Archive for the ‘Vaccine Myths’ Category

New Evidence of Risk from Delaying Vaccines

October 15, 2013 131 comments

Statistics show that by age two, one in eight children were undervaccinated at some point in time due to parental decisions to delay or refuse certain vaccines.  Despite the evidence that the infant immunization schedule is safe and well-tested, some parents remain concerned that their child may be receiving too many vaccines at once, or too many at such a young age.  “Their bodies are too small to handle it?” they say.

But what if research discovered that a child was better able to handle certain vaccines when they were younger, as opposed to when they got older?  What if delaying vaccines actually put children at a greater risk of suffering an adverse reaction to the vaccine? 

By taking a closer look at the vaccine safety surveillance data of 850,000 children, 12-23 months of age, that is essentially what researchers have discovered.  A recent study, published online in JAMA Pediatrics yesterday, found that the risk of fever and seizure after receipt of measles containing vaccines significantly increased in 16-23 month old children, as compared to 12-16 month old children.  Not only does this research suggest that delaying vaccination is not necessarily a safer choice, it also suggests that a more robust immune response in older children, versus younger children, may result in a higher risk of fever and a lower threshold for seizure.

According to a detailed editorial written by Dr. Kristen A. Feemster and Dr. Paul Offit in response to this research, “vaccines are recommended at certain ages and intervals to optimize the immune response, ensure protection when a child is most at risk for disease acquisition, and minimize adverse events.”  The editorial goes on to explain that this type of research reinforces the well-established safety and timing of the current schedule, while also providing an example of how vaccine safety surveillance methods can be used to identify outcomes associated with alternative vaccine schedules. Read more…

Acts of Violence Interfere with Polio Eradication

October 8, 2013 8 comments

Today I’ll be picking my children up from school and driving them to the local health department where we will receive our seasonal influenza vaccines.   Within minutes, I expect we’ll be vaccinated and on our way home.  And all the while, I’ll consider myself and my children extremely fortunate to live in America.

rotaryNot only will our vaccine help protect us from the dangers of the flu this season, but previous vaccines keep me from worrying about many preventable diseases, such as polio.  Unlike many parents in foreign nations, I won’t have to walk for hours, carrying my children in my arms, hoping that by the time I make it to the vaccination clinic there will be someone there to administer the vaccine.  And I certainly won’t fear for our safety any time before, during or after the appointment.

And while I’ve been reading personal stories of polio survivors on the Rotary Voices blog this month, in preparation for World Polio Day on October 24th, yesterday’s headlines were a grim reminder of just how much American parents take for granted.

The New York Times reported,

“At least two police officers were killed and a dozen people wounded on Monday when a bomb went off near a health care facility where polio vaccines were being dispensed outside this northwestern Pakistani city.”

While not the bombs of a typical war, these bombs were certainly a violent way to intimidate people and deter vaccination in a country where polio is not yet eradicated.  And this is not the first time that polio vaccination workers, and their efforts to eradicate polio have been targeted.  The anti-vaccine sentiment in Pakistan is not only being fought with bombs and guns, but with rumors and lies.  While extreme religious leaders have suggested that the vaccines are intended to make Muslims infertile, others have accused polio workers of using vaccination campaigns as a cover to spy on behalf of the United States. Read more…

News of a Texas Measles Outbreak Shows Problems and Promise

September 3, 2013 29 comments

It’s never good news when we hear of people in this country suffering from vaccine preventable diseases like measles.  Especially since endemic measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.  But what is promising is that the mainstream media coverage of the recent measles outbreak in Texas has clearly come out on the side of science.

TXchurchEarlier this month a measles outbreak occurred when an unvaccinated individual, who contracted measles while traveling overseas, returned to the U.S and attended church services at the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas.  This person unknowingly exposed thousands of others to the disease, including infants in the church’s daycare facility that were too young to have been vaccinated, and who must rely on the protection of those around them.

The Texas outbreak was one of many throughout the country in the past few months.  There were plenty of other measles outbreakspertussis outbreaks and even chickenpox outbreaks that hardly garnered any attention.  And if the pastors of this church hadn’t been actively promoting prayer as a substitute for vaccination, this story of a Texas measles outbreak may have never had the appeal of mainstream media.

TerriPearsonsHowever, it was reported that senior pastor, Terri Copeland Pearsons, voiced her concerns about vaccinations on the church’s website,

“Some people think I am against immunizations, but that is not true. …The concerns we have had are primarily with very young children who have a family history of autism and with bundling too many immunizations at one time.”

Not only does her statement contradict the scientific evidence that has shown multiple vaccinations and combination immunizations to be safe, but numerous studies have also completely debunked her accusation that vaccines are tied to autism.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only spiritual leader within the church who was heard peddling inaccurate science.  Read more…

Why Some Parents Are Refusing HPV Vaccine For Their Children

August 20, 2013 603 comments

This post is not the result of an official survey. Rather, it’s a collection of the most common explanations I’ve heard parents make when refusing HPV vaccine for their children, followed by points to consider.

REASON #1: My child is not/ will not/ should not be having sexual relations. So why would they need an HPV vaccine?

As a mother to five daughters I get it. Every parent wants to believe that their son or daughter will remain abstinent until marriage. And some may. But the reality is that some children, even as young as 12 and 13, are already involved in sexual relations and this reality is what has influenced the age at which the HPV vaccine is recommended.  Here is what the studies suggest:

The HPV vaccine is most effective when the complete three shot series is given long before any sexual activity begins, which is one reason the vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12. Additionally, the vaccine illicits a greater immune response and produces higher antibody to fight infection when given at this age, compared to receiving the vaccine at a later age.

Regardless of the when a child becomes sexually active, the HPV vaccine is important because the prevalence of HPV infection is staggering:

Some parents may be surprised to learn that sexual intercourse is not necessary for infection.  Oral-genital and hand-genital transmission of some genital HPV types is possible and has been reported.  Studies show that HPV was detected in 46% of females prior to first vaginal sex.  Based on this information, it’s possible that a person can become infected during their first sexual encounter. Even if someone remains abstinent until marriage, there’s no guarantee that the person they are marrying isn’t already infected.

Yet, some parents remain concerned that vaccinating a child for a sexually transmitted disease is like giving them permission to have sex. However, research indicates that HPV vaccination has had no notable difference in the markers of sexual activity, to include pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing and diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections. In other words, the vaccine does not appear to be changing sexual behaviors, only protecting those when they eventually engage in them.

The way I see it, most children by the age of 11 can understand that the HPV vaccine can protect them from various types of cancers, but not from pregnancy and STDs. It’s a simple matter of communication by which the parents can explain that the vaccine doesn’t equate to a free pass to have sex.  If a child chooses to refrain from sexual relations, I would venture to guess that it has more to do with their upbringing and strong moral character, than whether or not their parents choose to protect them with the HPV vaccine.

REASON #2: Won’t regular PAP smears detect any abnormalities and identify cervical cancer without the need for the vaccine? Read more…

Tell ABC That Jenny McCarthy Doesn’t Represent Your ‘View’

July 12, 2013 94 comments

Personally, I’ve never really given Jenny McCarthy much consideration.  To me she represents a pretty face who has done her best to exploit her good looks in order to earn a living.

I can’t say that I blame her.  The few times I’ve heard her speak publicly it was painfully clear that she lacked the intelligence to make a living doing much else.  In fact, despite the now disproven theory that vaccines are linked to autism, McCarthy continues to claim that her son became autistic as a result of his vaccines.  And even more shocking are her claims that he no longer has autism thanks to diet and alternative treatments.  (As far as I know, he appears to be the one and only child who’s autism has ever been completely “cured”).

Celebrity Quack card image created by Crispian Jago

If her claims weren’t so dangerous they might actually be entertaining.  But that’s just the problem.  Entertainers should not be mistaken for medical professionals.  Jenny McCarthy’s statements have not only given credence to false information, they’ve led many parents to fear vaccines more than the diseases that vaccines are intended to prevent.

While I may not be the kind of parent who takes medical advice from the likes of celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, there is no denying that her celebrity status has brought attention to the topics of autism and vaccines among many mainstream parents.  Parents who, like McCarthy, are concerned about their children possibly being diagnosed with autism.  Parents who may not be well versed in the scientific studies that demonstrate the safety of vaccines.  And even some who, like McCarthy, prefer to follow gut instinct over the advice of medical experts.

Earlier this week, when the word got out that ABC is considering McCarthy as a co-host on the popular day-time talk show ‘The View’, many public health advocates began speaking out against this decision.  The outcry has been swift and immediate, and the general consensus among science bloggers, vaccine advocates and concerned parents is that allowing a celebrity like Jenny McCarthy a public platform by which she may continue to propagate dangerous misinformation is a major public health concern. Read more…

Got Questions? It’s OK to Ask

OKtoAsklogoWe all have questions and concerns when it comes to immunizations for our children.   That’s the premise behind the Vermont Department of Health’s bold new immunization campaign It’s OK to Ask.

In a state that once boasted some of the healthiest kids in the nation, falling immunization rates, rising school vaccine exemption rates, and a recent epidemic of pertussis in the state of Vermont are all reminders that when it comes to public health we must remain vigilant.  In a recent interview, Nancy Erikson, Communication Director of the Vermont Department of Health explains that the goal of this new campaign is to transform parental hesitance into confidence. She goes on to explain that the It’s OK To Ask campaign addresses the most common questions about vaccines in hopes of empowering people to make the best immunization decisions they can for themselves and their families.

The website, launched just a few months ago, not only offers detailed information about vaccines and the diseases they help prevent, it also includes an engaging “Ask an Expert” section which connects users to a special panel of Vermont doctors and nurses who have volunteered to address individual immunization questions received through the site.  Other highlights of the website include videos of Vermont parents discussing popular immunization topics with Burlington-based Dr. Hagan, and an innovative timeline created in collaboration with the, which reflects on 300 years of immunization milestones in the fight against dangerous and deadly diseases.  Read more…


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