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4 ways vaccine skeptics mislead people about measles and other diseases

4 ways vaccine skeptics mislead people about measles and other diseases
4 ways vaccine skeptics mislead people about measles and other diseases


Small vial containing MMR vaccine
credit: Lee Prather / Shutterstock

Measles is on the rise in the United States. In the first quarter of this year, the number of cases was about 17 timesOn average, they occurred at the same time in each of the past four years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Half of those infected Mainly children are hospitalized.

The situation is only going to get worse. That's mainly because more parents are not vaccinating their children against diseases like measles, polio and whooping cough. This year, unvaccinated people or people with unknown vaccination status account for 80% of measles cases. Many parents have been influenced by a flood of misinformation spewed by politicians, podcast hosts and influencers on television and social media. These figures are repeating decades-old concepts that undermine trust in the established science that backs routine childhood vaccines. KFF Health News examined this rhetoric and explained why it's wrong.

a trivial metaphor

A common distortion is that vaccines are not necessary because vaccine-preventable diseases are not that dangerous or rare enough to be of concern. Cynics accuse public health officials and the media of fear-mongering about measles, even though 19 states have reported cases of measles.

For example, an article published on the website of the National Vaccine Information Center, a regular source of vaccine misinformation, claims that the renewed concern about the disease is “the 'sky is falling' hype.” are doing. He also said it was “politically inappropriate to contract” measles, mumps, chickenpox and influenza.

Measles causes roughly 100 deaths 2 out of 1,000 people According to the CDC, fewer than 1,000 children have been infected with measles. If that seems like an acceptable risk, it's worth pointing out that a much higher proportion of children who contract measles end up needing hospitalization for pneumonia or other serious complications. One in every 10 children who contract measles develops pneumonia. Ear infection May lead to permanent hearing loss.Another strange effect is that measles viruses can be destroyed It makes it harder for a person's existing immunity, or ability to recover from the flu and other common illnesses, to flourish.

According to one report, the measles vaccine has prevented approximately 94 million deaths, mostly among children, over the past 50 years. April analysis Led by the World Health Organization. Together with immunizations against polio and other diseases, vaccines have saved an estimated 154 million lives worldwide.

Some skeptics argue that vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer a threat because they have become relatively rare in the United States (thanks to vaccination, that's true). That reasoning led Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo to tell parents during the measles outbreak in February that they could send their unvaccinated children to school. “When you look at the headline, you'll feel like the sky is falling.” Ladapo said: on News Nation's news program. “My immunity is quite high.”

When this lax attitude persuades parents to refuse vaccination, protective herd immunity declines, allowing outbreaks to spread larger and faster. In 2019, measles broke out rapidly in Samoa among an undervaccinated population, killing 83 people within four months. This is due to a chronic lack of measles vaccination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 5,600 people died This is due to last year's large-scale infectious disease outbreak.

“You never know” metaphor

Since the early days of vaccines, the public has thought of vaccines as bad because they are unnatural compared to infectious diseases and epidemics, which are blessings from nature. redefined over the decadesIn the 1800s, vaccine skeptics claimed that the smallpox vaccine caused people to: grow horns And they behave like beasts. In recent times, people have been blaming vaccines for a variety of ailments, from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder to autism to immune system disruptions. Research has not supported the claims. But skeptics argue that their claims are still valid because vaccines have not been adequately tested.

In fact, vaccines are one of the most studied medical interventions. Over the past century, large-scale studies and clinical trials have tested vaccines during their development and after their widespread distribution, involving more than 12,000 people. clinical trial of the latest vaccines approved to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella. Because vaccines are given to millions of healthy people, researchers can detect rare risks in such large numbers, which is a major concern.

To assess long-term risks, researchers sift through large amounts of data for signs of harm. For example, a Danish group analyzed the database A study of more than 657,000 children found that children who were vaccinated against measles as babies were no more likely to be diagnosed with autism later in life than those who were not vaccinated. . In another study, researchers 805,000 children The study, which looked at children born between 1990 and 2001, found no evidence to support concerns that multiple vaccinations could harm children's immune systems.

Yet those who spread vaccine misinformation, like candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., deny large-scale scientifically vetted studies. For example, Kennedy argues that clinical trials of new vaccines are unreliable because vaccinated children are not vaccinated. Comparison with placebo group Adding saline or another substance to the vaccine won't do any good. Instead, many of the newer trials compare the newest vaccines to older ones. It would be unethical to put children at risk by giving them fake vaccines when we know the protective effects of vaccinations. Clinical trials in the 1950s After receiving the polio vaccine, 16 children in the placebo group died from polio, and 34 were paralyzed, said Dr. McConlogue, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of the book “Study of Polio Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness.'' said Paul Offit. a book About the first polio vaccine.

A metaphor for going too fast and too far

Some of Amazon's best-selling vaccine books promote the dangerous idea that parents should skip or delay their children's vaccinations. “Every vaccine on the CDC schedule may not always be appropriate for every child,” writes Paul Thomas in his best-selling book, “Vaccine-Friendly Planning.” He supports this belief by saying, “Children who follow my protocol are the healthiest in the world.”

Since the book's publication, Thomas' medical license has been temporarily suspended in Oregon and Washington. of Oregon Medical Board The committee documented how Thomas persuaded parents not to get CDC-recommended vaccines, reducing an opposing mother to “tears.” The committee wrote that several children in his care contracted whooping cough and rotavirus, diseases that are easily preventable with vaccines. For an unvaccinated child with a deep scalp laceration, Thomas recommended fish oil supplements and homeopathy rather than an emergency tetanus vaccine. The boy developed severe tetanus and was hospitalized for nearly two months, requiring intubation, a tracheotomy, and a feeding tube to survive.

The CDC-recommended vaccination schedule is tailored to protect children during their most vulnerable years of life and minimize side effects. The combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine is not given in the first year of life because temporary antibodies inherited from the mother may interfere with the immune response. Also, some babies do not have a strong response to the first dose. Therefore, the CDC recommends a second dose around the time children enter kindergarten because measles and other viruses spread rapidly in group settings.

It may not be wise to delay MMR vaccination any further. The data suggests Children vaccinated at age 10 or older are more likely to experience side effects such as seizures and fatigue.

About a dozen other vaccines have separate timelines that overlap when they produce the best response. Research suggests The MMR vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective when combined with other vaccines.

“They don't want you to know” metaphor

In the foreword to Ladapo's new book on transcending fear in public health, Kennedy likens Florida's Surgeon General to Galileo. Kennedy wonders if scientific institutions are suppressing dissent on vaccines for nefarious reasons, just as the Roman Catholic Inquisition punished the famous astronomer for promoting his theories about the universe. suggests.

“The persecution of scientists and doctors who dare challenge contemporary orthodoxy is not a new phenomenon,” Kennedy wrote. His running mate, lawyer Nicole Shanahan, is campaigning on the following ideas: A conversation about the harms of vaccines Censored, CDC and other federal agencies Hide data Due to corporate influence.

Claims like “they don't want you to know” are not new among anti-vaxxers, even though the movement has long had a loud voice. The Joe Rogan Experience, America's most listened to podcast, regularly features guests who question the scientific consensus. last year on the programKennedy repeated the already debunked claim that vaccines cause autism.

Far from ignoring the concerns, epidemiologists are taking them seriously. Dozens of studies Studies have repeatedly found no link between vaccines and autism. “The theory that vaccines are linked to autism has been conclusively disproven,” said Gideon Meyrowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia. “So public health agencies tend to shut down these conversations pretty quickly.”

Federal agencies have been transparent about the seizures, sore arms and other reactions that the vaccine may cause. And the government There are programs to compensate Individuals who have been scientifically injured because of it. 1 to 3.5 doses per million doses Measles, mumps and rubella vaccines can cause life-threatening allergic reactions, and a person's lifetime risk of death from lightning is estimated to be four times higher.

“The most convincing thing I can say is that my daughter is fully vaccinated and every pediatrician and public health official I know is vaccinating their children. “There are,” Meyerowitz-Katz said. “No one would do that if they thought there was a significant risk.”

KFF Health News is one of the main operating programs of KFF, a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues and an independent source of health policy research, polling and journalism. KFF.

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