Vaccinations, The Flu, and You.

Winter is on it’s way, and with it the encouragement for the public to get Flu Vaccinations. Many higher-risk public-sector workplaces are offering the service free to their staff, such as Public Transport Services and Hospitals.

Importantly, everyone should have a clear understanding of Herd Immunity. I found as video that demonstrated it well, although the introduction is a bit boring as it has more to do with the USA rather than Australia. The video can be found here at a previous post.

Sydney’s Northern Beaches recently experienced the effects of a reduction in Vaccination rates (The Manly Daily), which I wrote about at the time. It’s a topic that needs to be frequently covered, as anti-vaccination propaganda that gets passed around eventually finds someone who will take it as fact.

It’s worth nothing that some anti-vaccination websites promote “natural” immunisation methods .. such as simply allowing your children to get sick; sometimes herd immunity or germ theory was rejected all together, usually both, and more often than not they dismiss any documentation without reading it. Anti-science rhetoric is common.

Let’s look at some of the common themes of Anti-Vaccination Groups:

Ingredient Misinformation

Ingredients are generally the first “line of attack” for Anti-Vax proponents. The information they give ABOUT their claims is generally factually incorrect and is often recited verbatim without any fact-checking performed. It is because these concepts are so ingrained it is often difficult to demonstrate through evidence that their knowledge is incorrect.

Anti-Freeze – FALSE!

The “antifreeze” error comes from a misunderstanding of the ethylene chemical compounds – all that is ethylene is not antifreeze.

Formaldehyde – TRUE!

Vaccines utilize formaldehyde that is identical to the substance found naturally in our bodies as a metabolic byproduct of methanol. It is commonly excreted in our urine as waste or converted into formalin.

Formaldehyde in our bodies = H2CO (natural)
Formaldehyde in vaccines = H2CO (synthetic)

Formaldehyde has other uses and is changed to be used in conjunction with other synthetic chemical compounds. These compounds, solutions, gasses, or resins can be, and often are, toxic.

Formaldehyde in embalming fluid = H2CO+CH3OH+CH3CH2OH+solvents
Formaldehyde in plywood = H2CO+NH2CONH2+CH3OH+HCOOH+H2O

Thimerosal – Depends! (On which Vaccine)

Thimerosal is a preservative that is used in the manufacturing process of some vaccines and other medicines to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi, which could otherwise cause illness or injury.

Most anti-vaxers will claim that the amount of mercury that used to be in vaccine exceeded EPA exposure guidelines. However, Thimerosal metabolises into ethylmercury, not methylmercury. The guidelines are specifically for methylmercury, as ethylmercury has a half-life of only a few days to about a week, thus is not considered dangerous enough to regulate. You will literally get more exposure to mercury from a 6oz tin of Tuna.

In addition, Thimerosal has not be used in the MMR vaccine since 2002 and was removed due to political pressure as part of a recommendation, not a regulation. Despite the removal of thimerosal from vaccines, resulting in exposure levels lower than anytime in the past, autism rates have not declined, suggesting that there is no connection between thimerosal and autism.

Baby Foetuses – False!

This was simply scare-campaigning and not true in the slightest.

Aluminium – True!

Vaccines contain aluminum in a salt form. Anti-vaxers claim this is toxic, and some will cite that 4ppm will cause blood to coagulate. However, individuals are not exposed to such amounts of aluminum in a single vaccination visit. Below are the vaccines containing aluminum, with the corresponding parts per million (ppm) for an infant (~251 mL of blood in the body) and an 80lb. child (~4000 mL of blood); note the two numbers for DTaP represent extreme ranges of aluminum content.:

ppm (w/v) = (weight in grams of sample/volume of sample in mL) * 106
Vaccine ppm in infant ppm in child age received (in months)
DTaP (170mcg) .677 .043 2, 4, 6, w/ final ~4-6 yrs
DTaP(625mcg) 2.490 .156
Hep A .996 .063 12 w/ final ~6 mo. later
Hep B .996 .063 birth, 1 or 2, final at 6+
HiB .896 .056 2, 4
HPV .896 .056 11 or 12 yrs., then 2, 6 mo.
Pediatrix 3.386 .213 2, 4, 6 (in lieu of DTaP, IPV and Hep B)
Pentacel 1.315 .083 2, 4, 6, 15-18 (in lieu of DTaP, IPV and HiB)
Pneumococcus .498 .031 2, 4, 6, 12-15

Safety and Effectiveness

Measles, United States 1950-2001

After false claims about ingredients, the argument often falls towards Safety and Effectiveness. Essentially stemming from a lack of knowledge in statistics – specifically, gathering, analysis, and interpretation.

Statistically, the information from numerous data-sets demonstrates that vaccines are, in fact, effective in reducing the incidence rate of infection.

Improved socioeconomic conditions have undoubtedly had an indirect impact on disease. Better nutrition, the development of antibiotics and other treatments have increased survival rates among the sick; less crowded living conditions have reduced disease transmission; and lower birth rates have decreased the number of susceptible household contacts — all factors accounted for.

The only suspected issues Vaccines occur if a child has a rare, hereditary, mitochondrial disorder that pre-disposes them to a reaction – and even for this, the supporting information is not currently conclusive, nor strong. There is a test available that checks for this disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Interestingly, the published speculation about a link between Vaccines and Autism was made specifically about the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine; this information was lated investigated and found to have been manufactured by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues.

The Paper was initially published in the respected medical journal The Lancet but later retracted after an investigation found Dr. Wakefield had several ethics breaches, including failure to disclose financial compensation from a lawyer representing families claiming MMR cause their children’s autism, failure to disclose financial interests in patents for MMR alternatives, failure to include data which contradicted his conclusions, use of contaminated samples to support his conclusions.

On May 24, 2010, the General Medical Council issued a determination that Wakefield was found guilty of professional misconduct and should be erased from the Medical Register in the U.K. (meaning that his license to practice medicine in the U.K. has been revoked).

And again, to date, no rigorous, controlled study has shown a causal link between vaccines and autism.

Vaccines are injected into the bloodstream  – False!

This claim stems from a lack of knowledge about anatomy, specifically – the lymphatic system. Vaccines are either injected subcutaneously, injected intramuscularly, given by mouth, or squirted up the nose.

Since subcutaneous and intramuscular vaccines are injected directly into the body, and antigens and other components are taken into the bloodstream via the lymphatic system (in order to spur antibody production through hyperstimulation of the Th2/humoral response) without passing through our ordinary immune defences.

At this point, no vaccines are recommended for injection into your bloodstream via the intravenous method. The CDC Pinkbook includes a Vaccine Administration section (Appendix D Page 5), which demonstrates the correct route of administration for each vaccine.

Conspiracy Theories

By the time Anti-Vax proponents get to this stage they have already exhausted their Ingredient & Efficacy arguments; arguments that are subsequently used  time and time again, despite being proven to be false. Usually, it is clear by this point that they have these beliefs because they have been personally affected by some infection, serious disease, or death and are looking for Agency. (Something/someone to blame).

Generally, it starts with the allegation that “Big Pharma” is poisoning your children, or you. The “evidence” cited is often not evidence at all, rather it is rife with innuendo and references to “consumerism”, or “corporate america”.  The claim involves everyone from manufacturers, governments, regulators, and health professionals.

Most challenges are met with ad hominem attacks of “You’re a Big Pharma Shill”, or claims you’re part cover-up of the information.

Ironic, given the names of some of these “informed choice” advocates. One, calling themselves the “Australian Vaccination Network” or AVN was ordered by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission to clearly identify themselves as Anti-Vaccination based on the information that the AVN was:

  • provides information that is solely anti-vaccination
  • contains information that is incorrect and misleading
  • quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous.

I am willing to make it clear that there are justified concerns with Big Pharma. However, the allegation of a deliberate attack on the public isn’t supported by anything; most importantly, the statistics. It is purely a tactic – a Red Herring – something to take the argument towards how “terrible and greedy” pharmaceutical companies are, as if that was enough to proven that vaccines were dangerous.

Regardless of the conspiracies, the statistics demonstrate vaccinations work.

Additionally, Anna Kata in the Department of Anthropology of McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario released a paper, A postmodern Pandora’s box: Anti-vaccination misinformation on the Internet set out to examine and analyze antivaccination websites. In which she analysed information contained in Eight-Antivaccination sites, selected through Google searches that were used to identify the highest-ranked anti-vaccine sites using typical search strategies.

Her paper can be found here: http://resources.cpha.ca/CCIAP/data/1700e.pdf

 

More Links:

Yes, Northern Beaches – we have our misinformed too.

It’s of no surprise to see the comments that have been posted over on The Manly Daily’s article on an outbreak of Pertussis on the Northern Beaches. (http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/comments/parents-lashed-over-whooping-cough-outbreak/)

Unfortunately for this anonymous person with an “open mind”, the statistics they quoted are incorrect. Firstly, the correct % for Australian Children is around 90% overall – not 97%, as reported by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in their publication “A Picture of Australian Children”. While a minimum of around 88% should be reached, the recommended rate of vaccination by the NHMRC is greater than 90%.

“When a person is vaccinated, their body produces an immune response in the same way their body would after exposure to a disease, but without the person suffering symptoms of the disease. When a person comes in contact with that disease in the future, their immune system will respond fast enough to prevent the person developing the disease.”  – http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/faq

Furthermore, Some parents often wonder why their children are contracting pertussis (Whooping Cough / WC) even when they’re immunized / vaccinated. This is, unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding of the way vaccination, and the subsequent immunisation of people occurs.

What is important here is the term “Herd Immunity”. Herd Immunity is a mathematical phenomena that exists because of immunisation rates. I found a wonderfully satirical video about it, and explains the mathematics that explain it’s effect, and demonstrates the effects visually. The video’s start is quite slow and goes on a bit about US politics and Lobby Groups, however Herd Immunity is VERY well explained and demonstrated later in the piece.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-cKzzPkz2o

Back to the comments at The Manly Daily: The problem with guessing is that it’s not supported by evidence. Even off the bat however, the child in question contracted his Whooping Cough from a child who WAS NOT VACCINATED. — So much for guessing.

"KNOWING", in the Maternal Instinct sense is NOT evidence.

Annette’s maternal “knowing” is not supported by evidence; there are hereditary mitochondrial defects that may be affected by a vaccine SCHEDULE (an overwhelming on an already diminished system) because of a pre-existing immunodeficiency. These are rare cases, and since their understanding is only relatively recent, people who are unaware of their own mitochondrial status would not be inclined to test their children before vaccination.

I point out schedule because the schedule is based on an average, healthy, immune system. The schedule can be changed to suit those who have mitochondrial defects so they CAN be effectively vaccinated, and subsequently immunised against disease like all others.

I actually laughed when I decided to check in to Dr Scheibner’s credentials. Viera doesn’t disclose what field she is a Doctor in; rather she leaves it up to the reader to take it that she is “in the know” through suggestion.

As it turns out, she is a Geologist.

Now, I’m NOT saying she is wrong BECAUSE she is Geologist, I am pointing out the red flag. This is an Appeal to Dubious Authority – her own! She’s so renowned she has her own Wikipedia page! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viera_Scheibner)

“Since retiring from the Department of Mineral Resources, Scheibner has been active as an anti-vaccination campaigner, making numerous statements linking vaccinations to various conditions, injuries and deaths. Her claims have been widely criticised and refuted by medical professionals.”

Viera lays claims that Polio, Measles, Whooping Cough and Rubella are beneficial to children; injuries and death attributed to Shaken Baby Syndrome, including retinal bleeding, broken bones, fractured skulls and detached retinas are actually caused by vaccination, and she believes there is a deliberate cover-up by the medical professional (Nurses, Medical Doctors, Immunologist, Infectious Disease Researchers, Medical researchers, etc, etc) to protect the Vaccination Program.

I was unable to find the evidence she cited.

Bronwyn Hancock, Vaccination Information Service -- Another AntiVaccination Group.

Bronwyn Hancock’s statements are not statistically supported by an official data, nor demonstrated through any rigorous trials. It should be noted that the Vaccination Information Service is NOT a government group, rather it is well-known to be anti-vaccination; Brownyn Hancock, along with others who run the organisation, purport to be “pro-informed choice”, unfortunately, the information presented on their website is fear-driven, and lacking in credible supporting documentation, and uses very little in the way of facts.

It’s been a while since then, and Paolo Just thought to reply to a previous post in the comments thread regarding the aforementioned video, and to others, laying claim that the documentation used is wrong BECAUSE it was (in his mind) financed by “Big Pharma” as it were.

I found It interesting he would quote Frank Lloyd Wrights’ “never let the facts get in the way of the truth”, after he continually denied evidence through cynicism. There was never any substantiated rebuttal of any of the evidence provided other than slander.

I too can quote!

“In my experience, the most staunchly held views are based on ignorance or accepted dogma, not carefully considered accumulations of facts. The more you expose the intricacies and realities of the situation, the less clear-cut things become.”
— Mary Roach

I made it clear it was my opinion that he was the epitome of some who could not be reasoned with; not because of his beliefs, but rather because he lacked the intellectual ability to understand how his logic was fallacious.

If Paolo were serious and genuine about making a point, he really should grow up and put forward arguments that are logical and without fallacy, and make claims that are supported by the body of evidence. At the end of the day, when someone is vehemently defending claims and denying empirical evidence, there really is only two options for them to believe.

For conspiracy theorists, they think they’re right and everyone is wrong. The alternative is there is a massive worldwide cover-up that everyone is in on.

However, for reasonable and the science literate, and those willing to investigate the facts and accept they may not already know the answer, they know better; it’s neither  –  The evidence shows vaccinations work.

Manly Daily: Parents lashed over whooping cough outbreak

Walking out of my apartment this morning I noticed on the front page of The Manly Daily, my local paper, a young child with his mother gently looking after him while he lay on his bed. I already had an idea of what it may be; “Thanks for Nothing” the headline read.

There it was in the first paragraph “Vaccination”.

An only version of the article can be found here: http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/parents-lashed-over-whooping-cough-outbreak/ – Currently, you can still make comment as the article is new; I encourage it.

Of course, we get the usual bandwagon of anti-vaxxers spreading false information, such as Viera Scheibner, and The Millenium Project at http://www,ratbags.com covers her quite well.

A whooping cough outbreak at a northern beaches school has prompted one concerned father to take aim at parents for not ensuring their children are vaccinated against the contagious disease.

Newport’s Zac Newbold, 6, has missed two weeks’ school after contracting whooping cough, leaving him bedridden and constantly coughing and vomiting.

Zac’s father, Justin, says his son was vaccinated prior to contracting the disease. The NSW health department advises that immunisation reduces the risk of infection but immunity fades over time.

But Mr Newbold is concerned his son became infected because many other parents aren’t ensuring their children are vaccinated.

A newsletter sent out by the school on Monday states that seven classes – in addition to Zac’s – had students who are infected with the disease.

“Parents are definitely not being vigilant enough with this,” Mr Newbold said.

“People seem to have this attitude around the northern beaches that they think everybody here is fit and healthy so nothing can go wrong. It’s total rubbish.”

Mr Newbold said some parents on the northern beaches need to “pull their head out” and stop acting like they’re living in “a separate world”.

Mr Newbold said the school had done its best in sending out warnings about the disease.

Zac’s mother, Cathy Moore, fears other youngsters could be worse off than her son if they catch the disease without being vaccinated.

“All kids should be vaccinated. It could have been a lot worse for Zac … one night we thought we would have to rush him to the hospital because he was going very blue in the face and had a lot of thick phlegm,’’ she said.

Dr Nick Wood, a paediatrician at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and senior lecturer in paediatrics and child health at The University of Sydney, said a vaccine (and subsequent booster follow-ups) were usually effective but never a guarantee in preventing infection.

Dr Wood said people on the northern beaches were just as vulnerable to whooping cough here as anywhere else in Sydney.

“Even if they’re living the beach lifestyle they’re just as vulnerable as anywhere else because it’s an airborne disease, you can’t really escape it,” Dr Wood said.

Mr Wood recommends parents immediately see a doctor if their child shows signs of an annoying cough.

Interesting, was the first comment was from someone still purporting their child had specifically had their autism induced by a vaccine (yet there is never any evidence of this), and as such, this article made her “boil”.

I decided I would leave a comment, and I may decide to pass it in for the Opinion Page.

It must be difficult for parents who read comments like Annette’s to stop and wonder “what if” — Thankfully, they don’t need to as there is a body of evidence that suggests that Vaccines do not cause Autism. (That wonderful piece of wisdom was spread by the fraudulent Andrew Wakefield).
Post hoc ergo propter hoc – “After this, therefore because of this” is the attribution of an event to an earlier incident based on nothing more than speculation, not information. It is a fallacy born out of ignorance and a denial exacerbated by those who deny the evidence.
While there is certainly varying opinions, no one has access to their own personal set of facts. There is not a “debate” about vaccines, rather, there is a body of evidence that shows vaccines to be a overwhelmingly effective, and safe method of preventing serious infection, and mitigating the effects of an infection.
Vaccination SHOULD be compulsory, however, I will not advocate that everyone “MUST” be vaccinated; there are certainly those with hereditary genetic conditions causing immuno-response suppression; vaccinations, at least following a normal schedule, is not appropriate for those people.

Vaccines work; and the body of evidence demonstrates no correlation with vaccinations and autism.

That’s the facts.