Every Child By Two Executive Director, Amy Pisani, reviews Dr. Paul Offit’s latest book.
A riveting new book by Dr. Paul Offit hits the shelves this week; Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine.
Dr. Offit’s latest book chronicles the stories of several families who made decisions for their children’s health based on their religious beliefs, even when the consequences have resulted in the loss of lives.
In one most respectful account, Dr. Offit delves into the psychological forces that resulted in the worst possible outcome for the Swan family. The Swans, both of whom grew up as Christian Scientists, allowed religious leaders to persuade them to deny medical care to their child even as he suffered agonizing pain. When inviting religious healers to their home, the Swan’s – who were taught that disease is a figment of the imagination of the unfaithful – believed they were seeking appropriate medical care for their child.
But is it appropriate for religion to shield a parent from denying life-saving medicines, including vaccines, for their children?
Bad Faith takes a stark and disturbing look at the surprising capacity of both individuals, and policy makers here in the U.S., to risk the health and safety of children, all in the name of religion.
Bad Faith holds no religious-based medical practices on a pedestal. The writer does not condemn any specific religion, but rather the specific practices that are followed in the name of religion. His examples include the practices of some Orthodox Jews who refuse to acknowledge 21st Century hygiene techniques to protect infants undergoing circumcisions, various extreme Christian religions who preach the denial of life-saving medicines including antibiotics and vaccines, even Catholic hospitals who deny life-saving care to women, all in the name of Jesus.
This book comes out on the heels of a measles outbreak that has spread throughout the country, sickening more than 125 people in fifteen states, Canada and Mexico. The cause of the outbreak? Parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children, many basing their decision on personal or religious beliefs. The question at hand is how could this still be happening, and why are we letting it happen in 21st Century America?
My name is Jamie Schanbaum and I am a meningitis survivor.
I’m here to tell you that meningitis is not only life changing, but it is deadly. In 2008 I was diagnosed with meningococcal septicemia, which left me with serious life weighing decisions. Within 14 hours from my first symptom, I was told that I had a 20 percent chance of surviving. Then I was told that I was going to have to have some of my limbs amputated. At the age of 20, my life had been average. But within hours it transitioned to detrimental. Seven months later, I finally stepped out (or more so, wheeled out) of the hospital. I was alive, but I had lost the bottom half of my legs and all of my fingers.
There is no way anyone could have predicted that this would be my life. I had so many expectations for the future before I got meningitis, and suddenly all that had changed. I left the hospital with never-ending doubts of what my life would be like. I’m now 26, and every day I live with the consequences of meningitis and the fact that I was not vaccinated.
That is why in 2009, my family and I became instrumental in educating the public about the dangers of meningitis and advocating for new Texas legislation that would require college students, living in public and private facilities, to get vaccinated. Then in 2011, we worked to amend the bill so that all college students in the state of Texas would be required to get the meningitis vaccine before enrolling in classes. I am honored that ever since The Jamie Schanbaum & Nicolas Williams Act was enacted, the number of meningitis cases in the state of Texas has continued to decrease. Texas was the first state to implement this law, and I am hopeful that other states will follow.
Today we have an opportunity to save even more lives, and spare others from suffering the same permanent consequences as I have. This week the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will consider whether to recommend the newly approved serogroup B meningococcal vaccine. The current meningitis vaccine that children are recommended to receive between ages 11-12, and then again with a booster at age 16, hasn’t been 100% capable of covering all five strains of meningitis. The serogroup B strain, which can now be prevented with this newly approved vaccine, is a very dangerous strain and we’ve recently seen an increase in the number of cases on college campuses across the U.S. Now more than ever, we need to seize the moment and make sure the public is protected from as many forms of meningitis as possible. Read more…
There are five main serogroups (“strains”) of meningococcal bacteria: A, B, C, Y, and W. While the meningococcal vaccine that is currently on the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule covers the A,C, Y and W strains, it does not cover serogroup B. However, in 2012 there were about 500 total cases of meningococcal disease in the U.S, and 160 of those cases were caused by the serogroup B strain. When factoring in recent outbreaks, serogroup B now causes 40% of all meningococcal disease cases among 11-24 year olds.
Fortunately, in October 2014, the FDA approved a new meningococcal vaccine called MenB that covers the serogroup B strain. This Wednesday, February 25, 2015, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will be voting on the details of a formal recommendation for the MenB vaccine.
In advance of this vote, we’re featuring several guest posts this week that highlight the impact of meningococcal disease.
Today’s guest post was written by PKIDS:
At PKIDs, we help families affected by infectious diseases, and we work to educate ourselves and others about these diseases. Our goal is to prevent infections.
In 2015, we’re turning the spotlight on meningitis, or more accurately, meningococcal disease.
Meningitis is scary—and confusing. For instance, if I say that I have meningitis, it sounds like I’m saying I’m infected with a germ called meningitis. But, there is no germ called “meningitis.”
Adding to the confusion is the fact that we tend to use that term loosely for what should be called “meningococcal disease.”
Meningococcal disease causes meningitis, and it may also cause blood poisoning (septicemia).
WHAT IS MENINGITIS?
Media attention surrounding the current measles outbreak in the U.S. suggests that we may be entering a new age in regard to vaccine advocacy. As we’ve seen measles cases climb to over 141 so far this year, parents, who once assumed their children were learning alongside vaccinated classmates, have begun to inquire about the number of unvaccinated students in their schools. Reporters, who once touted headlines that publicized celebrities making irresponsible claims that vaccines cause autism, are now interviewing renowned epidemiologists to explain the latest resurgence of measles in the U.S. And organizations, that had once walked a fine line between blaming vaccines for autism and supporting them, are adjusting their positions in the wake of the media’s focus on public health concerns.
The actions of one organization have really caught my eye – an organization that has enormous popularity and name recognition as an autism advocacy organization.
I’m referring to Autism Speaks.
Just like the average American vaccinates their children according to the CDC’s recommended schedule, the average American probably considers Autism Speaks one of the largest and most influential autism organization in existence. Their popularity has provided them with great influence, and with this influence comes great responsibility – both to the autism community and to the scientific community.
But the motives of the organization are often criticized to be buried beneath their flashy public relations efforts. While Autism Speaks continues to reap the financial benefits of many generous donors, questions have been raised about their spending habits, research priorities and even their leadership tactics that seem to disenfranchise autistic individuals. In their failure to take a clear and firm stand on the research that exonerated vaccines as a cause of autism, they have also fallen out of favor with many science-minded individuals.
Despite the fact that extensive research has refuted any link between childhood vaccination and autism, Autism Speaks has continually made statements that seemingly perpetuate this dangerous myth and leave the door ajar. Disability Scoop recently reported that Autism Speaks has undermined the safety of vaccines by stating: Read more…
Every Child By Two is pleased to launch the next article in their Expert Commentary series that will be permanently housed on the Every Child By Two website and referenced here on Shot of Prevention. This series features guest writer Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a retired epidemiologist who volunteers his time to provide in-depth and expert analysis of articles which ultimately make false claims about the safety of vaccines.
Today we will feature Dr. Harrison’s latest paper Don’t Sacrifice The Good For The Perfect: A Review of Cathy Jameson’s “A Strong Message About Vaccines.” which critiques a recent article by a vaccine skeptic that downplays the seriousness of measles disease and the public’s concern over the outbreak that continues to spread throughout the nation. Cathy Jameson complains that the measles vaccine is not 100% effective and implies that the vaccine industry cannot be trusted because they benefit from profits on their products. However, as Dr. Harrison states, “then one should not trust any product since everything sold is done so to make a profit.”
Dr. Harrison states in his introduction
“Though it’s unfortunate that the measles vaccine doesn’t perfectly protect everyone, it does protect most, preventing unnecessary suffering, hospitalizations, disabilities, and even deaths. And, if everyone were vaccinated, then the risks to those with weaker immune systems would also be significantly reduced. In other words, Don’t Sacrifice the Good for the Perfect“
Click here to begin reading Dr. Harrison’s latest expert commentary.
After being notified that he and his family were exposed to measles, Dr. Tim Jacks signed on to the family’s online CaringBridge journal to vent his frustration. His 3 year old daughter Maggie is fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (blood cancer) and as a result has a compromised immune system. His 10 month old son Eli received all his recommended vaccines, but is too young for his first dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. The children were with their mother at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital clinic when they were exposed to measles. Frustrated and concerned, Dr. Jacks wrote a journal entry as though he was speaking directly to the person who was responsible for putting his family at risk. The next day, Kid Nurse reprinted the story and Dr. Jacks and his wife were soon being interviewed by various national news outlets, to include CNN, FoxNews as seen here:
Dr. Tim Jacks, DO, FAAP is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
As an Every Child By Two Immunization Champion, he has given us permission to share his story here on Shot of Prevention, as well as on our Vaccinate Your Baby website. Every Child By Two has also invited him to present testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on The Reemergence of Vaccine-Preventable Disease: Exploring the Public Health Successes and Challenges at 10am on Tuesday, February 10, 2015.
We hope that his personal experiences will help educate Congress about the plight of those who depend on herd immunity and the importance of protecting those who are most vulnerable to vaccine preventable diseases.
To the parent of the unvaccinated child who exposed my family to measles:
I have a number of strong feelings surging through my body right now. Towards my family, I am feeling extra protective like a papa bear. Towards you, unvaccinating parent, I feel anger and frustration at your choices. Read more…
As various politicians have spoken out on the issue of vaccination, Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, co-founder of Every Child By Two – Carter/Bumpers Champions For Immunizations responded with this article that appeared in the Huffington Post earlier today.
Don’t Politicize Vaccinations
By Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter
For more than four decades, I have joined with many others working to ensure the timely vaccination of children, and today I am saddened to see an outbreak of measles infecting more than 100 people in 14 states, many of them vulnerable infants.
Our country has achieved the highest immunization rates in history and thankfully the vast majority of parents are choosing to vaccinate their children on time. Yet, some parents today are being swayed by misinformation that has caused them to delay or decline vaccinating their children, jeopardizing the health of many others. I want all people to know that immunizations are safe, and that they work.
The current vaccine debate is being played out in the media as a partisan one, but historically, support for vaccines has been very nonpartisan. Major White House initiatives date as far back as Thomas Jefferson, who supported mass vaccination against smallpox. John F. Kennedy signed into law the first federal support program for vaccines as part of the Vaccine Assistance Act of 1962. President George H.W. Bush’s administration set a goal of 90 percent immunization rates and led efforts to create model state plans which have become an integral part of the infrastructure serving every community. The Clinton administration’s Vaccines for Children program removed cost as a barrier to eligible families.
When my husband became president in 1977, I was dismayed to learn that fewer than 20 states required vaccinations for school entry. Betty Bumpers, wife of Arkansas Governor Dale Bumpers, and I had been working for many years to increase immunization rates in our home states. We renewed our efforts in Washington by working closely with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to stop the transmission of measles, and we encouraged the passage of laws mandating vaccines for school entry. We were able to accomplish this the first year we were in Washington and now laws exist in every state. We then helped develop an improved immunization program, which included large increases in research for vaccines. Dr. Bill Foege, the head of CDC remained in that position after we came home, and continued to track the outcome of our efforts. By July 1982, only one state reported cases of measles. We celebrated the news that during one week there were no new cases of measles in the United States.
Sadly, in 1989, a measles epidemic swept the country, claiming the lives of nearly 150 people, including many young children, leading us to found our organization, Every Child By Two, whose mission it is to educate the public about the dangers of preventable diseases and the need to complete the primary vaccinations by age two.
Over the first decade, we visited every state to galvanize elected officials and public health advocates and to establish immunization coalitions that today continue to work tirelessly in their communities to keep children healthy. Most importantly, we have enjoyed bi-partisan support for our efforts at both the state and federal levels, resulting in sound public health policies that have been instrumental in reaching record high immunization levels throughout the nation.
The current measles outbreak, however, is a poignant reminder of the vulnerability of those who are not protected through immunization. And, as the debate turns toward the issue of personal rights versus public health, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal is keeping children healthy.
When our children enter a licensed daycare site or school, do they not have the right to be protected from acquiring a deadly communicable disease? I say they do. State laws requiring vaccination for school admittance are based on sound science and are there to protect our nation’s children. As these laws come under scrutiny, I urge parents to speak up in support of mandated vaccinations in schools and daycare facilities.
Opting out of vaccinations for children should be done only after careful deliberation with a licensed medical provider, and state laws should require that any parent who wishes to do so be informed of the serious consequences to their child and other children. And above all, vaccinations should not be politicized. For hundreds of years, politicians on both sides of the aisles have supported vaccinations by making real and meaningful laws to protect the public’s health. Let’s not turn children’s health into a battle ground.
Rosalynn Carter is the co-founder of Every Child By Two – Carter/Bumpers Champions for Immunization.