Kathy Petersen’s Blog


Posted in autism, children, vaccines by Kathy on November 19, 2008

My latest copy of Parents magazine came in the mail the other day, and I’m reading through it. It’s kinda like candy — not much substance but it gives me something to do — far too mainstream for me. Sometimes I get more enjoyment out of disagreeing with and/or arguing with an article or statement than I do from agreeing with it! 🙂

Take the paragraph-long snippet of an article titled, “Measles on the Rise.” The intent is to cause concern among slacker parents who are not vaccinating their children right on schedule, or to give thoughtful non-vaccinating parents some doubt as to the validity of their choice. They note that many parents are concerned about the MMR-autism link, and debunk it, saying that “study after study has shown that vaccines don’t increase a child’s autism risk” (although I’ve heard and read things about these studies that make me question their validity). I don’t think that MMR is the sole cause of autism (thinking it is probably the result of a number of chemical and environmental assaults on the body), but it might cause some.

Still, the ominous tone of this article is hilarious. It starts off by saying that choosing not to vaccinate has “dire consequences.” That’s possible, so let’s read on — what are the “dire consequences”? That there were 131 reported cases of measles in the United States in the first six months of this year — the highest number in 12 years. Ok, so it’s the highest number — fine, let’s accept that, but so what? Were any of these children harmed by measles? Let’s not forget that prior to the vaccination, measles was considered to be a mild, generally harmless childhood illness that all kids got at some point unless they were naturally immune to it. A few kids became very sick from it and a very few even died; but millions of children got it (probably annually) without anything worse than a fever and a rash. Now, just because it’s “vaccine-preventable” it’s made out to be as bad as cancer or something. I’d rather my kids get real measles than the vaccine — do you see how many people make it through childhood without measles, thanks to the vaccines, and then end up getting it or losing their immunity as adolescents or young adults — or old ones? Measles, like so many other diseases, including chicken pox and mumps, are relatively benign diseases when contracted as a child. They cause the worst problems to infants under one year of age and older teens and adults. So, we immunize children who will generally have a mild case and receive permanent natural immunity from a disease, only to let it wear off when they will have a horrific case and could end up permanently scarred, disabled, or even dead. I got chicken pox when I was 12, so I remember it well, and it was not fun. But I’m glad I got it then and not as an adult! I know somebody who got chicken pox as an adult, and he had a far worse case than I did at 12 years old! He was horribly sick for a lot longer than I was. As far as the infants go, if mothers have natural immunity from these diseases (after having had chicken pox or measles naturally), they will pass on their immunity to their children through pregnancy or breastfeeding for the first several months if not a full year, or however long they nurse. That means that the infants are generally going to be protected when they’re most vulnerable, and are not able to get any vaccines. But women who, like me, are only artificially immune to diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella, cannot pass that immunity to our children, leaving them vulnerable should they come into contact with the disease when they are babies.

Back to the article — a whopping 131 cases. Since the article is so short, it is not very informative, in that we have no idea who these people were who got the disease. I remember a measles scare (possibly the one mentioned in the article that happened 12 years ago), in which college kids had to get a booster shot, because the immunity from the vaccines they received as children had worn off. It’s anybody’s guess if the booster shot actually works — it was assumed that the original vaccine would be enough, so why should we believe the assumption that the booster shot is going to live up to its hype? But, let’s assume that all of the cases were in children, and no adolescents or adults. There are roughly 4 million babies born in the United States every year. If we count children from, say, age 3 all the way up through the end of elementary school (5th grade, although some people consider it to end at 6th grade), then there are 32 million children under consideration. Wow — 131 cases out of 32,000,000 — oh, yeah, that’s dire. Again, there is no hint in the article of the severity of the cases — just that they were reported.

Continuing on, the article says that more than half of the children who got sick hadn’t been vaccinated due to their parents’ beliefs. Let’s take the “beliefs” part — not everybody who chooses not to vaccinate does so because of fear of autism, though I daresay that is the most prominent one. Some people don’t like that some vaccines are grown in tissue from aborted fetuses (called “human diploid tissue”), or monkeys, or cows (due to mad-cow disease, although the cows used are supposed to be stringently tested), or other “unclean” things (I think some vaccines are grown in pork or other things that are unclean to Jewish, Muslim, and possibly other religions). Some people are concerned about SIDS or diabetes or auto-immune disorders or cancer. Some people think they may be linked to allergies such as eggs (which some vaccines are grown in), or perhaps other substances — why is it that so many children nowadays are allergic to so many things that used to not cause problems? Give parents the choice that a certain vaccine may reduce their child’s risk of getting an already-rare disease which is usually typically mild and self-limiting, but that it may increase the risk of him or her developing a life-threatening allergy to peanuts or something, and what do you think most parents will choose? (Not saying there is a link, just wondering if there is.)

Finally, “more than half of the children who got sick hadn’t been vaccinated.” They don’t attach a number, so we’re left to guess as to the actual percentage, and only know it’s somewhere between 51% and 100%. I can just about guarantee that if it were much over 50%, they would have said something like, “nearly 2/3 of the children…” or “over 75%…” So you know what this means? Almost half of the children who got sick had been vaccinated.

I don’t know what the “official” immunization rate is for this or any other vaccine. I’ve read numbers in the past, but they tend to get jumbled up in my mind. I think that even the strongest vaccine proponents do not pretend to have higher than 98% efficacy on any vaccine, most are no more than 95% while many are down around 75-80%.

But we still don’t know out of the “dire” 131 cases out of 300,000,000 people in the United States, how many of these people had anything more than a mild case of measles that wasn’t worse than a stomach virus with itching.


3 Responses

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  1. Terra said, on November 19, 2008 at 1:55 am

    I’m here via your WtoWCBE (which I LOVE btw) 🙂

    On to this…I couldn’t help but sit and chuckle throughout your post. I too read this magazine and view it as “candy” (I call it my fluff mag) but, it’ll come in and on the cover will be “Autism…Vaccinations – is there a link? turn to page 84″…I’ll turn…I’ll read, I’ll go off, like you did…and my poor, sweet husband sits, listens and then reminds me that HE didn’t write the article and I don’t have to convince him 😉

    Thank you for sharing this…yes…”oooo scary” 131 cases…seriously?! wow…

    Thanks for the chuckle 🙂

  2. Melanie Hodges said, on November 19, 2008 at 4:21 am

    Girl, I chuckled through your post too…mostly because I could imagine that you and I were having the conversation face to face and that tickled me. I could see your gestures and facial expressions and this post is all you! Your post was more informative than the post I read in the magazine [yes, I read it too, but keep a copy of it in my bathroom…that’s pretty much what I think of it]. Thanks for the post!

  3. mamawork said, on November 27, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Very cool post 😉 Grooves so well with what I am thinking…

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