<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Uretsky Vaccine mythis still persist

Vaccine Myths Still Persist


There’s a measles outbreak. It didn’t have to be. Measles could have been prevented, at least mostly, by routine vaccination, but in 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a report claiming that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine was apparently the cause of autism. This report caused parents to be concerned. and a growing number to reject vaccination. The reply, which is 360 pages long and has the catchy title “Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines: A Report of the Committee to Review the Adverse Consequences of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines,” was issued by the Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review the Adverse Consequences of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines. The paperback edition costs $96.75, but it’s available for free as a download. Result: “... the committee found:

• no evidence bearing on a causal relation between DPT vaccine and autism;

• insufficient evidence to indicate a causal relation between DPT vaccine and aseptic meningitis, chronic neurologic damage, erythema multiforme or other rash, Guillain-Barrè syndrome, hemolytic anemia, juvenile diabetes, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder, peripheral mononeuropathy, or thrombocytopenia, and between the currently used rubella vaccine (RA 27/3) and radiculoneuritis and other neuropathies or thrombocytopenic purpura ...”

They did find a couple of undesirable effects of vaccines, but not the ones that the anti-vaccination people are concerned about.

Meanwhile, over at the web site Safeminds.org there’s an anonymous entry which says “We can all hide our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening to us — pretend the exponential rise in autism spectrum disorders, Crohn’s disease, allergies, asthma, childhood cancer, childhood obesity, attention disorders, and even suicides has nothing to do with us, has no effect on us, and isn’t important.”

Safeminds itself “was founded to raise awareness, support research, change policy and focus national attention on the growing evidence of a link between mercury and neurological disorders.”

The US Food and Drug Administration has already responded by providing a list of commercial vaccines and the levels of thimerosal, the mercury-containing preservative, that is being blamed for the unwanted effects. Most vaccines never contained any mercury, and those that still do have such reduced levels that one might reasonably conclude that if the thimerosal was the cause of neurologic conditions, the case rate would be in decline rather than, as the anti-vaccination contingent claim, increasing.

Measles, and other vaccine preventable diseases are serious public health risks, if not to the unvaccinated children (there was a time when measles, mumps and chicken pox were the rites of passage of childhood) then to infants too young to be vaccinated or people with impaired immune systems. These include cancer patients and, increasingly, people taking biological response modifiers for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. What is interesting about vaccine hesitancy is that while it includes some people from the anti-science (global warming and evolution rejection) right wing, it includes many affluent, well educated people.

The American Academy of Pediatrics gives a generally favorable description of the vaccine hesitant parent, with the key word being “hesitant,” uncertain and looking for more information. These are the same well educated parents who feel more comfortable buying organic foods. It takes time that some physicians are resistant to give – but they’re well educated and willing to learn.

The challenge divides along political lines, as the New York Times reported under the headline “Measles Outbreak Proves Delicate Issue to GOP Field.” They’re the ones who own the small government and conspiracy theory contingent. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on Feb. 2 said that parents “need to have some measure of choice” about vaccinating their children, thereby establishing his credibility among Republican core voters, and risking the lives of newborn infants. One of the worst things that could happen would be for something as important as vaccination to become a political litmus test for conservative legitimacy. No vaccine is 100% safe and none is 100% effective, but for public health, near universal vaccination is essential. There are a large number of reports on convincing vaccine hesitant parents to care for their child. What we need is a method of convincing Republican politicians. Unfortunately, we may do as well as we did getting them to expand Medicaid.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email sdu01@outlook.com.

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2015


Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652