Antivaccine nonsense Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Pseudoscience Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Out of tragedy, a campaign to increase vaccine uptake in Michigan

I’ve written before about how our vaccination rate here in Michigan are…suboptimal. Indeed, a couple of years ago, health officials were so alarmed at the increases in personal belief exemptions to school vaccine mandates that a new regulation was instituted that require parents seeking nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates to travel to an office of the state health department in order to receive instruction about vaccines. They can still get their personal belief exemption, but not without first undergoing instruction. So far, it’s been working reasonably well, with decreases in the number of personal belief exemptions. Unfortunately (and predictably), antivaxers did not like this new regulation, not at all, and tried to get it eliminated by having the legislature pass a law (in the name of “parental rights,” of course, an argument that our highly conservative legislature finds compelling, including, alas, my very own state senator). Fortunately, they failed.

Unfortunately, thanks to a combination of factors and also aided by our own homegrown antivaccine movement, Michigan has not been immune to pertussis outbreaks, such as this one that occurred in 2012. We even have our own variety of clueless naturopaths who inflict horrific suffering on children by trying to treat pertussis “naturally.” Even though there have been improvements, Michigan’s vaccination rates remain too low.

And, this week, someone with an enormous stake—the biggest—launched an initiative to do something about it:

Baby Francesca was just 12 weeks old when she came down with a cough. Nine days later, she died of pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

Now, her mother, Veronica McNally, has made it her life’s work to teach others why she believes vaccination is so important. She started the Franny Strong Foundation in her daughter’s honor. And as of today, she’s begun a new campaign called “I Vaccinate.”

McNally and Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, joined Stateside to talk about why vaccination is so important.

Currently, Michigan ranks 43rd in the nation when it comes to immunization coverage for preschoolers. Just 54% of preschoolers are up-to-date on their vaccines (while 29% of teenagers are up-to-date).

It turns out that Francesca died during the 2012 pertussis outbreak. The story of how she became ill and ultimately died is heartrending:

When Francesca was a month old, she had RSV infection, a virus that causes cold-like symptoms. Because of that, she did not receive the pertussis vaccination recommended at 2 months.

However, McNally said, “One shot would not have protected her. It takes a series of shots. You’re not immune until 15 or 18 months.”

When Francesca became sick in May, her parents sought medical treatment for her several times – through their doctor and at an emergency room. Their doctor diagnosed Francesca with pertussis on the morning of May 14.

That evening, with her condition growing worse, the McNallys brought her to the emergency department at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan.

“She was admitted immediately to the pediatric intensive care unit,” McNally said.

The next morning, she was placed on a respirator. Although her daughter did not have the characteristic “whooping” cough, McNally said she “coughed incessantly by the time she was getting intubated.”

Francesca died two days later.

I Vaccinate has a very simple message:

  • Vaccines are safe
  • Vaccines are effective
  • Vaccines protect everyone

It’s then explained why, with a very useful section entitled Answering Your Questions.

And the message is needed, now, more than ever. Remember how I discussed the pertussis outbreak of 2012? Well, things are still bad in 2017. I just came across a story that tells us that cases of whooping cough in Michigan are on the rise in Michigan:

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is on the rise in Michigan. The number of cases this year has surpassed 100 and continues to climb, according to preliminary data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Oakland County Health Department. In 2016, there were about 448 cases of whooping cough in the state.

In Oakland County last month, there were 31 confirmed and probable cases of the vaccine-preventable disease, compared with four cases in January 2016.

“These are the highest numbers we have seen since 2014, ” said Dr. Pamela Hackert, chief of medical services in Oakland County. The county had 108 case of pertussis last year, 44 in 2015 and 161 in 2014.

Health officials in Michigan are not blaming this latest outbreak solely on antivaxers, although certainly they contribute to the problem. Dr. Wells points out that there are multiple reasons why vaccination rates in our state are so low, leading experts and stakeholders to meet last year to try to determine why so many children are not up-to-date on their vaccinations. They concluded that poor access to health care was part of the answer, but it’s more than that. There are far too many children who start their vaccines but never finish the whole series. While vaccination with one dose of MMR can generally be expected to result in >90% immunity, the whole series of pertussis vaccine is required to be assured of reasonable immunity.

Pertussis is a tricky disease as well, because immunity wanes, leaving adolescents potentially susceptible. This is a known issue, but, contrary to what antivaxers claim, letting children suffer from pertussis will not alleviate it, although there are several strategies that might possible accomplish this end. The point of course is that these recent epidemics, while they point to problems with the current vaccination schedule, do not by any means demonstrate that the vaccine doesn’t work or that it’s failed, contrary to what antivaxers try to claim.

Sometimes, tragedy is the most powerful motivator to action. The McNallys suffered a tragedy far beyond what I can imagine having to endure personally. They lost a child to pertussis. I’m not forgetting that child, either, who suffered the worst fate of all at such an incredibly young age. I can only hope that, out of this loss, the Franny Strong Foundation and “I Vaccinate” become a force that reverse our rather dismal vaccination rates here in Michigan.

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]

74 replies on “Out of tragedy, a campaign to increase vaccine uptake in Michigan”

Anti-vaxxers like to call their position “parental rights”. What about children’s rights?

Francesca’s story is incredibly sad. It’s good to see mobilization in Michigan.

On a side note, you may be interested in knowing that the federal case attacking Michigan’s rules, Nikolao v. Lyon, was dismissed on February 23, 2017 at the trial level (and I have seen no appeal so far).

I haven’t been able to find any information about the case filed at the state level, after an initial press release, though.

I have a 30 year old who had multiple delays with his vaccinations due to always seeming to have a bad cold when the shots were due. He got way behind and had to have a lot of shots when kindergarten time came around. Not once did anyone tell me that his status was putting infants or others with compromised health at risk. At the same time I was being inundated with various vague argumets about the “dangers” of vaccination–to which I nearly caved at times. My innate skepticism rescued me in the end, but this imbalance of information has only grown worse with the internet. I hope doctors are doing more these days to be sure that parents are getting the medical facts from the outset (birth) to try to defray the other side. It starts with something vague, you know, and not necessarily a full-blown anti-vax message. “Toxins” is a very powerful word to the scientifically uninformed. “Too many, too soon” can seem very reasonable to the average Mom. These messages can come up in very casual conversation and are prevalent all over the interwebs. I’m actually surprised that vax rates aren’t worse than they are.

This is a heart wrenching story that anti-vaxxers will just dismiss for their usual callous reasons. We need a better vaccine and there is no excuse for why there isn’t one.

What a very sad story. I hope Mrs. McNally’s campaign is successful enough to become a national model.

@Angela: didn’t you know? Children are property. At least, that’s what Rand Paul tells us.

It is clear that there are heart-wrenching non-vaccination, and vaccination, stories that continue to haunt our Nation and the World.

Each child harmed in the “Vaccine War” is a tragedy.

Orac and his minions have persistently tried to end the “Vaccine War” with science-based logic and reasoning.

Vaccine safety advocates have also persistently tried to end the “Vaccine War” with science-based logic and reasoning.

In my opinion, a “Vaccine Cold-War” must be sustained based on the unpredictable evolutionary change of micro-organisms and mankind.

Freedom of speech, including respectful insolence, and the opportunity to present ideas on this subject will effectively reduce casualties in the “Vaccine Cold-War”.

Keep up the good work!

@Science Mom, they sure do so. Couple days ago in some discussion I mentioned measles outbreak in Romania and 17 deaths there. For an answer I got something like – its fabricated. And government and doctors poison kids all the time to make these cases to frighten people and make them vaccinate. I kind of felt dark depression reaching with its long tentacles and grabing me…

MJD made a comment this morning at ~9 am and it hasn’t posted by 6:30pm. 🙁

Where do I send my application to be director of communications here at Respectful Insolence the ScienceBlog?

What are the qualifications?

You know you can get your own blog where you can post all the stupid crap you want, and nobody will stop you, or even slow you down, right?

Yeah, but nobody would read it. Here he’s got a semi captive audience (until he pisses off Orac).

I’d read it – for the yucks, of course. I’d even comment, but under a different ‘nym. At least, until he banned me.

A similar situation occurred a few years ago in Australia with the tragic death of a 32-day-old baby, Dana McCaffery, from pertussis. Her parents became prominent campaigners in support of vaccination. They were rewarded with harassment & vilification by antivax scumbags, even as the parents were still grieving. I hope, but I’m not optimistic, that the McNally family don’t suffer the same fate as the McCafferys.

It is unfortunate this happened. Pertusis outbreaks are caused by recently vaccinated kids. Everyone will jump on this comment and claim its impossible. Do yourself a favor and look at the history of vaccines, polio vaccinations caused most Polio cases.

AUTISM is common in fully vaccinated children but rare or almost non-existent in un-vaccinated children.

1 out of 45 vaccinated kids estimated to have Autism
1 out of 15,000 kids diagnosed with Autism in the Amish community (who do not vaccinate).

WAKE UP PEOPLE! You’re being lied to just like how your trusted media said Hillary was ahead by 98% in the polls the day before the election.

I suppose Frank is going to tell us that this place, , doesn’t exist.

{plagerism part}
The Clinic for Special Children devoted to researching developmental diseases in Amish children and this clinic (among many other things) actively researches the occurrence of autism in Amish (and Mennonite) communities. This center is located in Lancaster, PA—the same place that Dan Olmstead searched for cases of Autism in 2005.
{/plagerism part}


Pertusis outbreaks are caused by recently vaccinated kids.

The main vaccines used to stop Pertussis (note spelling, dimbulb) are TDaP and DTaP. You see the little ‘a’ in the abbreviation? It stands for “acellular”.
The pertussis component is not just dead, it’s fragments.
You are entering “not even wrong” territory with your comment.

Pertussis outbreaks are not caused by recently vaccinated children. That is pure nonsense. Also, the polio vaccine did not even come close to causing most cases of polio. Why do you let people lie to you?

Yes, he did do research, but just like Olmstead, he didn’t do very good research. In fact, Frank and Olmstead both did really crappy research. The type of research I’d expect from an idiot.

But, yes, they both did research.

WAKE UP PEOPLE! You’re being lied to…

Well, at least you’re honest about yourself.


I think this is par for the course coming from an eugenicist supporter of chemical castration of autistics[1].

[1] == tit for tat intended to rile young master crosby up…


Unfortunately, this will not change a single mind among the anti-vax True Believers. They’ll just view it as proof that the dead child was either
a) genetically inferior to their special one or
b) ‘damaged by vaccines’ …. even if they’d never received any.

Using logic on people who are waging a personal war against logic does not often work. Deporting such bio-terrorists to live within a group agreeable to their views, such as the Taliban, would work. It’s a win-win, everyone gets what they want.

a. The dose makes the poison
b. A salt is not the same as the elements it contains

I’ve put some table-salt (NaCl) on my egg this morning, but I won’t ingest some sodium (Na), or chlorine (Cl).

Pertusis outbreaks are caused by recently vaccinated kids.

One can only wonder what caused pertussis before the development of pertussis vaccine.


Not being breast fed/poor nutrition/hygiene ignorance/alien abductions/ingesting latex covered aluminum.

Johnny: re autism and lesbianism. Wow. Just wow.

They cite Milo Yannapoulis, of all people, for statistics. And the misogyny. Good lord.

I admit that my experience of ‘What anti-vax people say’ is mostly third hand or first hand from those that post on this or other skeptic blogs. However, after actually following the link posted by Johnny I am astonished. Talk about taking the moral low ground. It’s not a very scientific attitude but ignoring someone’s opinions just because they’re a dick seems suddenly more reasonable.

Wow, young Mr. Crosby is sliding further and further down the rabbit hole…..perhaps his advances were rebuffed by some female on campus, so now he’s decided to join the Men’s Rights movement?

He’s going in directions even I thought were highly unlikely…..good luck him ever getting a legitimate job.

# 39 Panacea
Twenty one females with ASD?
The study already is meaningless. How did it ever get published? The last time I checked Springer is not on Beale’s List.

jrkrideau writes (#32),

…Beales List.

MJD says,

On January 17th, 2017, Beall’s List and accompanying blog were taken offline. In a statement, a spokesperson for CU Denver said Beall made a “personal decision” to take down the website.

I’ve published some of my “best” work in journals that were on Beall’s List (e.g., Medical Hypotheses and BAOJ Cancer Research & Therapy – Bio Accent).

In my opinion, it’s unfortunate that a Librarian would attempt to dissuade anyone from placing their idea in the public domain.

Beall’s behavior is a classic example of judging a book (or journal) by its cover.

Shameful behavior to say the least…

young Mr. Crosby is sliding further and further down the rabbit hole…..perhaps his advances were rebuffed by some female on campus, so now he’s decided to join the Men’s Rights movement?
He’s going in directions even I thought were highly unlikely

What next? — white supremacism? Climate change denial? Holocaust denial? Once someone has slipped the surly bonds of reality and decided that he is the only rational person in the room, the possibilities are boundless.

@jrkrideau: beats me. It wouldn’t be the first time a meaningless study got published in a reputable journal. I’m not opposed to the publication of weak or negative results though, because it will either prevent waste of time and money on fruitless pursuits, or help future researchers avoid mistakes of earlier research to do something more definitive later on.

I can’t get the article for free through my university yet; it literally came out this week. But I suspect the study is either very weak or has been grossly distorted by Brietbart because well, that’s what they do.

Once someone has slipped the surly bonds of reality and decided that he is the only rational person in the room, the possibilities are boundless.

I’ve had a sense for a while that Jake’s doctoral program has been going poorly. One might wonder whether he’s even been allowed to take the prelim yet, much less passed it.

I’ve had a sense for a while that Jake’s doctoral program has been going poorly. One might wonder whether he’s even been allowed to take the prelim yet, much less passed it.

He’s been working on his PhD far longer than one would expect to have already taken prelims, even with however many times they allow for do-overs. If he’s not a candidate by now then what in Hades is he still doing there?

He’s been working on his PhD far longer than one would expect to have already taken prelims, even with however many times they allow for do-overs. If he’s not a candidate by now.

Yah, I took mine in my fourth year, which was a little late. (It was allowed since I had a nice funding situation and wasn’t costing the department anything.)

My department only allowed one do-over, don’t know about others. (Somehow I passed on the first try.)

Any bets that he lawyered up in order to stay in the program? I can see several perceived reasons to do so in the light of this comment:

Once someone has slipped the surly bonds of reality and decided that he is the only rational person in the room, the possibilities are boundless.


My department only allowed one do-over, don’t know about others. (Somehow I passed on the first try.)
What do you mean “somehow”? Don’t sell yourself so short. UR Smrt (I mean that with utmost sincerity; it’s something my brilliant better half says about himself in that way).

UR Smrt

Thanks, Science Mom.

I had already passed both written exams, but the night before my oral exams, I was stupid. I was in a bad relationship (very Sid and Nancy) with one of my best friends who still, very ironically, still can’t admit he likes girls. The night before my oral exams, I went to three going away parties; my buddy/boyfriend, who was leaving to Croatia, perhaps indefinitely, two very good friends who were going back to Poland probably forever, and my best girlfriend who was going back to Ohio (so far) forever.

Going home, I fell down a flight of concrete stairs and got a severe head injury; my girlfriend Rebecca drove me to the ER. I spent the night there. The next morning, since the mirror doesn’t show the back of you, I didn’t realize I still had dried blood all down the back of my head and neck and t-shirt. I went to the department, all ready to go, and they were like, “OH MY GOD, you are a crazy person, go home and we will do this in a week or two.” I passed, when we did it.

My department has been very tolerant. They have even offered to take me back, no questions asked, if and when I am every able to go back to graduate work.

My shrink back in Michigan (we are very attached to each other) and my shrink and therapist out here have all said that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to apply for SSI, what with all my past hospitalizations and low functioning level. (I am still quite ill, and think of suicide every day, but no, I AM NOT GOING TO DO IT.)

I guess I just need to apply my anti-capitalist beliefs that the worth of a person is not tied to the value of their labor to myself, and not just other people, and stop judging myself so harshly. It might help bring me out of the spiral of self-loathing.

I hope you find your happy place JP; you have a lot to contribute on many levels.

Would be nice if you referenced any of the information in all the articles you write…

Well that’s what I thought until I started clicking the hyperlinks.
For example the author states “Michigan has not been immune to pertussis outbreaks, such as this one that occurred in 2012.” When you click the hyper link it just sends you to another article by the exact same author. That’s not what referencing your sources looks like. I was expecting to be linked to a site with specific details about said outbreak. I’m not trying to say that it didn’t happen of course. Just that I would like more information. This is a common trend that I have noticed throughout the authors articles. Half of the hyperlinks you click just send you to another article by the same author. I don’t see this as a source just plain self promotion.

Um, that’s how blogs often work. I link to previous summaries that I’ve written before rather than endlessly repeating the same explanations. Those, you’ll note, have links to direct sources. When you’ve been blogging for 12 years, it’s nice shorthand. If you don’t like how I do things, I really don’t care, given that no one else, particularly regulars who’ve earned my respect, has a problem with this.

I didn’t note any direct sources and not from a lack of searching for them.

I’m not trying to “earn your respect” nor am I interested in having an argument with you. I’m asking for information plain and simple. If you’re unwilling or unable to provide this I’ll just have to remember to take these articles with a grain of salt.

Well that’s what I thought until I clicked on the hyperlinks. They all just linked to other articles. Sounds like an echo chamber to me. Where is the source of information?

…perhaps his advances were rebuffed by some female on campus, so now he’s decided to join the Men’s Rights movement?

I think you might be right.


Looking again at the link you posted, it seem that travis took to impersonating me elsewhere as well, not just at RI.


My post above is to another post that looks as if it’s lost in moderation limbo (our host is no doubt at work by now).

I had noted that friend Lawrence #31 is probably right. See Jake’s latest, and note that there is an f-bomb in the title.

Johnny @ 50

Was just going to comment on that – I can’t believe how quickly he’s slid into utter hatred and lunacy.

Sean: “Where is the source of information?”

In the links in those articles. This is a blog, not an article in a scientific journal. It requires you to read and actually think a bit. We regulars are used to that, it is a pity that you think it is too much hard work.

Obviously I checked the links in the “those articles” before my original post. Nice ad hominem though…

Was just going to comment on that – I can’t believe how quickly he’s slid into utter hatred and lunacy.

Good grief! No one wants to fuck them so they all must be dykes argument. Uni must be going so well for Jake.

@Rebecca Fisher:

I can’t believe how quickly he’s slid into utter hatred and lunacy.

I’m not. He was a poisoned and poisonous individual years ago. Descending into this is par for the course.

His latest is another vile, hate-filled screed against women (even if he didn’t write it himself).

I really have no idea where he’s going….other than straight down.

@ herr doktor bimler:

I can imagine Jake falling down any rabbit hole- especially the white rights and male rights ones.

I wonder if he’ll attend the big rally in Washington on Friday
( see AoA)

@ JP:

I’ve always said- ” You the bomb!” ( Not sure if “You the Man” is apropos) and you certainly is.

Keep on keeping on. Please. We need you.
( so do countless others, I’m sure, even if they don’t know it yet- e.g.. potential students, colleagues, partners, friends et al)

re Jake’s latest post

I can easily imagine many other reasons why people wouldn’t want to f@ck him than what he says.

Jake’s latest post consist of two parts – a little introductory screed and the main body heavy quoted from another blogger.

The quoted portion strikes me as worded to be somewhat offensive (involuntary celibacy? Really?). But the points raised don’t seem to be too outragious –

– Autistic males aren’t much in demand by ‘normal’ females
– there aren’t that many Autistic females to choose from (he uses a 10:1 ratio, maybe that’s right, I dunno)
– most of the Autistic females are lesbians (based on the receint study that is the subject of these guys posts)
– So it’s really hard for Autistic males to find relationships

Leaving aside the problems that I have with the study in question (sample sizes and ages of the subjects, but mostly that we only see the abstract), the conclusion seems fairly reasonable, if somewhat whiney.

Jake’s contribution to the post was a meme and a sentence, and it was so bad that the author of the main article was moved to post on Jakes blog “I think it’s a bit more complicated than that” (first comment).

That’s our boy Jake – he can quote you and agree with you, and still get it wrong.

Travi J Schwochert, who is sockpuppeting as Orac…
Dude, seriously? You’re just making things worse for yourself. And it’s sad because you’re clearly a smart guy.

Johnny, let this autistic person correct a few things from your post.
“Autistic males aren’t much in demand by ‘normal’ females” Those of us (not me, I’m sorry to say) who are making six figure salaries in STEM fields are in great demand by neurotypical women, and things improve the more generally we are understood by NTs. We also tend to treat different kinds of people equally, which actually appeals to potential mates, don’t ya know.
“here aren’t that many Autistic females to choose from” True, but the M/F ratio is more like 4:1, but that’s not gospel, since ASCs can be harder to detect in women due to social expectations; largely irrelevant for many of us.
“most of the Autistic females are lesbians” I haven’t seen the study, but I doubt it. What we do have in both genders is a somewhat higher incidence of bisexuality.
“it’s really hard for Autistic males to find relationships” Still true, but with the caveats above, and more left out to keep this post a little shorter.

Johnny, found the link, went to the post, nearly threw up, determined that every word in there is a falsehood, including “a”, “and”, and “the”. if I ever see Jake or his buttsucking sycophants drowning, I will be sure to throw them an anvil.
Oh, and the study itself appears to have huge flaws in methodology, but I couldn’t get into it in detail out of respect for my own brain.

Please understand that they were not my points, they were the points raised in

But it doesn’t seem to me to be outrageous that it would be difficult for an Autistic person to establish a good romantic relationship. It’s not easy for anybody, and adding in the social impairments that Autistics suffer is going to make it harder. Not impossible, but harder than without adding Autism in the mix.

Jake is, by all accounts, not an ugly guy, and his family has a great deal of wealth. I doubt Autism plays the major roll in his romantic problems. His biggest hurdle is that he an @$$hole.

As the mother of an autistic teenage girl, I find Jake’s remarks on the subject rather creepy. He seems to be developing into an autistic subset of the “red pill” subculture — @$$holes who find ways to blame the ladies and/or society for not falling for them. I find myself with a sudden impulse to make sure Jake never ever meets my daughter. not that I really need to worry; she’s definitely smart enough to recognize a jerk when she sees one.

BTW, in her special ed classroom, they actually have gender-parity. And all the kids in that room are autistic. (Granted, that’s a sample size of 6. But still.)


if I ever see Jake or his buttsucking sycophants drowning, I will be sure to throw them an anvil.

Need help lifting the (big!) anvil?


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