Indiana state officials are reporting that Indiana is on track to see it’s highest whooping cough rates in 24 years. As of mid-September, the number of whooping cough cases reported to the Indiana State Department of Health for 2010 had surpassed 390, close to the total number for 2009, which had a total of 400 cases reported.
“Infants are the most vulnerable and they can die from the disease,” said Dr. John Christenson, director of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. “But teenagers and adults serve as the vectors for the disease, transmitting it to infants who have no immunity.”
A new state law this year requires all students in grades six through twelve to get a booster shot. For details in Indiana’s school immunization requirements, you can refer to the Q&A posted at the Indiana State Department of Health website.
Anti-vaccination scares are as old as vaccination itself – but now they are putting lives at risk in the developing world
Vaccine scares are nothing new. When Edward Jenner first pioneered the use of the mild disease cow pox to innoculate against the deadly small pox in the 18th century, satirists drew cartoons of vaccinated patients sprouting cow’s heads. Now, it seems, every country in the developed world has their own type of scare. In France, protesters claim that the hepatitis B vaccines cause multiple sclerosis, in the US, that the vaccine’s mercury additives are responsible for the rise in autism. In the UK, there was a furore over whooping cough and then, famously, MMR. All have been exposed as groundless fears, yet anti-vaccine feeling continues to reverberate on the the internet. Now doctors warn that such rumours from the UK, Europe and the US are spilling over into the developing world, where they are threatening to derail global vaccination programmes. Terrifyingly, this means putting the lives of thousands of children at risk.
In South Africa, concerns about MMR, generated by coverage in the rest of the English-speaking world – including the UK – have led to an unwillingness to receive the vaccine, and there has been an outbreak of nearly 7,000 cases of measles. For children with poor health and limited access to medical services, this decision has been disastrous. There have already been hundreds of deaths.
Meanwhile, in India the government has recently overturned recommendations from its own scientific advisers to include the Hib (shorthand for a bug called Haemophilus influenzae) vaccine in its basic childhood programme, despite the fact that the World Health Organisation says that 20% of the 400,000 childhood deaths from pneumonias caused by Hib worldwide occur in India. In the UK, childhood Hib vaccination has seen Hib-caused meningitis (the more common Hib illness in the developed world) fall away to almost nothing. Yet Indian lobbying groups, led by opposition politicians, still claim that Hib vaccines are not only unnecessary, but have caused a number of deaths. The tactics of the Indian anti-Hib groups draw directly on the work of UK and US anti-vaccine websites.
Our anti-vaccine fears, and the groups set up to highlight them in the developed world, may not directly cause these problems, but are “fuelling and amplifying them”, according to Dr Heidi Larson of the vaccine programme and policy group at Imperial College London. Shockingly, just five minutes spent looking at websites critical of vaccines increases your perceptions of the risks, and reduces the perceptions of the risks of not being innoculated, according to a recent paper from a German group published in the Journal of Health Psychology. Rumours about vaccines quickly gain credence in the internet hothouse, with sites feeding off each other. Many sites will tell you that four girls in India died within 24 hours of receiving HPV vaccines. What they don’t say is that two died in road crashes, one from a snake bite, and one fell down a well. Add this rumour to the feeling that vaccination is something that is done to you by government, by global agencies or by big pharmaceutical companies, and conspiracy theories are virtually guaranteed.
So what can be done? So far, campaigners have insisted on more information, awareness and education. But this approach has failed. Instead, the idea of each country taking ownership is being explored, along with advocacy and immediate action to quell rumours.
This is a legitimate question to ask: if vaccines work in preventing diseases, why do we say that unvaccinated children are a danger to the vaccinated ones? There are many reasons why unvaccinated children pose a risk to vaccinated children. Here I will go over the main ones:
- There are many children that cannot be vaccinated, for various reasons such as an autoimmune disease, allergies, or simply being too young to have received the vaccine. These children have no protection against the disease. If they are exposed to it through an unvaccinated peer, they are at risk of suffering and/or even dying.
- Unvaccinated children are protected by the herd immunity created by the vaccinated children. Herd immunity basically means that if enough people are vaccinated it becomes really hard for the disease to find hosts it can survive in and spread. The more children are unvaccinated the greater the risk that herd immunity will fail. If herd immunity fails, all suffer for the reasons described below.
- Vaccines do not offer 100% immunity towards disease. The efficacy varies; some vaccines offer higher rates of efficacy, some lower. Having received a vaccine doesn’t guarantee that a child will not get sick when exposed to the disease. Vaccines reduce the risk of contracting the disease, if exposed, dramatically, but there will always be a number of children for whom the vaccine will not provide protection. Those children will be at risk, from other unvaccinated children who may contract and spread the disease.
However, the first and foremost children that are being put at risk by the unvaccinated children, are the unvaccinated children themselves. Before they can become a danger to others, they’d have to contract the disease themselves, and that disease could carry with it all kinds of pain and suffering, including in some cases death.
Age at death - 16 years
Cause of death – Meningococcus
Vaccination Status – Unvaccinated
What happened – MaryJo was a vibrant and intelligent girl who thoroughly loved life. Her mother, Rose, is a registered nurse. Early Saturday morning as Rose was getting ready for work, MaryJo complained of a sore throat. Rose examined her, but noted no unusual signs and recommended some Tylenol and lots of fluids. She checked on her later but MaryJo only mentioned feeling a little weak. In the afternoon, MaryJo telephoned her mother because she had developed brownish spots on her face. This was the first ominous sign that she was very ill. Rose was terrified as it hit her that she might have meningitis! This disease is frightening because it masquerades as the flu then suddenly bursts into a deadly conflagration.
She rushed home and found MaryJo seated on the sofa with blotchy purplish rash on her face. Brown rashes or purplish blotches indicate the infection has invaded the blood stream. Rose immediately called 911. She was taken to the emergency room where blood work and a spinal tap confirmed the diagnosis. Her body was overwhelmed by the infection that her condition deteriorated rapidly. Thirteen hours after her initial symptoms, MaryJo died from a bacterial blood infection that is vaccine-preventable. Writes Rose:
I felt devastated like the world just imploded in me! My heart was pierced right in the middle by this sharp awful arrow and weighted by a gigantic anvil. MaryJo’s face, with a tranquil smile, was still beautiful despite its purplish hue. I felt her presence hovering for a moment, before she ascended with the angels. Everybody was in a state of shock and disbelief due to the unexpected loss of this young and gifted person.
The sudden death of a healthy teenager is a shock to everyone. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and prevention), the Sacramento County Health Dept. and local practicing physicians, “the meningococcal vaccine is not recommended because it is expensive, the number of cases is rare, vaccinating teenagers is not cost effective and the number of deaths are negligible”. However, the devastating effect of losing a loved one to this disease is anything but “negligible”.MaryJo is remembered for her loving, spirited dedication to helping others. In her journal she wrote: “Others should be remembering us for our positive influence on the lives of those around us. We should be known because we changed someone’s life”.
The lives of our children will not be in vain. I want others to know that meningitis can happen to anyone, anywhere and at anytime even to accomplished healthy teens. Since MaryJo’s death, MAK – Meningitis Awareness Key to prevention, a nonprofit organization, was founded to campaign for increased meningitis awareness, to advocate for legislation & resolutions, and to collaborate with other agencies in support of meningitis vaccination programs.
My deepest condolences go out to MaryJo’s mother and the rest of her family. I am very sorry for your tragic loss.
The Australian Vaccination Network, a “green our vaccines”, anti-vaccination group has been stripped of its charity status on Thursday, 10/14/10, by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) because it failed to publish the disclaimer on their website, as recommended by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), which “led to appeals not being conducted in good faith,” according to the official letter sent to the AVN by the OLGR.
The HCCC, following an investigation of the AVN, had suggested that the AVN publish a disclaimer on its website. The AVN refused to do that, which prompted the HCCC to issue a public warning about the organization and its true nature. The disclaimer the HCCC asked the AVN to display on its website was as follows:
- The AVN’s purpose is to provide information against vaccination, in order to balance what it believes is the substantial amount of pro-vaccination information available elsewhere.
- The information provided by the AVN should not be read as medical advice.
- The decision about whether or not to vaccinate should be made in consultation with a health care provider.
The AVN’s leader, Meryl Dorey has time and over again insisted that the group is not anti-vaccination, but pro-informed choice. I do not intend to get into that argument, but I will leave my readers with a snapshot taken from the AVN’s website store, where they were selling the following T-shirts. Click on the image to see the full size version; the writing on the t-shirt says “Love them, Protect them Never Inject them”.
I want to take a second to publicly thank the good folks over at the Facts, Not Fantasy blog for being good supporters of Vaccine Central. Thank you for re-posting entries from Vaccine Central and helping spread the message. The main site Factsnotfantasy.com has some very useful information, especially about vaccines and evolution. For example, did you know that in 1950 Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio and Measles killed 4,236 people in the US alone, whereas in 2005 those same 5 diseases killed only 33 people (31 of which were due to pertussis) a more than 100 fold decrease in mortality rates in 50 years? No? Neither did I, but thanks to Factsnotfantasy.com, it was easy to find out.
This has been making the news lately. The U. S. Supreme Court is hearing a case about vaccines. Well, it isn’t really, but that’s what some headlines would have you believe. The most misleading of the bunch is this one at Yahoo News: Court hears case about vaccine side effects. F! Not even close; what the Supreme Court is hearing is not a case about vaccine side effects, but a case about the right of individuals to sue a vaccine manufacturer outside of vaccine court. In a few words, the Supreme Court is trying to interpret the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, to give a better understanding of which cases of vaccine injury belong specifically to the Vaccine Court, and which cases can be brought before the regular courts (emphasis added).
What is not at issue is that 18-year-old Hannah Bruesewitz is disabled, requiring special care for life.
Nor is the question of whether the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, or DTP vaccine, she was injected with as an infant caused her seizures and consequent brain damage, or whether vaccine maker Wyeth, now part of Pfizer, is to blame.
The question is whether Hannah’s parents, Russell and Robalee Bruesewitz, can sue.
Let me give you some background. On October 1, 1988, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-660) created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The VICP was set up to: “ensure an adequate supply of vaccines, stabilize vaccine costs, and establish and maintain an accessible and efficient forum for individuals found to be injured by certain vaccines.” In other words, it is a special court that handles lawsuits for individuals that suffer certain rare, but known, side effects from vaccines.
The purpose of the VICP is to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines, by shielding vaccine manufacturers from certain lawsuits, which could be devastating to a company and can bankrupt them. Allowing that to happen would seriously threaten the supply of vaccines, and if our supply of vaccines is seriously affected many diseases could come back and wreak havoc with humanity.
However, this law shouldn’t be interpreted to shield vaccine manufacturers from negligent misconduct, and it appears the original 1986 law is a bit vague on what exactly should be covered by the vaccine court, so much so that even the experienced Supreme Court Justices are a bit confused over it, at least according to another headline.
The justices’ questions focused not on the facts of the case, but on the convoluted wording of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986
The Supreme Court is not expected to rule until next year and their questions show the justices struggled to understand the meaning of the law and of the intended lawsuit.
“What they — the language that they used is certainly, to say the least, confusing,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
My naive take on this issue is as such: the manufacturers should be held liable for negligent misconduct one way or another. A law cannot shield manufacturers for willful, or negligent misconduct. However, the original purpose of the VICP should be upheld. Parent’s shouldn’t be allowed to sue directly for injuries that are soundly refuted by the scientific evidence, such as autism for example.
This limitation is not meant to protect Big Pharma, evident by the fact that this protection does not extend to other drugs Big Pharma produces, but is meant to protect the supply of vaccines, which are probably the most important line of defence against many childhood vaccines, and which have collectively saved hundreds of thousands of lives since they were first used. As reported in the NYTimes:
Ms. Bruesewitz’s case turns on the text of the federal law, which bars ordinary lawsuits “if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.”
Much of the argument concerned the meaning of the word “unavoidable.”
“The language that they used is certainly, to say the least, confusing,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.
Ms. Sullivan, the Wyeth lawyer, said Congress had meant to allow only lawsuits arising from manufacturing flaws and inadequate warnings. Suits over asserted design defects — those arising from the nature of the vaccine itself as compared with other, potentially safer ones — were meant to be barred, she said.
Whooping cough has claimed the live of another infant, this time in Grant County, Seattle.
Grant County Public Health officials said they have two confirmed cases of whooping cough, or pertussis. Both reports were received this week but there doesn’t appear to be a connection between the two cases, said spokeswoman Theresa Fuller.
The infant, who was being treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital, died Tuesday night, Fuller said. The other child is recovering at home.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of this baby,” said Dr. Alexander Brzezny, Grant County health officer.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog should not be regarded as medical advice. I am not a doctor; I am not trained, and do not have the expertise needed to provide medical advice. I am a parent who is trying to find out as much information as I possibly can about vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases. This is a journey of discovery, and as such, it is quite possible that bad information might find its way in this blog. Please, speak to your doctor about any questions you might have, and especially before making any medical decisions.