More vaccine-autism facts for the fact-averse.
- A massive new study finds absolutely no link between MMR vaccination and autism.
- Some question the expenditure of yet more research money on convincing conspiracy theorists.
- There are already 206 measles cases this year in the U.S., and the disease is up by 30% globally, despite previous near-eradication.
The 2019 Danish vaccine-autism study<p>The study from scientists at Denmark's Statens Serum Institut finds no statistical link whatsoever between the administration of MMR doses and the likelihood of developing autism. It also found no correlation between areas in which vaccines are administered and clusters of autism diagnoses occur. In fact, as the anti-vax movement has grown, so has the incidence of autism, from 1 out of 68 eight-year-olds having it in 2016, to <a href="http://www.autism-society.org/news/2018-cdc-autism-incidence-rate-statement-from-the-autism-society/" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">1 out of 59 in 2018</a>.</p><p>The researchers studied the medical histories of Danish children born between 1999 and the end of 2010. Using population registries, they were able assess other risk factors — including sibling histories of autism — and look for correspondences between vaccinations and the occurrence of autism. Speaking of the statistics presented in the study, global health expert <a href="http://vaccines.emory.edu/faculty-evc/primary-faculty/omer_saad.html" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">Saad Omer</a> tells the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/03/05/measles-vaccine-doesnt-cause-autism-says-new-decade-long-study-half-million-people/?utm_term=.b8972078fe24" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1"><em>Washington Post</em></a>, "The appropriate interpretation is that there's no association whatsoever."</p>
Money well spent or wasted?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTI1ODc0Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjMyMTI3Nn0.vYCGA4qiVQfOniVQ7psQueQDLUvAGp-D_DFagc6TYE8/img.jpg?width=980" id="92bd1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="16890fa6a8ed7970265eae363c83ac0c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images)<p>Dispositive as the new study's evidence is, Omer and others consider it questionable to use research money sorely needed elsewhere to convince anti-vaxxers. As bioethicist <a href="https://sites.google.com/site/sydmjohnson/" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">Syd M Johnson</a> says, "They are immune to facts." Alongside the study in <em>Annals</em> is an <a href="https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2727208/further-evidence-mmr-vaccine-safety-scientific-communications-considerations" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">editorial</a> by Omer decrying this waste of time, effort, and money on people living in what he calls a "fact-resistant" world.</p><p>Omer's concerned that anti-vaxxer beliefs undermine general public faith in vaccines, so he sees value in spending <em>some</em> money on continuing to gather contrary evidence, but only "if the cost, including the opportunity cost, of these studies is not too high." By "opportunity cost," Omer refers to the lost chance of developing cures with these funds, warning, "continuing to evaluate the MMR-autism hypothesis might come at the expense of not pursuing some of the more promising leads."</p>
A teen leading the way<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTI1ODc1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzg5MjM3Nn0.z45s5snGwksRvU2UCoPtHwEwHTJLkOw1OD8w6jYmAtc/img.jpg?width=980" id="7b218" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18e486afe78bcfe29e74f940d86c571f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Ethan Lindenberger addresses the U.S. Senate.
(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)<p>The new report coincides with last week's worrying hearing in the U.S. Senate at which 18-year-old <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/06/700617424/18-year-old-testifies-about-getting-vaccinated-despite-mothers-anti-vaccine-beli" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">Ethan Lindenberger</a> testified about his decision to get himself vaccinated against the wishes of his parents. He's written on <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/NoStupidQuestions/comments/9xm989/my_parents_are_kind_of_stupid_and_dont_believe_in/?st=JRTFJJR5&sh=0b2c98a8" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">Reddit</a> that his mother became convinced from Facebook posts that vaccinations "are some kind of government scheme." His Reddit thread says, "I have an appointment in a few weeks to get my shots! My mom was especially angry but my dad said because I'm 18 he doesn't care that much. Although my mom's trying to convince me to not do it and saying I don't care about her, I know that this is something I need to do regardless."</p><p>Facebook <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/02/15/facebook-will-consider-removing-or-demoting-anti-vaccination-recommendations-amid-backlash/?utm_term=.f3f6430fe4d0" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">claims</a> to have "taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook, but we know we have more to do." On March 6, Facebook announced a <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-plans-tackle-anti-vaccine-misinformation-rejecting-ads-de-ranking-pages-2019-3" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">new plan</a>. </p>
Your child or mine?<p>It's understandable that anti-vaxxer parents expect to be able to control the health decisions regarding their own children, but unfortunately, their kids — and the other with whom they come in contact — are not immune to infectious diseases.</p><p>As a result, everyone else has no choice but to sit by and watch the unwarranted return of serious diseases. Many U.S. states allow "religious" exemptions that allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children, but it's not just a U.S. problem. With the prevalence of measles up by 30% globally, the World Health Organization ranks "<a href="https://www.who.int/emergencies/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">vaccine hesitancy</a>" among the top 10 threats to global health in 2019, at a cost of 1.5 million lives annually .</p>
A measles comeback is not the sort of return our children deserve.
- The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven't received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the last 17 years.
- In 2016 in Europe there were 5,273 cases of measles. One year later that jumped to 21,315 cases.
- Discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield's false study linking vaccines and autism still influences parents, two decades later.
A medical worker injects a baby with a measles-rubella (MR) vaccine at a health station in Banda Aceh in Aceh province on September 19, 2018. Photo by CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP<p>The CDC <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6740a4.htm?s_cid=mm6740a4_e" target="_blank">notes</a> that coverage was lowest among the uninsured and children covered under Medicaid. A free, federally-funded <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/index.html" target="_blank">Vaccines For Children</a> program exists, causing <em>The </em><em>Washington Post</em> to speculate that at least part of this issue might be education. </p><p>Yet really, this entire debacle is indicative of a lack of education. Vaccine researcher Peter Hotez, whose daughter suffers from autism, has published a book detailing the issue, in which which he <a href="https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/10/16/17964992/vaccine-autism-book-peter-hotez" target="_blank">explains</a>: </p><blockquote>From my experience, a majority of vaccine-hesitant parents are not deeply dug in. They've gotten misinformation from anti-vaccine websites and social media, or they've heard something unsavory about vaccines from friends and relatives… Then there's another group, maybe 10 to 20 percent who are deeply dug in and believe all of the fake conspiracy theories. Those individuals are really difficult to reach.</blockquote><p>For most of history, disease was ambiguous, random, metaphysical even — there is no dearth in literature relating sickness with gods and demons. It was long thought karma was the reason you fell ill or died. We know better today, yet too many people refuse to recognize this basic fact, placing their faith in biological mysticism. This is child abuse, yet sadly this is akin to smartphone addiction: we're simply not ready to label it as such on a societal scale. </p><p>Vaccine science is not perfect. Each year, the efficacy of the influenza vaccine is an educated guess. However, just because researchers haven't nailed every facet of disease does not mean we should write off the science. Millions of lives have been saved due to vaccines. Now, if current trends continues, millions more will be put at risk.</p><p>The majority of American children are vaccinated. I've heard complaints by a number of friends whose children are put on a rigorous schedule from birth; their skepticism of the validity of this approach is warranted. We should debate courses. We should not, however, debate basic science, such as vaccinating children for measles or polio. Parents putting their children at risk due to their own lack of common sense is not only unfair, it's dangerous.</p><p>--</p><p><span></span><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</em></p>
It's been 100 years since the world's last deadliest flu pandemic. Experts warn that another one is inevitable, but are we ready?
- 100 years ago, the Spanish Flu killed over 50 million people.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 80,000 Americans died of the flu last winter.
- Experts stress that the world needs to take precautions and prepare for the next pandemic.
History of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODczOTUzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjI3MjAyNH0.yssTkvJY3QgwANQ_-QDhDLuamLYJ32VewXNQSlRHbzg/img.jpg?width=980" id="58916" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1195e8e98e4ca9687f36ad12c63f4c70" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Let's look back at how the Spanish flu first got its start. </p><p>It was the fall of 1918 and the First Great War in Europe was just winding down. Americans had been shipped overseas and were helping assist the Allies as they fought against the Germans. Soldiers around the globe dug out and wintered through trenches in horrible and brutal conditions. They had probably thought they'd seen the worst of things by this point. </p><p>Lurking just somewhere over the horizon, however, was one of the deadliest flus the world would ever face. </p><p>Over a third of the world's population became infected. Erupting in pockets around the globe the outbreaks swept through Asia, Europe, Africa and America by bustling trade routes. Many also suspected rapid troop movement assisted in the spread of the disease. Around 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the two year pandemic. </p><p>The intensity and speed in which the pandemic struck was unfathomable at the time. With over 500 million people infected and an estimated 50 million deaths worldwide, the global death toll eclipsed even World War I casualties. The disease is not "Spanish" in origin per say, but because of wartime censorship in other countries, Spain was the first to report of the pandemic. </p><p>Our most recent flu seasons pale in comparison to the great plight wrought from the Spanish flu.</p>
Latest trends in America’s flu seasons<p>For the most part, vaccinations, antibiotics and better global hygiene has drastically reduced the effects of influenza and other associated diseases. But viruses never rest — and they never stop evolving. </p><p>Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that a preliminary figure of last year's winter flu season was around 80,000 deaths. This figure may be revised, but it's unlikely the numbers will go down. Dr. Daniel Jernigan, a CDC flu expert, believes that the deaths were higher than usual because there are both more Americans and more elderly people now.</p><p>Luckily, Jernigan believes that <a href="http://www.who.int/influenza/surveillance_monitoring/updates/latest_update_GIP_surveillance/en/" target="_blank">next year's flu season </a>is stacking up to be both a milder strain and also more receptive to vaccination. "We don't know what's going to happen," he said, "but we're seeing more encouraging signs than we were early last year."</p><p>While we might be all right for the upcoming flu season. Others warn that a hidden virus could jumpstart a new global pandemic.<br></p>
The U.S is not ready for a major pandemic<p>One of the worst case scenarios in the short term, could be the release of a hidden, lethal and highly infectious flu strain that breaks out into a crowded city. According to the John Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, this would be devastating for an unprepared city that lacked a strong public health infrastructure.</p><p>A fast moving virus could hitch a ride from one city to a next and spread internationally before health officials even knew what hit humanity. Scientists at John Hopkins believe that avian influenza viruses pose the greatest risk if they evolve into deadlier strains. Amesh Adalja from the Center of Healthy Security at John Hopkins states: "In terms of pandemic potential, an avian influenza virus is thought to be a likely candidate, based on prior pandemics."</p><p>Yet, there are safeguards that didn't exist 100 years ago we can use to preemptively ward off a potential flu pandemic. </p><p>For example we can:</p><ul><li>Improve vaccine research and deployment. Funding for high-priority vaccines is a must to create herd immunity. </li><li>Increase pandemic preparation funding. Public health officials need to be able to deal with a multiple of infected at once.</li><li>Create a global response network that can quickly intervene in a pandemic. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) needs a counterpart that can take action once any kind of pandemic has been declared. </li></ul><p>The more we do to combat these diseases now, the less risk we have for another worldwide pandemic later.</p>
Anti-vaxxers may have a friend coming into the White House, and medical experts are worried.
A small but tenacious group of parents and others who are against vaccines may soon enjoy support from the White House, a fact that is causing health experts alarm. Since 2000, a small but tenacious group of parents have refused to vaccinate their children and advocate against it, believing that the contents cause autism. Because of this, cases of measles, whooping cough, and mumps have increased dramatically, illnesses which medical science was thought to have under control, and in the case of measles, nearly wiped out.