In Good Health

vaccines

IOM issues reassuring vaccine report. (#11-28 September 1st, 2011)
The Institute of Medicine has reviewed more than 1,000 published research articles and concluded that whereas no vaccine is 100% safe, very few adverse events are shown to be caused by vaccines. In addition, the report concluded that vaccines do not cause several conditions of recent concern:
**The MMR vaccine is not associated with autism or childhood diabetes.
**The DTaP vaccine is also not associated with diabetes.
**The influenza vaccine given as a shot does not exacerbate asthma.
In 1900, for every 1000 babies born in the United States, 100 would die before their first birthday, often due to infectious diseases.
Today, effective vaccines exist for many bacterial and viral illnesses. Full copies of the 665-page report, The Adverse Effects of Vaccines, are downloadable free of charge from the National Academies Press Web site. http://download.nap.edu/cart/download.cgi?&record_id=13164&free=1.


Anti-vaccinationists ridiculed on YouTube
(#15-10 - March 8, 2015)
Television talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel has produced two episodes promoting vaccinations. The first one suggests that doctors might know more about vaccines than actress Jenny McCarthy (even with clothes on). The second one discusses the nasty responses to the first video and features the results of a survey in which children were asked whether they would rather get a shot or a lollipop.

Diphtheria reported in Spain (#15-22 - June 7, 2015)
A six-year-old boy has become the first recorded case of diphtheria in Spain for 29 years. Eight children who came in contact with the boy have tested positive for the causative bacteria but have not become ill. These children, all of whom had been vaccinated, have been placed in isolation and are being treated with antibiotics to prevent the disease from developing. [Eight more children infected with diphtheria. The Local Spain, June 8, 2015] The six-year-old was hospitalized in serious condition but appears to be responding well to treatment with diphtheria antitoxin obtained from Russia after an urgent international appeal. His parents have said they feel "cheated" by the anti-vaccination movement. Antoni Mateu, Catalonia's regional secretary for public health, has pledged to pursue offending anti-vaccination platforms that "spread lies and cause confusion." [Parents of diphtheria boy 'feel terrible guilt.' The Local Spain, June 5, 2015] Diphtheria had been considered eradicated in Spain, thanks to routine vaccination programs, with the last case having been reported in 1986.

AMA wants "personal belief" vaccine exemptions ended (#15-23 - June 14, 2015)
The AMA has adopted a new policy to seek more stringent state immunization requirements. Although mandatory immunization programs in the United States have controlled or eliminated the spread of smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and polio, only two states bar non-medical exemptions based on personal beliefs. The new policy recommends that qualified public health officials be involved in determining which vaccines should be mandated and that exemptions be permitted only for medical reasons. The AMA also intends to support the dissemination of materials on vaccine efficacy. [AMA supports tighter limitations on immunization opt outs. AMA news release, June 8, 2015].

California limits vaccination refusal (#15-26 - July 5, 2015)
Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB277 into law, making California the third state in the nation to require immunizations of schoolchildren and children in child care centers without exemption for religious or personal beliefs. The other two states are Mississippi and West Virginia. California is also the first state to repeal a religious exemption from immunizations. Two months ago, Vermont repealed its "philosophical" exemption from immunizations and became the first state to repeal any personal belief exemption. However, it still permits religious exemptions. All states permit exemption on medical grounds. The American Medical Association recently expressed support for tighter limitations on immunization opt outs

Roots of anti-vaccine movement chronicled (#15-28 - July 19, 2015)
The Atlantic has published a fascinating article about the struggle over mandatory smallpox vaccination that began during the 19th century and still has parallels today. [Earl E. The Victorian anti-vaccination movement. The Atlantic, July 15, 2015]

FDA publishes new vaccine guide (#15-33 - August 23, 2015)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has published a guide to childhood vaccines that covers benefits and risks; vaccine types; steps to take when a child is vaccinated; key facts about the vaccines that are routinely administered; and frequently asked questions.

Vaccination advocacy group expands scope (#15-50 - December 20, 2015)
In anticipation of its 25-year anniversary, Every Child By Two (ECBT) has expanded its original mission of ensuring timely vaccination of all children by the age of two to include people of all ages. Its enhanced Web site and Facebook pages present scientifically-accurate information on vaccines needed at each stage of life; details about the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases; answers to questions about the safety of vaccines; personal stories from families who have been affected by deadly but preventable infectious diseases; and links to other reliable sources.

Antivaccination film showing canceled (#16-11 - March 27, 2016)
The Tribeca Film Festival, which had planned to screen an anti-vaccination film, has canceled the showing in response to protests from the scientific community. Robert De Niro, a founder of the festival, wrote: "My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for." [Goodman S. Robert De Niro pulls anti-vaccine documentary from Tribeca Film Festival. The New York Times, March 26, 2016] The film, "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe," was directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced physician whose paper claiming a connection between autism and measles was retracted by The Lancet and whose license was revoked for ethics violations and his failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest.

Trump urged to support vaccination (#17-07 - February 12, 2017)
Led by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 350 national and state-based organizations that represent families, providers, researchers, patients, and consumers have sent a 28-page letter urging President Donald Trump to express their unequivocal support for vaccination. The letter appears to be a response to ignorant statements Trump made during the presidential campaign and his recent meetings with antivaccination advocates Andrew Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The letter ended this way:
Claims that vaccines are unsafe when administered according to expert recommendations have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature, including a thorough review by the National Academy of Medicine. . . . Attached to this letter is a non-exhaustive list of studies demonstrating the safety of vaccines. Delaying vaccines only leaves our nation's citizens at risk of disease, particularly children. As a nation we should redouble our efforts to make needed investments in patient and family education about the importance of vaccines in order to increase the rate of vaccination among all populations.
Put simply: Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives. Our organizations welcome the opportunity to meet with you to share the robust, extensive scientific evidence supporting vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Romania has massive measles outbreak (#17-18 - April 30, 2017)
Romania is experiencing a massive outbreak of measles that began last year. As of March 21, at least 3,800 cases of measles, including 17 deaths, have been confirmed and rates in surrounding countries have risen. Measles vaccination is about 97% effective in preventing the disease. "Herd immunity" (prevention of widespread transmission) occurs when when coverage is 90%-95%, but the higher the better. Romanians became susceptible to epidemic spread because the rate of 2-dose immunization dropped from 96% in 2007 to 86% in 2015. The factors influencing the drop are poverty, neglect, and the spread of antivaccine sentiments. Romania is one of six nations in the European Union or European Economic Area judged by the World Health Organization to still have endemic transmission of the vaccine-preventable disease. The others are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Poland. The Respectful Insolence Blog has a detailed analysis of what happened in Romania.

Anti-vax myths lampooned (#17-25 - June 25, 2017)
Comedian John Oliver has debunked the common myths and fears that influence some parents to delay or avoid vaccinating their children. The June 26 "Last Week Tonight" TV episode can be viewed on YouTube.

France to mandate vaccinations (#17-29 - July 2, 2017)
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said it is "unacceptable" that children are "still dying of measles" in the country where some of the earliest vaccines were pioneered. Three childhood vaccines, for diphtheria, tetanus and polio, are currently required in France. Eight more, including measles and whooping cough, will be required by 2018. To fight against smoking, Philippe also announced that the price of pack of cigarettes will be go up from 7 to 10 euros [Forster K. France to make vaccination mandatory from 2018 as it is 'unacceptable children are still dying of measles.' Move follows similar initiative in Italy, where non-vaccinated children cannot attend state schools. The Independent, July 5, 2017]

Psychological links to anti-vaccination attitude investigated (#18-19 May 13, 2018)
There is no clear evidence that debunking anti-vaccination myths has a significant effect on anti-vaccination attitudes. To explore why this is so, Australian researchers surveyed people in 24 countries ionn six continents. Based on responses from 5,323 participants, the researchers found that anti-vaccination attitudes scores were associated with:
- conspiratorial thinking
- reactance (the tendency to have low tolerance for impingements on one's freedom)
- disgust toward blood and needles
- individualistic and hierarchical as opposed to egalitarian and communitarian worldview
These relationships were not strong among respondents in Asian and South American countries, but in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, U.K., and the U.S.A., beliefs about conspiracies were found to account for 17% to 27% of the variation in anti-vaccination attitude. Gender and education level were not significantly related to anti-vaccination attitude, but conservative political ideology and younger age were each found to be weakly related. [Hornsey MJ and others. The psychological roots of anti-vaccination attitudes: A 24-nation investigation. Health Psychology 37:307-315, 2018]

20 states have introduced anti-vaccination bills (#19-08 March 10, 2019)
At least 20 states have introduced bills this year that, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, would (a) broaden the reasons why parents can exempt kids from getting vaccines even if there isn't a medical need and (b) require doctors to provide more information on the risks of vaccines. [Lou M. Griggs B. Even with measles outbreaks across the US, at least 20 states have proposed anti-vaccination bills. CNN. Mar 6, 2019] These misguided legislative efforts coincide with reports of 206 individual cases of measles confirmed in 11 states during the first two months of 2019. The majority of those cases were among nonvaccinated people. [Measles cases and outbreaks. CDC. Mar 4, 2019] The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is very safe. Thanks to a highly effective vaccination program in the United States and improved measles control in the Americas region, measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000.

No antibody responses found for homeopathic vaccines (#19-13 - March 31, 2019)
A well-controlled study in a sample of 150 university students found:
Homeopathic "nosodes" promoted for prevention of diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, mumps, and measles did not evoke antibody responses.
Their antibody responses were similar to placebo.
Standard vaccines for the same diseases provided a robust antibody response in most of those vaccinated.
[Loeb M. et al. A randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled trial comparing antibody responses to homeopathic and conventional vaccines in university students. Vaccine. 36(48):7423-7429, 2018] Nosodes are homeopathic products made from pathological organs or tissues; causative agents such as bacteria, fungi, ova, parasites, virus particles and yeast; disease products; or excretions. Some homeopaths falsely claim that nosodes are effective as vaccines. Health Canada was recently criticized for continuing to license homeopathic nosodes and merely warning the public that they are not a substitute for vaccines. [Ireland N. Stronger action urged against homeopathic products touted as alternatives to vaccines. CBC News. Mar 18, 2019]

New York eliminates religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations (#19-25 June 23, 2019)
New York has become the sixth U.S. state, joining California, Arizona, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Maine, to eliminate exemptions on religious grounds to mandatory vaccines for children. [McKinley J. Measles outbreak: N.Y. eliminates religious exemptions for vaccinations. The New York Times. Jun 13, 2019] Opponents of ending religious exemptions have included many Orthodox Jewish parents and parents of children attending Waldorf schools, despite recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County and at some Waldorf schools.

Recommendations offered for dealing with anti-vaxx propaganda (#19-47 - November 30, 2019)
Science communicator Lucky Tran believes that many anti-vaxx activists are engaging in "firehosing," a propaganda technique that innvolves pushing out as many lies as possible as often as possible. [Tran L. Firehosing: the systemic strategy that anti-vaxxers are using to spread misinformation. The Guardian, Nov 7, 2019] The term is based on a previous description of Russian authorities' propaganda model as the "firehose of falsehood." [Paul C. Matthews M. The Russian "firehose of falsehood" propaganda model. Rand Corporation, 2016] The goal of the lies is not to persuade but to rob facts of their power. Rand researchers have concluded that pointing out falsehoods and inconsistencies in messages is not likely to be effective against firehosing. Instead it is better to: (a) forewarn audiences about methods propagandists use to manipulate public opinion, and (b) disrupt the flow of disinformation by pressuring media to block or remove false content. Dr. Steven Novella has made additional suggestions:
[We also] need to control the venue, meaning that the information ecosystem needs to account for firehosing as a common abuse and take steps to prevent it. Journalists and editors are probably the first line of defense here. They need to understand this strategy so that they don't get exploited to further it. They should shut it down, and not give it the attention it seeks. Don't fall for the "false balance" fallacy, which is used as an opening for firehosing. Don't get distracted by the mountain of information, which does not mean that you don't fact-check and correct misinformation. Rather, don't just fact-check. Try to automate the fact-checking as much as possible so it is available as a reference, but don't waste your headlines and news space playing the firehosing game. That is what they want. [Novella S. How to combat firehosing. Neurologica blog, Nov 8, 2019]

Genetic testing to predict adverse vaccine reactions debunked (#20-15 April 19, 2020)
Many offbeat practitioners are claiming that testing for variants of the MTHFR gene can determine who is at increased risk for various health problems including adverse reactions to vaccines. However, those are not validated uses for MTHFR testing. [Zhang S. Why anti-vax doctors are ordering 23andMe tests. The Atlantic. May 23, 2019] Four authors of the 2008 paper that has been cited as the basis for widespread MTHFR testing concluded last year: "It is unfortunate that the loose application of our exploratory report has been misinterpreted and used to inappropriately justify exemption of children from receiving medically indicated vaccines." [Reif DM and others. Inappropriate citation of vaccine article. Journal of Infectious Diseases. June 3, 2019]

Vaccination is losing ground on social media (#20-19 May 17, 2020)
A system-level analysis of vaccination-related messaging of nearly 100 million Facebook users has found that anti-vaccination pages:
- have fewer followers than pro-vaccination pages
- are more numerous than pro-vaccination pages
- tend to be linked to more frequently than pro-vaccination pages from Facebook pages whose stance on vaccination is undecided
- tend to blend topics such as safety concerns, conspiracy theories, alternative health and medicine, and the cause and cure of COVID-19
- grew in networking more than did pro-vaccination pages during the measles outbreak of 2019
The researchers' computer simulations suggest that opposition to vaccines will dominate the network of views on vaccines within ten years unless the scientific community becomes more effective. [Johnson and others. The online competition between pro- and anti-vaccination views. Nature. May 13, 2020] Public health messaging arguably needs to do a better job competing with the appeals to the heart and disinformation about a potential COVID-19 vaccine that are common in anti-vaccination messaging. [Ball P. Anti-vaccine movement could undermine efforts to end coronavirus pandemic, researchers warn. Nature. May 13, 2020] Dr. Stephen Barrett agrees but asserts that social media can and should decide not to remain a conduit for harmful health misinformation. [Barrett S. Facebook should do more to combat vaccine misinformation. Quackwatch, May 18, 2020]

More evidence links vaccine refusal to measles outbreaks (#20-37 - September 20, 2020)
A recent review has found that in measles outbreaks during the past five years, at least 70% of the infected individuals had not been vaccinated. Seven articles published from November 30, 2015, through June 1, 2020, covered 8 measles outbreaks that included 1,176 individuals with measles, of whom 125 (10.6%) had received measles-containing vaccine, 888 (75.5%) had no history of vaccination, and 163 (13.9%) had unknown vaccination status. [Phadke VK and others. Vaccine refusal and measles outbreaks in the US. JAMA, Aug 14, 2020] State and national measles surveillance data from 2016 to June 2020 indicates that of 1392 measles cases, 152 (10.9%) had received measles-containing vaccine, 989 (71.0%) had no history of measles vaccination, and 251 (18.0%) had unknown vaccination status.

COVID-19 vaccine misinformation report released (#20-48 - December 7, 2020)
First Draft, an organization dedicated to protecting communities from harmful misinformation, has issued a 95-page research report and a 23-page executive summary on "dominant vaccine narratives on social media platforms in English, French, and Spanish online communities which could erode public trust in a COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccines more generally." [Under the surface: Covid-19 vaccine narratives, misinformation and data deficits on social media. First Draft press release, Nov 12, 2020] The press release states:
Narratives challenging the safety of vaccines have been perennial players in the online vaccine debate. Yet this research shows that narratives related to mistrust in the intentions of institutions and key figures surrounding vaccines are now driving as much of the online conversation and vaccine skepticism as safety concerns. This issue is compounded by the complexities and vulnerabilities of this information ecosystem. It is full of "data deficits" — situations where demand for information about a topic is high but the supply of credible information is low — that are being exploited by bad actors. These data deficits complicate efforts to accurately make sense of the development of a Covid-19 vaccine and vaccines more generally. When people can't easily access reliable information around vaccines and when mistrust in actors and institutions related to vaccines is high, misinformation narratives rush in to fill the vacuum. The findings should act as a wake-up call as the world waits for a Covid-19 vaccine and sees routine immunization rates drop.

Social media urged to block antivax “superspreaders.” (#21-02 January 17, 2021)
Antivax networks promote a “master narrative” with three false messages: (1) COVID-19 is not dangerous; (2) COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous; and (3) vaccine advocates cannot be trusted. The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has produced three superb reports about the spread of this misinformation through social media:
The Anti-Vaxx Industry: How Big Tech powers and profits from vaccine misinformation exposes how the global scientific consensus on vaccines is being undermined by a small but determined and sophisticated network of individuals and groups who spread misinformation online.
Failure to Act: How Tech Giants Continue to Defy Calls to Rein in Vaccine Misinformation notes that even when users reported misinformation to the platforms, fewer than 1 in 20 misinformation posts were removed.
The Anti-Vaxx Playbook reveals how anti-vaccine networks are systematically planning to exploit social media to suppress the use of COVID-19 vaccines. It concludes:
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of reach. There is no justification for Facebook or others to continue undermining the attempts to roll out the COVID-19 vaccines by enabling lies to reach millions.
The 10 antivaxxers with the largest cross-platform followings make up the majority of the total audience for antivaxxers online. These are the “superspreaders” of antivax misinformation.
The best way to prevent people from falling for misinformation is to prevent them from seeing it in the first place using a strategy called deplatforming.
Prominent antivaxxers should be removed from their platforms.
The CCDH is a non-profit organization that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation. [Barrett S. Social media urged to block antivax “superspreaders.” Quackwatch, Jan 15, 2021]

Medical license of vaccine fearmonger Ken Stoller revoked (#21-08 February 28, 2021)
The Medical Board of California has revoked the medical license of Kenneth Paul Stoller, M.D., for writing baseless medical exemptions from school vaccine requirements. The revocation order concerned ten children who had not qualified for medical exemptions under the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices or American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. The board noted:
Stoller was not the treating physician for any of them—the parents brought them in expressly to buy medical exemptions.
Stoller did not ask for any child’s medical records or consult any child’s treating physician.
The cost of the exemptions ranged from $400 to $600 per child.
Stoller estimated that he had issued about 500 such exemptions between 2016 and 2019, using a similar protocol for each request.
Stoller has promoted the false notion that vaccines cause autism. He has also promoted hyperbaric oxygen to treat autism even though supportive evidence for this is lacking. Stoller’s lawyer has announced that he intends to appeal the board’s decision. [Reiss D. Dr. Ken Stoller medical license revoked – baseless vaccine exemptions. Skeptical Raptor, Feb 21, 2021]

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acronyms : FDA: Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov
FTC: Federal Trade Commission http://www.ftc.gov/
AMA: American Medical Association http://www.ama-assn.org/ama

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Good health to everyone (except for the charlatans that make money on other people's health).

page created: June 21st, 2015 and last updated: March 5th, 2021