Friday, June 20, 2014

Pre-Vaccine Declines in Measles Mortality

On Monday, I discussed "pox parties" and "measles teas", social gatherings where parents get their unvaccinated, nonimmune children together with another kid who has a disease, the purpose being to intentionally infect their kids and make them sick. It is a practice that, for at least a hundred years, has been decried by the scientific and medical community as a wretched idea, with one author describing them as "orgies of death". Indeed, in my opinion, these parties are nothing more than child abuse.

While vaccine preventable diseases are not the killers they once were, as I mentioned in passing in that post, they are still quite dangerous; diseases like diphtheria and measles should be avoided and prevented whenever possible. Anti-vaccine activists seem quite enamored with pre-vaccine mortality data. They like to point to the declining death rates from diseases and declare that vaccines not only did not save us from those diseases, but that we didn't need vaccines anyway. There are a couple of things wrong with this way of thinking. First off, it erroneously focuses on disease mortality and pretends that deaths and incidence are somehow the same thing. The implication is that the incidence, that is, the number of cases, was declining before the vaccines. Or they just come right out and say that death rate and incidence are the same:
Measles cases in all developed countries became much milder than in developing countries mainly due to improved diet. Is it logical that deaths associated with measles declined greatly without any corresponding decline in incidence?
That is, quite simply, false, not to mention sloppy thinking. Second, it ignores the non-fatal, but still quite serious, complications of diseases, such as severe dehydration, pneumonia, deafness, blindness, encephalopathy and permanent mental impairment, among others. And, yes, these diseases can still kill, even in developed nations with good healthcare like the United States.

I will readily admit, the measles vaccine did not contribute to the decline in deaths seen before the vaccine was licensed. (Duh!) But while anti-vaccine activists assert that the disease just got less dangerous on its own, they're wrong. Here's why.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Orgies of Death - The Dangerous Tradition of Pox Parties and Measles Teas

The other day, Reuben Gaines, over at The Poxes Blog, shared some information about groups on Facebook for people to arrange for the sociopathic practice of intentionally infecting their children with vaccine-preventable diseases. Groups like Rubella Immunity Network, Vaccine-Free Immunity, Chicken Pox Immunity Network and Montreal Chicken Pox Party, among others, rather than trying to protect children from disease, actively promote giving them diseases. The participants in these groups labor under the false notions that diseases like chickenpox, rubella and measles are completely harmless and that vaccinations are worthless, are more dangerous than the diseases, or both. I'm sure they truly believe that they are doing what is best for their little ones, but unfortunately, they are dangerously wrong. While most children will come through the disease unharmed, not all will. And certainly more are harmed, and die, from disease than are injured by vaccines.

Sadly, this isn't a new thing at all. Groups crop up worldwide:
Opponents of immunization often try to infect healthy children in a controlled way by holding so-called "measles parties" with an infected child at the focus, intending to provide their own children with life-long immunity.
Even as far back as 2001 in the United Kingdom, people were holding measles parties. They're in Germany, too. But as an article in SABC News notes:
There is a considerable variation across Europe, with Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands having high immunization and low death rates, while Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland have lower rates of immunization and correspondingly more deaths.
It's a tradition that goes even farther back than just 13 years.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vaccine Resistance

Several weeks ago, while perusing the mental spewings of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice's Facebook page, I came across a post that actually got me thinking. It wasn't because the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice was actually saying something based in science or reality for a change. Rather, it made me think about what evidence was actually out there on this particular subject. They shared a link to a news story about antibiotic resistant bacteria. The news story itself, A Wake-Up Call on Antibiotic Resistance, wasn't really controversial, being an NPR story about how resistant bacteria are becoming more common and how, if we don't figure something out soon, what once were treatable, relatively benign illnesses could become deadly. But then the VCVC had to tack on this comment: Will over-vaccination cause similar problems?

My initial, knee-jerk thought was, "Of course not!" But then I paused. My skeptical nature kicked in and made me ask, what does the science actually say on the subject? Was it possible? Maybe, but the comparison to antibiotics is flawed, since antibiotics and vaccines work in very different ways. Now, if I were the VCVC, I would have stopped right there. I would have just assumed my presumptions about vaccines being bad in every conceivable way were valid and therefore over-vaccination must inevitably lead to vaccine-resistant strains of bacteria and viruses. But, thankfully, I'm not among the membership of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice. I actually did go in search of answers, something I presume they did not bother doing, since I haven't seen any followup posts on the subject.