Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reuters: Indiana Has 13 Cases of Measles as Vaccinations Decline

Thanks to antivaccinationists like Lowell Hubbs, preventable diseases like measles continue to be a problem because antivaxers are incapable of picking up a history book and reading about how we used to lose thousands of lives every year due to them, nor do they bother to learn about the thousands more that developed disabilities as a result of these diseases.

Instead, antivaxers like Mr. Hubbs claim vaccinations are harmful or that they cause autism even though there is zero scientific evidence to support that wild theory.  There are no clinical trials indicating it to be true, there are no medical or scientific studies, and there is not one single piece of peer reviewed, published research in any reputable medical journal worldwide which has so much as linked vaccines to autism much less proven causation.

Yet the antivaxers press on because they are determined to put people in harms way.  They ignore and outright avoid the science.  They refuse to consider the available scientific data.  They find excuses and place blame upon others rather than accepting the facts, and they invent wild conspiracy theories rather than admitting that they just might actually be wrong about vaccines.

Instead of wanting to protect people from preventable disease, antivaxers seem to be perfectly fine with a few people dying here or there provided they don't give in to those "dangerous" vaccines.  So what if a few people die from complications surrounding the measles?  Who cares if someone contracts polio and is permanently disabled as a result?  What's the big deal if a few people die from cervical cancer which may have been prevented if only they had been given a vaccine?  None of that matters to an antivaxer, because antivaxers really don't care about diseases... they merely care about how many people they can convince to follow them over the proverbial cliff.

The following quote from the article seems to sum it up best:
"Whatever risks there are (to vaccination) they pale in comparison with the danger of the natural disease".

~Dr. Jorge Parada, professor of medicine and direction of the infection prevention and control program at Loyola University Medical Center

Mark my words - we will see another large scale outbreak of preventable disease in our lifetimes.  Lives will be lost, children and adults will suffer, and antivaxers will quietly slither away into the darkness without so much as acknowledging they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Thanks antivaxers - if your goal is to kill or permanently disable a large number of people... you're doing a remarkable job.

Read the full and original article here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NPR: Experimental Malaria Vaccine Slashes Infection Risk By Half

A while back I was listening to NPR and they did a story about an experimental malaria vaccine.  Although I thought the news was impressive, I must admit it had slipped my mind until I came across the print version of the article recently.

Obviously this vaccine is experimental at this point, and it is far too early to determine the impact, but the article states "malaria researchers say the new vaccine could prevent malaria in tens of millions of children and save hundreds of thousands of lives per year". 

Think about that for a second - we have an experimental vaccine which only reduces the infection rate for malaria by about half rather than completely eliminates it, but even with only a 50% to 55% reduction it can still save hundreds of thousands of lives per year.  Yet antivaccinationists continually try to convince us that vaccines do not work and that they cause more harm than good.  Apparently this is yet another example of a study they will need to ignore as they try to claim there is no science proving vaccines are beneficial.

Let us be clear - this vaccine is a prime example of how science is making the world a better place.  Note the results from the study showed a clear benefit to the vaccine and this benefit cannot be attributed to anything else.  There were no environmental factors that differed between the two study groups, the population was stable, sanitation and pest control programs were not modified, and the test groups were co-mingled within all test sites.  Therefore the results appear very promising, although scientists and researchers admit more work needs to be done to improve the vaccine efficacy.

It is also worthy to note that the funding to develop this vaccine came from the vaccine's sponsor GlaxoSmithKline (who contributed around $300M) and from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (who contributed around $200M). Antivaccinationists will be quick to point out that GlaxoSmithKline is a vaccine manufacturer who stands to profit if this vaccine is available for sale, but GSK puts their minds at ease by openly stating they will make no profit from this endeavor. 

It is nice to know there are organizations out there that are trying to save lives and improve living conditions even when they can't personally profit from it, and you will also note that GSK or the Gates Foundation didn't charge these children massive amounts of money to be in their clinical trial... a tactic we have seen employed elsewhere.  When it comes to life saving vaccines that could help eradicate a disease thankfully it is usually about the people - not the profit.

The NPR article (which contains a link to the original audio broadcast) can be found on the NPR website

The actual results of the phase 3 clinical trial can be found within The New England Journal of Medicine.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What's The Harm In Avoiding Vaccines?

We often read about anti-vaccinationists who cite a random child they claim is "vaccine damaged" as evidence enough that we shouldn't attempt to vaccinate children.  We also read tear-jerking stories from various individuals about how a child received a vaccination and within days or weeks (or in some cases months) they started running a fever and shortly thereafter started regressing in their development and eventually were diagnosed with autism or some other neurological disorder.

It doesn't seem to matter that there is never any conclusive proof to link vaccines to these disorders because most antivaxers believe personal observation by parents or family members or random bloggers is superior to peer-reviewed science performed by trained physicians, clinicians, researchers, and scientists. 

Essentially the antivaxers would have us believe that the risk of giving a child a vaccination is far, far greater than the risk of going without said vaccination.  This belief essentially ignores all common sense and requires a selective rewrite of history in order for us to ignore the massive outbreaks of polio or smallpox previous generations had to deal with.  We also need to ignore the thousands of children who used to suffer from various diseases such as the measles, pertussis, mumps, rubella and several other preventable diseases along with those who were permanently injured or even those who died after contacting one of these diseases.

Nevertheless antivaxers seem convinced vaccines are dangerous and there is no justification for using them... ever. In fact we often hear antivaxers suggest that the diseases and viruses that vaccines protect against aren't really a problem at all.  We even see stories from antivaxers where they have bragged about having "pox parties" where they expose their children to others who have chicken pox, and in extreme cases there have even been published reports of parents ordering lollipops from infected children which they then give to their own kids in the hopes they will actually contract chicken pox. 

I wish I could make this stuff up, but sadly this is the reality.  Meanwhile, even though we have mountains of evidence and research showing the overwhelming effectiveness of vaccines, and even though we no longer need to worry about diseases such as smallpox or polio specifically because they were eradicated via vaccination programs, we still do not have so much as a single peer-reviewed study which has been able to link vaccines with a neurological disorder such as autism.  Not a single study.

In fact, we know thousands upon thousands of children needlessly suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases each and every year.  In some cases this may be because a child has an existing medical condition which prevents them from receiving a vaccine.  In some cases it could be due to to a vaccine not being effective in that child (no vaccine is 100% effective in every human just as no medication is effective in every human).  However in our current environment, most children who suffer from vaccine-preventable disease seem to be unvaccinated (due to their parents' unwarranted fears and actions based upon emotion rather than scientific fact), or they contract the disease from an unvaccinated child.

In effect, antivaxers promote the idea that vaccines are dangerous not because of what does happen or because of what has happened, but because they fear what might happen.  They ignore the millions of lives saved by vaccines and the millions more who didn't suffer with a preventable disease all due to their illogical belief that the rare condition that they "maybe sort of think might have something to do with vaccines" should take precedence over the numerous diseases we know are prevented by those very same vaccines.

I dare ask - are these people capable of performing basic arithmetic operations?  Even if we were to believe that vaccines might result in autism... even if we ignore accepted science and just assume that the majority of all cases of autism are due to vaccines, have they ever compared the risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease to the risk of being diagnosed with autism?  Have they also considered that in many cases those who contract vaccine-preventable diseases can suffer lasting effects which could include permanent disability or even death? 

Keep in mind we are ignoring accepted science here, so we need to ignore the fact that there is no evidence linking vaccines and autism and we need to ignore the fact that even the very strong anti-vaccine Generation Rescue non-scientific and heavily biased phone survey found there is not a statistically significant difference in the rate of autism between unvaccinated children and vaccinated children.  Even with all of this ignored, what is the logic behind the belief that the risk of autism somehow trumps the risk of death?

Surely critical thinking skills or common sense have no place in this discussion.  After all, what possibly could be the harm from NOT vaccinating a child?  Well if you have ever wondered what the answer to that question might be, you may find this website interesting:  What's The Harm

Of course it should be noted this website does not serve as a comprehensive list by any means.  The website is not updated on a regular basis and it is only a few select examples of the harm that anti-vaccine views have created, but it does serve as a reminder of why vaccines are so important.

You know what else is important?  The number 57,628That is how many cases of polio were reported in 1952.  Of those cases, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with varying degrees of paralysis.  All of this occurred in one single year prior to the development of the polio vaccine.

Of course if you are a vaccine conspiracy theorist like Lowell Hubbs, you tend to believe polio just magically disappeared from the planet and that it had nothing to do with vaccines.  In fact Hubbs still believes sugar consumption is to blame for polio, so he isn't exactly an expert on the subject.  But I digress...

Another important number is 400,000That is how many Europeans died annually from smallpox towards the end of the 18th century.  It is also estimated that as many as 10% of all children born in Sweden in the 17th century died from smallpox, and the estimates for Russia were one out of every seven children would die from the disease.

1813.  That is the year the US Congress passed a law (aptly named the Vaccine Act of 1813) to ensure the safe and legitimate smallpox vaccine would be available to the public.  By the late 1800s, smallpox was effectively eliminated within the US due to the vaccine.

50,000,000.  That is the estimated number of cases of smallpox that occurred worldwide as recently as the early 1950s.  Look at that number again.... fifty million cases!
So how about the number 25.  That seems to be a rather important number as well, because it is the percentage of people who died from smallpox after being infected.  Yes that is 25% or put another way one out of every four people who contracted smallpox would die from the disease.  In the early 1950s, this would be approximately 12,500,000 dead humans each year all because of one preventable disease.  That is greater than the populations of New York City and Los Angeles combined, and it was happening year after year.

Yet we no longer need to fear smallpox because of one thing... a vaccine.  Perhaps the most significant vaccine ever developed by man, and one which has saved millions upon millions of lives, which leads us to yet another important number...

1979.  That is the year that smallpox was certified as being eradicated from our planet.  There have been no cases reported since, and the disease is no longer a threat.  Again, this is all due to the availability of a vaccine.

I could obviously go on with numerous other vaccines and explain how many lives have been saved or how much suffering has been prevented, but the point here is that when a parent believes they are doing their child a favor by not vaccinating them from numerous preventable diseases, they are quite simply ignoring history.  They are gambling with their child's life, and they are ignoring science, logic, and reason. 

Thus even if we ignore the lack of science linking vaccines and autism and even if we give in to emotional pleas and pretend that parents who decide against vaccination are just doing what they feel is best for their children, what does this leave us with?  We know autism isn't a fatal disease so what this tells us is that parents would rather put their children at risk of contracting a fatal disease than even allow the slightest risk that they may suffer with a neurological disorder... surely that can't be right can it?

Are these antivaxer parents really that disconnected from reality?  Are they really unable to pick up a history book and take five minutes to learn about how preventable diseases like polio, smallpox, rubella, measles, varicella, and many many more have led to so many deaths?  Are they just ignorant of history and the science behind vaccines?

I really can't say why some parents decide against vaccines, but when I look at the facts it really comes down to either blatant ignorance, laziness in not bothering to do the research or examine history, or possibly the worst excuse of all... selfishness.  As sad as it may seem, there are a certain number of parents out there that have such a fear against having to raise a developmentally disabled child, that they would rather avoid life saving vaccines in the off chance they might find themselves with a "broken" child. 

Keep this in mind the next time some antivaxer brags about how they refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated - because aside from the fact they are scientifically and historically illiterate, instead of protecting their children, they are effectively telling them they would rather see them dead than allow them to be diagnosed with autism.

Disgusting?  You bet.