Yeah, I’m vaccinated

April 24th, 2014 (last updated)

I'm vaccinated


Anecdotal ‘Amish-don’t-vaccinate’ claims disproved by fact-based study

April 23rd, 2014 (last updated)


The various vaccine manufactroversies that have spread in the wake of the Andrew Wakefield’s bogus claims that the measles component of the MMR vaccine might be linked to autism are too numerous to unpack in one brief blog post. One of the most persistent has been the Amish fallacy: Most Amish don’t vaccinate; there’s almost no record of autism in Amish communities; ergo, vaccines cause autism. (This argument has also been used, time and time and time again, to illustrate the efficacy of a proposed vaccinated-versus-unvaccinated study.)

Not surprisingly, no part of the Amish fallacy — which has been kicking around for over a decade and gained new prominence and attention with this, purely anecdotal 2005 dispatch* — is true. Over the years, Ken Reibel at Autism News Beat has documented the problems with the Amish report, although the myth still persists.

Yesterday, Reuters Health reported on a recent study in Pediatrics titled “Underimmunization in Ohio’s Amish: Parental Fears Are a Greater Obstacle Than Access to Care.” The study found that majority of Amish parents do, in fact, vaccinate their children…and among the minority that don’t, the most common reasons cited were the same anti-vaccine fueled fears that have infected people around the country.

Unlike the theories propagated by anti-vaccine activists, this study was definitely not anecdotal: It was based on surveys sent to hundreds of families in Holmes County, which has a large number of Amish families. As Reuters reports, “Of 359 households that responded to the survey, 85 percent said that at least some of their children had received at least one vaccine. Forty-nine families refused all vaccines for their children, mostly because they worried the vaccines could cause harm and were not worth the risk.”

The study’s conclusions summarize the issue quite succinctly:

The reasons that Amish parents resist immunizations mirror reasons that non-Amish parents resist immunizations. Even in America’s closed religious communities, the major barrier to vaccination is concern over adverse effects of vaccinations. If 85% of Amish parents surveyed accept some immunizations, they are a dynamic group that may be influenced to accept preventative care. Underimmunization in the Amish population must be approached with emphasis on changing parental perceptions of vaccines in addition to ensuring access to vaccines.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the days to come…and what objections will be raised to invalidate this latest piece of evidence.

* Correction: In the first iteration of this post, I attributed the Amish-don’t-vaccinate myth to the 2005 UPI dispatch linked to above; as was pointed out in the comments, it has been kicking around since at least 2000.

Vaccines Work

April 22nd, 2014 (last updated)

vaccines work


Innovative vaccines companies and the ‘decade of vaccines’

April 21st, 2014 (last updated)

decade of vaccines


Immunisation trends and child survival

April 20th, 2014 (last updated)

Professor Hans Rosling delivers a presentation highlighting trends in immunisation, vaccine development and child survival, during a GAVI Alliance meeting.

GAVI Alliance

How do we know that vaccines don’t cause autism?

April 19th, 2014 (last updated)


Next time somebody says that vaccines cause autism, or that the link has not been studied extensively, hit them with this list of 109 scientific papers (including studies and reviews) showing no link between vaccines, vaccine ingredients and autism. Compiled by Nathan Boonstra, Allison Hagood and Luci Baldwin.

  1. Albizzati, A., Moré, L., Di Candia, D., Saccani, M., Lenti, C. Normal concentrations of heavy metals in autistic spectrum disorders. Minerva Pediatrica. 2012.Feb;64(1):27-31
  2. Abu Kuwaik, G., Roberts, W., Zwaigenbaum, L., Bryson, S., Smith, IM., Szatmari, P., Modi, BM., Tanel, N., Brian, J. Immunization uptake in younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism. 2014 Feb;18(2):148-55. doi: 10.1177/1362361312459111. Epub 2012 Oct 8.
  3. Afzal, MA., Ozoemena, LC., O’Hare, A., Kidger, KA., Bentley, ML., Minor, PD.Absence of detectable measles virus genome sequence in blood of autistic children who have had their MMR vaccination during the routine childhood immunization schedule of UK.   Journal Medical Virology. 2006 May;78(5):623-30.
  4. Ahearn WH.What Every Behavior Analyst Should Know About the “MMR Causes Autism” Hypothesis. Archive of Behavior Analysis in Practice. 2010.   Spring;3(1):46-50.
  5. Allan, GM., Ivers, N. The autism-vaccine story: fiction and deception? Canadian Family Physician. Oct 2010; 56(10): 1013.
  6. Andrews, N., Miller, E., Grant, A., Stowe, J., Osborn, V., & Taylor, B. (2004). Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a retrospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics, 114, 584-591.
  7. Andrews, N., Miller, E., Taylor, B., Lingam, R., Simmons, A., Stowe, J., Waight, P. Dec 2002; 87(6): 493–494.Recall bias, MMR and autism. Archives of Disease in Childhood.
  8. Baird, G., Pickles, A., Simonoff, E., Charman, T., Sullivan, P., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., Meldrum, D., Afzal, M., Thomas, B., Jin, L., Brown, D. Measles vaccination and antibody response in autism spectrum disorders. Archives of Disease in Childhood.2008 Oct;93(10):832-7. doi: 10.1136/adc.2007.122937. Epub 2008 Feb 5.
  9. Baron-Cohen, S. Autism and the technical mind: children of scientists and engineers may inherit genes that not only confer intellectual talents but also predispose them to autism. Scientific American. 2012 Nov;307(5):72-5.
  10. Berger, BE., Navar-Boggan, AM., Omer, SB. Congenital rubella syndrome and autism spectrum disorder prevented by rubella vaccination–United States, 2001-2010.   BMC Public Health.2011 May 19;11:340. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-340.
  11. Black, C., Kaye, JA. Relation of childhood gastrointestinal disorders to autism: nested case-control study using data from the UK General Practice Research Database. British Medical Journal. 2002;325(7361):419-21.
  12. Bower, H. New research demolishes link between MMR vaccine and autism.British Medical Journal. 1999. Jun 19;318(7199):1643.
  13. Chen, W., Landau, S., Sham, P., & Fombonne, E. (2004). No evidence for links between autism, MMR and measles virus. Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 543-553.
  14. Christie, B. Scottish expert group finds no link between MMR and autism.British Medical Journal, 2002. May 11;324(7346):1118.
  15. Clements, CJ., McIntyre, PB. When science is not enough – a risk/benefit profile of thiomersal-containing vaccines.   Expert Drug Opinion Safety. 2006.Jan;5(1):17-29.
  16. Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines; Institute of Medicine. Stratton, K., Ford, A., Rusch, E., Wright Clayton, E. Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012. (a review of more than ONE THOUSAND studies).
  17. Dales, L., Hammer, S. J., & Smith, N. J. (2001). Time trends in autism and in MMR immunization coverage in California.  JAMA, 285(9), 1183-1185.
  18. De Los Reyes, EC. Autism and immunizations: separating fact from fiction. JAMA Neurology. 2010;67(4):490-492. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2010.57.
  19. DeWilde, S., Carey, IM., Richards, N., Hilton, SR., Cook, DG. Do children who become autistic consult more often after MMR vaccination? British Journal of General Practice. 2001 Mar;51(464):226-7.

Other 90 sources can be consulted here:


Opting out of vaccines

April 18th, 2014 (last updated)

ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser and The New Yorker’s Michael Specter on the public health risks of skipping childhood vaccines.

ABC News

Dear parents, you are being lied to.

April 17th, 2014 (last updated)


Dear parents,

You are being lied to. The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of your children are putting their health and even lives at risk.

They say that measles isn’t a deadly disease.
But it is.

They say that chickenpox isn’t that big of a deal.
But it can be.

They say that the flu isn’t dangerous.
But it is.

They say that whooping cough isn’t so bad for kids to get.
But it is.

They say that vaccines aren’t that effective at preventing disease.
But 3 million children’s lives are saved every year by vaccination, and 2 million die every year from vaccine-preventable illnesses.

They say that “natural infection” is better than vaccination.
But they’re wrong.


Measles at a rock concert goes viral in a bad way

April 16th, 2014 (last updated)

If you went to see the Kings of Leon concert on March 28 in Seattle, let’s hope you came home with nothing but great memories.

Kings of Leon

A young woman at that concert in Seattle has come down with measles, which can be spread for days by a person who’s infected but not yet sick. That’s bad news for the thousands of people who shared the concert hall with her, or were at the many other places she went that week.

And that’s why the Washington State Department of Health has published the unidentified woman’s schedule online.

“The reason we’re doing this is that it’s so highly contagious,” says Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, who is chief of communicable disease control for Seattle and King County Public Health, which investigated the measles case. “It can stay in the air for hours after the contagious person has left. If we don’t treat these people, the chain of transmission can continue.”

The young woman became contagious on March 26, after visiting a family with measles cases that were linked to an outbreak in British Columbia. Unaware she was infected, she went to work at a bakery, filled her car up at a gas station, went to the concert, went to Pike Place Market and went out for sushi. All the while she was spreading viruses in the air.

So if you were at the Starbucks at 102 Pike Street between 11:15 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 29 and you’re not sure if you’re immune to measles, the Washington State Department of Health wants you to see a health care professional immediately. You may be in the market for a quick shot of vaccine or immune globulin.

Most people are protected against measles, Duchin notes, either through vaccination or because they had the disease as a child. But a surprising number of people aren’t sure about their status. And others, including babies, pregnant women or people with suppressed immunity, can’t be vaccinated. They’re the ones who are at risk when measles reappears. And the disease can kill.

“We continually see measles being reintroduced into our community by travelers,” Duchin told Shots. “It’s always good to know your measles immune status and be up to date.”

This story isn’t over. It takes one week to 17 days after exposure to become ill, so people who were at the Key Arena for that concert might still get sick this week.

That’s probably not what Kings of Leon mean when they sing of being “hot as a fever / rattling bones.” And let’s hope that remains poetic license, not part of a medical diagnosis.


Ontario mother says anti-vaccination parents put her son at risk

April 15th, 2014 (last updated)

Recent measles outbreaks in several different Canadian provinces have two Ontario parents concerned for their son, who couldn’t get the measles vaccination due to a health condition.

Mallory Olsheski’s son, Riley, had a heart transplant in 2012 when he was just five months old. Because the transplant left Riley’s immune system in such a fragile state, he wasn’t able to get the measles vaccination, she said.

She said that the measles outbreaks across the country, including four cases in the Ottawa region where she lives, pose an increased risk to her son.

“Exposure to measles and contracting the measles can be deadly for him,” she told CTV’s Canada AM. “So it’s very scary to think that he’s at such risk for something that was originally eradicated in this country.”

Since the start of 2014, there have been measles outbreaks in Western Canada, the Prairies and Ontario, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency issued a warning last week that there have been a higher-than-usual number of confirmed cases since the start of the year.

Last week, Ontario public health officials confirmed that there have been 11 cases in the province, all of which are directly or indirectly related to travel overseas.

And in British Columbia, public health officials are contending with an outbreak of about 320 cases in the Fraser Valley East region.

The B.C. outbreak is believed to have first occurred in a Christian elementary school in Chilliwack. Parts of the region have low vaccination rates, with some community members choosing not to vaccinate their children for religious reasons. Last week, the provincial ministry of health said the outbreak had been largely contained.

Olsheski said she “takes issue” with people who don’t vaccinate their children due to non-medical reasons.

“I believe that these people need to be educated and informed, they should ask questions,” she said. “They should take time to speak to physicians and health units.”

Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease that can have serious side effects including diarrhea, fever, pneumonia, infections of the brain and even death. Symptoms of measles begin to appear after seven to 18 days after infection, and can include fever, drowsiness, red eyes and the development of a blotchy rash. Public health agencies across the country stress that immunization is the best protection against the measles.

Olsheski said that since learning of the outbreaks, she’s changed her son’s daily routine, especially given all the time he spends in health clinics.

“He’s got many appointments and these are at medical facilities… and there are always a lot of children around,” she said.

“So these children and people are walking around looking healthy on the outside, and on the inside they (may be) brewing this deadly disease. And they’re in contact with my child and children like him. It’s dangerous.”

She said the family now stays home more often, which has been hard on her two-year-old son.

“We don’t take him out often and it’s sad for him because he’s very social. He loves to move around and run around and be busy. So it’s limiting for him,” she said

Mallory Olsheski

CTV Canada