# U.S. faces the largest pertussis outbreak in “modern times”

#### Author: Jillhas written 5116 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.

### 79 Responses

1. Liz September 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm |

The anti-vaccination movement is a bane.

2. Past my expiration date September 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm |

I thought that much of the pertussis outbreak is because immunity from the pertussis vaccine turns out not to last as long as the current US vaccine schedule assumes it does, rather than because parents aren’t vaccinating their children. Or, anyway, that’s what Dr. Gorski posted on September 17 at the Science-Based Medicine blog.

1. FashionablyEvil September 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm |

It’s both. Fewer vaccinated kids=more opportunity for the disease to spread, including among children whose immunity has worn off.

2. EG September 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

The top ten states, eight of which allow for religious/philosophical exemptions from vaccination for school enrollment, account for 50% of the cases. The twenty-one states that allow for such exemptions account for almost 70% of the cases. So there’s that.

3. Past my expiration date September 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

Also, you (a general adult you) may be able to do your pro-vaccination part by getting a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) booster .

1. EG September 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

And you should if you’re taking care of an infant.

2. Tim September 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

I had a combo shot last year sort of like that — I think it was DTP, which was diptheria, tetanus, pertussis — or maybe it was the one you said. I didn’t know until recently that all of those need to be renewed periodically. Tetanus every 10 years, roughly. And pertussis, a lot of school teachers here in Iowa have gotten it; it’s not just kids. So definitely, don’t assume you are good for life if you were vaccinated as a kid for things.

4. EG September 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm |

14 deaths and counting, mostly of infants younger than 3 months. Hope the anti-vaxxers are proud of themselves. Scum.

1. Odin September 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm |

Ah, but if kids die they go to heaven. Whereas if their kids are vaccinated, they might catch autism. Seriously, have some compassion, having a disability is totally worse than death, what’s wrong with you.
\end{bittersnark}

1. macavitykitsune September 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm |

No shit, right? When people go “immunising against deadly illnesses might cause autism” my first instinct is to reply “good to know you think autism’s literally worse than death. On behalf of all the autists I know, fuck you and have a horrible day!”

1. Anna September 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm |

Very true. And it doesn’t help their case that the purported MMR-autism link was completely and thoroughly debunked, anyway.

2. macavitykitsune September 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

I know, right? That was the turd cherry on top of that particular shit sundae.

5. Donna L September 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm |

Things like this are the reason I stopped reading the Huffington Post as soon as I realized that they give a platform to anti-vaxxers. Anti-vaxxers — I hate those guys.

6. William September 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm |

Halfbright shitposting about mercury and Autism in 3…2…1…

1. Tim September 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

At the risk of giving credence to the halfbright shitpostings, I would note that there are merc-free versions of a lot of vaccines now, which the health depts., etc., reserve for children. So even that bogus excuse is taken away.

7. macavitykitsune September 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

Fucking baby killers.

1. Geoarch September 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm |

This^^^^RIGHT HERE. Because that’s what it amounts to.

8. Stephanie September 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm |

I’m not too surprised. My youngest caught what I still think was pertussis when she was six months old – too young to have had the entire series. Her pediatrician didn’t do much for us – naturally she never coughed in front of him, so he declared it parapertussis without doing any testing, which I now understand should have been done. We’re in California, and there was a pertussis outbreak in the area at the time.

I caught it from her, and wow, worst cough I’ve ever had and the hardest to get rid of. Weeks and weeks of misery for us both.

My oldest now has her pertussis booster, as our current pediatrician saw a number of 11 year olds with pertussis last year and is now pushing for that booster to be done a little sooner.

9. Partial Human September 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm |

The UK is currently riddled with VPDs like pertussis, measles and mumps.

Thanks Andy Wankfield, you fucking shitlord. You have blood on your hands.

1. Bagelsan September 25, 2012 at 11:15 am |

I’m not sure The Lancet can ever truly live that down.

10. Geoarch September 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

My older kid had RSV at age 1. It was a nightmare. I can not imagine how much worse having a newborn with pertussis would be. I can’t make rational, analytical comments about this stuff. All I feel is a deep, gut level RAGE that anyone is still buying that anti-vax pseudo-science BULLSHIT and putting vulnerable people at risk.

11. Suki September 24, 2012 at 9:34 pm |

First off, I can’t believe the venom I’m hearing in this thread. As a long time reader, and now first time commenter, frankly I’m appalled….because you’ve all got the facts wrong.

First…the money quote….and it’s from the CDC:

The effects of whole-cell pertussis vaccine wane after 5 to 10 years, and infection in a vaccinated person causes nonspecific symptoms (3-7). Vaccinated adolescents and adults may serve as reservoirs for silent infection and become potential transmitters to unprotected infants (3-11). The whole-cell vaccine for pertussis is protective only against clinical disease, not against infection (15-17). Therefore, even young, recently vaccinated children may serve as reservoirs and potential transmitters of infection.

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/6/5/00-0512_article.htm

Second quote…and this is from The Lancet:

Research from Australia suggests that the current acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) is less effective at providing long-term immunity to whooping cough than whole pertussis vaccine (DTwP) and might be a contributory factor in the current epidemic of whooping cough worldwide.

So it’s not the unvaccinated kids who are causing this outbreak….it’s the vaccinated ones.

1. ellid September 25, 2012 at 6:23 am |

Your argument might be vaguely, possibly valid if half the cases weren’t from states that allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids at all.

1. Suki September 25, 2012 at 7:59 am |

Apparently you discount the CDC, which states

“…the outbreak is not being driven by unvaccinated children, according to the CDC. Most of the illnesses are in vaccinated youngsters, officials said.”

http://seattletimes.com/html/health/2019138316_apusmedwhoopingcoughvaccine.html

1. EG September 25, 2012 at 11:20 am |

Of course…because there are more vaccinated kids than unvaccinated kids by the numbers! The question is, what has allowed the disease to exploit the much smaller vulnerability of vaccinated kids? Could it be… decreasing herd immunity due to the unvaccinated?

Nah. Couldn’t be. It’s not like vaccines actually work or anything.

2. EG September 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |

Over half! 70% of the cases are from the 21 states (42% of the states) that allow vaccination exemptions.

2. Odin September 25, 2012 at 6:52 am |

True, the reduced efficacy of the new vaccine is a big factor, but I’m willing to bet that the outbreak still wouldn’t be as bad if the anti-vax movement hadn’t compromised herd immunity. As was also pointed out upthread, 70% of new cases occur in the 21 states that permit philosophical exemptions for school immunization. Now, we should be controlling for population or population density, and possibly climate (I don’t know when cold/flu season starts in Texas, for example), but the back-of-the-envelope calculation at least does raise some red flags.

Personally, I think any excuse to rant about the anti-vax movement is a legitimate one. The anti-vax movement is Creationism, except their rejection of science doesn’t just lead to further tribalism and hostility to science and critical thinking, it literally kills people. And my aunt describes her grandson’s “autism” (really probably celiac disease, seeing as he’s NT now that he’s on a gluten-free diet) was the Worst Thing Evar That Could Ever Happen To A Child. Seeing as she lost one of her own children to cancer, she really is literally saying that being autistic is worse than being dead.

3. William September 25, 2012 at 7:53 am |

First off, I can’t believe the venom I’m hearing in this thread.

Weird how people killing not only their own children but others because of a combination of woeful ignorance and the utter devaluation of the lives of the disabled can get some people’s backs up, right? Fucking hysterics, amirite?

1. Bagelsan September 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |

Jeezus, William, why can’t you be a little nicer to the ableist baby-killers? :p

1. William September 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm |

I’m a monster.

2. EG September 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |

It’s amazing how deadly ignorance gets so little support here. Where can the willfully ignorant go to find a safe space?

4. Dan S. September 25, 2012 at 9:24 am |

First off, I can’t believe the venom I’m hearing in this thread. As a long time reader, and now first time commenter, frankly I’m appalled….because you’ve all got the facts wrong. First…the money quote….and it’s from the CDC:

Frankly, *I’m* shocked – well, let’s be cynical and make that “shocked” – that your money quote was very likely found via an anti-vax site (ok, ok, or perhaps unfortunate goggling) – after all, it’s a ~12 year old paper about research conducted in Israel on a kind of pertussis vaccine – the whole cell one – that has not been used in the US for about a decade, and hence is not really relevent to the discussion at all, except to obscufate and frighten. Which, indeed, is why this exact 12 year old paper is often used by antivaxxers defending their refusal to vaccinate themselves and their own kids against pertussis and trying to get others to do likewise! Freaky.

So it’s not the unvaccinated kids who are causing this outbreak….it’s the vaccinated ones.

That’s … a little misleading. Rather, it sounds (IANADr.) like lots of unprotected/insufficiently protected kids (and presumably adults) are the issue. Because a) antivax idiocy is still just trendy rather than mainstream, b) the current vaccine turns out to not last as long and c) lots of folks don’t get boosters, most of the kids happen to be formerly vaccinated – thankkfully, even though the unvaxed kids are, (as the CDC points out) “at least 8 times more likely to get pertussis than children who received all 5 recommended doses of DTaP”, they’ve still greatly outnumbered by vaccinated kids, and hence “not the driving force behind the large scale outbreaks or epidemics. However, their parents are putting them at greater risk of getting a serious pertussis infection and then possibly spreading it to other family or community members.”

Imagine (simplifying) if there were 1000 of us with a 5% chance of catching pertussis (50 sick folks) vs 10 unvaccinated folks with a 50% chance of catching pertussis (only 5 sick folks!). Just through sheer numbers, we’d be the most to ‘blame’. But start increasing the numbers of unvaccinated people, as antivaxxers constantly strive to do, and, well …

12. Bagelsan September 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm |

I think there might be nothing in the world as deeply gut-level ableist as risking (and causing) the death of children to avoid having a weird one. Who wouldn’t be weird anyways. Nor “protected” from said weirdness by not vaccinating them. Might as well just throw the occasional autistic child off a cliff like the Spartans did, yeah? At least that way you’d only kill the intended targets of extermination.

1. macavitykitsune September 24, 2012 at 10:30 pm |

I think there might be nothing in the world as deeply gut-level ableist as risking (and causing) the death of children to avoid having a weird one.

Pretty much this.

2. William September 25, 2012 at 7:56 am |

At least that way you’d only kill the intended targets of extermination.

Given that “normal” is a statistical construct you don’t really see in the wild you’d be waiting until the last exterminator died of old age after extinction to really be rid of the freaks. We’re all mad here, and even neuro-typicality is only relative.

1. Bagelsan September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am |

Another good point! “First they came for the weird ones… and then no one was left because pretty much everyone is a little weird.” :p

3. Suki September 25, 2012 at 8:13 am |

You can’t equate autism with “being weird”. There is a whole spectrum of autism…from high functioning to very disabled.

I work with adults with developmental disabilities every day, including autism. The people with autism that I work with are severely disabled. They will never be able to hold down jobs, they have no stranger danger skills, and one in particular is a danger to herself and others.

So it’s not a matter of being “weird”.

1. William September 25, 2012 at 9:07 am |

At the risk of getting into the weeds here…yes, you can consider autism and our responses to it from the perspective of normality. Autism exists on a spectrum and the most profoundly impacted individuals certainly do count as “severely disabled,” but we’re talking about the tail of the curve ther. Most individuals on the spectrum, virtually all of whom are treated as disabled whether they feel particularly disabled or not and virturally all of whom have been subjected to the social perception of their very existence being a burden to those around them, are not so severely impacted that they cannot care for themselves. More to the point, a significant amount of the difficulties faced by people on the spectrum, as is the case with most disabled folks, come down as much to society’s absolute refusal to make space for diversity as much as any actual negative impact of the disability itself.

You could look at a kid on the spectrum and say “oh how tragic, Aspergers has made them a shut-in with no real relationships and now they’re going to live in their parent’s basement forever” or you could look at the same kid and recognize that the symptoms of Aspergers have lead to them experiencing a world which constantly misinterprets the signals they give out, often bullies them brutally, and actively treats their very existence as a public health concern. Thats what we’re talking about when we’re talking about “weird,” we’re talking about the enormous number of people who are now identified or understood to be non-neurotypical today who thirty years ago would have just been seen as creepy loners, nerds, and shut-ins. We’re talking about the people whose lives are ruined by the medicalization of their existences. We’re talking about the people who, because they are weird, are often marginalized and ostracized by a society which is trained to prey upon those who are different.

So yeah, when I hear about children dying because people are shitting their pants over the possibility that a vaccine might cause autism I get pissed off because what is really being said is “my child being dead, along with a lot of other children being dead, is better than the chance that my kid ends up ‘weird.’” I get pissed off because a third of the patients where I work started as non-neurotypical but ended up often suicidally depressed because of the ways in which society devalutes them. I get pissed because even the patients I have who aren’t on the spectrum are uniformly caught in a web of devaluation that crushes their self esteem and assaults their identies. I get pissed because I’ve been on the receiving end of those messages and it damn near killed me. I get pissed because people I care about are still assaulted by the bullshit that comes with our obsession with a normativity that we dress up as “mental health” so we can sleep at night. I get pissed because the work I do with patients is set back years by what society does to people who can’t maintain the illusion of normalcy. I get pissed because, while I work at the top of the hill now, I’ve also worked at the bottom of the goddamn chasm that people fall into when they’re either broken by the pain or lack the resources to weather it.

1. samanthab September 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm |

Very well-stated. Something is seriously fucked up when people exist to keep money in circulation rather than the converse.

2. macavitykitsune September 25, 2012 at 9:26 am |

They will never be able to hold down jobs, they have no stranger danger skills, and one in particular is a danger to herself and others.

You’re working with the Romney campaign?

1. macavitykitsune September 25, 2012 at 9:29 am |

(Referring, obviously, only to the part I quoted. I’d never insult autists by comparing them to Republicans.)

3. Ledasmom September 26, 2012 at 6:25 am |

I work with adults with developmental disabilities every day, including autism. The people with autism that I work with are severely disabled. They will never be able to hold down jobs, they have no stranger danger skills, and one in particular is a danger to herself and others.
So it’s not a matter of being “weird”

And I work with children with autism every day. Yes, they’re weird. You know, obsessing over a subject, being unable to move on to something new, resistant to changes in routine. They’re my children, who happen to be more-or-less what is generally called Asperger’s, and they’re equally as typical of people with autism as your clients are – which is to say, not at all; there is no typical person with autism, just like there’s no typical person without it. So, yes, it can be a matter of being weird. And it’s probably just as well that they’re as they are, because they make more sense to me like this.
And, yes, it pisses me off that people think that it’s better to risk some pretty nasty diseases than be like my children. And it pisses me off more, if that’s possible, that anybody is still pushing this “vaccines cause autism” bullcrap, especially when you can look at my family and find a pretty good history of weird people.

4. matlun September 25, 2012 at 8:32 am |

It is also due to ignorance and stupidity. Generations have now grown up in a world with large scale vaccination programmes. People just do not get on a gut level how many children died or suffered severe consequences before vaccinations.

There is also the free rider effect. If an individual chooses not to take the vaccine, this will not cause any significant problems until herd immunity starts to become compromised. If you are an egoistic bastard, you might see it as a rational choice.

1. EG September 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |

This, I think, is the crux of the issue. If you’re that concerned about disability, after all, surely you would consider the possible consequences of mumps, which can include deafness and/or male infertility. I think the anti-vaxxers are operating from a profound ignorance coupled with an inability to imagine what life was like. My mom says that when she was a little girl, you’d hear about a case of polio ten blocks away, and every mother on the street would keep her kids inside for an entire week. That she’d be told after swimming (because nobody really knew how it was transmitted) “Dry between your toes so you don’t get polio.”

1. Dan S. September 25, 2012 at 11:24 am |

Both matlun and EG – this this this.

13. chava September 24, 2012 at 10:10 pm |

Ironically, the reason why the current vax isn’t as effective as the old one is ALSO down to anti-vaxers, despite no proven link to autism or any other severe side effect.

(The old vaccine was whole killed-cell, the current is acellular. In fairness, while it didn’t kill anyone, the old vaccine did cause a lot of high fevers and unhappy kids)

1. Suki September 25, 2012 at 7:34 am |

Actually, you’re wrong. Ever hear of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set up the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) in 1988 to compensate individuals and families of individuals injured by covered childhood vaccines.

“Since the first Vaccine Injury Compensation claims were made in 1989, 2,999 compensation payments have been made, $2,334,879,190.38 disbursed to petitioners and$91,522,855.80 paid to cover attorney’s fees and other legal costs.”

http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/data.html

So the government does acknowledge that vaccines do in fact cause harm. And these claims are in fact for “severe side effects”.

And leaving the whole autism debate aside for the time being… although when you get the chance you might want to google Hannah Poling… the government also acknowledges that vaccines do have some serious side effects.

http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/vaccinetable.html

Once again I am just floored by the knee-jerk reaction against people who question the safety of vaccines on this thread. I thought this was a safe space?

Because this is a feminist issue. People are scared…women are scared. And who do you think, more often than not, are the ones who get to take their children to the doctor and try to work through the maze of the 49 doses of the 14 vaccines required? Women, that’s who. Women who are talked to condescendingly by their doctors if they even ask about the safety of vaccines.

U.S. children are the most vaccinated in the world, yet are the sickest…with asthma, learning disabilities, and yes, autism, which now affects 1in 88 children!

Is it the vaccines? Maybe, maybe not. But I tell you what….something is going on. Let’s also remember that some of the most vocal people who are speaking out and asking questions about the safety of vaccines are the people who did vaccinate their children….and then something went wrong.

Because if nothing else, I sure as hell don’t trust the pharmaceutical industry. In case it passed by anyone’s notice, Glaxosmithkline was recently nailed for $3 billion for fraud. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/business/glaxosmithkline-agrees-to-pay-3-billion-in-fraud-settlement.html?pagewanted=all&_moc.semityn.www Because the pharmaceutical industry, which makes vaccines, never ever would put profits before safety…right? There have never been recalls of dangerous drugs that have killed people….right? And the pharmaceutical industry never ever suppressed data on drugs it knew would kill people right? Get ready for some major mumps outbreaks coming soon to a community near you, cause it looks like Merck may have just falsified some data about the efficacy of their mumps vaccine. http://www.examiner.com/article/whistleblowing-virologists-sue-merck-for-alleged-falsification-of-mumps-data It’s a complicated problem, with no easy answers. And blaming parents who choose not to vaccinate, is the easy way out. And it may just be wrong. 1. Bagelsan September 25, 2012 at 10:35 am | Because it’s supposedly primarily mothers acting stupid about vaccines (which is totally unfounded, imho) it’s a feminist issue? Bullshit. It’s a feminist issue because little kids are dying of preventable diseases. Also: “Is it the vaccines? Maybe, maybe not.” It’s not. Got any difficult questions? 9_9 2. EG September 25, 2012 at 10:45 am | I thought this was a safe space? Where did you hear that Feministe was a safe space for science-denying bullshit? U.S. children are the most vaccinated in the world, yet are the sickest…with asthma, learning disabilities, and yes, autism, which now affects 1in 88 children! Got a citation for that? I notice that measles, mumps, polio, whooping cough, and diptheria don’t make that list of yours, by the way. Shall we compare child mortality rates in the US pre- and post-vaccine? Let’s also remember that some of the most vocal people who are speaking out and asking questions about the safety of vaccines are the people who did vaccinate their children….and then something went wrong. The fact that human beings are likely to misidentify cause and effect when dealing with anecdotal evidence is precisely why we have large-scale scientific studies. Something goes wrong in life lots of times. Do you have any actual evidence that “something going wrong” has anything to do with vaccines? It’s a complicated problem, with no easy answers. Actually, it’s got an easy answer: vaccinate your damn kids, so we don’t end up with 1930s child mortality rates again. There, we’re done. 1. Donna L September 25, 2012 at 11:03 am | Thank you. I was hoping no anti-vaxxer (disguised as “maybe yes, maybe no”) would show up here, but no such luck. It’s contemptible even to suggest that this is, or should be, a “safe space” for this kind of fraudulent anti-science nonsense — let alone for identifying being an anti-vaxxer with feminism! I’m not old enough to remember when polio was a danger (although I knew a first cousin of my father’s who had had polio as a child and wore leg braces for the rest of her life). But I did have both mumps and measles at the ages of 3 and 6, respectively, and remember especially how incredibly ill I was with the latter — my fever was high enough, around 105, that I was delirious and had hallucinations about my bed moving around, and I ended up with pneumonia as a complication. I was lucky that I came through it unscathed, but I very much wish that the measles vaccine had been available at the time. 2. Bagelsan September 25, 2012 at 11:13 am | Nice response! Mine was short, because the only other thing I could think to say was “You fail, you fail, you fail” in response to just about everything Suki said. :p 3. William September 25, 2012 at 10:49 am | U.S. children are the most vaccinated in the world, yet are the sickest…with asthma, learning disabilities, and yes, autism, which now affects 1in 88 children! I’ll leave the asthma takedown to the medical types in attendence but as for learning disabilities and autism, lets talk. First, a call out on context. We’re having this discussion in the context of a discussion about vaccine refusal, so lets be honest and get our cards out on the table. Is it your position that vaccines somehow contribute, or can be reasonably suspected to contribute, to autism and learning disabilities? Now…lets talk about autism. How is autism diagnosed? Is there a blood test? No, its a largely subjective diagnosis generally made by a neurologist or a psychologist. Until DSM-V comes out, we have three diagnoses to really talk about when we’re talking about autism: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Delay NOS. Asperger’s is a newer disorder, and PDD NOS is a garbage diagnosis that basically means “spectrum but doesn’t fit the other two presentations.” This is why we’ve started talking about an autistic spectrum rather than discrete disorders. We’re talking about social disorders, really, with executive functioning difficulties, sensory integration issues, and spacial reasoning problems often co-ocurring. It seems new and scary because it hasn’t been well understood previously, but theres a very good reason for that which is completely unconnected to vaccinations: research. While autism has been known for awhile, the other diagnoses are somewhat newer and have been the subject of intense research over the last twenty or so years. In particular, diagnostic instruments have been developed. These instruments have had an incredible effect of the perceived rate of spectrum disorders because, coupled with better awareness and understanding, they allow us to identify and diagnose more people who fit the criteria. The explosion in autism rates over the last fifteen years is really an explosion in diagnostic ability. The connection to vaccines becomes even more tenuous when you understand brain development and that these kinds of developmental concerns are likely to be first perceived around the time when vaccinations are given. The vaccine theory is also undercut through simple observation: kids on the spectrum very often have a parent on the spectrum who is too old to have been diagnosed as a child. As for learning disabilities, there has been a similar development in the last generation or two. Understanding of learning disabilities has increased, as has special education funding and legal obligations for schools to identify children who might be disabled. Access to 504 plans and IEPs has increased drastically in the last 40 years, as has the rate of academic, psychological, and neuropsychological assessment. At the same time, many school districts have discovered that a disability diagnosis is a very good way of managing otherwise difficult children. These factors together (increased access to services, improved diagnostic ability, increased diagnostic services, and bullying behavioral management) account for the perceived increase in LD rates. A kid who 50 years ago would have been an intractable behavior problem and a D student is today identified as having dyslexia and a Superior range IQ. He still would have been dyslexic 50 years ago, but no one would have known because schools weren’t forced to do the kind of testing and develop the kinds of educational accomodations they are now required to. 4. EG September 25, 2012 at 11:17 am | Let me also point out that, prior to vaccinations, autism learning disabilities were not things people understood or knew how to test for–those kids were just bad, or stupid, or lacked discipline, or weird, or didn’t care. And kids with asthma…well, I suspect a lot of them died, as they are particularly vulnerable to things like flu, that we can now vaccinate against, and TB and pneumonia, which we now treat with antibiotics. It’s not as simple as saying “Oh, there are more cases of X now than there were then.” What we can say is that there are far fewer cases of vaccine-preventable illness now than there are then, and that child mortality is way, way down. Way down. I can’t emphasize this enough. In the 1940s, mortality for children 1-4 was 250 deaths per 100,000 children, and for children 5-14 it was 100. Now it’s around 25 in the first category and around 15 in the second. Infant mortality was around 50 per 1000 live births and is now around 6. There are pretty horrifying disparities by race and class, but the pattern of decline has actually been the same. Why? Fucking vaccinations and antibiotics are why. Maybe you find the prospect of learning disabilities more upsetting than that of dead children, but that says far more about you than anything else. 1. EG September 25, 2012 at 11:27 am | More simply, we’ve gone from 5,350 deaths per 100,000 children 0-14 to 640. That’s over 4,500 children now living who, in the 1940s, would be dead. And you’re upset about learning disabilities? Fuck that noise. 2. EG September 25, 2012 at 11:28 am | And that’s not even touching the loss of hearing, paralysis, etc. that would come with these illnesses. I knew a man from my grandfather’s generation whose town had a school for the deaf that closed within a generation after the mumps vaccine became available. An entire school. There was simply no longer a need for it. 5. Dan S. September 25, 2012 at 11:18 am | Is it the vaccines? Maybe, maybe not. But I tell you what….something is going on. Let’s also remember that some of the most vocal people who are speaking out and asking questions about the safety of vaccines are the people who did vaccinate their children….and then something went wrong. Oh yeah. Definitely an antivaxxer. I’m can’t believe it! Frankly, I’m appalled. On the other hand, I’d definitely hestitate to say that there weren’t *any* severe side effects for the whole cell vaccine – although at least it seems that the worst concerns are no longer thought to have been accurate. Pertussis-related post from a NY Times blog yesterday… And blaming parents who choose not to vaccinate, is the easy way out. Well, I think – in terms of the broader vaccine issue – they are *responsible* for what happens to their kids and to other vulnerable individuals (immune problems? baby too young for most shots? etc.? Sucks to be you!). Blaming? Well, that’s trickier – although there are some remarkable examples of what’s been dubbed the “arrogance of ignorance” cluttering up the internets, really, it’s pretty understandable. Parenting is scary, peope tend to place trust in folks who are part of their social networks, emotionally loaded anecdotes over dry statistics, etc… I figure people need good info, support and … well, less anti-vax bs around. 6. chava September 25, 2012 at 11:59 am | OK. Let’s take this point by point. “Since the first Vaccine Injury Compensation claims were made in 1989, 2,999 compensation payments have been made,$2,334,879,190.38 disbursed to petitioners and $91,522,855.80 paid to cover attorney’s fees and other legal costs.” http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/data.html So the government does acknowledge that vaccines do in fact cause harm. And these claims are in fact for “severe side effects”. First of all, 2,999 cases is Not That Many when you consider how many children have been vaccinated since 1988. Second of all, the vaccine courts do not require particularly high standards of evidence. All you have to do is establish a temporal link between onset of an adverse effect listed as a potential side effect and the administration of the vaccine. Third of all, those side effects are culled from the vaccine reporting database, which DOES NOT require any standard of evidence. Kid happens to puke after his tetanus vax? You can report that to the database. In other words, correlation != causation. And leaving the whole autism debate aside for the time being… although when you get the chance you might want to google Hannah Poling… the government also acknowledges that vaccines do have some serious side effects. Yes, they do. For certain children with very particular immune or other health conditions. Or, MAYBE, for one in five million healthy children. U.S. children are the most vaccinated in the world, yet are the sickest…with asthma, learning disabilities, and yes, autism, which now affects 1in 88 children! Are you fucking KIDDING ME? I just…there are no words for how ignorant this statement is. Asthma and allergies may have something to do with the hygeine hypothesis, fine, but US children are the “sickest in the world”? What are you smoking, because I’d like to give it to mothers in Malawi and Ghana. Because the pharmaceutical industry, which makes vaccines, never ever would put profits before safety…right? There have never been recalls of dangerous drugs that have killed people….right? And the pharmaceutical industry never ever suppressed data on drugs it knew would kill people right? There is NO EVIDENCE that U.S. vaccines are unsafe. None. I’m as skeptical of big pharma as the next girl, but save it for when GSX does unsafe vaccine trials in Africa (as I think they have). Get ready for some major mumps outbreaks coming soon to a community near you, cause it looks like Merck may have just falsified some data about the efficacy of their mumps vaccine. You know what the vaccine isn’t? Dangerous. It’s a complicated problem, with no easy answers. And blaming parents who choose not to vaccinate, is the easy way out. And it may just be wrong. I actually don’t blame parents (that much)–the media machine has them running scared, and without a hefty science background, it’s hard to know what to believe. I blame Andrew Wakefield, I blame Jenny McCarthy, I blame every magazine and every major mommy blogger that has ever presented this as an issue with two goddamn sides. Science journalists have a RESPONSIBILITY and they’ve abdicated it in favor of scary sounding headlines. 1. chava September 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Also? I blame Dr. Fucking Sears, for making money at the expense of children’s health, and I blame every pediatrician* who decided some vaccines were better than none and allowed parents to space vaccines, thereby promoting the idea that the shots were somehow Dangerous. There is no evidence for delayed vaccine schedules, but mothers pick up his book, see “renowned pediatrician,” and assume their must be some evidence for it. *I have some sympathy for the peds. They were facing a hard decision and the scary prospect of unvaccinated kid vs kids with some protection. But still. 2. Lyndsay September 25, 2012 at 1:32 pm | I just read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (highly recommended). From what he’s been told by science journalists, it sounds like they don’t even write most mainstream “science” news. Generalist journalists did most of the MMR scare stories. 3. Lolagirl September 25, 2012 at 1:35 pm | There is no evidence for delayed vaccine schedules, but mothers pick up his book, see “renowned pediatrician,” and assume their must be some evidence for it. I was going to sit this out (and I’m not an anti/non-vaccer) but this statement is a little unfair. As long as a child is still getting all their necessary vaccines in the first 2 years there is no harm to spacing them out a bit more, and the peace of mind for both parent and pediatrician may make it worthwhile in individual cases. My Ped actually recommended that we space out vaccines for our twins when they were in their first year. They were barely term and extremely tiny, and he was concerned about side effects like fevers for them especially. One of the two of them did tend to run disturbingly high, days long 104 fevers when he received a vaccine and intense swelling around the vac site as well. Their pediatrician felt it was important to know which vaccines were causing the reactions, and spacing them out was really the best way to make that possible. In the bigger picture, there is so much scary rhetoric that gets thrown around by the anti-vaccination crowd that I can understand why some parents get freaked out and buy into that rhetoric. Add in the societal pressure to be the perfect, bestest parent you can be in all things parenting and that only ups the stakes. 4. chava September 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm | @ Lola– See, but that’s a totally legit reason to space out vaccines. It makes absolute medical sense to worry about and space out any potential side effects in your situation. And while there’s minimal direct harm by spacing the shots out in otherwise healthy, full term children, there’s no benefit either, and indirect harm (perception of the regular schedule as unsafe, increased risk of children not being covered by 2, and unnecessary gaps in immunity) 5. Lolagirl September 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Meh, I still don’t see the harm in saying, whatever, space them out if you prefer or insist. As long as your kid still gets all the necessary scheduled vaccines in their first 2 years that’s all that matters anyway. Bundling the vaccinations together the way they are currently is in no small part intended to insure that children get them all in by minimizing the number of times they must come into the doctor’s office for care. I also think that this sort of middle ground is a better way to get nervous parents to still vaccinate their children. It would definitely give some reassurance that potential side effects could be traced back more conclusively to whichever vaccine was most recently administered. As long as the parent is willing to take the additional time to bring their children into their ped’s office and the pediatrician is also on board, what’s the big deal? In other words, this is just not a hill I see worthy of dying on. I’ll save that for the total non-vacc crowd. 7. Ledasmom September 26, 2012 at 6:39 am | U.S. children are the most vaccinated in the world, yet are the sickest…with asthma, learning disabilities, and yes, autism, which now affects 1in 88 children! Fuck this. You know how many neonatal tetanus deaths there were in the U.S. from 2001 to 2008? I’ll give you a minute to mull that over. None. Absolutely none. That’s because of vaccines. You know how many there were in the rest of the world, in 2008 alone? 59,000. I invite you to google “opisthotonus”. That’s what you are condemning babies to by discouraging vaccination. Take a good long look at those pictures. Print ‘em out. Hang ‘em on your wall. If you can’t live with that, shut the fuck up about vaccines already. 8. InfinityGoddess September 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm | As someone with Asperger’s I would like to say that I can certainly attest that vaccines do not cause ASDs. How do I know? Because I wasn’t vaccinated as a kid. My parents opted out for religious reasons. And yet I am still socially stunted and have all the mannerisms of Asperger’s. Tell me how that happened, huh? Oh, and there is also ample evidence that it runs in my family too, as I have noticed similar traits in my father’s relatives. So seriously? Take your ableist and anti-vax nonsense and shove it somewhere where the sun don’t shine. I’m sick of the nonsensical notion that somehow my condition is worse than catching a deadly disease that actually kills. It’s inconvenient to most people, yes. But it’s not a death sentence. 2. Brennan September 25, 2012 at 10:29 am | Actually, I’m vaccinated today because the acellular vaccine exists. I was one of those kids who had a reaction to the whole cell version (an allergic reaction, not a mild infection). It wasn’t severe, but my doctor didn’t feel safe giving me the other two doses, so I wasn’t covered fully until I got the Tdap last year. According to my doc, one of the problems with the old DTP was that too many kids had acute reactions and ended up not finishing the series. Getting an extra booster or three seems like a fair trade off for the chance to be vaccinated (and have more people around me vaccinated). 1. chava September 25, 2012 at 11:41 am | I think the acellular one is great, as long as we maintain herd immunity–which seems to be the issue. Trust me, I would rather not have a terrifying experience with miniChava and “floppiness” or “high fever” (common rxns). Our practice kicks people out who won’t vaccinate on schedule. They see a lot of immunocompromised and Very Sick children, and it’s not fair to the rest of the patients. 14. timberwraith September 25, 2012 at 8:18 am | What I’m wondering is how many people (adults or otherwise) forgo vaccinations of any kind simply because they can’t afford health insurance. When you are uninsured, regular doctor visits and the vaccination reminders (not to mention, coverage of cost) that come with them are a luxury/privilege afforded to far fewer people in these economically challenged times. I’d like to see a breakdown of which communities tend to be most hit by whooping cough outbreaks and how that plays out relative to socioeconomic status and employment levels. 1. miga September 25, 2012 at 9:57 am | That’s a good question, however I suspect the rise of minute-clinics in drugstores is helping people remember to get vaccinated. Which reminds me, I need to get my flu shot soon… 1. chava September 25, 2012 at 11:38 am | that’s actually a big part of mr. chava’s dissertation. so I’ll know the answer in…two years? 2. EG September 25, 2012 at 10:47 am | That’s very true, but underprivileged parents are also far less likely to be able to wriggle their way out of vaccination requirements to enroll their kids at school, so I wonder how that plays out. 1. pheenobarbidoll September 25, 2012 at 11:04 am | You go to the free health clinic and sit for 7 hours. 1. EG September 25, 2012 at 11:07 am | Well, that’s just great. I mean, what better way to spend the day with a small child? 2. Donna L September 25, 2012 at 11:10 am | Then again, if one trains oneself and one’s child to withstand boredom patiently, it should all be OK! 3. Bagelsan September 25, 2012 at 11:32 am | I hope those kids like to read or color… 4. pheenobarbidoll September 25, 2012 at 11:36 am | Oh it’s fabulous. You get to take off work (and get the stink eye for it) and then go sit all day long in an office waiting area full of sick people, screaming children and stressed mothers. By the time they get to your kid, the nurses have lost any compassion for poor folk they might have had at the start of the day and are less than gentle as they pin your kid down and give her a shot. And by that time, you’ve lost any and all patience for nurses who do this and fight the urge to punch them in the face. Then you’re ushered out to the front desk where some snotty receptionist acts like you’re also 2 and have to have instructions explained to you via crayon and small words. (because you’re poor and poor people are stoopid) and thrust the shot reminder into your hands and tell you 500 more times about making sure you come back for the next round. It was just the highlight of my life. 2. timberwraith September 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Not just the children though–unvaccinated adults can serve as a vector through which pathogens can survive, waiting for vulnerable individuals. 3. chava September 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Well, we had to pay for miniChava’s shots out of pocket while waiting for his SCHIP to come through (don’t get me started). It. Is. EXPENSIVE.$300 dollars for the shots, not counting the office visit. We were lucky enough to have the fungible cash, and decided the risk of taking him to a clinic where he might contract a serious inpatient illness while uninsured outweighed the cash outlay.

1. pheenobarbidoll September 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm |

Tell me about it. We took my daughter to get her meningitis shot and it was 290 bucks. Had to have it for college.

15. pheenobarbidoll September 25, 2012 at 11:40 am |

Oh and another fun part- After 3 hours you realize the beige tile floor started off pristine white, you see the smears of god knows what, figure out you’ve sat in something sticky, notice boogers wiped on the arms of the chairs and begin to get worried about the overall cleanliness of the Health Department and the fact they’re going to jab something into your infant.