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An Anti-Vax Comment Refuted

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I keep my comments moderated. I don’t have interest in “teaching the controversy,” or giving platform to people who want to disseminate information that I disagree with vehemently. It means that people who comment get their IP logged, email logged, and that I have the option of saying oh hail naw I’m not publishing that. So I’m not really going to make a habit of this, but this one time, yeah. I’ll do this.

So, in response to I’m A Jerk On Facebook I got a comment from a guy who calls himself Brian. It reads thusly:

It is very important to thoroughly objectively examine both sides of any argument before jumping to any conclusions. As a new father, I have dove into the depths of vaccination theory and science. What I have found is that MOST people, including nurses, doctors and scientists, use statistics to prove what they already believe. You might say, “Well if a scientist makes a statement it must be fact!” Then upon further investigation you discover that this particular study was funded by someone who has a vested interested in the results (pro or anti vaccine) The truth lays somewhere in the middle, but the general public is too blind to look past what they unconsciously want to believe. They are so wrapped up in emotion that the truth really doesn’t matter.

With this said, the author of this blog put a great deal of passion into the non-vaccination argument. She seemed to use very good logic and even had statistics to show the reliability of her information. Let’s take a look at some important points:

1. When examining mortality results of measles over the past 70 years it is remarkable to see the difference that the vaccination has made. When looking back to the past 200 years the story changes. The decline that appeared after the introduction of the vaccine was just the tail end of a massive decline in this condition. Scarlet fever is an an example of a condition that was naturally eradicated without the aid of vaccinations. Through better nutrition and sanitation great changes occurred.

-In the United States and England, between 1915 and 1958, there was a 95% decline in the measles death rate

-Before the vaccine was introduced, it was extremely rare for an infant to contract measles. However, by 1993 more than 25% of all measles cases were occurring in babies under one year old. CDC (Centre for Disease Control) officials attribute it to the growing number of mothers who were vaccinated during the 1960’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s. (When natural immunity is denied, measles protection cannot be passed onto their babies.

2. The Pertussis vaccination is one of the least effective vaccinations due the quantity of strains, and the suspected ability of strains to adapt to the immunization. The question you must ask is how can you be safer not immunizing yourself or your child from a potentially life threatening disease, even if it is only partial immunity?

3. The concept of heard immunity has really failed if you look at several highly vaccinated cities. In 1985 Corpus Christi had a measles outbreak that occurred at a school whom 99% of the students had been vaccinated, and 97% tested as having immunity to measles. (this is not an isolated incident do your research)

4. Most vaccines contain aluminum and/or formaldehyde. The increase in from 10 vaccines to 30 over the la t 20 years has increased the amount of these neurotoxins being injected into infants. 7 Court cases paying millions of dollars have been settled this year due vaccine injury.

With the information shared by both the author of this blog and myself you should be compelled to do more research on BOTH sides. Make informed decisions that involve you putting hours of research in. Dont just trust society or the doctors that follow along with it. Make the decision that is right for you and your child after you have added up all the risks on both sides.

I don’t really believe I’m going to sway Brian, but here’s some info addressing these somewhat common arguments from people who choose to not vaccinate.

So let’s go at this in no particular order.

4. Most vaccines contain aluminum and/or formaldehyde. The increase in from 10 vaccines to 30 over the la t 20 years has increased the amount of these neurotoxins being injected into infants. 7 Court cases paying millions of dollars have been settled this year due vaccine injury.

Here’s some articles that specifically address this:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2013/08/09/court-rulings-dont-confirm-autism-vaccine-link/  This pretty much hits on all the reasons why a court may decide in favor of assessing damages to one of the incredibly limited amount of people who do have serious adverse reactions to a vaccine. It’s worth noting this: “With regard to autism specifically, the VICP lawsuits related to autism and vaccines were lumped together into what became known as the autism omnibus trial. Three special masters were appointed to evaluate three test cases from this group. The court ultimately denied compensation for these cases and then denied compensation for a further three cases, and the court was not impressed with the science or expert witnesses marshalled for the plaintiffs.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23063829 is another good link. It’s an abstract, and fairly interesting.

Every single medical intervention has the potential to have adverse affect. Even using something as simple as a personally hated homeopathic “medicine” has a limited amount of adverse reactions reported yearly. Remember the Hyland Teething Tablet recall?  Well, see, that’s the thing, a certain amount of people just are going to have reactions.

Citing these as proof that vaccines are dangerous makes very little sense. Especially when one considers the actual millions of vaccines administered yearly. That the number is so very, very, very small tends to put vaccinating in a better light than it even previously occupied.

Next.

3. The concept of heard immunity has really failed if you look at several highly vaccinated cities. In 1985 Corpus Christi had a measles outbreak that occurred at a school whom 99% of the students had been vaccinated, and 97% tested as having immunity to measles. (this is not an isolated incident do your research)

Now, this guy is a hellacious jerk, I admit. It’s hard to listen to his whiny voice drone on. Nevertheless, he shows the problems with Brian’s argument. So try to ignore him being such a dick, and watch and listen:

Next.

2. The Pertussis vaccination is one of the least effective vaccinations due the quantity of strains, and the suspected ability of strains to adapt to the immunization. The question you must ask is how can you be safer not immunizing yourself or your child from a potentially life threatening disease, even if it is only partial immunity?

Increasing herd immunity actually covers a big part of the answer to this supposed question.

Here’s a link talking about Pertussis Vaccine, and Pertussis: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/whatifstop.htm#pertussis
For me, most meaningful, was that when I linked my original blog post about vaccines, the outpouring of shares that I saw had stories that contained numerous accounts of people who lost family and loved ones due to Pertussis. It was the most cited disease that people had personal experience with. Every single one of the people mentioned had Pertussis prior to the vaccine being introduced. On a personal level I know one person who had Pertussis after the vaccine was introduced. I know she suffered from it horribly for quite a long time afterward, and said it was one of the defining points of her childhood. Edit: She just got back to me, because I haven’t asked her too in depth about this, previously. She got Pertussis after being immunized as an infant. Both of her parents worked in the medical field and were very conscientious about vaccinations. She caught Pertussis at camp when she was 14. This was right around the time that science was figuring out that the vaccine wears off, and that people need boosters. It was too late for her then, but she is on time always, now.

I say most meaningful because that’s how humans mostly are. Personal stories tend to touch our minds and leave lingering impressions in a way that pure numbers often don’t. It’s how anti- vaccination arguments generally work. The personal anecdotes and news stories that emotionally describe the “horrors” of vaccines are an impassioned argument. That’s just it, though. They are ruled by passion and anecdote. The numbers don’t stack up. You can “do the research yourself,” as Brian recommends, but unless you truly intend to investigate, please listen to those who have investigated.
Investigating means not just reading an article on a natural news website. It means reading abstracts (and understanding them!). It means looking for citations and then looking them up to see if they are actually source material or have source material (and read the source material!). Look for links, then look the links up and read them thoroughly. Look for peer review and reproduction of study results. Look to see if the study has actually been completed and what the results were. Again, look for study results, too.

Good science follows these rules:

1) Formulate a question

2) Make a hypothesis

3) Make a prediction

4) Test

5) Analyse results

If it doesn’t do these things (and part of step 5 is submission for peer review, which then creates a circle in “can these results be reproduced?”) then it’s not science. It’s just opinion. You might as well tell me that the earth is flat. If you can’t follow rigorous scientific method to show it, the only thing proven is that you’re weird.

So that leaves the final (or really, the first) point Brian tries to make.

1. When examining mortality results of measles over the past 70 years it is remarkable to see the difference that the vaccination has made. When looking back to the past 200 years the story changes. The decline that appeared after the introduction of the vaccine was just the tail end of a massive decline in this condition. Scarlet fever is an an example of a condition that was naturally eradicated without the aid of vaccinations. Through better nutrition and sanitation great changes occurred.

-In the United States and England, between 1915 and 1958, there was a 95% decline in the measles death rate

-Before the vaccine was introduced, it was extremely rare for an infant to contract measles. However, by 1993 more than 25% of all measles cases were occurring in babies under one year old. CDC (Centre for Disease Control) officials attribute it to the growing number of mothers who were vaccinated during the 1960’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s. (When natural immunity is denied, measles protection cannot be passed onto their babies.

The very first thing that I want to say is about Scarlet Fever. Scarlet Fever was not naturally eradicated. Scarlet Fever is effectively treated with antibiotics, and before that treatment was available it was a major cause of death. There is no current vaccine, and it is unlikely for us to create an effective vaccine as there are so many strains. It’s a kind of interesting disease, actually. Scarlet Fever, along with Influenza B, and a few other childhood diseases, are the reason that you don’t give babies and kids aspirin (but instead give them acetaminophen, otherwise known as paracetamol,  or ibuprofen). See, a complication of these diseases, when combined with aspirin use, has been shown to cause Reye’s Syndrome.
I was born in 1972. In my childhood, we thought of Reye’s Syndrome specifically as a complication of Scarlet Fever, and specifically as the reason you don’t give aspirin.

So, let’s get back to Measles.

Measles is not like Scarlet Fever in that there is no effective treatment for it. With the vast majority of cases of Scarlet Fever, you can take an antibiotic, and it will effectively treat it. With Measles, you simply suffer.

From the Wiki for Measles:

There is no specific treatment for measles. Most patients with uncomplicated measles will recover with rest and supportive treatment. It is, however, important to seek medical advice if the patient becomes more unwell, as they may be developing complications. Complications may include bronchitis, acute encephalitis and – very rarely – panencephalitis, which is usually or always fatal [5]

I can work at countering the rest of Brian’s argument about the history of Measles (speaking of which, here’s a nice History of Measles), but I think this is more effectively talked about by herd immunity. See, one of the big problems with Measles is that it’s highly contagious. Like, seriously highly. It’s herd immunity threshold is 92-94%. Think back to that video up there talking about herd immunity. You need 92-94% of the population to be immunized to Measles for it to not become a serious outbreak. Measles tries to catch you, fails, then tries again. And again. And again. It just keeps plugging away until it finds a hole, then it rushes in. 

It’s why people who travel to areas of the world where Measles are endemic have to be vaccinated, and even that doesn’t fully protect, because again, freaking Measles is a horrible little Engine-That-Could.

Now, you could say that Measles are unusual in the UK or the US at specific times, but that’s ignoring the now. The now of international travel.
I live in Atlanta. Not inside it, mind you, but in the far northern metro edges. We have an airport here that has about a thousand flights a day, both national and international. It’s the busiest airport in the world, or at least was in 2012. Those travellers are people stopping over to go onto other cities, on their way to and from all the corners of the globe. All of the corners.
Not really shocking that we have the CDC here, is it?

All of those travellers bring all their diseases. They mix them, and they bring these mixes to where they’re going. Your coworkers, the workers at the grocery store you go to, the guy who lives with your kid’s teacher, the nice lady at the library who also does church missions, friends at church who went on vacation to Disney World, the kids at the park, all of these people. It’s Six Degrees of Separation time, people. That’s how pandemics work. Six Degrees of Separation, and that’s why vaccines are so important, even if you’re a homebody, and think you don’t go much of anywhere.

That wasn’t true for a good long while. We didn’t have this kind of international, daily, travel. It’s true now, though, and it’s why the CDC is working their butts off keeping ahead of the pandemics (thanks epidemiologists!). It’s also why Measles has made inroads in places where we have good sanitation and healthcare.

As for that one little bit about mothers passing on antibodies to measles? Nope. Not so much (why Nigeria? Because.)

Finally, this.  I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to do the research for the ideas within on their own.

Vaccinations work.


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I’m A Jerk On Facebook

Fucking Facebook. I’m going to blame you, Facebook. It’s probably not fair, but I’m going to blame you.

I’m going to blame you for taking reasoned discussion and turning it into heated anger. I’ve seen it happen again and again. Post something, and it’s fine if there’s a bunch of agreement, mostly, but the tenuous level of friendship between the people who are friends with the poster means that they don’t know each other’s quirks and writing styles. They don’t give the benefit of the doubt. So people get into it. It turns ugly.

What was it this time? Vaccinations. A friend posted a thing about vaccinations and one of her friends, whom I don’t know at all, disagreed with her about vaccinations. Because I am an asshole, I chose to step in and try to clear up what compromised immune system actually means. Which did absolutely nothing. Of course. Because it’s Facebook.

See, I think people hear “compromised immune system” and they think, “oh, the poor sick kids. That’s not my healthy kid! I’m sorry for the poor sick kids, but that’s not my problem.”

When, really, compromised immune systems are everyone’s problem. I mean, it’s not just herd immunity, but yeah, that’s part of it, too. See, the problem with measles (German measles, otherwise known as Rubella, that is) is that it’s super dangerous to pregnant women. Not in a horrible, it kills pregnant women kinda way. More like, over fifty percent of women who contract measles while pregnant end up with serious complications. That’s a good deal higher than that less than 1% of complications that happens with vaccines (a number so small as to be nearly statistically insignificant, by the way, and certainly the dangers of the diseases that you are immunizing your children against with these vaccines carry a much higher rate of complications). These complications range from miscarriages and stillbirth to blindness, deafness, and so on.
Measles are so serious that quarantine used to be the only actual answer, and it wasn’t a very effective one. It still spread.

So, again, to the compromised immune system. I don’t think that a lot of people realize how wide a term that is. Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Eczema is an autoimmune disorder (to some degree).
Sure, it’s the kid with multiple sclerosis, but it’s also the kid with asthma.

And by the way, why are you so willing to throw the kid with multiple sclerosis under the bus?

What the hell, man? What the hell? Are you so lacking in empathy that you simply think “too bad, so sad, I can’t risk my kid getting Autism?” (which, hey, let’s be really, really clear now: YOU CAN’T GET AUTISM FROM VACCINATIONS. EVER. EVER. EVER.) Which, also, by the way, being pretty close to a lot of people on the Autism Spectrum, I’ve got some fingers up in the air for that fear, too. Trust me on this: your kid having Autism? It’s not something so freaking scary and world shattering that them being dead is preferable.

Are you scared of the list of ingredients on vaccines? Then go take a course in chemistry, because these words being big and polysyllabic does not actually equate to dangerous. It just doesn’t. Lacking a college nearby, or the time to take such a course, use Wikipedia. There’s fabulous pages on all these ingredients. There’s great pages on the chemical interactions, even.

Are you scared of the list of vaccines and how long it is compared to how long it was when we were children?

Great news! The active agents in vaccinations (the payload that makes the vaccines actually vaccines) is smaller than when we were kids. I don’t mean piece by piece either, where you put one MMR vaccine against the MMR from my childhood. I mean, than the whole damn list. That’s pretty much because of those big polysyllabic words. It’s kind of awesome, honestly.

There’s been some awesome doctors and epidemiologists that have gotten together to form the schedule, too. It’s optimized to hit kids when they most need them.

I’m so scattered on this issue that I don’t even know what all to tell you. I’ve mentioned the chemistry, I’ve mentioned the immune disorders. I’ve mentioned the active agents. Have I mentioned herd immunity?

Do you understand what herd immunity is? This one is pretty near and dear to me. See, even though my brother and sister both got chicken pox as children, they both got it twice. That’s not really supposed to be possible according to a lot of people. You get chicken pox once, and then you’re safe from ever getting it again, right? Nope. Doctors know that happens. See, herd immunity works in a couple ways.

The first way it works is awesome. You have a certain threshold of the population who have an immunity to a disease (either through vaccination or through other exposure), and suddenly the likelihood of the disease passing from one person to another and forming an epidemic becomes extremely difficult. The thresholds vary from disease to disease, some are as low as 80%, some as high 94%.  The high ones also, not surprisingly, have a high infectious rate, too. In susceptible populations, one index case creates as “few” as 12 more cases, and as high as 18. From one case. Then each of those, at least, 12 cases creates, at least, 12 more. Do you see the problem yet?

Okay, so that’s perfectly susceptible populations, but a whole Montessori school where everyone isn’t vaxxing? Or a whole church? Or all of your home schooling co-op? Guess what they are? Do any of the parents of the children who go to your school travel out of the US often? Do any of the people they regularly come into contact with? Like, oh, say the grocer at the store? Anybody at the church? The home schooling co-op? Do you live on a mountain and ward people off with pitchforks when they come near? I’m betting you don’t, no matter how homebody you might think you are.  So, you and your kid are part of this herd.

Which brings me to the second awesome way herd immunity works (the first by making it hard for epidemics to really get feet on them). It protects people from secondary infection. See, like I said, some people can look perfectly healthy, but for some reason, they aren’t immune to whatever the particular disease is. Sure, they kept up to date (and adults need to keep up to date on the DTaP, too, by the way, just in case you were confused. Make an appointment with your doc. Pertussis is nasty and has been hitting hard for the last few years). They had their vaccinations, or had the disease as a child, or whatever, and they still are susceptible to getting it a second time. 
Herd immunity protects these people, because the likelihood of coming into contact of the disease lowers so significantly as to become negligible.

Then there’s the best one, and the one that really brings the assholes to the table. The way herd immunity protects people who can’t be immunized. Now, I’m going to say can’t. I’m not going to say people who chose to not have their children immunized, because those are some of the assholes I was speaking of. And yeah, I feel pretty justified calling them assholes here, as they are actually endangering the lives of everybody else because of their unwillingness to vaccinate. I want to talk about the people who can’t. Some children have egg allergies (and egg albumen is an ingredient in many vaccines). Some children have very, very serious auto immune disorders, and their immune systems are so fubared that giving them the task of building immunities with a vaccine, and instead it will pretty much self destruct the kid. These are not the faces of slack jawed nobodies that some truly inhumane people have decided aren’t worth worrying about.

These are vibrant, beautiful, sweet, energetic, amazing kids. Some with big futures ahead of them, some with only the present (and why would you want to take away more of that present? What the hell?). For whatever reasons, they can’t have vaccines because it is a real physical danger to them. Not in a Jenny McCarthy told me it gave her kid Autism kind of way, either. But in a, go into a seizure, go into a coma, get put on a respirator, gonna die kind of way.

So, herd immunity protects that small percentage of people that really and truly can’t be vaccinated. People with cancer. Newborn infants. The elderly. People with egg allergies. People with all sorts of disorders that make it possible for them to be there in front of you and either know or not know that this part of their body doesn’t work.

So, I’ve told you about that part. Okay. You still don’t care. These diseases are just amorphous risks to you. They don’t feel real. I’ll tell you why they don’t feel real. It’s because vaccines work. If you’re pretty young, say, in your 20s or 30s, go talk to grandparents or greatgrandparents. Otherwise, if you’re in your 40s, like me, talk to your parents. Ask them about childhood diseases.

See, it used to be common to be in and out of the hospital constantly as a child. It used to be common for kids to go blind, deaf, be crippled. It used to be common to die of these things. It used to be that a cough was scary to everyone who heard it, and a spot meant run away. Not everyone your parents, grandparents, or greatgrandparents knew, not by far, but at least one or two people they knew as children, sometimes many more, died because of these diseases.

Now, these diseases are so uncommon that we’ve weighed the risks as we know them and we can’t really properly weigh the diseases themselves, because we simply aren’t familiar with them. We don’t know what it means to have polio, or rubella, or measles, or pertussis. We don’t know what an epidemic looks like. We don’t know, but we will. 

And I say we will because this is the most dangerous part of the herd immunity thing. We figure it’s safe for just a few of us. Everyone else is getting vaccinated. So, we can not. That’s not quite true any longer, though. Every year it all gets a little bit worse. So these little outbreaks keep happening. We’re getting under that threshold, and it’s pretty high threshold for some of them, a high threshold that requires a very large herd immunity. 92-94% for whooping cough (the “P” in the DTaP that you need to renew every few years, have you called your doctor yet?). Not really all that surprising that we heard so much about Pertussis last year when you think about that, is it?

I know this isn’t really a good post. It’s rambling. It’s all over the place. The thing is, I can’t really keep making these arguments. I certainly can’t keep making them on Facebook. It’s making me an asshole. I’m wanting to say horrible things that I shouldn’t say (some of them I guess I said here, sorry). That doesn’t really make me a happy camper. I need to let this all go and push it out there and take off the mantle of the idea that I can do shit all about the fact that some people have just… just decided differently than me. Than science. Than REASON.

Oooph. Breathe in. Breathe out. Gotta let it go.