Facts, not Fantasy

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Medical News Today: Flu Vaccine Protects Pregnant Woman's Baby And Does Not Cause Miscarriage

I would suppose that this should go in the "Well, of course" column to rational people grounded in reality, however there has been some legitimately confusing studies that should be addressed.  I for one am glad they they were studied in a rigorous and methodical manner instead of whatever quackery and woo woo the anti-vax pro-disease nutters seem intent on.
Apart from protecting a newborn infant from flu for four months, the flu vaccine does not raise the risk of miscarriage, Kathleen Neuzil, MD, member of the Infectious Disease Society of America's Pandemic Influenza Task Force explained at their 49th Annual Meeting. Various presentations at the meeting are showing that pregnant mothers are getting the message not only about the flu shot's importance, but also its safety.

A newborn whose mother was not vaccinated is particularly vulnerable to flu because he/she is more likely not to be born with protective immunity and cannot be vaccinated for at least six months. A newborn who becomes infected with influenza is at a higher risk of complications, and even death, compared to older humans.

Dr. Neuzil, MD, who is also clinical professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, said:

"Pregnant women are understandably concerned about protecting their unborn babies, which makes it all the more important for them to understand that getting a flu shot during pregnancy is an important way to protect the baby, as well as themselves. These new data on the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines is reassuring, and the increasing number of pregnant women receiving the vaccine affirms that women are hearing the message about the vaccine's benefits."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Just the Vax: Follow up on my post about Natalie and SSPE

One thing you gotta hand the anti-vax pro-disease nutters is their predictability...
There were two reactions to my post about Natalie's entirely preventable death from SSPE that I had put up yesterday.

One that invariably came from pro-vaccine minded parents, which was "oh, how horrible, the poor child/parents" and sometimes included "can we go after those vaccine-refusing parents"

and one that invariably came from anti-vaccine minded parents, which was "oh, how horrible, how can you call our children potential murder weapons" and sometimes included "you must be paid to post this" pharmashill accusations.

So here are some clarifications:

I don't know much about the parents who took their unvaccinated 11 year old to that pediatrician's practice. I can say with some conviction that neither Andrew Wakefield nor Jenny McCarthy had anything to do with their decision, since this happened in Germany in 1999 and their son was 11 then, so their anti-vaccine decision must have happened 10 years earlier, when neither Wakefield nor McCarthy were a topic (and they never really became one in Germany anyway). We don't know what made them not vaccinate. I am pretty sure they did not intend this to happen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Just the Vax: So predictable - so sad, Natalie dies of SSPE

This is part 1 of a post (which actually seems to be part 1.5 even).  Again, this is the ever predictable and incredibly sad story of someone dying as a result of the anti-vax pro-disease nutters...  Yes, I lay this blame at their feet.  Read on, and then await the next post...
We had previously reported the case of Natalie, one of the children who contracted measles from an unvaccinated preteen in their pediatrician's practice in 2000. Natalie was 11 months old at the time. She came down with SSPE in 2007 (that is actually the average time lag between measles infection in infancy and the development of this fatal measles complication), she deteriorated, fell into a "wake coma" and now passed away due to organ failure.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Delaying Vaccines cause death

A usual anti-vax claim is that governments are too quick to addvaccines to the schedule, usually hinting at some nefarious connections to "big pharma" or some equally wacky conspiracy position.  Well, it seems that vaccines are the cheapest and most cost effective way to prevent disease and suffering, yet the anti-vax pro-disease nutters would rather have this scene repeat itself I guess:

Govt delay over vaccine led to deaths

Government delays in introducing a vaccine against meningococcal B during an epidemic in the 1990s led to "unnecessary and potentially avoidable deaths", new research says.

Research led by the University of Auckland says although the Health Ministry was fully briefed from 1996, it took another eight years for the MeNZB immunisation campaign to begin - at a point when the epidemic was already declining.

The effectiveness of the campaign was also not monitored properly, meaning it was impossible to know how much it contributed to the epidemic's end, the researchers said.

The research has been released weeks after a catch-up campaign was launched in Northland to vaccinate people against meningococcal C, which has killed three people in the region.

Two Wellington teenagers have also died of meningococcal C but a vaccination campaign in the region has been ruled out so far by health officials. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

Malaria has a vaccine which is reported to drop malaria infection rates by around 50%, which is cause for immense celebration.

The malaria vaccine is the first vaccine produced against a parasite rather than a pathogen and if the efficiency rate is to hold this would result in a massive drop in cases and in mortality. Roughly 800,000 people a year die from Malaria per year and a 50% infection drop would halve that.

This is without the countless man hours and pain caused by this disease, remembering that there are roughly 225 million cases of malaria per year and that malaria is a serious disease. The sheer amount of money saved in medication and treatment will be astounding particularly since the people this will benefit the most will be the poorest nations of the world who normally don't have access to the best medication.

It will be a few more years before the vaccine is released but clinical trials are promising. This is 30 years of hard work that have come to fruition even if the immunity doesn't last long. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Greg Laden's Blog: What are the adverse effects of vaccines?

12,000 peer reviewed studies.  I think that should say it all right there, but that still probably won't silence the liars from the anti-vax pro-disease movement...  Greg goes into a lot of details on his blog post, but I wanted to pull a couple of pertinent details from his post.  Again, I urge you to read his entire post on the subject, or even go to the report itself when it comes out.  Amazingly (well, not really), all the adverse effects are not at all what the anti-vax pro-disease nutters would have you think.  Here is a list of them (enmphasis mine):
Convincingly supported links are:

Varicella Vaccine:
Disseminated Oka VZV without other organ involvement (got chicken pox)
Disseminated OK VZV with subsequent infection resulting in Pneumonia, Menningitis, or Hepatitis (got chickenbox, bad)
Vaccine strain viral reactivation without other organ involvement
Vaccine Strain viral reactivation with subsequent infection resulting in menningitis or encephalitis
Anaphylaxis (a multi-system immune reaction, very variable but considered dangerous)

MMR Vaccine:
Measles Inclusion Body encaphalitis
Ferbile seizures

Influenza Vaccine:

Hepatitis A Vaccine
Nothing Noted

Hepatitis B Vaccine:

HPV Vaccine:
Nothing noted

DT-IT and aP containing vaccines:
Meningococcal Vaccine:

Injection-related events:
Deltoid Bursitis (arm hurts)
Syncope (fainting)

Keep in mind that most of these effects are rare and many are minor. The main effect linked to these vaccines is immunity to a potentially deadly disease.

Suffice it to say, there is no connection with autism.  Again, will that stop the lies?  Of course not, lies are not supported by any facts, whereas science is.

Keep in mind, the adverse effects from vaccines runs at about 1 or 2 per MILLION.  Whereas the adverse effects for a disease is in the neighborhood of 1 in 500 to 1 in 10,000 (depending on the disease).

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Vaccine Times: American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Pertussis Booster Vaccine Guidelines

The post I put up the other day about Pertussis, while it may seem related, isn't to this story.  The AAP and CDC do not just rush out and willy nnilly change their schedules and recommendations.  It is a methodical and well thought out process with great rigor and good reasons behind it.  The CDC even tries to reassure folks about this, as does the AAP, but it's an uphill battle against the lies and distortions of the anti-vax pro-disease nutters.  Anyway, the AAP wants to prevent Pertussis (my emphasis):
Pertussis, a.k.a. whooping cough is a nasty disease. It is particularly merciless with our youngest. Last year in California 10 babies died, of which 9 were under 2 months of age and were thus too young to be vaccinated with the first of the 5 doses of the DTaP vaccine. Thus, it is imperative that we do all we can to protect the youngest in our midst from this deadly disease.

In line with this need for extra protection for our children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines about the use of the pertussis booster (Tdap) vaccine. In light of the recent news that immunity from the vaccine might wane sooner than previously thought, these updated recommendations become that much more important.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Vaccine Times: Whooping Cough Vaccine Protection Might Wane Sooner Than Previously Thought

Science is about examining, and re-examining information and data.  That is why it is dynamic (and not static and dogmatic despite the claims of denialists of all sorts).  As of late, Pertussis (or Whooping Cough as it is also know) has had a serious resurgence amongst numerous populations.  In part it is due to the anti-vax pro-disease nutters spreading their lies, but there may be some other factors that play into it.  So a paper has been presented that I found out about at The Vaccine Times:
According to new research by Dr. David Witt, presented at the American Society for Microbiology conference in Chicago on Monday, the protection conferred by the whooping cough vaccine, as currently administered might wane quicker than previously thought. His study suggests that the vaccine’s protection might considerably wane as soon as 3 years after receipt of the last dose.

The study looked at 15,000 children in Marin County, California, including 132 who got whooping cough last year. It found that children who had gone three years or more since the last of their five original shots were up to 20 times more likely to become infected than children who had been more recently vaccinated. The biggest number of cases was in children 8 to 12 years old. The CDC’s own studies also show a drop off in protection, however not as steep as Dr. Witt’s drop.

So what does all this mean? Given that this study is relatively small, even its authors agree that it needs further confirmation. If the results hold however, it might mean that the time between booster shots may need to be reduced.  Alternatively, a more effective vaccine might be developed, although I cannot say how realistic that scenario might be. Or it may not lead to any changes. Although protection wanes, generally speaking vaccinated children have less severe cases of illness than unvaccinated kids, so the waning protection might not justify a change in the booster shot timing or frequency. It is simply too early to say at this point.

I must note, the study took place in a region of the world where the anti-vax pro-disease nutters have a great deal of sway.  I wonder if their actions also contributed to this particular study results?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Stat Girl: Educated otherwise smart people are immune to logic!

I found this blog to be particularly entertaining and worthwhile, so I wanted to popularize one of her posts.  Her style is refreshing, forthright, honest, and she pulls no punches.  As an example, she has this gem (emphasis mine):

I understand the counties with a lower population of English speakers who may have difficulty accessing vaccines, but then we have places that are basically where "rich white people" live. http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/08/vaccine_exemptions_in_california_threate.php

They commit crimes against logic and science everyday that they send their unimmunized petri-dish spawn to schools where children with compromised immune systems and newborn siblings attend. 
CLICK HERE TO READ THE WHOLE POST! (Trust me, it's worth it!)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Just the Vax: Polio in China

So I am a little behind in getting some of this news out, but I figured that it's important to repeat it, even if the news isn't fresh or new.  As many are probably aware, because of the vaccination program throughout the world, smallpox has been considered eliminated.  Polio was nearly to that status.  Sadly, it is not yet.  Currently there is an outbreak in China.
As of 13 September 2011, nine cases of polio have been reported in the Xinjiang region.  There has been one death.  All of the cases had wild-type polio 1 (WPV-1) which originated from Pakistan.  Xinjiang shares a border with Pakistan where polio is endemic, along with other neighbouring countries, India, Afghanistan and Tajikistan that are also polio-endemic.

Four children between the ages of four months and 2 years were infected in July, data for the other five are unknown but appear to be all infants, including the one fatality.  This is the first outbreak of polio in China since 1999, when an importation from India was identified.  The last indigenous case was in 1994.  An intense surveillance and vaccination programme has been launched in the region in hopes that the spread can be contained.  However, given that paralytic polio occurs in ~1% of polio cases and of that, 5-10% result in death and there were at least four cases of paralysis and one death, it is more than likely that hundreds, if not thousands of cases have gone undetected.
 Now, there are some countries where the WHO does consider polio eliminated.  Most countries throughout the world as a matter of fact.  Sadly the United States is NOT such a country (along with China, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan)!  I had been, but now we are facing the public health danger of anti-vax pro-disease propaganda, and we are having our public health standards dragged back to the last century.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Harpocrates Speaks: Speaking of Flu

So yesterday I made a post about a CDC re-evaluation of their flu model.  It seems that Harpocrates Speaks also covered this story.  But as usual, Todd went into a bit more detail, and I wanted to get that info out there (although I find it funny that both he and I keyed on very similar ideas in that post.  Almost as if the anti-vax pro-disease nutters are predictable in their lies).  From his post on this, if you scroll down a bit, he starts:

Speaking of the Flu

While we're on the subject, as temperatures drop, the air becomes drier and people start to congregate indoors more frequently, flu season starts to ramp up. Conditions are becoming ripe for transmission of the virus, and hospitals are places where we really cannot afford to spread the flu. There are a lot of individuals whose immune systems are less able to cope with infection, so even illnesses that might be mild in a healthy individual may become life-threatening. Whether the patients are walk-ins or in for long term care, children, adults or the elderly, it is vital for hospital employees to be vaccinated against the flu.

I'm not just talking about the doctors and nurses, here. I mean everyone that works in the hospital. At the very least, anyone who spends any amount of time in a patient area (waiting room, exam room, elevators, hallways, stairwells, lobbies) should be immunized if they have no medical reasons to the contrary. Hospitals and their employees should take steps to protect the health and well-being of their patients, and that includes taking measures to reduce the risk of infection.

I decided to take a look online to see if I could find any recent reports of vaccine rates among hospital employees and stumbled upon a survey of Maryland Hospital Healthcare Worker Influenza Vaccination (PDF). This was a self-reported, web-based survey of Maryland hospitals looking at total number of employees who received a vaccine, number that exempted out for medical reasons, number that exempted out for religious reasons and number that declined immunization but did not provide a reason, compared to the total number of employees at the hospital. Some hospitals had mandatory immunization policies with consequences for non-compliance (such as loss of privileges or even being fired), some had mandatory policies but no consequences for non-compliance and still others had no vaccination policy.

Good charts, graphs, and actual data there as opposed to simple assertions.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

CDC Actually Follows Scientific Methods

The CDC has released a correction to one of their reports.  Granted, it is a post hoc release, but the thing about it is that the CDC has actually revised the estimate because they realized their mistake, and they are honest about it.  This is really the greatest strength of science.  To refine things and get better results as information, methods, and knowledge evolves (see what I did there?).  I have never seen an anti-vax pro-disease nutter actually re-evaluate their position, no matter how much data is actually presented to them.

So here is the CDC Press release (emphasis mine):

Notice to Readers: Revised Estimates of the Public Health Impact of 2009 Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) Vaccination

In the May 20, 2011, report, "Ten Great Public Health Achievements --- United States, 2001--2010," on page 621, preliminary estimates of the impact of public health interventions during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic were presented as follows: "These public health interventions prevented an estimated 5--10 million cases, 30,000 hospitalizations, and 1,500 deaths (1)." These estimates were derived using combined data from two sources: 1) an unpublished CDC model for estimating the impact of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccine on averting cases, hospitalizations, and deaths during the 2009--10 influenza season and 2) a model for estimating the impact of antiviral treatment in averting hospitalizations and deaths during the 2009--10 season (2). As a result of a programming error, the model used to estimate the impact of vaccination did not adequately adjust for the decreasing risk for disease as the pandemic progressed, and thus the impact of vaccination was overestimated.

The corrected estimates for the combined impact from vaccine and antiviral treatment are as follows: 713,000 to 1.5 million cases, 12,300 to 23,000 hospitalizations, and 620 to 1,160 deaths averted. Of these, 713,000 to 1.5 million cases, 3,900 to 10,400 hospitalizations, and 200 to 520 deaths were averted as a result of the vaccination campaign (CDC, unpublished data, 2011), whereas the use of influenza antiviral medications is estimated to have prevented another 8,400 to 12,600 hospitalizations and another 420 to 640 deaths (2).

It is important to note that the error does not involve nor pertain to the effectiveness of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, nor to estimates of the burden of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which resulted in approximately 43 million to 89 million cases, 195,000 to 403,000 hospitalizations, and 8,900 to 18,300 deaths, including 910 to 1,880 deaths among children aged <18 years, during April 2009--April 2010 (3). CDC-supported evaluations have shown that the vaccine was effective in preventing influenza medical visits during the pandemic (4). However, because there was early widespread circulation of the 2009 H1N1 virus, many persons in the United States became ill before vaccine was available.

CDC continues to work on developing and evaluating statistical models for estimating the impact of influenza vaccination in order to develop better programs and ways to monitor the impact of those programs. CDC expects this work might lead to future publications that provide additional impact estimates.


  1. CDC. Ten great public health achievements---United States, 2001--2010, MMWR 2011;60:619--23.
  2. Atkins CY, Patel A, Taylor TH Jr, et al. Estimating effect of antiviral drug use during pandemic (H1N1) 2009 outbreak, United States. Emerg Infect Dis 2011;17:1591--8.
  3. Shrestha SS, Swerdlow DL, Borse RH, et al. Estimating the burden of 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) in the United States (April 2009---April, 2010). Clin Infect Dis 2011;52:S75--82.
  4. Griffin MR, Monto AS, Belongia EA, et al. Effectiveness of non-adjuvanted pandemic influenza A vaccines for preventing pandemic influenza acute respiratory illness visits in 4 U.S. communities. PLoS One 2011;6:e23085.
It's refreshing to see that there is a scientific method being adhered to.  If nothing else, that should be a reason for you to actually listen  to the CDC over the dogmatic denialists of the anti-vax pro-disease movement.