What do Anti-Abortionists and Anti-Vaccineists Have in Common?

Well, for one, they both militantly and viciously attack and threaten the lives of those who disagree with them.  That’s what really struck me about this article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

They liken him to a prostitute. Someone with blood on his hands, who doesn’t care about the health of children.

Those are among the insults that Paul Offit gets by e-mail each week at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

He should probably expect to start getting a lot more.

Offit, 57, has been defending the safety of vaccines for years, in response to beliefs that they are tied to autism-related disorders. He continues in the same vein with his new book – Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure – which is already generating heat.

Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s and a leading expert on infectious diseases, is among many physicians who defend vaccines. The mainstream scientific and medical communities overwhelmingly agree there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, though the topic continues to receive study.

But Offit is arguably the issue’s most public face. After spending much of his career on vaccine research – a choice that proved unexpectedly lucrative – he now devotes most of his time to teaching and writing on vaccines.

Offit doesn’t think any of his critics mean him real harm, though he was rattled once when a caller knew his children’s names and where they went to school.

“We put a new security system on our house as a way of celebrating the launch of this book,” Offit said during an interview in his office. “Which I think most authors don’t do. Maybe Salman Rushdie.

Really, this reminds me of the violent anti-abortion movement in the 70s and 80s where clinics were blown up, clinicians attacked, doctors shot in their homes and their families targeted, all by people who claimed to be pro-life.

Except here, nobody’s dying from Autism. It’s not a terminal diagnosis.  The diseases vaccines are given for have a greater risk of death associated with them than the supposed risk of developing Autism post-vaccination – something that cannot be proven through the scientific method.  (Trust me, that people die from rubella, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio – all of that’s well proven).

So, instead of attacking the idea, you attack the person who advocates the idea, threatening, intimidating them into – what, agreement?  At best, silence.   That proves…..um….nothing except that you’re no better than a thug on the street, or an intolerant tyrant.  Whose child is Autistic.



Yet More Debunking

Thank you, New York Times.  Goodness, people, let’s protect our children from that which is real and learned through the blood of the lost instead of relying on the inferential and the fantastical.

September 9, 2008

Debunking an Autism Theory

Ten years ago, a clinical research paper triggered widespread and persistent fears that a combined vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella — the so-called MMR vaccine — causes autism in young children. That theory has been soundly refuted by a variety of other research over the years, and now a new study that tried to replicate the original study has provided further evidence that it was a false alarm.

The initial paper, published in The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, drew an inferential link between the vaccine, the gastrointestinal problems found in many autistic children and autism. In later papers, researchers theorized that the measles part of the vaccine caused inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract that allowed toxins to enter the body and damage the central nervous system, causing autism.

Now, a team of researchers from Columbia University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tried and failed to replicate the earlier findings.

These researchers studied a group of 38 children with gastrointestinal problems, of whom 25 were autistic and 13 were not. All had received the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. The scientists found no evidence that it had caused harm. Only 5 of the 25 autistic children had been vaccinated before they developed gastrointestinal problems — and subsequently autism. Genetic tests found remnants of the measles virus in only two children, one of whom was autistic, the other not.

The new study adds weight to a growing body of epidemiological studies and reviews that have debunked the notion that childhood vaccines cause autism. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the C.D.C. and the World Health Organization have found no evidence of a causal link between vaccines and autism.

Meanwhile, the original paper’s publisher — The Lancet — complained in 2004 that the lead author had concealed a conflict of interest. Ten of his co-authors retracted the paper’s implication that the vaccine might be linked to autism. Three of the authors are now defending themselves before a fitness-to-practice panel in London on charges related to their autism research.

Sadly, even after all of this, many parents of autistic children still blame the vaccine. The big losers in this debate are the children who are not being vaccinated because of parental fears and are at risk of contracting serious — sometimes fatal — diseases.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Measles Outbreak Fueled by the Unvaccinated

See, the thing that those who think that if they don’t vaccinate their child, they’re eliminating a risk of lifelong medical/behavioral issues.

What’s really happening is that they are trading one (perceived and not scientifically well documented) risk for another – the risk here of lifelong medical issues from risk of contracting encephalitis post-measles, amongst other issues.

Of course, while they’re exposing their children to this legitimate, well documented medical risk (anyone see the movie “Awakenings“? Those people suffered from a form of encephalitis contracted post-polio) as well as exposing others who have taken the step to immunize, protecting their children, but whose children happen to be immune-resistant.

Oh yeah, and while 123 people died during the last serious outbreak of Measles less than 20 years ago, nobody has yet died of Autism.


Vaccine refusals fuel measles outbreak

22 minutes ago

Parents refusing to have their children vaccinated against measles have helped drive cases of the illness to their worst levels in a dozen years in the United States, health officials reported on Thursday.

In 2008 alone, 131 cases of measles have been reported, with 15 serious enough to be hospitalized, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Most of those infected were not vaccinated and there is no reason for any cases to occur when vaccines can prevent them, the CDC said in a weekly report on death and diseases.

“Measles can be a severe, life-threatening illness” the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat said in a statement. “These cases resulted primarily from failure to vaccinate, many because of philosophical or religious belief.”

Only 13 percent of the cases were imported, the CDC said, naming Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, India, Israel, China, Germany, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Russia. “This is the lowest percentage of imported measles cases since 1996,” the CDC report reads.

At least 15 patients, including four children younger than 15, were hospitalized, although no one has died, the CDC said.

“In the decade before the measles vaccination program began, an estimated 3 to 4 million persons in the United States were infected each year. Of these, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and another 1,000 developed chronic disability from measles encephalitis.”

Encephalitis is a life-threatening inflammation of the brain that can be caused by viral infections such as measles.

More than 90 percent of the patients were not vaccinated, the CDC said, had no evidence of having been vaccinated, or were babies too young to have been vaccinated.

“Of the 95 patients eligible for vaccination, 63 were unvaccinated because of their or their parents’ philosophical or religious beliefs,” the CDC said.

Some religious groups refuse vaccination but many parents have fears that vaccines are unsafe or may cause conditions such as autism — fears the CDC says are unfounded.

“Increases in the proportion of the population declining vaccination for themselves or their children might lead to large-scale outbreaks in the United States,” the CDC said.

Outbreaks of measles are being reported now in Israel, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Britain among people who are declining the vaccine.

British health officials said in June that measles had again become endemic for the first time since the mid-1990s due to parents declining to get their children vaccinated.

The last serious U.S. outbreak was in 1989-1991, when 55,000 people got measles and 123 died. The CDC said 55 cases of measles were reported in 2006.

Measles kills about 250,000 people a year globally, mostly children in poor nations. The disease causes fever, coughing, irritation of the eyes and a rash. Serious complications include encephalitis and pneumonia that can be fatal.

“Measles knows no borders, but can be prevented for less than one dollar per child in a developing country. We must be steadfast in our efforts to reduce measles cases globally,” the Measles Initiative, which includes the American Red Cross, CDC and United Nations agencies, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Michael Kahn)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

On Vaccinations and the Greater Good

What strikes me most about this article below from the NYT is this statement:

“’I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,’ said Sybil Carlson”

Blows. Me. Away.

This society we enjoy counts on, relies, even requires that we all act in relation to the Greater Good. We pay taxes for services that provide for the Greater Good – clean water, sewage treatment, trash collection, education, roadway maintenance, Police and Fire services, Free Libraries, all these things are contributed to by all for the Greater Good.

Hundreds of Thousands sacrifice their children, as they have for the entire History of the United States, so that we may live in freedom and in democracy. They did that for the Greater Good, and what that very real sacrifice demands is that others also act for the Greater Good.

Appalling really. Personally I think those who choose to not vaccinate their children from deadly communicable diseases, for religious reasons or otherwise, not be allowed under any circumstances to:

1. Enroll that child in a public school

2. Enroll that child in community daycare, unless all children in the community daycare are also not vaccinated

3. Join a public swimming pool, or a swim club, unless all the children in the club are also not vaccinated

4. Participate in public services (such as Free Library Storytime) offered for the “Greater Good”

See, the difference between most religious objectors and this group is that religious objectors, such as the Amish, do not mingle in public activities. They live separately, educate separately, do not except where necessary mingle with the “English”.

People such as Ms. Carlson want all the benefits the Greater Good contributes to without taking any of the risks. It’s an insult, truly, to those who fought & died for that same Greater Good she refuses to ‘sacrifice’ too.

Again, it has been far to many years…

March 21, 2008

Public Health Risk Seen as Parents Reject Vaccines

SAN DIEGO — In a highly unusual outbreak of measles here last month, 12 children fell ill; nine of them had not been inoculated against the virus because their parents objected, and the other three were too young to receive vaccines.The parents who objected to their children being inoculated are among a small but growing number of vaccine skeptics in California and other states who take advantage of exemptions to laws requiring vaccinations for school-age children. The exemptions have been growing since the early 1990s at a rate that many epidemiologists, public health officials and physicians find disturbing.Children who are not vaccinated are unnecessarily susceptible to serious illnesses, they say, but also present a danger to children who have had their shots — the measles vaccine, for instance, is only 95 percent effective — and to those children too young to receive certain vaccines.

Measles, almost wholly eradicated in the United States through vaccines, can cause pneumonia and brain swelling, which in rare cases can lead to death. The measles outbreak here alarmed public health officials, sickened babies and sent one child to the hospital.

Every state allows medical exemptions, and most permit exemptions based on religious practices. But an increasing number of the vaccine skeptics belong to a different group — those who object to the inoculations because of their personal beliefs, often related to an unproven notion that vaccines are linked to autism and other disorders.

Twenty states, including California, Ohio and Texas, allow some kind of personal exemption, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University.

“I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,” said Sybil Carlson, whose 6-year-old son goes to school with several of the children hit by the measles outbreak here. The boy is immunized against some diseases but not measles, Ms. Carlson said, while his 3-year-old brother has had just one shot, protecting him against meningitis.

“When I began to read about vaccines and how they work,” she said, “I saw medical studies, not given to use by the mainstream media, connecting them with neurological disorders, asthma and immunology.”

Ms. Carlson said she understood what was at stake. “I cannot deny that my child can put someone else at risk,” she said.

In 1991, less than 1 percent of children in the states with personal-belief exemptions went without vaccines based on the exemption; by 2004, the most recent year for which data are available, the percentage had increased to 2.54 percent, said Saad B. Omer, an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

While nationwide over 90 percent of children old enough to receive vaccines get them, the number of exemptions worries many health officials and experts. They say that vaccines have saved countless lives, and that personal-belief exemptions are potentially dangerous and bad public policy because they are not based on sound science.

“If you have clusters of exemptions, you increase the risk of exposing everyone in the community,” said Dr. Omer, who has extensively studied disease outbreaks and vaccines.

It is the absence, or close to it, of some illnesses in the United States that keep some parents from opting for the shots. Worldwide, 242,000 children a year die from measles, but it used to be near one million. The deaths have dropped because of vaccination, a 68 percent decrease from 2000 to 2006.

“The very success of immunizations has turned out to be an Achilles’ heel,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “Most of these parents have never seen measles, and don’t realize it could be a bad disease so they turn their concerns to unfounded risks. They do not perceive risk of the disease but perceive risk of the vaccine.”

Dr. Sawyer and the vast majority of pediatricians believe strongly that vaccinations are the cornerstone of sound public health. Many doctors view the so-called exempters as parasites, of a sort, benefiting from the otherwise inoculated majority.

Most children get immunized to measles from a combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, a live virus.

While the picture of an unvaccinated child was once that of the offspring of poor and uneducated parents, “exempters” are often well educated and financially stable, and hold a host of like-minded child-rearing beliefs.

Vaccine skeptics provide differing explanations for their belief that vaccines may cause various illnesses and disorders, including autism.

Recent news that a federal vaccine court agreed to pay the family of an autistic child in Georgia who had an underlying mitochondrial disorder has led some skeptics to speculate that vaccines may worsen such conditions. Again, researchers say there is no evidence to support this thesis.

Alexandra Stewart, director of the Epidemiology of U.S. Immunization Law project at George Washington University, said many of these parents are influenced by misinformation obtained from Web sites that oppose vaccination.

“The autism debate has convinced these parents to refuse vaccines to the detriment of their own children as well as the community,” Ms. Stewart said.

While many parents meet deep resistance and even hostility from pediatricians when they choose to delay, space or reject vaccines, they are often able to find doctors who support their choice.

“I do think vaccines help with the public health and helping prevent the occasional fatality,” said Dr. Bob Sears, the son of the well-known child-care author by the same name, who practices pediatrics in San Clemente. Roughly 20 percent of his patients do not vaccinate, Dr. Sears said, and another 20 percent partially vaccinate.

“I don’t think it is such a critical public health issue that we should force parents into it,” Dr. Sears said. “I don’t lecture the parents or try to change their mind; if they flat out tell me they understand the risks I feel that I should be very respectful of their decision.”

Some parents of unvaccinated children go to great lengths to expose their children to childhood diseases to help them build natural immunities.

In the wake of last month’s outbreak, Linda Palmer considered sending her son to a measles party to contract the virus. Several years ago, the boy, now 12, contracted chicken pox when Ms. Palmer had him attend a gathering of children with that virus.

“It is a very common thing in the natural-health oriented world,” Ms. Palmer said of the parties.

She ultimately decided against the measles party for fear of having her son ostracized if he became ill.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, measles outbreaks in Alaska and California triggered strong enforcement of vaccine mandates by states, and exemption laws followed.

While the laws vary from state to state, most allow children to attend school if their parents agree to keep them home during any outbreak of illnesses prevented by vaccines. The easier it is to get an exemption — some states require barely any paperwork — the more people opt for them, according to Dr. Omer’s research, supported by other vaccine experts.

There are differences within states, too. There tend to be geographic clusters of “exempters” in certain counties or even neighborhoods or schools. According to a 2006 article in The Journal of The American Medical Association, exemption rates of 15 percent to 18 percent have been found in Ashland, Ore., and Vashon, Wash. In California, where the statewide rate is about 1.5 percent, some counties were as high as 10 percent to 19 percent of kindergartners.

In the San Diego measles outbreak, four of the cases, including the first one, came from a single charter school, and 17 children stayed home during the outbreak to avoid contracting the illness.

There is substantial evidence that communities with pools of unvaccinated clusters risk infecting a broad community that includes people who have been inoculated.

For instance, in a 2006 mumps outbreak in Iowa that infected 219 people, the majority of those sickened had been vaccinated. In a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana, there were 34 cases, including six people who had been vaccinated.

Here in California, six pertussis outbreaks infected 24 people in 2007; only 2 of 24 were documented as having been appropriately immunized.

A surveillance program in the mid ’90s in Canada of infants and preschoolers found that cases of Hib fell to between 8 and 10 cases a year from 550 a year after a vaccine program was begun, and roughly half of those cases were among children whose vaccine failed.

Gardiner Harris contributed reporting from Washington.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

I for one am writing my State Representatives now to add requirements and restrictions around vaccination abstinence in order to preserve and protect the Greater Good whose benefits I most definitely enjoy.

P.S. Ms. Carlson, how DARE you decide that your child is more important than my child? What if your un-vaccinated child kills my vaccinated child by, say, Polio or Rubella or German Measles? Is that murder?

Yeah, I’m seeing red over that comment.

I think it has been far too many years…

since our children were struck blind, deaf, paralyzed or dead in the middle of the night. It mattered not how much money their parents had, what their ethnic background was, or what their religious beliefs were.

What saddens and terrifies me is that this has made that which has kept us all safe from these devastating diseases is now being vilified by the ignorant. See this article for more on this phenomenon:

Thu, 18 Oct 2007 08:21:42 GMT
By STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press Writer
BOSTON – Sabrina Rahim doesn’t practice any particular faith, but she had no problem signing a letter declaring that because of her deeply held religious beliefs, her 4-year-old son should be exempt from the vaccinations required to enter preschool.
She is among a small but growing number of parents around the country who are claiming religious exemptions to avoid vaccinating their children when the real reason may be skepticism of the shots or concern they can cause other illnesses. Some of these parents say they are being forced to lie because of the way the vaccination laws are written in their states.

“It’s misleading,” Rahim admitted, but she said she fears that earlier vaccinations may be to blame for her son’s autism. “I find it very troubling, but for my son’s safety, I feel this is the only option we have.”

An Associated Press examination of states’ vaccination records and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many states are seeing increases in the rate of religious exemptions claimed for kindergartners.

“Do I think that religious exemptions have become the default? Absolutely,” said Dr. Paul Offit, head of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and one of the harshest critics of the anti-vaccine movement. He said the resistance to vaccines is “an irrational, fear-based decision.”

The number of exemptions is extremely small in percentage terms and represents just a few thousand of the 3.7 million children entering kindergarten in 2005, the most recent figure available.

But public health officials say it takes only a few people to cause an outbreak that can put large numbers of lives at risk.

“When you choose not to get a vaccine, you’re not just making a choice for yourself, you’re making a choice for the person sitting next to you,” said Dr. Lance Rodewald, director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division.

All states have some requirement that youngsters be immunized against such childhood diseases as measles, mumps, chickenpox, diphtheria and whooping cough.

Twenty-eight states, including Florida, Massachusetts and New York, allow parents to opt out for medical or religious reasons only. Twenty other states, among them California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio, also allow parents to cite personal or philosophical reasons. Mississippi and West Virginia allow exemptions for medical reasons only.

From 2003 to 2007, religious exemptions for kindergartners increased, in some cases doubled or tripled, in 20 of the 28 states that allow only medical or religious exemptions, the AP found. Religious exemptions decreased in three of these states — Nebraska, Wyoming, South Carolina — and were unchanged in five others.

The rate of exemption requests is also increasing.

For example, in Massachusetts, the rate of those seeking exemptions has more than doubled in the past decade — from 0.24 percent, or 210, in 1996 to 0.60 percent, or 474, in 2006.

In Florida, 1,249 children claimed religious exemptions in 2006, almost double the 661 who did so just four years earlier. That was an increase of 0.3 to 0.6 percent of the student population. Georgia, New Hampshire and Alabama saw their rates double in the past four years.

The numbers from the various states cannot be added up with accuracy. Some states used a sampling of students to gauge levels of vaccinations. Others surveyed all or nearly all students.

Fifteen of the 20 states that allow both religious and philosophical exemptions have seen increases in both, according to the AP’s findings.

While some parents — Christian Scientists and certain fundamentalists, for example — have genuine religious objections to medicine, it is clear that others are simply distrustful of shots.

Some parents say they are not convinced vaccinations help. Others fear the vaccinations themselves may make their children sick and even cause autism.
Even though government-funded studies have found no link between vaccines and autism, loosely organized groups of parents and even popular cultural figures such as radio host Don Imus have voiced concerns. Most of the furor on Internet message boards and Web sites has been about a mercury-based preservative once used in vaccines that some believe contributes to neurological disorders.
Unvaccinated children can spread diseases to others who have not gotten their shots or those for whom vaccinations provided less-than-complete protection.
In 1991, a religious group in Philadelphia that chose not to immunize its children touched off an outbreak of measles that claimed at least eight lives and sickened more than 700 people, mostly children.
And in 2005, an Indiana girl who had not been immunized picked up the measles virus at an orphanage in Romania and unknowingly brought it back to a church group. Within a month, the number of people infected had grown to 31 in what health officials said was the nation’s worst outbreak of the disease in a decade.
Rachel Magni, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mother in Newton, Mass., said she is afraid vaccines could harm her children and “overwhelm their bodies.” Even though she attends a Protestant church that allows vaccinations, Magni pursued a religious exemption so her 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, who have never been vaccinated, could attend preschool.
“I felt that the risk of the vaccine was worse than the risk of the actual disease,” she said.
Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, one of the leading vaccine skeptic groups, said she discourages parents from pursuing religious exemptions unless they are genuine. Instead, Fisher said, parents should work to change the laws in their states.
“We counsel that if you do not live in a state that has a philosophical exemption, you still have to obey the law,” she said.
Even so, Fisher said, she empathizes with parents tempted to claim the religious exemption: “If a parent has a child who has had a deterioration after vaccination and the doctor says that’s just a coincidence, you have to keep vaccinating this child, what is the parent left with?”
Offit said he knows of no state that enforces any penalty for parents who falsely claim a religious exemption.
“I think that wouldn’t be worth it because that’s just such an emotional issue for people. Our country was founded on the notion of religious freedom,” he said.
In 2002, four Arkansas families challenged the state’s policy allowing religious exemptions only if a parent could prove membership in a recognized religion prohibiting vaccination. The court struck down the policy and the state began allowing both religious and philosophical exemptions.
Religious and medical exemptions, which had been climbing, plummeted, while the number of philosophical exemptions spiked.
In the first year alone, more parents applied for philosophical exemptions than religious and medical exemptions combined. From 2001 to 2004, the total number of students seeking exemptions in Arkansas more than doubled, from 529 to 1,145.
Dr. Janet Levitan, a pediatrician in Brookline, Mass., said she counsels patients who worry that vaccines could harm their children to pursue a religious exemption if that is their only option.
“I tell them if you don’t want to vaccinate for philosophical reasons and the state doesn’t allow that, then say it’s for religious reasons,” she said. “It says you have to state that vaccination conflicts with your religious belief. It doesn’t say you have to actually have that religious belief. So just state it.”

Those who do not understand or honor history are condemned to repeat it.