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Some Vaccine Misconceptions

Ever since there has been widespread use of vaccination for disease prevention there has been an anti-vaccine movement. Recently, their efforts have focused on the alleged link between vaccines and autism – I have written extensively about the evidence against such a link on Science-Based Medicine and NeuroLogica. But the anti-vaccine movement goes beyond the autism question.

One measure of the success of a misinformation campaign is how embedded the misinformation has become in the culture. For me a quick measure of this penetration are discussions on the SGU forums – SGU listeners tend to be well-informed, generally skeptical, and have some interest in science. If misinformation is represented in this group it is probably widespread.

A recent thread on vaccines shows that often vague but sometimes specific fears about vaccines are indeed likely to be widespread. It is always heartening to see our listeners do a great job, either through honed skeptical skills or specific knowledge, of countering much of these fears. But I will review some of the questions raised.

Vaccine Safety

Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective public health measures ever devised. The safety of vaccines are carefully tested prior to incorporation into the vaccine schedule. Vaccines are then monitored after use. There is a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) that the CDC uses to track the safety of vaccines. Vaccine safety is also assessed by professional organization, like the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are many academic physicians who are interested in vaccines as part of their academic career, and they independently research the effects and safety of vaccines.

No one has ever suggested that vaccines are without risk – individuals may have adverse reactions to vaccines. But the benefits far outweigh the risks – even to the individual. Far from trying to cover this up, the CDC is actively trying to gather as much information as they can through VAERS. They write:

These coincidences make it difficult to know whether a particular adverse event resulted from a concurrent condition or from a vaccination. Therefore, doctors and other vaccine providers are encouraged to report all adverse events following vaccinations, whether or not they believe that the vaccination was the cause.

The approach is to gather information on all adverse events and then try to sort out statistically which are likely to be genuinely caused by vaccines. In the United States, there is also a compensation system for those injured.

The CDC maintains a list of reported side effects for each vaccine here.

Too Many Too Soon

There is power in a pithy slogan – damn those anti-vaccinationists. Even if there is absolutely no science behind it, such a phrase can resonate, or at least leave people with vague questions and uncertainty. Are we giving our children, with their delicate immune systems, too many vaccines? Are we depriving them of the necessary experience of fighting off infections naturally, thereby inadvertantly weakening their immune systems? The evidence says no.

The current recommended US schedule includes about 31 injections (depending on how many flu shots are given) between birth and six years of age. Many of these are given at the same time to minimize office visits. A couple of the injections, like MMR and DTaP, are combinations. There are 15 different infectious organisms that are vaccinated against, but most require a series of injections to develop full immunity.

It is natural for parents to have an overwhelming protective instinct for their children, and it is upsetting to see your child fearful and crying because they had to get their shots – especially when they are healthy (as opposed to being treated for an acute illness). I can understand the visceral reaction – what are you doing to my child? What are you putting into their tiny helpless bodies? I have two children – I get it. But our children are best served by decisions that are evidence-based and rational, not visceral and emotional.

The evidence shows that even infant immune systems can handle vaccines and generally respond only by making the desired antibodies to the organisms against which they are being vaccinated.

Anti-vaccinationists claim that their young immune systems are being overwhelmed by the schedule of vaccines – but there is no evidence for this. Further, the infant and young child immune system is bombarded with thousands of antigen challenges. The additional challenge from vaccines is a minor addition. Further still – while the number of vaccines has increased, the efficiency of these vaccines has also increased. Modern vaccines present fewer (but more targeted) antigens to the immune system than older vaccines – so even though the vaccine schedule has increased, children today are getting less of an immune challenge than in the past.

Therefore – there is absolutely no empirical or even theoretical basis to the “too many too soon” slogan.

On the other hand – there is a risk of delaying vaccination. The schedule was devised in order to protect children from diseases before they are likely to get them. Any delay in the schedule leaves children vulnerable for longer – statistically it will increase infections. Withholding an intervention is a decision with risks also.

The Risk of Overuse

Some have raised the concern that vaccines are being overused, and thereby are weakening immune systems. This has been likened to the overuse of antibiotics. But there is absolutely no analogy here.

Antibiotic overuse allows bacteria to evolve resistance to antibiotics. Antibiotics do not weaken the immune system of the individual, they just speed up the evolutionary war between modern science and infectious bacteria. Proper use of antibiotics is necessary to minimize the development of resistance.

Vaccines do not cause resistance. They stimulate the immune system (not weaken it – an absurd claim) by presenting specific proteins or antigens to the immune system, which will then mount a mini-immune reaction against them and create memory B-cells. These B-cells are primed to mount vigorous reaction the next time they encounter the same antigen. This way an infecting organism can be wiped out by the immune system even before a clinical infection can take place.

Some anti-vaccinationists have argued that natural infections create more immunity than vaccines. There is no evidence for this. Some immunity does fade over time, from either vaccines or infection, but this can be handled with booster injections. Further, it is not worth the risk of suffering a serious infection just so that those who survive will have stronger immunity – even if this were true.

Herd Immunity – or Who Needs Vaccines Anyway

The vaccination program is best understood as a strategy for public health – not just individual health. The two are, of course, closely related, but strategically vaccines work best on populations. The reason for this is herd immunity. Once a population has >90% or so immunity to a disease, then it cannot spread effectively. This helps protect those for whom the vaccines did not work, for whatever reason (they are not 100% effective) and those who cannot be vaccinated because of some other illness or health condition.

This has led some parents to think that the benefits of vaccination for their individual child is not worth the risk of vaccines. This belief is further created by the fact that most parents today have not had any experience with the serious childhood infections of the past. Who today has seen polio, or even a severe case of whooping cough. Vaccines, to some degree, are victims of their own success.

The data show that individual benefits do outweigh individual risks. No one is asking individual children to take a hit for the team. But on top of the individual benefit there is also a societal benefit – herd immunity – that in turn does also benefit all members of society. The two cannot really be separated.

Also, if enough individuals decide not to vaccinate, then herd immunity breaks down and everyone is then at higher risk for resurgent infections. We are already seeing this in various communities with measles. Everyone is then at higher risk – but especially those who do not vaccinate.

There is also the issue of eradication. For those organisms that do not have any animal host other than humans, we can completely eradicate the disease through vaccination. We have already done this with small pox. We are on the brink of doing this with polio – this success being stalled by fearmongering in Nigeria about vaccines from the West being spiked with HIV and anti-fertility drugs.

Some have argued that we are vaccinating against disease that are relatively benign – like chicken pox. But again, this is based upon misinformation. Chickenpox can be very serious, and historically has resulted in about 50 deaths per year and hundreds of hospitalizations in children. Infected children also pose a risk to adults, for whom the infection is even worse. And once infected with chicken pox, the virus survives forever in the dorsal root ganglion – nerve cells in the spinal cord. They can be reactivated causing shingles. While it is more likely for shingles to occur under stress or immune compromise, they occur at random, even in a perfectly healthy individual. Shingles can cause an extremely painful and difficult to treat chronic pain syndrome. Personally, I would rather have been vaccinated against chicken pox as a child than have the risk of developing shingles.


Vaccines are safe and effective. There are multiple layers in place to monitor vaccine safety. Academic physicians and researchers spend a great deal of time and effort thinking about vaccines and conducting research on them. It is naive to think that basic flaws in the theory or execution of vaccines has escaped academic notice.

Gross misinformation about vaccines has now permeated the public, primarily through the internet, largely originating from dedicated groups of people who are ideologically anti-vaccine. This does not mean that vaccines are beyond question, that we do not need to continue to research and improve vaccines, as well as carefully monitor their safety. Of course we do – and we are. No one is promising that they are risk free.

But given that there are groups dedicated to spreading misinformation, everyone needs to be skeptical of any information they hear about vaccines. Don’t believe anything on hearsay. Check sources carefully, and look for counterbalancing information and opinions before accepting any claims. This includes pro and con – including this blog entry.

As with any scientific topic – reliability and authority rests with the transparent and carefully considered consensus of scientific opinion, not with any individual.

21 comments to Some Vaccine Misconceptions

  • Vaccines: The only real way to ‘boost’ the immune system.

    Have the anti-vaxers ever responded to the accusation that they’re allowing diseases to exist that we should be able to wipe out? They’re not just against vaccines, they are consequently pro-measels, pro-polio, etc.

  • Drum Billet

    Great post Steve. How do the anti-vaccine movement respond when confronted by the facts?

    4 mistakes I spotted:

    ‘ant-vaccine’ – First paragraph

    ‘There is power is a pithy slogan’ – First paragraph of the ‘Too Many Too Soon’ part.

    ‘One a population’ – First paragraph of the ‘Herd Immunity – or Who Needs Vaccines Anyway’ part.

    ‘(they are no 100% effective)’ – Same as above.

  • Yoo

    johnny_eh made a good point. Maybe we should point out that one proven way to stop a certain vaccine from being administered is to eliminate the corresponding disease? It worked for smallpox, and it almost worked for polio. It won’t work for all vaccines, but maybe we can “trick” anti-vaccinationists into promoting robust vaccination programs for certain diseases. 😉

  • […] If you are skeptical of my thoughts and opinions on the mercury/autism debate, check out DOCTOR Steven Novella’s blog on the issue here. […]

  • Great post Dr Novella!

    One argument I’ve tried with ‘anti’s’ is guilt:
    Have them imagine a conversation with their son as to why they’ve let him get mumps at age 20 or 30, which has shriveled the sons testicles and made him infertile.

    Once the son knows the science about immunization (“You mean this could have been avoided?”) I suggest that the parents actions are nothing but ignorance and selfishness.

    I have no clue if this line of guilt/reasoning works of course – but I find it quite satisfying and I hope it bears fruit amongst the scientifically illiterate out there.

    Thanks for the credible information Steve.

  • Terrific post! We all need to be ready to address these concerns in a confident way. Immunology is complicated and not well taught outside college biology or medical education, so it’s understandable how non-doctor/scientists can be easily mislead.

    Getting the logic and evidence straight is important, but the next question seems to be: in the face of celebrity-endorsed propaganda, how we can best frame the issue in an emotionally evocative way? One strategy is “scaring straight” like MoistenedBint suggests, which might be less effective given that most of us don’t know victims of measles/etc. Another strategy could be to appeal to social responsibility and peer pressure, by emphasizing the importance of maintaining herd immunity to protect the immunocompromised (“don’t be a parasite”). Other ideas?

  • in4mdconsnt

    Vaccine effectiveness is based on the theory that if anti-bodies are produced in response to the antigen injected, then a person confers immunity from said disease. This is the basic premise for vaccination. “Vaccine”, a peer read review, found this to be false. When immunized children get the disease from which they are immunized against, antibody titers have been performed to determine the level of antibodies in the affected child’s serum and they find consistently that the presence or absence of antibodies had nothing to do with resistance to the disease. “Antigen-specific antibody titers do not correlate with protection.” Vaccine. 2001 Oct 15;20 Suppl 1:S38-41. PMID: 11587808.

    The second premise for vaccination is herd immunity. Herd Immunity was developed by A.W. Hedrich in 1933 who said when 68% of children under 15 were immune to measles, epidemics did not occur. His research was based on natural (getting the disease)immunity, not artificial, (vaccination), immunity. More facts:
    “Outbreaks have occurred in 100% vaccinated populations.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. US Government 12/29/89/38(S-9):1-18.

    “80% of Measles is contracted in vaccinated people.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. US Government 6/6/86/35(22):366-70.

    “[Pertussis] infections are common in an immunized population…more prevalent than previously documented.” 98% were vaccinated in this population. He Q, Vijanen MK, Arvilommi H et al. Whooping cough caused by Bordetella Pertussis and Bordetella parapertussis in an immunized population. JAMA. 1998;280:635-637.

    As far as vaccine research; vaccine research is the only so-called scientific research that does not hold itself to the standards of level 5 research. Often new batches of vaccine are evaluated for safety by testing them against the old vaccine, or against a false placebo like aluminum salts. This is not only dangerous, but dishonest when our federal government guarantees that a new vaccine is safe and effective. The public is unaware that double blind studies, nor randomized control trials are being done on vaccines. Furthermore, vaccines like Gardasil for example, have not been clinically tested with other vaccines that young girls receive and therefore, have no idea how the reactivity of these vaccines will manifest themselves.

    VAERS and reporting reactions. Reporting a vaccine reaction is voluntary, and based on the statistics that are available, it appears that pediatricians do not recognize, or are not being taught to recognize vaccine reactions…
    “According to the US Food and Drug Administration, only 1-10 vaccine injured children is ever reported.” Investigative Report on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Vienna, VA: NVIC 1987.

    In another study only one in 50 was reported. Froeschle J. Connaught Laboratories. Adverse events associated with childhood vaccines, evidence bearing on causality. institute of Medicine presentation. May 11, 1992. Washington D.C.:328, Appendix B.

    I’m not anti-vaccine. I am for making a concerted effort in determining what is causing the rise in auto-immune disease, cognitive disease, and cancers. There is extensive amounts of misinformation on both sides of this debate, and people have the right, when making choices on behalf of their children, to be informed of both sides. We cannot continue to allow the companies that make the vaccine to do the research that guarantees it’s safety and effectiveness. This needs to be done by independent laboratories that have no vested interest in the outcome.

    In conclusion, I don’t believe we can currently say, without a shadow of a doubt, that vaccines are safe and effective. Furthermore, I am not ready to test the hypothesis that the benefits out-way the risks on my children.

  • in4mdconsnt,

    I’m just a student, but I see some problems with your post. I hope Dr. Novella will chime in as well.

    You say “Vaccine effectiveness is based on the theory that if anti-bodies are produced in response to the antigen injected, then a person confers immunity from said disease.” I disagree. Vaccines are based on stimulating a memory response that may involve B cells (which produce antibodies) and/or T cells (which do not). For some infections, particularly intracellular bacteria and viruses, antibody may play a much less important role than cell-mediated immunity.

    Your quote from the Vaccine review is a bit out of context. For everyone who doesn’t have access to the article, the title of the review is “What are the limits of adjuvanticity?” and it discusses the challenges in developing new adjuvants, which are carrier molecules that help trigger a generalized immune response. Some vaccines are pieces of protein from the pathogen (the antigen) mixed with aluminum (the adjuvant, which you call a “false placebo” for some reason I don’t understand). A problem with aluminum adjuvant is that it provokes a Th2-type humoral immunity (i.e., antibodies), but is not desirable for pathogens that require Th1-type cellular immunity (i.e., killer T cells).

    Here is a fuller quote from that Vaccine review abstract than the one you gave:

    “Finally, adjuvanticity is more often evaluated in terms of antigen-specific antibody titers induced after parenteral immunization. It is known that, in many instances, antigen-specific antibody titers do not correlate with protection. In addition, very little is known on parameters of cell-mediated immunity which could be considered as surrogates of protection. Tailoring of new adjuvants for the development of vaccines with improved immunogenicity/efficacy and reduced reactogenicity will represent one of the major challenges of the ongoing vaccine-oriented research.”

    You say “Vaccine found this to be false” as if the journal itself presented new data in 2001 upsetting an untested assumption. What you should have said, though, is “three authors of a 2001 review in Vaccine mentioned the established fact that not all vaccines can be judged by antibody titer alone.”

    I don’t have time to look up the other references, but as for the MMWR quotes: of course most measles infections are in immunized people, because almost everyone in this country is immunized! We all acknowledge that no vaccine has 100% efficacy. I challenge you to find an in-context quote from MMWR recommending against measles or pertussis vaccination. Your point seems to me like saying “most deaths from surgery occur in hospitals.”

  • HCN

    in4mdconsnt said ““80% of Measles is contracted in vaccinated people.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. US Government 6/6/86/35(22):366-70.”

    Well, that is classic cherry picking of data! Because just a couple of years LATER there was a return of measles in the USA, where over 120 Americans died:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15106092? … “Overall, 90% of deaths reported to the NIP occurred in persons who had not been vaccinated against measles.”

    I won’t belabor you with the basic mathematics that if a major majority of the data-set is vaccinated (like 80% to 90%) and if there is a 5% to 10% failure rate of the vaccine, that if a certain number get exposed… then just the numbers will show a number that were vaccinated would be more.

    But that did not happen between 1987 and 1991… most of the deaths were those who were NOT vaccinated. You just chose to select the information from a couple years before then. Wasn’t that convenient?

    So tell us, where does is it scientifically documented that the MMR vaccine (which was approved in the USA in 1971 and has never contained thimerosal) is more dangerous than measles, mumps and rubella?

    I’ll be generous, here is a list of scientific articles that show that the MMR does not cause autism shown against a list of those paper that do show the MMR causes autism:

  • in4mdconsnt

    Is that all you got? And when did I discuss the theory of MMR causing autism? I will respond tomorrow. I received this late.

  • in4mdconsnt- Your post is basically boilerplate anti-vaccine propaganda. Savvy commenters have already pointed out some of the flaws in what what you wrote. I will post a more thorough analysis in my blog post this Sunday.

  • in4mdconsnt, it does seem like you are hinting at autism by describing a “rise in…cognitive disease”, but this is unclear since you do not mention “autism” explicitly. If you reject the claim that vaccines cause autism (I wouldn’t call it a “theory” in absence of either evidence or plausible mechanism), then you probably should say so outright when criticizing vaccination. It is certainly acceptable to raise questions, but given the current climate, you risk being branded “mercury militia” if you act coyly around the autism issue.

    I’m thrilled that you reject the autism claim, but I am curious to hear your response to the other critiques made by HCN and me.

    Another question, in response to “We cannot allow the companies…” at the end of your first post: are you denying that independent scientists at academic institutions conduct research on vaccines?

  • in4mdconsnt

    More Measles studies that indicate herd immunity is nonsense, as well as, vaccination causing atypical measles; a variant manifested by vaccination. As far as the study you quoted above which indicated the amount of deaths from measles, what was not clear is the number of children that had not reached the age of getting MMR. The tables provided show that the abundance of people who got measles were less than 5 y/o, which we would expect being that measles is a “childhood disease”. None the less, specific ages of the children that died would help to clarify if the 90% that died were not of age to receive MMR yet since MMR is given at 12 months usually. What you also failed to mention to your readers is that economic status and living conditions had a lot to do with mortality rates, which continues to be ignored by people who promote vaccination. I am not saying the study is wrong, I am saying that age information is quite important when making a broad stroke statement about 90% being unimmunized.

    “Vaccinated individuals…can become ill with Measles… It is difficult to know how well a vaccine alone induces immunity…a booster vaccine had little effect on this student population’s measles antibody status. Matson DO, Byington C, Canfield M et al.

    Investigation of a measles outbreak in fully vaccinated school population including serum studies before and after revaccination. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 1993;12(4):229-299.

    Outbreaks continuing to occur when adequate herd immunity exists.
    Gustafson TL, Lievens AW, Brunell PA et al. Measles outbreak in a fully immunized secondary-school population. NEJM. 1987;316:771-774

    Outbreaks have occurred in 100% vaccinated populations. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. US Gov’t. 12/29/89;38(s-9):1-18.

    Outbreaks have cyclically occurred on average about every 4 years according to the CDC’s own database. This is nothing new. Measles is a self-limiting childhood disease which goes away on it’s own and confers life-long immunity in it’s host.

  • in4mdconsnt

    “Boiler plate anti-vaccine propaganda.” I guess the same could be said for your post. Where is your data to refute my data. And please, don’t bring autism and MMR into this discussion. I did not mention it and it is not pertinent to aquiring measles as a result of choosing not to vaccinate, as well as, the theory of arbitrarily choosing 90% for herd immunity standards. You, as well as, I know children are not vaccinated against Measles until at least 12 months, and I would like to see how many of the 90% that died in the study you provided were under the age of 12 months. How many of the children contracted atypical measles as a result of their siblings being vaccinated first. All relavent questions. So am I to assume when hard data is provided and you have nothing to say in return, that name calling is the next step? Call me what you want. I can furnish data which calls the theory of vaccination into question all day. And the difference is, I am well read on both sides of the debate, not just the side I happen to support. Look forward to your next blog and your blind supporters of half truths.

  • tk42

    I guess this is the Gish Gallop? It took me thirty minutes to read im4md’s first Vaccine citation and pose a reply, and surely HCN also took some time addressing the MMWR quotes. Now we have at least 10 citations…addressing them one by one seem hopeless.

    The most important question is the one that both I and HCN asked of im4md at the end of our posts: are vaccines worse than the diseases they prevent? Individual reports are not helpful for those of us who are not familiar with the literature. Therefore, we need to rely on systematic reviews by experts in the field and guidelines from CDC.

    By the way, did anyone actually call names or accuse im4md of believing that vaccines cause autism? Did I miss something in another comment thread? It seems like only arguments and explicit claims have been challenged by me, HCN, and Dr. Novella, whereas im4md called us “blind supporters of half-truths”.

  • kidsdoc

    I am in the middle of a busy day seeing patients and ordering (gasp) vaccines to be administered so I don’t have the time to dig into research. The only comment I can make at this time is in regards to the use of old data by (mis)in4mdconsnt to prop up his argument. He is citing examples from NEJM and MMWR from 1987 and 1998 respectively, prior to the universal recommendation for a booster dose. I would wager it is much more difficult to find high quality data showing measels outbreaks among properly vaccinated poplulations after the recommendation for the booster dose was implemented.

    For recent data from MMWR go here


    to note, the following paragraph came from that MMWR site:

    “California allows personal beliefs exemptions (PBEs) to vaccinations required of schoolchildren§; parents can request exemptions if all or some vaccinations are contrary to their beliefs. The index patient and one of his siblings attended a school with 376 children, who ranged in age from 5 to 14 years. Thirty-six (9.6%) of the children had PBEs on file at the school. Among the nine patients aged >12 months, including the index patient, eight were unvaccinated because of PBEs. Among the 36 schoolchildren with PBEs, four had documentation of previous measles vaccination, 11 were vaccinated during the outbreak, and the remaining 21, who did not have evidence of immunity to measles, were placed under voluntary quarantine for 21 days after their last exposure. Overall, approximately 70 children exposed to children with measles in the school, a day care center, the pediatrician’s office, and other community settings were placed under voluntary home quarantine because their parents either declined measles vaccination or they were too young to be vaccinated.”

    So there you go, 9 of the 11 who contracted measles were over 12 months and could have had the vaccine but didn’t because of these misinformed ideas that big pharma or big medicine or the government is out to get them. 100% of the patients who contracted measles weren’t vaccinated, 100% of the vaccinated kids didn’t get measles.

    I have been practicing long enough to have seen meningitis from HiB and strep pneumo almost disappear. I have seen severe pertussis in unvaccinated children ( 4 months old)who had to be admitted to the PICU for ventilatory support. I have seen children die from meningococcal disease, and have seen children live with horrific disfigurement after surviving meningococcal disease. I have seen congenital rubella syndrome and the devestation it causes in families.

    I wish everyone who rails against vaccinations would take a step back in time and READ about the horror stories of the diseases they help hold at bay. It is an unfotunate thing that we have to give children so many vaccines, but would be a much more unfortunate thing if we didn’t.

  • in4mdconsnt

    tk42 please read the rebuttle to my first reply when referring to the MMR autism topic. HCN brought that up, and I did not.

    “You say “Vaccine effectiveness is based on the theory that if anti-bodies are produced in response to the antigen injected, then a person confers immunity from said disease.” I disagree.”
    You may disagree all you want, this is the basic premise for vaccine effectiveness. Of course there are other reactions taking place, but I am not at liberty to prove to you or anyone else on this blog my level of knowledge in cell biology, immunology, etc. I feel that you have some need to show every one how intelligent you are by bringing up T and B cells. It was unnecessary for me to give an elaborate immunology lesson to make my point. And where have you cited 10 studies that refute my studies?
    “The most important question is the one that both I and HCN asked of im4md at the end of our posts: are vaccines worse than the diseases they prevent? At this point in time the jury is out on this one. Novella stated that the benefits out-way the risks. When a parent vaccinates their child do you think they know that the vaccine is not 100% effective, that it may cause a mild to severe reaction or death, and clinical effectiveness is what is actually happening. Parents believe if their kids are vaccinated against a disease, then they will not get the disease.
    It is currently unprecedented the amount of people who are choosing not to vaccinate or delay them until the immune system is more mature. Herd immunity levels are definitely not being met in communities right now as a result. So where are the epidemics? Why hasn’t measles started to effect a greater amount of the population as the pro-vaccinationist would have us believe. Just as you said that there is a lot more going on with respect to immunity, that also includes the improvements in public health that are not related to mass vaccination programs. Is that too simple of a concept to accept? That modern medicine may not have the best answer to eradication of disease. 3rd world countries still have polio, measles, etc despite having mass vaccination programs implemented. In stead of sending our old batches of thimerasol containing vaccine to underdeveloped countries, why are we not cleaning up their cities and improving public health standards which would be more cost-effective and better for the community in the long run?

  • HCN

    I only brought it up because that is usually the most common canard. It was the last sentence put in as an afterthought. I do not remember calling anyone any kind of name.

    Get over yourself.

    Now, the basic thing I addressed was you using a paper published a year before a major outbreak of measles in the USA. I presented a review of that outbreak that showed that the majority of measles fatalities were NOT vaccinated.

    Absolutely NO one believes the vaccine is 100% effective. It actually says that it produces less than that kind of protection in the CDC literature. Some people do not produce an immune response to the vaccine, which is exactly why herd immunity is so important.

    Herd immunity is why local outbreaks in San Diego, and elsewhere have stopped. The measles was passed through the school in San Diego with a lower vaccination rate, but stopped with the general population (though the child did pass it to children too young for the vaccine at a doctor’s office). Just as in previous outbreaks (like in Indiana with the church group that came back from Romania), the people who choose to not vaccinate tend to gather in the same areas.

    But that may not be true for very long.

    Measles is now endemic in many places that have lowered measles vaccination. These include the UK, Japan (which had to close several colleges), Switzerland and elsewhere.

    Now please tell us what evidence shows that the MMR, which has been around since 1971 and has NEVER contained thimerosal, is worse than measles, mumps and rubella.

    (also, we are not sending old batches of thimerosal vaccines to the third world… the WHO has its own program and there are serious issues with vaccine quality in those countries:
    http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/topics/thiomersal/questions/en/index.html )

  • tk42

    The message of your Vaccine abstract is that there are cellular correlates to immunity that we can’t measure as easily as antibody titers. I spelled it out because you seemed to be missing or misrepresenting the point. I imagine everyone would agree the gold standard of a vaccine’s efficacy should be ability to prevent disease, not necessarily antibody production. It is reasonable to use a therapy with strong supporting evidence even if there are still mysteries to unravel in its mechanism.

    I guess your problem with vaccines boils down to a lack of trust in the researchers who study them and the organizations who create guidelines for their use. Your original post suggested that only pharmaceutical companies do research, as opposed to academic scientists and physicians. I can’t directly address this concern of yours; maybe I’m just a bit more optimistic than you about the intentions of most medical scientists.

    But I can tell you that if you say “I am for making a concerted effort in determining what is causing the rise in auto-immune disease, cognitive disease, and cancers” on a skeptic’s blog about vaccines, then readers will infer that you think vaccines cause diseases like autism. Maybe you didn’t intend it that way, but it smelled like the Discovery Institute talking coyly about an intelligent designer rather than god.

  • Well gentlemen, I admire your patience and well-informed commentary regarding in4mdconsnt (and I note his handle as being somewhat telling…)

    I’m reminded of a couple of anecdotes. The first being ‘Continuing to argue with an idiot tends to blur the line as to who is the idiot’.

    I know I know – ad hominem attack etc etc. The point is – we all know this person won’t listen to logic or better evidence – so ridicule is the best way to go I figure.

    I’m also reminded of a story Abe Lincoln told in court one day (possibly a fable – not sure) to refute the evidence given by a witness.

    One day little Billy saw his sister and a neighbor kid taking down their pants in the hayloft. He ran to his dad and said “Dad! Dad! Peggy and Johnny are pulling their pants down in the hayloft – they are going to pee all over the hay!”

    He may have his facts straight – but he has completely mis-interpreted them.

  • […] My entry last week was on some common misconceptions about vaccines that appeared in the SGU forums. Such posts commonly attract the attention of the anti-vaccine league, and some “boilerplate” antivaccine misinformation is sure to appear in the comments. Sure enough, poster “in4mdconsnt” did just that. Rather than leave another comment that would have had to be longer than the original post, I promised to deal with it in my post for this week – so here it is. […]

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