Vaccines are perhaps one of the greatest most successful medical interventions ever deployed. Diseases such as Polio and smallpox that were once common and ravaged the human population are gone. Yet despite this progress there exists an anti-vaccine movement that threatens to rollback such success stories. Unfounded fears, fraud, and rather blatant lies rest firmly at the heart of anti-vaccine claims. I’ve written on this topic a few times, and so today I once again return to it with a two separate updates.
The Washington Post has an interesting expose concerning Hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa and also others involved in the anti-vaccine movement. There they write on 19th June 2019 …
How the Selzes came to support anti-vaccine ideas is unknown, but their financial impact has been enormous. Their money has gone to a handful of determined individuals who have played an outsize role in spreading doubt and misinformation about vaccines and the diseases they prevent. The groups’ false claims linking vaccines to autism and other ailments, while downplaying the risks of measles, have led growing numbers of parents to shun the shots. As a result, health officials have said, the potentially deadly disease has surged to at least 1,044 cases this year, the highest number in nearly three decades.
The Selzes and the groups they support are hardly the only purveyors of anti-vaccine ideas. Environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a nephew of the late president, runs the Children’s Health Defense, a charity that promotes a similar agenda; it brought in $727,000 in 2017, according to tax filings. Barbara Loe Fisher, who says her son was injured by vaccines, runs a Virginia-based nonprofit that fights legislative efforts to tighten vaccine requirements. Her group, the National Vaccine Information Center, brings in about $1 million a year, according to its 2018 tax documents.
Though they are separately organized, the three groups reinforce one another’s efforts. Kennedy and Bigtree often appear together at public events, while ICAN’s website includes a link to Fisher’s group. Bigtree’s weekly live stream broadcast, which ICAN promotes, frequently features Kennedy.
Discovering that they now have an outbreak of measles that consists of about 1,000 cases might not sound like a big deal and you might assume that the patients will all soon bounce back. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one to three children out of 1,000 infected with measles will die from complications.
The anti-vaccine movement has an associated body count that is a consequence of their ill-informed beliefs.
The World Health Organization has published a list of six common misconceptions concerning vaccines. The list was originally written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States primarily for use by practitioners giving vaccinations to children in their practices.
Below is a brief summary of their six items. The full complete text, can be found on the WHO website here.
- Myth: “Diseases had already begun to disappear before vaccines were introduced, because of better hygiene and sanitation“.
- They cite evidence that lays out details that show you why this is not a factual statement.
- Myth: “The majority of people who get disease have been vaccinated.”
- What is happing here is that vaccines don’t work 100% of the time. To cite one example they give … “100% of the children who had not been vaccinated got measles, compared with less than 1% of those who had been vaccinated“
- Myth: “There are “hot lots” of vaccine that have been associated with more adverse events and deaths than others. Parents should find the numbers of these lots and not allow their children to receive vaccines from them.”
- This is not helpful guidance, “hot lots” will not help parents identify the best or worst vaccines for their children. They explain exactly what “hot lots” are and why this does not help you to make an informed decision.
- Myth: “Vaccines cause many harmful side effects, illnesses, and even death – not to mention possible long-term effects we don’t even know about.“
- This anti-vaccine claim is a lie. Statistically, vaccines are actually very safe, despite implications to the contrary in many anti-vaccine publications. Most vaccine adverse events are minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever.
- Myth: “Vaccine-preventable diseases have been virtually eliminated from my country, so there is no need for my child to be vaccinated.“
- It is true that vaccination has enabled us to reduce most vaccine-preventable diseases to very low levels in many countries. However, some of them are still quite prevalent — even epidemic — in other parts of the world. Travellers can unknowingly bring these diseases into any country, and if the community were not protected by vaccinations, these diseases could quickly spread throughout the population, causing epidemics there.
- Myth: “Giving a child multiple vaccinations for different diseases at the same time increases the risk of harmful side effects and can overload the immune system”.
- A number of studies and reviews have been conducted to examine the effects of giving various combinations of vaccines simultaneously. These studies have shown that the recommended vaccines are as effective in combination as they are individually, and that such combinations carry no greater risk for adverse side effects.
Being armed with the facts matters. If you truly want to make an informed decision then understanding the best possible scientific information will go a long way towards that goal.
Below are links to several recent articles I’ve written on the topic of vaccines …
- Mar 2019: The Battle against Anti-Vaccine ignorance
- Jan 2019: Vaccines: Who is making Fraudulent Claims?
- Jan 2019: What are the top 10 Health Threats for 2019
- Aug 2018: Dunning-Kruger update – Anti-Vax folks think they know more than doctors
- Dec 2017: How do you persuade an Anti-Vaxer to change their mind?
- Dec 2017: Anti-vaccine rates may finally be declining
- Sep 2017: The Impact of vaccines is profound – they really do work
- Jan 2017: Why is the reemergence Andrew Wakefield dangerous? – #vaccines
- Apr 2016: Claim: Vaccines cause Autism