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.
Earlier 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 outbreaks, pertussis 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.
“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…
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”).
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…
We 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 historyofvaccines.org, which reflects on 300 years of immunization milestones in the fight against dangerous and deadly diseases. Read more…
Although over 90% of parents vaccinate their children according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended schedule, some still wonder if the number of vaccines their child receives at such a young age is safe. In fact, nearly 1 in 10 parents have refused or delayed vaccinations because they are unsure of the safety of the schedule, and approximately one-third of parents continue to question whether the combination of numerous vaccines administered in these early months are somehow responsible for triggering autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
While the question of “too many, too soon” is a common parental concern, there is new scientific evidence published today in the Journal of Pediatrics that demonstrates these concerns to be unfounded. This latest study provides additional confirmation that there is no association between receiving “too many vaccines too soon” and autism and further strengthen a comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2004 that concluded there was no causal relationship between certain vaccine types and autism, as well as the recent 2013 IOM Report on Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety that concluded that the full vaccine schedule was safe.
This new research specifically investigated the concern of antigens – the substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce the antibodies that fight diseases. The study examines the impact of the varying amounts of antigens that children may be exposed to during their first two years of life. Since vaccines for various diseases contain different amounts of antigens, and various vaccines that protect against the same infectious agents may contain varying amounts of antigens, the research had to go beyond simply counting the number of vaccines a child received to be valid. Instead, researchers developed a system to adequately account for different vaccine and vaccine combinations by looking at the cumulative exposure each child had to various antigens.
Researchers not only considered the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, but also the total number of antigens they received by two years of age. They did this by analyzing data from 256 children with ASD and 752 children without ASD, all born between 1994-1999 and who were 6-13 years old at the time of data collection. What they found was that the total antigens from vaccines received by two years of age, as well as the maximum number received on a single day, was the same between children with and without ASD.
In short, Dr. Frank DeStefano, the lead author of this research paper, states,
“Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism.” Read more…
Nothing gets more attention in the immunization arena than a conversation about vaccines and autism. While this discussion is one that many feel has been exhausted and more than adequately investigated, vaccine safety concerns continue to remain one of the main reasons parents elect not to vaccinate their children. Each day, as new babies are born and more children are diagnosed with autism, questions of vaccine safety rush front and center for a new set of parents.
While there is a long history of anti-vaccine sentiment, the suggested link between vaccines and autism was largely prompted by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, back in 1998 when he suggested a possible relationship between bowel disease, autism, and the MMR vaccine. After adequately investigating the topic of vaccines and autism, many parents have come to understand that their concerns are unwarranted.
The bottom line is that the vaccine/autism controversy took hold when a poorly designed study, conducted by a disingenuous Andrew Wakefield who had been paid by a law board to find out if there was evidence to support a litigation case by parents who believed that the vaccine had harmed their children, suggested that there may be a link to autism and the MMR vaccine. Yet, Wakefield’s fraudulent study was ultimately discarded. Not only was his study too small to be scientifically significant, but his findings were never able to be replicated and in 2010, the Lancet formally retracted the paper after the British General Medical Council ruled against Wakefield in several areas. Wakefield was struck from the medical register in Great Britain and may no longer practice medicine there.
Unfortunately, while Wakefield may have lost his medical license, he did succeed at instilling doubt and fear into the hearts of parents; then and now. Some people are still concerned there’s a link between vaccines and autism, and an enormous amount of time, energy and money continues to be spent trying to undo the damage Wakefield has done. While no study has ever produced any scientifically supported connection between vaccines and autism, doubts still exist for some.
This is why we are still discussing vaccines and autism today. This is also why both immunization and autism advocacy organizations must continually educate the public about this topic. As an example, both Vaccinate Your Baby and the Autism Science Foundation provide a comprehensive list of vaccine/autism studies; none of which show any link between the two. However, earlier today the CDC released new information about the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder and this report is bound to spark conversations in the immunization world today. Read more…