Is Your Child's Classmate Unvaccinated?
Aug 30, 2010

By Christine Vara
Amid a serious pertussis epidemic in the state of California, an investigative think tank called the Watchdog Institute recently reported that vaccine refusals are on the rise.  Their research of CA schools showed that waivers signed by parents who choose to exempt their children from immunizations for kindergarten enrollment have nearly quadrupled since 1990.   Specifically, personal-belief exemptions granted to entering kindergartners in the state of CA reached a record high of 10,280 in public and private schools last fall, up from 2,719 in 1990.
You have probably heard the term ‘herd immunity’ before.  If not, you can probably venture to guess what it references.  Simply put, if enough people are immune to a specific disease, it significantly reduces the ability of that disease to spread.  (I’ve covered this in an earlier post entitled, “Measles & Immunity:  It’s All In the Numbers”.)  In order for immunizations to remain most effective, we rely on a large percentage of the population to be protected from the disease.  While there is a different “tipping point” for various diseases,generally speaking health officials prefer that immunization rates remain upwards of 90% in order to provide the best protection.    
While it remains law in United States that children be properly immunized before attending school, what many parents don’t realize is that each state governs access to their own public services.  What this essentially means is that individual states have the ability to grant exemptions to vaccination requirements for admittance into school.  While the CDC provides a recommended vaccination schedule, each state makes specific vaccine requirements of their students, as well as allowing for exemptions.  Each state allows for medical exemptions, while 48 states also allow religious exemptions and 21 states now allow for personal belief exemptions. Depending on the state, the exemption process can be as simple as in the state of CA, where a parent can sign a form stating that “some or all immunizations are contrary to my personal beliefs”.  In other states, notarized statements are required.  In the case of medical exemptions, parents may be asked to provide documentation from a doctor.
Obviously, there are some children that have legitimate medical reasons that require medical exemptions.  However, the public health concern lies more in the growing trend of parents who are utilizing personal exemptions and shifting the numbers of immunized students in a way that may ultimately threaten herd immunity.   While this is common knowledge amongst vaccine advocate groups, this may be surprising to many parents who believe all students must be immunized before coming to school.   Most parents don’t realize the popularity of personal exemptions in some areas.  They may also wrongfully assume that unvaccinated children are concentrated in lower income areas, resulting from limited access to vaccines due to lack of education or finances.  While there are still economic barriers to vaccination, what the Watchdog studies indicate is that personal exemptions are more likely to be utilized by the more affluent parents, and schools with the highest exemption rates tend to be private schools, public charter schools, and traditional public schools in affluent areas. 
 As the recent San Diego Union-Tribune article reports, states with easy exemption procedures were associated with a 90 percent higher incidence of pertussis compared to states with difficult procedures and for each one percent increase in exemptions at a school, the risk of having a pertussis outbreak went up by 12 percent.  These statistics, from studies conducted in 2000 and 2006, come from the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Of significant concern, is the study of measles outbreaks, which illustrated how 11 percent of the vaccinated children in the outbreak were infected through contact with somebody who was exempt. 
Now, let’s consider the significance of these studies for a moment.  High exemption rates link to higher incidence of disease and transmission to vaccinated children.  Concerning?  Yes.  However, a parent who chooses not to vaccinate their children will argue that if immunizations are effective, than we shouldn’t be worried about their unvaccinated children in the classroom.  Shouldn’t the vaccines we give our children protect them from anything their non-vaccinated children are carrying?  And if the vaccines don’t protect them, than aren’t we admitting that vaccines are not effective?
 While that may sound like a valid argument, what science proves is that nothing is 100% effective – including vaccines.  Within every scientific model there are limits to be considered.  I particulary like the way this was explained in a recent article on the Respectful Insolence blog.

“Of course, anti-vaccine parents both demonize and have unrealistic ideas about what vaccines can do, which is part of the problem. They demonize vaccines as the cause of autism, autoimmune disease, and asthma, along with all sorts of other health problems, even though there is no scientifically credible evidence linking vaccines to autism or any of the other conditions attributed to vaccines. Yet, at the same time, they justify their refusal with the implicit belief that vaccines are 100% effective. I refer to this as an “implicit” belief because a frequent argument made by anti-vaccine parents when it is pointed out to them that they are endangering other children is that those other children are vaccinated; so how could their precious baby ever be a threat to other children? The reason, of course, is that no vaccine is 100% effective. Some, like the MMR vaccine, are “only” around 90% effective. Now, in medicine, 90% effectiveness is in general excellent, about as high as one can expect from any intervention. It’s not 100%, though. Worse, pockets of unvaccinated children provide a repository for vaccine-preventable disease that can infect other unvaccinated children, as well as vaccinated children who, for whatever reason, did not develop effective immunity due to their vaccination.”

Add to the fact that protection often wanes over time, (a time window that may vary from person to person),  and you can understand why the CDC immunization recommendations include booster shots for both children and adults.  This has proven to be another step public health advocates are currently taking to reduce the spread of diseases like pertussis, especially in states like CA.  However, legislation is just taking hold and some states now require booster shots for school admittance as well.      
Personally, I do my part to ensure my children are up to date on their recommended vaccines, not only for their own protection, but because I believe that the vaccine requirements are part of the school’s responsibility to ensure the best means of public health possible.  Similarly, I expect the school to enforce other precautionary measures that will keep my children safe, such as practicing bus safety and conducting fire drills.  These days they even conduct “bad person” drills that are intended to prepare kids in the event that a dangerous person enters school property and threatens the safety of the students. 
While I believe these risks are minimal, it doesn’t mean I don’t support the school preparing for these situations.  I am not foolish enough to believe that these things couldn’t happen in my child’s school or my community.  No amount of money or security can eliminate the risk, but we can prepare ourselves for these situations with proper precautionary action. 
Likewise, I see immunizations in the same way.  Just because my children are healthy, exercise, eat well and wash their hands doesn’t mean they will never fall victim to disease; especially highly contagious and dangerous diseases like measles or pertussis.  So why is it that immunizations, which are a safe and effective precautionary step in the prevention of disease, are being dismissed by educated, affluent parents?    
Certainly, this is a growing concern, but the million dollar question remains.  What can we do to change these parental attitudes and protect these children, as well as the community at large, from vaccine preventable disease?    There is a school of thought (no pun intended) that some schools are no longer enforcing vaccinations, but enabling the questionable use of vaccine exemptions.  Would you believe that Whatchdog report lists the private Waldorf School in San Diego county with as many as 51% of their students unimmunized due to personal belief exemptions?  It isn’t surprising that the administration supports this anti-vaccine sentiment.  Shouldn’t our school systems be trying to educate parents about the risks of wide-spread disease and the public health responsibility we have to our community at large? 
Perhaps more concerned parents should demand to know how many of their children’s classmates are coming to school unvaccinated.  As Dr. Mark Sawyer, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego noted, “Un-immunized people in general contribute to any disease rates. As the rates of un-immunized kids go up, we are inevitably going to see more and more outbreaks of diseases.”  It is clear that a failure to vaccinate children attending school endangers us all. 
How many of your child’s classmates do you believe to be immunized?  How would you feel if they weren’t?  We would like to hear your thoughts so please share your experiences by providing a comment below.

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83 responses to “Is Your Child's Classmate Unvaccinated?”

  1. Patrick says:

    How do you know that a child covered by an exemption is unvaccinated? Please post your source or explain why you believe it is a safe assumption to make.

    • christinevara says:

      An exemption wouldn’t be necessary if a child received all the state required vaccinations. However a child could have received some of the required vaccinations and is just getting an exception for a chosen vaccine.

  2. Patrick says:

    That makes sense. Yet, given that we don’t know a single thing about how kids with exemptions are or are not vaccinated – this entire article is pure speculation. You’re right that an exemption would not be necessary if a child has all the required shots, but that doesn’t mean that some kids with most or all required shots are not using exemptions. We don’t know anything about these numbers.
    But being factual isn’t the purpose of this article. It appears that your purpose is to raise concern and fear about the use of philosophical or religious exemptions regardless of what their impact is, no?
    Can you explain how doing this promotes a public good within a democracy?

  3. Dan Gilbert says:

    Seriously, Patrick? What’s the point of your response? Are you questioning the medical validity of vaccinations and the relation they have to herd immunity and illnesses or are you just trying to twist things around to make it sound like Christine is some kind of hyperbolic, vaccine-pushing fanatic?
    I can possibly see the point that perhaps the exemptions were for a single vaccine (as opposed to all of them) against a disease that isn’t on the comeback, but that seems to be a wilder speculation than anything you’re accusing Christine of.

  4. Elizabeth R says:

    In fairness what you are not giving credit to is the number of new shots these schedules require. Since the early 90’s, we’ve had multiple new vaccines added to the schedule so proportionately more refusals will be filed.
    Don’t assume just because I have an exemption that I’ve given up on all vaccines – because you would be wrong. I would never give a chicken pox vaccine to my kid. My daughter got pertussis in spite of vaccination and yet she is due for another pertussis shot next year. I won’t give her another one because it is pointless for her. Does this mean I don’t acknowledge the benefits of some of the other shots? NO! I don’t appreciate you promoting a witch hunt on parents who are doing the best for their kids. It is none of your business what the vaccination status of my child is. You are very closed minded to think in such a limited way. Don’t blame the families – give credit where credit is due – the drug company who didn’t make a product that works as advertised or has a high enough efficacy or safety profile for everyone’s standards. Be responsible for yourself and your child. If you don’t trust the vaccine to protet you, then write to the company that makes it and ask them to make a better one. I swear that it is articles like this that makes parents question vaccinating all-together. You are promoting divisions where they don’t need to be because you fail to recognize it is not an all-or-nothing debate. Shame on you for trying to marginalize parents trying to balance it all and make good decisions for their kids.

    • Mary says:

      Elizabeth, your refusal to have your child vaccinated for pertussis and chicken pox affects the children around her and affects those infants she comes in contact with who cannot be vaccinated and may die. This is a completely selfish act and the fact that you are not having your child vaccinated is EVERYONE’S business. You are placing the community at risk. It’s time to think about the community you live in and if you choose to not, then you should think about living somewhere where you are not coming in contact with other people and putting them at risk simply for your uninformed, selfish decision. You are using the services that your community provides. You are coming in contact with the elderly, infants, and others who may be at risk for whatever whim you’re on and whatever disease you deem not important to protect your child and family from. Selfish. Unintelligent. Do some research.

      • guppy24 says:

        Actually, if you would do the research, you would find NO clinical trials that prove vaccines to be effective and NO causal relationships between vaccines and the prevention of outbreaks. One common misconception by parents that think unvaccinated children can ‘endanger’ vaccinated ones, is that they think that even when their children are vaccinated and do not get sick or display symptoms, they could not be carriers of the disease. This is not true! In this case, who is more dangerous to the group? The unvaccinated child, who might fall ill, but displays symptoms so he/she can stay home, or the vaccinated child, who will display no symptoms, but who will give the disease to many other children. Many of them might be vaccinated as well, and still get sick? Anyway, I care about my child, not the herd. Any good thinking mother would do the same.

      • Chris says:


        In this case, who is more dangerous to the group? The unvaccinated child, who might fall ill, but displays symptoms so he/she can stay home, or the vaccinated child, who will display no symptoms, but who will give the disease to many other children.

        Please provide some scientific citations for this phenomena.
        And while you are at it, try checking PubMed for “vaccine efficacy”, you’ll find at least 16799 hits in the index. Many of them are clinical trials, much like the ones involving children at the Willowbrook School in Staten Island, NY. Which, if you are all educated about vaccines and their history you should know about.

      • Chris says:

        Checking the index of medical publications, PubMed, using the search words “vaccine clinical trials” brings up almost twenty thousand hits. I suggest that before you repeat something you read on a website that you check it independently.
        The cool thing about is that is covers medical literature from all over the world. There is also a filter on the upper right hand side for things like “free full text” and “reviews.” You will find that scientific references are often asked for here after unsupported claims are made.

  5. Patrick says:

    My question remains unanswered: what is known about how exemptions are used? I want to see the data. I’m hoping that Christine either has data to backup her claims or at least that she will be honest enough to say that she doesn’t have data.
    If there is no data, and the article is speculation – what is the point of this: “Perhaps more concerned parents should demand to know how many of their children’s classmates are coming to school unvaccinated” ?
    I think its highly irresponsible to make any such demand without clearly showing causation between a rise in exemption use, lack of immunization against a specific disease and a rise in that specific disease to epidemic level.
    Thank you.

  6. Stacy Kennedy says:

    Elizabeth R: ” It is none of your business what the vaccination status of my child is.”
    What part of this article–and of the concept of “herd immunity”–didn’t you understand? Not vaccinating your child puts other children (and adults who cannot be vaccinated) at risk. It is indeed everybody’s business.
    “Don’t blame the families – give credit where credit is due – the drug company who didn’t make a product that works as advertised or has a high enough efficacy or safety profile for everyone’s standards.”
    Vaccines are incredibly safe. Their efficacy is not perfect (and they are not “advertised” as perfect.)
    Families who don’t vaccinate their children due to the foolish and easily rebutted lies promulgated by the likes of Jenny McCarthy indeed deserve blame and censure for endangering the health of their communities.
    Patrick: Sophistry and intellectual dishonesty may fly with the anti-vaxxer crowd, but everybody else can see right through you.

  7. Patrick says:

    Maybe. But now there are 3 of you who can’t see your way to a straight answer. My question remains unanswered: what is known about how exemptions are used?

  8. Patrick says:

    Ooops. Made an HTML mistake in my original response. I’m trying again. Don’t know how web developers can use this stuff. Ugh!

    Patrick: Sophistry and intellectual dishonesty may fly with the anti-vaxxer crowd, but everybody else can see right through you.

    Maybe. But now there are 3 of you who can’t see your way to a straight answer. My question remains unanswered: what is known about how exemptions are used?

  9. Stacy Kennedy says:

    Exemptions are being widely used by anti-vaxxers, and not because their children have medical conditions that contraindicate vaccination.

    • Patrick says:

      So is this where Christine Vara is getting her data? From “Jenny McCarthy Body Count”? Oh boy….
      Vara points out that “personal exemptions are more likely to be utilized by the more affluent parents, and schools with the highest exemption rates tend to be private schools, public charter schools, and traditional public schools in affluent areas” – I’ve seen this myself. There are a growing number of high-earning, well-connected, smart, concerned, involved parents who are making their own vaccination choices. Do you really think these parents are being “fooled” by Jenny McCarthy?
      Groups like ECBT hurt the cause of immunizing intelligently by treating all immunizations the same. It is just plain stupid to lump HepB and chicken pox with pertussis and polio. In fact, I probably would have kept my kids on-schedule had it not been for the HepB.
      When I learned that my newborn was supposed to get a shot on the first day of life, I asked why. The answers from a very smart pediatrician were shockingly irrelevant to our lives. And have you seen the amount of aluminum in HepB? I mean, come on! I buy aluminum-free deodorant from Whole Foods after researching the issue on the EWG website in great detail – I’m certainly not going to allow my newborn to get a shot filled with it!!! Especially for a disease that she has almost no chance of contracting.

  10. Stacy Kennedy says:

    For a journalist’s personal story about the profound dishonesty of the anti-vax movement:
    Contains a link to the (excellent and informative) original article.

  11. Elizabeth R says:

    Stacy – you fell into the same trap as the author and missed the point. This is going to be uncomfortable for you but you’ll have to get used to the fact more and more parents are becoming educated and knowing the benefits and risks of the diseases and the benefits and risks of the vaccines and picking and choising what is best for their kids. There are so many new vaccines out for which the long term consequences are not known. Parents don’t want their kids to be guinea pigs to satisfy your blind faith and there are many others who feel that way too. Your categorical condemnation of parents who want to evaluate risks and benefits making them chose some vaccines and not wanting every single vaccine under the sun for their kids shows your true nature. I’m so sorry that your life is so governed by fear of disease and lack of confidnece in the efficacy of vaccines and medicine and the strength of a healthy immune system. Saying we all need every vaccine all the time because they don’t always work is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. While vaccination for some diseases can be an important step, it is foolish to put all your eggs in one basket. Being healthy is a lot more than just being vaccinated. I wonder if an intolerance vaccine is on the horizon anytime soon? You’d be a perfect candidate for that one. I’m thrilled to not be part of your “herd”.

  12. Stacy Kennedy says:

    Sweetie, buy a good book on critical thinking. Learn to think. Then perhaps you’ll be able to analyze an argument and evaluate sources.
    Then, learn something about how vaccines work.
    It’s hard work. But until you do it, you’re whistling out your nether regions–and endangering herd immunity.

  13. MI Dawn says:

    Hey, Elizabeth R. You ran away from RI and never came back to finish the conversations.
    So, what vaccines will you give? Remember, vaccines are not 100% effective and all vaccines have the chance of side effects. HOWEVER, the risks of the side effects are generally FAR less than the risk of sequelae from the disease.
    You are correct. Being healthy is more than just being immunized. It means eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, having safe water, protection from disease-carrying animals/insects/whatever. Isn’t it wonderful that everyone in this world can do that? Oh, wait. They can’t. In the US, not everyone can afford all those things. In the rest of the world, once you get out of the northern America and Western Europe, many of them can’t afford some/all of those things. But people travel. They bring diseases back with them. The measles outbreak in California that cost thousands of dollars was caused by an unvaccinated boy whose family went to Germany where he caught measles. He exposed hundreds of people to measles, several infants ended up in the hospital thanks to his parents idiocy (he did NOT have a medical or religious exemption), and cost California thousands in dollars for Health department workers to track and quarantine exposed persons. Oh, and the disease went on to Hawaii via airplane due to an exposed infant who was too young to be vaccinated and acquired the disease.
    You may not want to be part of the “herd”. Fine. Keep your kids home, away from anyone they might infect with their diseases. Keep them away from me and my kids. Keep them away from babies. Keep them away! I feel sorry for your kids. I do not feel sorry for you.

  14. Elizabeth R says:

    Pertussis happens with or without vaccination for some. We had pertussis in spite of being vaccinated. We got it from a vaccinated kid. Several kids in my daughter’s class were vaccinated and had it. Most of the kids didn’t even know they had pertussis because the pediatric practice here doesn’t culture kids who are vaccinated because they are “protected.” I had to demand a culture. Some of these families have young babies that were NOT yet vaccinated and exposed and lucklily did not get sick. It could have been disasterous because too much faith is put in the vaccine. Vaccines work sometime but they don’t always work. There is no way I’ll give this one again.
    The chicken pox vaccine can be worse than getting chcikenpox. My sister gave it to her daughter and 4 days later she got shingles. How many booster shots will kids have to get? What happens if the vaccine wears off and they get chicken pox when pregnant instead of having had it as a child and having lifelong immunity? For the vast majority, Chicken Pox really is NO BIG DEAL and it doesn’t make any sense to spend all that money on such a little return. While it can be bad for some, that is why families should be given truthful information so they can decide if they want it or not. My niece didn’t need to get shingles from the vaccine. She’s 4 and would have been better off with a quick case of the chickenpox. She was told she may continue to have outbreaks of shingles caused by the vaccine. You lose credibility when you promote vaccination for chickenpox as zealously as for a more serious illness where vaccines have more benefits for more people. It is really funny how narrow minded you are and not willing to accept that partially vaccinating is the way things are going for many intelligent well-educated and caring parents in the future. There are so many vaccine coming out – you look completely unreasonable to expect everybody to get everything while you shun families who want to do some and not others.
    When you overstate the benefits and underplay the risks, you lose credibilty. Be honest about the benefits and performance so parents trust your message. When you exaggerate and it doesn’t work, you look like cold-hearted people who don’t care about anybody unless they think like you.
    I didn’t say I didn’t want to be part of A HERD, I said I was glad I wan’t part of HER herd. Big difference that you failed to get. I prefer to be with people who are tolderant, smart, and caring instead of overzealous self-righteous know-it-alls.
    Some of my friends have stopped vaccinating all-together because of getting treated by their doctors like the way you treat partial vaccinators here. That’s the irony in your approach. I will continue to pick and choose what I do glad that the vaccines are available and glad I can get some of them for my kids and equally glad I can say no to the ones that I don’t think are necessary, work well enough to endure the risk, or are too new to know about long term consequences.
    That is how some reasonable people think and you are going to have to live with us. It is so funny that you lump me in with anti-vaccine people. I help families in my town find doctors who will let them partially vaccinate or space things out if their kids are sick. All or nothing? Is it worth it? I don’t think so. I guess time will tell…

  15. Elise says:

    So what if there are more breakouts? The real question is– what is the true percentage of children who get seriously ill or die from childhood diseases? It’s very rare…just as rare…or more rare then an adverse reaction to the vaccine. And CDC studies show that even in communities were there is 100% vaccination rates…breakouts still occur. So stop blaming the un-vaxed kids. Diseases come and go…get over it and stop trying to scare everyone into vaccinations. Check out CDC’S studies for yourself and stop being so ignorant.
    “We conclude that outbreaks of measles can occur in secondary schools, even when more than 99 percent of the students have been vaccinated and more than 95 percent are immune. (N Engl J Med 1987; 316:771–4.)

”This outbreak suggests that measles transmission may persist in some settings despite appropriate implementation of the current measles elimination strategy.

    “A sudden increase in cases reflecting a pertussis outbreak in the Netherlands in 1996 (5) could not be explained by a decrease in vaccination coverage, which remained stable at 96% for at least three vaccinations in the first year of life. Until January 1999, children were vaccinated at 3, 4, 5, and 11 months of age with a diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and inactivated polio vaccine. In 1999, the schedule changed, and vaccine was administered at 2, 3, 4, and 11 months of age. The vaccine used meets international standards; no sign of an abrupt or gradual deterioration of vaccine quality, as determined at product release by the mouse protection test, was found.


    “All the children in the day-care centers had been immunized in infancy with all four doses of Pasteur diphtheria-tetanus toxoid pertussis (DTP) vaccine, which includes a booster dose at 12 months of age. The Pasteur vaccine contains 1 immunization dose (ID) …of purified diphtheria toxoid, 1 ID of purified tetanus toxoid, and >4 IU of B. pertussis. All family members of the infant were also fully vaccinated with four doses of DTP. The infant had received only the first dose of vaccine at 2 months of age.””We also observed that DPT vaccine does not fully protect children against the level of clinical disease defined by WHO. Our results indicate that children ages 5-6 years and possibly younger, ages 2-3 years, play a role as silent reservoirs in the transmission of pertussis in the community. More studies are needed to find the immunologic basis of protection against infection and colonization and thus an effective way to eliminate…”

  16. Elise says:

    In 1976 in Britain the vaccination rate for whooping cough dropped from 76% to 42%, because there had been publicity of bad side effects from the vaccine. The medicrats expected that the drop in the vaccination rate would make the next whooping cough epidemic come sooner, as well as expecting it to be worse. The whooping cough bacteria paid no attention to human theories, and the disease followed the usual timing of its natural cycle of virulence. Medicrats expressed surprise that the epidemic did not come sooner. There were also fewer cases and fewer deaths during this epidemic. The much lower vaccination rate of 42% made no difference to the long term decline of whooping cough, which had been happening for a hundred years. [2005] Raising A Vaccine Free Child by WENDY LYDALL

  17. Elise says:

    The herd immunity theory was originally coined in 1933 by a researcher called Hedrich. He had been studying measles patterns in the US between 1900-1931 (years before any vaccine was ever invented for measles) and he observed that epidemics of the illness only occurred when less than 68% of children had developed a natural immunity to it. This was based upon the principle that children build their own immunity after suffering with or being exposed to the disease. So the herd immunity theory was, in fact, about natural disease processes and nothing to do with vaccination. If 68% of the population were allowed to build their own natural defences, there would be no raging epidemic.
    Later on, vaccinologists adopted the phrase and increased the figure from 68% to 95% with no scientific justification as to why, and then stated that there had to be 95% vaccine coverage to achieve immunity. Essentially, they took Hedrich’s study and manipulated it to promote their vaccination programmes.

  18. Elizabeth R says:

    I forgot to mention that based on our experience with our pertussis vaccinated child still getting pertussis (5 doses!), in California especially, they should be sending all kids home not just those with exemptions because the vaccine really and truly is no guarantee. People have a false sense of security and saying no vaccine is 100% effective really doesn’t do this real risk the justice it deserves. Please tell parents the honest numbers behind how ineffective the pertussis vaccine is so they don’t think that even if their child is vaccinated that they are protected from a pertussis infection. It is the least effective vaccine there is. Bacterial vaccines don’t work very well and protection doesn’t last very long. Viral vaccines tend to work better. Think about it. You can get recurring bacterial infections with the same bacteria whereas infection with a virus produces longterm protection. The bacterial and viral vaccines have similar effects on the immune system. If your vaccinated child is coughing for longer than 7 -10 days, have a doctor check them out and insist they get tested for pertussis and take steps to keep them away from young babies until you know the results. Parents need to know this particular vaccine really doesn’t work that well.

  19. AnneS says:

    “What can we do to change these parental attitudes?”
    Admit that the vaccines are not as safe as they should be and that most of the safety studies have not been done, for starters.
    Then do the safety studies.
    And modify the vaccines and the vaccine schedule.
    Most of us “antivaxxers” are ALL ABOUT SAFETY, as we’ve seen our once-flourishing children hurt or killed from vaccines.

  20. Karen Ernst says:

    Anti-vaxxers need to understand that when they choose not to vaccinate their children and then choose to send their children to school, they take away some of the choices made by vaccinating parents. Parents who vaccinate rely on herd immunity to strengthen their decision to keep their children safe from vaccine-preventable diseases, but they are blind to the strength or weakness of the herd immunity at their children’s schools. Why should we not be fully informed about the vaccination rates at our schools? Where is our choice?

  21. Frankie Milley, Ryan's Mom says:

    As a parent who lost an only child to a vaccine preventable form of meningitis, a grandfather to tetanus, an uncle to diphtheria, a mom to HIB pneumonia, almost lost a sister to secondary complications of chicken pox, a community acquaintance to a mom who lost her 5 year old to influenza, and a good friend to someone who lost an infant to pertussis, I have this to say.
    Had we known about the vaccine that could have saved the life of my son. He would have had it. Instead we watached him die a horrible death.
    One simply has to walk around an old cemetery to see the value of vaccines. I truly believe if children had the choice and voice between deadly vaccine preventable disease or a shot to prevent it, they would choose the shot. However they don’t. They depend on parents and educated health care providers to make that choice. The choice of health and life over debilitating and deadly vaccine preventable disease.
    So it is up to all of us to make sure that actual, proved science and information is out there not just speculations, falsities of information and that our resources are reliable.
    All of us have to be their voice, stand up and make sure they are protected against deadly vaccine preventable diseases and as we do this we make sure those who can’t be vaccinated due to serious legitimate reasons are protected.
    Good Job, Vara and ECBT!!

  22. Amy M says:

    Frankie – Children also depend on parents to keep them safe from harm – and vaccines can cause harm. It’s easy to have 20/20 vision in hindsight. I’m sorry about your son. That is sad – but you have no guarantee he would be alive today if he had been vaccinated.
    Most children in the US who are raised in a healthy way are fine from these diseases. Sometimes something bad happens and it sucks and I am so sorry you had to deal with this but you make it sound like every kid who gets a vaccine preventable disease is going to die, and that is a gross misrepresenation. There are some benfits to some of these diseases for some kids. I love that my kids won’t need to ever get a chicken pox vaccine and the only booster they wil ever need to not get shingles later in life is to be around another young healthy kid with chickenpox. Your way isn’t the only way. In actuality, doctors kill far more people today with drugs and vaccines than vaccine preventable diseases did in the US PRIOR to vaccination. The problem with vaccine zealots is they only value vaccinated children. All children are important. Maybe people with such a rough genetic line of being so succesptible to these diseases and having such bad outcomes need to be looking at how to live healthier less toxic lives in general to overcome bad genetics. Our family history has very little effects from vaccine preventable disease so it really doesn’t make any sense why my kids should be put at risk with a vaccine. We’ve had pertussis, chicken pox, rubella, strep all recovered with no complications whatsoever. Why is your child’s life more important than mine? We have a family history of drug and vaccine reactions – it is the wrong way to go for us. There are different paths to heath – I think based on your history your choice to be vaccinated may be the right one for you but you have no right to make that decision for everyone else. I will never take a vaccine or give one to my children. For some, the risk of a bad outcome from the vaccine may be greater than the risk for the disease and you have no way to predetermine that so it has to be up to the parent becasue they have to live with the consequences of their choices.

    • Frankie Milley, Ryan's Mom says:

      Amy – I have proof of the diseases of which I speak. They were all pre vaccine except for Ryan and my mom. Ryan died from group c meningococcal disease. The vaccine would have prevented it. There is no factual proof that vaccines cause all the problems claimed by the anti-vaccine movement. When and if that happens, I will be one of the first to step up and speak out. Because unlike the person you unjustly accuse me of being, I do care about all children.
      As for my child’s life being more important, his is gone. Sadly, I was not given a choice. Thus why, I fight everyday of my life to educate parents on the diseases, vaccines and healthy living to prevent them.
      You Wrote: “Sometimes something bad happens and it sucks and I am so sorry you had to deal with this but you make it sound like every kid who gets a vaccine preventable disease is going to die, and that is a gross misrepresentation.” No not all will die are be debilitated from it.”
      Thank you for your kind words of condolence!
      Fact is that most kids who contract vaccine preventable forms of meningitis are going to have serious results from it and possibly death. As for the rest of the diseases we have vaccinated for over 50 years in the US and is why we are not seeing the devastations like other countries see where vaccination rates are low, I have this to say: No not all kids in the US who contract these diseases will die. But when they do it is devastating to know it could and has been prevented for many years. However we don’t know what will happen as more parents stop vaccinating and some of the VPD return in epidemics as they were pre-vaccination. Hundreds of thousands die and are debilitated around the world every day from VPD.That is because they are not vaccinated and have no proper medical care when they do get sick.
      It seems the anti-vaccine groups promote unproven fears that every child who gets a vaccine is going to become harmed from it. In your words, ” that is a gross misrepresentation.” Is this not the same thing you accuse those of us who support vaccination of doing?
      You Wrote:
      “Maybe people with such a rough genetic line of being so susceptible to these diseases and having such bad outcomes need to be looking at how to live healthier less toxic lives in general to overcome bad genetics.”
      Wow! This is probably one of the most disturbing statements you made especially since it appears you directed at me persaonlly. Genetics has nothing to do with vaccine preventable diseases they are communicable. I am sure, if you researched your family history back prior to vaccines you would find some suffered from the same diseases and outcomes.
      You Wrote,
      ” There are some benefits to some of these diseases for some kids. I love that my kids won’t need to ever get a chicken pox vaccine and the only booster they will ever need to not get shingles later in life is to be around another young healthy kid with chickenpox.”
      Tell this to some of those parents who took their children to chicken pox parties, and their children contracted it and died as a result. Again there is proof.
      You Wrote:
      For some, the risk of a bad outcome from the vaccine may be greater than the risk for the disease and you have no way to predetermine that so it has to be up to the parent because they have to live with the consequences of their choices.
      What will the anti-vaccine groups say to a parent who listens and chooses not to vaccinate and their child does get sick and is left debilitated or dies? Whoops! ok I was wrong on this one? Who will be accountable for that advice which is not professional medical advice or proved science?
      Parents and responsible patients SHOULD ALWAYS educate themselves before any choosing or refusing any vaccine or medication. They should seek factual, proven information from a medical professional not the Internet and those who are self-pro-claimed experts.
      I personally, would never tell a parent who chooses not to vaccinate they are wrong even though in my heart I feel it is a bad choice. However, I would encourage them to make an informed decision based on the above so in the event something bad happens they can live with their decision. I will continue to share my personal experiences and help to educate on the diseases and prevention. I cannot and will not let Ryan’s death be in vain.
      If you have a personal story with vaccines, I encourage you to do the same. However you might try a little compassion and understanding of those outside your thinking.
      Respectfully, I will have nothing else to say in responce to this post.

  23. Shannon says:

    Thank you for writing this, and for highlighting common misunderstandings about vaccination efficacy and herd immunity.
    While I suspect no one familiar with this topic is surprised by the vehemence of some commenters’ criticisms, readers who are interested in learning more about the mindset of antivaccinationists should read Amy Wallace’s recent essay Covering Vaccines: Science, policy and politics in the minefield:

  24. Robert says:

    When our pediatrician says “vaccines are safe”, I asked him if he meant that the particular vaccines he was suggesting today were safe for my son. He responded in language that talks in terms of studies, statistics and abstractions. The truth of the matter is that studies cannot show safety for a particular individual.
    Moreover, no safety studies have been done on children with allergies; so we do not know the impact of ever-increasing vaccination upon the growing number of children with allergies. My boy, who has environmental and food allergies, already has an immune system that is hyped-up and attacking things that it shouldn’t be going after. Why push it more to provide limited and uncertain protection against diseases that he is very unlikely to come into contact with? If you’re gonna say: because of herd immunity, I say to you: show me that ever-increasing vaccination isn’t going to make my son’s chronic health issues worse!
    Saying that “vaccines are safe” is like saying “pills” are safe. Vaccines are a type of medication. Each vaccine is different. So anybody who says “vaccines are safe” are advertising that they really don’t know what they are talking about OR that they just want you to take the vaccine without thinking carefully about it.

  25. KatieVT says:

    I am not the kind of person who comments on these things, but since this hits home to me, I felt like I needed to voice my opinion.
    I understand that choosing to have your child vaccinated or not is a personal issue. However, to those of you who opt to not have your child vaccinated, I have no problem pointing my finger at YOU and saying that you and/or y0ur child are the reason my child isn’t here anymore. Yes, I will put the blame on YOU.
    My child lost her life to Pertussis in January…. a VACCINE PREVENTABLE DISEASE. My daughter was 3 weeks away from getting her first round of shots… she passed away at 5 weeks old. She was too young for her vaccines. She only left the house after birth to go see her doctor. Therefore, someone who came into contact with her either at the hospital, doctors office or at our home (mind you we limited her visitors) spread the disease on to her… UNKNOWNINGLY!
    As an adult, you can carry the disease and not know it. Did you know you need to have a booster every 10 years? Are you up to date on your booster? If youre not, do you realize that you could be putting infants lives at risk?
    Many of you will say that you aren’t around infants, well, Im sure at somepoint you are. Whether it be an addition to your family (neice, nephew, cousin, etc) or just randomly at the grocery store, out to dinner, etc. You could be carrying the disease, pass a child and give it to them.
    Your unvaccinated child could pass this on to another infant as well. Because your child isn’t vaccinated, they could go to a daycare after school and be carrying these germs around, and pass it onto a defenseless infant. How would that make you feel if your child was the one who passed this on to an infant and that infant lost their life?? Seriously, it CAN happen.
    In the past 24 hours, two people that I know on a personal level were both diagnosed with Pertussis… one here in Indiana and one in Michigan. The one here in Indiana is a 26yr old male who has a 9month old daughter at home. She has had her vaccines but they are still scared she might get it. You never know how your body will handle a vaccine. For instance, I have had every one of my shots since I was a baby , including the one for Rubella but yet Im not immune to Rubella.
    The girl from Michigan is 30 years old and has a 18month at home. She was diagnosed with Pertussis on Monday… and her child has NEVER HAD A VACCINE!! So he’s now at risk to catch it too. She put her own childs life in danger by not choosing to have him vaccinated. And if by chance he’s carrying the disease around (Pertussis can incubate in your system from 7-21 days before any symptoms occur) maybe he spread it to other unvaccinated kids at daycare…. which would then spread to others, and the vicious cycle begins.
    I think its great that in Indiana they are making students aged 6th grade – 12th grade get the shots before going back to school…. but find it pure stupidity that they allow “exceptions” to the rule. How kids can “opt” out of the shots because of their beliefs or what have you.
    Many people choose to NOT vaccinate because of the Autism scare… no offense, but your child with Autism is STILL HERE ON EARTH breathing… my child ISNT. And if you do your homework, its been justified over and over and over again that vaccines and Autism aren’ t related.
    A client of mine refused to get her 1st child vaccinated… because of the scare. And you know what?? HE HAS AUTISM. So obivously the vaccines didn’t cause it. And her 2nd child, hes up to date on his vaccines and guess what?? HES HEALTHY! Go figure that one.
    I wish for a day everyone would wake up and see the reality of the NECESSITY of vaccines. If everyone was up to date on vaccines, my daughter might still be with us today.
    You can choose not vaccinate your kids, but keep Callie Grace in the back of your head… because of people like you who dont vaccinate, shes not here anymore. How would that make you feel if your child was taken from you after only 5 weeks?
    Godforbid your child stays healthy and you dont have to deal with what we’ve been through…. but I almost wish those of you who choose NOT to vaccinate, are HIT hard with an illness just to make you realize WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN.
    Thats my rant for today! Many of you wish bash me and hate me over this, adn thats fine. Im entitled to my opinion just like you are.

    • Patrick says:

      This is terrible. And it is also terrible that little ones sometimes die from the DTaP vaccine. Here are the ones we know about because they have been reported:
      You don’t have to be unvaccinated to spread pertussis. It could have come from a vaccinated person, or from you (as terrible as that is to say and to contemplate).
      I think this is a tragic example of life having no easy, risk-free options. Honest, well-meaning parents should not vilified for making different choices in an uncertain world.

      • gattarian says:

        I just have to note that that link is the single most misleading thing I have seen in some time. It simply lists patients who died and who also recieved some vaccination. I’ll admit that I only looked at the first few patients, but in the first page there was one case of SIDS, one possible head trauma, and a few cardiac arrests. NONE of them listed a cause of death as “Reaction to vaccine”. All you’ve done is find a number of people who died after a vaccine from whatever cause and incited panic over the safety of the vaccines. Shame. Shame indeed.
        From this link:
        “# Moderate reactions to the DTaP vaccine occur in 0.1% or less of children and include ongoing crying (for three hours or more), a high fever (up to 105 degrees F), and an unusual, high-pitched crying.
        # Less than 0.06% of children will have a febrile seizure or a period of shock-collapse, where they become pale and limp for a short period. While these side effects are certainly disturbing, all of the above problems are temporary and have never been demonstrated to create a long-term problem of any kind.
        # Severe problems from the DTaP immunization happen very rarely (less than 1 in a million doses or less than 0.0001%). These include a serious allergic reaction, a prolonged seizure, a decrease in consciousness, lasting brain disease, or even death.
        # Major epidemiological studies looking at neurologic risks related to immunization have been unable to demonstrate a causal relationship between DPT and any severe, chronic neurologic disorder.”

    • Karen Ernst says:

      My deepest condolences for the loss of your baby, and my deepest appreciation to you for speaking out on behalf of all the children who are not yours but may be saved because of your courage.

  26. Carter'sMom says:

    Elizabeth R: You state that it is none of my business what the vaccination status of your child is. In my opinion you are wrong, it is my business and the business of anyone that comes in contact with your child because your choice is putting my family in danger. An I do blame the families and my family carries guilt also.
    You see on January 28th we lost our 7 week old son to Pertussis ! I vaccine preventable disease that he contracted before he was old enough to be vaccinated for it. I wasn’t given a chance to decide if he got the shot or not.
    I do have a 10 yr old and he has been vaccinated like a child is supposed to be before he attends a public school. In my opinion parents should be made aware if their child is in a class with an unvaccinated child.
    Carter died because he contracted Pertussis. Did you know that adults need a Tdap booster after the age of 11 to keep their immunity to the disease up. Did you know that Pertussis can take 7 to 21 days before you show symptoms and by then you could have infected your whole family ? Carter only lived 9 days before he earned his wings. 9DAYS !!! He was 7WEEKS Old !
    You are correct there are unknown risk to vaccines but there on unknown risk in letting your child go outside and play. Or putting them in a car and riding to the mall with them, but you still do it.
    As far as the other vaccines such as the Chicken Pox one, my son (10 yr old) had it also because as his mother, I have not had Chicken Pox and don’t wish to have it in my adult life.
    As far as still getting Pertussis even after being vaccinated, no vaccine is 100% and they don’t claim to be. If you are an adult the Tdap vaccine wasn’t available until 2005 and now it is being added to the Tetanus shot to try and stop the wide spread of this treatable disease. Yes I know that some children get it and live and so do some adults. But some don’t and those are the ones that we are trying to protect.
    Sure you are making a choice for your child that you gave birth too. An in that case I would ask that you keep your child at home and not around those of us that are trying to protect our children. Yes I know that some people believe that children can get Autism from vaccines but you know what, I would have taken Carte with Autism.
    Instead, everyday I go and sit and talk to my son’s “bed”, where he has been since he earned his wings. I want celebrate his first tooth, first words, first birthday, or even his first date, because of the choices made by others. So explain to me how you can say it isn’t my business if your child is vaccinated or not when it does effect MY LIFE ! My children being vaccinated doesn’t but your children at risk !
    For 9 days we say by Carter’s bed and prayed for a miracle. He was awake and alert for the first 41/2 days and then one afternoon he started the coughing and turned BLUE, right there in front of my eyes. That was the last time we say he awake. He was hooked up to respiratorys and oscilators, and finally a ECMO machine. Have you ever seen a 7 week old swollen to twice his side with two huge tubes coming out of his little neck. I have for 3 days I looked at that, watching his blood run in and out of his body. The doctors did everything they could. The last medication we signed for them to give Carter actually tinted his body blue and could cause mild brain damage. But you know what I signed the paper and they gave it to him because I would have taken him home handicap because he would still be alive. But it didn’t work and God called him home.
    Children aren’t perfect, but you know I would love my child whether he was “normal”, autistic, or handicap in any othe way. God gives you things he knows you can handle and if he chooses to bless us with a special needs child then I will love him/her regardless. I believe that vaccines aren’t what cause Autism or shingles, I belive that God is control of that way before our children are given to us.
    So please excuse me as a mother of an angel baby if I don’t agree with YOUR RIGHT to choose. Because MY RIGHT is to not agree with it, I have seen what it can do. An I pray that those of you that make the choice not to vaccinenate never have to watch your child suffer, but if it does happen want you wish you would have given them the vaccination ??
    I attached a video of Carter and how he went from a beautiful baby boy one day to being sick and asleep 5 days later. An right now this soon after Carter’s passing I don’t feel you have the right to make choices that affect my life.
    Your child that hasn’t been vaccinated got up this morning and went outside and played but my Carter want get that chance.
    I agreee that everyone has the freedom to chose but realizes your choices effect other whether you think they do or not !

    • Dear Carter’s Mom: Thank you for sharing this precious little one with us.
      I say, How many tears must we cry and how many must die before they listen? Because of little Carter, other babies will be saved and protected agaist Pertussis. My heart and prayers are with you and your family.

  27. Patrick says:

    If you believe the data is misleading – don’t take it up with me. Work with the CDC to fix it. Its gov’t data. Raw data reflects real world complexity and uncertainty.
    When vaccine reactions occur – what exactly do you expect to see? A big sign saying “vaccine reaction occurring” ? Example: Gardasil is known to cause fainting, which may cause head-trauma. I hope you wouldn’t look at such a record and say: its not the vaccine, its the fainting!
    Lets move beyond posting somebody else’s opinion. Doctor Greene isn’t here to take questions. What do you think and why?

  28. Susan says:

    First of all, I want to say to KatieVT and Carter’sMom how sorry I am for your loss. Losing a child is devastating. It takes a very long time to come to terms with such a huge loss.
    I’m a pediatric nurse and I have taken care of several babies who died of pertussis and other vaccine-preventable diseases. I remember saying some of the same things to parents that some of you are saying. My baby also died – within 48 hours of getting her first set of vaccines. Even so, I encouraged my sister to vaccinate her baby. She didn’t want to but there was no contraindication for her baby being vaccinated based on what happened to my baby. Her baby only got DTaP at two months and she screamed a high-pitched scream on and off for three days. She’s severely retarded, non-verbal, incontinent and suffers from epilepsy. I think my family may have some problems with vaccines. I would have never believed any of this until it happened to my own family.
    Really – this shouldn’t be a black and white issue. Parents who lost their babies to diseases and to vaccines all hurt. We all feel guilty and angry and there’s a big hole in our hearts that can never ever be filed.
    All the best to you. I hope someday there can be respectful discourse among us all and there will be a way to truly value the health of all children.

    • Susan, thank you for sharing your very painful thoughts and personal experince. I am so sorry for you, your sister and her precious child. I to know the pain of losing a child. Ryan was 18 and my only child. He died a very horrible death from meningococcal disease. I buried a part of myself with him that day that I have and most likely will never get back.
      You Wrote: “I hope someday there can be respectful discourse among us all and there will be a way to truly value the health of all children.”
      Wiser words were never spoken. I have long prayed for the time when moms like us from both views, a few professionals who have seen and treated both, who have real experiences can come together in public media and openly, respectfully discuss disease and vaccine use. Let parents see and hear from real parents with real experience and then make informed, educated decisions on what is best for their child.
      I believe that all who have written here have done so with passion, love for all children and conviction. Some may express their views with written words better than others but nevertheless I believe if ALL of us did not care for ALL children we would not have taken the time just as you and me, to post. To your quote, I would add life and before health.
      Again thank you for your post.
      Blessings to you and your family, Frankie

  29. Elizabeth R says:

    I gave the vaccine to my kid FIVE TIMES and she still got pertussis and you are still asking me to keep my kid home? She was 9. What more can someone do? You are totally unreasonable and disconnected from reality. I’m so glad this is all posted for parents researching this issue to see. Blame the vaccine for not being safe or effective or useful enough for your situation but your intolerance towards me and my child is disgusting. Shame on you.

  30. Mike says:

    This video is a fantastically funny counter-point to the Penn & Teller video posted at the top.

  31. Carter'sMom says:

    Elizabeth, I should clarify my stmt and say the only part of my posting that was directed towards you was the part about whether your child was vaccinated or not being any of my business. I beleive that everyone has the right to know if the children they are sending their child to school wiht, so we can all make an educated decision.
    The rest was my broad stmt on the whole matter and not addressed to anyone in particular.
    So there is not “shame on me”, I am sorry that you daughter also contracted pertussis and I do understand that all vaccines are not 100% fool proof.
    I honestly don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to the quesiton. Everyone has there own opinionis based on their life experiences.
    If I was in Susan’s shoes my opinion may be different than someone that has been in my shoes.

  32. Amy Cooper says:

    As always, I want to thank those who continue to advocate for vaccination despite the small but virulent anti-vaccine community. Whenever I read the comments made by those opposing vaccines I find myself that much more convinced that vaccination is the best decision I can make for my children- not just for their health, but for the health of the beloved children of others- whatever choice those parents have made regarding this issue. I recognize that the choice other parents make to vaccinate their children offers another level of protection to mine and for that I am sincerely thankful.
    Carter’s Mom- I think I’ve said it before in another forum, but you have inspired me to get myself an adult pertussis booster and I have encouraged those close to me to do the same. I will also be extra vigilant to keep to the vaccine schedule for the baby I’m expecting in 3 weeks and for my son as he grows. I want you to know that your story has the potential to save the lives of my small children and the children we meet along the way. For that, I am grateful and I wish your family grace and goodness in all that is ahead for you.

  33. Patrick says:

    Amy: “As always, I want to thank those who continue to advocate for vaccination despite the small but virulent anti-vaccine community.”
    Amy, you are missing a very important development all over America: a growing number of (as Christine’s blog noted) well-educated parents who are insisting upon our own alternative vaccination schedules. I count myself as part of this group. Please stop calling us anti-vaccine; we’re not.
    Over the past 5 years I’ve seen a surprisingly large number of parents move towards partial-vaccination via alternative schedules. Instead of fearing this development like Christine Vara does, it would be much smarter to embrace it by studying it (we are a democracy, after all) and finding out WHY so many parents are doing this.
    Japan has had a 100% voluntary vaccination program since the 1990’s with higher compliance rates than we have, largely because the Japanese gov’t does a better job at taking responsibility to vaccine safety. One way they do this is with a detailed checklist that is filled out before the child comes in for a well-visit. If there are any concerns noted on the checklist, such as a recent illness, vaccination will be delayed. This is one of many steps they take (that we do not) which promote safety over compliance.
    I’ll bet that if more parents in America felt that safety was valued over compliance, we’d have more trust for our public health officials.

  34. Patrick says:

    Well, I think its safe to say that Christine Vara lacks any data on how exemptions are used in California. My original challenge to her remains unanswered. Its disappointing to see Every Child By Two raising fear about exemption use when they don’t understand how or why exemptions are being used.
    I know some parents who use exemptions to avoid HepB. That’s it.

  35. NoShots4Me says:

    I just came across this and I think some of you are delusional.
    Do you really think your child’s kindergarten teacher had a recent Hep B shot or your child’s cafeteria lady had her recent Tdap? Or do you think the cooks in the cafeteria had all several dozen doses of whatever kindergarteners get by the time they go to school? How about your school principal? Do you really think he/she had the pneumococcal vaccine? How about your child’s bus driver, your babysitter, the person at the deli counter slicing you lunchmeat for sandwiches? Do you think they have had every vaccine out there? How many of you have had your meningitis and pnuemococcal shots, mmr boosters, and moms: do you all have your 3 doses of HPV?
    You spout claims that a healthy non-vaccinated or better yet partially vaccinated kid is a threat to herd immunity but the punch line is there is no heard immunity when you factor in the whole population because the whole adult population isn’t vaccinated for everything and the whole population doesn’t have immunity to everything. What about your kids’ grandparents? I sure hope they have their hep A shot because you never know when grandma or grandpa forget to wash their hands after you know what when they are watching your kids.
    Seriously, can’t you see how silly this sounds? If you are picking and choosing what vaccines you want for yourself and you allow all these adults in your lives to not be fully vaccinated with every vaccine on the childhood schedule, then you are nothing but hypocrites to criticize and ostracize children who aren’t completely vaccinated. Walk the walk before you talk the talk.

  36. Roger Kulp says:

    I just discovered your blog,it needs to be seen by a lot more people.I suggest you try and get bloggers like Orac,or Kim Wombles to link to it.
    Something I didn’t really know,until I read it over at RI,was an increasing number of antivaxers are also germ theory denialists.Many are also very hostile to the idea that there are genetic defects can cause disease.When I once read a comment at Age of Autism,who equated people who believe there are genetic causes for diseases,with Nazi eugenicists,I realized the problem was worse than I thought.
    I am an adult with a fairly severe,by today’s standards,autism diagnosis.I also have a lot of other medical problems,and disabilities.I have mutations,and a possible deletion of chromosome 22q.I have a Selective IgE deficiency.I have a serious folate metabolism disorder,with mutations of both MTHFR genes.My problems are more serious than most,but MTHFR mutations,autoimmune diseases,and immune deficiencies are ery common in autism.
    I have suffered serious disability,as a result of childhood diseases now preventable by vaccines on top of everything else.I am blind in my left eye.It may be he 22q problems,but it’s more likely a result of acute meningitis,I had when I was five months old.When I was in the first grade I got chicken pox.I was seriously ill for weeks.I had a fever that spiked around 106,and had cardiac complications.Four years later,I developed what I now know to be systemic arteritis,which I am learning is linked to VZV exposure.I developed cerebrovascular “strokes” after a flare of shinggles.(MB12 is the only thing that controls them.)
    Chicken pox is very dangerous to children with MTHFR mutations,and MTHFR is very common in autism.
    My point is,that in addition to putting the population at large at risk,there is a medically fragile subgroup of autistics,who are being put at even greater risk by the unvaccinated herd.Which is ironic,because the antivaxers make such a big todo about how much they care about those with autism.
    Paul Offit is proving to be very prophetic indeed.

  37. […] Shot of Prevention Education about vaccine safety Skip to content HomeAbout UsComment Policy ← Is Your Child’s Classmate Unvaccinated? […]

  38. Orange Lantern says:

    You spout claims that a healthy non-vaccinated or better yet partially vaccinated kid is a threat to herd immunity but the punch line is there is no heard immunity when you factor in the whole population because the whole adult population isn’t vaccinated for everything and the whole population doesn’t have immunity to everything

    NoShots4Me, you’re not considering the “vectors” of disease, i.e. how diseases are commonly spread. Many of the vaccine-preventable diseases we are talking about are spread primarily from child to child when they are in groups, like at school. It is much less likely that a disease is going to be passed from the bus driver to a child – they just aren’t in that close of contact. In addition, for some diseases, older adults may not need to be up to date because they have had the disease, like chickenpox or measles. When you immunize the children, you go a long way to controlling the vectors of disease and can indeed achieve reasonable herd immunity.
    Nonetheless, it is wise for adults to make sure their shots are up to date on their immunizations, especially pertussis. The more adults are up to date, the stronger our herd immunity will be. I’m up to date on all the shots you mentioned which are recommended for my age, BTW.

  39. Orange Lantern says:

    Patrick, here is the immunization information for kindergarten age students in California, by county. It took me ten seconds to Google. You can see the percent of up-to-date children and what vaccines are missing, though it does not distinguish between religious, philosophical, and medical waivers. What exactly are you wanting to know?

  40. […] for instance the concept of herd immunity.  It is based on a delicate balance of numbers.  If the number of people immune to a disease (by […]

  41. […] Some of these parents feel that they should have the right to know how many of their childrens’ classmates are unvaccinated. After all, if there is a large enough percentage of unvaccinated children, it may be putting their […]

  42. Sara says:

    Patrick :
    Well, I think its safe to say that Christine Vara lacks any data on how exemptions are used in California. My original challenge to her remains unanswered. Its disappointing to see Every Child By Two raising fear about exemption use when they don’t understand how or why exemptions are being used.
    I know some parents who use exemptions to avoid HepB. That’s it.

    Take heart, Patrick. As many articles covering this issue have pointed out, it is predominantly the higher-educated, more affluent parents who are utilizing exemptions. California’s overall exemption rate is at 2.03%. Which, interestingly, corresponds with the 2% of the population with an IQ over 130 according to the most recent bell curve of IQ score distribution within the population of the US. So… pretty clear where the rest of these sheep fall in line.

  43. Sara says:

    Chris :
    Citation for this statement, please. Please show that it is only those in the upper 2% that are filing exemptions. Thank you.

    ha ha! Good one. I’ll get on that as soon as you provide citation that children who are entering Kindergarten with exemptions in California are unvaccinated, as Christine suggests in her post.
    And Orange Lantern – your stats show nothing of the immunization status of children with a PBE. Filing a PBE excuses a parent from divulging the vaccination status of their child to school officials.

    • Chris says:

      I never offered that cite, nor did I make that statement. And what you are asking really doesn’t make sense. And the laws in California have changed since this article was posted a year ago.
      If you make a statement, you should be willing to back it up, even though you did reply to a year old comment..
      Why would people who are smarter more willing to ignore science and statistics? Perhaps you should show us exactly what scientific evidence they are using to not vaccinate their children for pertussis.

  44. Sara says:

    Chris :
    I never offered that cite, nor did I make that statement. And what you are asking really doesn’t make sense. And the laws in California have changed since this article was posted a year ago.

    It’s a valid question. It’s no surprise to me that it doesn’t make sense to you. If you don’t support the statement that all children entering Kindergarten with exemptions in California are unvaccinated, then you shouldn’t have commented. I wasn’t addressing you anyway. A change of regulation in California is irrelevant.

    Chris :
    If you make a statement, you should be willing to back it up, even though you did reply to a year old comment..

    Why? Christine didn’t back up her assertions. If you want to play moderator and decide on the rules, start with the OP. Who cares if it was a year old comment? I didn’t bump this post. If you are saying that we should all deem this post to be fallacious because it is out of date – well, then – that’s refreshing!

    • Chris says:

      If you don’t support the statement that all children entering Kindergarten with exemptions in California are unvaccinated, then you shouldn’t have commented. I wasn’t addressing you anyway.

      So are you playing moderator now?
      I didn’t bump the post either. That was guppy24 who was dumping all sorts of unsupported statements. Something that you were also doing. I just like to know where you get your information, and if it supports your statements. It is obvious that you don’t have anything to support what you wrote.
      What is interesting, is that some states that have had high exemption rates with corresponding high rates of pertussis have added some laws. California for one, and the state that I live in: an exemption must be signed by a licensed health care provider.
      Oh, and here is the scientific evidence that states with looser exemptions have higher levels of pertussis:
      Geographic clustering of nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements and associations with geographic clustering of pertussis.
      Omer SB, Enger KS, Moulton LH, Halsey NA, Stokley S, Salmon DA.
      Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Dec 15;168(12):1389-96. Epub 2008 Oct 15
      But wait! There i more! Some other evidence that not vaccinating contributes to more pertussis:
      Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story
      Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):1446-51.
      Parental refusal of pertussis vaccination is associated with an increased risk of pertussis infection in children.
      Glanz JM, McClure DL, Magid DJ, Daley MF, France EK, Salmon DA, Hambidge SJ.
      WMJ. 2009 Feb;108(1):17-23.
      Parental vaccine refusal in Wisconsin: a case-control study.
      Salmon DA, Sotir MJ, Pan WK, Berg JL, Omer SB, Stokley S, Hopfensperger DJ, Davis JP, Halsey NA.
      JAMA. 2000 Dec 27;284(24):3145-50.
      Individual and community risks of measles and pertussis associated with personal exemptions to immunization.
      Feikin DR, Lezotte DC, Hamman RF, Salmon DA, Chen RT, Hoffman RE.
      Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2005 May;24(5 Suppl):S48-54.
      Economic burden of pertussis and the impact of immunization.
      Caro JJ, Getsios D, Payne K, Annemans L, Neumann PJ, Trindade E.
      So explain again, why people who look at the real evidence and still decide to not vaccinate and hope that herd immunity protects their children are actually smarter. Be sure to include the scientific evidence that supports your claims.

  45. […] For many people, the idea of not vaccinating their children has never crossed their mind.  Many parents who vaccinate probably assume that everyone else is vaccinated as well.  But thanks to this recent AP analysis, and last night’s episode of NBC’s Nightly […]

  46. […] the school vaccine requirements to take a few extra steps before putting their children, and their children’s classmates, at risk. In fact, many states are encouraged by the response they’ve seen when Washington state […]

  47. Jenni says:

    I have questions. Hedrich theorized that the magic number of immune individuals required to protect a population was 68%. He was talking about natural (not vaccine-derived) immunity, and since he was studying measles, he was talking about life-long immunity from having contracted the disease. At what point did research support his theories about 68% natural immunity offering population protection? I cannot seem to find such studies. What studies have shown that the magic number of 95% (which I hear quoted in the media all the time) of a population must be vaccinated in order to provide herd immunity? I cannot seem to find any studies showing this theory has ever been proven, or that herd immunity actually applies to temporary, vaccine-induced immunity. Barring evidence that supports herd immunity actually applying to vaccines, this entire article is pointless.

  48. Lawrence says:

    @Jenni – do you deny that having a population of immune individuals (whether they are vaccine-immune or naturally immune makes no difference) creates a situation where diseases are unable to successfully spread?
    You seem to have a major logic fail going on…..

  49. Lawrence says:

    @Jenni – you are also incorrect that studies involving vaccines and herd immunity do not exist. Here is a link to several:

  50. Chris says:

    Jenni, it is interesting that Hedrich was brought up, but there was no references to his writings. Just a statement that he did something thirty years before there was a measles vaccine on a comment posted three years ago. Compared to 1933 research, the following two papers are more relevant (and still over thirty years old, one is over fifty years old!):
    Measles Virus: A Summary of Experiments Concerned with Isolation, Properties, and Behavior
    The Benefits From 10 Years of Measles Immunization in the United States
    Perhaps you should look in more recent epidemiology references. There are several articles in PubMed that are reviews on measles elimination strategies, including several on the 1990 measles epidemic that killed over a hundred Americans. Like:
    West J Med. 1993 Oct;159(4):455-64.
    Measles epidemic from failure to immunize.
    West J Med. 1996 Jul-Aug;165(1-2):20-5.
    Pediatric hospital admissions for measles. Lessons from the 1990 epidemic.
    JAMA. 2000 Dec 27;284(24):3145-50.
    Individual and community risks of measles and pertussis associated with personal exemptions to immunization.
    J Infect Dis. 2004 May 1;189 Suppl 1:S69-77.
    Acute measles mortality in the United States, 1987-2002.
    The study of epidemiology involves lots of statistical math, where the variables include things like how well the pathogen spreads, and the chances of getting infected. Measles is high on both of those counts. There was an interesting explanation of the equations used in the movie Contagion.

  51. Chris says:

    This is what Elise said three years ago: “The herd immunity theory was originally coined in 1933 by a researcher called Hedrich. He had been studying measles patterns in the US between 1900-1931 (years before any vaccine was ever invented for measles) and he observed that epidemics of the illness only occurred when less than 68% of children had developed a natural immunity to it.”
    In the past couple of years more and more older PubMed papers are now online. And we can see that Elise did not exactly characterize what Hedrich wrote very well. Here is the pdf of one paper showing cycles of diseases, particularly measles: THE “NORMAL” FOR EPIDEMIC DISEASES. And here are his next two papers on the PubMed index:
    Am J Public Health Nations Health. 1933 Nov;23(11):1159-64.
    The Need of an Index Statisticus.
    Am J Public Health Nations Health. 1937 Jul;27(7):707-10.
    Preliminary Report of the Sub-Committee on the Educational Qualifications of Public Health Statisticians.
    This is why I am very suspicious of claims without supporting references. Doing a quick Google for “hedrich herd immunity” finds that this claim is repeated mostly in anti-vaccine websites, but brings up one actual paper that uses all three words: “Herd Immunity”: A Rough Guide. Where this is the Hedrich reference:
    Am J Hygiene 1933;17:613-36.
    Monthly estimates of the child population ‘susceptible’ to measles: 1900 – 31, Baltimore, MD.
    That journal link credits the following reference for the term “herd immunity”, note that it is a decade before 1933:
    J Hyg 1923;21:243-9.
    The spread of bacterial infection: the problem of herd immunity.
    I suggest you read that last linked historical review on herd immunity, it should answer your question. Also avoid any website or person who makes the same very wrong claim as Elise.

  52. Lawrence says:

    @Bob – ummmm….I’m pretty sure we’ve been through all of that before…rather than post up some propaganda anti-vax website, I would recommend reviewing this series of actual scientific studies:

  53. Chris says:

    Mr. Burns, that seems to be one anecdote.
    And why, oh why are you all posting on this very old article? Did you both finally find something to say after three years?

  54. Bob Burns says:

    Why? Because this is where the conversation was… I posted here.
    One anecdote? Are you denying this is the case?
    You really don’t care about the children do you? Disgusting.

  55. Chris says:

    I am sorry, Mr. Burns, but Ms. England does not provide enough verifiable data to support the claims. She is just a journalist and has no real expertise in science.
    Now, if you would be so kind to provide some actual science supporting your blanket comment: “Vaccines are not safe.” Just provide the PubMed indexed study by a qualified reputable researcher showing that a vaccine on the American pediatric schedule is more dangerous than the disease (note that particle flu vaccine was not offered in the USA). You can start with the vaccines that are discussed in Lawrence’s link.

  56. Lawrence says:

    @Bob – obviously you care very little for the millions of children that die or are permanently harmed by vaccine preventable diseases worldwide…..if you take a look at the Safety Studies that have been posted, you’d realize that vaccines are both incredibly safe and incredibly effective – unlike the diseases they prevent, which are both dangerous and potentially fatal.

  57. Chris says:

    Mr. Burns: “You really don’t care about the children do you? Disgusting.”
    Why would you rather kids get sick? If you really feel that the vaccines are worse than the diseases, then you would come up with a verifiable scientific study from a reputable researcher, and not just an article that said the child was not hurt enough.

  58. novalox says:

    [citation needed]

  59. dingo199 says:

    Jenni :
    I have questions.

    Jenni, the proportion of the population that needs to be immune to a disease before there is sufficient “herd” immunity to prevent ongoing spread or outbreaks differs with the degree of “contagiousness” of the disease.
    Basically, an outbreak happens when someone with the disease is able to pass it on to another person. If the disease is infectious enough, and passed to MORE than one person, an outbreak ensues. (eg if passed to 2 people, you soon get 4, then 8, then 16, then 32 people infected and so on until the infection runs out of uninfected people to transmit to.)
    But if a disease is of low infectivity, and on average transmits to LESS than one person, it soon peters out and can’t propagate (eg if you start with 5 people with disease, then they only pass it on to say 3 with the next generation, then they pass it to 1, and then no more cases occur)
    Measles is very infectious, and transmits to around 15 people on average. That is its “reproductive number”). This means that in a population where MORE than 14 out of 15 people are “immune”, the virus will find it hard to spread, and soon die out. That “magic number”/proportion is 95% of the population. Less than that and you risk an outbreak taking hold, since the virus has opportunity to spread.
    Mumps is less infectious, spreading to around 4 people from each case (Reproductive number of 4). So if MORE than 4 out of 5 in a population are already immune, it will generally not spread much. That is 80% of the population. Less than that, and you risk outbreaks and ongoing spread.
    People always think 95% is the magic number for all infections – it isn’t.
    Influenza for instance will spread from one person to around 2-3 others. So if around 50-66% of the population is immune, outbreaks will be difficult to propagate. But we only immunise a small proportion of any population in a flu season, and the vaccine is only around 60-70% effective, so we never get sufficient numbers who are genuinely “immune” to stop flu outbreaks each year. The vaccine will protect individuals at risk, but not really provide herd immunity.
    Hope that helps.

  60. Yvonne says:

    Especially useful looking forth to returning.

  61. John Smith says:

    I became very interested in this topic recently when I learned that my local school systems do not require students to be vaccinated. Worse, if a parent submits a false vax report to their school, it does not appear that there is any mechanism in place to catch this behavior.
    This is a problem because I believe that every parent should have a right to know what the vaccination levels are at a school that they are considering sending their child to. If anti-vaxers are forging school vax records, and there is no verification system to catch it, then parents who are worried about disease outbreaks have no way to determine what the vax levels are.
    Earlier in this thread someone expressed the opinion that it is nobody else’s business whether or not they vaccinate their kids. I believe this is correct in the sense that an individual’s medical records should not be made public. However, each unvaccinated student in a school increases the overall risk to each student, so it is a perfectly reasonable request for parent considering various schooling options to want to know what the vax rate is for a particular school of interest.
    Which leads to the issue of falsified vax records. Even though my state allows schools to exempt students from vaxing, it is reasonable to believe that some parents will choose to falsify a vax record instead of claiming exemption. And in Ohio at least, I believe there is currently no mechanism to verify the legitimacy of student vax records. What is needed is a state requirement that pediatricians report all vaxes administered, and to whom, to a central database. This database will make verification easy and getting away with falsifying difficult.
    Once we have school vax rate numbers that we are confident of, then parents who are worried about vaccine-preventable diseases can make an informed decision about where to send their child.

  62. […] Is Your Child’s Classmate Unvaccinated? […]

  63. […] Is Your Child’s Classmate Unvaccinated? […]

  64. […] Is Your Child’s Classmate Unvaccinated? […]

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