Respectful Insolence

More evidence that anti-vaccine beliefs kill

Vaccines save lives. In fact, they arguably save more lives than any other medical intervention devised by human beings. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. Anti-vaccine beliefs and the vaccine refusal that results from them kill. They leave children vulnerable to preventable diseases, and, sadly, here’s yet more evidence that this is true:

At least 30 children have died in eastern At least 30 children have died in eastern Zimbabwe where members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Faith church have refused to allow their children to be vaccinated against the deadly communicable disease.
World Health Organization Country Representative Custodia Mandhlate said it is tragic that children are dying of a preventable disease. The outbreak is also affecting other provinces with 340 cases of measles reported.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira his ministry has been frustrated by the denial of access to children for vaccination by members of the Apostolic Faith Church and other religious sects. where members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Faith church have refused to allow their children to be vaccinated against the deadly communicable disease.

World Health Organization Country Representative Custodia Mandhlate said it is tragic that children are dying of a preventable disease. The outbreak is also affecting other provinces with 340 cases of measles reported.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira his ministry has been frustrated by the denial of access to children for vaccination by members of the Apostolic Faith Church and other religious sects.

Here’s more information:

CHILDREN are dying of measles in a remote part of eastern Zimbabwe, where a religious sect insists on using only holy water to treat the contagious disease.

Thirty people, many children, have already died, according to reports. Parents are locking sick children in huts or whisking them into the hills to avoid detection by health officials working in the Nzvimbe area, 70km from the border city of Mutare.

The families are members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church. The church’s leaders do not allow vaccination or allow followers to seek medical treatment.

Officials fear the death toll from measles in Nzvimbe could be much higher because the Vapostori – as they’re known locally – are “fast-tracking” burials, according to one report. Many are dying at home.

While it is true that fatality rates due to the measles are much higher in Africa than they are in developed nations, children still die of the measles in outbreaks in the west, hundreds in the last decade. Moreover, neighboring communities realize that these pockets of unvaccinated children are endangering their own children:

By digging in, church members are posing a threat to their neighbours, who this week blasted them for ignorantly “harbouring and causing the spreading of the dangerous measles disease.”

“Since my birth in 1929, I have not seen such a catastrophe. These people should be arrested for resisting treatment and putting the health of our children in danger.

“These apostolic elements are a danger to our community because they are the conduits through which this dangerous measles disease is spreading.

“The most painful thing is that many of the victims are children and women, yet we all know that denying them treatment is a violation of their fundamental rights and unpardonable transgression,” said Mr Machona Bumhira.

Mr Bumhira’s bitter sentiments were echoed by Mrs Susan Chidhakwa, who said the Government must engage and persuade sect leaders Messers Noah Taguta and Clemence Momberume to encourage their church members to take treatment.

In this case, anti-vaccine beliefs killing children derive from irrational religious beliefs, but the anti-vaccine movement in the U.S. is arguably no more rational than it is in Zimbabwe. Although most of the time (but not always), anti-vaccine activists in the U.S. don’t invoke their religion as a reason for not vaccinating, they do exhibit a cult-like irrational groupthink and resistance to science every bit as strong as that of a fundamentalist religion like what is preached by the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church. Just read Age of Autism for a while, and you will see, particularly in its tendency to view those who try to refute its message as sufficiently evil that they eat babies. Vaccines are viewed as toxic “contamination” of one’s purity of essence, bringing the “evils” of autism and a wide variety of diseases and vaguely defined conditions. Those who promote vaccination must be shunned! Moreover, if children die, so what? Better that than becoming autistic! Never mind that there is zero reliable, convincing scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism.

Moreover, if you want an example of the callous attitude of some anti-vaccinationists, get a load of what anti-vaccine loon (and if anyone qualifies to be called a loon, she does) Sheri Tenpenny posted on Facebook last night:

Study these numbers. We’ve had SARS, Bird flu and Swine flu. On average, approx. 190 children/year die from the flu. Considering there are about 62M kids under the 14 years of age in the US, this is NOT “statistically signficant” and should not even make the radar screen. See how they manipulate parents into vaccinations?

Next year, PLEASE do not be afraid of the flu. Ever person here should pass this on to at least 25 people! Please pass this to at least 25 friends.

That’s right. To her 190 dead children are not “statistically significant.” Can you imagine how Tenpenny and her ilk would descend upon me if I said that one case in a million of severe adverse reactions to vaccination is “statistically insignificant”? (I’ve never said that, of course.) Tenpenny would howl with outrage at my “insensitivity” and “callousness.” Yet, here she says that 190 dead children are not “statistically significant” and that vaccination against H1N1 that could decrease that number significantly is not worth it.

The bottom line, as illustrated in Zimbabwe and in many other outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease around the world, is that vaccine refusal leads to disease and death. The anti-vaccine movement, if it gets its way, will usher in a return to the bad old days, when diseases currently preventable with vaccines used to cause untold suffering and death. They don’t care; to them such collateral damage is acceptable and they rationalize their role in bringing back such diseases by blaming it all on the pharmaceutical companies, just as Jenny McCarthy did.

Comments

  1. #1 Winawer
    December 30, 2009

    Besides everything else that is wrong in what Tenpenny said, she clearly doesn’t know what “statistically significant” means. It would seem that she has confused practical significance with statistical significance, which is a common mistake. But hey, why should a whackjob
    be bothered with basic principles of statistics and probability? It’s so much easier to
    just throw around terms like “statistically significant” to sound good, even if you haven’t the faintest idea what they mean.

  2. #2 Richard Eis
    December 30, 2009

    the Government must engage and persuade sect leaders Messers Noah Taguta and Clemence Momberume to encourage their church members to take treatment.

    No, they should be arrested and charged. They are knowingly letting people die and creating a health risk to others. the selfishness of the religious.

    Still at this rate, the church will wipe itself out. A lesson learned the hard way. Let us see what age of autism says about this.

    I expect deafening silence.

  3. #3 attack_laurel
    December 30, 2009

    If it was just the church members (or, in the US) anti-vaxxers putting their own children at risk, I’d hate it, but it would be their choice. However, when they risk the people who have no choice and no say in the matter, then they become a public health hazard as much as someone with an STD knowingly having unprotected sex. “Better that everyone else’s kids die, than my child” seems to be their credo, and for that alone, they are monstrous.

  4. #4 MI Dawn
    December 30, 2009

    As I said on your “friend’s” wall last night, Tenpenny is very scary. And, like most anti-vax loons, she does not allow negative commentary since you can’t comment unless you are her friend, and she appears to have the “dislike” button disabled on comments. How nice of her.

    I tried to find out her licensing status last night; she is not actively licensed in MO where she went to DO school and Ohio does not appear to have on-line access to physician licensing status. Wonder if she’s ever been disciplined by her state board(s) or had any complaints against her?

  5. #5 Todd W.
    December 30, 2009

    The comparison of the U.S. anti-vaccinationists to religious extremism is appropriate. They revere, without question, people like Olmsted, Wakefield, McCarthy, Loe Fisher, the Geiers, etc. Anyone who disagrees with them is evil, regardless of the reasons for disagreement. Their position is based on faith, rather than facts.

    I sincerely hope that the situation in Zimbabwe and surrounding areas changes quickly. Too many people dying and being injured by a disease that shouldn’t even be running rampant.

    This story isn’t merely a demonstration that anti-vaccine beliefs result in death, it’s a demonstration that superstition, that a rejection of reality and rational thought can be fatal, and not merely for the person holding the superstitions. I don’t think any country is necessarily more or less prone to superstition, rather that it just takes different flavors. We must do better at educating each other, at teaching how to think critically and how to overcome our natural impulse for latching onto the irrational, while not losing sight of what it means to be human.

  6. #6 Enkidu
    December 30, 2009

    Nice to see Tenpenny selling t-shirts on her site: “Look at me, I’m vaccine-free!” with her name plastered on the back. Now we’ll know exactly who to blame if one of those kids gets sick and starts an epidemic.

  7. #7 "GrrlScientist"
    December 30, 2009

    kinda makes you wonder if the anti-vaccers are racists, too?

  8. #8 Paul
    December 30, 2009

    I posted a comment in the worst medical woo of the decade entry saying that prayer is worse than anti-vaccine because of the direct link to death. I would like to withdraw that comment.

  9. #9 Dangerous Bacon
    December 30, 2009

    MI Dawn/b>: “I tried to find out her licensing status last night; she is not actively licensed in MO where she went to DO school and Ohio does not appear to have on-line access to physician licensing status. Wonder if she’s ever been disciplined by her state board(s) or had any complaints against her?”

    Ohio does have online access to licensing status (in this case, an osteopathic physician with that name is listed as having a currently active license).

  10. #10 Ken
    December 30, 2009

    Here’s a promising bit of research I just came across: work on creating edible vaccines.

    I suspect that a good chunk of the momentum behind “ordinary” anti-vaxers (as opposed to full time advocates like JB Handley etc) comes from the visceral “ooh, scary needles” reaction. If that’s true then this technology could take a lot of emotional wind out of their sails, so to speak.

  11. #11 Paul Murray
    December 30, 2009

    It’s a terrible thing to say: but I once read on the ‘net that the catholic church at first denounced smallpox innoculation as a protestant heresy. They changed their tune when local priests started to notice that their congregations were dying of smallpox while the protestants were doing just fine.

  12. #12 Abel Pharmboy
    December 30, 2009

    One thing these anti-vaccinationists neglect to consider when spouting off that their unvaccinated kids aren’t getting sick or there are “only” X hundred or thousand deaths: those of us who do vaccinate our kids make it possible for a good percentage of unvaccinated kids to go disease-free. Yes, by reducing the reservoir of infectious viruses and bacteria, many unvaccinated kids go unscathed. An unfortunately very common attitude toward public health is that many take for granted deaths that are prevented because they are not seen.

    So, please, Tenpenny et al., don’t thank me for vaccinating my child. But you should.

  13. #13 Daniel J. Andrews
    December 30, 2009

    Can you imagine how Tenpenny and her ilk would descend upon me if I said that one case in a million of severe adverse reactions to vaccination is “statistically insignificant”? (I’ve never said that, of course.) Tenpenny would howl with outrage at my “insensitivity” and “callousness.”

    I think they’ve already used this argument several times, haven’t they? They look at risk, the small number of people in whom vaccines don’t take, and then castigate the medical/science community for allowing even these small numbers through even if it didn’t “cause” autism. I’m sure I’ve read that a few times in the past year.

  14. #14 techskeptic
    December 30, 2009

    Let me start by saying I am not at all antivax. I think everyone should get all of them. But I do have a question in response to this sort of mindset as put forth by Richard Eis above,

    No, they should be arrested and charged. They are knowingly letting people die and creating a health risk to others.

    I knowingly let people die and get harmed pretty much every day if I dont tell people not to get in cars. Car manufacturers and autodeals sell a device that literally kills waaaay more people than this and dont inform them of the health risks when buying a car.

    37,000 people died last year in cars
    http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

    this number doesnt include the thousands of people that get maims or injured.

    Similarly, you driving in your car can kill me driving in my car. Your irresponsibility can kill me.

    Why dont we force people to not have cars? Why dont we put in speed limits of 10 mph? Why dont we make cars scary to drive? All of these things would improve car safety, but instead we “knowingly let people die” in them.

    Maybe I’m just tired of reading about this battle. I know its immoral to not vaccinate, I wish everyone did, but I too, when I look at the number 190 and think of all the children and adults the die by other means that we endorse, its harder and harder to conjure up the hatred I used to be able to.

    I vaccinagted my kids. I drive safetly. I do what I can do to protect me and my family. But I dont see why these people should be arrested for influencing the stupid any more than autodealers should be arrested for selling a dangerous contraption.

  15. #15 MI Dawn
    December 30, 2009

    @Dangerous Bacon: Thanks. I guess my listing of online license searches needs to be updated. I used to look up MDs often for my job, but haven’t had to do it for a few years, so haven’t updated my database.

  16. #16 Scott
    December 30, 2009

    I knowingly let people die and get harmed pretty much every day if I dont tell people not to get in cars. Car manufacturers and autodeals sell a device that literally kills waaaay more people than this and dont inform them of the health risks when buying a car.

    The glaring difference, of course, is that owning and driving a car has value. Not vaccinating has none.

    Or to bring it back to the question of whether they should be charged, whether or not the action which exposes others to risk is reasonable is a crucial question. In that light, it is entirely consistent to argue that antivax idiocy should be a crime while driving a car shouldn’t.

  17. #17 Todd W.
    December 30, 2009

    @techskeptic

    I’m not sure the analogy works as you have posed it. In the case of vaccines, they are actively telling people to not take an action, while in your car example, they just aren’t saying anything.

    Perhaps more appropriately would be this: anti-vaxers are akin to telling people that traffic laws, such as speed limits or adhering to lanes, are hazardous to the health of themselves and their loved ones, so they should not follow traffic laws at all. So, you have people who have cars and follow the laws. Then you have people who have cars and actively do not follow the laws. The former has some risk, which no one will deny. The latter have greater risk, not only for themselves, but for others, as well.

    It’s not a perfect analogy, but just trying to keep with your car example. One flaw is that the people who have cars and follow the laws can still put others at risk, even if they follow the laws, while those who get vaccinated do not put others at risk.

  18. #18 techskeptic
    December 30, 2009

    ” In that light, it is entirely consistent to argue that antivax idiocy should be a crime”

    What crime would you propose? People say stupid things all the time, just listen to glenn beck.

  19. #19 Scott
    December 30, 2009

    What crime would you propose? People say stupid things all the time, just listen to glenn beck.

    Murder. It would fall under the general category of reckless endangerment. Stupidity is not a crime, but killing people in a completely predictable way with your stupidity is.

  20. #20 Chris Caprette
    December 30, 2009

    #2,#16 I sympathize with your emotional response to the (in)actions of those that do not vaccinate. I draw the line, however, at making it a crime. We have enough infringement on our civil liberties as it is without adding one more.

    I am more sympathetic to the idea of making it a crime to knowingly promote discredited, patently false information, as anti-vaxxers do, that results in physical harm to others. This seems to me to be the public health equivalent of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. The academic fraud committed by Andrew Wakefield, for example, should be punishable by fines and jail time.

    The tough part of enforcing such a law against vacuous jerks like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey would be proving the “knowingly” aspect of it. Most offenders could plead ignorance and certainly the religious extremists would have the ‘not guilty by way of mental defect’ defense going for them.

  21. #21 Orac
    December 30, 2009

    Or another way to put it is that people can advocate almost anything they want, with very few exceptions. That’s the First Amendment. However, when they act, as in not vaccinating and then the result is that other children contract a vaccine-preventable disease from the unvaccinated, then it is not unreasonable at least to make that a civil infraction for which the anti-vax parents could be sued for damages. I’m not sure if I’d advocate criminal penalties, though.

  22. #22 Kathy Orlinsky
    December 30, 2009

    You have to wonder if *anything* could change people like Tenpenny’s mind. Would they accept a chewable vaccine made of spun sugar and measles antigen? No more icky needles?

  23. #23 Scott
    December 30, 2009

    #2,#16 I sympathize with your emotional response to the (in)actions of those that do not vaccinate. I draw the line, however, at making it a crime. We have enough infringement on our civil liberties as it is without adding one more.

    Personally I’m talking about the advocacy angle, rather than those who were duped. For them I’m fine with civil penalties, but Wakefield/McCarthy/Handley/etc. aren’t yet mass murderers only because their efforts have as yet not been as successful as they wish.

    The tough part of enforcing such a law against vacuous jerks like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey would be proving the “knowingly” aspect of it. Most offenders could plead ignorance and certainly the religious extremists would have the ‘not guilty by way of mental defect’ defense going for them.

    “Should have known” is adequate in other aspects of the law; I believe it should apply here as well.

  24. #24 Dangerous Bacon
    December 30, 2009

    “You have to wonder if *anything* could change people like Tenpenny’s mind. Would they accept a chewable vaccine made of spun sugar and measles antigen? No more icky needles?”

    Oh my, no.

    The whole idea of deliberately introducing “foreign” antigen into the body to stimulate an immune response is horribly unnatural (as opposed to much larger amounts of the antigen challenging the immune system and the rest of the body via infection, which is “natural” and thereby A-OK) and leads to all sorts of nasty effects. And sugar is a CARBOHYDRATE and CARBOHYDRATES are BAD, by definition.

    Maybe Bruce Willis can make a movie from the antivaxer point of view, to be called “DIE HARD – NATURALLY”.

  25. #25 ebohlman
    December 30, 2009

    I’d like to point out that most of the things today’s parents lose sleep worrying about (kidnap-murders, Columbine-style school shootings, etc.) don’t kill as many kids in a decade as flu does in one year. “Statistically insignificant” my ass.

  26. #26 Raging Bee
    December 30, 2009

    We have enough infringement on our civil liberties as it is without adding one more.

    I hear that line automatically parroted by selfish libertards in response to EVERY law, regulation or directive that causes them the slightest inconvenience. This argument has no substance other than a spoiled child calling his parents “Nazis” or “slave-drivers” whenever they ask him to take a bath or clean up his room.

    Grow the fuck up, kids! Sometimes your neighbors have to accomodate your interests, and sometimes you have to accomodate theirs. Believe me, there’s far worse threats to “civil liberties” than community action to keep kids healthy.

    And yes, if those religulous idiots are deliberately hiding their kids from local officials, actively preventing them from getting vaccinated, LYING about the dangers and effectiveness of vaccines, and fast-tracking burials to hide evidence of the death and suffering caused by their deliberate negligence, then they SHOULD be arrested and charged. My parents would have been charged with “negligence” and “endangerment” if they had passively allowed me to drink gin when I was in grade-school; so why shouldn’t these asshalos be charged for ACTIVE child endangerment?

  27. #27 Otto
    December 30, 2009

    “You have to wonder if *anything* could change people like Tenpenny’s mind. Would they accept a chewable vaccine made of spun sugar and measles antigen? No more icky needles?”

    For people such as Tenpenny, an edible vaccine would likely be straight-up Black Helicopter material, even worse than fluoridated water and iodized salt.

  28. #28 Sid Offit
    December 30, 2009

    children still die of the measles in outbreaks in the west, hundreds in the last decade.

    ——————
    Orac, you’re becoming unglued. Your death hype sounds just like the hype for which you chastised the cancer establishment regarding mamograms.

    Anyway, I thought a command of basic arithmetic was required to to become a surgeon / robot. Your link doesn’t add up to 100s of measles related deaths in the last decade in the west

  29. #29 Sid Offit
    December 30, 2009

    Scott
    The glaring difference, of course, is that owning and driving a car has value. Not vaccinating has none.

    Of course your wrong. There is the financial cost of vaccinating, the pain from the injection, the time taken to visit the doctor, the admitted to “minor” reactions and the acceptance of unknown risks

  30. #30 Sid Offit
    December 30, 2009

    Scott
    The glaring difference, of course, is that owning and driving a car has value. Not vaccinating has none.

    Of course you’re wrong. There is the financial cost of vaccinating, the pain from the injection, the time taken to visit the doctor, the admitted to “minor” reactions and the acceptance of unknown risks

  31. #31 The Other Ian
    December 30, 2009

    Here’s a promising bit of research I just came across: work on creating edible vaccines.

    I suspect that a good chunk of the momentum behind “ordinary” anti-vaxers (as opposed to full time advocates like JB Handley etc) comes from the visceral “ooh, scary needles” reaction. If that’s true then this technology could take a lot of emotional wind out of their sails, so to speak.

    That could be great! I just can’t help but worry that if it happens, the anti-vaxxers will choose to take credit for it, touting it as the “safer” vaccine they’ve been demanding, regardless of the actual safety comparison.

  32. #32 Scott
    December 30, 2009

    Fine. “Utterly negligible in comparison to the benefits.” (For which “none” is a perfectly reasonable shorthand.) Happy now?

  33. #33 cbe
    December 30, 2009

    Italy, 2002: 4 deaths
    California, 1989/90: 75 deaths
    Japan, 2000: 88 deaths.
    Germany, 2006: 160 children hospitalized, 3 with brain inflammation. (3 have since died of SSPE- my addition)
    Ireland, 2000: 3 children dead

    This is not a complete list and it is already approaching 200. I see they have neglected the UK outbreak that killed 2 and also 1 in France pretty recently. those are just off the top of my head here.

  34. #34 Dangerous Bacon
    December 30, 2009

    From a source accessible via one of Orac’s links:

    “The inconvenient truth for people like (fill in with the name of any persistently clueless antivaxer) is that currently, in the United States, 1 in 4 Measles cases results in the patient being hospitalized, and 1 in 250 results in death. And let’s just look at the statistics on complications in the UK.

    1 in 25 cases result in pneumonia/bronchitis.
    1 in 200 cases result in fits.
    1 in 1000 cases lead to inflammation of the brain – 40% of those leading to permanent brain damage.
    1 in 8000 cases appear normal but lead to serious brain complications years later.

    It’s somewhat ironic that vaccination programs have become a victim of their own success. People now have so little experience of Measles that they have no real understand of the damage it causes.”

    Amazing how, in the face of this disturbing evidence, people like Sid are harping on “the pain of the (vaccine) injection”, “unknown risks” and so on. In addition to casually dismissing deaths from preventable infectious diseases, antivaxers rarely, if ever, acknowledge the suffering and permanent disability caused by these diseases.

  35. #35 Scott
    December 30, 2009

    This is not a complete list and it is already approaching 200.

    I suspect Sid will complain that Japan isn’t “in the west.” Of course, it’s still a developed country, which was the real thrust of Orac’s comment.

    Meaningless nitpicking turned into a personal attack; can’t say I’m surprised at Sid.

  36. #36 Damien
    December 30, 2009

    Measles, eh?

    Of the 64 cases [in the US], 54 were associated with importation of measles from other countries into the United States, and 63 of the 64 patients were unvaccinated or had unknown or undocumented vaccination status.

    By July 9, 2008, a total of 127 cases were reported in 15 states, making it the largest US outbreak since 1997 (when 138 cases were reported). Most of the cases were acquired outside of the United States and afflicted individuals who had not been vaccinated.

    There was an outbreak of measles in San Diego, California in early 2008…traced to an unvaccinated 7-year-old child who went on a family trip to Europe. The CDC refers to this as an “import-associated outbreak”.

    Hey, Sid, does it ever get tiring being shown up as a know-nothing fool all the time? Or do you just get off on your own dangerous, self-imposed ignorance?

  37. #37 cbe
    December 30, 2009

    well, it looks like that california outbreak was actually 88-90 and not 99-2000 from what I am seeing. But still something to talk about.

    I suppose 1988-1990 California was some kind of hell hole where there was no vit A or D, tons of overcrowding, and all the other “anti vaccine’ reasons for measles outbreaks and deaths.

    That or it was low vaccination uptake and single MMR dose for the rest of the cases.

  38. #38 Sid Offit
    December 30, 2009

    @CBE

    The 80s and 90s weren’t “in the last decade” and approaching 200 isn’t “hundreds”

  39. #39 cbe
    December 30, 2009

    My point was that the list was incomplete and that it would easily get to 200 if you included the outbreaks left out: netherlands 99-00, Britain 2006, France 2004, Israel (forget years but a couple deaths in 2000s) etc.

    However, this was before I realized the california one was 1988-2000, obviously.

  40. #40 Sid Offit
    December 30, 2009

    Damien

    Does your data pertain to anything I’ve said?

  41. #41 cbe
    December 30, 2009

    er sorry, that should read “before I realized the California one was 1988-1990, obviously.”

  42. #42 Anthropologist Underground
    December 30, 2009

    Harming children is always despicable.

    “Would they accept a chewable vaccine made of spun sugar and measles antigen?”

    Just speaking anecdotally, but the anti-vaccinators I know wouldn’t let any type of refined food product contaminate their children’s bodies. You might have better luck with fair-trade, locally-sourced, organic agave nectar-sweetened whole-grain what-have-you. Oh, yeah… also antigen-free.

  43. #43 cbe
    December 30, 2009

    on edible vaccines- anti vaxers will just start griping about how “they” will slip them into our food. And, of course, you will always have the group that will just shut down and continuously claim no vaccine is/can/will ever be effective. You see this all the time on mothering.com. There’s probably a thread there right now on this!

  44. #44 Damien
    December 30, 2009

    In this thread? No.

    However, I don’t think I’m mistaken at this point to assume that you will take an anti-medicine stance against vaccinating for measles based on incomplete data and fallacious conclusions. I feel fairly confident that even if all of the hundreds of deaths and thousands of cases of complications were brought to your attention, you would find some way to weasel into blaming vaccines.

    Therefore I took the precaution of preemptively striking against your ignorant nonsense.

    You’re welcome.

  45. #45 Katherine
    December 30, 2009

    Wish we could slip it into their food. And I hope all people that are not vaccinating for no medically indicated reason wear the Tshirt, it will make it easier to avoid them when I am pregnant/have kids.

  46. #46 David N. Brown
    December 30, 2009

    The sect referred to may be a descendant of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church, which supported a flat Earth as well as rejecting modern medicine.

  47. #47 Otto
    December 30, 2009

    “There’s probably a thread there right now on this!”

    Signs point to yes. http://bit.ly/6XHKZR

  48. #48 kelly
    December 31, 2009

    Interesting article! You left out those who are pro-vaccine (I am one). :)

    Compared to prescription drugs, anti-vaccine beliefs are not so much of a threat. There are people who are allergic to eggs, or too immuno-compromised to have vaccinations.

    As for the statement that vaccinations saving lives – I am not too sure. I know most were introduced to people when deaths from pandemics were already reducing.

    I look forward to read more from you. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  49. #49 Mark Lipowicz
    December 31, 2009

    As we approach 2010, is this a time to remember that anti-vaccine objections have been going on for at least two centuries, some proportion of people objected to the smallpox vaccine from its early days (Jenner around 1800) and 100 years later were still doing it?

    Here (courtesy of Google) is an 1890s article from the Calcutta Medical Society about how to deal with objections that were being raised there and then in the face of all contrary evidence http://bit.ly/6JtXO1 The grounds for objection then were ” (i) That vaccination is not a preventive against small-pox ; (2) that it causes other diseases ; and (3) it is unnecessary, as small-pox is slightly infectious and can be prevented by isolation in hospital”

    The only likely cure IMHO is persistent presentation of authoritative evidence, as you do at ScienceBlogs. And encouraging a public debate.

    Sometimes the critics are right, here’s another old article about vaccination, a Dr. Pearson of Glasgow who pushed vaccination didn’t believe in sterilization and may have done some harm; he said “I have been vaccinating with the same lancet ever since I began practice—all I do is to wipe it well before beginning and after I am done” http://bit.ly/8L05y3

    Enlisting celebrity support doesn’t hurt either, when it was smallpox vaccine Charles Dickens spoke out in favor of mandatory vaccination (in 1860) http://bit.ly/84NYHa

    Thank you ScienceBlogs for your role in communicating the facts

  50. #50 Mark Lipowicz
    December 31, 2009

    As we approach 2010, is this a time to remember that anti-vaccine objections have been going on for at least two centuries, some proportion of people objected to the smallpox vaccine from its early days (Jenner around 1800) and 100 years later were still doing it?

    Here (courtesy of Google) is an 1890s article from the Calcutta Medical Society about how to deal with objections that were being raised there and then in the face of all contrary evidence http://bit.ly/6JtXO1 The grounds for objection then were ” (i) That vaccination is not a preventive against small-pox ; (2) that it causes other diseases ; and (3) it is unnecessary, as small-pox is slightly infectious and can be prevented by isolation in hospital”

    The only likely cure IMHO is persistent presentation of authoritative evidence, as you do at ScienceBlogs. And encouraging a public debate.

    Sometimes the critics are right, here’s another old article about vaccination, a Dr. Pearson of Glasgow who pushed vaccination didn’t believe in sterilization and may have done some harm; he said “I have been vaccinating with the same lancet ever since I began practice—all I do is to wipe it well before beginning and after I am done” http://bit.ly/8L05y3

    Enlisting celebrity support doesn’t hurt either, when it was smallpox vaccine Charles Dickens spoke out in favor of mandatory vaccination (in 1860) http://bit.ly/84NYHa

    Thank you ScienceBlogs for your role in communicating the facts

  51. #51 Natalie
    December 31, 2009

    I know most were introduced to people when deaths from pandemics were already reducing.

    Your source apparently failed to mention that, while deaths were declining actual cases of illness were not.

    The reason is relatively simple – advances in medical care can keep people from dying of, say, encephalitis. But those same advances don’t do anything to prevent a child from getting the measles which gave them the encephalitis in the first place.

    Vaccinations actually reduced the number of people who became ill in the first place.

  52. #52 Pablo
    December 31, 2009

    The reason is relatively simple – advances in medical care can keep people from dying of, say, encephalitis. But those same advances don’t do anything to prevent a child from getting the measles which gave them the encephalitis in the first place.

    Vaccinations actually reduced the number of people who became ill in the first place.

    Which is always funny considering the whackaloons who bitch that “western medicine only treats the symptoms, not the cause of the disease.”

  53. #53 cynic
    December 31, 2009

    Respectfully, it’s not the decision not to vaccinate that has resulted in this tragedy… it’s the use of ONLY holy water to treat measles. I suspect we could see a fatality in a vaccinated person were this the treatment of choice. That’s not to say there would be less measles disease, but it’s a different topic entirely without mortality.

    I understand the point trying to be made, but this is a pretty significant detail which only further demonstrates that comparing life in the US to Africa is simply not a good comparison. No one in the US in their RIGHT MIND would treat measles disease with ONLY holy water, it’s THIS action that would result in prosecution in the US, not the fact that the child wasn’t vaccinated – since there’s no way to know whether or not the vaccine would have prevented transmission.

  54. #54 Scott
    December 31, 2009

    cynic,

    Vaccination is far more effective (and even more cost-effective) at preventing deaths from measles than treating the infection. So your argument really fails quite completely.

  55. #55 Orac
    December 31, 2009

    More than just completely–spectacularly.

  56. #56 Sid Offit
    December 31, 2009

    @Natalie

    The reason is relatively simple – advances in medical care can keep people from dying of, say, encephalitis.
    ————-
    That’s ridiculous.

    http://virology-online.com/viruses/MEASLES.htm
    treatment of acute measles encephalitis is only symptomatic and supportive

  57. #57 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 31, 2009

    and supportive

    – such as ventilators, fluid and electrolyte support, good nursing care and other components of ICU and hospital care.
    Too bad, Stoney. You have just exposed your complete ignorance of medical matters.

  58. #58 Sid Offit
    December 31, 2009

    I don’t know who this Stoney is, but massive declines in measles mortality predate the use of ventilators by several decades

  59. #59 Chris
    December 31, 2009

    Sid Offit = Stoney = Stone Deaf

    Just so you know.

  60. #60 Chris
    December 31, 2009

    Stone Deaf Sid, please point out on this graph where the massive reduction of measles incidence occurs:
    http://www.iayork.com/MysteryRays/2009/09/02/measles-deaths-pre-vaccine/

    A table of the data (you can see the USA Census file it is from from Prof. York’s blog), please tell us what other decade than 1960-1970 had a more dramatic decrease… and tell us what makes the time between 1960-1970 so different:

    Year…. Rate per 100000 of population who got measles

    1912 . . . 310.0
    1920 . . . 480.5
    1925 . . . 194.3
    1930 . . . 340.8
    1935 . . . 584.6
    1940 . . . 220.7
    1945 . . . 110.2
    1950 . . . 210.1
    1955 . . . 337.9
    1960 . . . 245.4
    1965 . . . 135.1
    1970 . . . . 23.2
    1975 . . . . 11.3
    1980 . . . . . 5.9
    1985 . . . . . 1.2
    1990 . . . . .11.2
    1991 . . . . . .3.8
    1992 . . . . . .0.9
    1993 . . . . . .0.1
    1994 . . . . . .0.4
    1995 . . . . . .0.1
    1996 . . . . . .0.2
    1997 . . . . . 0.1

    And remember, you need to count incidence not deaths, because the only thing that affects incidence is vaccines, but there are several factors that effect deaths (general health, food available, access to antibiotics for secondary infections, transportation options to hospitals, improvement in hospital practices, etc). In order to access something you need to reduce confounding variables, not add them.

  61. #61 Sid Offit
    December 31, 2009

    You’re absolutely right. The measles vaccine was the cause for the decline in incidence. My point has always been that mortality was declining long before vaccination due to living conditions and perhaps a natural lessening of virulence.

  62. #62 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 31, 2009

    Quoting myself:

    such as ventilators, fluid and electrolyte support, good nursing care and other components of ICU and hospital care.

    There are an additional 15 words after “ventilators”. They are kind of important.
    Oh, and DO check the link in Chris’ #59. It’s interesting.

  63. #63 Sid Offit
    December 31, 2009

    It’s interesting that this iayork employs the CDC’s ham-handed tactic of presenting charts that begin close enough to the start of vaccination to give the illusion that falling mortality rates were a result of vaccination.

  64. #64 Chris
    December 31, 2009

    Sid Offit, you are aware that the US Census Bureau is not the CDC? And that 1912 was several years before measles vaccination started? Here is the table again because you seem to have some kind of blinders on, taken from http://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/99statab/sec31.pdf (did you notice that the URL uses “census” not “CDC”?):

    Year…. Rate per 100000 of population who got measles

    1912 . . . 310.0
    1920 . . . 480.5
    1925 . . . 194.3
    1930 . . . 340.8
    1935 . . . 584.6
    1940 . . . 220.7
    1945 . . . 110.2
    1950 . . . 210.1
    1955 . . . 337.9
    1960 . . . 245.4
    1965 . . . 135.1
    1970 . . . . 23.2
    1975 . . . . 11.3
    1980 . . . . . 5.9
    1985 . . . . . 1.2
    1990 . . . . .11.2
    1991 . . . . . .3.8
    1992 . . . . . .0.9
    1993 . . . . . .0.1
    1994 . . . . . .0.4
    1995 . . . . . .0.1
    1996 . . . . . .0.2
    1997 . . . . . 0.1

    Now please tell us what happened between 1960 and 1970.

  65. #65 Chris
    December 31, 2009

    Verbage from the iayork blog that Stone Deaf Sid’s blinder prevented him from seeing:

    The anti-vaccine claim is that by 1950 measles had already dropped by 95%. But public health data are available back to at least 1912, and there’s no support for that claim. Here are the data from the US census (PDF link; measles incidence, expressed as rate per 100,000 population):

    The graph after the words is the data I presented above twice!

    Stone Deaf Sid (or better yet Blind Sid), please tell us which decade shows the 95% drop.

  66. #66 Chris
    December 31, 2009

    Let us look at those numbers. So in 1950 there were 210.1 cases of measles per 100000 people in the USA population (which in 1950 was approximately half of what it is now). Now the highest level before that in the 20th century was in 1935, with 584.6 cases per 100000 people in the USA.

    And of course, since measles is cyclical, the numbers for 1955 were 337.9 cases per 100000.

    What kind of Magic Math do you employ to tell us that the reduction of cases before 1950 was 95%?

  67. #67 Scott
    December 31, 2009

    If the 1950 rate were 95% reduced, the original rate would have been 4202/100K/year. Call it 4% of the population getting measles each year. That would mean that people would be getting measles every 25 years on average – multiple times in their lifetime, in other words.

    So yeah, Sid’s just spouting BS.

  68. #68 Chris
    December 31, 2009

    I also think it just adds more beauty that the 1955 rate was so much higher!

  69. #69 Sid Offit
    December 31, 2009

    Does anyone here know the difference between incidence and mortality?

  70. #70 Mithrandir
    December 31, 2009

    Sid,

    Allow me to illustrate.

    The cost of being vaccinated:
    *

    The cost of a mere week of sniffles and fever:
    ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

  71. #71 Shay
    December 31, 2009

    Sid: Would you be willing to tell me when you were born?

    I was born in 1955, so I had nearly every (now vaccine-preventable) childhood disease there was, including measles. It left me with a severe hearing loss in one ear (my younger brother is completely deaf from the same disease). I have been told that my incessant howling from the misery and discomfort the measles caused drove my parents nuts.

    But it didn’t kill me so I suppose in your eyes I have no cause for complaint. After all, the extremely slight possibility of a vaccine reaction far outweighs any real, demonstrated dangers, and besides pain is good for you. It builds character.

  72. #72 Chris
    December 31, 2009

    Stone Deaf Sid:

    Does anyone here know the difference between incidence and mortality?

    Yes. One is only affected by vaccine, the other has several other confounding variables (including vaccines). Your point?

  73. #73 Richard Eis
    January 1, 2010

    As for the statement that vaccinations saving lives – I am not too sure. I know most were introduced to people when deaths from pandemics were already reducing.

    Read the rticle again please dear. Notice the references to yknow..death. Considering that in 3rd world countries (like say the one in the article) where vaccination is more readily available than expensive medicines, vaccination WILL save lives.

    Also US hospitals already deal with huge numbers of patients. Do you really think they can deal with widespread epidemics?

    As for techskeptic’s idiotic screed about dangerous cars… that has already been nicely shown to be dumb by others but i will ask… do you really honestly believe that denying children basic health, fostering and spreading the outbreak of a serious disease and then deliberately hiding the evidence is NOT a criminal offense?

  74. #74 k
    January 1, 2010

    MI Dawn @#15 – Circare.org has a page of
    links to state medical board sites

    here
    .

    Tenpenny’s screeds sound like she’s ten
    cents short of a dime. It’s interesting
    that almost every mention of her cites
    that she was ED director of Blanchard
    Valley Hospital from 87-95, but I couldn’t
    find out exactly what happened when that
    cause her to “quack up” and become a
    sCAM artist – it’s likely behind a paywall
    somewhere.

    In addition to being an active force in
    the fight to ensure that everyone lacks
    protection from deadly infectious diseases
    and their sequelae, she is on the advisory
    board of the Medical Tourism Association
    as Executive Director and CEO of Sanoviv
    Medical Institute in Rosarita, Baja California, Mexico.

    The MTA trade rag describes Sanoviv
    thusly: “[It] opened in 1999, fulfilling
    the vision of its founder, Myron Wentz,
    PhD – also the founder of a global network
    marketing supplement company, USANA
    Health Sciences. The 47-bed hospital,
    situated on a cliff over the Pacific
    Ocean, has the look and feel of a 5-star
    resort…. Prevention programs identify
    and correct unrecognized nutritional
    deficiencies and overall inflammation.
    Moreover, by combining conventional
    technologies and treatments with the
    holistic principles of oxygenation,
    hydration, alkalization, and good nutrition,
    Sanoviv’s medical programs are designed
    to assist in the healing of all types of
    chronic degenerative disease.”

    [Sarcasm]Just makes me want to go sit on the beach,
    covered in SPF 100, and sip a propofol
    colada…[/sarcasm]

  75. #75 kumarandkumar
    January 2, 2010

    I really feel happy that people are woorried about happnings of third world countris.I feel one should think in wholistic apporach for this kind of problems.I saw this kind of problem in India in my teenage.As a docter’s son i saw my father convincing villagers for smallpox vaccination in remote parts of India now I see it eradicated from India.So there is always hope one day people of this african country will understood but till that day many will be dead. Still I feel there is need of strong men who could fight for right cause. Pradeep

  76. #76 Militant Agnostic
    January 2, 2010

    @73 – I went to a USANA presentation once (don’t ask) and I am pretty sure that enemas were part of the program at Sanoviv. USANA relies on “Network Marketing” (Amway style pyramid sales).

    More OT regarding USANA – Oprah’s favorite gynecologist Christianne Northrupp (a woo soaked twit who can’t bring herself to say “vagina” on TV) is regularly in the top 3 USANA associates for recruitng “preferred customers” and has become a “diamond director”. What a “Va Jay Jay”.

  77. #77 cynic
    January 2, 2010

    Scott and Orac @ 53 & 54:

    It’s not a matter of comparing treatment and prevention. It’s the notion (and presentation of this post) that refusing the vaccine resulted in the tragic deaths. Misleading at best.

    Since I am not making an argument for refusing the vaccine (measles vaccine works quite well at reducing transmission of measles disease), using cost analysis for treatment versus prevention is moot.

  78. #78 diatom
    January 5, 2010

    A correction is necessary to this post. Orac says children still die in the west of measles, “hundreds in the last decade” (the source of which is something called “stuff and nonsense”).

    The “stuff and nonsense” total measles deaths since 1988 (note that is a 22 year period, not a decade) is 170. However, if you read the “stuff and nonsense” source material carefully, you will see that of the 170 deaths attributed to “children” some were adult deaths. The pediatric deaths are Italy 2; CA 1988-1990 54 (note, 1988-90 was 20-22 years ago, so the 54 deaths should not be included in the last decade); Gemany 2; the link to the Ireland stats shows 2 deaths not 3; the link to the Japan stats doesn’t say how many of the estimated 88 deaths are children v. adults, so let’s assume they were all children.

    A more accurate estimate for pediatric measles deaths in the west in the last decade is 94, in the last two decades 147.

  79. #79 Chris
    January 5, 2010

    Okay, now tell us how many died from the MMR. With references.

  80. #80 Richard Eis
    January 5, 2010

    Okay, now tell us how many died from the MMR. With references.

    But…they had hurty arms!!!1!

  81. #81 diatom
    January 5, 2010

    Still looking for documentation on the 2000 Japanese measles mortality rate of 88 cited in “stuff and nonsense” quoted by Orac. “stuff and nonsense” cites an Australian newspaper article for the estimate. Since newspaper estimates are not known for their accuracy, and because 88 accounts for about 95% of the “stuff and nonsense” measles attributed pediatric mortality in the west in the past decade, it is worth looking into.

    http://www.who.int/whosis/mort/profiles/mort_wpro_jpn_japan.pdf Page 2 of this WHO fact sheet for Japan, “causes of death in children under 5” shows a measles mortality rate of 0 for the period 2000-2003. Since the under 5 and over 20 age groups have much higher measles mortality risk than the 5-19 age group, it is likely that Japanese measles mortality figures would include a large number of adults. This is especially true since, as we shall see below, Japan has fairly high rates of adult measles cases. Note that measles is still endemic in Japan, with 11,000 cases reported in 2008.

    This graph from the Japanese Infectious Agent Surveillance Report (IASR) http://idsc.nih.go.jp/iasr/22/261/graph/f2611.gif shows measles mortality around 50 in 2000. This graph also illustrates that the 2000 measles mortality rate increased from its low of <10 in 1995. We still don’t know what number to attribute to children v. adults. However, as we can see from this graph http://idsc.nih.go.jp/iasr/25/289/graph/f2894.gif the incidence of measles in the 1-9 age group is decreasing as the incidence in older children and adults is increasing. These IASR graphs illustrate an increase in measles mortality that corresponds with an increase of measles incidence in adults. Remember the WHO statistics showing zero deaths in the 5 and under age group.

    So this puts measles mortality in the west in the past decade at around 56, with 50 deaths (90% of the total number) attributable to Japan (including children and adults) where measles is still endemic. It’s important to check facts, especially those emanating from blogs citing newspaper articles.

  82. #82 bush piglet
    January 6, 2010

    Diatom
    Older children and adults are more likely to be dying from the long term sequelae of measles such as encephalitis and SSPE. However the deaths will still be atributed to measles virus as they should and will be documented as such. Your post has highlighted exactly that,particularly with the mortality occurring in the older age groups. This fits the disease profile exactly. I’m a bit confused though with your numbers. You state at the end of your post that there have only been 56 deaths from measles in the west in the past decade with 90% from Japan. Is Japan a part of the west now?

  83. #83 diatom
    January 7, 2010

    bush piglet, I was wondering that myself. You’ll have to ask Orac, who made the statement that children in the west are dying of measles, and who then cited the “stuff and nonsense” numbers which cited the Japan stats.

  84. #84 cbe
    January 7, 2010

    Diatom- your “total measles deaths since 1988″ number is missing a lot of outbreaks. Examples: Britain 2006, 2008. Germany 2001; SSPE cases from 2006. Netherlands 99-2000. etc. all with deaths and many more out there that you have not noted in your number.

  85. #85 diatom
    January 7, 2010

    My numbers come from Orac’s citation of “stuff and nonsense” numbers. Please inform us of your more accurate numbers and legitimate reference citations. I make no claim to having captured all deaths, my point was that Orac’s comment that “hundreds” of children have died in the west in the past decade was a gross overstatement, and that the citation he gave provided inadequate evidence for his claim.

  86. #86 diatom
    January 8, 2010

    Orac said “While it is true that fatality rates due to the measles are much higher in Africa than they are in developed nations”

    Aside from the general poor living conditions in “undeveloped” nations like Africa (rampant malnutrition, lack of clean water and sanitation, war, etc.) child labor is also a factor. This is another variable (one I don’t see mentioned often) to consider when contemplating the greater childhood mortality rate in countries like Africa

    http://www.dol.gov/ilab/media/reports/iclp/sweat/zimbabwe.htm