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Antivaccine fear mongering? What antivaccine fear mongering? I don’t see any antivaccine fear mongering.

Here we go again.

Every so often, criticism of the antivaccine movement builds to the point where it extends beyond the blogosphere to enter the national zeitgeist in a way in which people other than blogging geeks like myself start to take notice. It happened a few years ago, when washed up actress Jenny McCarthy teamed up with the antivaccine propaganda group Generation Rescue to sell her story of how she believes that vaccines caused her son Evan’s autism and managed to score an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It happened again three years ago, as preparations for the H1N1 pandemic were in high gear and antivaccine conspiracy theorists were in even higher gear. Or maybe they were just higher, if the “quality” of their arguments were any indication. It happened again a couple of years ago, as Andrew Wakefield achieved his apotheosis among antivaccinationists at the same time he fell into utter disgrace among everyone else, having had his U.K. medical license stripped from him, seen his infamous 1998 Lancet article that launched the anti-MMR scare retracted, and had his position as “medical director” at the autism quackery clinic Thoughtful House stripped from him.

Now, I think it’s happening again today. It’s not entirely clear why, but I think it’s in response to the recent string of measles and pertussis outbreaks. Whatever the cause and whether or not the disturbance I’m sensing in the Force is real or not, one thing you can almost always count on when criticism of the antivaccine crankosphere reaches a certain crescendo, it’s that someone on ostensibly “our” side, someone respectable, will decide to start criticizing those of us who devote a significant portion of our writing time to studying and countering the antivaccine movement for being too “strident.” Part of that critique almost always involves claiming that we are being too harsh on antivaccine parents, that we don’t understand, and—oh, by the way—can’t we all just get along? Yes, in essence, this countercriticism usually comes in the form of an article that is one massive exercise in tone trolling. This time around, it’s by a Canadian academic named Alan Cassels for the blog Pharmawatch Canada in the form of a post with a title that will induce cringes (and probably more than a little bit of ridicule) from some of us who deal with antivaccine propaganda), entitled Time to outlaw vaccine propaganda: Are we taking the easy way out by labeling vaccine questioners anti-science loonies?. The short answer is no. (Actually, it’s not just “no” but “Hell, no!”). The long answer follows.

Cassels begins by asking the following questions:

Are lifesaving vaccines being ignored by parents because of illegitimate safety concerns?

I could make this one of the shortest Orac posts ever written by using the short answer to this question (“yes”), but you know I have a hard time doing that, particularly when responding in longer form gives me the opportunity to produce entertaining riffs that amuse myself (and hopefully you). Before I do that, I’ll point out that Cassels uses as examples of what he refers to as “prominent health pundits” commenting on the situation. For instance, he cites André Picard at The Globe and Mail saying that the decline in vaccination rates in the U.K. is the result of parents “shunning vaccination in small but significant numbers because of imaginary fears largely concocted by quacks and charlatans,” a point I can’t argue with and have made myself on numerous occasions. Also cited is a good bud, Steve Salzberg, who criticized certain well-known antivaccine doctors for using “their medical degrees and their faux concern ‘for the children’ to frighten parents into keeping their kids unvaccinated.” Again, it’s a point I fully agree with, as is Salberg’s indictment of media complicity in spreading the antivaccine message. Indeed, these things are so mind-numbingly obvious to anyone of a science-based bent that it’s hard to imagine that Cassels doesn’t see them. Either he’s not of a science-based bent or he has a bit of an ideological bug up his butt about vaccines. Alternatively, maybe he’s one of those guys who just doesn’t like “experts” and sees them as “arrogant.” Let’s find out.

Cassels grudgingly concedes that maybe, just maybe, the media might be feeding antivaccine hysteria and that we “certainly have our share of charlatans and quacks in cyberspace, aided and abetted by cyberchondriacs of all stripes,” observations whose obviousness is only rivaled by its banality, not to mention the lack of mooring in reality his dismissal of antivaccine fear mongering as an important contributing factor to parents’ fears demonstrates. In particular, the media in the U.K. was arguably the most important factor in allowing Andrew Wakefield to spread his misinformation pseudoscience about the MMR vaccine that blames it for causing autism in the face of no evidence that it does and overwhelming evidence that it does not. I’ve said it time and time again, the U.K. media aided and abetted Wakefield. In fact, you could even say that the U.K media created Wakefield. In any case, these faux profound observations lead Cassels to state that there is “real fear among parents, a fear that is palpable.” Of course it is! It takes only a few minutes’ online exposure to hype “illegitimate fears.”

He next asks, “What is at the heart of these concerns? Can it really be due to vaccine fear-mongering?” Once again, I’m half-tempted simply to say that, yes, it really can be due to vaccine fear mongering, but I do feel somewhat obligated to follow my answer up by asking Cassels: Are you on crack? Have you seen antivaccine websites? Have you ever personally delved into antivaccine discussion forums? Have you ever lurked at MotheringDotCom (MDC), that website for “natural” mothering that many new mothers find (because its forums rank high on Google searches for important parenting topics) whose forums are the most wretched hives of antivaccine scum and quackery? Have you ever read Mercola.com, which is as highly trafficked a website as the NIH website, a website that relentlessly attacks vaccines on a near-daily basis and whose owner has helped that antivaccine group National Vaccine Information Center to place its advertising in various high profile places? I think the answer is obvious. The answer is either “no,” or it’s that Cassels has antivaccine tendencies himself—or perhaps a combination of the two.

Because Cassels tells me that it’s such a horrible thing to call people antivaccine, for the moment I’ll choose the option that he is clueless about the antivaccine movement rather than sympathetic to it. However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not wrong to tell it like it is if you have evidence to back your opinion up, and when I see antivaccine words and actions, I call it as I see it, and what I see is Cassels regurgitating antivaccine propaganda that he clearly knows nothing about and does not recognize as antivaccine proganda. This parroting reaches its height in the following passages, in the first of which Cassels answers his own question about whether the fears of parents can be due to antivaccine fear mongering:

I don’t think it [parents’ fear] is [due to antivaccine fear mongering]. Parents just want to keep potentially harmful things away from their children. And they turn to health experts for guidance, but here’s my take on things: health authorities often fail to acknowledge the risks of some vaccines, refuse to discuss uncertainty over a vaccine’s effectiveness, hype the seriousness of common everyday viruses (c’mon folks, really? The flu? Chicken pox?) and keep piling more and more vaccines onto the list of ‘recommended’ childhood shots threatening to turn our kids into pincushions. Now you’ve got a recipe for even more skepticism and fear-mongering.

All of which is utter nonsense, the proverbial load of rotting, fetid dingo’s kidneys. First off, his dismissal of the flu reveals such enormous ignorance that it’s hard to take him seriously. The flu can kill, and does kill, each and every flu season. (Perhaps Cassels doesn’t think there could be another pandemic like the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed millions and might have killed more people than the Black Death.) Chicken pox can result in serious complications.

Also, if Cassels thinks that health authorities don’t discuss uncertainty about some vaccines with the public, he is obviously not paying attention. Yes, parents want to keep their children safe. No one, least of all those of us trying to do our best to counter the misinformation, pseudoscience, and fear mongering of the antivaccine movement, say otherwise. None of us doubt the sincerity of these parents. There is one thing that Cassels clearly doesn’t understand. There are two general types of parents who fear vaccines. There are the leaders of the antivaccine movement, who do their best to spread misinformation and fear about vaccines in order to dissuade parents from vaccinating through the use of what I like to call “misinformed consent,” in which they massively exaggerate (or outright make up) risks of vaccination and similarly massively minimize their effectiveness. Whatever their reasons for being antivaccine, be it the mistaken belief that vaccines somehow caused autism in their child, the usually mistaken belief that vaccines somehow injured their child, or philosophical leanings that make them distrust authority or pharmaceutical companies and believe that “natural is better,” this is what they do.

Then there is the target audience for the antivaccine movement: The much larger group of great undecideds. These are parents who might have a tendency to distrust authority, prefer “natural” over pharmaceutical, or other leanings that might make them worry about vaccines. These parents are not antivaccine, but they are susceptible to the propaganda spread by the antivaccine movement. This is our target as well. I, for one, realize that I can’t persuade die-hard antivaccinationists like J.B. Handley, Dan Olmsted, Jake Crosby, Mark Blaxill, or Barbara Loe Fisher that the “injuries” that they ascribe to vaccines have no basis in evidence. I can, however, persuade the fence-sitters. To Cassels, however, all of these parents, the hard core antivaccinationists and the undecideds, seem to be all the same.e

Cassels then refers to recent outbreaks of pertussis, which, as I’ve described, appear to be due to waning immunity, not because the vaccine doesn’t work, as the antivaccine movement tries to claim (and, apparently, Cassels seems to be implying). Cassels then opines:

For some, the complications of whooping cough can be deadly and it can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, and even brain damage and death. It’s not to be trifled with. You’d certainly want to shelter your child from whooping cough if you could, but the advice around the vaccine is conflicting. Some groups, such as the CDC recommend vaccination of pregnant women and infants yet the vaccine leaflets themselves say it is unknown whether the vaccines cause fetal harm. Some say the vaccine is highly effective, while others point to studies showing even fully vaccinated children still get whooping cough. No one seems to know how many booster shots you need to keep your child protected. Clearly this is a breeding ground for confusion.

Notice where Cassels links. Does he link to the CDC? No. Does he link to the CHOP Vaccine Education Center? No. Does he link to any reputable site? Most assuredly not. He links to the NVIC, which is one of the oldest and most notorious antivaccine advocacy groups that there is, founded and still led by the grande dame of the antivaccine movement herself, Barbara Loe Fisher. This is a website that features a truly dishonest and pseudoscientific Vaccine Ingredient Calculator, as well as an “International Memorial for Vaccine Victims.” It’s a website chock full of antivaccine misinformation so wrong that its statements and reality are related by coincidence only, pseudoscience, propaganda, and pure nonsense. This is the same group that aired antivaccine ads on the CBS JumboTron at Times Square and insinuated its ads into Delta Airlines online entertainment. Either Cassels is unaware of this background, or he approves of the NVIC; I have a hard time thinking of other reasons why he would cite such a completely useless source chock full of misinformation and lies. Let’s put it this way, there is no plausible scientific reason to think that the vaccine causes fetal harm if the mother is vaccinated.

As for the issue of fully vaccinated children getting whooping cough, Cassels needs to get a clue. No vaccine is 100% effective, and the waning immunity observed in some studies of the acellular pertussis vaccine doesn’t mean the vaccine doesn’t work. It means the vaccine schedule needs to be adjusted. Does all this seem concerning to parents? Sure. Could it cause confusion? Sure. That’s the germ of truth that Cassels harps on. What he seems oblivious to is the fact that there really is an antivaccine movement that takes scientific uncertainty whenever it can and uses it to try its very best to amplify that confusion to the point where the public loses faith in the vaccine program. Indeed, no less a luminary in the antivaccine movement than J.B. Handley himself bragged about doing just that. No doubt Cassels is unaware of this, to the point where he concludes:

At the end of the day, most parents just want to know the answer to one simple equation: what is the likelihood that a vaccine will prevent a deadly disease, versus what are the chances of a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine? Shouldn’t this be a simple question to answer? But it isn’t. If public health authorities want to improve vaccination rates, they’d drop the patronizing assurances and start providing the public with some hard evidence of the benefits and harms of immunizing or not immunizing. And the media would help by not scorning parents who ask legitimate questions. Only then will you see vaccination rates improve.

Cassels seems to think that scientists and doctors don’t bother to ask themselves and then answer the question, for both themselves and parents, the relative risk-benefit ratios of various vaccines. Gee, it’s not as though scientists don’t write about the relative risks and benefits of vaccines all the time. It’s also not as though scientists don’t try to communicate information to the public. In actuality, the reason why parents leaning towards antivaccine views are unhappy with the answers they’re getting from health authorities is because the risks of vaccines listed by health authorities do not include the risks that the antivaccine movement attributes to them. Health authorities do not tell them that there is a risk of autism due vaccines because the best science currently available in copious quantities tells them that there isn’t one, at least not a risk that large epidemiological studies can detect, which is the best that science can do. Health authorities don’t tell them that there is a risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) due to vaccines, because the best science has failed to find it—and not for lack of looking, either. They are unhappy because health authorities do not tell them that vaccines cause autoimmune diseases, developmental disorders, and a whole host of other complications that the antivaccine movement attributes to them, because vaccines don’t cause all those problems. Instead, health authorities tell it like it is, but because they don’t include fantasy-based risks from vaccines they are dismissed as hiding something or somehow downplaying risks from vaccines. That’s the bottom line. And who hypes these risks? The antivaccine movement. And, as multiple studies have shown, their primary tool for spreading such misinformation is the Internet. Worse, it takes very little exposure to antivaccine misinformation (or, as Cassels would call it, “illegitimate fears” of vaccines) to influence a parent to be fearful of vaccines. It’s Dr. Google and Mr. Hyde.

My guess is that, if Cassels sees this post, he’ll view it as just more “demonization” of antivaccinationists or of parents who “raise legitimate questions” about vaccine safety. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s Cassels who can’t tell the difference between antivaccine ideologues and parents who are confused because of the misinformation on the Internet promoted by antivaccine ideologues, blurring the difference to the extent that he parrots antivaccine talking points, probably unknowingly, and tries to deny that antivaccine propaganda has an effect. He might also think that my use of the words “ignorant” and “clueless” are ad hominem attacks. They are not. They are simply observations about statements Cassels has made.

After seeing such a heapin’, helpin’ of dubious arguments, credulity towards antivaccine pseudoscience, and utter cluelessness, I wondered just who Alan Cassels is. Apparently he’s written a book called Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease. Of course, the complicated issues behind screening for mammography and prostate cancer have been regular topics on this blog. The blurb for Cassels’ book reads a bit more—shall we say?—stridently than my nuanced discussions of these issues. From the blurb on his book, Cassels seems to be a man who is deeply suspicious of medicine and thinks that screening tests are worthless. It isn’t surprising that he would tend to think that, given the message of his book that the benefits of screening are oversold and the risks downplayed, that he would conclude that the reason for parents’ fears of vaccines is the same. If the antivaccine movement didn’t exist and weren’t so vocal, maybe he’d have a point. As it is, he doesn’t have much of one.

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]

283 replies on “Antivaccine fear mongering? What antivaccine fear mongering? I don’t see any antivaccine fear mongering.”

He seem to attract mostly anti-vax commenter too…

Alain

Just to Make Trouble, I commented on Cassels’ article linking to this one, opining that Orac “demolishes Dr. Cassels’ argument in its entirety”.

This should be fun.

I also liked the blurb on Amazon for Cassels previous book

“Alan Cassels is a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, and is the co-author (with Ray Moynihan) of the international bestseller Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients.”

Sounds like he doesn’t like Big Pharma either.

If you link to NVIC without warnings or with any intent other than ridicule and loathing, you take the path of anti-vaccine crankery. Dr Cassels will have much odious company there.

Maybe his book was not selling well and he needed a boost from moron sales?

At the end of the day, most parents just want to know the answer to one simple equation: what is the likelihood that a vaccine will prevent a deadly disease, versus what are the chances of a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine? Shouldn’t this be a simple question to answer? But it isn’t.

Of course it is. Not only is it readily available, as I have mentioned before, we were given a handout with every vaccine our kids had that included the infoermation. So I call bullshit on his “all people want to know” nonsense.

No, the problem is not that the risks and bennefits are not available. I postulate the problem is that the risks listed do NOT include things like autism and aluminum or mercury toxicosis. For good reason, of course, since none are actual problems with vaccines, but people have been told they are and so view the lack of reported risks to be indicating lack of info.

So the problem with vaccines is not that people can’t find risks of adverse events, but that the listed events do not include autism. That’s it.

Come on. Just guessing, but I think his books may be a bit more nuanced than the Amazon blurb. At least have a ‘look inside’, see his argument and then do your thing.

“If public health authorities want to improve vaccination rates, they’d drop the patronizing assurances and start providing the public with some hard evidence of the benefits and harms of immunizing or not immunizing. And the media would help by not scorning parents who ask legitimate questions. Only then will you see vaccination rates improve.”

Oh! Of course! When will those silly communications experts at the CDC finally realize that the general public prefers numbers and data to make rational decisions, as opposed to emotional stories?
Also: there are legitimate questions such as “what’s the deal with this MMR and autism that people are talking about?” Then there are stupid, illegitimate questions such as “how can you say the whooping cough vaccine works when more vaccinated people than unvaccinated people get the disease?” Apparently Cassels had trouble finding the incredibly obvious and simple answer to that question (or maybe he just didn’t understand the answer–you know, because it uses, oh, numbers and data?).

@Cynical Pediatrician
In an effort to boost vaccination rates, how about a video loop of a 2 month old whooping cough victim interspersed with a push to vaccinate the kids as well as getting boosters for the adults. 4 minutes of coughing, 1 minute of message ought to be about right.

I generally don’t comment on your pro-vaccine posts, because I am a fervent supporter of vaccination campaigns for diseases that carry a high risk of death or serious complications – which extensive human experience tells us that chickenpox and flu in healthy people are not, sorry – and because any expressed concern about the effects on a broader audience of the ad hominem “arguments” that serve as red meat for scientism’s primary audience will be dismissed as “tone trolling.” But you do cross the line in ranting at great length about the dishonesty of a site where Cassels located the content of a leaflet on whooping cough vaccine, while not addressing the issue of what the leaflet actually says. It rather looks like you are trying to make people believe that safety in fetuses is proven and suggestions to the contrary are silly false claims by NVIC. But here’s a direct link to GSK’s leaflet on a DPT booster, which does, in fact, say that the safety of the vaccine has not been established in pregnant women and that they should not be given boosters while pregnant unless necessary.

http://us.gsk.com/products/assets/us_boostrix.pdf

Again, I urge you to keep in mind that many of the public, including people who are not already in full agreement with you, are quite capable of looking such things up for themselves, and may judge you as you judge Cassels, rejecting everything you say if anything you say can be proven to be false or unfair.

On Amazon, ‘Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease’, “Tags Customers Associate with This Product” = “anti-vaccine misinformation”. Heh.

I am so irritated when people dismiss the possible harm of these viruses (c’mon folks, really)? Yes–really. My 4-year old nephew battling leukemia could find them to be “really” a problem.

And just yesterday Seth Mnookin pointed to this piece: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/p0829_neurologic_flu.html

So kids who are more medically fragile have more risk from this little virus–who cares, right? Really?

Appalling misinformation.

There’s ordinary ignorance, and there’s willful ignorance. Nothing wrong with ordinary ignorance: nobody can be an expert on anything. But from Cassels’ biography, it seems that he is willfully ignorant. Medical treatment policy is what he does for a living. He should know that most of these fears are hyped. He most definitely should know that flu is occasionally fatal and that chicken pox can sometimes be serious. (I’ll give him a pass on not having a chicken pox vaccination; I didn’t get one either, because it wasn’t available when I was a kid.) And, per CP’s comment @0921, Cassels’ remarks about whooping cough suggest possible innumeracy as well.

jane,

diseases that carry a high risk of death or serious complications – which extensive human experience tells us that chickenpox and flu in healthy people are not

Actually it is young and healthy people who are often at more risk of serious complications from both flu and chicken pox. Cytokine storm in young and otherwise healthy people is thought to have been responsible for many of the 1918 flu pandemic deaths, and chicken pox in otherwise healthy adults is no joke. A young and healthy colleague of mine was off work for 3 months with chicken pox which made him very unwell indeed. About 50 people die from complications of chicken pox every year in the UK, where varicella vaccination is not yet routine.

It rather looks like you are trying to make people believe that safety in fetuses is proven and suggestions to the contrary are silly false claims by NVIC.

There is no evidence that pertussis vaccine doesn’t do a lot of things. Perhaps you would prefer a statement that there is no evidence that these vaccines cause any problems at all in fetuses? You are aware that package inserts for medications are, in part, put together by the legal departments of drug companies to avoid lengthy and costly litigation, aren’t you?

diseases that carry a high risk of death or serious complications – which extensive human experience tells us that chickenpox and flu in healthy people are not
It’s good that you can predict that you’ll be healthy when encountering any of these bugs. I’m sure you can sign the complains book at the pearly gates how unfair it was to infect you with the flue just after you ate that bad salmonella burger at the church fair.

More to fear monger about:

Jon Rappoport ( @ Natural News,today) reports that Bill Gates’ ‘dirty tricks’ campaign will smear anti-vaccine advocates: his foundation awarded a 17 million USD grant to Seth Kalichman** to inaugerate internet based global monitoring of anti-vaccine mis-information.
The matrix is upon us. Run by a psychologist yet.

Katie Wright ( @ AoA) informs us- annoyingly- that NIH autism research grants will only apportion 5% of monies to environmental studies but 95% for genetic studies! ( I wonder why that is?) She somehow leaves out the 7% for epigenetics and 25% for gene-environmental studies.
I guess she doesn’t like the G word.

** More fodder for Jake’s connect-the-dots routine- Seth knows many people who aren’t anti-vaccine. I fully expect diagramming with circles and arrows in his next article.

I generally don’t comment on your pro-vaccine posts, because I am a fervent supporter of vaccination campaigns for diseases that carry a high risk of death or serious complications-which extensive human experience tells us that chickenpox and flu in healthy people are not, sorry

hard to believe you include chicken pox on a list of diseases that does not convey a risk of serious complications–encephalitis, anencephaly, blindness, etc., in newborns whose mothers contract chicken pox aren’t serious complications? Were you aware that there were over 48,000 deaths due to flu in the Untied States alone between 2003-2004,when the H3N2 strain of influenza A was circulating?

Then there’s that ‘in healthy people handwaving–by what rational argument should we only craft public health policies to protect healthy poeple, rather than all people? Do you have some strange idea that only healthy people contract viral illnesses? Are you blind to the fact that ‘healthy’ people, while at less risk of death or serious complications, if unvaccinated compromise herd immunity placing ‘unhealthy’ individuals, infants and the elderly at elevated risk of sufering illness, complications and death?

@jane

Even assuming that what you just wrote is true (though as Krebiozen already pointed out, the healthy can be at greater risk than the less-healthy wrt flu), that is not an argument to avoid vaccines for “mild” illnesses. The point of immunization is not only to protect the individual, but also to protect every other person with whom the individual comes in contact. You might get the flu and have no problems with it, but that may not be true for someone you pass it on to.

Vaccines protect the individual and the great public by preventing spread of the disease.

…diseases that carry a high risk of death or serious complications – which extensive human experience tells us that chickenpox and flu in healthy people are not, sorry…

I can tell from this that neither you or anyone you love has ever had the flu. I mean the real flu, not just a bad cold.

I was in my 30’s, no health problems, and I’d get a flu shot, or not, if it was too much trouble. One year I didn’t, and I caught the real flu. It hurts, and it hurts a lot. I clearly didn’t die, and wasn’t admitted to the hospital with serious complications, but that was a week or so I wish I hadn’t experienced.

I haven’t missed a year since, and never will again, even if the shots aren’t covered by health insurance. I do not want to get that bug again, and I don’t want anyone I love to get it.

hype the seriousness of common everyday viruses (c’mon folks, really? The flu? Chicken pox?)

Ah, one of those “I’m never sick, and anyway these illnesses are nothing serious”.
As someone slightly psychosomatic, I hate these guys, they are my polar opposite.
They also seem to not remember how common childhood illnesses could be very annoying. Or they were the lucky ones with mild or no symptoms.

I had the occasion a few months ago to refresh my memory on what a “little” bout of fever looks like. Either the flu or some other virus. For a full night, uncontrollable shivers, unable to focus for the next three days, and joint pain from the exertion. For someone who hasn’t been really sick for some time, the loss of my body control and the violence of my shivers was frightening. And I have no doubt what I had was minor, it could have been much worse.
Yeah, nothing serious, it was a short episode, I survived.
But I could have done without.
And if I had children, or elderly/fragile adults to take care of, I certainly wouldn’t want them to catch what I had. Especially since I was out of commission and couldn’t have taken care of them.
But, eh, it was just some everyday virus, nothing to worry about.

BTW, since when are flu and chicken pox “everyday” viruses? Flu is a cyclic, seasonal occurrence, and chicken pox is a childhood disease.
I suspect the brave doctor is lost to the dark side.

From the blurb on his book, Cassels seems to be a man who is deeply suspicious of medicine and thinks that screening tests are worthless.

He also seems to have some odd opinions about how hypertension is just a scary-sounding made-up name.

High blood pressure ‘medicalized’ becomes ‘hypertension’, now the leading pharmaceutically treated ‘condition’ in the world.

@jane

Also, on the pertussis vaccine in pregnant women bit. It is, indeed, a bit disingenuous to advance the fear that the Tdap may cause harm to the fetus. The insert says that the safety of the vaccine in pregnant women has not been established because the manufacturer has not conducted any studies in pregnant women (though they do have a registry to track and study this). This statement does not mean that no one has studied it (they have, nor does it mean that it is dangerous to the fetus when given to pregnant women.

diseases that carry a high risk of death or serious complications – which extensive human experience tells us that chickenpox and flu in healthy people are not,

Tell this to the family of Toronto who lost their (healthy) teenager boy to the H1N1 flu. His death was a harsh reality check for many people in our city: you can be healthy and die in a few days from a common disease.

I cannot tell if your sentence is a tautology (healthy people are healthy) or a no true scotman (if you get sick, then you were not truly healthy).
BTW, how do you assess if you are healthy enough not to have complications from the flu or whatever?

And for anyone that’s interested, I’m trying to promote education about what these diseases can actually do through a series of wanted posters. The final one goes up at noon today. Perhaps jane and Mr. Cassels would benefit from reading these. They’re short summaries based on (gasp!) facts!

@jane: do you know, almost EVERY drug on the planet will say that about pregnant women, because WE DON’T DO DRUG TESTING ON PREGNANT WOMEN!!!!! It’s rather unethical, you know, to test on chlldren and pregnant women. The best they can do is test on laboratory animals, healthy adults (often male, sometimes females who are not pregnant) and then hope for the best by monitoring any new drug given to pregnant women for birth defects, etc.

The problem is, birth defects happen, so you have to eliminate the known rates before identifying if anything increases the rates.

As a midwife, I can certainly say I was a lot more concerned about my patients not coughing until they vomit, breaking ribs, possibly causing preterm labor over getting a DTaP.

And NVIC is NOT a good place for information. They don’t update with new research – note that a good deal of their pertussis information is old, and has to do with the DTP over the new acellular versions. Certainly Cassels could have linked at least to the CDC, or the Canadian version of the CDC instead of NVIC unless he had an agenda.

Also: jane obviously never saw a newborn with congenital chicken pox, or a pregnant woman in the ICU with chicken pox – both of which I’ve seen.

And she never had to give her child narcotics for pain from the pox because said child couldn’t eat, drink, sleep, sit or lie down from pain from the pox. Would I have given her a vaccine to prevent that kind of pain? HELL YES!!!

But here’s a direct link to GSK’s leaflet on a DPT booster, which does, in fact, say that the safety of the vaccine has not been established in pregnant women and that they should not be given boosters while pregnant unless necessary.

Ululating over Pregnancy Category C is an extremely superficial gambit. Indeed, given the minuscule population of Category A, it’s well past time the whole scheme was revised.

And she never had to give her child narcotics for pain from the pox because said child couldn’t eat, drink, sleep, sit or lie down from pain from the pox. Would I have given her a vaccine to prevent that kind of pain? HELL YES!!!

I can’t imagine that jane has any children. At least, I’d sure hope not, because anyone who could be so dismissive of kids getting the flu or chicken pox is either completely oblivious to what it is really like to have a sick child, or is a monster.

Sorry, Dawn, I don’t need to have my child in so much pain that they need narcotics in order to prefer a vaccine. Just a normal run of the chicken pox is enough to make me want to avoid it. Shoot, I have argued that _I_ want a vaccine for hand/foot/mouth, because I have had to watch my kids suffer through that. Right now, the MonkeyBoy has a cold with a cough, and it was bad enough lying in bed last night listening to him cough through the night. He is such a great trooper, though, and does his albuterol nebulizer treatments so readily, but, you know, I’d rather not be doing that.

I suffer so along with my kids when they are sick. You’d have to be heartless to not want to avoid it.

I saw a child die of chickenpox encephalitis when I was a paediatric SHO many moons ago. Not a nice disease at times.

To be fair, I think that it is true that many parents don’t understand that vaccines AREN’T 100% effective. I’m not sure if it’s the doctors’ fault or the parents’ fault or what but a lot of parents seem to think “If my kid got the shot, he can’t get the disease”.

Not a nice disease at times.

There is a long way between “not a nice disease” and “deadly.” I would not consider 10 days of outrageously itchy pustules to be “nice” regardless of whether it literally killed me or not.

@ Jane: You’re not current with the recommendations for vaccines given to pregnant women:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/preg-guide.htm#tdap

Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap); & Tetanus and Diphtheria (Td)

Pregnant women who have not been previously vaccinated with Tdap should get one dose of Tdap during the third trimester or late second trimester (after 20 weeks gestation). If not administered during pregnancy, Tdap should be administered immediately postpartum. 12
Available data from… studies do not suggest any elevated frequency or unusual patterns of adverse events in pregnant women who received Tdap and that the few serious adverse events reported were unlikely to have been caused by the vaccine. 12

Here are the recommendations for administering Tdap vaccine to pregnant women and to anyone (family members and caregivers), who will have close contact with an infant less than one year old:

CDC. Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) in pregnant women and persons who have or anticipate having close contact with an infant aged <12 months – Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011. MMWR 2011; 60 (No. 41): 1426.

I wonder if the people embracing “We should only vacinate against diseases that are deadly when healthy individuals contract them” apply the same criteria when weighing risk versus benefit for all medical interventions? (“Surgery to repair my torn ACL? C’mon! I might limp for the rest of my life, but it’s not like I need a coronary bypass . It’s not going to kill me…”)

palindrom: I’ve got your back…my post is just below yours on Cassel’s article. I also invited the readers back here to have a discussion.

@MikeMa,

“4 minutes of coughing, 1 minute of message ought to be about right.”

You should time radio and television spots. The correct ratio would be about 15 seconds of coughing followed by a 30 second PSA. I can tolerate about five seconds of that wet, convulsive coughing before I want mute the sound.

Four minutes of that would drive your intended audience away before the PSA airs.

@Anj and MikeMa

Shot of Prevention has a very effective pertussis ad that I’ve seen a couple times, now. It’s heart-rending.

@MMM: I wasn’t clear, sorry. Unfortunately, both my kids got chickenpox BEFORE the vaccine was approved… ;-/ (the vaccine was March 1995, we had our little bout in January 1995)….. if the vaccine HAD been available, they would have gotten it before the pox, as soon as I knew it had hit the daycare – or before, whenever it’s given in the fee schedule.

Oops…you can tell I’m working and have fee schedules on the mine…I meant “immunization schedule”. (Darn Posting Too Quickly Error…can’t get this submitted!!!)

Jennifer Lopez did a public service spot promoting pertussis vaccine about two years ago. We were running it on the tv in the immunization clinic waiting room until the nurses asked us to stop. It was making too many moms cry.

Jane, I urge you to do some more research on seasonal flu and chicken pox. I came out of the chicken pox fully functional as did all of my six brothers and sisters. But I was a wretchedly miserable little girl while it lasted and since three of us got it at the same time, my mother was almost at the end of her tether..

I’d also recommend you take a look at the following:

http://health.mcleancountyil.gov/index.aspx?NID=209

Looks like somebody might want to splurge on a fact-checker:

In the last two years in the US, there have been nearly 2,500 awards for vaccine injury and death made under the US 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. More than half those awards involve the whooping cough vaccine.

There have been 3037 compensated cases since inception. In 1988.

I am the mother of 7 children who had chicken pox before the vaccine. All of my children but one had fairly mild cases. my son had chicken pox everywhere: under his eyelids, in his mouth, on his genitals and everywhere else.
They had chicken pox in three batches, The older three the middle three an then the last three. Yes that adds up to nine. One of my daughters has had chickenpox three times.
Aside from putting a child through needless misery, it is also misery for a parent who can not take said child anywhere for 10 days.

Cassells also fails to note that the “more than half those awards involve the whooping cough vaccine” needs to be qualified, on top of the overarching error, with “whole-cell.” (Numbers here.) This is straight-up shmuckery.

@Michael

Very true, mostly due to widespread innumeracy. Most people, at least in the ‘States, just go their whole lives without learning how probabilities and statistics work. I remember my high school had Stats as an advanced elective, and the “normal” kids had Algebra I -> Basic Geometry -> Algebra II -> graduation. It’s depressing.

Rose, that cannot be, after all, natural diseases impart infallible life-long immunity (just ask jane).

I expected to have a bunch of insults spewed at me – Marry Me, Mindy wins the prjze for the spewiest spewing, congrats! – but sorry, anyone old enough to have actual experience of these things knows there’s a difference between chickenpox and post-infancy polio, or even mumps. A century or so ago, when children routinely got whooping cough, diphtheria, rubella, etc., with overcrowding and poor nutrition as contributing factors, the vast majority survived each of these common diseases without complications. But enough did die or suffer a lasting disability that almost everyone knew of someone in their own communities or families that it had happened to. The vaccines for these diseases were not a hard sell. I have indeed had both chickenpox and flu, and nobody claims they are pleasurable. But almost every kid in my town had chickenpox, and we never heard of one dying from it. That doesn’t mean it never happened anywhere, only that it’s very rare.
Thus, chickenpox vaccine generally serves only to reduce net discomfort. I think it is probably a fair deal for that purpose, though I don’t think it should be mandated. Since adults are much more likely to suffer serious illness (thus the lengthy illness suffered by one commenter’s co-worker is not representative) and the vaccine doesn’t last, vaccination creates a “need” for a lifetime of follow-up injections that may not be obtained or perhaps even obtainable by many future adults. How these short-term benefits and long-term risks are balanced requires both value judgements and some guesses about our children’s economic future, and I certainly wouldn’t have the arrogance to suggest that MY values and guesses should be accepted by the entire population.
While a lot of anti-vaccine idiocy is self-generated, I believe some of it represents the values promoted by the medical industry turned back on it. When it comes to natural, as opposed to iatrogenic, causes of illness and death, we are told to spend our lives in an anxious scramble to lower even risks that are already low. Of course it is silly to get all shrieky about a 1/100,000 risk that a vaccine will cause a febrile seizure. It’s equally silly to suggest that a 1/100,000 risk of death if you get chickenpox and a 1/10 risk of death if you get tetanus warrant similar fear and equal levels of shrieking against anyone who doesn’t scurry to get their kids vaccinated. And when our self-appointed authority figures tell us it’s ethically mandatory to go to great lengths to avoid even tiny risks, some portion of the public will have the gall to apply that to tiny risks other than the ones that authority figures tell them to fear – like the tiny risks of vaccines. If our opinion molders consistently said “Cut it out with the societal OCD and stop fretting about anything that has a less than 0.01% chance of happening to you or your kid,” there’d be less fear of vaccines. But there’d also be less screening and less prophylactic treatment of the worried well.

As an Alumnus of UVic (for my sins), I was interested in Cassels’ training and faculty appointment. He is listed as an “associated professional” in the Faculty of Human and Social Development. His degrees are a CD which appears to be an undergraduate degree in Community Development and an MPA which is a Masters in Public Administration.
In other words, he is not “Dr” Cassels and he has no apparent education in science or medicine.

@Mu
When my daughter told her ob she had had chickenpox three times and therefore should be immune the ob replied,”No that is the opposite of immunity.”
Discomfort is too mild a word for chickenpox, even in doctorspeak where discomfort means hurts like h-ll.

If our opinion molders consistently said “Cut it out with the societal OCD and stop fretting about anything that has a less than 0.01% chance of happening to you or your kid,” there’d be less fear of vaccines use of carseats.

FTFY. Anyway, I contracted chicken pox in the prevaccine era. At the age of 20. From someone who had had it before. Were it not for exquisite timing, it could have cost me an extra year of college. Anyway,

a 1/10 risk of death if you get tetanus

I don’t think you really want to test out that 13.2% CFR completely unprotected.

@ Jane:

“A century or so ago, when children routinely got whooping cough, diphtheria, rubella, etc., with overcrowding and poor nutrition as contributing factors, the vast majority survived each of these common diseases without complications”

Citations desperately needed

BTW, Jane, Which of the Recommended Childhood Vaccines protect against diseases that are spread via the fecal-oral route? Which of the Recommended Childhood Vaccines protect against diseases that are spread via airborne droplets or contact with oral secretions?

” Since adults are much more likely to suffer serious illness (thus the lengthy illness suffered by one commenter’s co-worker is not representative) and the vaccine doesn’t last, vaccination creates a “need” for a lifetime of follow-up injections that may not be obtained or perhaps even obtainable by many future adults.”

Any citations or proof Jane? Which vaccines require “booster shots” and which vaccines do not require “booster shots”?

@jane–
a 1/100,000 risk of a febrile seizure from a vaccine is not equivalent to a 1/100,000 risk of death from a disease. A febrile seizure is frightening but also is temporary and has no impact on future development or health. The risks from a vaccine do exist but they are small and generally minor and utterly pale in comparison to the potential suffering, morbidity, and mortality from the diseases they prevent.
Also, the varicella vaccine seems to provide lifelong protection after 2 doses for the vast majority of people. As of right now there are no booster doses recommended, nor for the similar MMR vaccine.
The risk-benefit ratio overwhelmingly favors receiving a vaccine to prevent chickenpox (or flu) as compared to contracting the disease. The fact that the ratio is even better for pertussis or tetanus doesn’t make the chickenpox or flu anything to poo-poo.

I’m glad to win the award. Thanks, jane.

And I stand by it. Yes, the chicken pox vaccine mainly is about preventing “discomfort,” but what’s wrong with that? Considering that “discomfort” is fairly euphemistic for what happens with chicken pox.

Let’s see, Cassell wants to know risks and benefits, so compare the chicken pox to the vaccine:

The chicken pox involves up to 2 weeks of outrageously annoying rash, generally accompanied by a couple of days of high fever. It has a mortality rate of something like 1/20 000.

The chicken pox vaccine side effects are redness and swelling at the vaccination site in maybe half, with a smaller fraction having the potential for fever. There are no deaths associated with it.

Given the comparison, why in the blazes would ANYONE choose to not vaccinate? So you can subject your child to the disease? And it’s not like chicken pox are one of those rare things that no one gets, like tetanus. You don’t vaccinate, your child is most likely to get it.

This is why I called you a monster, jane. You would deliberately subject your kids to suffering from the chicken pox when there is a safer, much less debilitating alternative. Why would you inflict your kids with that?

MikeMa:

Dr Cassels will have much odious company there.

What is he a doctor of? Does he have a PhD? Because I have found nothing that includes his education. And he does not have a page at UVic, just a listing, and there is no “PhD” after his name.

The man cannot even give proper references, and he actually seems to believe that 2012-1988 = 2! (the two years of awards since a 1986 law)

Thank you, TBruce for rounding out his lack of qualifications.

Jane:

I generally don’t comment on your pro-vaccine posts, because I am a fervent supporter of vaccination campaigns for diseases that carry a high risk of death or serious complications – which extensive human experience tells us that chickenpox and flu in healthy people are not,

Other than the thousand who die of flu, and the pain and suffering caused by chicken pox with over a hundred dying from it each — that is a perfectly reasonably wrong statement.

Jane:

But here’s a direct link to GSK’s leaflet on a DPT booster,

Um, yeah. Could you at least get the initials of the vaccine correct? That is the Tdap vaccine. The only place I see that consistently uses DPT, which was always wrong, Barbara Loe Fisher and her NVIC website. This gives us a hint of where you get your outdated and inaccurate information.

Jane continues (please try using actual paragraphs):

When it comes to natural, as opposed to iatrogenic, causes of illness and death, we are told to spend our lives in an anxious scramble to lower even risks that are already low. Of course it is silly to get all shrieky about a 1/100,000 risk that a vaccine will cause a febrile seizure. It’s equally silly to suggest that a 1/100,000 risk of death if you get chickenpox

First, before the vaccine there was about 90% chance of getting chicken pox. And with that there was a 100% chance of misery for both child and parent. My three kids, including my six month old daughter, got it in 1994. My daughter cried night and day, and my kindergarten kid wet the bed every night. This was not a happy fun time.

There is also a 10% chance of my kids getting shingles later in life, and it is even higher for my daughters since she had as a baby.

Only an evil and sadistic person would think that a child should not get the varicella vaccine and be allowed to suffer from having dozens of open itchy sores (pox). Especially if they get their information from NVIC.

BTW, jane, thinking of risk of death: do you know that the chance that someone who gets behind the wheel to drive while drunk will die in a car accident is 1/500 000? I’m guessing you are opposed to drunk driving laws, then?

Ugh, need to proof read (or get more coffee): “my daughters”… I have only one daughter. I’m going to ignore the other typos.

A century or so ago, when children routinely got whooping cough, diphtheria, rubella, etc., with overcrowding and poor nutrition as contributing factors, the vast majority survived each of these common diseases without complications.

Oh Jane, I think you are about to get royally schooled on that claim.

From a non-specialist standpoint (mine), I see people like you show up here all the time. You making a grudging admission that some vaccines might be useful (e.g.polio), then start handwaving about others that you have deemed unnecessary (chickenpox) using an argument that amounts to “people used to get that all the time and they lived, so what’s the big deal?” I find this attitude baffling. If we can prevent a disease with a simple, safe, inexpensive vaccine, why shouldn’t we? Please tell me what good is served by allowing people to suffer unnecessarily.

Another reason for the chicken pox vaccine:

According to the Organization for Teratology Information Service (OTIS):

If chicken pox occurs within the first trimester, the risk of birth defects is 0.5-1 percent
If chicken pox occurs within the 13th and 20th week, the risk of birth defects is 2 percent
Possible birth defects may be scars, eye problems, poor growth, small head size, delayed development, and/or mental retardation.

Is it also silly to mention this, too?

@jane

Your understanding of chickenpox is apparently a bit short of complete. You may want to get an introduction to what it can do here. Yes, death is rare. Less rare is meningitis or encephalitis, both of which can potentially cause permanent brain damage. Then there’s the not insignificant risk of long-lasting to permanent nerve damage when it reactivates as shingles.

Generally, chickenpox and some of the other childhood diseases are mild, and the majority will recover with few lasting problems. But the risks from the diseases are orders of magnitude greater, and of a much more serious nature, than any of the risks from the vaccines which prevent them. To downplay the risks of diseases, painting them as if they are nothing to worry about leads to things like the measles outbreaks in Minnesota and Indiana in recent years, or the thought, as expressed by a coworker recently, that pertussis is nothing to worry about and “hasn’t that been eliminated anyway?”

Again, the main point of vaccination isn’t necessarily to help the individual, but rather to help society as a whole, including the individual.

We should also remind Jane that it is not just “risk of death.” There is also risk of permanent disability. If the pox had been just a centimeter closer to my daughter’s eyes, she would have lost some of her sight.

Also, when chicken pox was going through my kindergarten son’s school one child was hospitalized with a very real chance of having a limb amputated due to secondary bacterial infection. When my son went back to school I helped out with a kindergarten field trip. Out of a classroom of twenty five, there were less than ten kids. The rest were home sick.

The nurse told me that one child was unable to attend school for the entire six weeks of the outbreak. He had a sibling who was being treated for cancer, and they could not afford to let him or his sibling get chicken pox.

I bet the NVIC site does not mention these issues.

Oh Jane….What did you state about febrile seizures following vaccinations? What do studies state about lasting sequelae if a child has a febrile seizure after a vaccination?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2603512/

“The possibility that immunizations may cause seizures or epilepsy is another potential concern, and indeed febrile seizures have been shown to occur at an increased rate after vaccination (7). However, there is no evidence to suggest that the fever caused by vaccines predisposes a person to seizures, any more than fevers from other causes (8). This is reinforced by the fact that children with seizures after vaccination are no more likely to go on to have afebrile seizures or developmental problems than children who have febrile seizures from other causes (7). Overall, there is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause central nervous system injury, epilepsy or infantile spasms (8).”

Where are the answers to those other questions I posed to you upthread Jane?

Jane:

A century or so ago, when children routinely got whooping cough, diphtheria, rubella, etc., with overcrowding and poor nutrition as contributing factors, the vast majority survived each of these common diseases without complications.

Funny, the parents who are speaking out about their infants dying of pertussis today do not live in crowded unclean environments. There are several stories about their children, like this one.

I am pretty sure that my grandmother’s family were not living in over crowded conditions in Eau Claire, WI. They actually had a pretty nice house, and were really part of the middle class. Yet both of her brothers died before age seven (one was about ten months old).

You really should read up what rubella did just fifty years ago. There was an epidemic and tens of thousands of children permanently disabled, or not even born. It caused a surge of demand on places where disabled children were warehoused, like Willowbrook. The place that Geraldo Rivera called “Hell on Earth.” There is a documentary by that name, you should watch it.

If you do have children, do read to them the story of Balto and the reason he pulled a sled in Alaska. It was the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

And while I was looking up child mortality in the twentieth century I stumbled on this recent paper: The Burden of Disease and the Changing Task of Medicine. Take good look at the second bar graph. It includes the reason for the race on the Iditorod Trail. What is it?

@jane

I expected to have a bunch of insults spewed at me

I went back and read the responses to you. I saw corrections, but I didn’t see insults (unless you count the “hope you don’t have children” comment as an insult). Perhaps you should focus on the matters of fact, rather than the tone of the responses. Complaining about being insulted when people weren’t doing so just makes you look like a tone troll.

With chickenpox there is also the lifelong scarring. I had it very badly at 15, I am now 40 and people still sometimes ask me what all the white bumps on my neck, shouldes and upper arms are, or how I got the pits in my forehead. I still find my scars embarrasing sometimes, as a teenage girl when the scars were pink and livid I just wanted to hide.

Well, Todd, to be truthful some of us have remarked that only a cruel and sadistic person would think it was okay for a child to suffer with chicken pox. I don’t know if that is an insult, because Jane probably does not want children to suffer. She just not understand how much suffering the disease causes.

Now we’ll see if she has an open mind, and is willing to be corrected.

A few thoughts:

* “healthy people have nothing to fear” Yeah, now. Nobody stays healthy forever. You get the vaccine when you’re healthy, and then five years from now, when you get in a car accident, and your lung is punctured by your fractured clavicle, and one of the consequences of that is you develop asthma (happened to my mother-in-law), you become much more vulnerable to respiratory infections like pertussis. Or you discover a lump in your breast, get it checked, find out its cancer, and you get put on chemotherapy drugs, and then a relative visits you while you’re dealing with that, but doesn’t realize that little cold was actually a mild pertussis infection. Even if you don’t care about the people who aren’t healthy, surely you at least care about Future You, who may not be healthy enough to endure these infections.

* “healthy people have nothing to fear, part two” Actually, healthy people do have a lot to fear. After all, how do healthy people become unhealthy? Sometimes, it’s by contracting a vaccine-preventable illness. Others have already mentioned how healthy people fare poorly with some strains of influenza, but healthy people can be killed by measles too. A healthy adult might get an asymptomatic case of pertussis — or may cough so hard they break ribs, or may end up in an ICU, or may even wind up in the morgue. There is more to it than simply whether or not you are “healthy”. There’s luck involved too. I’ll play the lottery with a dollar bill, but not my life or well-being.

Jane -we’ve heard every single one of your “arguments” for years. Can’t you lot come up with anything new? Ugh.

The thing is Jane, if I get flu or chickenpox I’ll die. I can’t be vaccinated, so I rely on the herd. Me, babies, kids with cancer, anyone with compromised immunity. So should we just shut up and die? I’m only 35. I don’t want to die. I’ve spent the whole of the summer in my house because our tiny village is currently hosting measles and pertussis.

@MI Dawn – I’m with you 100% on helping babies get.a chance to live. Before I knew her my partner got flu, she was pregnant, 23 weeks. She got flu, which was bad enough on it’s own, and then it aggravated her asthma. So she coughed, and coughed, and coughed until her amniotic sac ruptured. She blamed herself for the death of that baby for years. Flu is serious business indeed.

@Rose – I feel for your kid! I was lucky enough to catch chickenpox while I was in hospital, age six. I was sent home, and my planned corrective surgery was cancelled. I got sores on all of my mucous membranes, eyes, mouth, vagina and anus, in my nose. Awful. I just screamed and slept for three weeks. My parents had to sedate me to stop me clawing chunks out of myself. It was truly horrible.

I am getting really tired of the anti-vaccine folks and skeptics like Jane acting as though the probability of death from a disease is the only adverse effect we need worry about.

Here in the US, where there is no universal health care and where many many people have jobs that do not afford them paid sick leave, an extended illness can present real hardship, if not outright financial disaster: the school teacher wife of a co-worker caught pertussis from one of her students and was unable to work for six months. She lost her job as a result.

I wonder if it has occurred to Jane that an uninsured parent may be reluctant to take an ill child to the Dr. until the symptoms are serious, resulting in greater risk to that child. Wouldn’t it be better to have prevented the illness in the first place if we could?

What happens to a single parent with no paid sick leave when they and the children all get a bad flu at the same time?

Contrary to what Jane apparently thinks, avoidance of illness is not some form of neurosis, it is a rational act.

My son was sedated the whole time he had chickenpox. It was a nightmare. Why would you subject a child to that when it can be prevented?

What level of infant and child mortality from preventable disease is acceptable? 10%? 1%?

I found an interesting American child mortality. It says:

Child mortality in the United States has declined dramatically over the past century (1-5). The mortality rate for children aged 1-4 years declined from 1,418.8 deaths per 100,000 population in 1907 to 28.6 in 2007 (3, 4). The mortality rate for children aged 5-14 years declined from 307.5 in 1907 to 15.3 in 2007 (3, 4). In 1900-1902, 90.2% of U.S. children aged 1 year survived to age 15, compared to 99.7% of children in 2007 (2, 4).

So is losing 10% of all those under fifteen a good thing or a bad thing?

At least in Canada, the H1N1 influenza did a pretty good job of making women (especially pregnant women) and Native Canadians ill or dead. It did a number on me, that’s for sure. I needed asthma medication, and it took months for my lungs to recover as much as they did, which wasn’t completely. I got H1N1 before the vaccine was available here, and now I get flu shots every year as soon as I can.

Funnily enough, I was just listening to The Coasters:

Measles’ll make you bumpy
And mumps’ll make you lumpy
And chicken pox’ll make you jump and twitch
A common cold’ll fool you
And whooping cough can cool you
But poison ivy, Lord, will make you itch.

Get the shots, and then you’ll only have to deal with the poison ivy!

A century or so ago, when children routinely got whooping cough, diphtheria, rubella, etc., with overcrowding and poor nutrition as contributing factors, the vast majority survived each of these common diseases without complications.

O RLY? Do people not look things up these days? Is there a craze among the young people for making fools of themselvesf?

A century or so ago, the mortality rate from diphtheria was about 10%. 20% of children would not live to their first birthday, with diphtheria as the largest single killer.

A 90% chance of survival is not “vast majority” in my world.

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