Fake news is nothing new to vaccine advocates.
For years we’ve been countering vaccine misinformation from a large number of sites such as Mercola, Natural News, Age of Autism and dozens of others. They each have their own way of claiming that vaccine risks outweigh their benefits, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence from experts around the world that says otherwise.
Despite the fact that these sites fail to provide evidence to back up their false claims, the misinformation they routinely publish is widely circulated on social media and it’s likely that their efforts can contribute to the doubts that some Americans have about the safety and efficacy of today’s vaccines.
This is why day after day, and year after year, countless organizations like Every Child By Two, work hard to provide the public with evidence-based information about vaccines through informative websites like Vaccinate Your Family, and social media accounts like the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page and @ShotofPrev Twitter account.
But this week, fake vaccine news has entered an entirely new realm and it is rather concerning.
Yesterday I woke to such headlines as, ‘Trump Orders CDC to Remove all Vaccination Related Information from Website’ and ‘President Trump Signed an Executive Order Banning Childhood Vaccinations for 90 Days’.
These, and other outrageous stories that are circulating on the internet, signal a new level of hysteria that is dangerous for us all.
While it is comforting to know that these articles were irresponsibly inaccurate, I’m still left questioning the motives and intent behind these headlines. What were the the authors’ and publishers’ hoping to achieve? Read more…
This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.
Like all parents, my child’s health is very important to me. That’s why, even after getting an autism diagnosis for my son, I still believe in and advocate for vaccinations.
I don’t believe autism is caused by MMR or any other vaccinations.
The allegations made by Andrew Wakefield, the man who tried to convince the world of an MMR vaccine-autism link, were based on falsified data, yet he continues to make his claim to try to frighten people throughout the world. This article by Brian Deer systematically addresses Wakefield’s flawed theories and debunks the autism myth that Andrew Wakefield has perpetuated.
As if that weren’t enough, there have been countless studies that have investigated any possible link between vaccines and autism and no evidence can be found to support such a link. (You can access the latest published research here, here and here.)
The science is clear, and yet there are many autism advocacy organizations that continue to install fear in parents who just want what’s best for their children.
As this Newsweek article explains:
“Despite the science, organizations involved in the anti-vaccine movement still hope to find some evidence that vaccines threaten children’s health. For example, the autism advocacy organization SafeMinds, —whose mission is to raise awareness about how certain environmental exposures may be linked to autism, recently funded research it hoped would prove vaccines cause autism in children. But this effort appears to have backfired for the organization—since the study they funded failed to show any link between autism and vaccines.”
Alycia Halladay, chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation, commends SafeMinds for financially supporting the study, but she worries that some autism advocates may be asking the wrong questions.
“I’m not saying that we need to stop funding research in the environment, because we know the environment does impact neurodevelopment,” she says.
However, Halladay explains that organizations that look to blame vaccines for causing autism are “playing whack-a-mole”.
“First, the proposed association was between the MMR vaccines and autism. Then that was disproven. Then it was the thimerosal components in vaccines; now that has been further disproven in a carefully designed animal model study that aimed to specifically examine that question. It has also been suggested that the association is because of vaccine timing, but that too has been disproven. The target always seems to be moving, and the expectation is that scientific resources will be diverted to address each new modification of this hypothesized link.”
While there may always be people who will believe there is a link between vaccines and autism, despite the science that proves otherwise, I’m writing today to explain another issue that has swayed my decision to support vaccines.
This issue is one of life and death for my son Ben.
I realize, very clearly, that without vaccinations my son would die.
That is why I am a fan of modern medicine and the science that makes vaccines possible. If Ben had been born a century sooner, he wouldn’t have survived his Hirschsprung’s disease. Had he been born less than a half century sooner, he wouldn’t have survived leukemia. As it is, we have come face to face with his mortality several times. I see vaccinations along the same lines as chemotherapy – far from perfect, but with the help of the scientific method, getting better all the time. Vaccines, and even chemotherapy in Ben’s case, are the best shot we have at giving our child a long, healthy life.
For us, though, it goes a step further.
Ben is also immunocompromised.
That means that even fully vaccinated, he doesn’t have enough ability to fight off diseases. He is that kid. The kid who needs herd immunity. He’s the reason our whole family gets flu shots and chicken pox vaccines. He’s the kid who needed boosters for pneumococcal vaccines – because his body lost immunity to them. Even though we do our best to protect him, he’s the kid that could get infected during a measles outbreak. And he is the kid whose body is weak and who is very likely to succumb to a disease like measles, which would inevitably hospitalize him or worse…cost him his life.
I wrote this piece after weeks of consideration. I realize this could ruffle feathers. So I ask…
If you don’t vaccinate, have you researched the diseases we vaccinate against as well as the side effects of vaccinations? Have you seen what polio and diphtheria can do? Do you realize that if measles encephalitis sets in that your child will be isolated in the Intensive Care Unit while you wait to find out if he or she is the lucky one who survives with brain damage? And do you realize that, statistically speaking, the greatest risk in getting a vaccine for your child is driving your child to the doctor’s office?
I realize the rhetoric goes around and around, and that I’m about as likely to change your mind as you are likely to change mine. But if there’s that tiny chance that you’re really considering all the facts, I’m hopeful that Ben’s face and plight would make a difference. After all, I am his mother, and I must do everything I can to protect him and keep him healthy. I have to try.
I have a sad feeling that it will take a true epidemic to turn the tide. I just hope that my child will not end up as a casualty. He is not a statistic, nor would I ever want him to be one…he’s our precious child and we don’t want to lose him.
So please remember, your vaccination status could mean the life or death of a child like Ben.
Every Child By Two is collaborating with various immunization advocacy organizations to collect personal stories about the value of vaccines. These stories will then be shared with state and federal legislators throughout National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) in August. Help ensure that our government representatives know that our country, our communities, our students and our families deserve protection from vaccine preventable diseases. Join the movement and speak out in favor of vaccines by sharing your story at the following link: bit.ly/28NoZCR.
Since I first began contributing to Shot of Prevention I’ve had many opportunities to realize that people who support immunizations are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. Everyone from healthcare providers to public health professionals, and immunization coalition members to epidemiologists all commit themselves to educating others about the importance of timely immunizations. They also play a key role in refuting the misinformation and negative accusations that continuously cause people to question the value and safety of vaccines.
When we look at immunization education challenges, there is no doubt that some of the most prevalent misconceptions about vaccines are the result of the work of one man – Andrew Wakefield. Many people would agree that Andrew Wakefield’s “callous disregard” for scientific integrity has had ripple effects on immunization rates and disease outbreaks. Not only have his professional dealings been questionable and heavily criticized, Wakefield has also been stripped of his medical license. Yet, as an author of a book entitled Callous Disregard, Wakefield continues to promote his misguided agenda in an effort to defend himself and persuade others to question the benefits of vaccines.
Fortunately, organizations like Every Child By Two, work hard to dispel the myths that he has helped create. And fortunately, Every Child By Two has the support of many devoted immunization advocates – people like Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH. As a retired epidemiologist he has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. After reading Callous Disregard, he felt compelled to refute each and every point that Andrew Wakefield attempted to make about vaccine safety and his article was ultimately published in a peer-reviewed online open-source medical journal.
He explains: Read more…
There are now over 750 cases of measles in Wales with 72 cases being reported since Thursday. Unfortunately, as can be expected with measles, as many as 77 people have been hospitalized since the beginning of the outbreak and sadly, it may just be a matter of time before someone suffers serious complications and dies. Although children of all age groups are falling ill, the highest attack rate appears to be in children aged 10 to 18, many of which were not vaccinated because of concerns raised about the safety of the MMR vaccine in the late 1990s – concerns that were sparked by Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent and unethical research.
At the time, some parents made a decision not to vaccinate their children based on the Wakefield’s suggestion that the MMR vaccine (which provides immunity against measles, mumps and rubella) somehow triggered autism. However, after dozens of studies have been conducted and countless research funds have been spent, the scientific consensus is that no such link exists.
But have parents gotten the message? Has science gone back in time to recapture the attention of those who made decisions based on faulty information? Read more…
A new study, which investigated data from the National Immunization Surveys published between 1995 and 2006, confirms what public health advocates already suspected. As the Medical Daily blog reported yesterday, the study determined that “Childhood vaccinations decreased in response to the fears surrounding autism risks.” It’s remarkable that even today, despite the existence of widespread research that fails to show any link between autism and vaccinations, this false belief continues to persist.
Many of the parents I’ve spoken to over the years don’t even realize that the premise for these fears stemmed from a small, but well publicized study conducted by Andrew Wakefield and published in The Lancet in 1998. Since then, many researchers tried to verify Wakefield’s claims, only to discover that their research proved the opposite. Study after study failed to show vaccinations were in any way contributing to the incidence of autism. Then in 2010, after evidence of tampering and undeclared conflicts of interest, Andrew Wakefield was ultimately stripped of his medical license due to the seriousness of his professional misconduct and The Lancet retracted the fraudulent study that first sparked the suggestion of a vaccine/autism link.
But years later the damage is proving extremely difficult to undo. There are still many people who cling to Wakefield’s study as proof of a correlation. The latest analysis from the soon-to-be-released study of immunization surveys has confirmed that autism fears have had a negative impact on immunization rates. The study also presents a few other interesting observations:
- More children of college-educated mothers were not vaccinated than children of non-college educated mothers, with noticeable spikes in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
- While the controversy centered on the MMR vaccination, the autism fear had an impact on other vaccinations, to include polio and the combination vaccine to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
These observations ultimately lead to other relevant questions. Read more…
January has been a busy month here on Shot of Prevention. We’ve had a parent speak out on the significance of HPV protection for her son, a pharmacuetical employee comment on how proud she is to help ensure the safety of vaccines, we’ve even had a nurse call out the non-vaccinating Patriot nurse for sharing misleading information on YouTube. Of course, let’s not forget about the return of Andrew Wakefield and his plans to sue for libel.
Which leads me to a great editorial that appeared this morning in The Huffington Post, entitled Unencumbered By Facts: What Upsets Me Most About the Anti-vaccine Movement. In this article, Claire McCarthy, M.D, who is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, explained why the appearance of Andrew Wakefield on Good Morning American had given her the chills. (View it for yourself and you’ll see exactly what she is referring to.)
She explains that “My only crusade as a pediatrician is to keep my patients healthy — and vaccines are part of what I use to do just that.” But she questions how doctors are supposed to help parents understand the enormous benefits and occasional risks of vaccines when “We stick to the facts. But people like Andrew Wakefield don’t.”
Dr. McCarthy does a great job of communicating her frustration and explaining the challenges the medical community has in countering the much publicized anti-vaccine rhetoric. And while she speaks as one individual pediatrician, I would venture to guess that many others have echoed her views, but are, as she described, often “drowned out” by the headlines and airtime devoted to people like Andrew Wakefield.
She concludes her article by referring to what Wakefield says at the end of the Good Morning America interview;
“Wakefield encouraged parents to get educated, and to read about immunizations. He even suggested the CDC website. He said, emphatically, that there are two sides to the story. I couldn’t agree more. But just one of them is grounded in facts.”