Vaccinations, Part Deux

A special Saturday post. I know...be still your beating heart.

This response to my article on vaccinations said everything I didn't and perhaps should have. I was very happy to see it in my comment thread this morning.  is both thoughtful and fact driven. I hope it illuminates just a moment of your day and then you go back to weekend yard work and hugging those babies.

See the original article here. Response by Bill.

There are many voices in the conversation about vaccines. Some of the loudest voices against vaccines include Jenny McCarthy (former Playboy Model), Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalo fame), Donald Trump (gadfly) and a former British physician by the name of Andrew Wakefield (former because his license to practice medicine was revoked). It was his now discredited 1998 “study” that purported to show a connection between vaccines and autism. Also in the “against vaccines” camp are parents of children who have complex and debilitating illnesses. Additional anxious parents who are worried about making the wrong decision regarding their children’s health are also in this group. Their anxiety about making the wrong choice is fueled by the proponents of “no vaccines” so they decide to do nothing at all.

On the other side of the conversation is the Center for Disease Control, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and similar organizations in Germany, Britain, etc – this list is too long to detail, virtually the entire global medical community, the U.S. government and sinister Big Pharma and your family doctor. Given the prevalence of the Autism diagnosis many of the people in the “yes vaccines” group also have autistic children (one good example can be found at http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/health/2011/01/07/dr-manny-stop-lying-autism-vaccine-link/).

The “no vaccine” group would have all of us believe that all of these people are in collusion with Big Pharma in a phenomenally large conspiracy and that all of these people have no conscience or no brain, or both.

It would be silly to maintain that any industry, including the pharmaceutical industry, has never done anything harmful for profit. There are too many examples where that has occurred. Those very examples are one of the proofs that hundreds of thousands of people in many organizations will not join a grand conspiracy. Law suits regarding asbestos, tobacco, E Coli, stock manipulation, breast implants, wage discrimination, and pharmaceuticals (to name just a few) all resulted in awards of billions of dollars.

Why would vaccines produce a lasting conspiracy over decades where these other issues did not? Do we really believe that our family pediatrician is part of the conspiracy so he or she can get the $20 for dispensing the shot? If they were that evil wouldn’t they rather our children have whooping cough, measles or small pox? All these illnesses have a higher profit margin.

Profit seems to be the primary incentive that is mentioned as a driver of the conspiracy. Thank God for profit. It has played a major part in all of the medical advances of the last 200 years. Even if the doctor or researcher creating the new drug or procedure is ready to do it for the good of mankind it is an investor that provides the lab, equipment, salaries, liability insurance and everything else to get the miracle to mankind.

Between 1901 and 2010 the Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded 196 times. Where are the ideas germinating and flourishing which garner these awards? None in China, 2 in what was the Soviet Union, Germany 16, France 10, Britain 29, Canada 2, the profit driven United States – 93. We will all be better off if profit continues to be a driving force in the development of new treatments. It certainly is an incentive for some on the “no vaccines” side of the conversation see http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2012/05/27/nobel-laureate-joins-anti-vaccination-crowd-at-autism-one/.

Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Unfortunately, we live in a world awash with malleable figures. Recent studies seem to show a marked increase in the number of children with autism. Some say this increase mirrors the increase in childhood vaccines and that correlation must imply causation. Other explanations are possible, including bad statistics.

One reason for a significant jump in the rate of diagnosed autism is that we are labeling many more conditions as part of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Some good reporting on this can be found here http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/53989787-78/autism-utah-kids-diagnosis.html.csphttp://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54378594-78/autism-utah-definition-expanded.html.csp. In Utah, a recent study shows an incident rate of 1 in 47 children verses the national rate, in the same study, of 1 in 88 children.

How does that correlate to the vaccination rate? Using the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine as a guide the national average for children under 35 months old is 91.6% vaccinated, in UT the number is 88.8%. If vaccines cause autism how is it that we have twice as many autistic children in UT than the national average, but lower vaccination rates? Could the problem be in the numbers? For the vaccination rates see http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/stats-surv/nis/data/tables_2011.htm#overall.

The new study that is being used by the “against vaccine” group was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. Why this data is good, but the other CDC studies which exonerate vaccines are suspect, is an obvious question. If the CDC is a major player in the conspiracy to vaccinate our children with dangerous vaccines why would they release a study showing an increase in autism?

In the case of UT the CDC study did not survey pediatricians or patients. It reviewed the medical records of 2,000 UT children primarily in the Salt Lake Metro area. Based on the notes in those records researchers determined if the child fit the revised profile of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. It was the smallest sample of any state in the survey and resulted in the most dramatic results. Even an amateur statistician would want to think twice before using the data to draw conclusions.

The new study also showed even more dramatic increases of autism in the Hispanic and African-American populations. Compared to the prior study (2002) Hispanic children went from a rate of 1 child in 270 with autism in 2002 to a rate of 1 in 125 in the 2008 study. These rates have almost no correlation to the rate of incidence in UT. Correlating vaccination rates with diagnosis rates in this population provides no insight as to the change in rate. Do we really believe that the physiology of the Hispanic children in our neighborhood is somehow so different from Caucasian children that it gives them three times the “immunity” to autism or is more likely that the data is at fault?

Apples and Oranges is a better explanation for the “spike” in diagnosis. The three studies in question use different sample sizes and different criteria as to what would be identified as Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Drawing comparative conclusions from these studies will lead to faulty decisions. The best conclusion that can be drawn is that more research needs to take place as to the cause of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and how it can be prevented.

Regardless of which side of the conversation one finds themselves, both sides must agree that vaccinations have done much more good than harm. Some people have chosen to forgo vaccination, especially since we live in a day when the awful scourge of small pox has been eradicated (by vaccination). Most feel that diseases like measles aren’t even really that significant. Most of these individuals have not had measles. In the first 20 years of measles vaccination in the U.S. it is estimated that 52 million cases of measles were averted and more importantly 17,400 cases of mental impairment and 5,200 deaths. Worldwide millions of deaths due to measles have been prevented. Similar numbers can be found for diphtheria and whooping cough.

The “no vaccine” group has proponents worldwide. Nigeria is one example where this has had devastating consequences. Nigeria is the only country in Africa to have never eradicated polio. However, the country’s polio eradication program suffered a major setback in 2003 when rumors swept across northern Nigeria that house-to-house immunization activities were part of an effort to sterilize Muslim girls. Alarmed and uninformed religious leaders and politicians pushed for a suspension of all campaign activities in several states, and a near freeze in others.

Sadly, this interruption led to large outbreaks of polio that not only crippled thousands of Nigerian children but also spread across Africa and beyond, eventually returning to 20 countries that were previously polio free. see USAID website.

My heart goes out to any parent whose child is suffering, for any reason. I believe this same kind of empathy and concern is present in the hearts of parents working in such organizations as CDC, NIH or the American Pediatric Academy. I believe it even exists in the hearts of parents doing vaccine research for Big Pharma. I think we will reduce the amount of childhood misery in the world by working with each other to discover the real causes of ASD and eradicate illnesses by wise use of vaccines.