Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Impossible Demand for 100% Vaccine Safety

What would you say to someone who makes a demand for you to prove to them that all automobiles are
safe?  Do you think you could use safety data to prove that automobiles are more safe than they have ever been?  Maybe you could explain how there are new innovations like airbags, crumble zones, anti-lock brakes, or traction control systems which all work together to increase safety.

Now what if that same person cited statistics which showed that even in the year 2011 there were still over 32,000 people killed in automobile accidents in the US alone?  Does that suggest that automobiles aren't really that safe after all?

When you really think about it... how do you determine what is "safe"?

Reasonable people will understand that claims about vehicle safety based upon the number of accidents or the number of deaths in a year isn't taking in to account the big picture.  First you need to realize that there are hundreds of millions of miles traveled each and every year and there are million upon millions of drivers.  Next you need to take into account that even if a vehicle has eight airbags and has a five star crash test rating, sometimes things can and do go wrong and it may have nothing to do with the vehicle.

In the end, you would realize that 32,000 deaths may seem like a significant number, but in context of the hundreds of millions of miles driven, and the millions of unique drivers, the millions of different vehicles, the total hours spent in a vehicle throughout the year... well in the end 32,000 deaths is actually a very small number.  You might even show them statistics which prove that we haven't had less traffic fatalities since 1949 when the population and the number of miles traveled were less than half of what we have today.  You might even point out that almost as many people die from accidental poisonings in a given year (more than 33,000 deaths in 2010) than do in automobile accidents.

So perhaps logical people will agree that proving vehicles are safe is based upon certain assumptions.  Number one, you need to define the term "safe" and assume that is based upon historical averages and based upon percentages.  You also need to assume that no vehicle can ever be 100% safe, and you need to accept the fact that there will be accidents, and there will be a certain amount of deaths as a result.

With that in mind, should we ban automobiles because people die every year?  Should we change the laws to only allow them to be sold if they are 100% safe?  Should we demand that the government require automobile companies to be held personally responsible for each and every death that occurs while operating a motor vehicle?  Of course not... that sounds so silly when you put it like that doesn't it?

So with that in mind, why do anti-vaccinationists demand that we prove every vaccine is 100% safe?  Not only do they demand vaccines are 100% safe, but they aren't willing to accept the commonly held definition of the term "safe" (which in this case means involving little or no risk of mishap).

Even though there is overwhelming evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of vaccines, it is doubtful this would appease an antivaxxer because chances are there will always be cases where someone had an allergic reaction to a vaccine or a case where someone suffered a side effect, or cases where someone was fully vaccinated but still contracted the disease they were supposed to be protected against.

In addition to requiring all vaccines to be 100% safe, anti-vaccinationists are quick to point out case where someone was injured by a vaccine over 50 years ago.  They believe that the modern vaccines of today should still be blamed for any problems that existed decades ago, just as we should be blaming modern automobiles for the safety failures of the Chevrolet Corvair or the Ford Pinto.

We can all admit that vaccines have not always been perfect.  There have been cases such as the Rotashield rotavirus vaccine in 1998 and 1999 which was pulled from the market after it was determined it increased the risk of intussusception (a rare type of bowel obstruction) in infants.  There was the "Cutter Incident" back in the 1950s where a live virus was included in a polio vaccine which resulted in 10 deaths, and 200 children suffering from paralysis.

We also know that some polio vaccines were contaminated with Simian vacuolating virus 40 (SV40) which has the potential of leading to tumors.  Granted studies linking SV40 to cancer in humans have been inconclusive, this doesn't remove the negative impact these contaminated vaccines have had.

However, even with these and other failures in mind, is this enough to warrant the elimination of vaccines entirely?  Sadly if you are an antivaxxer the answer is yes.  Antivaxxers are convinced that these failures overshadow any good effects from vaccines, and they believe we would be better off without any vaccinations whatsoever.

They would have us return to the days where polio infected tens of thousands annually and killed as many as 6,000 in the US alone.

They would have us return to the days of millions upon millions of people dying from smallpox and to the time where as many as one out of every seven Russian children would die from the disease.

They would even attempt to convince us that the 18 people that died from measles every hour in 2011 (158,000 deaths total) aren't important.  They would try to claim the 71% reduction in measles deaths due to vaccination is trivial and unimportant.

Whether it be a vaccine used to prevent pertussis (whooping cough) or one which has been shown to prevent rotavirus, antivaxxers seem to believe that no vaccine is a good one, and although vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and effective, even if we could guarantee vaccines were safe 99.97% of the time and effective 99.99% of the time it still wouldn't be enough to convince those in the anti-vaccine crowd, because they will never be satisfied with anything less than 100% effectiveness and 100% safety.

So there is a choice... one one hand you could...
  • Refuse to acknowledge the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and believe they cause far more harm than good
Or alternatively you can accept reality and...
  • Acknowledge that although vaccines are not perfect, they do an incredible job of reducing and in some cases actually eliminating entirely the risk of contracting disease.  Accept that vaccines safe lives and prevent the spread of disease.  Accept that vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and that we have the historical record to show us not only how safe they are, but how effective they are as well.  Acknowledge that we no longer need to fear death from diseases such as smallpox or polio, acknowledge that vaccines are one of humankind's greatest scientific breakthroughs, and agree that vaccines (although not always 100% safe or 100% effective) are far less risky or damaging than the diseases they prevent (which can, and often do lead to death or long-term complications).
Nobody says we have to be satisfied with our current vaccines, and we can (and should) demand for better vaccines, safer vaccines, and vaccines for diseases which currently have no other cure (such as HIV).  We should always be striving for advancements and we shouldn't be afraid to challenge accepted science or to ask the difficult questions.

However there is a vast difference between wishing for vaccines to improve and wishing vaccines didn't exist.  Antivaxxers don't really care about vaccine safety.  They don't care about the millions of lives lost.  They don't care about people suffering from polio or pertussis or smallpox because they have never suffered from these diseases.  They likely aren't old enough to remember a loved one dying from what we now consider to be vaccine preventable diseases, and as such I can think of no other term to describe antivaxxers than the word selfish.

These people don't care about those who have died, and their only concern is pushing a political agenda based upon something they read about on the Internet or a reaction that their cousin's, boyfriend's, sister's, coworker's daughter's, teacher's, kid had after being vaccinated for tetanus.

Demanding improvements is reasonable, demanding 100% safety and effectiveness quite simply is the exact opposite of reasonable.  Just as we understand there is a risk every time we get into an automobile, we also understand there is a risk with each and every vaccination.  The question that should be asked is whether the level of risk is worth engaging in that particular activity, and the data overwhelmingly proves to us that driving in automobiles as well as being vaccinated is well worth the risk.


  1. "We can all admit that vaccines have not always been perfect. There have been cases such as the Rotashield rotavirus vaccine in 1998 and 1999 which was pulled from the market after it was determined it increased the risk of intussusception (a rare type of bowel obstruction) in infants. There was the "Cutter Incident" back in the 1950s where a live virus was included in a polio vaccine which resulted in 10 deaths, and 200 children suffering from paralysis.

    We also know that some polio vaccines were contaminated with Simian vacuolating virus 40 (SV40) which has the potential of leading to tumors. Granted studies linking SV40 to cancer in humans have been inconclusive, this doesn't remove the negative impact these contaminated vaccines have had."

    How can I argue with someone who has essentially done my work for me?
    You can't deny the health risks that vaccines have posed and you will never disprove the risks. Julie Gerberding herself has, on camera, admitted the autism like symptoms in more susceptible children caused by vaccines.

    Plus, VICP has paid millions to parents of vaccine-caused brain damaged children.

    Unfortunately, those susceptible are succumbing at a rate of 1 in 50, 1 in 29 boys.

    Vaccine safety studies are needed and until they are done, these questions, health concerns and risks will always exist.

    1. You clearly did not understand the premise of the post. Surely we cannot deny some of the failures of vaccines in the past, nor can we deny that risks exist in every activity we engage in.

      Driving to the supermarket is risky as we could be killed in a car accident, but that doesn't prevent us from picking up a gallon of milk. Going to a baseball game is risky as we could be hit in the head by a foul ball and suffer a permanent brain injury, but that doesn't stop us from enjoying an afternoon at the ball field.

      Life has risks - but with risks some rewards, and the benefits of vaccines have been shown to far, far outweigh any risks. This is true today just as it was true 75 years ago, and it will continue to be true long after we are all gone. Ask those of the older generation about how life was when they had a chance of being stricken with polio. Ask a mother who lost her child to a disease like the measles which we seem to think is harmless. They will tell you in no uncertain terms that vaccines have improved lives.

      Bottom line: the risks of any type of reaction to a vaccine are much less than the risk of being unvaccinated. We have decades of history behind us which have proven this time and time again, and we have witnessed this pattern with numerous vaccines and in numerous different nations.

      I sincerely doubt I will have any effect on your opinion however as you seem to suggest that "vaccine safety studies" don't exist. Really? Google Scholar only finds about 736,000 results, so I'm sure you would have a hard time locating any, but might I suggest you pick a single vaccine and see what you can find?

      How about the vaccine for whopping cough (pertussis)? Yes... it sure is hard to find sources for safety studies.

      It literally took a whopping 25 seconds via Google search to find those results, and although you will likely find fault in one or two of them, thankfully there are over 130 to choose from for this one vaccine.

    2. Of that list, you can safely delete the two by Dr. Gordon Stewart. They are the only two which claim the vaccine was more dangerous than the disease. But, then again, Dr. Stewart was the UK maverick doctor of the 1970s and 1980s.

      Dr. Offit's book Deadly Choices devotes several pages to Dr. Stewart. He was the UK "expert" for the TV documentary by Lea Thompson, "DPT: Vaccine Roulette." On page 35 the last time Dr. Stewart was an "expert witness" in court is described. Apparently he consistently misquoted a study, and then while on the stand he was asked if a study that he cites was done on American children. He answered in the affirmative, though he could not remember the age or ethnic origin of the children. He was then handed a copy of the study, which had been done on rats. Ooops.

      Then on page 50 and 51, more of Dr. Stewart is revealed. Like his HIV/AIDS denialism.

      Some other safety studies on on pertussis vaccine:
      Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story

      Pediatrics Vol. 126 No. 2 August 1, 2010 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-1496)
      Lack of Association Between Acellular Pertussis Vaccine and Seizures in Early Childhood

      Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2006 Sep;25(9):768-73.
      Encephalopathy after whole-cell pertussis or measles vaccination: lack of evidence for a causal association in a retrospective case-control study.

    3. Brave anonymous wrote: "Plus, VICP has paid millions to parents of vaccine-caused brain damaged children."

      The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has existed for over twenty years. With its very liberal standards for evidence (like just numbers of days), it has awarded less than 3500 cases in over twenty years.

      There are about four million children born in the USA each year, so for over twenty years with the even a small estimate of the number of vaccines each child gets: that is multiple billions of vaccine doses. The number of cases that were compensated is very very tiny.

  2. Your blog and its credibility means nothing unless you have the honesty to identify who you are and as well what your connections and conflict of interest are. You most definitely refuse to consider any reasonable alternative information and science. What amazes me is that you just do a general google search on a subject matter and then call that substantial proof of your claims. Proof takes specific material to be focused on. I think this blog is absolutely ridiculous and in itself doing more harm than good to any positive and honest debate on these issues. Instead what you are doing is causing more lack of trust in the information than you are ever actually gaining. So again I will ask you to provide your identity? Would you as well list all of the vaccines that you have personally had in the last 5 years? How about as well listing any vaccines that your own children have had. Your credibility as well depends on such factors.

    1. Mighty big and brave words from someone posting anonymously!

      The identity of the writer does not mean a thing if he/she cannot back up their assertions with evidence. Which have been done if you bothered to click on the links. They are the text that are a different color, and when you hover your mouse over them the icon goes from an arrow to a little hand. Click on them, and then you end up at places like CDC, World Health Organization and a few scientific papers.

    2. Well "anonymous", considering antivaxxers like Lowell Hubbs have published numerous threats against me and others who write about vaccines, you'll understand if I don't offer you my CV complete with home address. Keep in mind this is the same person who actually made statements about violence including using a shotgun, and another time he even went so far as to speak about cutting my head off. Yes he is a classy guy.

      When you consider Mr. Hubbs is a felon with a long criminal history, and when you consider he has displayed numerous signs of mental disorder coupled with a tendency to display a rage against those he disagrees with... well I think you'll understand why I don't offer him my home phone number or introduce him to my friends and family.

      Frankly, my name, and the names of anyone else associated with this blog, are unimportant. When I link to sources and studies they become the information you should be reviewing rather than focusing upon me.

      As to "specific material" depending upon the subject matter I'm writing about at any given moment, I often provide significant evidence and research. There are times that I write about more general concepts of course, and in those cases I obviously won't refer to specific studies unless they directly relate to the subject matter. If you read more than one or two posts surely you can figure this out on your own.

      Listen - I know you are upset that I won't give you my name, but the last thing I need is a bunch of antivaxxers following those associated with this blog. You see, these aren't the type of people I would invite over for dinner and since I have no desire to meet with them personally, and I don't feel they are deserving of such an honor, I have no reason to give them personal information that they most certainly would use to stalk or harass me or other contributors.

      Now as far as the vaccines I've had well frankly that is none of your business. I will say that as an adult I've had many vaccines and boosters, and if my GP recommends a vaccination for something, you can guarantee I'll be signing up for it. I have ZERO reservations about being vaccinated, and I believe in not only protecting myself from vaccine-preventable diseases, but also protecting those around me. So yes I vaccinate, but no I'm not giving you an itemized list for you to review.

      Second, I will not disclose any details about whether I even have children or not, and thus won't disclose details about any vaccinations those children may have received. Again I've seen what antivaxxers will do to family members and children and I'm not interested in bring that upon anyone. Not to mention I find it a bit creepy that an antivaxxer would want details about someone's children (or lack thereof) which is in no way related to anything being discussed here.

      Of course if you review past blog posts about Lowell Hubbs you will see he seems to have a rather disturbing interest surrounding child pornography as well... so you'll understand if I don't run around offering details to someone who I honestly believe is capable of unspeakable acts.

      Now if you feel this in someway harms our credibility... you are free to go elsewhere. If on the other hand you realize personal details have nothing to do with the subject of vaccines, then you're welcome - you learned something new today.

    3. By the way anonymous (aka Lowell Hubbs) I won't publish your other profanity and threat laced message as it adds nothing to the discussion.

      It does tell me you are a slow learner however. So that's something.

  3. "Nobody says we have to be satisfied with our current vaccines, and we can (and should) demand for better vaccines, safer vaccines, and vaccines for diseases which currently have no other cure (such as HIV). We should always be striving for advancements and we shouldn't be afraid to challenge accepted science or to ask the difficult questions."

    I think you should post this on your main page or make it a header. I considered myself an antivaxxer until I read this. Most of my readings up until now unfortunately were between antivaxxers and others who believed vaccines were 100% safe and effective and the world will end without everyone having them. It was quite frustrating and made me angry. I just realized it was the anger back and forth between those posts and replies that made me angry. Your posts are not this way. Although I will admit the troll Hubbs and your replies to him are a little entertaining. I have a feeling every time I see a similar troll anywhere on the internet from now on, your "Mr. Hubbs" will come to mind.

    My position on vaccines is that of your statement I quoted above. I do not care for the ingredients listed in some vaccines. That is me wanting research for safer preservation of and the delivery system of the vaccine itself.

    1. I'm glad you are open to the idea that vaccines themselves aren't the evil many suggest they are. Yes vaccines aren't perfect, and there will always be a way to improve either the efficacy, the ingredients, the delivery mechanism, the longevity etc. That said, even our worst vaccine available today is still an amazing innovation and is of great benefit to mankind. In simple terms even imperfect vaccines save lives, and for that we should be grateful.

      I'm glad you were able to see something in one of my posts which confirmed the view you likely already had, but please don't give me too much credit. There are times I strike a tone of understanding, but I'll admit there are other times where in frustration I may sound as if I believe all vaccines are near perfect. Of course most understand there is always room to improve, but in some cases it is difficult to present that view because anti-vaxxers latch on to it and use it as evidence to support the idea that "vaccines are flawed". Thus, many just focus upon the benefits of vaccines while leaving the idea of improving them to someone else.

      In any case you have likely figured out already that I haven't been posting to this blog in quite some time. I have contributed material elsewhere and found that this platform wasn't nearly as popular as some of the other sites, so I've directed my attention elsewhere. I do hope you continue asking the questions that need to be asked and if anything I have written here helps you... then all the better.

  4. "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein Often times, when it comes to some as complex as trying to eliminate the thousands of virus, bacteria, fungus and molds which roam our beautiful planet, we can look at one small piece of the puzzle - and that is vaccines. However, perhaps, this is too limited. The argument is always: What do you think about vaccines? But it's never, what do you think about the miracle of our immune system? What do you think about our mind, body and spirit? What role does our faith play? Our energy?
    Are we going to limit ourselves to a mandated vaccine program based in the ancient Chinese custom of inhaling Smallpox sores - or are we going to do as our great nation has always done to solve problems - invent, create, challenge, and seek out new answers - or even look at other answers which have been suggested, but because of human pride, we are going to ignore, toss out, and silence? If vaccines are not 100% safe or 100% effective, then there will always be research that needs to be done to find alternatives. Humanity will never get to 100% on anything it creates. But it can certainly recognize the limitations of everything it creates and never stop having the faith and perseverance to try new things, even when it challenges what is already in place.

  5. Read the manufacturer's insert. As far as safety, we are told what we need to know to make the decision to do it. Vaccines don't cause...
    The manufacturer's label gives us the truth: No reliable tests can determine causality... and encephalopathy, neurological disorders replaced the term Autism. So, now that the courts have ruled that vaccines don't cause autism, but an underlying condition triggers the autism, they can now say that vaccines don't cause it and they are speaking the truth. But the manufacturer's label is very clear - there are no reliable tests that really determine if the vaccines caused any of the adverse reactions or not. It's a guessing game. So, vaccinate away at your own risk. I'm sure that someone out there is watching my posts to see what my server is. I'm not conspiracy theorist. I'm a realist. We are human. Everyone makes mistakes. We are human beings living in an imperfect world. We can never make it as perfect as what we want it to be.


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