Friday, May 30, 2014

Dear Anti-Vaxers, Thank You

With the recent release of an update on this year's measles outbreaks from the CDC, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write an open letter to all those anti-vaccine activists out there that have made the 20-year record number of measles cases so far this year possible. So here it is. To all of you out there who claim that vaccines are bad, that they cause autism, autoimmune disorders, asthma, and all manner of other maladies, thank you. To those of you who say that vaccines don't actually work or that the diseases prevented by vaccines really aren't that bad, thank you. To those of you who put yourself above everyone around you, who think only of your freedom and don't give a s*** about your family's, friends' or neighbors' health, thank you. To those of you who use religion as a cop-out, to hide behind your religion so you don't have to protect yourself, your children or those around you, thank you. Thank you for contributing to an environment of fear about vaccines. Thank you for spreading misinformation, uncertainty and doubt about vaccines. Thank you for creating regions perfect for the spread of disease. Without you, we wouldn't have been able to reach an amazing 307 cases and counting in the first five months of this year. That's higher than any other year's total number of cases since measles was eliminated from endemic transmission back in 2000. And we haven't seen so many cases so quickly since 1994.

I realize that's a little abstract, just citing numbers, so here's an image for those of you who are more visually oriented:

Soure: CDC

Man. Just look at that steep, steep line for 2014, towering over every other year in the past fourteen years. Take a bow, anti-vaxers, because that is largely your work. Know how I know it's in large part due to your work? Here's how: 200 of the 288 reported in the CDC's media release about the outbreaks were completely unvaccinated, and 58 had unknown vaccination status. And those unvaccinated folks? Ten were too young to have been vaccinated, but would have been protected by herd immunity if not for you. Eleven had missed vaccination opportunities. Again, they would likely have been protected if you hadn't done such a bang-up job jeopardizing public health. The rest of the unvaccinated were unvaccinated because of religious, philosophical or personal belief reasons.

Again, for those of you who prefer visuals, take a look:

Source: CDC
Again, wow. Now, I know some of you will try to say that the outbreaks are occurring among the vaccinated, but I hope these numbers and figures show you that it's the unvaccinated who are responsible. But some of you might try to say, "Ah, but it's subclinical infections that are responsible! Vaccinated people are getting the virus and then spreading it to the unvaccinated!" But again, you'd be wrong. You see, we have these things called tests. They can figure out the genetic makeup of the virus from those who are ill. Knowing that genetic makeup, we can then figure out where the person got infected and who infected whom. Guess what happens when we look at that information? Surprise! It's the unvaccinated who are getting sick and spreading the disease!

Which leads me to ask, why are you being so coy? Why aren't you standing up and proudly proclaiming your role in these outbreaks? After all, isn't that what you wanted? Decreases in vaccination and the return of diseases? I mean, in the words of one of your spokespeople, Jenny McCarthy:
I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.
Oh, my apologies, anti-vaxers. It's not your fault that these diseases are coming back because you are refusing vaccines and spreading misinformation, fear, uncertainty and doubt. It's the manufacturers' fault for creating products that are actually safe and extremely effective at preventing disease if people actually use them. It's not your fault for not vaccinating, thereby leaving yourselves open to infection and creating communities perfect for the virus to jump from person to person. No, it's the vaccine-makers' fault.

You know what that sounds like? That sounds like a petulant little kid complaining to his parents that it's not his fault for getting in trouble. Someone else made him do it. Come on, anti-vaxers! Take responsibility. This is what you wanted! Age of Autism/Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, TACA, Thinking Moms Revolution, you have all spent years spreading the lie that vaccines cause autism. National Vaccine Information Center and Barbara Loe Fisher, you have put so much effort into making vaccines sound scary and the diseases sound so innocuous. And let's not forget your grass roots organizations like the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice and California Coalition for Vaccine Choice (and however many other state Coalitions for Vaccine Choice). You guys have screamed bloody murder when anyone dared introduce legislation that would require parents to be informed about vaccines or that would have helped increase vaccine uptake. Oh, and Dr. Bob Sears and Dr. Jay Gordon. We can't forget you. You've tried so hard to look like you base your beliefs on science while your words make your patients think that they don't really need vaccines in a timely manner, since these aren't really outbreaks we're seeing (in your opinion). Jay, your years of experience trump the abundance of evidence and the scientific consensus showing that vaccines are safe, effective and should be administered. Why, you bravely buck the American Academy of Pediatrics' standard of medical care on this issue, to the point that your patients (in Dr. Bob's case) are the ones who bring measles back here.

Come on, people! Stand up! Take pride in your work! Stop being so humble. You deserve the praise in store for you. If you don't, how are the CDC, state and local health officials, doctors and others going to know who to thank for keeping them employed and making their days (weeks, months) so much more interesting? Who will the 1 in 7 hospitalized this year because of measles complications thank for their swell visit to the hospital? And if your efforts continue to bear such promising fruit, who will parents have to thank for that lovely, shiny new casket they'll have to buy?

If you think I'm being a bit harsh, I'm sorry, but I just feel that those who have worked so hard to make this year's measles levels one for the record books get the recognition they deserve. And I think others should send them a note, too, to say thanks for giving our country something to remember. This will go down in history as a notable year, and we have those who advocate so strongly against vaccines to thank for it.

19 comments:

  1. Great letter.

    "who think only of your freedom and don't give a s*** about your family's, friends' or neighbors' health" the self-centeredness of this is especially disturbing often - valuing your right to do whatever you feel like over the health of your child and others.

    I also really liked the Onion's description: "Bullies parents into slavishly following actions recommended by decades of physicians’ peer-reviewed research that establishes an irrefutable scientific consensus.”

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/the-pros-and-cons-of-vaccinating-children,35731/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=LinkPreview%3A1%3ADefault&recirc=technology

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  2. And in spite of the process I just went through, I am not promising that I'm not a robot.

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    1. Feel free to quote and link to this post, but I would encourage you to write something original rather than just copying and pasting my post verbatim.

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  4. Yes, there's NEVER a reason NOT to vaccinate. Yes, I mean that even more sarcastically than your "thank you."

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    1. Of course there are reasons not to vaccinate. Some children have medical contraindications and cannot be given some or all the vaccines.

      Those children then have to rely on herd immunity. For their sake too, it's important that children without contraindications be vaccinated (in addition to the importance of vaccines in protecting the children who get them).

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    2. As a baby my now adult son was denied vaccination for pertussis, due to his history of seizures. He only got the DT.

      This was at time when our county was having a major pertussis outbreak. This was also about the time the USA was going through a measles outbreak where almost two hundred Americans died.

      Since my son was too young for the MMR, and not protected from pertussis I had to be careful who he came into contact with. It is babies like him and others with immune problems that we need to keep up community immunity.

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    3. Sheila,

      Did I state, anywhere in my post, or anywhere on any of my posts, that there is "NEVER a reason NOT to vaccinate"? As Dorit and Chris both pointed out, there are valid medical reasons to forego or delay immunization. If you think that I am advocating that everyone should be vaccinated, even those who have valid medical reasons otherwise, please point out where I said such a thing.

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  5. But with death rates as low from measles as they were in the 1960's the number of people dying from it were quite low. If we insistent on vaccination, shall we put into place a minority report style system to read people's minds and stop them committing homicide against children? Homicide killed 700 children under the age of 14 in 2012 in the USA. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2012-a.pdf

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    1. The fact that there are harms we cannot prevent from happening to children is not a good reason not to fight against those we can.

      I would say 400-500 deaths a year, 4000 cases of encephalitis, 48,000 hospitalizations are well worth preventing.

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    2. well, it would be interesting to see what the prior health was of those 400-500 people who died from measles, and if it could be worked out whether the death rate would still be the same in modern society.

      I stand by the fact that death is a natural part of life - and 400-500 deaths would be comparable to other causes of death such as homicide.

      I see no reason why at least some of the large numbers of reported vaccine effects are down to the effects of vaccines. I have heard of some personal stories related to me by those I trust. You say people's lives would be saved, but...

      Though, I personally would have no problems with vaccines if they were made in a less industrial/intensive manner. But I suppose that would be cost prohibitive. But remove/drastically reduce the chance of any dangerous reaction - and there would be no problem. Absolutely no problem for most anti vaxxers.

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    3. I think it is my opinion that it is better to die from a disease than to live a life crippled by the effects of a vaccine. Ideally, we have both: people survive, and people thrive. You, on the other hand, preserve life at all costs.

      You think death is a horrific thing that must be removed from society at all costs. Reflected in the mainstream school of thinking that we must strive towards improving life expectancy even if healthy life expectancy is not increased.

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    4. @Curiousexplorer

      In this century, we have had at least two deaths from measles out of about 1,200 cases. That gives us a modern death rate of 1.6-1.7 deaths per 1,000 cases of measles. That is only the death rate from measles. Bear in mind the larger costs to society of non-fatal but still serious complications from the disease. Hospitalization rates are around 20% for measles, due primarily to complications like pneumonia and severe dehydration, but there are also cases of brain damage from the virus.

      Now, if you can show that the vaccines have a similar rate of serious injuries and death, then your argument might have some validity, but all the evidence shows that vaccines are orders of magnitude safer than the disease.

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    5. And to preempt your reply about there being little dangers with vaccines, show me a study - not funded by Big Pharma - comparing 2 large cohorts of fully vaccinated and completely unvaccinated children, in terms of their respective health, allergies, disabilities and so on, at the age of 5, in which there is no statistical difference between those two groups, and I will seriously reconsider my position.

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    6. Well, there is this study. It's close to your criteria: 2 large cohorts, looking at health/allergies/etc. over a wide age range. One cohort is completely unvaccinated. The other includes partially and fully vaccinated. The study was not funded by Big Pharma, though one of the authors did receive pharma funding for a separate, unrelated study.

      And let's keep this fair. Show me a study, with similar criteria as you demanded, showing that vaccinated have poorer health, more allergies, disabilities and so on, where there is at least a p=<.05 level of significance. The study cannot have been funded by anti-vaccine organizations/people (e.g., SafeMinds, Generation Rescue, Focus for Health, Barry Segal, The Dwoskin Foundation, The Katlyn Fox Foundation, Autism is Medical, etc.). It would also help your case if you could show that the negative health outcomes occur at a greater rate among vaccinated than among those naturally infected.

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    7. Well, seeing as pro vaxxers often criticse numbers, while its some time since I studied statistics at university, 1 or 2 out of 1200 seems awfully subject to possible distortion if the total number was multiplied. And 2) I think the study you cite only had 100 unvaccinated individuals? While not considering a full health analysis?

      I do maintain - and this I think a self evident observation - that individuals who look after themselves have a much better immune system than those who don't . Most people today eat and drink absolute rubbish. But I suppose you would argue given no significant negative effects from vaccines why let down those who choose to live a terrible lifestyle.

      While I am somewhat more prone to listening to you having looked around a bit more there is the tremendous problem of falling into the partisan trap. If you believe in one fringe thing - like ESP for instance, for which there is considerable evidence (albeit not 100% foolproof) - there is a high likelihood that you will be scorned and ridiculed by the "elite", thus forcing you into a group hive like mentality where you are more likely to accept other stuff .

      It's difficult to cross party lines and believe one thing that one group agrees with and believe another thing that the other group agrees with.

      It takes a great deal of effort for me as an open minded science graduate to overcome this partisanship and listen to you - something which many are not capable of. I do commend you on your generally polite tone, however, you have more chance of successfully debating that way.

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    8. And, the question is, seeing as no really large study will ever be published, do you ignore anecdotal evidence for ever? If you hypothetically noticed all children getting sick from a particular type of chocolate, and then scientists in a peer review journal said the chocolate was fine, would you believe the scientists, or the anecdotal evidence? Is anecdotal evidence not accepted in a court of law?

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    9. Curiousexplorer: "well, it would be interesting to see what the prior health was of those 400-500 people who died from measles, and if it could be worked out whether the death rate would still be the same in modern society."

      And what "prior health" would qualify those people for a death sentence. Please elaborate what health issues make some folks deserving death, and more often, permanent disability.

      Who are you to dictate which child is worth of living a full life? And why would you want any child to suffer with a high fever, light sensitivity, a 20% chance of pneumonia and and one in a thousand chance of encephalitis?

      While you are explaining that you are the arbiter of who lives and who dies (sorry, I just watched the movie "Snowpiercer"), please provide the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that the MMR vaccine is more dangerous than measles.

      Then provide the economic data showing it is cheaper to treat the one in ten who get measles who need hospital care for the pneumonia, instead of preventing it with the MMR.

      And when you are done with that, provide verifiable documentation from any source dated before 1990 that autism increased in the USA in the 1970s and 1980s due to the use the MMR vaccine. A vaccine that was first introduced in the USA in 1971, changed a bit for the rubella bit in 1978... which was when it as the preferred vaccine for the 1978 Vaccine Elimination Program.

      Curiousexplorer, while you ask lots of questions... these are the ones you really need to answer.

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