of the Working Group on Improvement of the NESID System organized by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) (headed by Okabe, N.), cases were estimated at 1.17 million in the whole country in 2000 (95% confidence interval: 1.11-1.24 million), and 2.26 million (2.15-2.36 million) in 2001.

A disease causing 650 incidents of hearing impairment in over two million cases. I’m still not worried.
——————————
@T. Bruce
How about getting yourself tied to a post for a few days, while a group of us take turns kicking you in the balls over and over again?

Sounds like fun. Is that the current allopathic treatment for mumps?

Sid Troll:

Reference please

Sure, just as soon as you tell us your real name. Because we are pretty sure you are not the respected author Sidney Offit (especially when you post on west coast times).

Now where is that data with real evidence on the relative risks between MMR and measles, mumps and rubella?

Sure, just as soon as you tell us your real name

Patience Chris, all shall be revealed in the fullness of time

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