Mike the Mad Biologist

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.

Comments

  1. #1 dcotler
    April 30, 2011

    In my experience (25 years and several hundred thousand vaccines administered, no serious sequelae), a Ph.D. in French Literature or an MBA qualifies one to “do the research” in my specialty. Logically, I am either a shill for a world-wide conspiracy or a dupe of that conspiracy (that some of my patients’ parents can easily understand after a few minutes on the internet).

  2. #2 Jerry
    April 30, 2011

    There seems to be a few cases of serious sequelae (8 deaths, 41 permanent brain damaged) here.

    Pediatrics. 1998 Mar;101(3 Pt 1):383-7.

    Acute encephalopathy followed by permanent brain injury or death associated with further attenuated measles vaccines: a review of claims submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

    Weibel RE, Caserta V, Benor DE, Evans G.

    SourceDivision of Vaccine Injury Compensation, National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, Health Resources and Services Administration, Public Health Service, Rockville, Maryland 20857, USA.

    Abstract
    OBJECTIVE: To determine if there is evidence for a causal relationship between acute encephalopathy followed by permanent brain injury or death associated with the administration of further attenuated measles vaccines (Attenuvax or Lirugen, Hoechst Marion Roussel, Kansas City, MO), mumps vaccine (Mumpsvax, Merck and Co, Inc, West Point, PA), or rubella vaccines (Meruvax or Meruvax II, Merck and Co, Inc, West Point, PA), combined measles and rubella vaccine (M-R-Vax or M-R-Vax II, Merck and Co, Inc, West Point, PA), or combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (M-M-R or M-M-R II, Merck and Co, Inc, West Point, PA), the lead author reviewed claims submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

    METHODS: The medical records of children who met the inclusion criteria of receiving the first dose of these vaccines between 1970 and 1993 and who developed such an encephalopathy with no determined cause within 15 days were identified and analyzed.

    RESULTS: A total of 48 children, ages 10 to 49 months, met the inclusion criteria after receiving measles vaccine, alone or in combination. Eight children died, and the remainder had mental regression and retardation, chronic seizures, motor and sensory deficits, and movement disorders. The onset of neurologic signs or symptoms occurred with a nonrandom, statistically significant distribution of cases on days 8 and 9. No cases were identified after the administration of monovalent mumps or rubella vaccine.

    CONCLUSIONS: This clustering suggests that a causal relationship between measles vaccine and encephalopathy may exist as a rare complication of measles immunization

  3. #3 Jerry
    April 30, 2011

    I forgot to mention. I found the above published paper on the internet. There are many more where that came from. And Mike, they just added childhood vaccine dose #72 and #73 to the schedule last week. But who’s counting.

  4. #4 Vicki
    April 30, 2011

    I’m fairly sure both that I got a measles vaccines as a child, and that this was not particularly rare. (Not having the paperwork handy, I also got one in the early 1980s, because there was a measles outbreak in one dorm, so they vaccinated anyone who wasn’t sure they’d already had that vaccine.) I also got a TB vaccine, but those were less common.

    This was in the mid-1960s (so, yes, smallpox was on there as well).

  5. #5 dcotler
    April 30, 2011

    From the same article quoted by Jerry @2:

    “Nevertheless, with a denominator of 75 000 000 vaccinees throughout 23 years, the incidence of acute encephalopathy caused by measles vaccine in this cohort can reasonably be described as very low.”

    and

    “Postinfectious encephalopathy complicates approximately 1 in 1000 cases of natural measles and results in a mortality rate of 10% to 20% and permanent central nervous system impairment in the majority of survivors.”

    Citing an incidence of 48 out of 75,000,000 without noting the incidence of encephalopathy of 1/1000 (75,000 out of 75,000,000) after natural measles disease reflects either innumeracy or propaganda. This is the wrong audience, Jerry;

    By the way, if you got an MMR, you might be one of the lucky 74,952. I hope any children under your care are so lucky.

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