Antivaccine nonsense Medicine

Why we immunize

This is mandatory reading.

‘Nuff said.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

28 replies on “Why we immunize”

Brilliant link. I live in a state that lost four infants to pertussis in the past year. Measles may have been diagnosed in a sister clinic by one of our doctors who did her training in India (thus may have actually seen measles). When parents tell me that they don’t want to vaccinate their child, it gets harder and harder for me to not say they are idiots. I still have to be civil, but boy do I think they are stupid. However I now have a baby and can tell any parent I do not hesitate to vaccinate my baby. Poor critter. 🙂

I am amazed that in a post that’s garnered 400+ comments, only one antivax troll has popped up. The remainder of the discussion is polite, reasoned, and quite far-ranging. Something about the Nielsen-Haydens seems to keep the crazies away.

My healthcare provider offer something similar to this in the nurse’s station. It makes for sobering reading. We need more people to understand the devastating cost in lives and in suffering of these diseases.

@Chris: Of course it would, the Fluorosphere is sci-fi friendly! When I’ve relayed news of authors’ illnesses or deaths to my husband after seeing it at Making Light, he often boggles at the notable commenters.

The jump bag post was the tipping point for my husband to agree to start ours with pre-purchased bags after a period of being noncommittal. They’ve since expanded and changed with our skills and needs so much that they’re a pet project I hope we never need.

Well done post. thanks for linking to it.

As a side note: the last couple of days I’ve been trying to remember the diseases I suffered because vaccines either weren’t available or weren’t routinely given when I was a child. It’s quite a list. About half the stuff on the CDC vaccine schedule. chickenpox, mumps, Hep-B, Pertussis, don’t remember if I had measles or not. Sure seems like a lot of miseries I could have been spared had I been born a decade later.

Yay! Glad you liked the link, Orac. With respect to HiB vaccines, though, there is a national shortage and so children (like my son) have already had to miss getting that shot since it will be months before there’s enough to go around. I’m told it will be months from now. In the meantime… I’ll try not to freak too much that he doesn’t have it yet.

“I am amazed that in a post that’s garnered 400+ comments, only one antivax troll has popped up. ”

I’m not surprised. The data are sobering. How do you argue against vaccines when confronted with life before vaccines, or in countries where vaccines are not common place? Most of anti-vax ‘research’ has been focused on autism-vaccine link, and seems that very few of them look at the consequences of non-vaccination policies.

I think most anti-vaxxers, while deluded, want to alleviate suffering. Seeing how much suffering is linked to non-vaccinations must give them pause. Have any of them addressed this kind of data? I’m very curious as to how they would do it (aside from ignoring it as Pharma propaganda).

Contracted the Mumps at postpubertal stage (1974-75)
Very nasty period, I am now 50 and still remember it well – high fever, could not swallow for a week or so without severe pain from inflamation (head looked like a pumpkin), later it migrated to the left testicle and felt like a groin shot for weeks after.

Though no long term affects, would have rather received vaccination in the eyeball administered by a nurse going through partial seizure than run through that ordeal again.

By the way there was a very good documentary on the polio vaccine (background of disease and research into cure) on PBS or history channel recently – Salk’s dead inactiviated polio virus and Sabin’s live attenuated polio virus. Really good piece on the disease and the controversy between Salk and Sabin.

This is one of the best comments of the lot:

#12 ::: bbrugger ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2009, 03:00 AM:

I tell people who want to debate vaccination to go look up the following string- Hawaii. 1848. Measles, flu and whooping cough.- then get back to me.

In the somewhat stark words of one website’s timeline “Flu, Measles, Diarrhea, and Whooping Cough come to Hawaii for the first time. Nearly every child born this year was killed, and whole families were wiped out.”

While I am in agreement for most vaccines, I am strongly against the chickenpox vaccine. I got chickenpox as a kid, and although it is annoying that is about it. The problem is the vaccine is not good for life, how many kids do you think will remember or care to get the booster in their twenties. If you get chickenpox as a child you will not get chickenpox again. As several of you have stated getting chickenpox later in life is much worse, even fatal. I know that shingles sucks as well but I have never had the chickenpox vaccine and if I have anything to say about it I will infect my kids with chickenpox at a young age so that they will not need the vaccine either.

Now all of the other vaccines I will be following although I believe they should be pushed back and started after 6 months since for the first 6 months you do not have an active immune system.

I think there’s room for debate about the chickenpox vaccine. As you say, the natural illness in young children is usually mild.

I was post-puberty, age 13, when I got chickenpox and I was very sick with bronchitis and encephalitis. The pox were down my throat and in other orifices I won’t mention.

So if your kids hit puberty without getting chickenpox naturally, that probably tips the balance in favor of vaccinating.

The herd immunity where you live may make a difference. If everyone else is vaccinated, it may be better to vaccinate.

If it becomes clear that the vaccine reduces the risk of shingles, that will matter to most of us.

I believe they should be pushed back and started after 6 months since for the first 6 months you do not have an active immune system.

Gosh, pretty big fuck up by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC for recommending some vaccines earlier than six months. Guess they don’t know much about babies and immunity.

Thank God we have you.

“If you get chickenpox as a child you will not get chickenpox again.”

You’re sure about this, are you?

And the last part … I think you might want to get your information from a qualified source. The anti-vax viewpoint is built upon a huge house of cards. The cards look stable from the right angle, but in reality they are paper thin. You’ve just repeated some of their foundations cards.

About the chickenpox, I have a degree in microbiology and having studied virology in most of the population once you get the chickenpox you have immunity to getting it again. Maybe the virology books are out of date and if new research shows you can get chickenpox multiple times please post a link to it so that I can read up on it.

As for the comment about waiting 6 months, again with my degree in micro I had to study two semesters of immunology. Prior to 6 months babies are mainly living off of their mothers immune system although theirs is beginning to form. Again I like to keep up on the current research so if you have any articles showing that babies have an active immune system prior to 6 months and what they are teaching in the American universities is old crap then I would be more then happy to educate myself and pass those articles on to the immunologist doing current research in the field who taught the class.

Look at your microbiology texts again, Dan. When you get Chicken Pox, the virus never really goes away. It lies dormant in your system until something happens (like stress) to pop up again as shingles.

Also, you really need to brush up on your immunology. The reason that certain vaccines are delayed is because the mother derived immunity prevents the vaccine from taking hold (measles). But that also means that the baby actually has an active immune system, if not — then the infant would die soon and quickly from all of the surrounding microbes.

But since you had no clue that the varicella virus just goes dormant, I have an inkling you are just pretending to have taken any microbiology classes. Also, you seem to fail at using PubMed. A quick look at it shows lots and lots of papers on neonatal immune systems, here are two (you will need to go to your local library to get the actual papers, or at least crack open an immunology text book):

Right now there has been an increase in deaths in babies due to pertussis and Hib. Many of these kids were unvaccinated because they were too young (the recent pertussis death in Australia was a four week old infant). Why would you want to double the period of vulnerability?

Bonus! The father of the infant who died from pertussis has now commented on that blog posting. Dan, why don’t you go over there and explain very carefully to her father about your theories on infant immune systems and why you think that infants should not be vaccinated until they are six months old.

Come on, go ahead — especially as Dr. Benway noted that it is obvious that we are lucky to have you since you know more than the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC!

Oh, and if you check out the CDC, you will find lots of literature, like this:

It says in the third paragraph of the background section

Despite this increase in reported pertussis among adolescents and adults, incidence remained highest among young infants.3 In 2005, most (38 of 39) pertussis-related deaths reported to CDC were among infants aged younger than 6 months, who were too young to have received three doses of DTaP vaccine (CDC, unpublished data).

Now you now need to go to the CDC and straighten them out! Tell them how to prevent those (38!) babies under six months old from dying.

“About the chickenpox, I have a degree in microbiology and having studied virology in most of the population once you get the chickenpox you have immunity to getting it again.”

I’ve had the chickenpox twice. I’m not the only one I know, either.

Dan, please tell Michael Bishop that we shouldn’t give vaccines to babies under six months. He won the Nobel Prize for his work in virology and he supports the current vaccine schedule. Weird that he somehow overlooked that stuff they taught you in those two classes on immunology (chiropractic school?). Won’t he be embarrassed to find out his mistake!


Ah, these antivaxers are teh lulz.

I was aware the Chickenpox lies dormant in your system, in the nerves such as the spinal column if I remember right, however, even with that the recurrence rate of CHICKENPOX is extremely low. Now shingles is another story all together and although you are correct in that it is the same disease it is completely different symptomatically and is less fatal then adult onset chickenpox which can be quite deadly. This may become more common since the last I heard was that the chickenpox vaccine was only good for 5 years which means everyone who received it will need booster shots and how many adults do you think will be willing to get their chickenpox vaccine?

About the child who died of whooping cough, had the mother been vaccinated, because by my understanding, if the mother is immune then the baby is also immune for the first 6 months until the IgG degrades. Thus giving the grace period for the babies immune system to fully form. Also the first paper that was given above is about T-cells in newborns, while those are developed early, they are not what vaccines are intended to promote. The idea behind vaccination is to stimulate the production of IgG which will confer long term immunity. In the second paper, although I couldn’t read the whole thing only the abstract it specifically states

These demands shape a distinct neonatal innate immune system that is biased against the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This bias renders newborns at risk of infection and impairs responses to many vaccines.

I am not against vaccines, I have received all except the chickenpox vaccine, and my kids will receive all except maybe the chickenpox vaccine (I still have not been sold on the benefits versus risks on that one). Bordetella pertussis is a horrible disease which I did study in Pathogenic Bacteriology. As I said I do not doubt the power of vaccines, nor do I question their usefulness, and certainly I am as against the anti-vaccine people as the rest of you, I just question their effectiveness prior to 6 months, and I question the actual usefulness of the varicella zoster virus vaccine at this time. If they can make the vaccine give longer immunity, then I would be sold on it, but with the current statistics that I have read of 5 year immunity I believe it will be too dangerous as adults are quite unlikely to want to keep receiving the chickenpox vaccine.

Sorry this post is so long but I wanted to make my points clear.


Teachers don’t give away learning to arrogant students.

When you say, TEH VAXZINEZ AINT RITE IN BABEES BFUR 6 MUNTS!!! I NOES DIS IS TROOF!!!,” you are taking a big, huge, smelly dump on the heads of nearly all American pediatricians, nearly all public health experts, nearly all epidemiologists, and nearly all immunologists.

What do you imagine, that all those people are lying?

Might there be one or two lacunae within that vast knowledge base housed within your skull?

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