Welcome back! This week Beth and Kelly look at a topic that is pretty controversial - the Anti-Vaccine movement. Let's discuss why this misinformation campaign is so dangerous to the public's health, whether vaccines should be mandatory and just how dangerous some of these diseases are. Are you ready to give this a shot?
Why is the anti-vaccine movement dangerous?
Vaccine hesitancy, a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated or to have one's children vaccinated, is identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019.
Non-vaccinated children and adults can easily catch and spread disease because they are not protected. This puts people who cannot be vaccinated - either because of their age or immunity compromise - at risk. So, the elderly, babies and our most vulnerable medical patients are put in danger because Karen read a blog post that said BIG PHARMA is evil.
Should vaccines be mandatory?
It might not be in our best interest to make vaccines mandatory. The anti-vaccine movement has spiked in the past when vaccines became compulsory. We know that forcing people to do things, especially when the government is mandating it, is problematic and could lead to further dissent and public health crises. If we had a more deadly outbreak it could be necessary for one particular vaccine to be enforced as mandatory, but not all. However, public policies similar to Oregon's House Bill 3063 that eliminate non-medical exemptions for public school enrollment are not compulsory, since we all have other options than public school.
It is okay to be skeptical in medical treatments, and ask for second opinions. Medical history is filled with experiments done in secret, but those were small and before Institutional Review Boards were established. Again, there have been mistakes and no medical treatment is 100% safe or effective, which is why when we talk about vaccines we are talking largely about herd immunity. Most diseases require at least 80% of a population to be immunized against a disease to stop it from spreading, but diseases like measles are so easily transferrable they require closer to 90-95% to stop the germ from spreading.
Of course herd immunity doesn’t work for all diseases. Tetanus, for example, is a germ found in soil, so even if everyone around the person infected were immunized, it wouldn’t protect them.
But, are the diseases we vaccinate for even that dangerous?
The World Health Organization states that approximately 110,000 people died from Measles in 2017 – mostly children under the age of 5 years, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
The American Cancer Society's estimates for Cervical Cancer in the United States for 2019 are:
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that before the Whooping Cough vaccines were recommended for all infants, about 8,000 people in the United States died each year from whooping cough. Today, because of the vaccine, this number has dropped to fewer than 20 per year.
The CDC also estimates the global death toll from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic at more than 284,000.
What about the Autism link?
Dozens of studies have discredited the autism-vaccine link first published in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield. Since that paper was published Wakefield has been struck of the UK medical registry, meaning he can no longer practice medicine. A 2004 investigative report by The Times found that when Wakefield warned parents to avoid MMR, and published research claiming a link with autism, he did not disclose he was being funded through solicitors seeking evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers.
How do we find out the truth?
Beth's Jam of the Week: Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young
Kelly's Jam of the Week: The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?
Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.
Throughout the narrative, the story of Mukherjee’s own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—cuts like a bright, red line, reminding us of the many questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In superb prose and with an instinct for the dramatic scene, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation—from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Morgan to Crick, Watson and Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome.
The Psychological Roots of Anti-Vaccination Attitudes: A 24-Nation Investigation by Matthew J. Hornsey, Emily A. Harris, and Kelly S. Fielding, pub. Health Psychology February 1, 2018. http://www.fsk.it/attach/Content/News/6464/o/170221_2.pdf
Vaccine hesitancy, vaccine refusal and the anti-vaccine movement: influence, impact and implications by Eve Dube´, Maryline Vivion, and Noni E MacDonald, pub. Expert Rev. Vaccines 14(1), 99–117 (2015). https://mde.biologia.gr/ferma/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2017/03/Vaccine-hesitancy-vaccine.pdf
Herd Immunity: How does it work?
World Health Organization
ANTI-VAX MOVEMENT LISTED BY WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION AS ONE OF THE TOP 10 HEALTH THREATS FOR 2019
Key Statistics for Cervical Cancer
Whooping Cough and the Vaccine (Shot) to Prevent It
Revealed: MMR research scandal
Measles outbreak: Anti-vaccination misinformation fueled by Russian propagandists, study finds
CDC estimate of global H1N1 pandemic deaths: 284,000
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System
Patients With Vaccine Allergy May Be Safely Vaccinated Following New Guidelines
Possible Side-effects from Vaccines
Del Bigtree vaccine safety complaints – HHS Vaccine Program responds
Causality assessment of adverse events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
Del Bigtree is stubborn
House Bill 3063
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