Celebrities Endorsing Stupid Things: (like) The Anti-Vaccination Movement

Relatively Interesting April 29, 2010 25
Celebrities Endorsing Stupid Things: (like) The Anti-Vaccination Movement

My skeptical radar is activated each time I hear a celebrity endorse a product or promote a cause. While generally harmless, celebrities have such large audiences that they have the ability to broadcast their message to a large number of people, and can impact their decisions.

Celebrity endorsements in sports, for example, will take a famous athlete, put their name on a box/bottle, and try to catch the consumer’s eye. For substantial amounts of cash, they will lend their name to a product that they may or may not even use, and which may or may not have some benefit to the consumer.

I am concerned, however, when celebrities endorse and promote something that has an obvious negative impact to an individual or to a group of individuals, and when they claim they know the “truth” or “they are the experts” (as if there is some sort of conspiracy and only they have access to the real information).

Case and point, Jenny McCarthy.

Jenny has sipped the antivax Kool Aid, and now spreads her gospel across any media that will let her. She is a strong believer that autism is a direct result from vaccines. I will not spend any time debunking this myth, as it has been covered in countless articles and science journals, but I will review the common misconception surrounding vaccines, and the impact of these misconceptions.

You can make an argument that vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical discovery (smallpox alone has killed approximately 500 million people, until its vaccine was developed), and research shows no evidence to indicate a link between vaccines and autism. No matter which evidence or advantage is put forward, the antivax movement will not change their opinion (sure, maybe there are some, but the big names, like Jenny, won’t). Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s study on autism and vaccines has been formally retracted by the Lancet. Surely, this would sway Jenny’s to the rational side? No, Wakefield is being treated as a martyr.

The fact of the matter is, Jenny McCarthy is not helping people. She is jeopardizing the lives of children: vaccinated, and not. When the general population loses herd immunity, then very young kids (babies), who aren’t old enough to take certain vaccines, are at risk.

Phil Plait, says it best on his blog, Bad Astronomy:

“If you think Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and the rest of the ignorant antiscience antivax people are right, then read this story. I dare you. David McCaffery writes about his daughter, Dana, who was four weeks old when she died. Too young to get vaccinated herself, she contracted whooping cough because vaccination rates in that part of Australia are too low to provide herd immunity. This poor little girl died in her father’s arms, and the blame rests squarely on the antivaccination movement. That’s not an anecdote, that’s data.

After Dana’s story was told on the Australian TV show “Sunday Night” there was such a reaction that Channel 7 decided to hold a forum about vaccinations. Richard Saunders and Rachael Dunlop from The Australian Skeptics were there — you can read Rachael’s personal account of the forum — and Richard has posted video from the forum. (note that the video has been removed off YouTube. Please read the transcript here.)

This is heartbreaking, and made worse by Meryl Dorey, the biggest antivax mouthpiece in Australia. Listening to her makes my blood boil. She is a typical antivax promoter: she has no real data, so she manipulates and spins. She throws baseless accusations at the doctor on stage, and uses all sorts of tactics like that to convince people she’s right.

She isn’t. Vaccinations do not cause autism. Vaccinations have some small risk, but it’s far, far less than the danger from measles, rubella, whooping cough, and all the other easily preventable diseases.

Then listen (at 6:30 into the video) to the woman who didn’t vaccinate her son. She herself says she doesn’t know enough about the issue to say much in response to another woman in the audience who was concerned over her own son’s safety. She admitted she doesn’t have all the facts, but she still decided not to vaccinate her kid.

Wow. The antivax movement thrives on ignorance like that.

Then, at about 7:00 into the video, the McCafferys speak. It tears my heart apart to hear them talk about their baby daughter. The only good thing here is that Meryl Dorey had her arguments eviscerated by the doctor on stage. That’s because her arguments have no substance, no science, no real data behind them.

All the antivaxxers have is panic and fear and lies. (see images below)

Talk to your doctor, and if they recommend it, vaccinate your kids. You may be saving far more than just their lives; the sad truth is that if more parents in Australia had gotten vaccinations for their children, Dana McCaffery would still be alive today.

If you fight against vaccines, then keep that fact in mind.”

The most startling of facts comes from The Jenny McCarthy Body Count, an anti-antivax website. The author keeps track of the body count associated with people who are not vaccinated:

During the H1N1 scare, I was vaccinated quite early. Others were afraid to do so. They didn’t “trust” the formula. They didn’t “trust” that it had been tested enough. They didn’t want to give more money to “big pharma”. The H1N1 vaccine was just another flu vaccine – like the ones that are developed every year. The side effects of the vaccine are minuscule compared to being infected with H1N1. We can thank the H1N1 vaccine for the relatively low impact H1N1 had on our population – it spread quickly, but the infection rate declined steeply once people had access to the vaccine. This is why we don’t even hear about H1N1 any more.

The antivax group uses propaganda and rhetoric, fear mongering, and scare tactics to get their point across. Rather than putting forth scientific evidence for their claims, they use images like these:

antivaccination postcard

and this

antivaccination propaganda

Credit:  http://www.skepticnorth.com/2009/10/using-facebooks-powers-for-good-part-2.html

Tell me, how can a vaccine cause Shaken Baby Syndrome? How can a vaccine cause Polio? The poster creator is simply listing off any disease/syndrome they can think of, without a single point of reference.

It’s a sad state of affairs when Jenny McCarthy and the antivax movement has made such an impact that governments around the world have had to update their documentation and try and sway the public back to their proper immunization schedule. For example, the Canadian Government released a document in late 2009 that describes the misconceptions surrounding vaccines.

From Health Canada

The Issue

Misconceptions about vaccine safety may cause a decrease in the number of Canadians who are immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, polio, and mumps. This could possibly result in epidemics of diseases that are seldom seen these days in developed countries.

Background

The successful use of vaccines in preventing disease means that most parents of young children in Canada today have never seen a life-threatening case of diphtheria or polio. The continued success of immunization programs depends on a high level of public participation due to confidence in the safety of vaccines.

Unfortunately, a small minority of people actively oppose immunization. Their messages, which are often dramatic and misleading, receive wide publicity through print, radio, television, and the Internet. This can cause confusion for people who want to make responsible, informed decisions about immunization for their children and themselves.

Misconception: Vaccines are not safe.

The Facts: Vaccines are among the safest tools of modern medicine. You may have some swelling or tenderness at the spot where you get the needle, or a mild fever, but these reactions are most often minor and temporary. Serious side effects can happen, but are extremely rare. For example, severe allergic reactions occur in Canada less often than once per 100 000 doses of vaccine.

On the other hand, the diseases that vaccines fight pose serious threats. Diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, and whooping cough can lead to paralysis, pneumonia, choking, brain damage, heart problems, and even death. The dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases are many times greater than the risk of a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine.

Misconception: Vaccines don’t work.

The Facts: When there is an outbreak of a disease, some people who have been immunized get sick. This can lead to the idea that vaccines don’t work. Every individual is different, and about 10 to 15 per cent of people vaccinated will not develop immunity to the disease. However, immunization does reduce the risk of severe disease. Immunization is the most effective way to prevent illness and to reduce the risk of transmitting infections to those around you.

Misconception: Vaccines are linked to chronic diseases such as autism, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Crohn’s disease.

The Facts: These are false claims made by anti-vaccine books and Web sites. Recent research using the best scientific methods, and reviews of studies from around the world, provide strong evidence that:

• MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine does not cause autism or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s).
• Hepatitis B vaccine does not cause multiple sclerosis (MS) or relapses of pre-existing MS.
• Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine does not cause brain damage.
• Childhood vaccines do not increase the risk of asthma.
• Vaccines do not cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Misconception: Vaccines weaken the immune system.

The Facts: Vaccines strengthen the immune system to protect children and adults from specific diseases. Scientists estimate that the immune system can recognize and respond to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of different organisms. The vaccines recommended for Canadian children and adults use only a small portion of the immune system’s “memory.”

Misconception: There are many serious side effects from vaccines.

The Facts: The vast majority of vaccine adverse events are minor and temporary, like a sore arm or mild fever. These can often be controlled by taking acetaminophen. More serious adverse events occur rarely – about one per thousand to one per million doses, and some are so rare that the risk cannot even be accurately assessed.

In Canada, serious side effects, like Guillain-Barré Syndrome, from the flu vaccine occur very rarely – about one for every million shots administered. Influenza infection can also cause Guillain-Barré syndrome. Other serious adverse events of vaccines include severe allergic reactions, low platelets in the blood (making people bleed easily), etc. The vast majority of side effects from vaccines are minor and temporary.

Misconception: Vaccines are not necessary because the diseases are gone.

The Facts: You are not safe from a vaccine-preventable disease just because it is uncommon in Canada. Travelers can carry diseases from country to country, and if you are not immunized you could be at serious risk. It is also important to realize that some people cannot have vaccines because of certain medical conditions or severe allergies. When you are vaccinated, you help protect the people who can’t have vaccines.

Experience from other countries shows that diseases return quickly when fewer people are immunized. For example, in 1994 there were 5,000 deaths from diphtheria in Russia after the organized immunization system was suspended. Previously, Russia (like Canada) had only a few cases of diphtheria each year, and no deaths. Unless a disease has completely disappeared, there is a real risk that small outbreaks can turn into large epidemics if most of the community is not protected.

Misconception: Vaccines contain toxic substances.

The Facts: Every batch of vaccine in Canada is tested for safety and quality before it is released for public use. The main ingredient in most vaccines is the killed or weakened germ (virus or bacterium), which stimulates the immune system to recognize and prevent future disease. Some vaccines also contain extremely small amounts of preservatives or antibiotics to prevent bacterial contamination.

One preservative called thimerosal has received a lot of attention because it contains a trace amount of mercury. The amount of mercury present in thimerosal is minute, does not accumulate in the body and is much less toxic than other forms of mercury. Today, most vaccines in Canada do not contain thimerosal. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (which includes recognized experts in the fields of paediatrics, infectious diseases, immunology, medical microbiology, internal medicine and public health) has reviewed the latest science and concluded, “there is no legitimate safety reason to avoid the use of thimerosal-containing products for children or older individuals.” The vaccines that Canadian children and adults receive are safe.

Misconception: Some Vaccines aren’t safe because they are released too soon.

The Facts: Canada, like many other countries worldwide, exercises tight scrutiny or regulatory oversight over vaccines. All vaccines intended for use by Canadians are subject to the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act and the Food and Drug Regulations. Prior to market authorization of a new vaccine, the manufacturer must file a submission with scientific and clinical evidence that demonstrates that the vaccine’s health benefits outweigh the risks and that the vaccine is effective and of suitable quality for Canadians.

As part of the approval process, Health Canada experts conduct an on-site evaluation of the manufacturer’s facilities to assess the quality of the vaccine manufacturing process and to determine that the manufacturer is able to carry out the necessary quality controls for the vaccine. The manufacturer must also provide samples of at least three batches or “lots” of the vaccine for testing in Health Canada laboratories.

After Health Canada’s evaluation, if the conclusion is that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks, then the vaccine is granted market authorization and can be sold in Canada.

Because some vaccines may be needed urgently to deal with outbreaks of a specific disease, such as a pandemic influenza (for example, H1N1), Health Canada has mechanisms to complete the review of submissions for these vaccines in a short period of time. In certain cases requirements for some types of data may be eliminated or reduced. However, regardless of the urgency with which the vaccine is needed, it will not be authorized until Health Canada has completed its review and determined that the benefits of making the vaccine available outweigh any risks.

Authorized vaccines are also subject to ongoing lot evaluations by Health Canada before they are released on the Canadian market for use by Canadians.

Minimizing Your Risk

There is no reason to suffer from a disease if there is a safe and effective way to prevent it. Take steps to protect your family against vaccine-preventable diseases. If you have concerns about vaccines, talk to your doctor, pediatrician, or other health care provider. You can also find reliable, science-based information about vaccine safety on Web sites produced by Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Immunization Awareness Program, the Canadian Paediatric Society, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

These organizations have the facts about vaccines and vaccine safety.

Government of Canada’s Role

Health Canada regulates vaccines through a rigorous licensing process that includes an extensive pre-market review of information about the product’s quality, safety and effectiveness. Once a vaccine is on the market, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) monitors adverse events following immunization with the help of provinces and territories and works with Health Canada to assess emerging safety concerns. In addition, PHAC monitors and analyzes the incidence of vaccine preventable diseases, identifies risk factors, develops guidelines for the control of vaccine-preventable diseases, and works with the provinces and territories during emergency situations to help ensure that outbreaks of disease are contained.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada also participate in public information initiatives, such as the Canadian Immunization Awareness Program, and work globally with other countries to develop and implement disease-reduction or eradication strategies.

Why Some People Still Hesitate to Vaccinate

It was over 200 years ago that Jenner was able to protect a man from the dreaded disease smallpox through vaccination. Since that time, through mass immunization efforts, smallpox has been eradicated from the planet. Other miracles have taken place such as the elimination of polio from the Americas (a disease that 40 years ago caused paralytic illness in almost 2,000 Canadians in one year), and the control of diseases that once maimed or killed in large numbers.

Nevertheless, there are individuals who are hesitant about, or outright refuse immunization for themselves or for their children. There are several reasons for this that are important to appreciate:

- Some patients have religious or philosophic objections;

- Some see mandatory vaccination as interference by the government into what they believe should be a personal choice;

- Others are concerned about the safety and/or efficacy of vaccines;

- Some may believe that vaccine-preventable diseases do not pose a serious health risk;

- Others believe that immunization is not “natural”.

It is important to listen to and try to understand a patient’s concerns, fears, and beliefs about vaccination and to take these into consideration when offering vaccines. This will not only help to strengthen the bond of trust between patient and provider but will also help in deciding on the type of information that might be most effective in addressing the concerns.

Misconceptions VS Facts: Vaccinations

1. Diseases had already begun to disappear before vaccines were introduced, because of better hygiene and sanitation.

Statements like this (variations include assertions that vaccines had absolutely no effect on disease rates) are very common in anti-vaccine literature, the intent apparently being to suggest that vaccines are not needed. Improved socioeconomic conditions have undoubtedly had an indirect impact on disease. Better nutrition, not to mention the development of antibiotics and other treatments, have increased survival rates among the sick; less crowded living conditions have reduced disease transmission; and lower birth rates have decreased the number of susceptible household contacts. But looking at the actual incidence of disease over the years can leave little doubt of the significant direct impact vaccines have had, even in modern times.

Are we expected to believe that better sanitation caused the incidence of each disease to drop, coincidentally, just at the time a vaccine for that disease was introduced?

Here are some examples to illustrate this:

1. Invasive disease due to “haemophilus influenzae” type b (Hib), such as meningitis, was prevalent until just a few years ago when conjugate vaccines that can be used in infants (in whom most of the disease was occurring) were finally developed. Since sanitation is no better now than it was in 1990, it is hard to attribute the virtual disappearance of Hib disease in children in recent years to anything but the introduction of routine immunization. Data from reportable disease surveillance systems revealed that from an estimated 2,000 cases a year prior to the availability of vaccine, there are now less than 52 cases per year being reported (with the majority in infants and children who have not been immunized).

2. Varicella (chicken pox) can also be used to illustrate the point, since modern sanitation has obviously not prevented cases from occurring each year – with almost all children getting the disease sometime in their childhood, just as they did 20 years ago, or 80 years ago. If diseases were disappearing, we should expect varicella to be disappearing along with the rest of them.

3. We can also look at the experiences of several developed countries that let their immunization levels drop. Three countries – Great Britain, Sweden, and Japan – cut back on the use of pertussis vaccine because of fear about the vaccine. The effect was dramatic and immediate. In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100,000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978. In Japan, around the same time, a drop in vaccination rates from 70% to 20%-40% led to a jump in pertussis from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979. In Sweden, the annual incidence rate of pertussis per 100,000 children 0-6 years of age increased from 700 cases in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985.

It seems clear from these experiences that not only would diseases not be disappearing without vaccines, but if we were to stop vaccinating, they would come back.

Of more immediate interest is the major epidemic of diphtheria now taking place in the former Soviet Union, where low primary immunization rates in children and lack of booster immunizations in adults have resulted in an increase from 839 cases in 1989 to nearly 50,000 cases and 1,700 deaths in 1994, with the number of cases increasing by 2- to 10-fold each year. There have already been at least 20 imported cases in Europe and two cases in U.S. citizens working in the former Soviet Union.

2. The majority of people getting disease have been fully immunized.

This is another argument frequently found in anti-vaccine literature – the implication being that this proves vaccines are not effective. In fact it is true that in outbreaks occurring in highly vaccinated populations, the cases who were immunized often outnumber those who were not – even with vaccines such as measles, which we know to be about 90% to 95% effective in one dose.

This apparent paradox is explained by two factors. First, no vaccine is 100% effective. To make vaccines safer than the disease, the bacteria or virus is killed or weakened (attenuated). For reasons related to the individual, not all persons vaccinated will develop immunity. Most routine childhood vaccines have efficacy in the 85-90% range. Therefore, over the years there is a buildup of susceptible individuals (each year contributing 10% -15% of its cohort). Second, in a country like Canada with high immunization coverage, people who have been vaccinated vastly outnumber those who have not.

How these two factors work together to result in outbreaks where the majority of cases have been vaccinated can be more easily understood by looking at a hypothetical example:

In a high school of 1,000 students, none has ever had measles. All but 30 of the students have had their dose of measles vaccine, and so are considered vaccinated. However, among these 970, there would be about 97 who are not protected by the vaccine. When the student body is exposed to measles, every susceptible student becomes infected because measles is highly contagious.

The 30 unvaccinated students will be infected, of course. But of the 970 who have been vaccinated, we would expect the 97 who are not protected to fall ill. Therefore 97/127, or about 76% of the cases are fully vaccinated.

As you can see, this doesn’t prove the vaccine didn’t work – only that most of the children in the class had been vaccinated, so the vaccine failures outnumbered the unvaccinated susceptibles. Looking at it another way, 100% of the children who were not vaccinated got measles, compared with only 10% of those who were. Measles vaccine protected most of the class; if nobody in the class had been vaccinated, there would have been 1,000 cases of measles. In this example, the vaccine was in fact 90% effective in preventing measles.

3. There are many case reports of harmful side effects from vaccines, including deaths. This proves that vaccines are not safe.

The implication here is that the number of side effects reported is related to the safety of the product, and that the more adverse event reports received, the more dangerous the vaccine. In addition, since not all adverse events are reported, this implies that vaccines are even more dangerous than the number of cases reported leads us to believe.

This is misleading because reports of adverse events are only suspicions that are temporally associated with receipt of vaccine; reports should not be interpreted to imply that the vaccine caused the event. Statistically, a certain number of serious illnesses, even deaths, can be expected to occur by chance alone among children recently vaccinated. While vaccines are known to cause minor, temporary side effects like soreness or fever, there is little, if any, evidence linking vaccination with permanent health problems or death. The point is that just because an adverse event has been reported, it does not mean it was caused by a vaccine.

This fact is often, if not always overlooked by the media when adverse events are mentioned.
In the United States, some anti-immunization groups also focus on so-called “hot lots” of vaccine. They counsel parents to avoid certain lots of vaccine because more adverse events had been reported involving those lots than others. This is misleading because vaccine lots may vary in size from several thousand doses to several hundred thousand, and some are in distribution longer than others. Naturally a larger lot or one that is in distribution longer will be associated with more adverse events, simply by chance. Also, more coincidental deaths are associated with vaccines given in infancy than later in childhood since the background death rates in children are highest during the first year of life. So knowing that lot A has been associated with x number of adverse events while lot B has been associated with y number would not necessarily tell you anything about the relative safety of the two lots, even if the vaccine did cause the events.

If the number and type of reports for a particular vaccine lot suggested that it was associated with more serious adverse events or deaths than are expected by chance, the federal government has not only the responsibility and will, but the legal authority to immediately recall that lot.

Every vaccine manufacturing facility and vaccine product is licensed. In addition, every vaccine lot is safety-tested by the manufacturer and by the federal Bureau of Biologics of the Drugs Directorate. A vaccine lot would be recalled at the first sign of problems. There is no benefit to anyone in allowing unsafe vaccine to remain on the market – since vaccines are given to otherwise healthy children, the public would not tolerate them if they did not have to conform to the most rigorous safety standards.

Further, there will always be articles in the press or medical journals that report possible bad outcomes as a result of vaccination. Reports in medical journals are sometimes just preliminary findings to stimulate further work and provide an opportunity for exchange of information. It is necessary to assess many sources before drawing final conclusions. As well, articles in some newspapers and magazines are written from a very biased standpoint. Their manner of presenting the data can be misleading, and must be interpreted with caution.

Assertions about the link between vaccines and bad outcomes are rarely corroborated.

4. Vaccines cause many harmful side effects, illnesses, and even death – not to mention possible long-term effects we don’t even know about.

Vaccines are actually very safe, despite implications to the contrary in much anti-vaccine literature. The vast majority of vaccine adverse events are minor and temporary, like a sore arm or mild fever. These can often be controlled by taking acetaminophen before or after vaccination. More serious adverse events occur rarely (on the order of one per thousand to one per million doses), and some are so rare that risk cannot be accurately assessed. This is the case for severe neurological illness (including encephalopathy). Most often, the illness attributed to a vaccine occurs much more frequently in individuals with no recent vaccination.

As to vaccines causing death, again there are so few deaths that could plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically. Each death reported to the Canadian vaccine-associated adverse events surveillance system is thoroughly examined to ensure that it is not related to a new vaccine-related problem.

As to long term effects, many vaccines have been in use for decades with no evidence of any long-term adverse effects. The requirements for licensing vaccines in Canada are stringent and ensure that excellent research into potential adverse effects has been done prior to widespread use. No long term effects have been associated with any vaccine currently in use.

Any such claims have not been substantiated.

But looking at risk alone is not enough – you must always look at both risks and benefits.
Even one serious adverse effect in a million doses of vaccine cannot be justified if there is no benefit from the vaccination. If there were no vaccines, there would be many more cases of disease, and along with them, more serious side effects, including death. The examples from those countries who have stopped or decreased their immunization programs has illustrated this time and again. In fact, to have a medical intervention as effective in preventing disease as vaccination and not use it would be unconscionable.

5. Vaccine-preventable diseases have been virtually eliminated from Canada, so there is no need for my child to be vaccinated.

It’s true that vaccination has enabled us to reduce most vaccine-preventable diseases to very low levels. However, some of them are still quite prevalent – even epidemic – in other parts of the world. Travelers can unknowingly bring these diseases into the country, and if we were not protected by vaccinations these diseases could quickly spread throughout the population, causing epidemics here. At the same time, the relatively few cases we currently have could very quickly become tens of thousands of cases without the protection we get from vaccines.

We should still be vaccinated, then, for two reasons. The first is to protect ourselves. Even if we think our chances of getting any of these diseases is small, the diseases still exist and can still infect anyone who is not protected.

The second reason to get vaccinated is to protect those around us. There is a small number of people who cannot be vaccinated (because of severe allergies to vaccine components, for example), and a small percentage of vaccine failures. These people are susceptible to disease, and their only hope of protection is that people around them are immune and cannot pass disease along to them. A successful vaccination program, like a successful society, depends on the cooperation of every individual to ensure the good of all. We would think it irresponsible of a driver to ignore all traffic regulations on the presumption that other drivers will watch out for him. In the same way we shouldn’t rely on people around us to stop the spread of disease without doing what we can as well. One important example is vaccination against rubella. A woman who contracts rubella during pregnancy is at high risk of having a baby with congenital rubella syndrome, a devastating illness. Children who are not immunized against rubella can infect those around them.

6. Giving a child multiple vaccinations for different diseases at the same time increases the risk of harmful side effects and can overload the immune system.

Children are exposed to many foreign antigens every day. Routine consumption of food introduces new bacteria into the body, and numerous bacteria live in the mouth and nose, exposing the immune system to still more antigens. An upper respiratory viral infection exposes a child to between 4 and 10 antigens, and a case of “strep throat” to between 25 and 50. According to a 1994 report by the Institute of Medicine in the United States entitled Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines, “In the face of these normal events, it seems unlikely that the number of separate antigens contained in childhood vaccines…would represent an appreciable added burden on the immune system that would be immunosuppressive.”

And, indeed, available scientific data show no adverse effects of simultaneous vaccination with multiple vaccines on the normal childhood immune system.

A number of studies have been conducted to examine the effects of giving various combinations of vaccines simultaneously. In fact, simultaneous administration of any vaccine would not be recommended by Health Canada or its national expert advisory committee until such studies showed the combinations to be both safe and effective. These studies have shown that the recommended vaccines are as effective in combination as they are individually, and that such combinations cause no greater risk for adverse side effects. Research is currently under way to find ways to combine more antigens in a single vaccine injection. This will assure all the advantages of the individual vaccines, but require fewer shots.

There are two practical factors in favour of giving a child several vaccinations during the same visit. First, we want to immunize children as early as possible to give them protection during the vulnerable early months of their lives. This generally means giving inactivated vaccines beginning at 2 months and live vaccines at 12 months. Therefore, doses of the various vaccines tend to fall due at the same time. Second, if we can give several vaccinations at the same time it will mean fewer office visits for vaccinations, which saves parents both time and money and may be less traumatic for the child.

Credits: Adapted from: Six Common Misconceptions about Vaccination and how to respond to them developed by the National Immunization Program (NIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. Many thanks to the NIP for allowing us to make use of the material. To read the NIP article, visit:  http://www.cdc.gov/nip/publications/6mishome.htm

Edited by: The Immunization and Respiratory Infections Division, Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

It is morally irresponsible and unethical for celebrities to take advantage of their audience when they promote something that has not been proven by science. It is equally disappointing, that, when faced with compelling evidence against their argument, they refuse to think otherwise. The sad fact is that the rise in autism rates could be caused by something entirely different, but until the antivax movement picks their next target, money and resources will be wasted on proving that vaccines do not, in fact, cause autism.

If you disagree, read each of the references/articles below.

References:

25 Comments »

  1. Anonymous April 29, 2010 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    OMG who wrote this piece of garbage?? Total lies………. all~~~

    1. Who in their right mind would say that vaccines do not contain poison or toxic chemicals? They do and we all know it.

    2. The burden of proof rests on the vaccine makers and promoters to PROVE that vaccines do not cause any problems such as autism, cancer, etc.

    3. IT has also been proven that these diseases were already on a strong decline way before the intro of any vaccine~~

    This article is very shallow and full of more misconceptions than anything I have read so far relating to the vaccine issues.

  2. Relative Interest May 5, 2010 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    As mentioned in the article, read the references for further detail. You will find a rebuttal for each of your three points.

  3. Relative Interest May 5, 2010 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Specifically, read this article: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=4431

  4. Julian May 10, 2010 at 2:06 am - Reply

    Very well written article, with lots of good information. It is unfortunate that articles refuting anti-vaccine movements must be written; it is unfortunate that there are so people actively trying to mislead others, that sensible, moral people have to put up arguments against them. I'm not surprised that the anti-vaccine idiot above posted as 'anonymous'. Once again, well done, Relative Interest.

  5. Alex May 10, 2010 at 7:49 am - Reply

    As usual, it appears that the anti-vax commenter hasn't bothered to read the article! At least it makes it easier for parents to spot which side of the argument is promoted by idiots, eh?

  6. Anonymous October 20, 2010 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Vaccine only last some years.If you ex take MMR vaccine,and you are in your good and sporty age later,then it is very funny to get a child diseases.Vaccine is not a good idea for small or big humans on this earth.Vaccine is important for people and other- who have a week/bad health and immunsystem.People have to understand that a new borne baby are very fragile,they are not grown up people.There body have to relax and do not need any vaccine,here meaning healthy children with a normal growing immunsystem.Example Hepataities B vaccine to people who do not have this serious diseas,can later in reverse make problems with their liver.But I agree that vaccine is good for people with a week immunsystem.About to die of whooping is a very complex studie,every person are different,the most important needs for a baby is healthy breast milk and clean diapers.Bad business for the medicine industry-But good for healthy people and lab animals.Best to all on this living and chaotic world-FROM NORWAY-SIMEN

  7. Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    I am currently writing a speech on pro-vax to take to tournaments, and really appreciate all of the information you have listed here. Very well written piece. Thank you.

  8. Anonymous October 4, 2011 at 2:31 am - Reply

    My daughter had muscle weakness after her 2,month vaccines and after her 2 dose at 4 months she passed away from sids. I am not stupid and will not hurt my children by sticking them with poisonous chemicals :) i never thought hurting my baby was mandatory and cool. Bfing for longer than 1 year at least 2 and practicing good hygene is the best way to prevent any sickness. Vaccinated or not you will contract sickness and disease if its going around!

  9. Anonymous January 20, 2012 at 1:42 am - Reply

    Wasn't Jenny's child diagnosed with something else other than autism just a few years ago?

    Guess that makes her emotional pleas somewhat less compelling.

    Vaccinate your kids, you science-ignorant morons. You're not saving your kid. You've just killing other peoples'.

  10. Anonymous January 20, 2012 at 1:43 am - Reply

    Vaccinated or not you will contract sickness and disease if its going around!

    NOT HOW IT WORKS

  11. Anonymous January 22, 2012 at 9:06 am - Reply

    Vaccines are full of poisons…I wasn't vaccined until I was 5 or 6 and was ok although I had a few sicknesses. I survived them all like all the other children in the neighbourhood. I had a vaccines after I was 5-6 and did have ilnesses after that. Either those vaccines didn't stop me getting sick or they caused it.
    Why don't you find out what actually is in a vaccine before sheepishly believing everything you are told?

  12. Anonymous January 22, 2012 at 9:08 am - Reply

    I wouldn't have bothered to write if I knew comments needed aproval. Now I understand that my comment possibly won't appear and why there are so many pro vaccine comments up there. It's an info war and there are many ways to manipulate it.

  13. Blitz January 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    @ Anonymous January 22, 2012 4:08 AM

    ALL comments are approved – they are only moderated to remove excessive profanities and spam that is not caught by the filter.

    You will note that the general audience of this site are skeptics, critical thinkers, and pro-science/evidence based individuals: that is why the majority of the comments are pro-vaccine.

    So, if you have additional comments, please do post them – it's always best to encourage a healthy discussion.

  14. Anonymous January 25, 2012 at 3:52 am - Reply

    I am currently trying to decide whether or not to vaccinate my son. I read through the majority of this article and stopped when I got to number four and your response, and here is why: My cousin was given her dtp vaccine by her parents who were 100% pro vaccination and doing all required shots on schedule. She went straight home from the peditrician and within one hour from receiving her shots she collapsed with an extreme fever and had a seizure. Over the next 24 hours she experienced 6 gran mal seizures. She was brain damaged for life, she is in a wheelchair. She went from a normal, healthy, advanced child to this state. This is why I am questioning vaccinations. I will admit this is an extreme and rare occurance. But for you to say vaccines aren't tied to serious problems or death when there is a government ran fund for children who are damaged or killed by vaccines is inexcusable and irresponsible. Get your facts right. I am not buying into a lot of the anti-vax information I am finding either but for you to say that its such a small number or percentage is ridiculous. It wouldn't matter to me if it was one child out of a million that died from a vaccine there is no way in the world I could look that childs parents in the eye and say, well sorry it was you, its such a small number. The way I see it is vaccinating is a calculated risk. It is up to the parents to decide if they are willing to take or not take it. If there was a little more transparency on both sides of the argument that would help. If there was some acknowledgement that vaccines can be dangerous and I was given real stats I probably would have already vaccinated my son. Hiding information and sites like this have made me hesitate.

  15. Blitz January 25, 2012 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    @ Anonymous January 24, 2012 10:52 PM

    With any medical treatment, there is always a risk of injury. Vaccinations are no exception. There is a small portion of the population that will react negatively to the contents of a vaccine. Your example is certainly shocking, and upsetting – and I can sympathize your hesitation and concern.

    Your last line says "Hiding information and sites like this have made me hesitate.". This information was not "hidden" in the article. It was presented in Point # 4. I have copied and pasted below for your reference:

    "4. Vaccines cause many harmful side effects, illnesses, and even death – not to mention possible long-term effects we don't even know about.

    Vaccines are actually very safe, despite implications to the contrary in much anti-vaccine literature. The vast majority of vaccine adverse events are minor and temporary, like a sore arm or mild fever. These can often be controlled by taking acetaminophen before or after vaccination. More serious adverse events occur rarely (on the order of one per thousand to one per million doses), and some are so rare that risk cannot be accurately assessed. This is the case for severe neurological illness (including encephalopathy). Most often, the illness attributed to a vaccine occurs much more frequently in individuals with no recent vaccination.

    As to vaccines causing death, again there are so few deaths that could plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically. Each death reported to the Canadian vaccine-associated adverse events surveillance system is thoroughly examined to ensure that it is not related to a new vaccine-related problem."

    You are right – is is a calculated risk. The way I see it? The benefits of vaccinating your child far outweigh the risks of NOT vaccinating them.

  16. shannonvan February 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Very well written piece. I like especially how you explain how vaccinated people accounting for more cases of these diseases than non-vaccinated people does not prove that vaccines are ineffective. My family is anti-vax and I had a hard time arguing against this one piece of evidence… now I understand it better I can counter them intelligently on this particular point. 

    We don't know what causes autism. I have personally read about 20 credible, large-scale studies have proven that vaccines do not cause autism. If there is an environmental trigger, let's focus on finding what that trigger is. Chances are, the trigger will be something which humanity would be better off eliminating anyway (like BPA, cell phones, microwaves, exposure to electronics, other petroleum by-products, etc.). Then perhaps we could reduce the rate of autism while also protecting the environment instead of reducing autism while bringing back (to North America) diseases which we all but eradicated 50 years ago!

    Anecdotally, my son has autism. I can say that it is my personal observation that his symptoms first appeared around age 5 months, as soon as he learned to sit independently. He is only 8 years old, which means that he never received vaccines containing thimerosal and he did not receive his first dose of MMR until 12 months. 

    To the people who posted comments about people they know who were adversely affected by the immunizations, I think it's important for pro-vax people to admit that there are a few rare cases of serious adverse side-effects. However, vaccinations save many many more lives. The fact that some people react badly is even more reason to support vaccinations. The same people who react poorly to vaccines would be the same people who would not survive measles, polio, or diphtheria. If those of us who can take vaccines take our responsibility seriously, we can save these lives along with those of our own children. 

  17. shannonvan February 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    I agree that the pre-tax movement and health authorities do try to downplay these very rare but utterly devastating complications. I think that they do so with the best of intentions, but in the age of Google-based research and online conspiracy theories, perhaps they do us all a disservice. I really hope that you will choose to vaccinate your son. By doing so you will protect him and the small percentage of people who either cannot be vaccinated or who do not develop immunity from vaccines. Being a parent is hard, but sometimes you have to take a deep breath, do what you know is right and hope for the best. Your son could sustain a serious head injury from skating or playing at the playground, but chances are much more likely that taking him to the park and teaching him to skate will set him up for a lifetime of active, healthy living. 

  18. AllenthTruth July 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    OK all you vaccine lovers are ridiculous, and to thr author of this article I admire the time you put into something like this and the only reason you stick to your opinion is because you put in so much time that your scared to admit the truth that YES they do have poisonous chemicals and virus’s contracted from other organisms and such. TYou put all your references into one basket and then say these two science journals and say these are right you all are wrong. I can also reference about 50 or more “science journals” or more that would have the complete opposite data and facts that yours does. Take a look at the authors of your references, maybe you would see there is a conflict of interest and yes conspiracies are possible, I think it is a conspiracy for you to think conspiracies don’t exist! You throw out the whole debate the such things are even possible! Yes my freind , in this world alot is possible and it just looks to me like you copied your material from these ‘said” science journals. I will give you one website link ask you to open up your mind instead of just copy and pasting and putting all in your trust in one or two references, Life is a puzzle you must connect the dots. For thousands of references you may go to this website and search “vaccines” or related material, they have links to hundreds of articles and studies that were done on this subject, I’n only leaving this message to the parents who come to this page and believe everything talked about is “safe” for them and thier children, don’t rely on one source, you may find different views that make alot more sense and aren’t as one sided as such peoples ‘opinions’ are. AND thats basically what this article is you wrote, or ‘copied’ from a science journal. Its http://www.infowars.com or you can just do a quick search on any search engines and find tons of material on “vaccines truth” and “vaccines are poisonous’

  19. AllenthTruth July 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    CORRECTED RESPONSE OK all you vaccine lovers are ridiculous, and to the author of this article I admire the time you put into something like this and the only reason you stick to your opinion is because you put in so much time that your scared to admit the truth that YES they do have poisonous chemicals and virus’s contracted from other organisms and such. You put all your references into one basket and then say that these two science journals are true, and say these are right ,you all are wrong. I can also reference about 50 or more “science journals” or more that would have the complete opposite data and facts that yours does. Take a look at the authors of your references, maybe you would see there is a conflict of interest and yes conspiracies are possible, I think it is a conspiracy for you to think conspiracies don’t exist! You throw out the whole debate that such things are even possible! Yes my friend , in this world a lot is possible and it just looks to me like you copied your material from these ‘said” science journals. I will give you one website link, ask you to open up your mind instead of just copy and pasting and putting all in your trust in one or two references, life is a puzzle you must connect the dots. For thousands of references you may go to this website and search “vaccines” or related material, they have links to hundreds of articles and studies that were done on this subject, I’m only leaving this message to the parents who come to this page and believe everything talked about is “safe” for them and their children, don’t rely on one source, you may find different views that make a lot more sense and aren’t as one sided as such peoples ‘opinions’ are. AND that’s basically what this article is you wrote, or more likely ‘copied’ from a science journal. Its http://www.infowars.com or you can just do a quick search on any search engine and find tons of material on “vaccines truth” and “vaccines are poisonous’ subjects.

  20. jeffrey abrahamse January 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    You can argue with anti-vaccine people forever, they like many conspiracy theorists and religious fundamentalists are immune to reason. The sad thing is it is their children who suffer for their ignorance. I guess mass pandemics would be more preferable to them. I propose a study where we send a group of anti-vaccination true believers and a group of vaccinated people to a area undergoing a epidemic of a non-fatal disease and see which group has the highest rate of infection. It probably wouldn’t convince the anti-vaccination crowd ( because they would see a conspiracy in such a exercise ) but I would certainly find it mighty entertaining. I would experience such a sense of schadenfreude just knowing the non-vaccinated group was suffering from explosive diarrhea ( in the literal sense as opposed the mental diarrhea they suffer from ).

  21. sars June 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    “How can a vaccine cause Polio?” really? Modified live polio vaccines can cause paralitic polio. This has been known for decades. The latest outbreak was in nigeria.
    look it up.

  22. Éphémère July 5, 2013 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    What anti-vac fanatics have failed to mention and/or realize is that the autism spectrum has been VASTLY widened now. It’s not that the statistics have necessarily gone up, it’s that more behaviours/ symptoms/etc are accepted as autistic.
    I’ve seen many debates on this and that is the one fact they fail to address.

  23. hmm August 7, 2013 at 7:09 am - Reply

    case *in point

  24. Always Sick Chick September 11, 2013 at 12:50 am - Reply

    AMEN to that! Enough of this antivax psuedoscience and scare tactics pushing parents to make uninformed decisions.

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