Flea talks reason, and the antivax hordes descend

Dr. Flea's a guy after my own heart. He's been blogging about vaccines, and now he's getting into specific diseases. He's posted an installment about the vaccine against Haemophilus influenza type B:

The first American children to receive the Hib vaccine are turning 20 years old this year.

Flea wasn't practicing medicine in the pre-Hib era, so I asked an older nurse what office-based Pediatrics was like before the vaccine.

"About once a year, a kid would come in with an ear infection. They'd write him a prescription for antibiotics, then he'd go home and die."

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a bug that lives up your nose and the back of your throat. It's passed from child to child by coughing and sneezing. In some children, Hib causes no problems at all. In other children it causes serious invasive infections such as meningitis and pneumonia. About 5% of children with Hib meningitis die despite antibiotic treatment. If the meningitis doesn't kill your child, it could leave him blind, deaf, and mentally retarded.

Hib can indeed cause horrible disease, and the Hib vaccine has decreased its incidence to rates so low that most younger pediatricians and E.R. docs have never seen it.

He's also blogged about the elimination of polio by vaccines, complete with a photo of kids in iron lungs:

Only folks a bit older than Flea can remember the Polio panics of the 50's. Flea knows personally only one person who had Polio as a child. In 1955, everybody knew somebody who had Polio. Public swimming pools and Summer camps were shut down and quarantines were ordered for homes with afflicted family members.

Today, thanks to the Sabin and Salk vaccines and to the hard work of thousands of volunteers, we are very close to eradication of Polio worldwide. Only a few hundred cases are reported each year. The only hurdles that remain are logistical ones, particularly resources and political will necessary to vaccinate remote populations in India and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The eradication of Polio will represent a public health triumph greater even than the victory over Smallpox, as the former is a water-borne virus, and the latter is spread person-to-person.

And, to top it off, he discussed the elimination of smallpox through vaccination.

Once again, the antivax hordes have descended on his blog. Please go lend him some tactical air support.

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Man, anti-vax nuttery just won't go away, will it?

By anonimouse (not verified) on 20 Dec 2006 #permalink

I remember a polio vaccination campaign. Hundreds of kids in an elementary school gym, each patiently waiting in line for a sugar cube. That would have been the Sabin vaccine, I guess, and since the oral vaccine was licensed in 1962, I must have been seven or eight years old. I had never seen anything like this gathering of parents and children, carefully organized by nurses, and it was obvious that something very important was taking place. People nowadays line up and even fight over Playstations and Wiis. We had something much more important to line up for.

I have a memory of standing in a long line with my brother and mother and apparantly every kid in our small town (realized later it was the local high school) and getting a shot from one of the doctors at the end of the line.

I was four or five (1945?).

Of course I meant 1955.

Having been born in 1952, I got both the polio vaccine, as well as the sugar cube version. I, too, remember standing in long lines at the local elementary school, waiting to be poked or "sugar-cubed."

Living across the street from us was a girl who had polio. She'd been born in 1946, the same year as one of my sisters. I remember her going thru multiple operations and having to wear a brace on one leg with a big "clubbed" shoe for years.

When Halloween came around, her family refused to take her out trick-or-treating, so my father ended up carrying her up and down the block. I'll always be proud of his caring enough not to leave her behind.

By Catherine (not verified) on 21 Dec 2006 #permalink

Hi, Orac, got way behind on your blog and am trying to catch up this month --

I had an uncle who died of polio before I was born. His son wears a brace on one leg. (And the rental car companies refuse to let him drive their cars -- I wonder if that would make anyone think twice about going unvaccinated? Probably not....) His wife is sharing shoes with someone in another state, someone who after polio had the opposite shoe-size discrepancy from my aunt.

I think anyone opposing polio vaccination needs to be educated. And if they can't be educated, shot. (Take that however you will.)