Maine has made great strides in stepping up the state’s vaccination rates for infants, babies and young children to at or above national levels. But when it comes to adolescents, we still have some catching up to do. At Vax Maine Kids, we’re working hard to make sure parents know how to protect their children from several serious illnesses that can strike during the teen years.
By Gabriel Civiello, MD in collaboration with VaxMaineKids
Healthcare providers all across Maine are celebrating the recent rebound in vaccination rates for our youngest children. In fact, our childhood immunization rates rank among the highest in the country. According to the 2014 National Immunization Survey, over 85% of Maine toddlers are up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations, and kindergarten non-medical exemption requests fell to 3.9% during the 2014-2015 school year.
The trends aren’t quite as positive for Maine’s preteens and teens, however. Nationwide, as children grow into their preteen and teen years under immunization becomes much more common—and Maine is no exception. In fact, Maine’s vaccination rates for the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine and the meningococcal vaccine are below the national average and the lowest in New England. Following the national trend, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine rates are at least half of the rates of the other adolescent vaccines. Continue reading
April 16th-23rd, 2016 is National Infant Immunization Week, the CDC’s national celebration of the safe, healthy start vaccines give babies. But you don’t need to have a baby (or even know a baby!) to do your part. When you are fully vaccinated, you help protect Maine’s little ones from dangerous, life-threatening diseases. And as one Maine mother’s story shows us, that’s a big deal.
Even when parents carefully follow the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule, they need help from their family, friends and neighbors to keep their children healthy. Infants can’t get all the vaccines they need immediately after birth. As their bodies grow, they rely on the immunity of the children and adults around them to keep infections away. When everyone who can get vaccinated is vaccinated, dangerous diseases can’t spread easily in our community. It’s powerful protection, and it’s called herd immunity. Like buffalo circling around their young when wolves are on the prowl, high herd immunity prevents outbreaks and keeps diseases like pertussis, influenza, measles and more away from small children.
When there are holes in that herd immunity, our most vulnerable community members can get hurt. Babies haven’t yet completed all the recommended doses of the critical DTaP vaccine. This means they are not fully vaccinated against pertussis, or whooping cough—a serious illness making a real recurrence in Maine. Pertussis is highly contagious, and because its early symptoms can mimic a cold, infected people spread it without knowing. Most infants acquire pertussis from a well meaning adult who is unaware that they have it. People like Luanne and her husband, first-time parents of an infant son living in southern Maine.
Are you concerned about immunization rates among children in schools, daycares and preschools in Maine? Do you feel daycare and healthcare employees should be immunized to reduce the chances that diseases will spread amongst Maine’s vulnerable citizens?
If so, please contact your local legislators and members of Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services today and tomorrow to weigh in on several important bills.
Tomorrow (May 22nd) at 9:30am in Room 209 of the Cross Building in Augusta, the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services will review and vote on three specific vaccine-related bills (LD 471, LD 606 and LD 1076). Continue reading
At Vax Maine Kids, we’re grateful that the majority of Maine parents fully immunize their children according to the recommended vaccination schedule. But it’s hard not to worry about children whose parents delay or refuse vaccines. While these parents may believe they’re making decisions in their child’s best interest, they are usually based on misinformation or a misunderstanding of the science, safety, and regulation of vaccines.
That is why we need your help! During this legislative session, elected representatives from Maine will be voting on important immunization bills that can help keep Maine children free from vaccine preventable diseases.
We know that parents who are against some or all vaccines will come to the State House in large numbers to share their stories. They will rely on emotional, yet anecdotal stories to trump decades of science and research and will do their best to convince legislators not to put policies in place o educate parents about vaccines and protect children from dangerous diseases. We can’t let that happen, so we’re calling on the silent majority of Maine parents who immunize their children to have their pro-vaccine voices heard. Call, email, or write your legislator today to support vaccine laws based in science. Do it for your family, your children, and your community.
Our mission at Vax Maine Kids is to share evidence-based vaccine information and resources with Maine parents. Part of that mission also involves promoting policies and programs that have been show to help increase children’s immunization rates. All states require children to have received certain immunizations before starting school because it is a strategy that ensures communities reach levels of immunity that can protect everyone from diseases. Under current Maine law, all children enrolled in licensed child care facilities and schools (public and private) must be immunized against several vaccine-preventable diseases including: measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella (chickenpox), diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, (with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Hib, Rotavirus and Pneumococcal also required for daycare).
Currently, parents can elect to not vaccine their children against these diseases for medical, religious or personal belief reasons. Just a simple signature from a parent is all it takes to avoid immunization requirements – making it easier and more convenient to opt-out of vaccinations than to follow the law.
Maine is one of only 19 states that allow for personal belief exemptions and they made up more than 95% of all exemptions among Kindergarteners in the 2013-2014 school year.
Unfortunately, immunization coverage in Maine has reached dangerously low levels, leaving not just children, but all Mainers at increased risk of serious diseases. Consider the following statistics: Continue reading
The holiday shopping season is now in full swing. At the same time as you’re making your list and checking it twice, it’s important to remember the importance of giving back. Fortunately, a new global tradition called #GivingTuesday unites people as they donate time and money to causes they care about. If you think every child deserves a shot at good health, we invite you to consider adding two charities to your #GivingTuesday list.
No matter what holiday traditions your family celebrates, the shopping frenzy that takes over the month of December can be challenging. We love making our children’s eyes light up with gifts, but we don’t want them to spend the entire holiday season completely obsessed with what they want to get. Raising grateful kids who give back to their community means creating holiday traditions that emphasize volunteer opportunities and charitable giving.
A new holiday tradition aims to do just that: #GivingTuesday.
The End Polio Now campaign, led by Rotary International, raises awareness of what can be done to make polio a disease of the past. This Friday, October 24th, in the midst of growing international concern about the West African Ebola outbreak, World Polio Day will serve as a timely reminder of what well-funded and well-supported global immunization initiatives can do to fight back against even the most frightening diseases.
Imagine a highly contagious disease that spreads quickly, can paralyze or kill its victims, has few effective treatments and no known cure. When outbreaks strike, schools close, travel grinds to a halt and hospitals struggle to quarantine and cure the victims. Sound familiar?
In the early 20th century, the dangerous disease that everyone feared was polio. Few people today remember the panic and terror parents felt back then, or how grateful they were when a polio vaccine was finally available in 1955.
What can the ongoing fight against polio teach us as we struggle to contain Ebola?
Well-funded scientific research yields safe, effective vaccines.
Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine through research funded by the March of Dimes, an organization founded in 1938 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to fight Infant Paralysis (a common name for poliovirus). President Roosevelt had contracted polio at age 39 during the large 1916 epidemic. Fortunately, he recovered, but he would suffer from partial paralysis for the rest of his life, so he made fighting the disease one of his life’s greatest missions.
He had lots of help. Millions of donations flooded in from ordinary Americans, and a grant provided Dr. Jonas Salk with the resources he needed to create the first polio vaccine.
Safe, effective vaccines save lives.
For diseases as dangerous, easily spread and difficult to treat as polio and Ebola, vaccines are an important prevention to keep people safe. In the early 1950’s, there were as many as 20,000 people paralyzed by polio and 1,000 deaths due to polio each year in the United States. Thanks to widespread adoption of Salk’s Nobel-prize winning vaccine, we haven’t seen a case of polio in this country since 1979 and there has been a 99% reduction in polio worldwide. A disease that terrorized humanity for centuries has been almost completely wiped out in less than 50 years.
Today, we are closer than ever to ending polio for good. There are just three countries where polio is still common: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. These countries suffer with inaccessibility, infrastructure and resource challenges, making it difficult for their citizens to get routine preventive healthcare, such as vaccinations. That is why Vax Maine Kids, and many other healthcare organizations and community groups, support the End Polio Now campaign and The Global Polio Eradication Initiative which are working to raise vaccination rates in these areas through advocacy, education and funding.
Ensure everyone who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated.
When Salk’s polio vaccine passed field trials in 1954, church bells rang all over America to announce the wonderful news. Families stood in lines for hours to get their children this lifesaving vaccine —first in America, and then all over the world.
Before the polio vaccine was developed, pools, beaches and movie theaters were closed, parents kept children home from school and families didn’t go to restaurants, shops and other public spaces. However, because entire communities got vaccinated, poliovirus outbreaks became a thing of the past in the United States.
While we’re “this close” to ending polio across the globe, we must remember that a case of polio reported anywhere remains a threat to people everywhere. Sadly, all individuals who don’t get the polio vaccine remain at risk until the disease is totally wiped out.
Today, Ebola has shown us that health threats are global. Remembering the lessons in our fight against polio, the global scientific community has already been investing in the development of several promising Ebola vaccines. The hope is that, one day, an Ebola vaccine will be available that can save thousands of lives around the world.
Today, we have the tools to bid “goodbye” to polio. Now we just need to do it. If you would like to get involved in the fight to end polio, join Rotary International for a live global update on World Polio Day on Livestream this Friday, October 24th at 6:30pm CST. Find out why outbreaks happen and what Rotary is doing to help. Hear from Rotary partners, celebrity spokespeople, polio survivors and specials guests. Just add this special event to your calendar by clicking here, and visit the End Polio Now website for more details on how you can help generate the advocacy, education and fundraising that is needed to get the job done.
At Vax Maine Kids, we believe it’s our responsibility to keep parents informed about new research on vaccines, current vaccine recommendations from the CDC and recent outbreaks of diseases such as measles, influenza and Enterovirus-D68. But our appreciation of vaccines goes beyond just the latest outbreak. We want parents to understand the safety, science and history of childhood vaccines. This is why we are recommending you check out On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss.
Award winning author Eula Biss gave birth to her son right about the time the H1N1 flu virus began making headlines around the world. Biss worried about her baby getting sick from this dangerous strain of influenza, but she was also concerned about the new H1N1 flu vaccine. Was it produced too quickly? Had it undergone enough safety testing? In making health decisions to protect her son, she had to consider the risks of the disease compared to the risk of the vaccine:
“When I search now for a synonym for protect, my thesaurus suggests, after shield and shelter and secure, one final option: inoculate. This was the question, when my son was born—would I inoculate him? As I understood it then, this was not a question of whether I would protect him so much as it was a question of whether inoculation was a risk worth taking.”
Like many parents these days, Biss decided she had to know more about vaccination before making her decision. “I thought I would do a small amount of research to answer some questions that had come up for me,” she explained in a recent NPR interview. “And the questions just got bigger the more I learned and the more I read.”
She discovered that most parents vaccinate their children, but that concerns about vaccination are not new. A minority of parents challenge vaccines for various political and personal reasons.
Her book paints a thoughtful and respectful picture of parents that Biss refers to as “vaccine-hesitant”— very protective of their children’s health, yet distrustful of the groups who work to protect them – everyone from the government, pharmaceutical companies, and even in some cases medical staff. Because Biss knows some people who are vaccine-hesitant, and she had once shared their concerns, she understands and relates to their fears in the underlying tones of her book.
Spoiler alert: After carefully researching and exploring the history, science and safety of vaccines, Biss did choose to vaccinate her son. Although she comes to a simple conclusion, she makes her vast research, and the conclusions she draws from it, engaging, easy to understand and hard to ignore. She has a special ability for addressing the concerns of today’s parents in regard to toxins, purity, and more.… and yet she explains how her research resolved any fear she had about ingredients and other vaccine issues. In the end, she concludes that parents should protect their children with the safe and effective vaccines we have the ability to provide to them.
Biss also discusses the role of vaccination as a community responsibility. By believing we are all connected to each other, she feels we all must accept a small amount of risk to protect ourselves and our communities. This idea of herd immunity becomes central to her immunization decisions. She writes:
“For some of the mothers I know, a refusal to vaccinate falls under a broader resistance to capitalism. But refusing immunity as a form of civil disobedience bears an unsettling resemblance to the very structure the Occupy movement seeks to disrupt — a privileged 1 percent are sheltered from risk while they draw resources from the other 99 percent.”
As we join Biss on her journey, we see that, while she comes to believe that childhood vaccinations are the best choice parents can make, she doesn’t talk down to parents who disagree with her. Recent research reveals that this is one of the best ways to talk about vaccines with vaccine-hesitant parents. As The New Yorker review of her book speculates, “Her approach might actually be more likely to sway fearful parents, offering them an alternative set of images and associations to use in thinking about immunization.”
If you know a parent who is questioning the benefit of vaccines, On Immunity: An Inoculation might be a great book recommendation to share.
For more good reads about vaccination, check out these other immunization related publications. There are even some for kids.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vaccinations
By Michael Joseph Smith, M.D., M.S.C.E., and Laurie Bouck
This book helps readers to understand and appreciate how vaccines work, how they are tested and monitored, and what vaccinations are recommended. The book also explores several related issues, such as the use of mercury in vaccines, the cycle of influenza epidemics, why there are vaccine shortages, and what new vaccines might be developed next.
Vaccines and Your Child: Separating Fact from Fiction
By Paul A. Offit, MD, and Charlotte A. Moser
This comprehensive book is written for parents seeking accurate and detailed vaccine information.
Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
By Paul A. Offit, MD
This is the ultimate explanation of how the anti-vaccine movement in America—its origins, leaders, influences, and impact—have had such a powerful opposition to science in the face of fear.
Do Vaccines Cause That?! A Guide for Evaluating Vaccine Safety Concerns
By Martin Myers, MD and Diego Pineda, MS
A must-read book for parents concerned about the safety of vaccines. The authors have co-authored more than 80 peer-reviewed articles on immunization issues and expertly guide readers through all the misinformation that they hear.
The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear
By Seth Mnookin
Journalist Seth Mnookin draws on interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists to tackle a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is? The book is a riveting medical detective story that explores the limits of rational thought.
Factcines: Facts on Vaccines. Just the Data. You Decide
By Susan Shoshana Weisberg, MD, FCP, FAAP
The author translates the medical literature on vaccines and puts it into understandable language. All sources are documented, with over 1900 references cited, 200 pages of easily readable text, and 82 pages of listed references.
The History of Vaccines
Written by the people behind the award-winning HistoryofVaccines.org website, this book covers the birth of vaccination in the late 1700s and traces the influences of the bacteriological revolution of the late 1800s into the rapidly expanding field of vaccinology.
Books Especially for the Little Ones in Your Life:
The Saturday Shot; A Nellie Park Adventure
By Morgan Thomas
Join Nellie Park on her creative journey as she faces her biggest fear—the needle. The Saturday Shot is the perfect remedy for kids of all ages dealing with a vaccination appointment.
Vaccines for Maxine
By Geri Rodda, R.N.
Help children learn all about vaccines as Maxine and her pup put on a dream-world play.
Flu and You
By Geri Rodda, R.N.
Influenza arrives each Fall, with plans to spread its germs to all but as we follow Influenza to school, home, and the playground, we learn healthy habits to avoid catching and spreading the flu.
VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System, is one of the many ways the government monitors the safety of vaccines after they are approved and found safe for use. Managed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), VAERS is an easy way for anyone who has a negative reaction to a vaccine to report that reaction right away. Parents who vaccinate their kids should feel safer knowing vaccines are constantly being monitored and that every report of a problem can be documented. But, if someone tries to scare you with a vaccine injury report from VAERS, Vax Maine Kids wants you to know these reports can’t always be trusted.
Anti-vaxxers often use VAERS reports to try to scare parents away from vaccines that have been proven to be safe and effective for children. It’s pretty easy to find a report of a negative reaction to any vaccine on VAERS because it’s very easy to report a reaction to a vaccine on VAERS.
And it should be easy! The FDA and the CDC want to know as soon as possible if a vaccine is causing any harm. However, this openness and accessibility can also cause problems when using VAERS to measure the safety of vaccines. Spontaneous reporting systems like VAERS are meant to give the FDA and CDC an early warning about any potential problems with vaccines, but VAERS is not meant to provide parents, public health officials, or scientists with data about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Why? As the VAERS website explains, “A report to VAERS generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described.”
More than 10 million vaccines are administered every year to children less than one year old. VAERS receives between 10,000 and 20,000 reports of adverse reactions each year. But rigorous, sustained scientific studies have shown that the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule is safe and effective for kids and helps keep kids safe. So, what gives?
- VAERS wants you to report a negative reaction even if you aren’t sure the vaccine is what caused that reaction.
Serious side effects or bad reactions to vaccines are extremely, unbelievably rare, and many VAERS reports aren’t actually reports of bad reactions to a vaccine—they’re reports of a coincidence. A concerned parent who reports her daughter ran a fever after her MMR vaccine isn’t going to bother to retract her report when everyone else in the family gets the same fever and she realizes it was the flu, not the vaccine. But her report stays in the VAERS database forever.
- VAERS reports can’t be verified.
VAERS doesn’t ask you to prove your identity or provide any proof of your claim. And once you’ve made that report, it’s published for everyone to see. Scientists and researchers have been warned they can’t rely on VAERS data for their studies. So why would Maine parents rely only on VAERS data when making decisions about their children’s health?
This blog—like most blogs—receives hundreds of comments for each post. Are we that popular? Not really. Like most blogs, over 90% of those comments are computer-generated spam that are routinely filtered out by our blogging software before we even see them. Your email program probably does something similar with the hundreds of bogus, spam, and phishing emails you get every day. Software filters are very good at separating fake comments and emails from the messages you really want to receive, but every once in a while, a fake message gets through or a real one gets blocked. The FDA and the CDC want to be absolutely sure that every real report gets through, so they don’t block any reports at all.
VAERS has no filters. And as a result, VAERS is full of spam—false reports planted by anti-vaccine activists who want to scare and mislead people, and by lawyers planting evidence for cases they are trying in court.
- Many reports of adverse (or negative) reactions to vaccines on VAERS were put there to help win a court case.
A 2006 study published in Pediatrics found most VAERS reports linking vaccines to autism were filed in connection with court cases to try and create evidence lawyers could use in court. As Paul Offit, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wrote, “Public health officials were disappointed to learn that reports of autism to VAERS weren’t coming from parents, doctors, nurses, or nurse practitioners; they were coming from personal-injury lawyers.” Many VAERS posts have an agenda, and it isn’t the safety of your kids.
- Bad press creates a spike in false reports on VAERS.
When a vaccine gets a lot of negative attention in the press, people become more likely to blame that vaccine for unrelated problems. When Gardisil was new and controversial and getting lots of airtime on the nightly news and talk shows, reports of bad reactions to Gardisil on VAERS went up.But when those reports were investigated and further studies were done, Gardisil was proven to be safe for teens.VAERS reports are too easily influenced by media hype for Maine parents to base important decisions on them.
- People have admitted to knowingly posting false information on VAERS.
An autism activist named Jim Laidler submitted a report on VAERS claiming a vaccine turned him into the Incredible Hulk. This completely ridiculous report was accepted and entered into the VAERS database. But when a VAERS representative contacted Mr. Laidler, he admitted it was a made-up claim. This fake report was easy for VAERS administrators to spot, but most fake claims sound a lot more plausible. Because VAERS gives every report the benefit of the doubt, Maine parents should always be doubtful of the truth of individual reports. The best source to go to for information about vaccines is your doctor or child’s pediatrician.
Self-reporting is a fast way to get a quick scoop, but it is a very flawed way to conduct real science. VAERS is a fantastic early warning system and Maine parents should feel great knowing it is part of the thorough safety net surrounding children’s vaccines. That said, if someone you know tries to scare you with a VAERS report about a vaccine, we advise asking them to show you a real report—the kind of report that is verified, researched, published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and supported by real scientific data and research. These reports have shown again and again that vaccines protect children, are safe for children, and that every child who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.
Photo credit: delimiter.com.au
Celebrities who speak out against vaccines get a lot of attention, even though they are not scientists, nor doctors, nor public health professionals. In the wake of recent measles outbreaks, that attention has turned negative as the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases become more apparent. Now, at least one celebrity may have decided that all publicity isn’t good publicity after all. In a recent opinion piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jenny McCarthy, the most active and influential celebrity anti-vaxxer of them all, seems to be trying to deny her past comments against vaccines. Jenny asks, “What happened to critical thinking?” but when you take a critical look at Jenny McCarthy’s current claims about vaccines, they still don’t make any sense.
Like many parents of children with autism, former Playboy model and current co-host of The View, Jenny McCarthy was devastated by her son Evan’s autism diagnosis in 2005. That’s easy to understand—we know she wanted something, anything to blame for her son’s diagnosis. What we don’t understand is why she chose to blame vaccines despite all of the overwhelming scientific evidence showing there is no connection and never has been a connection between vaccines and autism.
That said, we have a couple of ideas about why she may be changing her tune: the attention she has received for her anti-vaccine statements may have helped her career in the past, keeping her in the headlines, but now, it’s hurting it. Jenny McCarthy’s ill-informed crusade against vaccines helped her career make a comeback, but this crusade may have also contributed to lower vaccination rates. Now that dangerous diseases like measles and whooping cough are making a comeback of their own, people are, with good reason, blaming her. That Jenny McCarthy would act like she was never anti-vax isn’t quite out of character—she used to be a comedic actress. But this act is getting old, and it isn’t very funny.
Jenny McCarthy’s still not telling the truth about her anti-vaccine statements. “For years, I have wrongly been branded as ‘anti-vaccine,’” she complains in her opinion piece. And, in a recent interview with Good Morning America, McCarthy states: “I think people should read exactly what I have said instead of reading headlines, and that’s why I wanted to write that piece. Everything that I have said and everything that I believe in is in that piece, so I hope people will go and refer to that so they know exactly what I’ve been saying.”
But no matter what she is trying to say now, she did blame vaccines:
- “Vaccines play the largest role [in causes of autism] right now and something needs to be done.” —Jenny McCarthy, 2008 interview with Larry King
- “I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe…We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins. If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f***ing measles.” —Jenny McCarthy, 2009 interview with Time magazine
And that’s just the first few Google hits! There are many, many more instances of Jenny McCarthy wrongfully placing blame on vaccines. Jenny McCarthy wrote five books claiming vaccines gave her son autism. She appeared on a number of news broadcasts and talk shows, from CNN, to Oprah, to Frontline, claiming that vaccines are filled with toxins, that the MMR vaccine causes autism, and that the recommended vaccination schedule is dangerous for kids.
Jenny McCarthy wasn’t “wrongly branded” about her attitudes towards vaccines! Everything Jenny McCarthy said about vaccines was wrong. There is no connection between vaccines and autism. There is no mercury in children’s vaccines. The ingredients in vaccines are proven to be safe for kids.
Jenny McCarthy may have changed her tune, but she’s still not telling the truth about vaccines.
- “I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit,” Jenny McCarthy writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
We know that vaccine programs are important and yes, parents do have the choice to modify their children’s vaccination schedule, but there are no benefits to delaying the vaccination schedule. There is no such thing as too many vaccines, too soon. Delaying safe and effective vaccines leaves children with developing immune systems unprotected from dangerous diseases.
Now that parents are getting a closer look at the harsh reality of measles, it turns out they don’t want to “stand in line for the measles” at all; they want to stand in line for the measles vaccine—and stand up for all the recommended vaccines.
Jenny McCarthy’s opinion piece may not show a real change in her unproven anti-vaccine beliefs, but it does show that the majority of parents know that vaccinating their children on time is safe and protects them over the long-term. These parents will no longer stand for Jenny McCarthy’s lies and fear mongering when it comes to vaccines. Just like the recent public outcry when Chili’s announced it would donate a percentage of its sales to an anti-vaccine autism group, it shows that standing up for what we believe in can change minds. Parents and healthcare professionals that stood up against anti-vaccination myths and propaganda convinced Chili’s to cancel its fundraiser. People telling Jenny the truth on Twitter, protests against hiring Jenny McCarthy on The View, and a lot of negative press may have convinced Jenny McCarthy she needed to change her tune.
By listening to our healthcare providers instead of celebrities and sharing real scientific facts and research with our friends, we can also change the minds of the people we know—and change the tone of the national debate.
This interactive vaccine-preventable disease outbreak map created by the Council on Foreign Relations has gone viral, showing the impact this topic has on the entire world. The Los Angeles Times recently referred to the graphic as a visual representation of “The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic.”
This map (screenshot below) shows the different vaccine-preventable outbreaks that have occurred around the world since 2008 by using different colored dots for each disease.
Some outbreaks are less surprising than others. Sadly, it is expected that, in underdeveloped countries, where vaccines are much more difficult to get, there are more vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. That said, the number of red and brown colored dots (red for measles and brown for mumps) in the United States and Europe (largely Great Britain) is startling since these are developed areas where vaccines are much more accessible.
In countries like the US and Great Britain, it is clear that these outbreaks are not a result of access to vaccines, but likely a result of the anti-vaccine movement; more directly, the completely false claim that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine causes autism. This claim is not new and has shown to be untrue over and over again, year after year, but the fear the claim put into parents’ minds persists.
While there are side effects to vaccines, largely limited to redness, pain, and sometimes a fever, autism is not one of them and never has been. Study after study, with millions of children, has shown absolutely no correlation between vaccines and autism.
Aaron Carroll, MD, MS, a pediatrician and health services researcher at Indiana University School of Medicine, explains why it is so difficult to dispel this myth:
Humans try to make sense of the world by seeing patterns. When they see a disease or condition that tends to appear around the time a child is a year or so old, as autism does, and that is also the age that kids get particular shots, they want to put those things together. Parents watch kids more carefully after they get their shots; sometimes they pick up on symptoms then. But, just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean that one thing caused the other.
Dr. Carroll provides an incredibly thorough and clear history of the incorrect MMR-autism link that came from what we now know was a totally falsified study that was later removed from the Lancet Journal, one of the world’s premiere medical journals, and whose lead author’s medical license was revoked for dishonesty and irresponsibility. Dr. Carroll explains this disgrace to science:
This was not a randomized, controlled trial, nor even a scientific study; it was merely a description of a small group of children. To be honest, it’s difficult to imagine that this study could get published in the Lancet today. But, based on the beliefs of the parents of those eight children, a frenzy of fear about vaccines and autism has ensued for more than a decade.
Here at VaxMaineKids, we understand that your child is your most precious possession—you want to do what’s best for them and always keep them healthy. Autism can be scary, and it is natural to be wary of something that someone says could cause it. But since vaccines don’t, you could be putting your child’s health at risk if you buy into the myth that they do.
What will it take for this myth to be squashed once and for all? Graphics like these can show the potential effects of myths like this one on the numbers of life-threatening disease outbreaks worldwide.
We encourage you to check out and share Aaron Carroll’s video—it’s well worth the eight minutes.
And, take a look at this and let us know what you think.
We also recommend you visit our vaccination safety page at www.vaxmainekids.org/vaccination-safety to learn more.
http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/healthcare-triage-vaccines-and-autism/ (Dr. Carroll offers his own references here, too)