In looking through the comments of Chris Mooney’s recent post on vaccination denialism, I found this comment, which inevitably shows up in one form or another (italics mine; errors original):
i grew up in the 1960s when less than a half dozen vaccines were required for infant protection spread out over the first few years of life. outside of a rubella outbreak, i recall no advrese effects on our infant populace, neither in mortality, serious disease contraction, nor mental disfunction.
today there are well over 2 dozem vaccines required, sometimes given 6-8 at one time, spread out over 18 months. and, factually, ther IS a documentable and unhealthy increase in childhood autism. many of that generation are suspicious, and rightfully so, of government or other studies that fly in the face of common. sense. it used to be we didnt expose oue infants to being outside the house for prolonged periods in the first few months of infancy, but now its ok to expose them to a dozen or so diseases through vaccination during this time? cmon now.
while i am specifically not saying vaccines are unneccesary, i do question why we have increased their number by 400% and i do question why they cannot be spread out over a more reasonable time period, when the infant body is better prepared to deal with them, and i very much DO question why it is considered neanderthal to question whether this combination of factors may indeed be responsible for the increase of childhood autism.
Actually, it’s not over two dozen, it’s a maximum of twelve. And that increase is because we now actually have vaccines against diseases that routinely killed thousands of children in the U.S., such as Haemophilus influenzae (‘H-flu’ or ‘Hib disease’) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (‘PCV’–which also has the added benefit of preventing deaths among the elderly simply through herd immunity). Being unable to “recall no adverse effects” is simply a statement of ignorance, not an evidentiary claim.
But the ‘more vaccines are stressing OUR BABIES!’ claim actually betrays an ignorance of human immunology–even with more vaccines, children are being exposed to fewer antigens (antigens are compounds that trigger an immune response; italics mine):
The immunization schedule in this country has grown complex over the last 20 years. In 1980, infants were vaccinated against four diseases — diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio. Today, most healthy infants get up to 15 shots of five vaccines by the time they are six months old, and up to 5 additional shots of seven more vaccines by age two. These immunizations protect against 11 diseases in total — diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b (commonly referred to as Hib disease), varicella, and pneumococcus.
Despite the rise in the number of both vaccines and vaccine doses, exposure to vaccine antigens — those portions of a foreign substance that trigger an immune response — is lower than it used to be. This reduced antigen load is explained, in part, by the removal of two vaccines from the immunization schedule. Smallpox vaccine, which was discontinued in 1971, contained approximately 200 potentially antigenic substances. In addition, a new, streamlined form of pertussis vaccine, approved for use in 1991, reduced the number of potential antigens from approximately 3,000 to between two and five. Furthermore, vaccines added to the immunization schedule during the past two decades have relatively few antigens. The new hepatitis B vaccine, for example, contains only one antigen.
I realize vaccination denialists are refractory to evidence, but I’ve heard several people not opposed to vaccination in general worry about this. To put it simply, the full vaccine schedule is far less complex in terms of what the immune system actually sees and experiences than it was in the 1960s–and children are protected against many more diseases.